Category Archives: For Your Consideration

Northwest Wines

As I’d mentioned in the road trip notes, when in Astoria we always stop by Cellar on 10th and basically beg them to put together a case of stuff they like that we don’t know to ask for. By now, some of the case is new vintages of old favorites, but some of it is always new to us and part of the exploring of the Northwest Wine industry. Cellar on 10th really know Northwest wines, and they work with a lot of the smaller wineries, and those wineries give them access to wines that normally aren’t sold except on the winery premises. They’ve turned us onto a lot of really, really nice wines over the years. So I love to stop by when I can get to Astoria, and ask them to box me up a care package of things they think are really nice that I wouldn’t know to buy. And they do, and we bring it home, and we enjoy it thoroughly. It’s a great way to discover interesting wines and to find new styles of wine to build an addiction around. They turned us onto Sineann, for instance, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

I thought it might be fun to talk about what we picked up and why. Okay, I wanted to gloat a bit, because we’ll be drinking this and you won’t (unless you contact Cellar on 10th. they ship….)

A couple of quick notes on our wine preferences: we don’t cellar any more, so we’re buying things intending to drink in the next 12-24 months or less. We tend to minimize Cabernet and Chardonnay, and we to go more for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Zinfandel. Our “house wine” is Cakebread (we’ve been buying their wines since I was at Sun) but we aren’t afraid of a bottle of two buck chuck. We’ve picked up an appreciation for Sangiovese, Barolo and I have a minor addiction to ice wines and ports. I am not going to talk about the wines, since we haven’t drunk them yet.

Just your normal silicon valley happy hour wine drinkers…


First up, our Sineanne. We picked up the 2011 Pinot Noir Resonance Vineyard. We also picked up a 2 bottles of the Sineann Pinot Gris 2012 Wy’east Vineyard. These should be good, hearty, Williamette Pinots. Sineanne also makes one of my favorite dessert wines, the Sweet Sydney, which they were out of stock on. It is a Zinfandel Ice wine, with some nice sharp notes and a wonderful syrup (fortunately, I still have a bottle hidden away).

Another winery we like is Troon Vineyards, in Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon. They make a wonderful Zinfandel, so we put two of their 2011 Foundation ’72 bottles in the box.


Another old favorite is Owen Roe’s Abbot’s Table. It is a Columbia valley red blend, sort of a hearty table wine for people who don’t believe “table wine” should mean “cheap grapes and compromises”.  This is a blend of Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Lemberge, with a bit of Merlot and Malbec in it.

One more old favorite: Zerba Cellars, Walla Walla valley. we grabbed a bottle of their 2008 Grenache.

Then some new to us releases: Adelsheim 2010 Pinot Nois. They’re out of the Willamette Valley, a good place for Pinot. Another Willamette Valley Pinot is the 2011 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee from Cristom. And yet another Willamette Valley Pinot: The 2011 from Les Cousins, produced by Beaux Freres in Newberg.

Finally, the most unusual of the main box: The Barhard Griffin 2012 Sangiovese Rose. It’s got this most fascinating color, and I’m intensely curious about how the rose treatment will manage the Sangiovese grape. And it was one of the least expensive wines in the buy, so even if it’s just “okay”, it was an easy thing to experiment with. I’m hoping this one will surprise me a bit…


In the goodie bag we ended up bringing home three dessert wines, the Sineanne 2008 CJ, which is a Zinfandel Port. The second is the only non-northwest wine, a Jackson-Triggs (Niagara region) Proprietors Reserve Icewine 2007. This is a white blend where the grapes are crushed frozen so they can remove the ice and concentrate the syrup. I’m not insulting this wine by saying I consider it the classic example of a “table wine” for ice wine, the kind of thing you sit down with a nice cheese plate and a friend or two after a good meal…  Clean and sweet and syrupy but not cloying, the sort of wine you drink with conversation while you unwind.


And finally, the really obscure and strange wine of the trip, a Ken Wright Cellars 2001 Late Harvest Red Wine. It’s sold as a faux port. It was originally crushed to be a port but the story we were told was that when they sampled the barrels when they were thinking of bottling it, they hated it, so they took the barrels and buried them in the back of the storage building. Four years later they were noticed and were going to be cleared out, and they tasted them just to see what they’d become, and they really liked them — but didn’t know what to do with them. At one point this was going to be bottled just for staff, but it’s available primarily through the cellar directly in limited volume, and the Cellar on 10th people got their hands on a small supply as well. And now I have a bottle, I have no idea what it’s going to be when I open it up, but I’m really looking forward to finding out.

This haul kinda sums up our racks — lots of pinot, lots of zin, and a random selection of weird stuff that happens to be really good. I’m not a huge fan of the formal tasting, but I know what I like and that’s what matters. If any of these really stand out, I’ll talk about them when we open them up. Mostly, though, I think wine’s about figuring out what you like, and then finding someone who can help you get more of that and identify other cellars that you’ll like as well.

And that’s why I like wandering by Cellar on 10th every so often…




Peachpit Press (one of my favorite publishers) has just announced a new line of books. I’ve talked about Craft and Vision in the past and how I like their publishing strategy of shorter books on specific topics at a very reasonable price, and with FuelBooks, Peachpit is implementing a line that uses that same general concept.

They’ve started out with six titles, all from really good authors like Rob Sheppard and Nicole S. Young. They run a bit longer than the typical Craft and Vision title at 50-100 pages, and are being published at the same price $5 price point, so these look to be good value books with interesting topics. The initial run includes Photographing Fireworks, Travel Photography, using Black and White photography in Nature and Landscape work and a couple of others.

Definitely worth checking out. There are a couple I’m going to be getting so I can check out the writing and layout, but honestly, at $5, it’s something you can buy just to see if it’s as good as you hope it is. With PeachPit behind it, I’m pretty sure the quality will be there.


In search of a breakfast drink that you can actually drink….

This may seem like a strange thing to review, but stick with me for a minute…

As someone who heads out with the camera into places without services and who tends to take long road trips, it’s really a good idea for me to keep a food supply in the car. As a diabetic, there are times when I realize I really ought to eat — and I’d like an alternative to finding a fast food joint (assuming there’s one nearby).

But since I’m diabetic, I really want things that are higher in protein and lower in carbs. To add to the complication, I have nut allergies, and I eat zero tree nuts and I also can’t eat peanuts. So right off the bat, 90% of the things most people haul in the car with them fail the “me” test, since the whole universe of granolas and trail mixes and the typical things people suggest are either non-edible for me, or are basically carb bombs. It’s always come down to carbs and jerky and things requiring refrigeration.

I’ve recently seen adds for these “breakfast to go” drinks, and so I was curious. Could this be my “leave in the car for those unscheduled uses” mini-meals? Good news: they don’t require refrigeration until opening, their nutritional setup isn’t bad (the Ensure is actually got a good amount of protein and moderate carbs) and they’re imminently portable and you can leave them in the car until you want them (within reason).

But are they drinkable? I gave a couple a shot. Trust me when I say the chocolate flavor of anything like this is most drinkable, and anything labeled strawberry I would avoid like the plague, just from past experience (remember Quik? Remember Strawberry Quik? Yeah… like the plague…). First up, Ensure High Protein, Creamy Milk Chocolate — I cracked one open unchilled. The first swallow — chocolate Quik. Not a great chocolate flavor, but… And then the aftertaste hit. The best description I can give is “institutional”. Quik was always kind of a weak, not very chocolate, sweet taste. That was this, but then layer in, oh, that flavor you get when you brew up some iced tea and then leave it out on the counter for three or four days until it turns. That flavor. 20 minutes later, I could still vaguely taste it. It would probably be better heavily chilled, just like a bad, cheap beer is more palatable chilled until the flavor goes away, but still, I have to say I’ll only drink ensure under Doctors orders (and an armed nurse), and under protest. A big “no, thanks anyway” here. (I can only wonder how bad the strawberry version is).

Later, I tried the Kellogg’s. It’s not as high protein, but the nutrition profile is still okay. Again, chocolate. This time, I stuck it in the fridge and chilled it. 190 calories 5g of fat, 10g or protein, 29g of carbs. more carbs than I’d hope, but… it’s closer to what I want then most things I’ve tried.

My suggestion: don’t go for the breakfast drinks, but look for the shelf stable milks. Both white and chocolate exist, and both are much cheaper than the “special” drinks, the nutrition is as good or better (the shelf stable low-fat white milks are about 8g protein and 12g carbs. the chocolate is 18-20g carbs), and the only other difference is that the milks don’t have lots of really cheap vitamins (of questional real value to you) added.

So, if you’re looking for something like this, don’t get fancy or follow the marketing, drink the milk.