While the experts and wannabe experts focus on the wine, the vintage and the varietal, we are more interested in the experience of tasting wine at its source, the winery and its tasting room. We’re just regular folks who fell in love with the opportunity to meet and get to know tasting room staff, wine makers and winery owners all over the country.
We live in the southern Willamette Valley in Oregon so much of our attention will be on the wineries that are producing amazing local Pinot Noirs but we also travel a great deal and try to include visits to wineries on our road trips as well.
This past weekend we spent a few days in the Columbia River Gorge near Hood River. The Columbia River Gorge separates Oregon and Washington and is some of the lushest land you can imagine. There are hundreds of wineries scattered among the tall pines of this area of the Pacific Northwest and of course we visited a few.
Our first stop was at Aniche Cellars in Underwood, WA. Aniche is well known for having a female winemaker who has been highly decorated for her creative combining of grapes to come up with many literary themed blends. This particular weekend, the winery was featuring blends that were named after the sights and sounds of Lord of the Rings. Aniche’s tasting room is small and cozy with low lighting, lots of barrels and a small tasting bar. One of the most unique things about Aniche is their interest in food pairings. Each tasting is accompanied by a small plate with different small bites. We found the wine to be very nice, with the impact of the pairings significant. The wine was better with food!
Our next stop was at Stoltz Tasting Room in Hood River. This tasting room is in the oldest house in Hood River with a spectacular view of the Gorge. After many years as a private home, the space later became a funeral home before being restored and converted into a winery with a small tasting room and residences above. The wine is made in the basement where all the embalming took place. Think of the jokes they can make about their brews!
Stoltz had very nice wines, but when it comes to the experience it was just plain odd. The tasting room was small and our host was just a bit too “canned,” giving exactly the same speech to everyone who walked in the door.
Our final stop on this round of visits was the tasting room at Cathedral Ridge outside of Hood River. This wonderful little treasure was tucked in among beautiful trees and the tasting room was very inviting. We got a very warm greeting and were handed a long, and I mean long, list of wines to choose from for our tasting. Our server was lovely and we ended up trying more than the allotted sips. It was a really nice experience, but I think a newbie might be overwhelmed by the options, I’m not exaggerating when I say there were 30 different wines and I think we got to choose seven. That’s a lot of thinking to do on a wine tasting adventure 🙂