ROCO Winery 2013 The Stalker Pinot Noir

by Erin James

Rollin Soles is a familiar name in the Oregon wine industry. He is a pioneering winemaker with global knowledge of…


Bill Stoller never strayed far from the land that is now Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon.

If you’re anything like me, August is a stressful month. Besides trying to keep on top of all the news about this year’s crop of wine grapes, August is also when my many fantasy football drafts happen, and preparing for those is tough (and thirsty) work.

Not everyone likes tomatoes. How this is a fact of life, I don’t know, but it’s true. Around my house, I’m known for putting tomatoes in just about everything, so when I’m having company over who may feel averse to the pulpy, red fruit, I have to dig deep into the recesses of my brain for inspiration that isn’t tainted by the vine-ripened morsels.
Luckily, if there’s one thing everyone can agree on (assuming they’re not vegan or lactose intolerant) is cheese.

It’s no secret that good wine starts with good grapes. What started with a few vines in 1997 on the family farm grew phenomenally, and now co-owners and brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt lead the farming of their grapes on 12 different estate vineyards on more than 2,500 acres of land along the Columbia Valley and Wahluke Slope. In 2005, the brothers decided to take the plunge from just growing fruit for other wineries to creating their own label of wine as well.

It’s hard to say what the best part of Wy’east Vineyard is. The small, family-run vibe, the relaxing patio with views of the Hood River Valley or the fact that their tasting room is in a converted fruit stand in Hood River, Oregon. First beginning as a pear orchard, owners Dick and Christie Reed took up grape farming in 1996 before producing their own wine in 2002.

Washington Wine Month is upon us, and while of course the state’s wines get attention the other 11 months of the year, I figured I’d take this opportunity to shine a bit of light on a few places in Washington that I think deserve a bit more attention: growing regions, winemakers and more.
Columbia Gorge. You might be sick of hearing about it, because in certain circles the Columbia Gorge AVA is considered the most promising region in the Northwest.

With five decades of family history in farming, Robert Van Westen is most at home, sustainably cultivating the soils of his Naramata Bench estate for Van Westen Vineyards. He was born on the Bench, grew up farming and planted his first grapes here in 1999 (hence the Twitter handle). The 2014 Viognier shows his careful handling of what can become an out-of-control grape. Ripe pear, gooseberry, orange and apricot blossom open the nose of this voluptuous, off-dry white.

Humans, as a species, are visually driven. When we see a photograph or watch a movie that is visually pleasing, we are drawn in and take notice. By being guided by these ocular clues around the world, many decisions are made on the basis of sight alone. Take, for example, choosing a wine out of shelf of similar wines. Now to the wine experts out there, a label may not be as important as the contents held within, but to the average consumer, a label is everything.

Red blends can be a roller coaster of sensations for your taste buds. A Merlot is a distinct, almost trademarked, flavor that can be easily identified. So too can the Malbec variety be pinpointed after one sip. However, when combined, they can produce a wine that perfectly balances two flavors that you would otherwise expect to be wrestling for prominence.
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 vintage of Côt et Merlau finds a harmony between these two ivories.

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