At This Moment…#2

At This Moment….is a series that I expand on the day to day things that I see, do, read, eat and drink, and share them with you so that you too may be inspired by some of these things. In turn, I hope that you will share with me what is grabbing your attention…at this moment.

Last week an early morning flight to Santa Fe allowed for an amazing glimpse of a Sunrise over Mt Rainier

“Be Happy for this moment. This moment is your Life.” -Omar Khayyam

Travel…At this Moment

After a week exploring the charming town of Santa Fe, Mexico I came home with many culinary treasures to use during the holiday season thanks to visits to The Savory Spice Shop and Santa Fe Olive Oil . I am looking forward to sharing more about these Santa Fe locations in an upcoming blog post along with recipes that incorporate this unique ingredients.

Santa Fe also charmed me with it’s selection of New Mexico Wines. Visits to Noisy Waters Winery’s tasting room in SantaFe, as well as Gruet and Vivác Winery, made for some enjoyable afternoons sipping local wines and talking about the rising popularity of New Mexico wines. I will also be sharing more about these impressive New Mexico Wineries very soon.

Buzzing about…At this Moment

Earlier this month a case of Bordeaux wine docked at the ISS as part of a biological research project called WISE: Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia. It is the first wine experiment aboard the space station. Wine cellar in space: 12 bottles arrive for year of aging

Due to growing competition with craft beer, cider, spirits and other drinks like hard seltzer, wine sales are experiencing continually lower sales numbers around the globe. Good Fruit Grower posted this article, Growers switch gears after grape glut that shares some valuable information about why the Wine grape industry is hitting a period of oversupply and lower prices.

Just in time for the Holiday Season The Seattle Times shares the best wines to go with your holiday feasts from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Not surprising Treveri Cellars NV Blanc de Blancs made The Seattle Times list.

Wine…At this Moment

National Zinfandel Day is November 20th and I am gearing up to share some of my favorite Zinfandel wines, including this beautiful wine from Seghesio Family Vineyards.

Wine and Spirits Advent Calendars have become increasingly popular over the last few years. My husband snagged this one for me from a local store. I will be sharing highlights from this advent calendar during the month of December.

Food…At this Moment

The next week will be busy preparing for Thanksgiving and our first Holiday Party. Each year I make the same family favorites when it comes to food being put on the Thanksgiving table, but I also like to add something new to change it up a bit and surprise everyone. My friend Shaun Myrick has some incredible recipes on his blog and this year I hope to incorporate one of them into my menu planning; Rosé Cranberry Sauce .

I am excited to share my thoughts and interests with you here and I thank you, as always, for reading

Lake Chelan Wine Valley’s Rocky Pond Winery

At Rocky Pond Winery it is all about family which is evident with the beautiful array of family photos that adorn a wall in their Chelan, WA tasting room. This boutique Washington winery is owned by David and Michelle Dufenhorst, who’s wine making journey began 2015 when they purchased their first established 50-acre vineyard, Clos CheValle. Shortly after their second vineyard, Double D Vineyard was added and this 165-acre site, was planted with mostly red varietals.

Clos CheValle Vineyard

Touring the Clos CheValle Vineyard is a great way to get a better appreciation for the decade old vines that scatter the 1250 to 1600 foot elevation hillside. With magnificent views of Lake Chelan, Clos CheValle the vines of the vineyard mingle with the residential homes that make up Clos CheValle. Walking trails take you past an array of high-quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Menunier grapes, along with outstanding Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier and some Syrah.

Strolling through the vineyards, surveying the geography, experiencing the weather and then tasting the wines, you begin to realize how grapes are truly an expression of where they are grown.

Shane Collins, the winemaker for Rocky Pond Winery since 2017, has deep roots in the Lake Chelan area and that is reflected in his winemaking process. Although, I did not get to met Shane in person while visiting Rocky Pond Winery due to his busy harvest schedule, he was kind enough to answer some questions for me by email. Considered one of Washington wine’s rising stars by Seattle Magazine I asked Shane why he choose to stay in the Lake Chelan Valley to produce wine as opposed to the other wine regions in Washington State.

“I grew up in Lake Chelan growing apples. Being able to make wines from the same soils and area that family has farmed for 4 generations is very important to me. The geology and geography of Lake Chelan is so different from most grape growing regions in our state. We grow and create wines that are discernible from our neighbors to the south, mostly in acidity. Something that unfortunately is disappearing in modern wines.”

One cannot visit Lake Chelan without thinking of terroir

The uniqueness of Lake Chelan terroir began with a glacier that formed the lake and guarded the region from the massive geological event of the last ice age known as the Missoula Floods. The glacier set the deposits of the layered metamorphic rock and granite soil in the valley which was then covered by volcanic ash when the Glacier Peak volcano erupted. With the ideal soil composition in place and the addition of high-desert climate along with moderate temperatures due to the lake effect, the land surrounding Lake Chelan has become an ideal location for growing wine grapes.

Clos CheValle Vineyard is producing some awards winning wines, like Rocky Pond’s 2017 100% Estate Gewurztraminer which grabbed silver at the Seattle Wine Awards

Walking through working vineyards, seeing wildlife and experiencing hilltop views gives you a true appreciation for the Lake Chelan Wine Valley.

Rocky Pond’s Tasting Room in Chelan

The Rocky Pond tasting room is a nice modern gem that is warm and welcoming, with a large array of seating options available both indoor and outdoor. Offering both genuine hospitality and some of the areas best wines, the staff at Rocky Pond will walk you through a tastings with enthusiasm and exceptional wine knowledge.

Chelan tasting room manager Jill Babcock, is extremely knowledgeable about wine did a wonderful job introducing me to each of the Rocky Pond wines on the tasting menu.

2017 Pinot Gris

Made from 100% Estate Clos CheValle Pinot Gris the 2017 Vintage from Rocky Pond has a lovely golden color and a multi layered bouquet of fresh Chelan fruit and spring flowers. On the palate the wine is full of soft white summer fruit flavors with a citrus tease.

Winemaker Shane states the most rewarding things about producing Rocky Pond Wines is “Being able to create wine and products people enjoy and want to share with those close to them. I also love that I get to see a lot of sun rises.”

2016 Pinot Noir

An enchanting Ruby color welcomes you in this 100% Pinot Noir from the Clos Chevelle Vineyard. With each sip of this 2017 Pinot Noir you know that you are drinking a uniquely crafted Washington Pinot, its bold red fruit and spice flavors had me dreaming of pairing it with a perfectly grilled salmon.

When asked which Rocky Pond wine or vintage was his favoirte and what elements made this wine or vintage unique, Winemaker Shane replied;
“One is our 2017 Clos CheValle Lake Chelan AVA Syrah. Co-fermented with 6% viognier the wine is also leaner with cooler climate flavors and mouthfeel giving it its own personality far different from reds we grow at our warmer Double D site.”

“The simple act of opening a bottle of wine has brought more happiness to the human race than all the collective governments in the history of earth”
-Jim Harrison

Shane also shared that next year he is planning on doing more work with alternative vessels, like concrete, for upcoming vintages.

2016 LA DOMESTIQUE

This multi award winning Right Bank Bordeaux style wine is a perfectly executed blend of 70% Merlot and 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Malbec. With an aroma of raspberry flavored hot chocolate and flavors of orchard fresh dark Washington cherries and plum, this is a wine that deserves a taste when you visit Rocky Pond. The best sip of the tasting I couldn’t imagine going home without a bottle of this wine.

I asked Shane if there was a favorite varietal he liked to work with and he replied, “For me it has been Gewürztraminer for many years. A wine that gets little love but when done right is absolutely beautiful and stunning. It is uniquely perfumed but most important it has a higher malic acid that gives it more punch when most are fat and oily as well as sweet.”

Rocky Pond Winery shares some great advice on their website that they received years ago while traveling in France.

“Don’t save your best wine for formal occasions; celebrate your best wine with family and friends”.

Recently, Wine Press Northwest named Rocky Pond its 2019 Washington Winery to Watch and with their large variety of quality, award winning wines it is easy to see why. I highly recommend visiting one of the Rocky Pond tasting rooms or checking out their website to order Rocky Pond wines for the upcoming holiday season.

A trip to Rocky Pond Winery in Chelan can also offer an incredible experience to enjoy the natural beauty of this region, along with a sense of peace and quiet that you may be looking for.

Rocky Pond Winery has two tasting rooms in Washington state, one in Chelan at 212 E Woodin Ave. and the other is located in the Warehouse District in Woodinville at 19501 144th Ave NE #B600.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Spiced Gin Pear Cake and Washington Gewürztraminer

The arrival of Bartlett pears in the late summer marks the beginning of pear season, a season that then peaks in the fall. The beauty of fresh ripe pears is in the endless ways these sweet juicy fruits can inspire thoughts of Autumn desserts. This year the Northwest Pear crop was one of the largest on record and on my drive home from a recent trip to Lake Chelan, WA, I couldn’t resist stopping at a fruit stand in Leavenworth to pick up a few pounds of this years bountiful crop.

Spiced Gin Pear Cake

I used is Trillium Gin from Oregon Distillery, Trail Distilling, but you can use any gin you fancy. I just love the beautiful notes of citrus, juniper and floral flavors in this gin, it added so much earthiness to the mild Bartlett pears.

You can find out more about Trail Distilling on their website.

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The addition of fresh lemon zest to this cake gives it a brightness that also brings out the richness of the warm spices.
Thyme brings everything in this cake together and elevates it from a simple dessert to something that deserves a spot on the table during your next brunch or dinner party. The addition of fresh herbs is great way to experiment with adding a bit of savory flavor to your baking.
This cake isn’t complete without a dusting of powdered sugar.

This Spiced Gin Pear cake is honestly an ode to the season, and it can be an easy “go to” cake all winter long. I loved this recipe so much that I decided to add it to the dessert table at Thanksgiving. It’s that good.

The trip to Lake Chelan Wine Valley also gave me the opportunity to bring home some Washington wines that I knew would pair perfectly with Autumn desserts. One of those wines was this 2018 Reserve Gewürztraminer from WineGirl Wines. I loved the low 1.5% sugar in this Gewürztraminer and its slightly spicy, white peach flavor. It was a beautiful wine to enjoy with a slice of warm Spiced Gin Pear cake.

I am such a sucker for sweet wines, especially Gewürztraminer with its sweet and seductive floral bouquet.

Spiced Gin Pear Cake

This Spiced Gin Pear cake is the perfect dessert for entertaining and for pairing with a Gewürztraminer, Riesling or dessert wine. Loaded with lush ripe pears, fresh thyme and fragrant gin this cake is sure to be a crowd pleasure.

Ingredients

  • 4 Ripe Pears (I used Bartlett Pears)
  • 6 Sprigs of Thyme
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Ground Cardamon
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs at room temperature
  • ¾ cup Raw Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Gin
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • cup Buttermilk at room temperature
  • ½ cup Butter, melted plus more for greasing parchment paper
  • 2 tbsp Demerara Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper into an 8-or 9-inch cast iron pan and grease with butter.
    2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the sugar, gin, and vanilla extract. Pour in the buttermilk and whisk to combine.
    3. Peel, halve, and core 3 of the pears, then cut them into 1/2-inch-thick cubes. Reserve the remaining pear (unpeeled, and cut into 1/4-inch slices) for the top.
    4. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined, then gently fold in half of the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining flour and butter. Gently fold in the cubed pears, reserving the slices. Add the leaves from 5 thyme leaves.
    5. Transfer the batter to the pan and arrange the pear slices in a circular pattern on top of the batter. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and the remaining thyme leaves. Bake until the cake turns a deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
    6. Transfer the skillet to a cooling rack and let sit for 5 minutes. The cake may be served warm or at room temperature, directly from the skillet; whichever you choose, be sure to dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

If you make this Spiced Gin Pear cake I would love to hear what wine you paired it with.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Harvest in the Champagne Region of France

Handpicked Beautiful Pinot Noir Grapes

The Champagne region of France harvest was well underway the second week of September with a flurry of activity in the wineries, villages and vineyards. As each plot reached optimal ripeness the annual parade of pickers descended upon the vineyards to handpick each grape varietal, which is a strict part of the Champagne appellation’s regulations. Handpicked grapes is one of the steps key to producing high-quality and unique Champagnes that come only from this region in France.

Vineyards surrounding Épernay

The Grape Pickers are the True Champions of the Harvest

In France a grape picker is called Vendangeur or Vendangeuse. The regions of Champagne and Beaujolais are the only two wine regions left in France where picking grapes by hand is the law, all of the other AOC’s and regions allow for mechanized picking. Many of the grape pickers in the Champagne region, come from Eastern Europe traveling each year for the 2-3 week harvest. The great majority of these workers hail from Poland. Time is of the essence when it comes to grape picking in this region as there really are only a few days when the grapes are optimal for picking. This fast paced work can be challenging for the grapes pickers as well as hard on their backs as the grapes grow so low to the ground. Each grape picker that I saw during my time in the region seemed to be enjoying the work the best that they could. For this reason, if you enjoy drinking Champagne, than you should consider these individuals the true champions of the harvest.

It will be interesting to see if hand picking continues to be the law in the Champagne region as the labor pool is shrinking. Finding the needed 100,000 plus people to pick grapes in Champagne, for up to three weeks a year is getting more and more difficult.

The major share of grapes produced in Champagne are Pinot Noir, they make up about 38% of all grapes grown in Champagne. Pinot Noir grapes are the earliest to ripen and are best suited to the south or south-west facing aspects. Pinot Noir grapes have thick skins and are high in sugar and many experts describe the Pinot Noir in champagne as giving it vitality, complexity and fullness.

It is true, the beautiful Champagnes are the main reason for visiting this area of France, but another important feature of this amazing region is the breathtaking landscape.

The views in the higher elevation vineyards are amazing, in the distance is the village of Épernay and the Marne River, which is an eastern tributary of the Seine.

Champagne Pioneer Dom Pérignon

Less than 6 km from Épernay is the small and quaint village of Hautvillers, it is there that you will find Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, the church that holds the grave of Champagne pioneer Dom Pérignon. A visit to this peaceful location even after numerous restorations gives a wonderful glimpse into the past.

Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers

Dom Pérignon, a name which is now synonymous with the popular Vintage Champagne bottled by Champagne house Moët & Chandon, is named for a monk and cellar master at the whose contribution to wine from the Benedictine abbey in Hautvillers. Famous for his elaboration and contributions of wine, Dom Pérignon was a pioneer in the blending of grapes to improve the quality of the wines and with fixing the imperfections of both bottle and cork. Some people say that Dom Pérignon was blind and that when he tasted a grape, he could tell exactly what vineyard it originated from.

The abbey, active between 665 and the French Revolution of 1789, was founded in 650 by Saint Nivard, Bishop of Reims. Full of history, Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers also housed the relics of Saint Helena, Empress and mother of Constantine, between 841 and 1819. Since 1983 the abbey has been classified as a monument of historical value.

As a sign of honor and respect, Dom Pierre Pérignon was buried in the abbey which was traditionally reserved only for Abbots. For this reason and if you are a lover of bubbly, it only seems appropriate to pay homage to this Champagne pioneer while visiting this historic wine region.

A tour and tasting with Champagne Salmon

In the small village of Chaumuzy in the Marne department in north-eastern France you will find Champagne Salmon.

The Salmon family wine making legacy spans three generations;
Grandfather Michel, grandson Alexandre and son Oliver.

Preparing for the Harvest

My visit to Champagne Salmon was the day before their first grapes were set to be harvested and everything was set, ready for the busy days ahead. Prior to the Champagne tasting at Champagne Salmon a tour was given of the pressing room and production facilities.

Champagne Salmon wines matured to perfection, resting quietly in the cellars awaiting the right time of release.

When you pop open a bottle of champagne, you’re uncorking the complete story of that bottle including the importance of storage in the champagne house’s cave. A naturally cool underground setting where the Champagnes character can develop.

In 1958 Salmon produced the first vintage of Champagne with a total of 500 bottles. Today, Champagne Salmon is one of the 5000 growers in the region that also makes their own wine, and in 2008 the house became one of the elite 28 members of the exclusive “Club Trésors de Champagne” otherwise known as the Special Club.

The Special Club started in 1971 with one purpose: to promote the terroir of Champagne. Unlike the big producers, who combine fruit from many different places to create a uniform style, Special Club members must be designated RM (Recoltant Maker, or a grower-producer) and use only fruit from their estate vineyards to create the most memorable vintage bottling possible. Members then submit the wine to two blind tasting panels, and if judged good enough, the wine goes into a uniquely shaped bottle. Three years later, the carefully prepared bubbly is released to the world.

A lot has changed since the grandfather Michel, who was born and raised in Chaumuzy, sold each bottle produced door to door. Now son Oliver and grandson Alexandre maintain the day to day operations and the total annual production of more than 100,000 bottles.

Still very much a part of the winery, it was truly an honor to have Michel guide the tasting at Champagne Salmon during this visit.

The Champagne Salmon wines show a genuine sense of place, and a exquisitely unique style that’s all their own.

Salmon Prestige Brut Champagne

A beautiful symphony of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this vigorous sparkling adds words to the symphony with bubbles that you can hear. Soft, pure and fruity, each sip distributes new flavors of citrus, brioche and oak to deliver a delightfully long finish. This sparkling would be a perfect aperitif or a delicious “the weekend is here” celebration wine.

Salmon 100% Meunier Brut

Pinot Meunier contributes fruitiness, richness and body to Champagne and Meunier’s can add a little extra roundness in cuvée. The 100% Meunier Brut is a champagne which, thanks to the Meunier grapes, brings an array of confected fruit aromas and flavors to this sparkling. Silvery gold colors twinkle in the glass as soft and vibrant bubbles rise expressively to the surface bringing with them nuances of apple, tropical, and minty citrus fruit. The accession on the palate is fresh and graceful with a creamy smooth froth that develops unfolding a refreshing fruitiness. A lightly saline dry finish completes the collective flavor harmonies. This is a swank Champagne that speaks strongly and eloquently of this region of France.

Salmon 100% Meunier Brut Rosé

Developing a strong expertise in Pinot Meunier, the Salmon family has chosen to create cuvées of pure Pinot Meunier instead of masking it in blends with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This 100% Pinot Brut Rosé (which includes 20% ​​Pinot Meunier sautéing rosé and 5% Pinot Meunier red wine) is a shining example of Champagne Salmon’s complete collection of Pinot Menunier champagnes. The nose of on this fine lively glass of bubbles evokes smells of honey roasted apples and with sliced almonds and hints of smoky pineapple. The visually appealing raspberry pink appearance divulges a fresh and ripe summer red fruit flavored wine. Combined with lemon, floral and light spicy notes the finish on this sparkling is rich, textured and sincerely refreshing.

Salmon Ratafia De Champagne

A Ratafia de Champagne is a grape based spirit they make in the Champagne region. Typically the grape juice that goes into making Ratafia comes from the third or fourth press and Ratafia de Champagne often tastes more like a light port, sweeter and with a slight syrup texture. Ratafia is best enjoyed chilled as an aperitif or with a dessert at the end of a meal, and it’s often used in cocktails.

Champagne Salmon Ratafia is a blend of fresh Meunier juice and fine de champagne. Copper salmon in color this Ratafia in both aroma and flavor releases sensations of Autumn with orange spice and caramel apples. This was my first experience tasting a Ratafia and I was drawn in by its syrupy and balanced sweetness.

A tour and tasting with the Salmon winemaking family allows one to understand the meaning of putting your heart and soul into your craft. Their generational contributions combine to guarantee a stellar line up, no matter the vintage.

“Flying over Champagne in a hot-air balloon, as we like to do, anchors us down to this terroir. We take it to heart to express tradition and exception through the quality and finesse of our productions. Our family passion for traveling in hot-air balloons is akin to that which makes us gather in the vineyards, around the great grape press and in the cellars where we elaborate the cuvées of the house Salmon.”
Champagne Salmon
“Grapes are the most noble and challenging of all fruits.”
-Malcolm Dunn

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

At This Moment…

“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.”
— Victoria Moran

Welcome to a new series, At This Moment….

Since launching Drink In Life in January I have come to realized how much I love this sharing space that I’ve created. I love writing about my travel, wine, and food experiences, but much of it is past tense. In this new series I want to offer something a little more broad and a lot more personal by sharing things that I am currently enjoying, doing and working on, at this moment.

I want to expand on the day to day things that I see, do, read, eat and drink, and share them with you so that you too may be inspired by some of these things. Then in turn, I hope that you will share with me what is grabbing your attention…at this moment. I think this is a great way to build mindshare, spark conversation, explore new things, and inspire each other.

I’d love to hear your feedback! Let me know what you think about this new endeavor. 

So without further adieu, here’s At This Moment:

Buzzing About…At This Moment:

Since the Kincaid fire in Sonoma County started on October 23rd, I like so many others have been following the devastating news. One article that really caught my attention was Vineyards can help stop fires. They did in the Alexander Valley by Esther Mobley. An interesting article on how “vines’ firefighting capacity may be enhanced as these natural disasters occur.”

After a tough weather year in France I am trying to keep up on the latest news about how the French wine output is set to fall in 2019 due to extreme weather .

Getting ready for the holiday season means stocking up on some extra bottles of Sparkling wine. This article from Wine Press Northwest gives some great information on how Northwest sparkling wines continue to pop out with delicious diversity

Reading…At This Moment:

With my upcoming WSET Level 2 classes and exam approaching in early 2020 it goes without saying that all of my current reading involves Wine. On my reading list is the WSET Level 2 textbook, Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack and the 8th edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnsonand Jancis Robinson

Wine…At This Moment:

November 7th is International Merlot Day. I am getting ready for this Wine Day by drinking some of my cellared Merlot to share with my followers on social media. Two Washington Merlot wines that I will be sharing are the 2016 Merlot from Pepper Bridge and Matthews 2016 Merlot.

Next to be opened are some bottles of Pinot Blanc that I brought home from my last trip to Willamette Valley. I am currently working on reviews to introduce these lovely wines to you, but until then you can read more about Oregon Pinot Blanc from this article written by Leslie Kelly last year for Sip Northwest Magazine .

Travel…At This Moment:

Quickly approaching is my trip to Santa Fe, NM to attend the IFWTWA 2019 CONFERENCE . In addition to the scheduled seminars and presentations I have given myself a few extra days to discover New Mexico wineries around Santa Fe and dive deep into the fantastic food scene. It has been over 20 years since I have been to Santa Fe and I am excited to see how things have changed and to share this destination with you.

I am excited to share my thoughts and interests with you here and I thank you, as always, for reading