The City of Reims – A Perfect Pairing of History and Champagne

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” Mark Twain

Before exploring the Champagne Region, sit back and enjoy a welcome glass of Champagne with a rooftop view of Reims

By train Reims is less than an hour from Paris, and once there this enchanting city opens up many opportunities to taste a plethora of Champagnes, both in the city and out in the surrounding wine region.

Reims, the City of Kings and Champagne is filled with spectacular architecture, statues and history. Many people visit Reims for the Champagne, but to truly experience the city you need to walk the street and take in the historical beauty that is everywhere.

Drouet-d’Erlon Square

A stroll through Drouet-d’Erlon square will take you past cafés, bakeries, shops and selection of nice restaurants. In the center of the square, you will see the Subé fountain, capped by a golden angel statue, the symbol of Reims.

“With a kiss let us set out for an unknown world.” -Alfred de Musset

Walking the grounds and venturing into Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is like a journey back in time.

Besides its extraordinary historical significance, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is also recognized as one of the most prominent symbols of Gothic architecture still standing in Europe today. Construction of this Roman Catholic Cathedral, whose name means “Our Lady of Reims”, began in the 13th century and concluded in the 15th century . Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Cathedral Reims is famous for being the traditional location for the coronation of the kings of France.

While mainly seen as a classic example of 13th century French Gothic art, due to the damage the cathedral sustained over the years and throughout both World Wars, there are examples of more recent architecture also visible.

In 1861, more than 2,300 statues were counted on the Cathedral, which makes Notre-Dame de Reims the cathedral with the most sculptures in France.

Surrounding the exterior there are several chimeras at the chevet of the cathedral. In the Christian religion, these mythical animals duty was to keep evil away outside the churches. There are 88 gargoyles outside Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims and many are mainly used to drain off rainwater.

“Architecture is the biggest unwritten document in history.” Daniel Libeskind

Built in the shape of a Latin cross, the cathedral measures 149 meters in length and 87 meters in height (including bell tower). Inside there are four chapels that surround the nave.

A sense of the Renaissance can be felt in the wood structures and wood carvings.

A magnificent Pipe Organ: Gothic in style, the organ-case has about 6742 pipes.

As with the stone work and statues in the cathedral, the wood carvings are equally exquisite.

“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world.” Marc Chagall

The Cathedral, known for its beautiful sculpture and statuary, also has the most beautiful stained glass windows. Although the cathedral was heavily damaged during World War I and some statuary and stained glass features were destroyed or damaged, some 13th century stained glass remains, having been restored.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims also reflects stain glass work of the twentieth century. Artist Marc Chagall created three beautiful stained glass panels in the mid 1970s. These windows are in the apse of the cathedral, behind the main altar. The middle window (seen above) tells the stories of Abraham and Christ. Christ on the cross dominates the right hand panel.

Fragments of primary colors can be found among the remaining ancient stained glass. Decades after the start of WW1, two sets of stained glass artworks created by German artist Imi Knoebel were installed in 2011 in the cathedral’s Saint Joseph chapel and in the Sacré Coeur chapel. Inviting a German artist to create art in a cathedral they nearly completely destroyed, was done to help heal scars from old strife that ran deep between nations.

Illuminated candles add to the spiritual ambience.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” – Francis of Assisi

Along with over a million visitors a year, when you step into Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of some of France’s most famous figures. The cathedral has been the site of 31 French King coronations, beginning with Louis VIII in 1223. Perhaps the most famous coronation held at the site was the crowning of Charles VII in 1429, which was done in the presence of Joan of Arc. The last coronation held in the cathedral was that of Charles X in 1825.

In 1991, the Reims Cathedral was consecrated, it is featured on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 2011, Reims Cathedral celebrated its 800th anniversary.

A Haven for Champagne

Reims, functions as one of the centers of champagne production, hence it is named the unofficial Champagne capital of France. Many of the largest les grandes marques (champagne producing houses) have their headquarters in Reims, and some are open for tasting and tours. Champagnes are aged in the many caves and tunnels under Reims, which form a sort of maze below the city, these passages date back to Roman times.

Champagne tasting in Reims

One alternative to visiting the Champagne houses in Reims is to simple explore the many wine bars and restaurants in the city to try an array of the vast Champagnes available during your stay.

With a radiant view of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, Bistrot 31 Cafe & Brasserie offers a wide variety of regional Champagnes. While wandering the city during the late afternoon this is a perfect location to sit outside and people watch as you begin your Champagne tasting journey.

Champagne OUDEA Rosé Premier Cru

Displaying a deep pink color, Champagne OUDEA Rosé Premier Cru draws you in with its effervescent Rosé bubbles and fresh fruit aromas. Sitting outside Bistrot 31 watching the students head home from school and hearing snippets of surrounding tables conversations it is easy to become enchanted by Reims and the glass of champagne in your hand. A rich and fruity Champagne, this Rosé exhibits a beautiful aromatic persistence making it a wonderful sip while taking in the historic and yet modern city that surrounds you.

It’s All About Aperitifs

Le Cul Sec Bar à Vin Reims

A short distance from the city center, but worth the walk is Le Cul Sec Bar à Vin Reims, a wine bar and restaurant that showcases a wonderful and long wine list. As you peruse the list you will find a selection of known and unknown champagnes, taking you on a voyage through the centuries of distinction that this region delivers. Combine this with atmosphere, pleasant service and a delicious menu and you have the ideal place for an Aperitif.

Palmer & Co Blancs de Noirs

From the first bubbly pour to the soft straw color in the glass to the smooth and balanced flavors this Champagne provides a sensationally sophisticated tasting experience.

The term Blanc de Noirs indicates, that a Champagne is made exclusively with red grape varieties. The Palmer & Co Blancs de Noirs is equal proportions of the two main red grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Intensely aromatic with soft introductory notes of creamy smoked butter followed by stone fruits and ripe citrus aromas, this Champagne is luxuriously silky on the nose. On the palate the luxuriousness continues with a silky texture that teases your taste buds and flows smoothly over your tongue. A perfect balance of lightly smoky citrus fruit, honey and almond give a depth to this champagne that is both complex and refined.

Terrine is my new favorite French cuisine infatuation!

A hefty slice of delicious pork terrine served alongside gherkins, or cornichons, with a crusty bread.

Dinner at Au Cul de Poule

Au Cul de Poule is just a few steps from Le Cul Sec Bar à Vin Reims and well worth making a reservation for well priced authentic French cuisine.

Both of these locations are a good twenty minutes from the downtown area and if walking is not an option prearrange for a taxi to take you back to your hotel after dinner.

The menu at Au Cul de Poule is short, but the food is thoughtfully put together, gorgeously presented and perfectly delicious. The wine list has a nice selection to easily pair with each of the starters, entrees and desserts.

Denis Jeandeau Mâcon Chardonnay, with its buttery crispness was a excellent choice to pair with all three courses; terrine appetizer, Andouillette with potatoes and cream sauce and a beautifully light dessert served with the local glace biscuit rose de Reims.

A last supper at Aux 3 P’tits Bouchons

With organic wines from all regions of France, this is a perfect casual spot to relax with a collection of small plates and a glass bubbly,

Definitely book a table at Aux 3 P’tits Bouchons, this charming little wine bar is popular with the locals and serves fresh and locally sourced tapas style food. All organic, the food and wines by the glass changes regularly, so talk about the wines with the staff and scan the chalk board provided for the food details.

Robert Barbichon Reserve 4 Cepages Brut

Robert Barbichon is one of a handful of new breed small producers of organic and biodynamic Champagne. With just 9 hectares of vines in Gye sur Seine, Courteron and Celles sur Ource he produces wines that will make you take notice of this recent and continually evolving move toward producing more organic wines in France. Reserve 4 Cepages Brut releases a toasty yeastiness on the nose, like a loaf of fresh baked citrus zest flavored brioche. Complex layer of flavors come through on the palate which isn’t surprising with the blend of 70% Pinot Noir, and 10% each of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Creamy fruit flavors mingled with a dusting of spices and that same toasted brioche notes that you find in the aroma greet you with each sip. A glass of this wine was recommend by the server and I am so glad that she suggested it, otherwise I would never have discovered this opulent Champagne.

It is polite to hold eye contact when clinking someone’s glass. Otherwise, you risk seven years bad luck, according to the French superstition.

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot is a boutique organic grower located in Vrigny who’s family has been making wine since 1789 and Champagne since 1930. The 7th generation of the Lelarge family, Dominique Lelarge, along with his wife and children are now practicing Biodynamic principles in the vineyards that were certified organic in 2013. They believe that letting the grape thrive as naturally as possible will allow it to truly express the terroir on which it grows.  Each sip of this Pale Golden champagne delivered creamy effervescence of ripe apricot and apple, with streaks of citrus zest and crisp mineral notes. Beautifully balanced this is lovely Champagne is 65% Meunier, 20% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. 

A satisfying dinner of homemade cracker with vegetable spreads and fresh mozzarella in pesto with crunchy bread.

After an all day champagne tasting and tour in the countryside, a light meal and some final glasses of champagne, was a fitting way to end a memorable two days in Reims.

Take the time to explore! Reims needs at least two full days but I could see spending a week here as a home base to discover more Champagnes, visit Champagne houses in the countryside and deeper look into the magnificent history of this magical city.

“In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Champagne every evening.” -Willie Gluckstern

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

Willamette Valley Wine Country: Left Coast Estate

Before you enter the tasting room at Left Coast turn around and take in the magnificent view of this impressive Estate.

Full disclosure here, I have been a fan of Left Coast since tasting their wines last year. My interest in Left Coast was first peaked by a bottle of their White Pinot Noir. At the time I had to ask myself, why would someone take perfectly good Pinot Noir grapes and make a white wine from them? The answer was easy to understand after enjoying a bottle of this white wine for the first time. I had the opportunity to visit Left Coast Estate during the Wine Writers Educational Tour (WWET) of Willamette Valley when the winery hosted our group for dinner and wine tasting of other Oregon wine varietals.

Arriving just before sunset and being ushered into the tasting room for dinner I wished that I had more time to explore the beautiful grounds of Left Coast Estate.

The Estate

As you drive up the long and meandering road to the Left Coast tasting room you get a sense of just how expansive the estate really is. Left Coast is more than just an estate winery, it is also a fully functioning farm with 150 acres of vineyards spread out over the 356 acre farm. The vineyards are mingled among Oregon oaks, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, fields of beautiful wild flowers, and helping to pollinate it all are the estate bees. Roaming the land you will see ducks and other wild fowl along with chickens doing their part to help the biodiversity of this land.

A hand drawn estate map of Left Coast by Cali Pfaff of the ownership family.
Image from Left Coast

This location was discovered in 2003 by Left Coast founders Suzanne Larson and Robert Pfaff who laid out a plan to turn the property into more than just a family farm and winery, but a place that would endure for generations to come. At Left Coast they are “Working to fulfill our commitments to the strengths and benefits of biodiversity, we strive to be the best possible stewards of the land.” Left Coast Estate is LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Ecology) and Salmon Safe certified, and participates in the groundbreaking program “Salud” that guarantees basic healthcare to seasonal field workers. The winery and vineyard are 90% solar powered, constituting the 2nd largest agricultural solar grant in Oregon.

Situated on the 45th parallel, Left Coast Estate vineyards are planted on varying slopes, elevations and soils which brings distinction and complexity to each of their wines. The Estate is home to approximately 150 acres under vine including; Pinot Noir (61%), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Syrah, and Viognier.

“The vineyard is divided into eight unique microclimates, each with its own set of characteristics based on soil type, exposure and elevation ranging from 225 ft to 510 ft above sea level. There is not one terroir at Left Coast but many, allowing our wines to showcase multiple personalities of Willamette Valley wines, bound together through the thoughtful work of Luke McCollum in the vineyard and Joe Wright in the cellar.” Quote from Left Coast’s Website.

Left Coast Estate is home to 11 vineyards including ‘Field of Dreams’ which is the largest at 22 acres.

Planted in 2007/2008 ‘Field of Dreams’ includes varietals of Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay (Clones Musque, 76, and 96), Piont Noir (Clones 828, Pommard, and Wädenswil), Pinot Meunier
Photo from Left Coast Estate Website

Dinner Featuring Other Oregon Varietals

During the WWET in Willamette Valley we tasted a large variety of Oregon Pinot Noir. The dinner, hosted by Left Coast, was a welcome opportunity to taste some of the other varietals that the Willamette Valley offers.

A Welcome glass of Left Coast Estate Brut Rosé of Pinot Meunier 2015

Dinner included many items from the Left Coast Estate and gardens as well as other local ingredients.

I wanted to personally thank Left Coast Estate for hosting us for dinner and wine tasting. Dinner was prepared by Robert Pfaff, Chef Carolynn Andringa and other members of the Left Coast team.

‘Other Varietals’ enjoyed in order of Wine Service:

  • Left Coast Estate Brut Rosé of Pinot Meunier 2015
  • Chris James Cellars ‘Prost!’ Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine 2017
  • Helioterra Arneis Redman Vineyard Ribbon Ridge 2017
  • Helioterra Melon de Bourgogne Willamette Valley 2017
  • Minimus Kerner Johan Vineyard Van Duzen Corridor 2018
  • Bryn Mawr Dolcetto Eola-Amity Hills 2017
  • Left Coast Estate Pinot Meunier ‘High Acres’ Willamette Valley 2016
  • Origin Cabernet Franc Eola Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills 2017
  • Left Coast Estate Rôtie Syrah Noir Willamette Valley 2016
  • Bryn Mawr Tempranillo Eola-Amity Hills 2014
  • Chris James Cellars ‘Cuvée Blanc’ Müller-Thurgau Willamette Valley 2017

Writing about each of these wonderful Willamette Valley wines will be saved for another post. However, I would like to thank the winemakers for sharing these other varietal selections with us.

Representing the wines served from Left to Right:
Rachel Rose-Winemaker, Vineyard Manger-Bryn Mawr
Suzanne Larson Pfaff-Proprietor-Left Coast Estate
Beth James-Proprietor-Chris James Cellars
Anne Hubatch-Winemaker, Proprietor-Helioterra
Laura Cusick-Winemaker-Craft Wine Co. (Orgin & Minimus)

Left Coast Estate’s Winemaker (who was not able to attend) Joe Wright joined the team in 2011. “He was drawn to the diversity of Left Coast Cellar’s 356 acre estate and is now devoted to carefully producing exclusively estate-grown wines that reflect the special characters of their sites.”

Left Coast Proprietors, Robert and Suzanne Pfaff, Emily and her husband, CEO of Left Coast Estate, Taylor Pfaff
This wonderful family welcomed us into their winery and gave us a seat at their tables with open arms and their generous hospitality was greatly appreciated.

Visiting the Pfaff family and beautiful Estate of Left Coast was definitely a highlight of my WWET Willamette Valley trip. I truly can’t wait to return and spend more time exploring the vineyards, gardens and grounds, as well as try more of their remarkable Oregon Wines.

Left Coast Estate is located at 4225 N Pacific Hwy W, Rickreall, OR and the tasting room is open daily from 12-5 and Friday form 12-8. You can learn more about Left Coast on their website.

Prior to my visit to Left Coast Estate I spent the summer enjoying some of their wines.

Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir is now a wine that I look forward to getting the new vintage each year. The 2018 is made from 93% Pinot Noir and 7% Pinot Blanc, It was fermented and aged for five months in 100% stainless steel.
This almost clear white wine draws you in with aromas of peach, citrus, and a grassy wildflower meadow. With the first sip you get notes of fruits from an orchard, pear, cherry and stone fruit with a lovely silky honey and mineral finish. I hope that Left Coast continues to make this perfect Summer sipping wine.
The 2018 Rosé is a drier wine made from 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Pinot Meunier. What makes this Rosé stand out is that it was barrel fermented and aged in 100% French Oak for six months. The nose is laden with strawberry and earth mixed with lovely vanilla citrus aromatics. Each sip of this unique Rosé exhibits the same flavors apparent in the aroma with the addition of a richer earthiness and well balanced tannins. This is not your typical Rosé and perhaps not everyone’s style of pink, but it is a wine that everyone should try at least once. I personally loved it.
This first vintage of Suzanne’s Reserve Estate Chardonnay, is a heavily oaked Chardonnay (22 months in French Oak) and is filled with buttery and nutty flavor. I loved the spiced honey notes that floated on top of a sweet pear aroma. Perfectly balanced with just the right amount of acidity and salty mineral hints on the finish. I have a second bottle of this wine tucked away to enjoy this Fall with a hot bowl of homemade soup and fresh baked bread.

Sample wines reviewed in this blog post were supplied by Left Coast but the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you visited Left Coast Estate in the Willamette Valley or had the opportunity to taste their wines? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section.

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

An Afternoon with a Willamette Valley Wine Legend: David Adelsheim

Wine Writers’ Educational Tour (WWET) Willamette Valley 2019-Legends Seminar

Last month I attended the WWET in the Willamette Valley and during this tour we had the memorable opportunity to be audience to 6 of the winemaking pioneers of the Willamette Valley.

Gathered at the table from Left to Right:
Richard Ponzi and Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards, Harry Petterson Nedry of RR Wines (formally Ribbon Ridge Winery), David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, Jason Lett whose Dad David founded Eyrie Vineyards, and Susan Sokol-Blosser of Sokol Blosser Winery

My hope is to share the story and wines from each of these original founding families of the Willamette Valley and the wines that they shared during the tasting part of the seminar. Each of their personal stories is filled with inspiration, struggles and strong determination to succeed in a business that most of them really knew nothing about, winemaking in the Willamette Valley. Each of these pioneer’s history and story is equally educational and fascinating, so let’s begin with David Adelsheim.

David Adelsheim’s story and winemaking journey began in the Willamette Valley in 1971.

(All quotes from David are from the seminar on August 13, 2019)

David began his story with a little background of how he ended up in the Willamette Valley.

“To give you an idea of our entry into the wine industry, my first wife and I wanted to move from Portland out to the suburbs. But, we didn’t want to go to far away from Portland because of the fact that we never lived outside of the city.”

“So we drew a circle around Portland and kind of went in several directions, but when we came southwest we ended up in this area and ran into a realtor and he told us he had heard that some people had planted wine grapes, which was extremely exciting to me, so we spend the rest of the afternoon looking for wine grapes, and actually never found any.”

Intrigued by the story of wine grapes being grown in the area, David and his first wife continued there search.

“Toward the end of the day we drove up Kings Grey Road, which is over in the Chehalem Mountains, and stopped a guy who was outside his house and asked him if he had ever heard of anybody who had planted wine grapes. And, as it turned out he and that man was Dickey Erath, and he pointed out back a couple of miles away to what was back then the first vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.”

Dick “Dickey” Erath of Erath Winery purchased his first vineyard site on Chehalem Mountain in 1968. In 1969 Dick planted four acres of the property with 23 wine varieties, including Pinot Noir.

“We didn’t actually see those grapes back then either, but as it turned out we had a friend in common, a student who was taking a class, with Bill Blosser. We conceived a plan to get to Bill Blosser and we got in his office and that is where we meet Bill and his wife Susan. Susan invited us to a May Day party, this was 1971, at their rental home which was in the Dundee Hills and they invited some other people. In my mind it was, the Ponzi’s, Harry (Peterson-Nedry) and the Courys (Charles and Shirley Coury). At that point we knew about half of the wine industry.”

Charles and Shirley Coury arrived in the Willamette Valley in March of 1965 and planted their first vines in a nursery which was established by cared for by David Lett. The Coury’s then returned a year later from California and purchased land in Forest Grove that had formally been operated as a vineyard and winery. On the property historically named David Hill, the Coury’s replanted Pinot Noir and Riesling.

David continued to share bits of history from the those years in the 70’s and into the early 80’s, with one bit of important information.

“Nobody ever sold wine, nobody had ever run a business or had a great deal of experience in winemaking.”

David went on to share some of his personal insight into winemaking in the Willamette Valley and tried to answer the question of ‘Why are you here’.

“Why is the Willamette Valley here today with that kind of beginning? I think the answer is ‘Collaborative Peace’, which Susan (Sokol-Blosser) mentioned. The second extremely important piece is we wanted to make great wine.”

Many at the table agreed during the seminar that what was a critical factor in the success of the Willamette Valley wine industry was that they did not set out to make money. David commented, “we just didn’t know how you did that in this business and I think it didn’t matter that much.”

An impressive line up of wines from the Legends.

David then moved on to discuss the two wines that he had brought for the tasting that day; first a 1986 Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir ‘Elizabeth’s Reserve’ Willamette Valley and then a 2007 Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir ‘Bryan Creek Vineyard’ Chehalem Mountains.

“The wine that I actually want you to try is the kind of thing that we did back then, this is a ’86 Reserve, that is in fact a blend of two different vineyards, one from the Chehalem Mountains and one from the Dundee Hills. This wine came about because we wanted to make a small wine of what we thought would be an even better wine. By selecting the best barrels from these two sites which made this wine.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story behind this 1986 vintage that David told in visually expressive way, with comments and laughter added by everyone at the table.

“Now ’86 was not a particularly great vintage and we added a dimension to this wine, which comes out as a minty quality, that would be what became known as the ‘Zambelli Effect. Before this we were doing things smaller, by hand, sometimes in buckets. But then this ‘music man’ came around and he had a piece of equipment that was glowing stainless steel and promised a lot of labor saving advantages. It would de-stem, it would crush and as a result our wines changed. And, we all recognized this.”

David’s 1986 ‘Elizabeth’s Reserve’ Pinot Noir was rich in amber tones yet still fairly translucence for a 33 year old wine. I did pick up some of the ‘mint’ notes in both the aroma and flavor that David spoke of in this Pinot, in addition I noted a mixture of dried fruit, dried herbs and vanilla on the nose. I did love the deep flavor of this wine and was slightly surprised by its light texture. The same flavors came through with each sip, dried herbs and fruit with just a soft hint of vanilla.

When it came time to introduce his second wine you could tell that David was extremely proud of this vintage, and rightfully so, it was in a word Amazing! Here is what Mr. Adelsheim had to say about this 2007 Pinot Noir:

“I wanted to bring this (2007) because it is illustrative of what has happened since around 2000. The 2017 Bryon Creek is a single vineyard, we had made single vineyards before but this was the first time we didn’t call it Chehalem Mountains. Chehalem Mountains which I had petitioned for was finally approved in 2006 and so this was the first thing we bottled that we could put that AVA on.

David Adelsheim is a strong supporter of single vineyard and this wine marked the next step in really giving his wines a sense of place.

“Willamette Valley is not just about large scale place, its about small scale place. It is my belief that the future of the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir is about single vineyards, single block vineyards, because they are so distinct.”

“When you can produce a single vineyard, that changes everything about a wine. Because you are no longer talking about how to make the wine better. All you can do is leave things out. Because you got what you got and if you screwed it up in fermentation or screwed up a barrel, all you can do is leave that out. So it takes winemaking to the next level, it requires a higher level of focus. But, the pleasures that you retrieve from a single place, single variety of a wine are hugely different from what you get by pushing things together to off set this little problem by putting this wine into that over here. When you do this it no longer tastes of that singular place. So, to me this was the first (2007) vintage we got to actually say where that place was.”

The tasting mat was mislabeled for the Adelsheim Vineyard ‘Bryon Creek Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 Chehalem Mountains.

For me this 2007 Bryon Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir was a perfect Willamette Valley Pinot and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to taste this vintage. On the nose and on the palate my first thought was brandy soaked cherries with a familiar mineral scent that I had discovered in many of the areas wines. I think many at my table agreed this was an exceptional wine.

David, like the other Willamette Valley ‘Legends’ took time to talk with us after the seminar to answer any additional questions that we many have forgotten to ask.

It is not often that you get the good fortune to be among such an important group of individuals who with determination, hard work and yes luck, built a wine region literally from the ground up. I can’t say whether or not I will ever have an opportunity like this seminar again, but I know that it will be one that I remember for years to come.

Thank you Richard and Nancy Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry, David Adelsheim, Jason Lett, and Susan Sokol-Blosser for taking the time to share your incredible stories with us.

I hope that you enjoyed David Adelsheim’s story as much as I did, I will be sharing more from this seminar and the stories from the other Willamette Valley pioneers very soon.

ALL images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Oregon’s Sparktacular Renaissance

For those who get excited when they hear the cork being popped on a bottle of Sparkling wine, the amount of time and labor that goes into producing this treasure is often not the first thought on their wine drinking radar. It’s the seduction of the sound, the shimmery bubbles, and the perfect flavors that keep Sparkling wine sales rising here in the United States. With ten consecutive years of sales growth in the U.S., sparkling wine sales is a good indicator that people are not just buying more wine, they are buying more expensive wine and enjoying every sip. In Oregon, there is a continuing devotion and an uptick in Sparkling Wine production which is gracefully elbowing its way into a place among the worlds top-quality bubbles.

Willamette Valley Sparkling Wines

For the 2018 vintage, close to 40 Oregon wineries produced méthode champenoise sparkling.

While Oregon may well be known for its versatile and award-winning Pinot Noir, yet its accomplishments with sparkling wines change the dialogue when it comes to discussions about Oregon wines. With a suitable climate for the production of traditional Champagne varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Oregon’s sun soaked and wind swept hillside vineyards are yielding an array of sparkling wines exhibiting Oregon’s pioneer determination as well as elegance and complexity.

A Lunch & Sparkling Wine Seminar at Argyle Winery

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Argyle Winery in Willamette Valley as part of the Wine Writers Educational Tour (WWET). Our stop at Argyle was both a lunch, beautifully hosted by Argyle and an Oregon sparkling wine educational seminar with four Willamette Valley Sparkling Winemakers.

Glasses of Argyle Sparkling wine were poured as our WWET group was greeted by Argyle staff including Sales/Marketing Director Nate Rob Alstrin and Winemaker Nate Klostermann (right). I want to personally thank the staff at Argyle for their generous hospitality during our visit.

During lunch we had the pleasure of tasting Sparkling wines from Argyle Winery, ROCO, Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Bryn Mawr. The winemakers from each of these prestigious wineries shared with us the story of their sparkling production journey while we sampled each of their unique Oregon sparkling wines. The Oregon Sparkling Seminar, with an emphasis on the Willamette Valley, was a great way to dive deeper into the history of Sparkling production in the Valley as well as get a better perspective of how the winemakers see this style of wine evolving in the future for Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

Winemakers from Left to Right: Joe Ibrahim of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Rachel Rose of Bryn Mawr, Nate Klostermann of Argyle Winery and Rollin Soles of ROCO.

More than three decades ago the journey to produce Oregon Sparkling wine on a large scale was pioneered by Argyle and Rollin Soles of ROCO, then the head winemaker and co-founder (along with Brian Croser) of Argyle Winery. Rollin will tell you that the Willamette Valley “is really a fantastic place to grow sparkling wine grapes, but you don’t turn the sparkling winemaking process on (in a snap of the fingers) and you don’t learn the craft in that way either.”

“If you want to become a red winemaker in the Willamette Valley, and make Pinot Noir in the Valley, it’s like Bingo Bango Bongo and you look like a champion. But, with sparkling wine, that is not the case. It is hard for folks to wrap their heads around the proper long term process and aging methods of sparkling wines.”

Rollin Soles

Although most Oregon wineries age their sparkling wines for two to three years before releasing the vintage, it’s becoming common to hold back a portion of the production for extended 5 to 10 year tirages.

For more information on the Sparkling Wine process visit Wine Folly’s informative Website:

Individual winery production of sparkling wine in the state is still small, with Argyle leading the way with the largest production of five different sparkling wines. Many other Oregon wineries are only releasing fewer than a hundred cases, making their sparkling wines hard to find, even locally, outside the winery tasting rooms. Sparkling wine is undoubtedly more challenging than a still wine like Pinot Noir, and the processing time is not the only hurdle that wineries have to overcome when producing sparkling wines. Growing or sourcing the right fruit, in the right condition, can be a limiting factor for some wineries. Luckily the climate of the Willamette Valley is ideal for producing exclusive fruits and thus exclusive wines with flavor characteristics different for anywhere else in the United States.

For centuries, sparkling wine has been linked with celebration and special occasions, now however, it is not uncommon to pop open a bottle of bubbles on a Wednesday night for no reason except that it is ‘Wine Wednesday”.

The fact is that some wine regions lend themselves to sparkling wine production better than others and Oregon is continuing to, like bubbles in a glass, rise to the top in the world of sparkling, one vintage at a time. Below are just a few examples of the Sparkling wines tasted on the Wine Writes Educational Tour that are available from Willamette Valley wineries.

Argyle Winery

Argyle Extended Tirage Brut 2008

Sometimes words just can’t do a wine justice and this is the case with this Arygle Sparkling Wine. With layers of fruit flavor and crisp acidity this 2008 Entended Tirage Brut was aged upon the lees for 10 years giving it a deep and creamy character. Orange zest springs forward with each sip, followed by honey buttered toast flavors. A beautiful Sparkling that sings a beautiful song of elegance with each bubble released.


ROCO RMS Sparkling Brut 2015

If you haven’t tried a ROCO RMS Sparkling wine yet, spoiler alert…they are fantastic! The 2015 Sparkling Brut from ROCO is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, and made in the traditional méthode Champenoise. Alluring is a word that comes to mind when sipping this sparkling, the color, the shimmer and the aroma vie for your attention, distracting you from taking that first sip. Then when you pull your attention back to the task at hand and indulge in the first sip you get flavors of a fresh morning breakfast of fruit cocktail and freshly toasted bread mingled with a saline wish. In a word, Sparktacular!

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Willamette Valley Vineyard Brut 2015

The Willamette Valley Vineyard Brut 2015 may have held the most surprises for me in the way of flavor. More citrusy than the other sparkling wines tasted, this Brut washed over my tongue in waves of citrus and zest with hints of apple and that all familiar burnt toast note. Lovely with a silky and smooth texture I couldn’t imagine a better wine to have with a cheese platter on a lazy summer afternoon sitting under a shade tree. Delightful!

Bryn Mawr Vineyards

Bryn Mawr Innovation Series Pétillant Naturel 2018

Bryn Mawr describes their Innovation Series as an introduction to “unbridled winemaking curiosity and technical exploration to our lineup. Different varietals, different techniques, and anything but predictable, these small batch experiments are made with no guarantees of a repeat next vintage. ” This completely sums up what you will experience in a bottle of their 2018 Pétillant Naturel (natural sparkling) a uniquely unpredictable sparkling experience. I loved the use of 10% Maréchal Foch (read more about my infatuation with this grape ) in this sparkling along with 84 % Pinot Gris and 6% Pinot Noir. Winemaker, Rachel Rose, has created a creamy, dreamy, sweet and spirited sparkling with this wine. A must try!

Chris James Cellars

Chris James Cellars ‘Prost!’ Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine 2017

I had the opportunity to enjoy a dinner at Left Coast Cellars in Rickreall, OR with Beth James during the WWET WV tour. As their 2017 Chris James Cellars ‘Prost!'(meaning “cheers” in German) Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine was being poured Beth, with a contagious amount of enthusiasm, told us a little about their journey into the world of winemaking and the conception of this delicious Oregon Sparkling wine. What made this sparkling so appealing is that it is a white blend of 60% Cider and 40% Gewürztraminer. An absolutely amazing flavor combination with sweet green apple taking center stage in both aroma and flavor. Mingled with flavors of a fresh batch of spiced applesauce you get whispers of floral notes and a refreshing dry finish. A sparkling so lovely that I could not bring myself to pour it out when the next wine needed space in my glass. So, I eagerly finished it, problem solved!

Native Flora

Native Flora Cuvée Libertus! 2015

On the last day of the WWET WV tour we were hosted at the stunning tasting room of Native Flora for lunch and a wine tasting. While enjoying views of the Willamette Valley that stretched on for miles we tasted our way through some of Native Flora’s best wines and enjoyed the story behind each bottle from Scott Flora. Saving the best for last Scott brought out a bottle of his limited production 2015 Cuvée Libertus! and he completely wowed us with this sparkling pour. This Extra Brut Sparkling is made by hand, a true Methode Champenoise, and was so refreshing and unique in flavor that when lunch was over may of us (including myself) lined up to purchase a bottle of this sparkling gem. No tasting notes here on this wine as I was so wrapped up in enjoying the glass that I did not take time to do anything else but enjoy the view, the company and the shimmering wine in my glass. If given the opportunity I would say snag a bottle of this sparkling as quick as you can.

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

Chilling in the Pacific Northwest with Cascade Ice

This post is sponsored by Cascade Ice and all products were provided. Photographs, thoughts and opinions are my own.

As in life, chill for the best results!

I first discovered Cascade Ice products when I moved to Washington State over 12 years ago. It started with their Zero Calorie Naturally Flavored Sparkling Water and then when their Organic Sparkling Water came on the market I knew I had found a new favorite beverage. Recently I became curious when I heard about Cascade Ice’s new product, a Flavored Caffeinated Sparkling Water. To be honest I gave up soda and other sugary drinks last year and I have to admit that sometimes I miss that caffeine boost in the afternoon. With my busy photography and freelance writing business I need all of the energy that I can get.

When most of my day is spent outdoors in nature, I really appreciate the Organic Flavor and Organic Caffeine in this new Sparkling Water.

A little history about this Pacific Northwest Company

Unique Beverage Company was established in 2001 by local life-time Washingtonians Mike Broadwell and Mark Christensen. Family owned and operated with more than 85 years combined experience in the bottling and beverage business, they developed Cascade Ice Sparkling Water. Many of the employees today have been with them from the beginning. From still water, to sparkling water, to sparkling water with caffeine, and a few things in the middle, they are always thinking about new and innovative products.

Taking Cascade Ice’s Caffeinated Sparkling Water on the Road.

Recently I took a road trip up to the North Cascade National Park and drove the Cascade Loop Highway with my family. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try all four flavors, Grapefruit, Citrus Twist, Black Raspberry, and Pomegranate Mango while enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Turns out it was a great alternative to an afternoon cup of coffee since the weather was in the 90-degree range.

Just Chilling by the Skagit River

These new drinks consist of only three ingredients: Carbonated Water, Natural Organic Flavor, and Organic Caffeine (derived from Organic Green Coffee Beans) giving you the #powerof3.

Enjoying the power of 3 by the Methow River in Winthrop, WA

Enjoying nature with a little sparkling water.

It is always important for me to make my go-to source of hydration throughout the day water, but sometimes you just want to enjoy something with a bit of fizz and flavor. This is when I enjoy a chilled can of Cascade Ice’s Caffeinated Sparkling Water the most, and although all the flavors are refreshing, I really love the flavor of the Organic Black Raspberry.

On a recent photo shoot, I brought some Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling water with me to photograph and enjoy on a hot summer day. While setting up a shot a woman and her dog walked by and comment on the beautiful day, I replied that it was just a perfect PNW day and we struck up a conversation. Soon she asked what I was doing and I told her about my photography business and showed her the products that I was shooting that day. Well as often happens I asked if I could photograph her dog and her by the lake and she agreed, then I paid her in kind with a can of the new Sparkling Water. Needless to say she was thrilled and so was I.

Tanner was the perfect model.

Add an Organic Boost to Your Day!

The nice thing about this new sparkling water is that it is perfect if you are trying to cut out sugar and artificial ingredients from your daily diets. Plus, they’re great for a hike, outdoor picnic or just to add some flavor and sparkle to your day. The Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling Water has been great during the hotter Pacific Northwest summer days, especially after a long day of work outside. Really Refreshing and did I mention Zero Calories!

You can find the new Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling Water in local stores in the PNW, such as Albertson’s, Bartell’s, QFC and Safeway as well as in selected stores in several other states. This is a new product so if you don’t see it in a store near you, Ask your favorite store to stock Cascade Ice with Caffeine.

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