At Soter Vineyards the Journey extends the Impression

Continuing to Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with an Introduction to Soter Vineyards.

One of the first things that you notice when arriving at Soter Winery is a wonderful sense of hospitality. Guests are often greeted by staff with a welcome glass of wine in hand.

The Soters Return Home to Oregon

Tony and Michelle Soter both grew up in Oregon, and after a long career in Napa they returned to their home state to start a new chapter of their lives and a new winery, Soter Vineyards. In the mid-1980s, Tony Soter began working as a consulting winemaker in the Napa Valley, assisting leaders in the wine industry such as, Shafer, Niebaum-Coppola and Araujo to name a few. Tony secured deeper roots in Napa when he started his own winery “Etude” in 1982. With “Etude” Tony began to focus on Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. At “Etude” he strived for memorable distinction and authentic craftsmanship. After years of working with Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers and growers, Tony concluded his consulting roles. In the fall 2006, Soter moved from a managerial role at “Etude” to an consulting position, allowing him to focus his attention on Soter Vineyards and getting his family settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Soter Vineyards is nestled on a hill top with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside

Mineral Springs Ranch, the Soter’s sole Estate vineyard today, is a 240-acre woodland and grazing land situated in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Home to 30 acres of Pinot Noir originally planted in 2002, two acres of Chardonnay were added in 2006. These Chardonnay acres are dedicated entirely to method champenoise sparkling wine production. Just east of the charming town of Carlton, Mineral Springs Ranch is nestled on a hill top with magnificent views overlooking the surrounding Yamhill-Carlton countryside. Soter Vineyard’s production facilities and hospitality buildings are located on the property making it a true wine tasting destination.

As an avid gardener myself I instantly became enamored with the Estate’s Garden

Sustainability is a mission at MSR

More than just Vineyards, Mineral Springs Ranch (MRS) is a Biodynamic Farm that sits on 240 Acres which incorporates vegetables, herbs, fruit, bees, chickens, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs and more. Mineral Springs Ranch is insecticide and persistent herbicide free to protect the natural flora and fauna in the vineyard and the nearby watersheds.
The Mineral Springs vineyard is L.I.V.E. (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) certified, a process in which certain practices are outlawed and certain others are mandatory, all in an effort to create the healthiest vines possible. Sustainability is a mission at Soter Vineyards.

The Small Private Tasting Cabin

At Soter Vineyards what I loved about the visit was not just the wines and memorizing views, but that they truly make the wine tasting a personal experience. Groups get a private tasting with one of the tasting room staff, either in the main building or in one of the two private cabins.

A Private Tasting in the small cabin

Our wine tasting was combined another group of three, and took place in the smaller private cabin. It was an inviting setting which allowed you to feel comfortable about asking those extra questions about the wine your were tasting. It is a more intimate wine tasting experience which both an experienced wine professional and those new to wine tasting can appreciate. This is how wine tasting should be, personal, relaxed, and in an welcoming place where you are able to fully appreciate the wines in a gorgeous setting and a wine expert to help guide you.

Let the tasting begin!

North Valley 2018 Pinot Noir Rosé

The one thing that I noticed about certain wines that I tasted during our trip to Willamette Valley was the slight evident note of Sea Salt in some wines. This was a surprise to me but once I learned the history of the land it made more sense. Western Oregon was on the floor of the Pacific Ocean until about about 12 million years ago. Then before that under the sea for 35 million years marine sediment was slowly accumulating in layers forming what would become a bedrock of the oldest soil in the Willamette Valley.

I felt a little bit of soil history was necessary to help characterize Soter’s Rose. Of all is the wines I tasted in the Willamette Valley, this Rosé had the most pleasant sea salt taste. For me this wine had an amazing sense of place. Both on the nose and palette you get a bright and lovely blend of sun kissed wild strawberries, and cooked bursting open cranberries. Creamy with that sprinkle of sea salt on the tongue, I loved the slight hint of white peach and blink of tartness. This was a smooth and elegant Rosé that enticed me enough to purchase a bottle to enjoy this Summer.

North Valley 2017 Reserve Chardonnay

Spending time in new french oak, previously used oak, and stainless steel, this Chardonnay benefits from the added layers, and transformed layers. When I tasted this Chardonnay I thought, “okay, this wine has a story to tell.” Crisp summer florals and strong apple aromas did not prepare me for the first sip. I thought with the oak storage that I would get more of the classic richer Chardonnay, but this wine drank smooth and light with an amazing clean finish. The fruit flavor can only be described as golden summer fruit, sun ripened golden apple and light skinned peaches, slightly over ripe. Floating citrus blossoms linger on the tongue, with just a hush of the oak flavor. Soter calls this wine “The finest expression of the Vintage” and I would absolutely agree.

The depth of color in Soter Winery’s Pinot Noir wines is spectacular!

Origin Series 2016 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

Six month barrel aged, this Pinot Noir is impressively fruit forward with a burst of light Rainier Cherries and wet slate aroma. Each sip introduces a beautiful darker Cherry flavor wrapped in layers of wild mint and peppery minerals with a soft tannin finish. Overall a wonderfully balanced Oregon Pinot Noir that represents a nice introduction to the Soter Pinot Noir flight.

“These wines are a reflection of the intention to convey place as an essential character in everything we make.” Soter Vineyards

Mineral Springs Ranch 2016 Pinot Noir

This Mineral Springs Ranch 2016 Pinot Noir is a Flagship blend of all of the 5 clones of Pinot grapes. Pleasantly sharper on the nose with a deep dark blackberries and the delicate profuse clear-blue flowers, the Arp of a Rosemary plant. This Pinot Noir is deeper than the 2016 Yamhill-Carlton with a light pepper cola flavor, and a long mineral driven finish. Light, dry and rich with delicate tannins this Pinot Noir delivered a gentle punch. Extraordinary well rounded, this wine was a definite contender of my favorite sip of the Tasting.

This Mineral Springs 2015 White Label Pinot Noir is Velvet in a glass.

Mineral Springs 2015 White Label Pinot Noir

Tony Soter calls the Mineral Springs 2015 White Label Pinot Noir his “Career Wine” and rightfully so. Only 600 cases were produced of this Mystery Heirloom Clone Pinot Noir Vine that was acquired in California in the late 80’s. The grapes of this mystery clone were planted in acreage that has the most sunlight, and the grapes produce a thicker skin. More stress is put on the grapes in this location, but in this case it is a good thing since this Pinot Noir is not bottled every year. As soon as I smelled the first aromas of this wine, my mind automatically thought how amazing this Pinot Noir would be with a Filet Mignon and sauted mushrooms. Lower in acidity, but still amazingly structured, the deep color of this wine is a nod to the notes of dried herb, fresh rain soil, and cardamon soaked cherries. One sip of this wine and you are propelled into a late summer day with dark ripe fruits ready for the taking and firm spicy tannins that leave full jammy layers on your tongue. At $100 a bottle this wine is a little on the pricey side but the tannin structure also leads to this being a good wine to store for future enjoyment.

A wine tasting flight like this is reason enough to visit Soter Vineyards.

Soter Vineyards tasting room is open to the public by advanced appointment only, and it is a wonderful experience to try their extraordinary wines and the stunning natural beauty atop Mineral Springs Ranch.

The MSR Classic Tasting allows you to enjoy a sampling of current release wines in a seated, semi-private format guided by a hospitality specialists. They keep the groups small to ensure an intimate and informative experience and the tastings usually last around 45 minutes. Cost is $30 per person, refundable with purchase. This Classic Tasting is availability 7 days a week by advance appointment.

Homemade Raviolis being prepared for the Provisions Tasting

The MSR Provisions Tasting is a culinary tasting experience focused on the art of food and wine pairing. While sampling Soter Winery current release wines, their chef will serve you small plates and delicious bites crafted from the produce and meat grown on their biodynamic farm. The Provision Tasting is availability, Friday – Monday with advance appointment, the cost is $100 per person.

A visit to the Carlton area of the Willamette Valley would not be complete without a tasting at the beautiful Soter Vineyards and Mineral Springs Ranch. You will need to contact the winery to schedule your reservation. Call 503-662-5600 for your reservation. Visit to learn more about this Oregon Winery.

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

The Bells are in the Air at Bells Up Winery

During my recent visit to Willamette Valley we spent four days exploring the region and were able to visit 10 wineries. A private tasting at Bells Up Winery was a perfect way to begin our first full day of wine tasting.

Micro-boutique Oregon Winery Bells Up is located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA just north of Newberg.

Sometimes what you are looking for all along makes itself know when you least expect it. This is what happened to Dave and Sara Specter in August of 2008 during a wine tasting trip to the Willamette Valley. Dave, who was making wine in his basement at night while working as a corporate tax attorney during the day and Sara who was working as a freelance Marketing consultant, both enjoyed taking “Wine Trips”. On this trip traveling from their home in Cincinnati and staying in the Rose Garden Room at Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast which is a mere 400 feet up the side of the mountain from the current location of Bells Up Winery, Sara formulated a plan and announced that they would move to property on Bell Road in Newberg, plant a vineyard, open a winery. With David as the winemaker this would all fall into place in 20 years. Fortunately for wine enthusiasts, things don’t always work out as planned. In 2012, Dave and Sara seized their opportunity to begin their winery, Bells Up.

The 9-acre Bells Up estate vineyard is comprised entirely of Jory soil and consist of Heritage clone Pommard, Dijon clone 667, Heritage clone Wadenswil, Dijon clones 113 and 943 and a small but soon expanded section of Seyval Blanc, the first to be planted in the Willamette Valley.

What’s in a name

The Specters chose the name “Bells Up” both to reflect their Bell Road address, and more importantly to signify Dave’s 20-plus years as a French horn player. “Bells Up” is a musical term which refers to a dramatic moment in classical music where the composer’s score instructs the French horn players to lift the bells of their instruments up to propel their sound with maximal force.

Each Bells Up wine is named for a piece of classical music that perfectly embodies the wine or prominently features the French horn.
Bells Up Titan 2015 and 2016 Pinot Noir
(Samples Photographed in 2018)

Bells Up Winery is best known for their Classic Oregon Pinot Noir; however, they also make some other fantastic varietals that don’t typically appear in a Willamette Valley flight. For that reason I want to Introduce you to some of these unique Bells Up wines, and to display that there are more varietals to discover in the Willamette Valley in addition to the abundant Pinot Noir wines.

“Rhapsody” is the opening score of the Bells Up wines

This beautiful Pinot Blanc is named for George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”

The grapes for Rhapsody are sourced from Plum Hill Vineyard in Gaston, Oregon and this vibrant white wine is aged sur lie in stainless steel tanks for 6 months. This isn’t your typical white wine, this Pinot Blanc is a fuller bodied wine that has a crisp acidity, but some spicy attributes spring forward that resemble a red wine. On the nose you find yourself walking through a warm summer garden nestled among ripening citrus trees with aromas of mineral rich freshly turned soil. The long finish on this Pinot Blanc is both surprising and delightful and you want to savor each layer of the pineapple upside down cake flavor. Each sip introduces a new note that also brings back elements of the aroma. This is a lovely sipping wine but would also pair well with a Summer Snap Pea salad and Fish tacos with fresh made guacamole.

“Prelude” is the introduction to the Bells Up’s Unique Wines

2018 Prelude Rosé is Bells Up Second Estate Wine release made with
Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains AVA Rosé of Pinot Noir
Only 126 cases were produced.

The 2018 Bells Up Prelude is like a sunny summer day picnic in a bottle. All of the flavors of a picnic in each sip, like a blanket layed out with strawberries, watermelon and pink lemonade. A well balanced Rosé with citrus undertones and a dry finish. This musical Rosé was named for Franz Liszt’s “Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes” and will be a Romantic Era addition to any summer picnic. I’m going to pretend that this is the end of an Opera Aria (and not a Symphony score) and give a loud hearty “BRAVO” to this Prelude.

Bells Up “Firebird is named for Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”

“Firebird” is aged 12 months in French oak with grapes that were sourced exclusively from Summit View, at 1150 feet it is one of the highest elevation vineyards in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

This 2017 Firebird Syrah from Bells Up delivers amazing aromas of fresh blueberries and blackberries and a spicy dark chocolate bar enjoyed during a walk among the cedar trees. A powerful punch of black cherry cola on the tongue with a long extraordinary finish of mocha and wild mint flavors. To be honest, this is a bottle that I purchased to bring home because I couldn’t get enough of the flavors in this Syrah.

Bells Up Fanfare Club Exclusive

There are so many benefits to becoming a member of Bells Up Winery’s Fanfare Club, such as exclusive rights to by special limited production wines. During my tasting I had the opportunity to try two of the club exclusives, “Helios” and “Candide”. Both of these wines secretly became my two favorite sips of the day.

2018 Helios

2018 Helios is produced from Chehalem Mountains AVA Seyval Blanc Estate Vineyard grapes. This wine is ONLY available to members of Fanfare Club and ONLY 15 cases were produced. This limited edition vintage is the first bottling and is named for Carl Nielsen’s “Helios Overture, Opus 18. For “Research Purposes” I was given the special opportunity to purchase a single bottle of this rare Oregon Hybrid grape wine. I became very intrigued with this wine after tasting it and really wanted to explore the story and making of this wine more for a future blog post.

Do you know that feeling of sitting in a meadow on the first sunny day of spring with the smell of wild flowers and green grass surrounding you? Now imagine that aroma with the addition of a tropical citrus bowl of fruit. My first thought was a glass of sunshine and aroma of spring. Bright, clean and a cascading flood of fruit flavors greet you on the first sip. Flavors of pear, lemon and soft stone fruits all try to push each other aside to be the prominent flavor. I most appreciated the long finish, and welcoming a new flavor taking over each sip. Special.

2016 Candide

Each year, winemaker Dave crafts a limited edition vintage available only to members of Bells Up’s Fanfare Club. The 2016 Candide is this year’s selection. Sourced from the Nemarniki Vineyard of the Chehalm Mountains AVA Reserve Pinot Noir and only 33 cases were produced. Candide is a blend of two heritage clones of Pinot Noir, 75% Wadenswil and 25% Pommard. Candide is named for Leonard Bernstein’s operetta of the same name and which was based on the 1759 novella by Voltaire.

This 2016 Candide is like a fresh cup of coffee, not in the aroma but in the sense that you just want to keep smelling the amazing blend of scents that greet you with each sniff. Chocolate covered cherries, a selection of herbs and a hint of smoke have you anticipating the first sip. The flavor of this wine reminded me of a Christmas wine with ripe dark fruits and vanilla spice, like a slice of cinnamon toast. Warming and down to earth with a feeling in the finish of a walk through the woods.

*Last minute Update: Unfortunately for my readers (but fortunately for me!) I got the last of the 2016 Candide! The new Club exclusive Pinot is 2017 Villanelle, and 2017 Candide is now available in the Bells Up tasting room in their flight.

Dave and Sara Specter

Tasting the fantastic array of wines at Bells Up would not have been the wonderful experience that it was without having the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dave and Sara. Their story, from conception of the winery to where they are today, is a true example of taking the chance to follow your dreams. Dave’s passion as a winemaker is complimented by his true belief in building lasting personal relationships with each and every person who comes through the tasting room door. Sara’s enthusiasm is contagious, and her welcoming personality instantly gives a homey feel to their winery. I would encourage anyone making a trip to Newberg and the Oregon Wine Country to make an appointment to visit Bells Up Winery.
Visit to learn more about this Oregon Winery.

To schedule an appointment or to purchase wine, call Bells Up Winery at 503.537.1328 or email

All photos copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography & Drink In Life Blog

A Rendezvous with Willamette Valley

May is Oregon Wine Month and in celebration I will be sharing stories all month long about my recent trip to the Willamette Valley Wine Country.

Late April is typical for bud break in much of the Willamette Valley, but each vineyard varies due to sun exposure, altitude and several other factors.

When traveling through the wide open meadows, rolling hills and acres of vineyards in each unique seven appellation of the Willamette Valley you get a sense of how the early pioneers, after months traveling on the Oregon Trail, felt when they finally reached this fertile valley. The promise of a comfortable climate, plenty of water and rich soil ideal for growing healthy crops, continues to draw people to this land today.

The Willamette Valley is much larger than you think.

In April I had the opportunity to travel to the Northern part of the Willamette Valley. Although I was born in Oregon, I had yet had the chance to experience Willamette Valley as a Wine Loving adult. Experiencing the beauty of the land, and talking to winemakers and wine professionals made this visit feel like a welcoming trip home. There are many reasons to visit the Willamette Valley that go beyond wine tasting and vineyards. The area is home to a number of farms, from small boutique farms, to large agricultural productions. Many of which offer opportunities to tour the making of, and enjoy tastings of the local cheese, nuts, fruits, and honeys. In addition to wine making there is a strong number of unique producers of craft cider and beers. Fine dining and farm to table restaurants are a perfect way to end the day after exploring one of the regions hiking trails.
Willamette Valley is the largest and most important wine-growing region in Oregon. Since the mid 1800’s wine grapes have been grown in Oregon, however, it was not until 1966 that an organized movement started to grow grapes and produce wine in the Valley. Some people say that without Pinot Noir there might not be an Oregon wine industry as we know it today. Rewind back to 1966 and we have David Lett and his wife Diana to thank for this introduction. The Lett’s planted their 3,000 Pinot Noir vines, along with a few Pinot Gris vines on a well chosen, south-facing slope in the Dundee Hills. The rest as they say is history and now the The Willamette Valley Oregon Wine country has over 500 wineries and over 1100 vineyards.

Bells Up Winery and Vineyard

Digging deeper into the success of the Willamette Valley wine industry and one word is always spoken, Dirt. Some call it Dirt and some call it Soil but what it always comes down to it what is in that handful of earth and how it affects the crops that are planted there. The name of one soil was repeated time and time again during our visit, and that was Jory Soil. Named after Jory Hill, Marion County, Oregon, which is named for the Jory family, who after traveling along the Oregon Trail settled in the area in 1852.
Why does this dirt matter so much? The climate of the Willamette Valley and the Jory soils provide a picture perfect combination for the production of many different crops, to include Christmas trees, various berries, and the famous filberts (hazelnuts). The Jory soils are perfectly suitable for grapes because of the deep, well-drained layers of soils that formed in basic igneous rock and is easily distinguishable by its strikingly red color. For those who wish to deep dive into the extensive information about the soils and the terroir of the Willamette Valley, I have provided a link to the Willamette Valley Wineries Association for you to read more about the in-depth growing factors found in the Valley.

Soter Winery

A Taste of Willamette Valley

One of the best ways to end a day of wine tasting in the Willamette Valley is with a relaxing and delicious dinner. Chefs in the Valley are striving to entice diners by sourcing the freshest local produce, meats and seafood to complement local vintages. Two locations, both in Newberg, had everything I love about dining in a new town. The setting is welcoming, the food and beverage selections are unique and you get the feeling that this is were “the locals eat”. Both Barley & Vine Tavern and The Newbergundian Bistro are both relatively new, and both are making a big impact on the food scene in Newberg.

Barley & Vine Tavern

Imagining a place that patrons would feel like they were enjoying a meal in a friends living room, Owner Emily Weichold envisioned Barley & Vine as being a cozy spot for any mood or occasion.

Owner of Barley & Vine Tavern, Emily Weichold.

Opening its doors in June of 2017 Barley & Vine features local and domestic beers and wines from around the around the Willamette Valley and around the world. Beers and ciders consist of a rotating list of 16 taps, with growlers and bottles available to fill up and to go.

A tasting flight is always a great way to taste some of the 16 on tap beers and ciders, and that is exactly how we began our night after a day of wine tasting.

The wine selection both by the glass and bottle is just as impressive at Barley & Vine Tavern.

The night that we visited Barley & Vine was a Wednesday which means Burger Night for the locals and tourists.

A delicious burger and a glass of red wine is just the perfect way to spend a Wednesday.

Don’t feel like a Burger? No worries, Barley and Vine Tavern has you covered with a selection of upscale bar bites.

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread with Crostini, Chicken Liver Pate with Crostini and Pickled Veggies, Ham and Brie Sandwich, Nachos and more can all be found on the menu.

Now that I have been there I feel like a trip to Newberg in the Willamette Valley wouldn’t be complete without a night at Barley & Vine Tavern.

The Newbergundian Bistro

Not yet open for a year The Newbergundian Bistro is creating quite a buzz in the Newberg community.

During our first full day of wine tasting in the Valley we were often asked that familiar question, “Where are you having dinner tonight?” When the name The Newbergundian Bistro was spoken, unanimous accolades were provided. The only disagreement, was which menu item was the favorite.

Serving the food and beverages that they love, Owners Sean and Noelle McKee are plating up meals with a French-inspired American flare like salads, fish and chips as well as a few things with a more European influence.

The thriving Newbergundian Bistro combines Sean’s 18 years experience as a Chef who trained in France, and Noelle’s two decades working in the restaurant business. With an open view of the kitchen it was a pleasure to watch Sean and his staff seamlessly assemble their creations, plating traditional and self-styled dishes.

The dinner began with two appetizers.
Frisée, goat cheese, candied filberts, balsamic vinaigrette
A Seasonal Spring Special:
Charred Broccoli Rabe

Newbergundian Bistro has an impressive wine by the glass menu, with my meal I enjoyed a 2017 J. Christopher Sauvignon Blanc.

On the salad menu, Croque Monsieur wowed with spinach, smoked ham hock, gruyere cheese, and stone ground mustard vinaigrette .

Dining with my husband is always a pleasure and we have an ongoing agreement to always order something that we both want so that we can experience two dishes. On this night we just couldn’t resist the Coq Au Vin, and the Lamb Chops.

Coq Au Vin
Braised Chicken with whipped potatoes and a beautiful mushroom gravy.

Don’t even get me started on how simply amazing the Lamb Chops were! Served with Merguez sausage, French lentils, braised endive, and a tahini vinaigrette, I really wanted to go back the next night for another plate.

Quiet frankly both of these dishes exceeded my expectations, simply amazing.

I want to thank both Barley & Vine Tavern and The Newbergundian Bistro for their hospitality. These two dining experiences really made our first trip to the Willamette Valley something to remember.

Throughout the month I will continue the Willamette Valley series with in depth posts of some outstanding Oregon wineries.

For more information about these two establishments visit:

All images copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

A Riesling Wine Tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle

Washington state is the nation’s number two producer of premium wine, with more than 60,000 planted acres, nearly 1,000 wineries, and 14 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The town of Woodinville, WA is a wine destination located in Western Washington, and situated approximately 30 minutes to an hour drive time from downtown Seattle. Woodinville is home to more than 130 wineries and tasting rooms, including several of the state’s most notable wineries, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, and Novelty Hill Januik. The natural wooded landscape surrounding the Woodinville area has made it an inviting area for wineries to develop. The first winery to open in Woodinville was Chateau Ste. Michelle, which opened it’s doors in 1976.

Chateau Ste. Michelle has a long list of accolades and awards, including 22 “Top 100 Wineries of The Year” honors (Wine & Spirits) and 18 “Top 100 Wines” designations (Wine Spectator).

Founded in 1954, Chateau Ste. Michelle was the pioneer of vinifera grape growing in Washington State and has been producing classic European varietal wines under the Ste. Michelle label since 1967. Chateau Ste. Michelle owns 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley of Eastern Washington, including Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek, which are LIVE and Salmon Safe certified. Enjoying winemaking partnerships with some of the world’s most distinguished vintners, Chateau Ste. Michelle works with Col Solare in an alliance with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori, Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loosen and Tenet is a collaboration with Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie of France.

Chateau Ste. Michelle celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2017. The winery has become the No. 2 premium domestic wine brand in the United States by case volume, with wines available in 50 states and more than 100 countries.

There are over 80 grape varieties grown today in Washington state, and the primary grapes used in the production of wine are from the Vitis vinifera family of grapes. The main grapes used in wine production in Washington are Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.

There is much to see at Chateau Ste. Michelle, the winery has more than 300,000 visitors annually. Driving past the small vineyard as you enter the property you will experience beautifully landscaped grounds, a trout pond and a pair of peacocks wandering the estate. The wine assortment available at Chateau Ste. Michelle includes select wines which are available only at the winery.

Everything happens for a Riesling

An all Riesling tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle to celebrate Taste Washington Wine month with one of the first grape varieties grown in Washington.

The Riesling tasting line up included; 2015 Waussie Riesling, 2016 EROICA XLC Dry Riesling, 2016 EROICA Riesling, 2014 EROICA Gold Riesling, 2016 ETHOS Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, and 2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine.

Showcasing Riesling versatility, Chateau Ste. Michelle makes up to nine different Rieslings. On the back label of their Riesling bottles you will see the “Riesling Taste Profile” scale feature, to help understand this particular wine is made in a dry style. The Riesling Taste Profile was developed by the International Riesling Foundation.

2015 Waussie Riesling Limited Release-Columbia Valley

The Waussie Riesling is produced from grapes that are half harvested from Lawrence vineyard on the Royal Slope, and the other half from Viewcrest vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Lawrence vineyard gives the wine its tropical fruit characteristics, while Viewcrest introduces an elegant acidity that gives the Riesling its unique structure. Only 682 cases were produced of this limited release, making it an enticing Riesling to purchase for the Holiday season. I appreciated the edginess of this wine and how it showed both the elegance and temperateness that is classically the Pacific Northwest. The 2015 Waussie is a dry Riesling that introduces the tropical flavors from the Lawrence Vineyard in the way of lime and sweet mandarin. Also present is the soft kiss of white peaches mingled with a faint note of spice and ginger.

First Release 2016 EROICA XLC Dry Riesling

Inspired by Winemaker Ernst Loosen’s grandfather who made dry lees aged Rieslings, this is the inaugural vintage of the EROICA XLC. This Riesling is made from Evergreen Vineyard (Ancient Lakes AVA) fruit and fermented in an upright oak cask. With ambient yeast and left on the full lees without the addition of stirring and sulphur, this 2016 vintage stayed on the lees for 12 months. On both nose and palate it displays citrus with just a hint of minerals on the tongue. I think with additional cellar time this Riesling will prove to be an intriguing wine that will only get better with age.

During the tasting of this XLC Riesling I wasn’t sure if I was hearing right when it was described as an aged Riesling. Wait! What? Aren’t white wines meant to be drank early and reds left to age? So I learned something new, that the Riesling grape actually has a magnificent trait for those with some patience, it does improve with age. This is one of the many advantages of tasting in a wineries tasting room, you not only get to taste new and exciting wines but you learn how the wine making process is evolving, or in this case looking back to the old ways of wine making.

2016 EROICA Riesling

Even before an all Riesling tasting was decided this stunning sip was poured to taste as you entered the Chateau Ste. Michelle tasting room. Being able to taste it again as part of the Riesling line up was an added bonus.

The color in this glass is enough to make Riesling lovers swoon.

EROICA is named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony, a name that also reflects both a refined elegance that has strong Washington roots and a heritage of German inspiration. Carrying characteristics of the aged XLC Riesling this wine has a newer, crisper flavor that accentuates the citrus flavors and mineral notes. Of the two wines I must say that I enjoyed this one slightly more, as it had a long smooth finish that made me anticipate the next sip. The tasting notes for this Riesling were described as mouthwatering and this is something with which I completely agree.

Grapes for this 100% Riesling were taken from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA, which provided over half of the fruit for the this vineyard blend at 66% and the remaining grapes were harvested from Viewcrest, and Jacona vineyards. Winemakers Ernst Loosen and Bob Bertheau considered dozens of small vineyard lots for this wine, each with slight characteristic differences to get a more complex vintage.

Sometimes when you make Riesling you strike Gold!

2014 EROICA Gold Riesling

In Washington state 2014 was an ideal growing season with outstanding ripening for many different varietals. This season was a perfect time for Winemakers Dr. Ernst Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau to produce a gorgeous Riesling that few producers can equal in the state. This 2014 Riesling has shining aromas of golden apples, and the refreshing mist of the Spring snow melt as it cascades over a waterfall. Of all of the Rieslings the aromas of this wine made me visualize a truly Pacific Northwest experience. Tastes of pear, gold apple and orange marmalade mingled with a slight acidity that delivered the sensation of a light syrup flowing across my tongue. This is just a remarkable Riesling.

ETHOS 2014 Reserve Late Harvest Riesling

Following in the Dessert category of wines this Late Harvest Riesling had such a lengthy finish that I almost forgot that their was one more wine to come. Produced in the same ideal growing season as the EROICA Gold Riesling, the grapes were hand selected during harvest from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s clusters 30-year-old Horse Heaven Vineyard near the Columbia River. These grapes were picked after “Botrytis bunch rot” set in and worked in concentrating the sugars and flavors of the fruit.

The Ethos Late Harvest Riesling has a rich layer of concentrated flavors like an orange and apricot jam preserved with honey and sweet grass. Wonderfully balanced, this is a perfect sipping wine to end a meal or enjoy as you nibble on a platter of cheeses, dried fruits and nuts. After this lush Late Harvest taste I almost forgot for a moment that there was still one more Riesling to taste, a Riesling Ice Wine.

Few wines make my tongue tingle like the anticipation of trying a new Ice Wine. Cue the music-“Ice Ice Baby”

My personal Ice Wine experience began during my Wine tasting trip to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley last year, before the trip I had not even tried an Ice Wine. The difference between a Late Harvest wine and an Ice Wine is the time the grapes spend on the vines. To make a “true” Ice Wine, grapes are left on the vine long after harvest and are picked by hand once temperatures reach a certain level, usually about 17 degrees Fahrenheit. These frozen grapes are crushed and since they are frozen, only a few drops of sweet juice is released. With so little juice coming from the harvested fruit, ice wine tends to be expensive. For these reasons most Ice Wines are often offered in small half-bottles.

2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine

Chateau Ste. Michelle was one of the first producers of ice wine in North America with the release of its 1978 Ice Wine. The climate of Eastern Washington has been known to have extreme temperature fluctuations, which is perfect to produce a great Ice Wine. During the 2014 harvest all of the necessary conditions for ice wine came together, a hard freeze and ripe, healthy fruit still on the vine. The 2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine grapes were harvested from Horse Heaven Vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills by the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

After tasting many Ice Wines in Canada and coming home with two bottles that I “had to have”, I can say this Ice Wine really wowed me. This Riesling Ice Wine is a beautiful soft gold color and shows off with a sexy cling on the inside of the glass. Luscious with flavors of apricots dipped in honey and tides of exotic fruit, I fell in Love with this wine. At $60 for a 375 ml bottle it is an expensive purchase but one that I can envision sharing with friends after a fantastic meal or served with creamy vanilla custard and grilled pears. Be still my heart!

The beauty of a Washington Riesling sparkles in every glass.

Spending time at a historic winery like Chateau Ste. Michelle is always a great way to spend a day. Making the tasting experience even better is trying an array of Rieslings that showcase the one of the most popular grapes in Washington. When visiting the Seattle area or if you live locally and just need a new adventure, I would suggest taking the time to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle and partake in a fantastic wine experience.

All images are copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Indian Spice Fondue and a Mumbai Mule Cocktail.

When enjoying a cheesy fondue it is customary to stir in a figure eight pattern and make sure not to double dip. Swiss tradition also says if a man drops his nugget of bread into the pot, he buys the next round, and if it’s a women, she must kiss the man on her left. 

Today is National Fondue Day so what better way to celebrate than taking a classic cheese fondue and adding a spicy Indian twist and pairing it with a refreshing Indian spice infused cocktail.

The decadent and rich Fondue was popularized in the 1930s as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union as a way of increasing cheese consumption. For this reason I feel that any fondue recipe must include at least one cheese from Switzerland.

Combining a traditional Le Gruyère Cheese from Switerland with a local Pacific Northwest Favorite makes a wonderful creamy Fondue.

Before we get to the actual Indian Fondue recipe, I wanted to share some of the Indian spiced bits that I made to dip into the Fondue.

Layers of flavor can be added to bread by incorporating fresh ingredients, herbs and spices.

Khara Bread (Indian Spiced Baked Bread)

One of the most used small appliances in my kitchen is a bread machine. Although I never use the bread machine to bake bread, I use it multiple times a week to prepare my bread and pizza dough. There is nothing quite like the irresistible aroma of fresh baked bread. For hours, my house was filled with an enticing scent from this spiced bread. I couldn’t wait for it to cool down so that I could slice it and enjoy. If you are looking for an amazing burst of flavors, you can’t do much better than this homemade Khara Bread.

Masala (spice blend):
1 tablespoon garlic olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 small onion, finely chopped
Dry Sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2/3 cup packed cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped or 1 tbsp dried dill
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used a spice infused sea salt)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour Instructions:

To prepare the masala blend, heat the garlic olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion, sun-dried tomato and cumin seeds and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and dill and sauté for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool.

For the dough, combine all the ingredients into the bread machine pan and add masala blend. Set on dough cycle and wait.

When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about three to five minutes until the dough is soft and smooth and not sticky. Add more flour during the kneading process as needed.

Shape the dough into a round and transfer to a baking sheet or shape for a bread pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit in a warm space until doubled in volume. This should take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.

Preheat an oven to 375°. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the bread is golden on top and it sounds hollow when tapped. Let the loaf sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Gently run a knife along the edges of the bread and carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and cubing for the fondue.
Makes one standard size loaf

Khara Bread is amazing, so full of texture and flavor.

Along with the Khara Bread, I also made a vegetarian Cauliflower and Brown Rice bite, and a Turkey Indian Spiced Meatball to complete the Fondue dinner.

Turkey Indian Spiced Meatball is a tender delicious curry and spice bite.

Turkey Indian Spiced Meatball

1 small onion, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric and garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
small handful of fresh cilantro
1 lb ground turkey
Saute onion, garlic and fresh ginger in small frying pan until tender, add all ground spices and remove from heat.
Add the onion mixture into a large bowl with the ground turkey (for additional texture add 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and 1 egg) and fresh cilantro. Use you hands to mix everything together.
Scoop out a small ball of mixture and form into a meatball.
To cook, bake in 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Cauliflower Brown Rice Spiced Bite

Cilantro and Chives

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets, sprinkled with 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp onion powder, steamed until fork tender (should yield about three cups)
3 cups cooked brown rice, cooled (toast 1 cup brown rice in garlic olive oil with 1/2 tsp smoked paprika add 2 1/2 cups water and a vegetable bouillon, simmer while covered for 20-25 minutes).
¾ cups panko crumbs
3 large eggs
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tsp spicy infused sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1 tsp sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet by coating it with a good amount of non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, puree the cauliflower and brown rice together, add a small amount of water if needed. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of hummus. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Place bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to let mixture bind.
  • Use a small scoop to portion the mixture. Roll into balls using your hands. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the meatballs over and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve immediately or store for later! These freeze well also!

These two delicious morsels are ready to dip into your Indian Spiced Fondue and can be kept warm in the oven while you prepare your Fondue.

Indian Spiced Fondue

For this recipe I used Roco© Gravel Road Chardonnay from Oregon.

The combination of Le Gruyère cheese, white cheddar cheese, a good quality wine, fresh cilantro, curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin and onion powder is all that is needed to make this delectable Fondue.
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay but any white is fine)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 8 oz White Cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz Le Gruyère cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  1. Prepare the fondue pot by slicing a fresh garlic clove in half, then rubbing the sides and base of the pot with the cut side of the garlic.
  2. Pour wine and cornstarch into a saucepan on the stove. Whisk over medium low heat until the cornstarch fully dissolves into the liquid.
  3. Begin adding the shredded cheese to the pot gradually, one handful at a time. Whisk the cheese continuously as it melts.
  4. Let each handful of cheese melt before adding the next handful. Do not raise the heat or let the cheese come to a boil.
  5. When all of the cheese is melted, check the texture. If it seems too thick or lumpy, add a little more wine and whisk until the texture is smooth and right for dipping
  6. Whisk in the cilantro and spices until well blended.
  7. Transfer the melted cheese mixture to your fondue pot. Turn the pot on or light the heat source; keep the heat very low so the cheese stays soft, but doesn’t boil.

Cocktail Time: A Mumbai Mule

This cocktail was made with Potato Vodka from Boyd & Blair©

For the spiced ginger syrup:
(Makes enough for 8 drinks)
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
seeds from 5 green cardamom pods
a big pinch of saffron threads
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger root

Make the spiced ginger syrup:
In a small, heavy skillet, combine the coriander, cumin, and cardamom seeds and saffron. Heat over a medium flame, shuffling the pan frequently, to toast the spices until they are fragrant and start to pop, 30 seconds once the pan is hot. Meanwhile, stir together the sugar with the boiling water until dissolved. Put the toasted spices into a small blender and blend until spices are broken up. Add the sliced ginger and the spices to the simple syrup and let sit for up to an hour. Strain the syrup through a very fine mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to extract the good stuff.

Per mule:
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce spiced ginger syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
ginger ale
mint sprig and blackberries for garnish

Make the mules:
In a shaker or jar, stir together the vodka, ginger syrup, and lemon juice for 30 seconds. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top off with ginger ale, and top with a mint sprig and blackberries.

Cheers to a delicious Indian spice infused cocktail to enjoy with the Spicy Indian Fondue.

For more information about ROCO© wine visit and for the Potato Vodka from Blair & Boyd© visit

Images are copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.