Tag Archives: cabernet sauvignon

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day One

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day One

Endless prairie under a cushion of soft cloud.

Endless prairie under a cushion of soft cloud.

We drove from Missoula, Montana yesterday under a blanket of cloudy sky and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington late afternoon in a deluge of rain. We checked in to our hotel and immediately made our way to the downtown area to see what was happening and to get a “lay of the land”.

Downtown Walla Walla, Washington

Downtown Walla Walla, Washington

It was incredibly cold walking downtown in the wind and the rain and we found refuge at the Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room. Our host, Terry, poured us a sample of their 2010 Merlot, followed by a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were complex and delicious. Terry and his friend, Pat, then treated us to a glass of the 2007 Merlot. Merlot is not our favourite varietal, but we really enjoyed both vintages poured for us. It was a delight to speak with Terry, Pat and Shelley about the area, wines, restaurants, etc. Ron teased Terry about working for the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce as he said that, with the exception of perhaps one winery, each of the approximately 150 local wineries are making GREAT wine. Similarly, when we pressed him to recommend the town’s best restaurants, Terry told us that there are many wonderful chefs and places to eat in the area. We left with a bottle of each of the two varietals we tasted and a great feeling of having met and spent time with three new friends.

The Fort Walla Walla Tasting Room on Main Street

The Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room on Main Street

Fort Walla Walla Cellars is a boutique winery that produces about 2,000 cases of ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Bordeaux blend wines from grapes produced exclusively from vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.


We’ve wanted to tour the wine producing areas of Washington and Oregon for several years and we’re excited to finally be here. Pacific Northwest wines dominated the top of Wine Spectator magazine’s annual top 100 list in 2015, a compilation of the best wines in the world, according to the world’s largest and most influential wine publication. In 2015, wines from Washington and Oregon finished an astonishing 20 percent of the top 50, with five wines from each state. Very impressive.

Whitehouse-Crawford Dining Area (photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousecrawford.com)

Whitehouse-Crawford Dining Area (photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousecrawford.com)

We did take Terry’s recommendation for one of his favorite restaurants, Whitehouse-Crawford. Dating back to 1880, the site of this restaurant was originally a planing mill and furniture company. Destroyed by fire in late 1903, it was rebuilt in brick and continued as a planing mill and furniture factory until it was sold to the City of Walla Walla in 1988. The current owner, Salvation! LLC, saved the site from being razed to build a motel and carefully restored it as a quality restaurant that celebrates food, wine and the history of the Walla Walla Valley.

Harvest Apple Salad

Harvest Apple Salad

Our evening started with an order of Empanadas, perhaps the best either of us have ever had – light pastry and delicious filling. We then shared a Harvest Apple Salad, followed by the Pork Shoulder.

Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder

Robertson, our waiter, recommended the 2010 aMaurice Cellars Syrah, “Fred”, from the Walla Walla Valley and a 2012 Gramercy Cellars blend from the Columbia Valley, “The Third Man”. The Gramercy Cellars wine was spectacular and this vineyard produced the 2012 “Deuce Syrah” which was named #22 wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2015.


Regional Cheeses

We finished our evening’s meal with a selection of Regional Cheeses (served with candied pecans, rhubarb chutney, and house made crackers) and a glass of Graham’s 20-Year Tawny Port. The service, the quality of the food, presentation and value were all excellent.


Our first night in Walla Walla was so positive that we decided to stay and play one more day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!


Malarrimo in Guerrero Negro

Whenever we drive the Baja, we plan on overnighting in a town called Guerrero Negro. We strive to get there, not because it’s a great destination, but because of where it’s situated on the Baja and because of the food that is served in the restaurant at the Malarrimo Hotel. In business since 1974, they have funky rooms with very basic amenities; clean and functional, but the restaurant serves a few dishes that are worth going out of your way for. The waiters have been there forever and seem to be getting slower, heavier and more complacent with every visit, but the food is really delicious. Thankfully their cook hasn’t lost interest and consistently produces memorable meals.

Abalone is very rarely found on menus anywhere and is difficult and dangerous to dive for. We were lucky last night that they were serving fresh catch, so Ron opted for that dish (as he always does when it’s available). My usual go to is a delicious Seafood Soup that is made with a flavourful broth and loaded with fresh fish, scallops, lobster, shrimp, octopus, and clams, and served with a broiled slice of garlic bread, perfect for dunking in the broth. Enjoyed with a glass of northern Baja red wine, this is the perfect meal to wind up a long and arduous day of driving (we left Cabo at 9:30 in the morning and, aside from gas and pee stops, arrived in Guerrero Negro at 8:30 last night).


Guerrero Negro is a company town – the main industry is the salt plant and business owned by the Mitsubishi corporation of Japan. The other industry here is eco-tourism based around the whale migration. Like Santa Rosalia, my least-favourite town on the Baja drive, Guerrero Negro has lots of employment but seems to lack the soul and personality found in other places.

In the restaurant, we asked to see a wine list to see which northern Baja wines they were carrying. Unable to comprehend their poorly prepared listing, we ended up ordering a 2011 Santo Tomás Cabernet Sauvignon, based on the recommendation of the Australian couple we were visiting with, Lindal and Gerry, who were just finishing their meal and the last drops of wine from the bottle they had ordered. We poured them a glass from our bottle and shared some wonderful stories of the Baja, Australia, California, wine and tennis. Ah, the camaraderie of travellers – a grand and glorious thing.


Fettucine with Sausage and Fried Sage Leaves

Although I haven’t finished telling our story about the trip to Cabo, I wanted to write about a fabulous recipe that I tried today (after walking to the top of the Pedregal) from the New York Times.


Here in Cabo, Ron and I have access to the freshest and most amazing ingredients – it really is a cook’s delight. We have an organic market just half a block up the street from us that offers a gorgeous selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, chicken, goat milk dairy products, breads and take-out foods every Wednesday and Saturday. I noticed that one of the vendors, Juan Carlos, had some beautiful fresh sage the other day. I managed to track down some Italian sausage (it can be a bit of a challenge to find some ingredients down here, believe me!) and prepared this dish that we recently found in the New York Times archives:


It was absolutely delicious! I served it with tender mixed lettuce and frisée, diced avocado, toasted pine nuts and a very simple vinaigrette of white wine vinegar with tarragon, olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

The wine I chose to serve with it was a 2009 McKinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills of Prosser, Washington. The description on the bottle says:

Working with old vines and newer vines, this cab shows the earthy sage of the old vines and the smoky fruit of the new. Complemented by ripe raspberry, dark chocolate and a hint of spice.

Last year a lovely young couple, Davy and Diana, came into Pancho’s and Ron and I enjoyed some wonderful conversation with them. They contacted us after their visit and said that they wanted us to try some of the wines that they are producing in their small town, Prosser, in Washington state. We were delighted, of course, to try some of the wines that they recommended, and they sent them to friends in Palm Springs so we could bring them back when we were up for the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament in March.


We never did have a chance to try a bottle before we left Cabo last season, so today was the day that we opened one of the four precious bottles that Davy and Diana sent to us. The wine was delicious and paired well with this dish. I selected the wine and worried that a cabernet might be too big for this cream based dish, but the Italian sausage and sage were delightful with this choice.

This is a dish that I would definitely serve to guests and look forward to enjoying again soon (thankfully there are leftovers from this lunch!). Buen provecho!