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Wine Tasting - The Columbia Gorge

Recently I had the opportunity to explore another wine region nestled between Washington and Oregon, the Columbia Gorge. 

My adventure began driving along I-84 west (Oregon side) of the Cascades.  As I headed east, the lush green hills of the gorge sprang up before me and soon I was engulfed in vast greens and blues of the dense douglas-fir forest.  This part of the gorge has always reminded me of the lochs and fiords of Scotland. 

Hood River, Oregon has many wineries and tasting rooms that I’ve yet to sample but there are plenty of signs that will entice you to stop and explore.  But my journey continued on and as I sped east, the scenery changed from lush greens to browns and golds of the high desert prairie.  The hills of the gorge changed to giant grassy pillows on the Washington side and sharp rocky cliffs on the Oregon side; all the while the mighty Columbia River was my constant companion.

At last I reached Biggs Junction, which is 30 miles east of The Dallas, Oregon (another place to stop and explore their tasting rooms).  I exited at Biggs; met up with my friends and turned left, over the bridge to Washington (highway 197).  We wound our way up from the river bottom to highway 14 and turned west.  Several miles down the road sits Maryhill Winery.

Maryhill Winery

Every year on Memorial weekend, the Maryhill Winery celebrates their anniversary.  This year they had an amazing list of wines for tasting.

Viognier 2011 – Smell: fruity/apricot – Taste: gentle on the pallet with a soft finished.  Loved it!!

Sangiovese 2008 – Smell: nice nose, not over powering – Taste: peppery but not too sharp. Enjoyed it.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Smell: nice nose – Color: deep and rich looking – Taste: sorry but I found it flat.

Malbec 2007 – Smell: soft but fruity – Taste: mild, not over powering, not too bold.  I liked it!!!

Cab Franc 2009 – Smell: mild but fruity – Taste: bite with a slight pepper finish.  Good

Red Zinfandel 2009 – Smell: not complex – Taste: delicious.

There were more wines to taste but my friends and I decided to purchase a bottle of Viognier 2011 and sit outside under the pergola and enjoy the sunny weather along with the gorgeous view.  We were definitely not disappointed in Maryhill and will return soon.

Cascade Cliff Winery

We continued west another 10 or so miles down highway 14 to Cascade Cliff Winery.  This winery sits lower down along the Columbia River but is surrounded by 14 different varietals.  They focus on the Piedmont varietals Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, all grown and produced on site.  They also produce a unique white wine made with “Symphony” grapes, which is a cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria.  Everyone at Cascade Cliff was happy to stop and explain the wine, grapes and history so that our tasting experience would be enhanced.

Symphony – Smell: light and fruity – Taste: dry but not too dry.  I would buy this for summer BBQs or just to enjoy.

Blend of Nebbiolo/Barbera 2010 – Smell: Good nose/complex – Taste: Very bold, best with hearty food – sucking air though lips while in the mouth releases an un-real bold flavor.  Can’t wait to drink this with Prime Rib Roast.

Nebbiolo 100% 2010 – Smell: complex, good – Taste: young but love the flavor – Color: lighter.  Liked it better than the blend.

Barbera 2010 – Smell: upper pallet, back of the mouth it gives a nice tingle – Taste: nice finish. Eat it with dark chocolate and it brings out the fruit and leaves the tannins behind – Color: lovely – Bold wine.

Blood Red Zinfandel 2010 – Smell: nice/fruity – Taste: more like a port, slightly sweet, nice finish – Color: deep – heavy and dense – great for those who don’t drink cocktails. YES!!!

Waving Tree Winery

We headed back towards highway 197 and were about to cross the bridge back to Oregon when my Mom mentioned that there was a winery just down the road to our left.  We took the left and as the road ran parallel to the river and wound among fruit orchards we soon came to a metal pole barn of non-descript.  Above a simple door was the sign Waving Tree Winery.  Don’t let simplicity fool you.

Chardonnay 2009 – light, fun and easy to drink.  Enjoyed it.

Grenache 2007 – Sweet, fruity smell, light in color

Columbus Landing 2008  a blend of Grenache and Syrah – Smell: reminds me of Christmas – Taste: not extremely complex but enough to stay interested and want to continue drinking it.

Syrah 2007 – Smell: lovely – Taste: very nice, peppery but not over powering – Color: love it.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – Smell: gives you the sense of port/sweet desert wine – Taste: sharp/peppery but nice finish without letting you down.

Petite Syrah 2008 – Smell: not my favorite – Taste: very smooth with a slight peppery taste, very nice finish with not a dry after taste.  It left me really liking it.

Our pallets were tired and it was time to call it a day.  We had only visited three wineries out of a possible 31 in the area but each of us expressed our desire to come back and explore more.  The wines were delicious and the scenery was beautiful.  Nothing could be better….Cheers! LD


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