Monday, August 28, 2006

Have Taste Buds...Will Travel



To those of you who expressed concern about my absence and lack of entries, thank you for checking on me.  :)  Since my last entry I've been canning tomatoes, baking zucchini bread, traveling, putting in a bit of overtime for work, and enjoying the summer time.

Billboard barn
Barn on Highway 2 between Spokane and Leavenworth.

Let me just start with the wine tasting tour we did.  No, I'm not a wine snob or anything like that, but I know what I like.   This trip was more than just a wine fest, it was a feast for the taste buds on so many levels.  We came back with 18 bottles of wine and our friends returned with 37 (they bought a case, tho).

We traveled to two cities, Spokane and Leavenworth and visited a total of seven wineries, Latah Creek, Arbor Crest, Knipprath, Icicle Ridge (twice!), Silver Lake, Kestral, and Berghof Keller.  The state of Washington is rapidly gaining recognition as a premium wine region.

We began in Spokane at Latah Creek.  Tasting is free and they've done an excellent job of utilizing every available inch of the winery to display a multitude of gifts for every taste, occasion and price level.  Anyone who receives a Latah Creek gift basket is a lucky soul and in for an amazing treat!  The winery may be a small operation, but it is gaining a large audience as well as numerous awards.  Our picks, Spokane Blush and Chardonnay.  Next it was on to Arbor Crest, who charges $5 for five tastes.  Snobs!  The wine was so-so but the winery grounds were both romantic and breath-taking!  Located on the grounds of the historical Cliff House, this winery offers fantastic views of the Spokane Valley.  They also had a gift shop, but on a much, much smaller scale.  We left with a bottle of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, then headed down the road to get one more winery in before the afternoon ended.  Knipprath is another that offers free tasting.  Housed in an old school building it was one of the newest wineries we visited.  The winemaker got started with port wines, which I've never really been too fond of (much too sweet).  But...I tried a couple and I have to admit maybe the port I had before was not the best representative of port wines. We snarfed a bottle of Au Chocolat! and Cabernet Franc before heading back to our trailers at the RV park.

Happy flowers in Leavenworth

If you are ever in Washington and find yourself in the middle of the state make a point to visit Leavenworth.  Once a dying small town, it is now a major vacation destination, all because someone got the idea to transform the city into a Bavarian village.  This was my third visit, Sam's second, and our friends first.  I went for the first time ten years ago and I never saw any tasting rooms or wineries in the area back then!   Or at least, I didn't notice any.  Now, there are nine located in or near Leavenworth.  Icicle Ridge was the best of them all!  Tasting was $2, waived with the purchase of any wine.  We went twice, first to the tasting room in downtown Leavenworth, and then to the winery just outside the city.  Family owned, we were so impressed with every wine we tasted we signed up for the wine club.  Yes, the wine was that good!  We had the opportunity to meet the winemaker and it turns out he graduated from University of Idaho with a degree in chemistry.  U of Idaho is just a short drive away from our home, so it was pleasing to learn he Basketwas familiar with our hometown.  This company may be small, but they think big and have an original sense of style.  Our booty from Icicle Ridge included Two Blondes Gewurztraminer (opps, that should be Three bad), Washington State White Riesling and two bottles of Smooth Jazz Cab.  Icicle Ridge really set the bar at a high level, and after our visit the other wineries seemed dull.  Silver Lake tasting was free, which was a good thing because the wine was okay, and out of the ten or so we tried, we settled on two, Roza Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Kestral was another so-so experience, but we still walked away with a couple of bottles.  They do a collector's bottle every year, oddly enough called "Lady in Red" and that just brought out the sentimental side in me.  Lady in Red is the term of endearment Dad used for his wife Rita...and it was also what he Do I gnome you?nicknamed the 1936 Nash coupe he restored.  We bought a bottle, not so much out of sentiment, but because most wine in a collector's bottle isn't drinkable, but this actually was pretty good.







Berghof Keller Winery

And last but not least was Berghof Keller, the German winery.  The vineyard lies at the same latitude and elevation as the famous wine areas in Germany and flourish in the same unique climate of hot days and cool nights.  If there was a runner up to the wines produced by Icicle Ridge, it is those produced the German way.  We bought two bottles of the unfiltered Red Baron, two bottles of the Rose and a dessert wine called Kirschwein.

The discovery of new tastes didn't stop with wines, during our stay in Leavenworth we dined on German (
King Ludwig's) and Italian (Visconti's)food.  Spaetzle (German pasta), gelato, and Sauerbraten were just some of the foods we tried for the first time.  I love gelato!  Oh, so rich and creamy.  Yummy!!!!  We also stumbled on a quaint little German meat shop,Willi's Sausage Haus, and we are all now addicted to a dry sausage treat called Landjaeger.

This trip will go down as one of the most memorable vacations ever, definitely in the top five.  :)

I wanna go back!

 Go on...explore it!    

Latah Creek Winery

Arbor Crest Vineyards

Icicle Ridge Winery

Kestrel Vintners

Silver Lake Winery

Berghof Keller Winery

King Ludwig's Restaurant

Willi's Sausage Haus and Euro Market

Visconti's Ristaurante Italiano


robinngabster said...

My favorite places!!!  I used to send everyone I knew a bottle of wine from the Latah Creek winery in Spokane.  Whatever the special occassion was and I would have the wine lable personalized.  Did you know they did that?  And they ship it for you.  Everyone always loved getting that for a gift.  The only thing was we didn't leave with a bottle for ourselves to add to our collection.

Leavenworth is a great place too!  Last time I was there it was winter, snow falling and on the was picture perfect.  Sounds like you had a great time.

delela1 said...

Yes, we saw that in the gift shop.  Latah Creek has been one of our favorites and it was there our friends purchased the case.  

boiseladie said...

What an awesome trip!  I wanna go!!!  I'm glad you had such a good time.  Love the photos.

my3gifts said...

You're speaking my language! Why don't you come on over to Germany and visit!! Wine is popular, although for German's it doesn't hold a candle to their hundreds of beers! I've tried more wine's since moving here than I probably would have if never leaving the US! Spaetzle is so good as is true german sauerbraten! German sauerkraut is very different than American sauerkraut too. German kraut is much milder, not near the bite!! :)

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip! The pictures are beautiful!!

nolefan38 said...


nhd106 said...

Ok..I'll admit it...I'm a bit jealous!   What a wonderful trip.  We've gotten so into wine-tasting and that looks like such a great area.  I was in Spokane once, but I wasn't into wines then.   Did you get to the Japanese gardens?  I remember that.
Glad you had a blast!

randlprysock said...

Wow now that sounds like the nicest time ever!!  I just love the pictures!! Washington is so very beautiful.  I have never been all the way to the west coast and would so love to go there someday. We talked about moving to Oregon once.  I think we will settle in NC though.  Love your pics.  So lovely.  Sounds like you had the best time!!  We missed you that is for sure.  Hugs, and man I hope you can get in my journal now.  I checked to be sure your screen name is on the list and it is.  I bet you have a ton of alerts and emails from being gone.  Have a great day!! Hugs,

ajquinn354 said...

Welcome back, sounds like you had one exciting vacation there, good for you dear and thanks for sharing all the fab pictures. You make me want to pack my bags and head out to those places.....Arlene (AJ)

pixiedustnme said...

Sheesh, you HAVE been busy!

stupidsheetguy said...

I too, have been quite absent from the scene, but I think you have been having a lot more fun. And I bet it sure smells nicer at your house than mine! Busy you!

I love a good wine myself, and your excursion sounds as though you made some wonderful discoveries. And your photography is exquisite, as always.

Sure was good to catch up some with you. So what about a taste of that zucchini bread lol?