Friday, October 16, 2009


Tuesday (October 6) was somewhat muted chance to be more sightseer than frantic participant in the Road Trip. A 7 a.m. wake up call found us taking in a slower-paced breakfast before climbing aboard “Truckin’” for our vineyard exercise, today being held at Goose Ridge.

Goose RidgeVineyard is found in Richland, Washington, and is considered the largest contiguous vineyard site in the entire state, encompassing over 1400 acres (which comparatively speaking, the entire Red Mountain AVA is less than 1100 acres). Goose Ridge provides fruit to several large wineries, including Chateau Ste. Michelle, the leader in the Washington Wine industry.

We got another lesson in canopy management, and got to take a bird’s-eye view of a mechanical harvester picking Merlot (very cool, but don’t try this at home). Goose Ridge makes wine under its own label, yet only uses about 20% of its fruit for its own purposes. It is a very large operation, and I had renewed interest in their wines (look for their Merlot and G3 in our stores soon).
We ventured to the restaurant Anthony’s on the River for a luncheon hosted by Gordon Brothers owner Jeff Gordon (no relation), and from there, my small group went to our winery exercise at Gordon Brothers, with winemaker Tim Henley. Instead of the usual stuff, Tim opted to let us try some 2009 Merlot, still in tank, and after trying examples of wines aged in various oak barrels, asked us our opinions on what type of oak to use on his newest juice.

Returning to the hotel, we got a small break before heading off to Precept Brands’ Canyon Ranch vineyard site, where we would meet up with various Columbia Valley winemakers for a regional tasting and a homespun barbeque, under the stars.

I found a lot of amazing wines at this tasting, like Bunnell Family’s Mourvedre, which was every bit a Bandol, and the wines of Airfield Estates (really amazing values), Owen Roe (please come to KY, y’all), the Barnard Griffin Shiraz Port (coming soon), and the wines of Terra Blanca and Cote Bonneville. I visited John Bookwalter, whom I met just prior to the trip, and tasted through his outstanding reds again (The Protagonist rules!). At dinner, we were joined by winemaker Kerry Shiels of Cote Bonneville and National Sales Manager Leo Kirk of Kestrel (terrific wines too, by the way.

We also discovered the playhouse that sat adjacent to the dinner – a renovated barn equipped with a bar, a pool table, air hockey table, and other leisurely sundries that made the night complete. My fellow roadtrippers were kids in a candy store, and the camaraderie was at a phenomenal level.

Next stop, Yakima Valley!

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