Take a drive out to the picturesque McMinnville Foothills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and explore a winery built on the American dream and Biodynamic soil. Turn into Momtazi Estate, and the road ultimately leads to the impressive Maysara Winery. I had the pleasure of visiting this family owned and operated winery this summer as a guest while attending the 2019 Wine Writers Educational Tours. Our revelatory introduction to the 532 acre estate was led by owner Moe Momtazi.
Washington State not only has more than 1,000 active winery licenses, it is the birthplace of some incredibly giving wineries. A perfect example is Vital Wines.
I first discovered Vital Wines during a visit to Walla Walla, the winery’s home base. During check in at the hotel, we were invited to a wine tasting in the lobby. Vital Wines as well as the Brook and Bull wines were being poured. Of course, I couldn’t pass that up, and am glad I didn’t! The entire array of wine was a tempting treasure trove full of gems. Ashley Trout, one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40, is the powerhouse behind both brands. Suffice it to say, I am a big fan of her winemaking.
On that same trip while catching up with winemaker Peter Devison of Devison Vintners and Cadaretta, he mentioned that he’d contributed wine to the Vital project. Well then, there is no doubt that quality product is involved here. Plus, he’s not alone. A community of supporters has donated everything from fruit, corks, capsules, labels, graphic design, winemaking, and lab work to sustain Vital Wines.
Wine with a Cause
What’s the big deal, why are all these people involved? As noted on the winery’s website, “Vital Wines is a non-profit winery whose 100% profits go toward better healthcare for vineyard and winery workers in the Walla Walla Valley. All profits go to the SOS Clinic, a free, non-profit health care clinic in the Walla Walla area dedicated to helping people get the healthcare that they both need and deserve with no questions asked. Winemaking and vineyard work is both physical and seasonal, making it a prime industry for this kind of care.” When it comes to wine, we may forget that getting the grapes into our glass is a labor intensive process. Many of those who work in the industry do not have company sponsored health insurance.
During the opening session of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference (now the Wine Media Conference) in Walla Walla, Ashley pointed out that in the next decade she’d like for Vital Wines to solve more problems on the worker side and address social responsibility. For example, light was shed on the fact that lots of vineyards in the region are planted in a way that doesn’t allow mechanical harvesting. As such, Ashley feels that wineries need to work with vineyards that prioritize care of people working the vines, and that is has to be done en masse.
Vital Wines Chardonnay
This holiday season, I had the good fortune to receive a sample bottle of the 2017 vintage of Vital Wines Chardonnay from the Washington State Wine Commission as part of the Sip the Season promotion. I could hardly wait to share this Chardonnay with others. Not just because I anticipated a delectable bottle of wine, but because it would give me a chance to spread the word about the worthy mission behind the winery. The more people who discover Vital Wines, the better!
An invitation to dinner at a friend’s house included a menu of sous vide chicken and lemon risotto. That sounded like the perfect pairing for Chardonnay, so a plan was hatched to open the bottle from Vital Wines that evening.
Like biting into a pastry wrapped baked apple, the Vital Wines Chardonnay delivers a sense of comfort and happiness. Indeed, it was a wonderful complement to the flavors on our plates and we all enjoyed it!
Fruit from the Vital Wines Chardonnay comes from French Creek Vineyards, one of Washington State’s oldest Chardonnay vineyards established in 1981, planted to Wente Clone Chardonnay. The wine retails for $28.
Now it’s time for you to discover Vital Wines! If you’re looking for wine with meaning this holiday season, look no further than the crowd pleasing Vital Wines Chardonnay. Then, be sure to share it on the Insta or Twitter. To discover others sharing the magic of Washington wine this season, follow the hashtag #siptheseason. Cheers to Vital Wines and doing good!
I recently uncorked a sample bottle of Mettler Family Vineyards Estate Grown GSM. When most people hear, “Lodi,” they tend to think, “Zinfandel.” However, there are over 100 varieties grown in Lodi. This wine is just one of many examples of fantastic Lodi wine beyond Zin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If variety is the spice of life, Lodi is one spicy place!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Lodi, California. I have visited twice, most recently receiving the great honor of being invited to Lodi for a “Behind the Bottle” tour last year with the people of Visit Lodi. So, you’re probably thinking, “She must be biased in her opinion!” Perhaps, but the hubby absolutely loves this wine and he wasn’t with me on the tour!
Mettler Family Vineyards
Lodi is all about multi-generational farmed family wineries, and Mettler Family Vineyards is no exception. One of Lodi’s oldest farming families, the Mettlers have been tending to vineyards of premium wine grapes in Lodi since the late 1800s.
Notably, Adam Mettler, Winemaker for Mettler Family Vineyards as well as Michael David Winery, was named 2018 Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. This honor for Mettler and the Lodi region as a whole speaks to the innovation of the winemaking and its wow factor.
When I visited Lodi in 2017 the Mettler Family Vineyards Aglianico and Pinotage were on my list of recommended Lodi Wines. To that list I now add their GSM.
Mettler Family Estate Grown GSM
The price points on Mettler Family Vineyard wines are incredible for the quality, starting at just $19.99. Priced at $35, the current vintage of GSM is at the high end of pricing for this brand but still worth every penny.
The 2014 vintage is a blend of 40% Grenache, 36% Syrah, and 24% Mourvedre. Pretty aromas of violet emerge at first sniff, giving way to dried fruit. On the palate, the violet comes through along with baking spices and some candied cherry and raspberry. This red wine is an easy quaffer. I can still hear the hubby proclaim, “This is a great wine!”
Food Pairings for GSM
We enjoyed this wine with a tomato based pasta dish. However, the notes of baking spice coming off the wine had me thinking about rubbing a blend of cinnamon, clove, and allspice under the skin of a chicken before roasting the bird. Accompanied by a berry barbecue sauce, I think the fruitiness of the wine would come out even more.
Devison Vintners has just released its first wine. However, the Walla Walla based family behind the brand is anything but new to the industry. This year will be Winemaker Peter Devison’s 19th harvest, after all. His wife, Kelsey, began a career in wine sales and distribution 13 years ago. Together, they’ve launched their own brand and just released one of the most beautiful rosés I’ve tasted this year. If the 2018 Devison Vintners Rosé is any indication of what’s to come, expect to hear plenty more about this couple and their wines in the future!
I first encountered Peter when he spoke at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. Two years later, we worked together at a Woodinville winery after he moved across the state. Peter’s talent and dedication to the cellar were apparent from the start, and I have great respect for this hard working winemaker.
It is from Peter that I learned what makes rosé exceptional. Quality rosés made with intent are main stream today. However, he was at the forefront of the movement in Washington State, and is a master of rosé. While some winemakers bottled pink wine made with the cast-off juice from another wine, (saignée method, a process that concentrates the red wine), Peter made a point of bringing in grapes while they still retained acidity and had lower levels of sugars. He kept the wine on the lees (yeast particles) for a period of time in order to build mid-palate intensity and reduce astringency. Then, unlike the sweet rosé most of us know and fear, he fermented the wine to dryness.
Peter embraces a minimalist intervention style of winemaking and has mad skills when it comes to native fermentation. In other words, he relies on the natural yeast on the grapes and in the cellar rather than using commercial yeasts. Commercial yeasts can alter flavor and amp up alcohol. He also minimizes racking, the process of moving wine from one vessel to another. “The more you have to move a wine, it depletes greatness,” he’d tell me. Over the years, the resulting wines have been awarded top scores from critics. It will be exciting to see what happens when his latest wines reach the market.
Prosser is about a three and a half hour drive from Seattle. With vineyards, a number of tasting rooms, the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, and nearby Red Mountain it’s well worth the drive for wine lovers. Plus, it’s on the way to Walla Walla. In fact, if Walla Walla is your final destination, you owe it to yourself to stop in Prosser along the way. On Merlot Drive at the entrance to the Prosser Vintner’s Village, is the spacious County Line Tasting Room featuring 2Dor Wines. This summer we accepted an invitation to visit and enjoy a hosted lunch on the patio. Boy, are we glad that we did! If you like a swoon worthy story, food, and wine then pour yourself a glass to sip on while I reveal this gem of a place.
County Line Tasting Room
Sean Tudor grew up in the Yakima Valley across the county line from Robert Smasne. It only seems fitting that the two jointly purchased a winery (the former Olsen Estates) and now operate it as the County Line Tasting Room. Winemaking is done on site by Smasne for his own label as well as 2Dor Wines. This means that guests can taste wine from both brands while visiting. They may also get to meet Sean’s wife, Libbey, who was busy overseeing guests in the tasting room during our visit.
Back in the day, Libbey’s grandfather planted some of the vines at Otis Vineyard. Today, the Tudor family owns that historic vineyard which is home to some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Washington State. Cue the music! Sean even proposed to Libbey in that vineyard. Then the couple got married there. How sentimental is that?
If you’re not choked up enough already, get a tissue because there is a bit of a sad story here. Back in the 1970’s Sean’s grandfather intended to plant 600 acres of wine grapes. Unfortunately, an untimely heart attack led to his passing before that happened.
Regardless, Sean grew up around farming when his parents took over the land. At the age of 18, he attended the Walla Walla Community College viticulture program. Ironically, Sean didn’t even like the taste of wine at the time. The driving force was his vision to take over the farm and get into viticulture. Today that dream is being realized with 2Dor Wines.
Tasting 2Dor Wines
All of the wines crafted under the 2Dor Wines label are estate grown. In other words, the family owns and oversees the vineyards producing the grapes for their wine. Estate wineries aren’t abundant in Washington State, so you know they’re serious about this. As their web site says:
“Owning the vineyard, caring for the vine, nurturing the grape, harvest, pressing, fermenting, aging and bottling is up to us and no one else. It’s our hands and hearts that we put into each and every bottle of wine.”
On the day of our visit we were treated to sips of a number of the estate grown 2Dor Wines. The 2016 Viognier expressed fruity notes of pineapple. The 2Dor MRV Blend (that’s Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier) captivated me with its lush mouth feel. It’s as though the wine was made to pair perfectly with summer and seafood. Refreshing Rosé of Sangiovese came across as dry with notes of summer strawberries. The 2Dor Wines Red Blend composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah was dominated by pleasant floral notes from the Malbec. The elegant Cabernet Franc expressed the classic pyrazine (bell pepper) character of the variety yet let notes of blackberry and tayberry shine through.
I am surprised by what a great value the 2Dor wines are at $15-45 a bottle! In fact, we purchased some taking home the MRV Blend, Rosé, Red Blend, and Cabernet Franc.
Eat it Up
The County Line Tasting Room has a kitchen. With a killer chef. OMG the food is incredibly fresh and tasty! It pairs beautifully with the wines.
As we sat down to our hosted lunch, Sean asked if he could order the tuna crudo for us. Whaaaaat, there’s tuna crudo in Prosser? I have to admit, I had my doubts, but Sean assured us the dish is his favorite. The bite size pieces of tuna were fresh and delicate, while rich in flavor.
We also gobbled down every last refreshing drop of gazpacho, a hearty BLT on artisan bread, and a satisfying shrimp risotto. Everything was delectable!
Had we known that Chef Kyle Hunter previously worked for Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas, we probably wouldn’t have been so surprised. One might think perhaps this talented chef might grow wary of life in Prosser, outside of a big city. In fact, the opposite is true. Originally from the area, he went to Seattle long enough to get some valued experience. Then he returned home with a new skill set eager to enhance the quality of life east of the mountains.
The experience at County Line Tasting Room and the 2Dor Wines are not to be missed! I can’t wait to visit again this fall when the seasonal menu will likely incorporate Gala and Honeycrisp apples from the Tudors’ farm.
Visit County Line Tasting Room at 500 Merlot Dr, Prosser, WA 99350.
VinoSocial Savvy Tip: if the patio is open during your visit, take advantage of the opportunity!
Update: as of October 2018 food service is on hiatus for the season.