My husband Don and I recently did a driving loop through 7 western states on our trip to the Centennial Celebration of the Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon. Let ‘er buck! Although our focus was rodeo revelry, we were delighted to enhance our trip with some memorable wine experiences along the way.
Our first stop was Las Vegas, where we dined at the Michelin-starred Aureole restaurant at The Mandalay Bay. Owner/Chef Charlie Palmer has designed his dining room around a 4-story-high glass enclosed wine tower that holds nearly 10,000 bottles of wine. Wine is ordered using an electronic touch pad, and then a “wine angel” (cute babe in harness) flies up to fetch the bottle. Aureole is a little pricey, but a $50 certificate from Restaurant.com enabled us to enjoy great food, wine, service, and a unique experience without going over budget for the day.
|Don Dellepiane using the Winsome Wine Selector|
|Aureole Wine Tower|
|Cheryl Dellepiane at Maryhill|
Our travels took us to wineries and wine tasting rooms in Idaho (imagine that), Washington, and Oregon. In Washington, we sampled some “salmon-safe” Walla Walla wines at Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole No. 41. I brought home a bottle of Woodward Canyon 2007 Columbia Valley Dry White Riesling. This food friendly wine paired nicely with my “Octoberfestish” dinner of chicken paprikash, spaetzle, and braised red cabbage with apples. While in Walla Walla, we dined at the downtown Saffron restaurant, where we tried an unexpectedly “wow” appetizer – ceviche served over shaved frozen yogurt!
Before embarking on the trip, we purchased a couple of bottles of Waterbrook Columbia Valley Melange 2006 Blanc (produced in Walla Walla) at All Corked Up. Wine merchant Vic Herstein suggested that this blend of 6 white varietals was reminiscent of Conundrum but at an “everday wine” price. He was right, so we decided to check out Waterbrook while we were in the area. This winery’s waterside patio provided a pleasant location for our picnic of cheese and crackers, purchased earlier that day at Salumiere Cesare in downtown Walla Walla–a gourmet grocery featuring the only walk-in cheese closet in the Northwest. Then, imagine our delight when one of the friendly wine servers at Waterbrook brought a sample of dessert wine out to our table!
The Columbia River Gorge is home to wineries on both the Washington and Oregon sides. We were particularly impressed with the Maryhill Winery in Goldendale, WA. Here we sipped wine on their vine-covered patio overlooking their vineyards and the picturesque Gorge, with Mount Hood in the background. We liked their Syrah and Sangiovese. Maryhill partially attributes its success to “the constant wind blowing through the Columbia River Gorge that refreshes the air around the grape clusters, keeping mildew and insect issues away.”
I am discovering that there are a number of uncharted wine regions throughout the West that are offering viable wine tasting experiences. I, for one, am willing to veer off the beaten path for a new taste thrill. I’m thinking Lodi might be next!