The above photo is in the hotel elevator. It was one of those old-fashioned (i.e. terrifying) elevators where you open a big door, pull back that metal screen door and then it clanks and creeks as it goes. Yikes! After our lovely, misty hike in Hood River we went back to the hotel to change out of our muddy clothes and pick up our case of wine from Quenett.
Quenett is our favorite winery in Hood River. We’ve tried most of the 25 or so wine tasting rooms and have about three or four favorites that we go back to. Quenett is right downtown, the wine is exceptional–and exceptionally priced–and the tasting room is cozy. The guy that runs it remembers us every time and we love being part of the wine club. The case of wine will last us well through summer and we get a discount PLUS free tastings. We had a few tastings of the wine there, chatting with the guy.
At Quenett Michael and I split the tasting since we had plans to hit two more wineries before they closed. The Nirvana (white) or the Viognier is my favorite. We hauled our case to the car, window shopped a bit, and then headed to the next place: Cathedral Ridge.
We were in farm country with rolling hills, horses grazing and even a donkey! Across from the winery was an Alpaca farm, too! Michael was being mean though, and said we couldn’t get Alpacas. I think they’d be very handy to have in the yard…eating the grass and weeds. Party pooper. He won’t let me get a goat either! It would totally eat all the weeds (and Michael would never have to mow the lawn!).
This is my second favorite winery in The Gorge. I love almost all of their wines. The tasting room is inviting, the pourers are knowledgeable and friendly. The only downside: the wines are pretty spendy!
Almost three years ago when Michael and I first started wine tasting I took him to Hood River as a surprise. We hit a bunch and Cathedral Ridge was one of our favorites. Unfortunately I cannot remember which bottle we bought three years ago! I tried to remember because I wanted to buy it again. That meant we had to sample wines! 😉
I tried to figure it out but wasn’t able to. It was still fun tasting! I loved the 2009 Pinot Gris. It was crisp and refreshing with a very strong green apple flavor. The Riesling was surprisingly NOT my favorite.
It was way too sweet. The tasting guide said it had “Flavors of Jonathon apples and sugar coated grapefruit.” Um– too sweet! The 2007 Syrah was rich and peppery, the 2008 Rock Star Red was good but STRONG. In the end we ended up buying a bottle of the 2008 Dampier Pinot Noir. It was mild, spicy and delicious. $32 later we left with a bottle of it. With a purchase they waived the tasting fee, so that’s good.
Properly buzzed and happy with our purchase, we went over to Phelps Creek Winery. Three years ago when we visited there, the tasting room was packed and we left with several purchases. This year? We didn’t end up buying any.
We each bought a tasting ($5 each). It was much less crowded this time. Perhaps the rainy weather, and being close to 5pm, it was pretty quiet. The tasting room is right next a golf course, just passed some apple orchard, vineyards and the snow-capped mountain could be seen.
I was never a white wine fan until I tasted the Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling. I was completely converted and fell in love with the crispness of white wines. I’ve discovered some more that I enjoy and for the most part I prefer the less-sweet, dry whites. Chardonnay is often hit or miss. It can be too buttery–which I do not like. The guy at the winery said that had to do with being “oaked” or “unoaked.”
The 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay was tasty. It was light, but still sweet and NOT buttery. I liked it a lot. Then we tried the 2009 Estate Reserve Chardonnay and I loved that much more. It was light and almost “fizzy.” It reminded me of sparkling water for some reason. It really grew on us with each sip. The guy pouring said it went well with fish or pasta. I almost bought a bottle of it. The Gewurztraminer (which I usually like) was way too sweet. It was like a total dessert wine. Pass!
Yeah. Michael wasn’t a fan either! Next up was the 2008 Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir. After the amazing Cathedral Ridge Pinot I was really looking forward to this one. The first taste was good. I liked it! Then the more I tasted it, the less I liked it. It was “chewy”…the kind of full-bodied, punch-you-in-the-face wines that Michael normally likes. It was very dry, bitter and tasted and smelled liked tobacco. Michael said it reminded him of his Grandfather who used to smoke a pipe. The more we drank it, the less we liked it.
After a few hours of tasting we headed back toward the hotel. We stopped for a little sight-seeing at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Someday we will stay there! The hotel itself is absolutely gorgeous. It can be seen from the freeway and I’d always longingly gaze at the Spanish-architecture as we sped by it. This time we stopped!
The gardens were all planted and blooming and looked beautiful! We parked and walked around to snoop. 🙂 There were amazing views of the Columbia River on the other side.
We also discovered there was a waterfall on the other side of the hotel! It was huge! Very picturesque. It looks very gray and overcast but it wasn’t raining at all. The falls were loud and very much like Multnomah Falls (minus the strenuous hike to get there).
I can tell why a lot of brides want to get married there. We walked around the gardens some more, checked out the inside of the hotel, perused the bar and restaurant menus and then headed back to town.
We got dressed up for dinner. I wore my new dress AND my new shoes! I have NO idea what the flash did to reflect my dress in such a weird way. I promise it was not see-through in person. 🙂
We walked across the street to Celilo Restaurant. They had an extensive martini menu, so that’s what I ordered. I ordered one Blood Orange Drop made with a fresh blood orange puree and vodka. Yum! I nursed that the whole night since I really didn’t feel like drinking anymore than that.
They brought out a bread and cracker plate with salty butter that was more like whipped cream in texture. It was light and airy and I swear they added MORE fat to the butter. It was delicious. The crackers were thin and smokey rye with sesame seeds. Very unique.
As an appetizer we ordered the scallops: Pan seared sea scallops over celery root purée with crispy lamb pancetta, and White Oak Farm micro greens. Sauce of brown butter and aged balsamic vinegar. There were three scallops. Michael and I each ate one and split the last one.
There were a few big dinner parties in the restaurant and I guess the chef felt bad that it was taking so long for our entree. He sent out complimentary onion soup for us while we waited. Honestly, neither of us were starving or feeling rushed, and we were enjoying the conversation and atmosphere. But free soup is awesome in my book! The soup came out in a tiny espresso cup.
It was creamy and smokey with chopped chives on top. Loved it! For the entree Michael ordered the New York Strip steak on top of potatoes with a delicious sauce topped with mushrooms. The steak was huge, and delicious from the bite that I had. I ordered the Roasted Draper Valley chicken breast over sweet potato-gold potato cakes with sautéed Kale, lardons and satsuma creamed jus. It was ama-zing! I normally don’t order chicken in restaurants because I think chicken is just such a boring protein. But the flavors were fantastic.
It was also my first time eating Kale. I liked it a lot! Maybe because it had the flavor of bacon and creamy juice? 😉 We were stuffed to the gills by the time dinner was over, and skipped dessert. It was such a good day all around.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite wine? And do you ever take a mini-vacation on a whim?