Drove down Washington state's awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge for the very first time last Friday and had dinner in the Oregon town of Hood River. For those unfamiliar, this river flows south into Washington's Tri-Cities area, then turns 90 degrees, and widens dramatically, for the east-west run to the Pacific Ocean where it also serves as the border between these two states. For our meal we chose wines from two Columbia Gorge AVA wineries.
As an aperitif, a 2010 Chardonnay from Wy'East, a winery I have no prior experience with. It was a very acid driven, low-to no oak style wine and for that quite admirable and a suitable segue into the salad course. There were some floral aspects and a little green apple on the palate, but what stood out the most was the complete lack of varietal typicity. Had I been tasting blind, my first guess would have been that it was made from apples, not grapes, and my second guess would have been pinot gris/grigio. In fact, a WA state pinot grigio was also on the by-the-glass menu and after tasting what we had I suspected a mistake had been made and had the waitress confirm that we'd been poured the chardonnay. Good, but.
With our main courses we had the 2010 Memaloose Cabernet Franc. Among WA wine geeks, Memaloose (whose small winery is on the WA side of the Columbia at Lyle) has a good reputation for unspoofed European-styled wines (I've had a reisling from them), so I was curious to try this. It lived up to the billing: raspberry and dark berry fruit with sweet herbs and a bit of bark. No obvious oak. Very drinkable on first pour as acidity was soft and tannins unobtrusive; for Washington, an understated edition of the grape. Doesn't have the tannins for long term cellaring but it's a deliciously relaxed every day kind of wine for geeks now. Did great with seared tuna on spicy lentils.
We came home via Seattle and stopped at Pikes Place Market for fresh monk fish that I prepared in a Southern Rhone flavored tomato-and-fennel sauce, a dish I always serve red wine with. Chose the 2005 Domaine Sorin Cuvee Traditionelle Cote du Rhones, which has suddenly turned into one amazing bottle of wine for the $9 I paid for it 4-5 years ago. I regret every bottle drunk earlier. Dark, deep garnet color, great nose of mixed berry fruit and garrique, rich and full on the palate with a heavy dose of black pepper. In perfect middle age with the best of youthful fruit and secondary development, but not yet mature. Very very good at any price, but outstanding for nine bucks.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov