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This weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of mountain biking to a remote section of the Lewis River in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.  We camped next to the rushing river and enjoyed the solitude, campfire, and–of course–great food and wine.  We wrapped homemade burritos in foil and rolled them into the campfire and set a bottle of Cathedral Ridge Chardonnay Reserve in a shallow, rock-protected section of the river to keep it chilled (the river temp was about 55 degrees, which also happens to be a perfect temp for chardonnay–very convenient!).  We had a few glasses and kept the bottle in the river overnight.  The chilled chardonnay was waiting for us after another bike ride the next day, so we stretched out in the meadow and appreciated every detail that makes living in the Pacific Northwest so unbelievably great.

One of these reasons, among many, is that the Columbia Gorge happens to share geographic and climatic similarities with the Burgundy region of France.  Like the Burgundy region, the Columbia Gorge experiences sporadic weather ranging from unpredictable snow, rain, frost, and even heat. Cathedral Ridge grows their chardonnay grapes on the north side of the Columbia River at Huber (also known as Dampier) Vineyard in Underwood Mountain, WA.  Not very far at all from the spot where we enjoyed our bottle of Chardonnay Reserve, a luscious, complex, golden-hued wine.

While this region may share grape-growing qualities with France, the Pacific Northwest experience is truly unparalleled.  –AG

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Rosé is a beautiful wine to enjoy throughout the year, but it is often associated with the warmer months.  The Cathedral Ridge Rosé is done in the drier, Alsation-style with lower alcohol.  The 2010 Rosé carries pleasant floral notes but offers more body, and a crisp, dry finish.  Flavors of pear and grapefruit hit lightly on the palate, making this a perfect wine for late afternoon, and it complements a wide range of dishes from spicy asian fare to seafood.  As the days grow longer, make the most of the extended sunlight by uncorking a bottle of rosé and enjoying a French-style picnic with these (easy to prepare)Asparagus-Cheese Tartines.

Stock up: You have have five months of warm weather ahead!

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Cathedral Ridge Winery has two new releases available, 2010 Rose and 2010 Pinot Gris, both of which pair brilliantly with Shellfish and Potatoes a la Mariniere (via Bon Appetit).  The potatoes and freshly steamed mussels tossed in a light sauce of dry white wine (use the same wine you’re drinking–you’ll taste the difference), butter, and parsley is the perfect savory dish to pair with either a drier, Alsation-style Rose or a crisp and balanced Pinot Gris. This recipe is light, easy, and best of all–it will transport you to the relaxing coastal weekends in the not-so-distant future.

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We’ve always preferred to stay in on Valentine’s Day.  I would happily go out on the 13th or 15th, but there’s something odd about being out for a “romantic evening,” when everyone around you is doing the same thing.  That said, it’s still fun to go all out while staying in, and I’ve planned the menu: Steak with Drunken Mushrooms and Roasted Blue Cheese Potatoes.  It looks amazing and simple, leaving enough time to also make Dark Chocolate Brownies with Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl.  This will pair perfectly with Cathedral Ridge Rusty Red, which is 100% Syrah; it’s an off-dry Syrah with notes of jammy blackberry, chocolate covered-cherry, and smokey star anise.  It’s a perfect complement to everything from the steak to the chocolate (and on sale at the moment)!

Also for Valentine’s Day, Cathedral Ridge Winery is offering Twila’s chocolates in both tasting rooms.  Pick up some Rusty Red, enjoy some chocolate, and head home to the most romantic spot in town.  Cheers!

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I recently discovered farro kale soup at a wonderful restaurant in Portland called Luce.  I couldn’t wait to try it at home, which I did this evening.  I made a soup base with about 1/3 cup of olive oil (from Ovino for those in the Gorge), a couple of medium onions, a carrot, and a single celery stalk–all finely chopped.  I added a few slices of chopped pancetta and let it brown, and then added garbanzo beans, and a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (and a little bit of pepper and sea salt).  After a few minutes of allowing these flavors to blend, I added around seven cups of chicken broth, two small bunches of chopped kale (with ribs removed), and 1 cup of farro.  Bring to a boil for five minutes and then let it simmer for about an hour.  Grate some fresh parmesan, heat up a loaf of bread, and pour yourself a delicious glass of Cathedral Ridge Dampier Pinot Noir.  Add one more dash of good olive oil to each bowl of soup before serving. Dinner by the fireplace optional, but highly recommended.   -AG

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Going out on a Friday night has a certain allure; it feels like a mini-holiday that comes around every seven days. This past Friday, however, a torrential downpour outside and a crackling fire inside were more than enough incentive to keep me in for the night. With fresh diver scallops from the market and a few ingredients that I had on hand, I discovered a mind-blowingly delicious creation. Inspired by a good record and a roaring fire, I pulled out fresh kale, Applegate bacon, (really good) parmesan, fresh pasta, and a bottle of Cathedral Ridge Chardonnay. I recommend the following simple steps for an extremely delightful night in…

Step 1: Pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay to fuel your culinary creativity.
Step 2: Salt and pepper the scallops on each side; boil water for pasta (it really should be the fresh kind).
Step 3: Rinse the kale (a bunch or two–it cooks down a lot), separate the leaves from their spines and chop coarsely.  Chop a couple of shallots while you’re at it.
Step 4: Fry a few pieces of bacon and set aside.
Step 5
: Pan-sear the scallops on high heat, about three minutes each side.  Lift out the scallops and set them in a warming oven.  Add a couple slices of butter to the juices in the pan; when the butter is foaming lightly, add one of the shallots–and after a minute or two–a few healthy dashes of white wine.  A lot of people might suggest “cooking wine,” but for best results, I cook with the good stuff.  You really can taste the difference.
Step 6: 
Heat a little olive oil in a separate pan and saute a bit more shallot.  After a few minutes, add the kale and let it cook to a bright, fresh green.  Add the fresh pasta to the water that’s been boiling–it only needs a couple of minutes–and you’re ready to go.  Add the kale to the fresh pasta (I like a nearly 50/50 ratio, but I am a nerd for kale), add the warm scallops to the top of each plate of pasta, top with a little crumbled bacon, a drizzle of butter sauce, a few sweeps of fresh parmesan, and maybe a dash of cracked pepper.  Refill your glass of wine and try to imagine how you could have possibly ordered something better in a restaurant.  You can’t. But after dinner, if the hub of activity is still calling your name, there’s always dessert…  -AG

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Rock Star is not a description to be thrown around lightly.  A person, place or beverage befitting of this moniker is typically in a league of their own, possessing qualities of the exceptional that can be deeply appreciated but not replicated.  Cathedral Ridge Winery reserved this name for the wine that is 50% each of its best Cabernet and best Syrah. Bold flavors of black currant, blackberry, and pomegranate compose the wine that had Wine Press NWraving, “Rides like a Cadillac with glossy acidity and sturdy tannins.”  This weekend,Saturday October 1, visit Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River for a rare, mini-vertical tasting of 2007 and 2008 Rock Star Red along with BBQ from Smokin’ J’s (noon-4). Bring your entourage and get the Rock Star treatment this Saturday! Leather pants optional…

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At this year’s Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival, Cathedral Ridge’s 2009 Chardonnay and 2007 Syrah won a gold and silver, respectively.  These two wines in particular receive frequent accolades in the wine competition arena.  The Chardonnay is a perfect pairing wine; with notes of lemon zest and buttered popcorn that tease the palate, this wine is both luscious and savory.  The Syrah opens with aromas of diverse wildflowers in dark, wet soil; this wine shifts from flavors of blackberry, black cherry, thyme and rosemary.

The wine judging takes place several weeks prior to the actual festival.  The actual festival will take place on April 29, 30, and May 1 in Astoria, Oregon.  For more details on the festival ,CLICK HERE!  -AG

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Wine’s role on the public health stage has fluctuated between friend and foe throughout the ages and has found a resting place in our time as beneficial when consumed in moderate amounts. The tricky part is, what is considered “moderate” can vary greatly depending upon with whom you are talking. It is generally accepted in medical studies that moderate drinking is limited to one glass of wine, 4-5 ounces, for women and two for men and no they are not being sexist just scientific, as men tend to weigh more and absorb alcohol more slowly. The health benefits decrease dramatically and in fact turn detrimental when the level of alcohol becomes excessive. I found a quote on wikipedia from Eubulus, a writer in Ancient Greece, that I found strikingly true even today:

“Three bowls do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first, the second to love and pleasure, the third to sleep. When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar, the sixth to drunken revel, the seventh to black eyes, the eight is the policeman’s, the ninth belong to biliousness, and the tenth to madness and hurling the furniture”

So limit your intake and maintain not only a pleasurable evening, but reap in the added health benefits of your extracurricular activity.

Wine is considered to be the oldest documented man-made medicine, being utilized in 2200 BC by the Egyptians as an antiseptic on wounds and ingested for relief of pain during childbirth. The use of wine continued to perpetuate through middle eastern countries before reaching Europe, where it was most often utilized in conjuncture with religion or belief in the supernatural. Greeks included wine as part of a healthy diet and Roman doctors saved hundreds of gladiators lives by the simple application of wine as a disinfectant to their battle wounds. When access to clean water was problematic wine was drank as a substitute since the fermentation process kills most harmful bacteria.

The 19th and 20th centuries brought about a shift in the acceptance of wine as the outcry against alcoholism began to grow. The excessive use and abuse of alcohol became more prevalent in society and as a result the Temperance movement was born and started gaining momentum in Europe and the US. This movement lead to Prohibition in the US from 1920 through 1933 when finally the trials and tribulations of The Great Depression aided in the repeal on the ban of alcohol.

The next major turn in the view on alcohol arose in the 1990′s when the “French Paradox” became a buzz phrase and phenomenon. During this time period Americans were gaining more weight and suffering from increased rates of heart disease. As scientist searched for the cause they began pointing the finger at our high consumption levels of saturated (animal) fat. One study began researching the French culture, which maintains a relatively low percentage of overweight citizens as well as low incidence of cardiovascular disease, hoping to gain insight on ways to reduce Americans struggles. The paradox lies in the fact that the French consume significantly higher amounts of animal fat than the US and yet seem to evade the adverse effects. One theory that was found focused on the amount of red wine consumed by the French people and the compound contained within the wine, Resveratol. It was concluded that this specific conglomerate of molecules found in the skins of grapes promoted longevity and cancer prevention.

Today varying studies have found results favoring the moderate consumption of wine. Its abilities have been toted with the potential of increasing bone density in women, decreasing the risk of certain types of cancer, aiding in digestion, improving the balance of LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) thus building a healthy heart, maintaining good eyesight by decreasing macular degeneration and may even reduce the risk of dementia related ailments. A glass a day will keep the doctor away, but remember to keep your life and consumption in balance in order to receive the greatest health rewards.

In honor of healthy lifestyles paired with delicious wine, we put together the “Play Hard and Drink Epic Wine Special,” with suggested  fun outdoor activities!

Salud,
Courtney Black