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For this coming Labor Day weekend, consider including a new element into any parties that you might host or attend.  A vertical wine tasting is tasting one particular varietal (from the same winery) from successive years to experience the nuances that can change from year-to-year. It’s a really interesting way to taste the way that unique weather patterns and soil conditions can slightly alter the resulting grape.  A fun way to do it is to place each wine in a bag so that the tasting can be blind. Take notes and share personal favorites. You might go in with some friends to enjoy both a white and a red vertical. A Cabernet would be especially versatile with summer grilling: Try the Cathedral Ridge September Special (the two newest cab releases against the vintage). Cheers!!

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The past several weeks have been Chanterelle mushroom season here in the Pacific Northwest, and those who know of a prime picking spot guard the secret with their lives. We happen to know of such a spot, where the Chanterelles are plentiful enough to fill large baskets if you hit it at the right time. After a picnic in the woods that included a little Pinot Noir (2009 Cathedral Ridge from Dampier Vineyard), we were like kids on an Easter egg hunt, plucking the golden delicacies until we had as many as we could carry.

After returning home with our bounty, we sauteed most of the mushrooms lightly in butter, and froze them to use throughout the year.  That night, we enjoyed the freshly picked Chanterelles with roasted salmon (caught by my father in the White Salmon river), which paired amazingly with the Dampier Pinot Noir.  I highly recommend the following recipe from Food & Wine…they suggest Oyster mushrooms, but encourage Chanterelles if they’re available.

ROASTED SALMON with CHANTERELLES IN RED WINE

Cheers! -AG

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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