Luigi and Manly Mumford's May, 2001, trip to the West Coast

Saturday, May 12.
Fred Coleman, of Seattle Limousine Service, met us at United Airline's baggage claim at Seattle-Tacoma Airport and took us to a parked black Mercury Grand Marquis car with tinted rear windows. He gave us the option of a sterile Interstate ride or a scenic drive to Yakima. We chose the latter and were driven through Mt. Ranier National Park and the Cascade Mountains on Routes 410 and U.S. 12. We saw the Weyerhaeuser headquarters for which Skidmore, Owings and Merrill received a major architecture award. And also saw the bottom of Mt. Ranier, but, as is often the case, the top was in clouds. The altitude at the top of the pass was 5432 feet and much snow was drifted around, though the road itself was clear then. Later, we were told that it was again closed because of new snow. Many Douglas firs, as well as lesser trees, lined the road. Often we passed along and crossed the White River (which was gray because it was fed by glaciers) on the way up; going down east of the divide we travelled along the American River. Both rivers were broad and stony.

After checking in and having lunch at the Double Tree Inn in Yakima, we visited Sagelands Winery in Wapato nearby. It used to be called Staton Hills Winery, being owned by Mr. And Mrs. Staton, who sold it to a Japanese group. The latter would not provide adequate funding for expansion or even for such operating expenses as high quality yeast. Being familiar with the sake business they considered proper wine yeast an unnecessary expense. The staff were happy when the Chalone Wine Group bought the winery and provided adequate capital for the expansion they are now undertaking, as well as for producing good wine.

My tasting notes were as follows:
97 Sagelands Merlot: a little harsh.
99 Sagelands Merlot: good aroma, long aftertaste, good mouth.
98 Cabernet Sauvignon: much tannin yet smooth.
Staton Hills Phoenix Meritage: good, well balanced.

Barbara Lommers, who gave us a tour of the winery and supervised the tasting, suggested steaming asparagus with wine.

To learn more about this and other wineries of the Chalone Wine Group, CLICK HERE

Back at the Double Tree Inn, we had dinner at Gasparetti's - excellent grilled salmon on spinach and Chalone 1998 Chardonnay.

Sunday, May 13.
We drove to Walla Walla through the eastern Washington farm country, seeing the top of Mt. Ranier from east. It is very impressive.

On the road into Walla Walla we encountered the Woodward Canyon Winery. We were given a tour of winery with Gilles Nicault, co-winemaker, who came to the U.S. from France in 1996. He was very enthusiastic, especially when he showed the new crusher that would press grapes adequately without turning them over or stirring them (which would move unwanted chemicals from the skins to the wine). He also poured wine for our tasting pleasure:

Woodward Canyon 1999 Charbonneau White: good aroma and aftertaste, medium body, aromatic, fruity.
Cabernet Sauvignon rose: OK.
Helms Road Merlot good.
Columbia Valley Merlot: as Merlot should be, good tannin, aftertaste, proper aroma, medium body.
1998 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: very nice, good tannin, splendid.

Continuing into Walla Walla, we came across the Canoe Ridge winery and tasting room. It is located in an old brick railroad station pretty much in the center of town.
We met Anne Hull there, with whom I had corresponded about visiting the winery. The wines we tasted included:

Canoe Ridge 2000 Gewurtztraminer: light, very fruity, good aroma and aftertaste.
1998 Merlot: slightly harsh. but OK, good aftertaste, medium body.
1998 Reserve Merlot: smooth, good aroma and aftertaste, nice tannin, good.
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon: good aroma and aftertaste, medium body, nice tannin, smooth, good.

We stopped for the night in a large two-room suite at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, which was built in 1928 and is now being restored most elegantly. Luigi and I went out for an afternoon walk, and observed that the city is not busy on Sunday.

A sculpture of a fireman holding a fire hose looked less startling from the front than from the left side, by which we approached it.

An exception to the lack of activity occurred in the city's restaurants. This being Mothers' Day, the hotel restaurant was booked to capacity. By telephone I made a reservation at the Homestead Restaurant for 7:30. After we arrived at that hour, the hostess, when she finally appeared, said they were running 30 minutes late due to people sitting and talking longer than normal. My observation of a very few waitresses constantly running made me doubt that explanation. We went for walk and found a satisfactory Chinese restaurant nearby.

Monday, May 14.

Fred drove us, on the Oregon side, through the Columbia River Gorge in rain. Many impressive vistas were nevertheless visible, but with clouds that made them resemble Chinese paintings. For lunch we stopped at Multnoma Falls Lodge; we ate in a glass room with a view of the falls mostly obscured by fog and water running down the glass roof.

A better view of the spectacular falls was found a few feet from the lodge.
At lunch I had a salmon salad sandwich with Eola Hills, Oregon, Pinot Noir: good, nice tannin, little aroma and aftertaste.

After lunch we proceeded in the rain to the Benson Hotel in Portland. We had a large room with a coffee machine in which Luigi made tea. Dinner in the hotel's London Grill Room of rabbit in Pinot Noir sauce was delicious, especially with Willamette Valley Vineyards 2000 Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, May 15.
We drove southwest on Routes 99 and 18 through the Willamette Valley to Dundee, where we turned right onto a narrow road leading uphill to a few wineries including Erath.

Tastefully built and landscaped, and with picnic facilities, it occupies a lovely hilltop site with splendid views of rolling countryside of vineyards and fruit or nut trees. In the tasting room we tried:

Erath 1999 Pinot Gris: fresh, fruity, crisp, light, good aroma and aftertaste. very good. Bought a bottle.
Erath 1998 Chardonnay Reserve: light, intense, dry, long aftertaste.
Erath 1998 Gewurtztraminer: dry, fruity, medium aftertaste.
Erath 1999 Pinot Noir: med-light,dry, intense, long aftertaste, little aroma.
Erath 1997 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: good aroma and aftertaste, fruit, balance, tannin.
Erath 1998 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: OK but 1997 is better.
Erath 1997 Reserve Pinot Noir very good, long aftertaste, tannin,fairly smooth, complex.
Erath 1998 late harvest Gewurtztraminer: 16%sugar, sweet, good,fruity.

After Erath we proceeded southwest along Route 18 to the Oregon Wine Tasting Room at Bellevue. A young woman with a silver, or maybe platinum, stud in her tongue poured; she seemed to know a fair amount about what she was dispensing:

Amity Vineyards 2000 Pinot Blanc: good aroma, intense,aftertaste OK.
Amity select 1997 Pinot Noir: harsh, light.
Medici 1997 Pinot Noir: dry, olive taste, fair aroma and aftertaste, tannic.
Evesham Wood 1999 Pinot Noir: OK.
Amity 1996 Winemakers Reserve Pinot Noir: light dry, OK, good tannin, aftertaste.
Van Duzer Pinot Noir: OK, tannin, medium body.
Freya 1999 Pinot Noir: OK, much like the rest.
Broadley Claudias Choice 1999 Pinot Noir: little aroma, medium body, good tannin, good.

The same building holds a pleasant restaurant called the "Fresh Palate Cafe" on the second floor and the Lawrence Gallery of painting and sculpture on ground floor. Very good lunch (I had crab cakes) in the restaurant. A tour of the gallery was rewarding. Many sculptures were of fanciful animals, including "Obedience Lesson" depicting a wizard scolding a dragon with a limp, bloody crusader in its mouth. Larger sculptures, mostly bronze and Corten steel, were in a garden outside.

We drove through rain to Lincoln City where we took U.S. Route 101 south along the Pacific Coast. Beautiful vistas of forests and seacoast were interspersed with grubby business districts.

Reaching Newport a little after 3:00, we eventually found Tyee Lodge; it is a house remodeled into a Bed and Breakfast with magnificent views, among great Douglas Firs, of gray beach, sea, and sky, and long breakers rolling in from so far that there were often five or six lined up behind each other. New dual-glazed windows and gas fireplace-stove kept us warm and dry against the wind and rain.

We had a very good dinner at Shark's Restaurant, 852 S.W.Bay Blvd, Newport. Bouillabaisse for me was quite satisfactory, though not much like the French variety. Spring chinook salmon for Luigi and Fred was very good indeed. We shared a bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards 1999 Pinto Gris: fresh, crisp, fruity, with a long aftertaste; it was very good. After dinner we drove to the local pier where we saw a dozen or so sea lions lying on lower parts of pier.

Wednesday, May 16.
After splendid breakfast of juice, melon, French toast with yogurt, cream cheese and blueberry jam, and sausages, we drove down the Oregon coast viewing spectacular sea, rock, hill, and beach scapes,

Forests displayed blooming wild rhodedendron. Also much blooming yellow gorse.

We had a nice lunch at the Wheelhouse restaurant at Port Orford before crossing into California.

Soon after entering the Golden State, we began to see redwood trees, and in time stopped off at the Lost Man Creek Trail picnic area. A brief walk through the magnificent redwoods with no other people nearby was a welcome experience.

The only wildlife we saw on our walk was a bright yellow slug, but on driving out of the parking lot we saw a herd of elk grazing on a meadow near the road. We stopped for the night at the Hotel Carter in Eureka. Nearby is a monstrous green mansion originally built by a lumber baron.

The hotel is operated with great enthusiasm by people whose tastes are younger than ours. A Jacuzzi was enthroned opposite the door to our 3rd floor room, and the shower stall was equipped for two-person use. We slept in a four-poster with a superstructure of unfinished lumber.

The hotel dining room provided a good seafood dinner with Ken Wright Cellars 1997 Oregon Pinot Blanc.

Thursday, May 17.
Breakfast included a biscuit with ham, cheese and broccoli sauce and steamed shredded cabbage, plus a very good cold buffet with several fruit pastries. Service did not start until 7:30, so it was after 8:30 that we got underway toward our 1:00 appointment at Acacia Winery, about 240 miles away, between Napa and Sonoma.

We drove south on Route 101 as far as Santa Rosa and then through the Russian River and Sonoma Valleys, where we saw vineyards stretching from horizon to horizon (except that hills blocked the horizon) like corn fields in central Illinois. When we stopped for gasoline and other purposes, I bought three wrapped sandwiches that we ate on the way to avoid both stopping for lunch and arriving at Acacia on empty stomachs. Due to Fred's excellent driving, we got there about 1:30; without the delay of slow traffic in an around Sonoma, we probably would have been there on time.

Sue and Ammon Golan, with whom we travelled on the Chalone trip to Australia in 1997, were there waiting for us to be taken on a tour of the Acacia Winery and a nearby portion of a vineyard.

Then came the tasting:

Acacia Brut 1993 Sparkling White: just right. We later bought a case of this to serve at our 40th wedding anniversary party.
Acacia 1999 Chardonnay Carneros: modest aroma, long aftertaste, oak, some fruit.
Acacia 2000 Viognier: good aroma and aftertaste, crisp, good.
Acacia 2000 Pinot Nuevo Carneros: rose, no aroma, light, some tannin, picnic wine.
Acacia 1999 Pinot Noir: a little aroma, good taste, aftertaste, med-light, nice tannin, very good.
Acacia 1998 Pinot Noir Lee Vineyard: a little aroma, good aftertaste, tannin, very good.
Acacia 1998 DeSoto Vineyard: some aroma, medium body, good aftertaste, much tannin and flavor, very good.
Acacia 1999 DeSoto Vineyard: much like the 1998, also very good.

Next, Doug Danielak, the winemaker from Jade Mountain Winery nearby (also a member of the Chalone Wine Group) turned up to let us taste some of his winery's products:

Jade Mountain 1999 Provencale: good aroma and aftertaste, medium body, very good.
Jade Mountain 1998 Syrah: Yum!
Jade Mountain 1999 Viognier: fresh, crisp, good aroma and aftertaste, refreshing, Splendid.

After this Fred drove us to Napa where Luigi and I checked in at Oak Knoll Inn and then went to Kenwood, in the Sonoma Valley north of the City of Sonoma, for tea with my former partner Phil Holm and his wife Naomi.

They live in a small development in the hills east of the Kenwood Winery. Before Phil's retirement they were travelling in California and decided to visit this winery, but before reaching it they saw a sign along the road advertising lots for sale. They went into the office and were shown the available property, decided on the lot they wanted, and never did get to the winery that day.

Having been instructed to punch 19 on the key pad at the gate to the community, I considered this private information and declined to tell the number to Fred, but punched it myself, just as I discovered a sign displaying the numbers to punch to call the various houses behind the gate (including 19 for the Holms). A telephone activated by the key pad dialed a number, Phil answered, and I spoke into a small grate announcing our presence. Phil caused the gate to slide open and we drove uphill from the vineyards into the woods and their house. A wild turkey walked off into the woods as we got out of our car. A jackrabbit appeared about 25 yards away as we talked with the Holms.

As the Holms were going to get up at 4:00 the next morning to catch a plane to Denver on a trip to see Naomi's 99-year-old mother, the four of us took an early dinner at the Kenwood Restaurant nearby. Seated outdoors, we admired a sculpture that served as a feeding station and bath/fountain for the local birds. We also enjoyed an excellent seafood ravioli with very good Matansas Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Fred turned up at 7:30 when we were through with dinner, and drove us back to Oak Knoll Inn via Trinity Road, a very winding road over the mountains between the Sonoma and Napa valleys that made it unnecessary to endure Sonoma traffic again.

Friday, May 18.
Breakfast at Oak Knoll Inn started at 9:00 and included dishes that we seldom have with this meal at home, including chocolate crepes. Very good indeed.

We had time to visit another winery before lunch, and at the suggestion of Barbara Pacino, proprietress of Oak Knoll Inn, we went to Bell Wine Cellars where Sandra Hewitt both poured for the tasting and told much about the details of winemaking. We learned about barrel staves, u-grooves in them to increase exposure of the wine to the oak, toasting the oak to medium or medium plus, and the use of the Jackson Clone of Cabernet Sauvignon to produce small grapes and limited yield of greater intensity. The tasting was also instructive:

Bell 2000 Viognier: magnificent aroma, very dry, long aftertaste, good acid, body, excellent. Drink with curry.
Bell 1998 Chardonnay: dry, crisp, firm, long aftertaste, good
Bell 1999 Pinot Noir: full body, good aroma and aftertaste, second harvest,very dry, good tannin, 14% alcohol, excellent.
Bell 1997 Merlot: strong, very tannic, long aftertaste, very good.
Bell 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon: intense, tannic, good long aftertaste, remarkably good.

Lunch was at Domaine Chandon, a fancy restaurant owned by the Moet et Chandon wine company of France, who have an American operation nearby. We had a bottle of their Blanc de Noir, a sparkling white wine with a trace of pink, made exclusively from dark grapes but fermented without the skins. I had some very good halibut. Luigi and Fred also had good food.

Following instructions provided by Barbara Pacino, Fred drove us south through Marin County, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and along the coast to Monterey. More spectacular scenery appeared, mostly cliffs, beaches and ocean. At Big Creek State Park we saw people parasurfing: they were parasailing over the beach and modest surf. The wind bouncing off the cliff to the east of the road provided the energy to keep them mostly aloft.

About dinnertime we reached the Hotel Pacific in Monterey and said goodbye to Fred. He had been an excellent driver and very good company, eating with us at all meals except for the dinner with the Holms in Kenwood.

Dinner was at Mike's on Fishermen's Wharf. It included excellent mahi-mahi in fruit sauce with onions, vegetables and mashed potatoes plus Edna Valley 2000 Chardonnay. Very good.

Saturday, May 19.
Smelling smoke at 2:30 AM I awoke Luigi and started to dress. She was not alarmed, and soon the smell went away. It had probably come from someone's fireplace, as all the rooms at this hotel have them; yet the hour made fireplace use unlikely in my view.

At 9:15 a bus took us north, then east, then south, then east again into the semi-arid hills east of Soledad to the Chalone Wine Group's Shareholders' Celebration. Although windbreaker jackets were welcome in Monterey, next to the sea, where the temperature was cool, they were not needed here where it was hot. This time the event was called "2001: a Wine Odyssey" and space exploration was a theme of sorts. One booth (I think it was Edna Valley) gave away seven-inch green plastic dolls resembling extraterrestrial space aliens. As usual we were given wine glasses; these were smaller at the mouth (but not in the body) than in previous years, and bore a suitable logo for the 2001 party. Then we walked to various booths where small amounts of wine were poured into these glasses for our tasting pleasure. One new feature was several tables where bottles of water were available. This was used for quenching thirst, cleansing palates, and rinsing glasses between wines. Even though we had sampled several wines from the Chalone Group recently, there were still more that we had not tried, and some that we wanted to refresh our recollections of. This time I had thought to bring a printout of the inventory of wines we have on hand so that I could avoid duplication and fill in holes.

In time we were summoned to the big tent where, with about 1,500 others, we were to have lunch. Luigi and I sat at one of the tables reserved for travellers with the Golans and three other couples. Two bottles of red, two bottles of white and ten bottles of water were given to each table.

I worked out my order for wines (including those for our party June 30) during a charity auction of various items we did not want, and submitted it to Patti Podolsky in the order-taking booth before starting on lunch and the wines that accompanied it.

We saw many of the people we had travelled with in the past, and talked with them at some length, both before and after helping ourselves to the splendid viands provided by the catering operation of Highlands Inn of Carmel. These were on tables around the periphery of the main tent; each serving table was identified by a color of the tablecloth on one of the dining tables, so that people could help themselves from the serving table of the corresponding color and avoid too many at one and not enough at another.

Busses were assembled to take us celebrants back to our respective hotels; whenever one was filled, it left. Luigi and I boarded a bus designated "Hotel Pacific" about 4:00. On the ride home, rusty water (probably from the air conditioning system) dripped onto me except when I applied a kleenex to the place in ceiling whence it came.

Again we had dinner at Mike's on Fishermen's wharf. This time we had no wine. Luigi had clam chowder and I dismembered a "half cracked dungeness crab" (they should have said "cracked half dungeness crab") mostly with my fingers. Luigi, who got overheated at the celebration, went to bed at 8:30.

Sunday, May 20.
Getting up at 6:00 gave us plenty of time to dress and have breakfast in the hotel's breakfast room before taking a cab to the airport for the 9:27 flight to San Francisco and a well-timed flight from there back to Chicago.