Happenings 2019

What were some of my favorite things in 2019?  Did you travel within four hours reach of the Seattle area?  Check out the 19 highlights…

  1. California dreamin (by airplane) – Sonoma, Napa, St Helena, Sacramento, San Francisco, …and Russian River Brewery
  2. Snowmageddon in February in the Puget Sound area
  3. The Konmari Method – Does your ‘stuff’ spark joy?
  4. Poverty Bay Wine Festival in Des Moines, WA – an annual anniversary
  5. Seeing the snow geese in the La Conner, Conway, Mount Vernon area in early-mid March
  6. Eats –  a few new eats in 2019 consisted of the Five Star Cellars wine dinner at the Magestic Hotel in Anacortes, Black Raven Brewery in Redmond, and Resonate Brewery in Bellevue. The Mongolia Wagyu Beef at Baron’s in Bellevue was tasty as well.
  7. Port Townsend – windy Spring day to tour the town, Saturday market, Point Hudson
  8. Seattle Pride Parade fun
  9. Deception Pass and Hellams Vineyard wine/dinner boat cruise via San Juan Cruises
  10. Walk the Cedar River Trail
  11. Pike Place Market – Mee Sum Pastry’s Pork Hom Bow; Sunset Supper in August
  12. Gary Clark Jr at Chateau St Michelle’s Summer Concert Series and Evil Dead the Musical
  13. Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich – so tasty!
  14. Cheering on the Seattle Seahawks, playing fantasy football (4th place in both leagues) and pickem – Go Hawks!
  15. Metallica S&M2 (the performance after the fact) – so fabulous!
  16. Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls –  breakfast, pics of the falls, shopping….one of my favorite places. Includes shopping in the smaller boutiques in Snoqualmie and North Bend
  17. Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup vs Toronto – Way to Go!
  18. Leavenworth town and tree lighting
  19. Strangelove at Showbox at the Market – love, love, love!

What are you looking forward to in 2020?  I am looking forward to the movie Top Gun/Maverick – oh yeah!

August 2nd – Summer Winemaker Dinner Cruise

Looking for an ideal Pacific Northwest experience?  After a visit to the Anacortes Arts Festival http://www.anacortesartsfestival.com, cap off the day with a winemaker dinner cruise on Saturday, August 2nd.

A chartered bus will pick you up at Hellams Vineyard in La Conner at 5 p.m. (please check in to the shop no later than 4:15 p.m.).  You’ll head over to Mystic Sea Charters in Anacortes http://mysticseacharters.com/, boarding and departing at 6 p.m.  The boat will return to dock at 9 p.m. and you’ll then be chartered back to La Conner.

The cruise will take you through the San Juan Islands, heading from Anacortes northbound to the mystical Mermaid Rocks and the Cone Islands, venturing on to Toehead Pass and Obstruction Pass off of Orcas Island, continuing onward to Thatcher Pass, Lopez Spit, Decatur Island and Lopez Pass, and the Marine Sanctuary off of Bird Rocks – then homeward bound.  This is a fantastic scenic cruise abundant with eagles, seals, and spectacular scenery.

The cruise will feature three Walla Walla wineries – Five Star Cellars, Bunchgrass and Kontos.  The winemakers/owners will be able to answer any questions and offer tastings of great Washington State wine celebrating the season and their work – what a treat!   The cruise will also feature a fully catered dinner of appetizers, salmon, prime rib, side dishes and dessert.  Cost is $130 per person (+tax).  To reserve  your spot, call Hellams Vineyard at 360-466-1758.  http://hellamsvineyard.com/  It just may be the highlight of your summer!


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Walla Walla Wine

Traveling to Walla Walla for a long weekend is the perfect way to experience one of the many diverse and special locales of Washington State; plus as a bonus you can sample some of the best wine made in the USA.   From the Seattle area, it is about a 4-1/2 hour drive, so I guess you could say that it is just beyond four hours reach.

A three-day weekend is suggested for your first time visit or for those of you that have been to Walla Walla before. This particular trip proved to be less time in town but still allowed for a good amount of tasting. See http://www.wallawalla.org/  for a well-rounded look at what there is to see and do in Walla Walla.   The following itinerary isn’t a cheap one, but a recommended one.

Stay –   51 East Main.  These vacation rentals are luxury apartments built with all the in-house amenities you desire (full length mirror, extra pillows, glass/dishware, coffee, DVD player) and some amenities that may surprise you as well, but are nice touches (like a calendar on the wall).  Each of the 5 apartments has a particular theme to it.  Visit http://www.51eastmain.com/  to view the options.   We stayed in the Home Room and our friends took The Cellar. It is located right in the heart of downtown Walla Walla so it is close to restaurants, tasting rooms, shopping, and more.   Questions about 51 East Main?   Let me know.  A stay at 51 East Main will definitely be had again.

Dine –

Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen – http://saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/   A bottle of local wine was brought in – Abeja’s Cabernet Sauvignon (corkage allowed if not on their wine list) and one was purchased as well – Saggi. The Orecchiette was enjoyed –  roasted heirloom tomato, speck, corn, chives-ricotta & Pecorino Toscano and the four of us enjoyed the mezze (flatbread with a variety of dips/spreads).   The menu is seasonal with mostly locally sourced items.

Whitehouse-Crawford http://www.whitehousecrawford.com/home.php Champagne to start, a bottle of Five Star Cellars Stellar.  Enjoyed the Al ceppo pasta with sweet and sour eggplant, sweet corn, roasted duck, and Pecorino Romano as well as the Rustic tomato soup with Dungeness crab and croutons.

Vintage Cellars Wine Bar http://vintagewinebar.org/  Check out the live music, visit with friends on the outdoor patio, and try a glass or bottle of their wide selection of area wines (or maybe now is the time for a beer).  See their Facebook page for up-to-date events.

The Marc’s Vineyard Lounge located at the Marcus Whitman Hotel http://marcuswhitmanhotel.com/the-vineyard-lounge  for a cocktail and appetizer.  The Tempura Local Vegetables and the Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip hit the spot.

Olive –  http://olivemarketplaceandcafe.com/ –  If we didn’t stop at the Red Monkey http://redmonkeylounge.com/  for a bite and to watch the Seattle Seahawks game, then the fig and brie flatbread would have been had here. Instead, we took a break and shared one glass of wine while hangin’ out on the comfy leather furniture there.

Bacon and Eggs –  http://www.baconandeggswallawalla.com/  This is a new to us and now a favorite!  Be prepared to wait for a table on the weekend as it is also a local favorite.  Farm-to-Table food that satisfies and starts the day out right.  I had the -Bacon & Eggs- Try the mimosa and a side of cornbread and freshly made guacamole.

Wine Tasting –

On this particular wine tasting adventure, we had friends with us that had not been to Walla Walla before so the goal was to visit high quality big red wines and to experience a variety of locations/types of the wineries/tasting rooms (a farm, modern building with views, traditional vineyard, airport).   They may be part of a large conglomerate or a small winery making just a few hundred cases.  Most of these wineries had a white wine to taste as well.  A few had Rose.  Others might make these but are already sold out because of the small amount of cases made, or they are only available to wine club members.  Once you have found a favorite, joining a wine club just might be the ticket, especially if they are small production and have a wine or two that are only available to the wine club members.  Some wine clubs send wine 2-3 times a year and others more so.  Some allow for choosing the wine you receive (like Five Star Cellars) and  the others will send you what they want.  The wineries in Walla Walla are divided into four main areas, West Walla Walla/Lowden, Downtown tasting rooms, The Airport/East Walla Walla and South along the State line. There are also wineries just across the border in Oregon (like Tero Estates) and those near Waitsburg.

Below are the wineries that we visited on this trip.

West – Bunchgrass

South – Amavi, Va Piano (the Cabernet Sauvignon and their special Las Collines Syrah (single vineyard) were especially good)), Northstar (Cabernet Franc)

Airport – Five Star Cellars (the whole line up!  I left with the Supernova but will circle back for the others in due time), Kontos Cellars

Downtown – Trust Cellars (2010 Syrah – Walla Walla Valley), Otis Kenyon, Sinclair Estate Vineyards (Syrah, Roussanne Marsanne).

Based on my purchases you might think I like Syrah, eh?  I will say that Walla Walla Syrahs are especially fruitful and Walla Walla produces some of the finest Syrahs in the world. I have found that these wineries produce a great deal of different quality varietals as well.

Other – See previous Walla Walla postings for shopping, more wineries, and things to do (Oct 2010, Sept/Feb 2011). The Farmers Market looked to be slim pickins’ this weekend/year so a drive by was all that was needed.  You can fly and rent a car or make the drive and explore.  Do remember to make sure that your car is good working order and is ready to cross the Pass.  Based on your timing, you may want to stop at Red Mountain (Richland area) or Prosser. The area around Richland is a good separate trip in itself, as is Yakima/Zillah.

So, come to Walla Walla to taste and to play.  Good people, good product, good visit.

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Pick A Festival, Any Festival 2011

This is a follow-up to the July 2010 post Pick A Festival, Any Festival.  It is true again that this weekend every year is packed with things to do.  Again this year, Kirkland Uncorked did not disappoint.  I liked Kirkland Uncorked’s Facebook posting…”Rain or shine we are still tasting wine!”  Kirkland Uncorked brings the arts (presented by Kirkland Arts Center), a boat showcase, grilling demonstrations, restaurant sampling, and of course…wine.  One thing I noticed that was new (or bigger than before) were the paddle boarders showing off their stuff.  And there is the City Dog Magazine Dog Modeling Contest.  Pyramid beer and Mojitos are for purchase while listening to the various entertainment throughout the day.  Some of my favorite wine tastings this year were from Maryhill Winery (Viognier),  Five Star Cellars (Kenzie, Merlot and Cab), Convergence Zone Cellars (Dewpoint), Tempus Cellars (Evergreen Vineyard Riesling),  Tsillan Cellars (Syrah Grenache), and Northwest Cellars Winery (Adagio and Sangiovese).  Mind you, I didn’t try every varietal that was being poured and everyone does have their individual palate.  This festival seems to be a good friend and group event too…bachelorette party, and more.  Have fun!  http://www.kirklanduncorked.com/

Walla Walla, WA

Although Walla Walla is essentially longer than 4 hours from the Seattle area (it is actually around 4-1/2 hours), it is well worth the drive (or you can fly).   In fact, Walla Walla is on the “Five things to do in Washington before you die” list from Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See Before You Die”.  The name Walla Walla means “many waters” and is of Indian decent.

Lodging – Marcus Whitman in downtown Walla Walla is recommended.  It is convenient to the downtown shopping, restaurants, wineries and has a good complimentary breakfast buffet.  While you are there, whether you are a guest or not, check out the art gallery on the second floor of the oil paintings that depict the life of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.  Enjoy The Vineyard Lounge…good cocktails and nice food…try the Wild Mushroom Flatbread.  Cozy up to the fireplace or enjoy the patio (depending on the season).  http://www.marcuswhitmanhotel.com/  We have also stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn and Suites which are right next to each other and provide a nice stay and good service and are close to the wineries as you enter Walla Walla from the West.  However, if you have a choice, I would recommend the Marcus Whitman.

Shopping –  If you like premium labels  (Joes, Tommy Bahama, Ugg, Three Dot and the like), visit Walla Walla Clothing Company.  It is located on East Main Street downtown, it is open 7 days a week, and offer both Men’s and Women’s wear. Willow is a great place to view local art and shop for unique items.   http://www.willow-wallawalla.com/  You will also find other boutiques, home decor, and other services to meet your needs and wants.  Salumiere Cesario is known for their fresh Salumi meats, cheese, and olive selections.   They also have wine and wine accessories for purchase.   Take a Lunchbox to go and enjoy your own picnic on the green grass of a winery like Walla Walla Vintners or from the deck at Amavi, offering an excellent view of the Walla Walla Valley and the Blue Mountains.  Salumiere Cesario is located two doors down from Willow on Second Ave. and kitty corner from the Marcus Whitman Hotel.   http://www.salumierecesario.com/  And check out Sweetwater Paper & Home, new to downtown Walla Walla on E. Alder…they have a nice selection of specialty cards and other gift items.  The Farmers Market is a great stop on Saturdays during the summer from 9 am – 1 pm.

Dining and Good Eats –  Saffron Mediterranean Kitchenhttp://www.saffronmediterraneankitchen.com/ … a must try…  and Pho Sho  is a great place to go for lunch or dinner on these cool Walla Walla days.  http://www.phoshowallawalla.com/  Both have awesome service.  Yes, I said awesome!   Creektown Cafe – closed but now re-opened and re-named the South Fork Grill, new owner is the previous head chef, so hopefully quality hasn’t changed.   Red Monkey – mainly a lunch, late night or sports bar dining place  http://www.stonehutbar.com/rmonkey.html   Stone Hut  Bar & Grill –  http://www.stonehutbar.com/shut.html  similar to the Red Monkey but offering its own unique taste… industrial, neon lighting , hang with the locals and watch your favorite sporting event  (definitely a joint I would like to go back to)  Mill Creek  Brewery–  http://millcreek-brewpub.com/menu.htm  stopped in for a game and snack…my favorite part was that I could throw peanut shells on the floor.  Next stop will be White House Crawford, which I hear is a well worth it fine dining experience.

For Entertainment…a variety of the wineries offer local music on different evenings.  On this night, we enjoyed live music at Stephenson Cellars.   http://www.stephensoncellars.com/  Others include Vintage Cellars Wine Bar  http://www.vintagewinebar.org/ and Sapolil Cellars…but Sapolil has a cover charge.  Check the local paper as various other wineries offer entertainment sporadically throughout the year.

Wineries –  The reason you came to Walla Walla…the great selection of wine!  The wineries of Walla Walla Valley are split into different sections…1) Downtown 2) Airport 3) West 4) East  and 5)South Walla Walla.  Also, you find a number of wineries in Milton-Freewater, Oregon…just down the road.                                 

Pick up a winery map and enjoy your exploration.  One thing to note is that there are wineries that are not listed on the maps or brochures as these wineries have not bought in to the Walla Walla Wine Alliance.   One of these wineries, is the must-try Balboa wines…visit the tasting room located in the space next to the Beresan tasting room.  Note:  most wineries and tasting rooms will charge you a tasting fee of $5-10.  Many will credit the tasting fee with a purchase.  Make sure you visit the Airport wineries but adjust your schedule or call ahead as many are open only on Saturdays or my appointment…many of these are small family owned wineries where you may just meet the owner/winemaker while enjoying a taste.  My personal favorite is Five Star Cellars http://www.fivestarcellars.com/

Visit during a Release Weekend or Barrel Tasting event…or go anytime and you will find a host of wineries to experience.  I have been to many of the wineries, but will let you decide what your adventure will look like.

Check out  http://www.wallawalla.org/  to get a well-rounded vision of Walla Walla…including historical and recreational options.  Walla Walla is also the location of the nationally recognized Whitman College.  View the calendar and plan your trip.  An annual treat is the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede (Hot Air Balloon) held in May.  What else?  Walla Walla sweet onions…