Friday, August 16, 2013

Ravenous Reading in the latest issue of Travel + Escape Magazine

The August 2013 issue of Travel + Escape Magazine (for iPhones and iPads) features an article I wrote called Walla Walla, A Wine Oasis is Eastern Washington. It provides an introduction to Walla Walla, a winetown rife with classic cowboy stories straight out of the wild wild west, as well as winery, restaurant, and hotel recommendations and practical information for setting up your own wine-tasting adventure. At $1.99 an issue, you can't beat the price, and Travel + Escape Magazine really takes advantage of the online format, with videos, webcams, and more. Check it all out here.

SJR Vineyard (in the area known as The Rocks), photo courtesy of Mary Delmas Robertson of Delmas

I did not receive any financial assistance in writing this article, but I did receive a lot of help completing my research. I'd like to thank Muriel Kenyon from Otis Kenyon Winery, Madeleine Shero from Rotie Cellars, Suzie Nelson and Ryan Pennington from Spring Valley Vineyards and Northstar Winery, Justin Yax with DVA Advertising & Public Relations and Tourism Walla Walla, and Steve Robertson and Mary Delmas Robertson at Delmas Wines.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Tasting at Poplar Grove Winery, the Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

No need to beat around the vineyard: Poplar Grove Winery makes some of my favorite wines in the Okanagan Valley. Let me try to explainn: the wines are so complex that they leave me wanting to know more, viz. drink more; they are well aged and only released when ready to drink, and this plays a key role in how expressive they are; and they give me a sense of place: these wines, particularly the Poplar Grove 2009 Merlot, taste like the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.

Naramata Bench outside of Penticton, Okanagan Valley by Naramata Bench Wineries Association

Now, let's move away from the subjective. Poplar Grove makes wines that are French in style and range from pinot gris, chardonnay, viognier, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon varietals to the awesomely powerful Bordeaux-inspired red blends. many of which you can only taste and buy onsite. The tasting room is freakin' beautiful, too, and, yeah, I know, in this aspect, my Okanagan posts are getting redundant:

Poplar Grove tasting room stands on the famous Naramata Bench and looks out onto Lake Okanagan

Poplar Groves wines are definitely some of the most complex that I tasted in the Okanagan Valley. I never exhausted their depths, and I doubt you would be able to either, even if you drank bottle after bottle, vintage after vintage.

Most impressive, Poplar Grove wines also come at a high value, and my favorite, a masculine, dark-leather and tobacco merlot, costs only $30. Jesus, why can't we purchase them in the USA! I didn't purchase this wine but chose the also awesome Blanc de Noirs rosé, and, so far, this is my one and only regret on The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. It's a serious regret, since we can't get any of Poplar Grove's wines in the USA, as I understand it. I should have bought both.

I personally believe that all of Poplar Grove wines are stand outs—though they sadly weren't pouring their Cabernet Franc (this grape is easily one of my favorites in the Okanagan Valley)—but here were my favorites:

  • 2011 Chardonnay
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Blanc de Noirs (rosé)
  • 2009 CSM (blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and mourvedre and a play on GSM!)
  • 2007 Legacy 
For all you big Napa Cab lovers, I seriously recommend saving a few bucks and grabbing the Poplar Grove Legacy for a steal at $50. It is Tolstoy, DFW, Hemingway, and Dostoyevsky rolled into one (as well as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot)! It is the winery's signature wine and perfect for romance. I promise you'll be reciting poetry after the second sip (after the first, you'll simply be weeping). The wine even prompted the winery to write: The finish is heartbreakingly long, like a French kiss goodbye at the train station.

Now that's a tasting note.

To go wine tasting at Poplar Grove, visit any day of the week 10am-5pm (open till 6pm April through October). Tasting fee is $5, and it is waived with purchase. The onsite Vanilla Pod Restaurant serves lunch and dinner, and it offers a tapas-style menu inspired by the Okanagan's incredibly flavorsome produce.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fried Pasta! Ciceri e Tria Recipe: Eating Southern Italian with the Ravenous Traveler

This article, with recipe for Ciceri e Tria, a traditional fried pasta dish from Italy's Puglia region, originally appeared on

It was great finally getting the fried pasta right, thanks to a little help from Puglia's The Awaiting Table Cooking School

Italy’s Puglia region has been blowing up for years among food lovers and those appreciative of the Mediterranean diet. Everyone from top chefs to leading culinary writers have been traveling to Puglia, and you too can meet local chefs and learn the secrets of the Mediterranean diet by visiting this beautiful region of Italy.

Continue Reading---->

Celebrate the Holidays With New Washington Grape Varieties

Looking for a rare and unusual wine to sip with Christmas dinner or on New Year's Eve? It's easy to throw cash at a well-known bottl...