Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Eyrie, The Nest

Roots and wings.  Roots and wings.  The most important things I have given to my children are roots and wings.

As I sit staring at the hawk soaring through the sky on the 1996 bottle of The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir—the birth year of my son—the symbolism of the label completely hits home.

I am no longer a mother to a teenager.  Period. 
My youngest is twenty.  A truly milestone age.  Though eighteen is considered legally an adult, we all know that’s not true.  But twenty…there’s something about twenty that seems so old, so mature, so heart-wrenching.

My son would probably tell you he was this grown up two years ago, but I’m not buying it.  Two years ago he was still in high school.  Still under my roof all the time. 

But now, just like that soaring bird, he has left our family nest, leaving his parents’ eyrie empty for the first time.  It might not seem like a big deal to many parents, but his father and I have never been adults without kids.  Never.  Parenting is what we have done every day, week, month, and year of our adult lives.

When I was eighteen, I had my first child; my husband was twenty.  There’s that age again—twenty.

My advice on parenting has always been that it isn’t about the parents; it’s about the kids.  Many would say, “Well, duh!”  However, not many parent that way. 

I have always tried to do what was right for my children, no matter how that affected me.  When a parent tells a screaming toddler no, it is hard on the parent.  It is much easier to give in to the screaming and let the toddler have his way, but that isn’t often what is right for the child.

When a pre-teen screams, “I hate you!” at her mother.  It is really easy to let that child have her way and for the parent to be the good guy.  This is probably not the best choice though.

When a teenager has a curfew, the parents have to stay up waiting, no matter how tired those parents are.  When a teenager is grounded for staying out past said curfew, the parents are, in essence, grounded, too, because they have to stay home to monitor the teen. 

Sometimes it is easier on parents if they bury their heads in the sand and become best friends with their teen, to let the teen do whatever, whenever.  This is never what is right for that teenager.

Am I a perfect parent?  Hell, no.  Have I made mistakes?  Hell, yes!  But overall, I have always done what was right for my kids, even when they threw a fit, even when they screamed at me, even when they lied to me.  I have held them to a standard.  A standard of which I knew they were more than worthy, a standard which I knew they deserved.  Because I loved them that much.

As my youngest enters his twentieth year, I can see the results of all of this hard parenting.  And believe me, it is hard, the hardest—and the best—thing I have ever done, that I ever, ever will do.

It has truly been the highlight of my life.  And will be until the day I die.

Our son is back to the safety of our nest now, home for the summer after his first year of college.  Our roots have brought him here.  He will fly from our eyrie again. I want him to do that.  I can’t wait to see where his wings take him. 
As his father and I sit and drink this birth-year bottle together, we inhale the musty earth, the muted fig, the strong mint, the zippy acid.  After twenty years, this is still a gorgeous wine, barely showing its age.  It is perfect.  So perfect we make parenting be about us, just for a short moment, as we bask in another milestone of our son’s life.  Only one milestone of many yet to come.  A milestone my son doesn’t even think is that important because it is only twenty…not twenty-one.
But mostly, I stare at the wings of the regal bird on the bottle of 1996 The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.  My English-teacher heart ponders the symbolism.  My mothering heart lurches with a bit of sorrow while it wonders at the passing of time—but my heart does not break—it explodes with pride while it remembers the deep roots beneath those soaring wings.

Why The Eyrie Vineyards?

            I had been on the lookout for a birth-year bottle of wine for our son.  My husband and I opened a birth-year wine on our daughter’s twentieth birthday and were determined to do the same on our youngest’s birthday.  I had looked around online, never finding the bottle that completely met my standards or my taste buds.

            Then my husband and I spent our spring break in the Willamette Valley.  I love pinot noir.  I love Oregon.  I love Oregon pinot noir.  I was thinking of looking for a bottle when we stopped to taste at The Eyrie Vineyards.   The Eyrie has quite a library selection.  David Lett, known as Papa Pinot for his pioneering status growing pinot noir in the Willamette, grew many of the earliest vineyards in the area, experimenting with my favorite varietal.  As part of this “experiment,” Lett also held back many cases from past vintages.
            These cases were not just left and forgotten.  The Eyrie actually has quite a certification process where library wines are tasted through for quality before being re-blended and re-corked, then covered with a wax capsule to store for more aging.  The tasting room always has one library selection on its menu for customers to enjoy.  On the day of our visit, a 1978 Merlot was on the list.  There was also a 1987 Chardonnay for a white option.  Both were absolutely amazing.  The age was showing, but only in the finest ways.  Lett’s experiment has obviously been proven a success time and time again.  If I wasn’t a believer of the Willamette Valley and Oregon wines before (which I was), I surely was at that moment.

            The Eyrie had two different options for 1996 wines—the year for which I was looking.  My husband and I contemplated our selections and made our choice, taking home the South Block Willamette Valley.  This was just another serendipitous event on a trip that was filled with such moments.   Truly, this birth-year wine capped off a great trip and proved why The Eyrie Vineyards is considered a must-stop winery.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Final Thoughts—Willamette Valley

            Spring has finally arrived in the Black Hills.  The snow showers have turned to rain.  Green grasses are sprouting on the hillsides.  The sun is rising earlier and setting later.  The most beautiful season in the place I call home is here to stay…at least until fall.

            This arrival has me thinking less about my earlier travels to other picturesque spots and more about the short trips I get to make around the gorgeous area where I live.  However, a few final thoughts of Oregon keep swirling in my mind.  The newly-green slopes here have me reminiscing one last time about the Willamette Valley—some pretty great memories to have!

            Penner-Ash recently made the news after it sold to wine giant Jackson Family Wines.  (Though this isn’t a blog about Jackson Family, I will say that company has great taste!  It keeps snatching up some of my favorite producers.)  However, Penner-Ash had already made the headlines with me as a winery I could not wait to visit.  The trip there proved to be as good—maybe even better—than I expected.

            Wonderful wines, fabulous vistas, and friendly staff members all helped to make this worthy of memories.  The view of the gravity flow facility from the tasting deck is incredibly interesting.  The outdoor area is so inviting.  Additionally, the view is so breathtakingly amazing, there is nothing better than sitting with a glass outdoors…which is exactly what we did.

            Another northern Willamette Valley producer still bringing a smile to my face is Domaine Drouhin of Oregon—fondly called DDO by the locals.  Also with panoramas that delight the eye, DDO is unique in many ways.  First, the Drouhin Family—long-time producers in the Burgundy region of France—sought out Oregon as the next great place to grow pinot noir.

            They have not been disappointed by the region, nor has the region been disappointed by this stellar producer.  The tour here is incredibly informative, taking in both the outside grounds of nearby vineyards and all levels of the gravity-flow facility.  Options to taste include the Willamette Valley wines, but opportunities are also given to sip some Burgundian wines the Drouhins produce.  A great way to compare the concept of terroir in wine.

            Moving further south in the Willamette Valley, King Estate Winery has become one of the best known Oregon producers, based first off the amount of wine produced there.  But please don’t think that a large quantity of wine means poor quality.  This is just untrue.  King Estate makes great wines at great prices…and then does other top-shelf and single-vineyard options incredibly well, too.

            These wines all start in the organic vineyards, the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world.  The drive up to the stately tasting room steers patrons through charming vineyards, made even more so when the sheep are seen grazing.  A bit of advice is to go hungry.  After sipping these wines, experience the tasty bites at the King Estate restaurant, so delicious all around.

            All trips must come to an end—as does my writing about these trips.  This one is no exception.  But like all good travels, I will end on a high note, like the fun had at Sweet Cheeks Winery.  Though it becomes repetitive to say the view was beautiful, I repeat it because it’s true—there really are few bad sights in the Willamette.  Sweet Cheeks sits on a hillside and has a large, charming patio overlooking the valley floor.  Often offering live entertainment on evenings and weekends, this is an enjoyable place to hang out. 

            Many still wine options are available, but a wine must be chosen to pair with this festive setting, so order a bottle of the sparkling, get multiple glasses, and enjoy time with friends.  This is the spot screaming for joyous smiles and raucous laughter.  It is what wine is all about:  bringing people together to enjoy moments and memories.  Sweet Cheeks is the perfect place.

            Though this is my final “official” writing about the beautiful Willamette Valley, my recollections of this fabulous trip have gotten me through two months of Mother Nature evilly teasing me with the thought of spring…only to have her rip those warm thoughts away to be replaced by snow. 

            But spring is finally here—to stay—in my beautiful Black Hills home.  Thank you Oregon, thank you Willamette Valley, for helping me get here, for being my much-too-short substitute for spring.  I can’t wait to return.  However, for now, I can enjoy my own backyard. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fifty Shades of Rosé

            It’s all I asked for as a Mother’s Day gift.  It’s all I wanted.  I longed for a unique experience.  I desired what I had seen elsewhere.  I wanted—I needed—fifty shades of…rosé!
            In my travels the past year, I’ve been collecting bottles for this rosé extravaganza.  I purchased bottles from Texas and Oregon, found examples from Sonoma to Chile. 
            I’ve already started my tasting of these beautiful bottles, in shades of barely-there to deep-dark pink.  Here is my list of rosés I will be drinking this summer.  Many price points are represented, as are many styles.  However, all are worth a sip on a summer patio. 
            Enjoy these fifty shades of rosé, in no particular order…oh wait, they are in an order—from light to dark.  No judgements here, just good wines for the warm weather.
Rosé of Pinot Noir—Sokol Blosser, Willamette Valley:  barely-there pink from Willamette Valley pinot noir grapes makes this the prettiest sip of the year. 

Tatum Rosé—William Chris, Texas Hill Country:  what a beautiful baby-pink color this bottle is.  Named for the assistant winemaker’s daughter, Tatum, from grenache and mourvedre grapes.

Rosé of Pinot Noir—Cartograph Wines, North Coast:  just a shade darker here, this pinot noir pink is produced in Sonoma County and longs for a Sonoma summer evening.

Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé—LaPlaya, Colchagua Valley:  this pink is given an undertone of orange from the cabernet grape.  Add in the small amount of viognier, and this Chilean wine stands out.

Pinot Noir Rosé—Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley:  moving to a gorgeous salmon color, this pink is made from Oregon’s premier region’s premier grape.

Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir—Toad Hollow, Sonoma County:  a darker Sonoma County example, the Toad Hollow tasted was 2014, but look for the newest vintage to enjoy this season.

Pinot Noir Rosé—Firesteed Cellars, Willamette Valley:  still a deep salmon, Firesteed’s rosé of pinot noir is another example of what this state can do with its favorite grape.

Roséo—Penner Ash, Oregon:  this wine moves to the fuchsia shade with pinot noir grapes sourced from Oregon and produced in Penner Ash’s beautiful Willamette Valley facility.

Texas Dry Rosè—Pedernales Cellars, Texas Hill Country:  the deepest shade of fuchsia—almost red—this is a blend of Texas grapes produced in the picturesque Texas Hill Country.    

            Use this list to begin your summer experimentation...with fifty shades of rosé.  They will not disappoint!