Road Trip Planning 2010 – Wyoming

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I know that I have been to Wyoming before, but this year I will be in the northern part of the state. According to my map there is a winery near my travel location (though the phone number is disconnected, grrr, Thanks a bunch, Wyoming Tourism Board). So what else can I do in Northern Wyoming without going into Yellowstone, or Jackson Hole (which would have regional wine nearby)?

Well, get out the mashed potatoes, but don’t start sculpting yet as I will be driving in the vicinity of Devil’s Tower and you will be wanting updated photos unless you are seeing them in your head, that is…. I plan to avoid the anal probe so I probably won’t be stopping. I will be near Yellowstone, just not while I am in Wyoming.

If you are aware of anyplaces along the road in Wyoming in the north of the state, please, please, let me know. Email me at

AnyWho. Here is the updated map!

(I don’t remember being so timid with color when I prepared this last year!)

Road Trip Planning 2010 – South Dakota

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ok, I am a bit off in the order that I am travelling. But the point is still the same. I am stopping in all of these states! And today, I am highlighting South Dakota.

South Dakota has always been close to my heart since I was in Mrs. Herzig’s 2nd grade class and she taught us all about writing letters AND geography by making us all write to the tourism bureau of the various states. My state was South Dakota. Home at various points, to Laura Ingalls Wilder of the Little House Books which were a huge part of my 2nd and 3rd grade life. Ironically, she is not mentioned at all, as I recall, in their tourism literature (not the case now), but because of them (The SD Tourism Board) I was able to stun my parents with knowledge of the Mitchell Corn Palace when they had a chance to visit the state several years ago. Yes, that is the way my head works.

Armed with that knowledge, I have begun to consider places to stop in South Dakota. Luckily, I have been given some advice. Wanda, from the South Dakota Tourism Board has give me some advice.

As a result on my short list of wineries to visit are:

Prairie Berry Winery
Old Folsom Winery (biodynamic farming)
Schade Winery

As for possible adventures? Well, the Black Hills call me. Plus, I watched Deadwood. Oh and the Badlands too. I loves me the geology. Also Sturgis is along the route, though I think I will steer clear if it is crazy that week. Anyone? When do the bikers converge on Sturgis? Clearly the Mitchell Corn Palace deserves a look-see. And finally, DeSmet. Little House on Prairie-ville. That is a big Duh kinda-stop. (Oh, please don’t make it filled with re-enactors. I have issues, please note that I have been banned from the Freedom Trail (unofficially)).

Road Trip Planning – Alexandria Lakes

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Whhoooa… Back up there partner! I skipped a highlight of Minnesota. Silly me.

That highlight is Minnesota’s only AVA, Alexandria Lakes. The appellation was created in 2005 and is located between Lakes Ida, Carlos, Darling, Alvin and Miltona. (Hey, it is Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, after all)

The AVA is nearly 11,000 acres and home to one winery. Carlos Creek Winery is the largest winery in the State of Minnesota and is located on 160 acres of which 12 acres are planted with vines such as Frontenac, Marechel Foch, Valiant, Swenson Red, La Crescent, King of the North, Brianna, Marquette, Petite Pearl and Edelweiss. They make sixteen wines from their estate grown grapes as well as out of state grapes and juice and six apple wines (there are fifteen acres of apple orchards on the property as well).

Best of all? The winery is just a hop, skip and a jump from the interstate! Hoping that I will get a chance to stop!

Washington Wine Revisited

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

You must have thought that I forgot all about the series I was writing about Washington State wine AVAs. But you would be wrong. Like an elephant, I never forget. Busy, distracted, confused, possibly, but forgetful? Not so much.

We have looked at nine of the eleven appellations in the state and with time ticking down until I leave for my trip to the 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference, I thought it would behoove me to get cracking on the last couple.  Today, I am going to look at the biggest of the AVAs.  The Columbia Valley.

The Columbia Valley is like the big daddy of Washington wine regions, though less a Titan like Cronus who swallowed his children whole and had to be cut open to set them free, but more like Zeus from whose forehead Athena sprang fully formed, in that it is home to six of the smaller, sub-AVAs.  Specifically, those AVAs include Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, WallaWalla and Yakima Valley (additionally two new AVAs named Ancient Lakes and Mid Columbia River have been applied for… we will let you know when we hear about it in the future).

The region is huge at 11 million acres of which 17,000 are under cultivation and includes 99% of all the wine grapes grown in the State of Washington.  The soils are generally volcanic and loamy which allows for excellent drainage but also nutrient depleted which makes the vine work harder to produce fruit.  The valley is located in the rainshadow of the Cascade Mountains (think Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens) which means that the area is dry and drip irrigation is used in vineyards  Oh, yes.  These grapes suffer to produce their beautiful fruit!  Additionally, due to its more northern location, the Columbia Valley receives two more hours of daylight then more southern wine producing regions (i.e. California).

I am looking forward to my Washington adventure and have started to compile of list of things to do with if I arrive early (something about a leadened foot of mine that causes that to happen).  For instance:

  • I would like to see hops growing.  75% of the hops grown in the U.S. are grown near Yakima and apparently there is a Hops Museum in Toppenish.
  • I have been to Mt. Rainier but I would LOVE to see Mt. St. Helens. (I know WAY too many geologists to not get a little nerdy when it comes to rocks)
  • I would love to see the petroglyphs at Buffalo Eddy
  • or the first Catholic church in Washington
  • or the Ahtanum Mission
  • and I am certain that there will be a ton of Lewis and Clark stuff.

If you know about something that a nerdy girl like me would like please let me know.  I am planning to take much more audio visual stuff this year, so I am hoping to have some really cool things to show.  You can contact me here.

I Hope There Are No Rattlesnakes In Those Hills

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Located completely within the Columbia Valley AVA and within Benton and Yakima Counties, Rattlesnake Hills is a 16 mile long stretch of territory of basalt mountains. The AVA was created in 2006 but has been under cultivation since 1968 when the Morrison Vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling for Chateau St. Michelle. Currently there are nearly 30 vineyards in the area some of which can be found here

Grape varietals grown in the hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Semillion and Viognier.

The AVA is centered around Zillah, Washington. I am hoping given that I will be in Walla Walla which is relatively close by, that I will get to experience the hills for myself. I was especially relieved to learn that the name “rattlesnake” comes from the shape of the hills… and not for any reptilian invaders in the area. I am like Indiana Jones that way. I hate snakes.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Walla Walla? Here I Come!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

This year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference will be held in Walla Walla, Washington at the end of June. So, naturally, I am preparing for the trip.

The Walla Walla AVA is a subsection of the Columbia Valley AVA and is located in both Oregon and Washington. The AVA was first established in 1984 and later amended in 2001.


Road Trip 2010!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I am planning out my iternary to the 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. I am thinking that I will be driving again and this time I will be taking a more northerly route.

If you have any favorite wineries in Western Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington, please let me know. And since Walla Walla is so close to the Oregon border, let me know about Northern Oregon wineries as well!

Now all I have to do is convince Marguerite to come with me this year!

Rutherford Hill Tour

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I don’t know why so many of my adventures start with an element of panic. I sometimes think it is so I can appreciate them all the more.

picnic groveolives in the valleyAs I drove up Rutherford Hill Road, I finally started to relax and realized that the road looked familiar.. and the reason why became clear a moment later.. as I passed Auberge du Soleil, a restaurant that Kevin and I and our friend Charles visited and ate at when we were all in Napa together. As I pulled past the restaurant I reached a large parking lot at the top of the hill. Now, I had really reached my destination.

outdoor tasting roomentranceI left the car and approached a woman pulling out her cell phone. From her picture on Facebook, I immediately recognized Karen McFarland who is Anthony Terlato’s assistant in Napa Valley. We exchanged greetings as we headed toward the winery and stopped briefly to admire the view of the valley. The picnic grove and olive grove were beautiful, the olive are pressed for oil, but had recently been trimmed back so they would be another season before they bore fruit again.

tasting roomKaren in the Tasting RoomWe walked into the tasting room, walking past the outdoor tasting bar which was complete with a BBQ grill. I can imaging fun summer events there… and since it is California.. long into the fall as well. The tasting room consisted of a large u-shaped wooden tasting bar with pourers in the middle of the two sides to the bar.

Tanks behind the WinerySetting Up For HarvestKaren introduced me to the folks working in the tasting room as poured me a glass of wine (I think I suggested Rose, just to break my Sauvignon Blanc habit from the weekend 🙂 )  Karen started telling me about the history of the winery.  The winery was established in 1974 and specialized in producing Merlot.  When the Terlato family purchased the winery in 1996, the first thing that they did was REDUCE production in order to concentrate on a higher quality of wine.  The family also invested money in state of the art winery equipment such as fermentation tanks that had glycol sleeves to heat or cool the wine to the appropriate temperature to adjust for changes in the environment.

Caves at Rutherford HilBarrel MarkingsWe began our tour looking at area behind of the winery that was being set up in preparation for the coming harvest.  Of course, the winery had previously been state of the art, when the original owners built the cave system at the winery.  The original cave was constructed from 1984 to 1986 and the additional space  was completed in 1989.  The caves extend for almost a mile and allow the wine to be aged in their oak barrels at a consistent 59o F with 98% humidity.

Wine DisplayMeeting RoomWhile we walked through the caves, we stopped occasionally at the displays that were located along the path.  A sign at each location would describe a type of wine or winemaking process and taste a different wine.  Additionally there is room set aside for meetings or other events. In fact, the caves themselves can be rented for special events and has often been used for special celebrity chef dinners hosted by the Terlato family.  The caves include plaques commemorating these special events.

The WineryTasting in the WineryAs we left the caves and headed back into the winery and continued the tour.  The winery is a state of the art winery within a winery facility.

At this point my tour of the winery returned me to the tasting room.  I had already tasted some of the selections from the Terlato Wine Group, but there would be more to come….

My Trip to Rutherford Hill or Why GPS Units Stink Outside Cities

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Have you ever had to drive somewhere and you know EXACTLY where you are going and yet you still can’t manage to find it?

This isn’t one of those stories.

This is the kind of story that you enter the address that you are going to into your GPS system and it spits back an answer that is halfway there. You have an actual, real address and yet you still can’t find the place. Technology has abandoned you or just gotten lazy. You really don’t know which and frankly, you don’t really care.

All you know is that while you are driving down the St. Helena Highway, your GPS system suddenly announces, “Destination” and you start looking around frantically. You see wineries, after all, this IS Napa. But the one that you are looking for? Not so much.

So you keep driving down the road wondering if this is one of those instances where the GPS gods forgot to switch between yards and meters and is off by some weird factor of 3 1/3 inches over the 4,000 miles you have been driving which means that your destination could have been oh, say, 3/4 of a miles back or ahead. So you continue on, panicked looking for some clue. Until you see a sign saying that you are entering Yountville and Now you KNOW that you have missed your destination.

So you pull over into the parking lot of some cute little market (which they all are in Napa. It is a rule, I think.) and you gather your thoughts realizing that your discombobulation is adding to your inability to figure out this problem. You park and double check your directions and realize that the problem is that your GPS took you to the town but not to the street address (An issue you will find occurring more often over the coming days. As it turns out your GPS sucks in the countryside where township-range addresses are ALL too common. Heck, you don’t remember the last time your saw a township-range address… maybe back in the days when you were doing title searches when you worked for the government or when your were in grad school and what the hell, they still beat the dickens out of metes-and-bounds addresses… 10 rods to the west, indeed.)

Of course, in a moment of clarity you realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat (I love cats… it’s just a saying, people) and approach your GPS system from a different angle. You start clicking the buttons on the dashboard looking for “ATTRACTIONS” nearby. and Voilà! You find that you missed the turn off about two miles back and that the location of the address that you plugged into the GPS unit was indeed known by the stupid machine. And now that I have asked it in a manner more pleasing to the satellite gods, it is pleased to provide me the directions to Rutherford Hill. (“Why didn’t I just ask in the first place? Silly human driver!”).

The map below represents my actual trip to the winery. Please note that I continued down the St. Helena Highway before I corrected my course and headed back into and through the town of Rutherford. Sigh.

Trip to Rutherford_Page000