Where to Wine: Willamette Valley

I recently returned from a bucket list trip to Portland, Oregon. I had heard tales of this Foodie Mecca and for far too long drooled over the Instagram posts coming out of that city.

Finally it was time for me to explore Portland and feast away!

We walked all over; ate till we could not eat anymore; stopped by as many breweries as we could in sequence… and got caught in a political protest!  The airbnb may have had mice, but even that could not stop my new found love for Portland.

Not only did we traverse the city…. But we found ourselves a driver and booked it to wine country. I may be a wine country newbie but the Willamette Valley blew me away. Our driver Chris, if you can, you must find Chris, was the most knowledgeable, funny and charismatic guy. He has lived in the area for many years and developed relationships at multiple vineyards. I credit Chris for much of the attention and care we received in each and every tasting room.  With Chris we truly received the VIP treatment. Every naïve wine question I asked was answered with respect and an intent to educate. I’m quite certain we received more pours than the anyone else in those tasting rooms.

The rooms we were in felt personal, welcoming and boutique.

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Our first stop was at Domain Roy & Fils. Upon arrival we were treated to champagne and a tour around the facility. We were given time to enjoy the view and walk around. I could sit on the patio here all day. Our tasting took place by the fireplace and could not have been more enjoyable. Jordan explain their processes, the wines and exchanged dog stories. If you go, he is the best!

Our second stop was at Alexana Winery; another beautiful tasting room with floor to ceiling windows over looking an 80 acre vineyard. Here to my surprise I found a Chardonnay that I absolutely love. It is a stunning bottle and may have reopened my palate to Chardonnay. I’d be remiss not to mention that I also walked out of Alexana with a few Pinot Noirs as well. The staff here were beyond happy to educate, talk and get to know you.

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Our third stop was Fairsing Vineyard and I’m quite certain the view cannot get any better than here.

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There are no descriptors for this place. Its like a heaven on earth, a peace, a calm and warmth from the wine. Take me back.

Our fourth and final stop was Saffron Fields Vineyard. We sampled more wine and walked around the beautiful Japanese garden here. Our trip happened to coincide with a thanksgiving meal pairing and we snacked to our hearts’ content. I walked away with a bottle of the most delicious Rose.  The tasting room staff gave us many more restaurant recommendations for our last night in Portland.

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Seriously stunning. I’m dying to go back. Who is with me?

 

Winery lunch

The Montserrat Tour to Take: Barcelona, Spain

I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which the speaker stated that there were two ways to look at life. There were those that would sit in their cubes dutifully saving income in order to live life after 60. Then there were those that looked at life as a now and not as a future state. Those that seek to explore while they are young. Those that will find a way to build that lifestyle they seek now.

Of course there are more than two ways to look at life. However if we are going to follow along and play into that speaker’s philosophy, I’d fall into option two. I strive to find a way to play now. To explore now. To put my wanderlusting soul in a box, with a key only to be opened upon hitting a certain amount in my 401k; would equate to a death sentence for that part of my soul.

Perhaps you call option two the proverbial millennial in me. Call it what you will.

Travel I must. It’s a directive running through my veins. It cannot be ignored.

So along the lines of option two, I am finally getting up a few more Spain travel posts.

Most of our trip in Spain we planned on our own, not being held to tour times or group travel. Some places were picked out and others we ignorantly wandered into. But that’s how we like it. A mix of planned and spontaneous. I’d call myself semi-type A, I like lists and itinerarys but I also like to get lost. To see what I may never have seen. To meet and taste and smell the unexpected. Even if sometimes that means I’m lost in an Irish field,the rain is sprinkling down, my hair in hideous waves due to the thick fog and my nose dripping with snot. (See story here)

While we mostly wandered Barcelona on our own schedule we did take one tour. If you are to take one tour in or around Barcelona, this is the one company to use! They gave us exactly what we liked. A bit of an organized tour, a bit of time to ourselves to wander and a guide who was personable, knowledgeable and eager to build new relationships.

Our tour was to the must see monastery and mountain region of Montserrat. The area is full of legend, housing a beautiful Benedictine abbey, the Virgin Sanctuary and did I mention a farmers market of cheese vendors?! You can also ride the Funicular up to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views and a walk with the clouds. It is not to be missed!

Walking in the Clouds

The beauty, mystique and legend of this place not only speaks for itself, it can be felt. My descriptors and pictures lack just how this place takes your breath away. You are quite literally walking within the clouds. Whatever your religious leaning may be, the spiritual presence is enveloping.

Mountain View 2

Cathedral

Our tour capped off with a leisurely Spanish lunch and winery tour.

Winery Vines

Oller de Mas is a boutique winery built out of a family legacy. They are quite literally bottling by hand and allowing the youngest family members draw and design the labels. Even the children have a hand in the boutique aspects of this place. With a private tasting room within the castle we got to know our intimate tour group. Thought not a sommelier our guide knew his wine and knew the winery. Our wine tasting was knowledgeable, fun, relaxed and hey, there was a lot of wine!

Winery lunch

Winery Lunch 2

Winery Dessert

I cannot recommend this tour more. It was one of the top days of our trip. I may or may not have ended the day with a slight wine induced nap back to the city.

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Winnery Barrels

Thank you Castlexperience tours for an unforgettable day!

(To be clear we found this tour through other reviews. The company did not compensate me for this post, (nor did they even know I was writing it) I merely wanted to share a great experience with those looking for tour options in Barcelona)

Friday Favs #2

Happy happy weekend! I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready for a break 🙂

Before I’m off to happy hour, here are a few of my favs from the week.

Linking up with Katie, Heather and Claire!!

1.Total Wine. Have you been? To the Mecca of wine and bewilderment. Yes. After a rough work day, a day of brain shutting-down-ness, I finally made it here. I wandered the aisles in awe. Wine, aka god’s grapes, everywhere. Its walls of unending eye (wine) candy.

I walked those aisles in awe, bewilderment and wonder.

Ok…. I might have a wine problem.

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2.  This bench in South Minneapolis. It reminds me, 18 months ago I wasn’t here. I was in a different city, state and stage. I’m thrilled to be in Minneapolis now, but who knows where in another 18 months I could be…

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3. The new passport arrived. My last ten months with an expired passport made me feel naked. But its here! And this just means our Vietnam trip is that much closer

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4. These vegan double chocolate cookies. Yes I said vegan, and they’re from Angel Food Bakery and Coffee Bar. How did I not know about this place? If you didn’t tell me these were vegan, I wouldn’t have known…

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5.These stuffed pork chops. Pretty sure more than one person was disappointed they didn’t make it over for dinner Tuesday night.. chops stuffed with bacon, apples, onions and walnuts. Yum.

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Keep Them Coming: Tapas

And another weekend draws to a close. The older I get, the more precious my Sundays are. More often than not I’m scrambling to get in just one more activity.. like ice cream. Or enjoying a patio as the weather finally clears… or rediscovering Patina and deciding I somehow need new diffusers for ever room… oops 🙂

I have to admit I suffer a bit from the Monday blues…. and they seem to start on Sundays around 6pm… do you get these too?

Before the blues kick in too hard core.. how about a distraction?

My running list of need to try restaurants is one place shorter. I finally made it to Rincon 38. Another South Minneapolis Location I had yet to try, Tapas style and very European-esque in terms of space. We were shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors, but what better way to start conversations. The wine was a flowing and the love in the food quite apparent in our friendly neighbors 🙂

Our tapas just kept coming.

Patatas Bravas, Cannoli, Queso Frito, Ibiza, Mero …. and I cannot enough remember the rest. So many our table could not keep up.

So delicious! Have you been?

Have you tried a new Restaurant lately?

Rincon

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Rincon 2

Bringing Back the Weekend

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After  a weekend reliving my college days, followed by a week of work travel; I was beyond excited to spend this past weekend grocery shopping, doing laundry and low key bbqing….

I think this confirms I can no longer check the 18-26 box? Bye checked box, onto the next age bracket…

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I may have gone a bit crazy in the produce section of Trader Joe’s…..

As well as the wine section….

I also spent the weekend missing Mom on Mother’s Day, as we are now in two different cities.

Who had a more exciting weekend that I can live vicariously through?

Bringing Back The Weekend

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Lately the law library is just a distant memory……

A memory being pushed away with wine tastings….

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 Chased away with champagne….. and perhaps an indulgence in chocolate..

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Yes that is a bacon chocolate bar! you too could Indulge here.

By sitting as close as you can get to an outdoor patio…..

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By picking up a bunch of tulips and pretending spring showed up… (these were the last ones, so I wasn’t the only one attempting to fake spring)

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How was your weekend? Can we bring it back already??

 

Bringing Back the Weekend

In this episode of bringing back the weekend, we pretty much cover all of my favorite things.   What girl turns down wine, seafood, and shopping? Especially when all of those things can be found under one roof? The Public Market has to be the best place ever.

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Whatever you are craving, you can find it there.  Want to sip away the afternoon?  Just do some wine tasting… and sample flavors from all over.

Craving a margarita?  Some sushi? How about some soup to combat the never ending winter?  Its all under one roof.

Stare at lobsters all day?  or during a two hour lunch?

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Sample some of my favorite seafood delights?

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Proceed to shop for wine….. Can I admit that sometimes I buy wine just based on the label?

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And sample some olive oil like the sophisticated people we are….

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Can we just bring back the weekend already?

Adventures in Cooking for One: Redemption Risotto

You may recall my risotto disaster of prior months.  I had wanted to celebrate a year in this new city, and attempt something new. And it was a big fat failure.  However, Friend Who Makes Me Risotto, (FWMMR for future reference), driven by utter disgust of my first attempt, emailed me her recipe and directions.  Strict instructions I must say.

Hence, the theme of this post will be FWMMR’s strict instructions:

WOODEN SPOON

MEDIUM HEAT ALWAYS MEDIUM

STIR LIKE CRAZY!

(FWMMR sent this to me in all caps.)

I pledge to follow these to a T.  Wooden Spoon, check!  Medium Heat, always medium, check! Stir like crazy, (good, I don’t have to do an arm workout today), check!

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Yes this is what I do after work.  Grate fresh Parm.  Highly recommend this as a stress reliever, just watch your fingers….. and you may want to avoid that glass of wine until grating completion.

And do not worry FWMMR, I was chopping these realllllllll FINE.

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Proof I was stirring like crazy! With wooden spoon I might add…

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After killing my arm, sweating, and adding about eight cups of chicken stock; I did it.

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It “blobbed”!(Blobbed: an extremely technical description of final product texture)  Success.  While it is still not perfect, I achieved redemption.  Risotto Redemption.  Thank you FWMMR for your strict instructions and encouragement!

Remember, WOODEN SPOON, MEDIUM HEAT ALWAYS MEDIUM HEAT, STIR LIKE CRAZY.

What is your biggest challenge in the kitchen?