Sixty plus degrees, high clouds floating in a pale blue sky, and an itch to get out-of-town found us on the motorcycle headed to Clarkson late this morning. With the giddiness of a child on the way to the candy store for a treat, I viewed this day trip as a reward for diligently working this week on plant nutrients and figuring fertilizer blends, costs and application amounts (even in my sleep). Interesting in and of itself, but tedious; I won’t be seeking employment as the chemical person at a vineyard.
New born calves, grazing horses, large herds of sheep and a few ferruginous hawks hunting on the wing. Emerald shoots of winter wheat blanketing the Palouse Hills between freshly tilled and planted spring wheat fields in shades of brown. We could smell the cigarette smoke from the truck in front of us as much as the animals we passed.
Clarkson is a small farming town on the edge of the Snake River, across from Lewiston on the Idaho side of said river. The Lewis & Clark Expedition spent some time here, can you tell? The last time we were through there we were on our honeymoon nearly five years ago and we didn’t stop to see what the town had to offer on our way to the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon. It was with some surprise that I discovered there was a winery there: Basalt Cellars.
This 2,000 case boutique winery has been around since 2004; ten years. They have an estate vineyard, but it didn’t supply any of the grapes for the wines we tasted today, so we didn’t get into where that vineyard is. Most of their grapes seem to be sourced from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA & TriCities area of the Columbia Valley AVA. Our server, Leisha, graciously tracked down the information I asked for despite other guests in the tasting room and the continued clean up of glassware from their release party last night.
From a lovely 2012 Semillon we tasted a variety of reds:
- 2008 Sangiovese – peppery to begin with, fruity in the middle and a butterscotch finish – we brought a bottle home
- 2008 Merlot – a new release that won Double Gold at the TriCities Wine Festival in 2012 was disarmingly smooth and silky with red fruits and a subtle oak underpinning
- 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (with 11% Merlot 11% Malbec) great berry and cocoa on the palate; no herbal notes in this wine
- 2009 Syrah(with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) is a wine to take you from dinner through dessert – this is the other bottle we brought home
A crisply cold, relatively sweet 2011 Riesling followed with apple as the dominant flavor present.
From last night’s release party there was a Reserve Ruby Port open which we also tried – delicious!
My partner in wine and I agreed the wines were smooth with nicely balanced tannins and acid levels. Very pleasant drinking now.
The two-hour ride home was far windier with dark gray clouds rapidly massing overhead – but such a fun and relaxing day wasn’t to be washed away with a bit of rain. We are sitting before the fire, sipping wine while listening to the wind rattle the doors and windows, happy to have had the opportunity to visit a Washington winery we hadn’t known about before.