Spring Break 2017: Moab, Utah

2017 has been more of the crazy busy that 2016 was. I did take off some time recently to hike Mt. Peale and Black Mesa but other than that, I’ve been head down working hard on making a house happen (and on that front, I’m waiting around on an “as built” appraisal right now…).

Last fall, my friend Kelly moved to California and left her van at my place until she could figure out how to get it moved out there with her. I volunteered to drive it out over Spring Break. My roommate, Katherine, was starting her break in Moab so I joined her and her friends for a couple of days.

On my way out to Moab from Ridgway, I discovered, when I was pulled over in Norwood, that the tags on the van were expired. This lead to some handwringing between Kelly and I as we tried to figure out what our best course of action was. Since the courthouse in Ouray was closed on Fridays, we decided I should just go for it and we’d deal with potential tickets when and if they came. Because of this delay, I reached Moab a little bit later than I’d hoped but it was Thursday night and I had more than a week of freedom ahead of me.

We’d hoped to get permits to hike Arches National Park‘s Fiery Furnace on Friday morning but alas, all of the permits were gone until Sunday but I’d need to head west before that. Since Katherine’s friend Brittney had never been to the park we hiked to Delicate Arch and then out to Sand Dune Arch. The weather was windy and cold so it wasn’t until we got out to Sand Dune Arch that I finally started to feel like it was break. Scrambling around sandstone makes me grin like a fool and that really helped kick off some vacation!

 

I mentioned that I really wanted to go to Back of Beyond Books and Katherine wanted to go to Gear Trader. Out of character for all of us, we went shopping. Much to Katherine’s surprise, I spent money: I bought books, a (super sweet) hat, and a new MSR pot since mine seems to have disappeared. The sun came out and the weather warmed up so walking around town felt awesome. Once we were done shopping, we started floating ideas about where to go next. I suggested Cable Arch but that wasn’t getting much response. Katherine suggested visiting Castle Valley so I suggested that we go out there and taste wine at Castle Creek. We caravaned out of town, pausing to get water at Matrimony Spring, and headed for the winery.

Tasting at Castle Creek is only $1 for 4 tastes (thanks Utah law, you can only do 4 tastes but if you plan with your friends you can taste them all). Since we’d stopped at Red Rocks, we visited the Utah Museum of Film and Western Heritage. I’d never stopped before but was pretty fascinated with all of the movies and commercials that had been filmed out there! I knew about a lot of them but there were several that were total surprises!

Back in Moab, we grabbed dinner at The Spoke and then headed to the brewery to pick up some beer and have a pint before heading back to camp. The blustery weather had returned so we were happy to not have to return to camp yet. It seemed to be outdoors social media weekend in Moab so I was able to finally meet Dave W. and catch up with Mike R.

After a couple of beers we headed back to camp, where much wine and beer were drunk and campfire smoke inhaled and we all headed off to sleep. It poured overnight making getting the van out of our sandy camp spot somewhat interesting but it was time for me to be heading off towards California!

Fementation: Homemade Mead

Eek! I thought I’d posted this ages ago! Seems like a holiday week appropriate post though. Enjoy!

My first fermentation experiment was making sourdough bread but The Art Of Fermentation had inspired me to keep playing with the amazing transformations possible with fermenting. Although Sandor Ellix Katz does an excellent job of making fermentation sounding accessible (full review here) I wanted to try something fairly simple.

One of the book’s earliest chapters deals with simple alcohol fermentation: mead, wine, and cider. Mead seemed pretty foolproof: start with raw honey, shake the jar daily, and wait. As with most things, you can make the process more complicated but this seemed like a perfectly feasible experimental set up.

The first thing I needed was raw honey. Although you can use pasteurized honey, this requires the addition of yeasts since the yeasts that are naturally found in honey have been destroyed. Raw honey can often be found at farmers markets and at some natural foods stores. I ordered mine from My Local Nectar, a new online marketplace where beekeepers can sell their honey. I purchased a small jar from Buchanan Bees (run by my friend Adam Buchanan, founder of My Local Nectar) and was ready to give mead a shot.

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I didn’t want to start with too big of a batch so I started with a medium jar (I think it was a salsa jar), 1/4 c. honey, and 1 c. water. And then, I loosely put the lid on the jar and waited. Every time I walked by the jar, I gave it a shake. I was never really sure if anything was happening and I don’t have a hydrometer to measure the alcohol content. A little pressure seemed to build which was supposed to happen but it was all a little questionable. Supposedly after 10 days or so, the mead should be “light” and drinkable although not very alcoholic.

Last night marked 11 days and I caved, pouring myself a glass of this honey water that had been sitting on my counter for over a week. I admit, I was a little nervous. Katz had made me feel pretty confident that I probably wouldn’t get sick but I admit I was a little nervous.

The mead was sweet and it didn’t seem very alcoholic but I don’t have much knowledge of mead to compare it to. There is a winery in Palisade that makes mead, I guess I’m going to have to go sample some to know how mine stacks up and what adjustments I need to make before another (perhaps larger?) batch.

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 2: Wine Country

Mexico Highway 3

Mexico Highway 3

As we headed south from Tecate, I was absolutely astounded at the beautiful green rolling hills. I commented that it seemed positively Mediterranean and just as I did, we noticed olive trees. As we approached Ensenada, a large sign appeared over the highway welcoming us to the Ruta del Vino. We made a stop at a roadside stand, sampled a bit of olive oil and bought some honey and then set off for Ensenada. The impressive architecture of Encuentro Guadalupe made us pause.

Mexican Wine Country

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The view from the balcony was too good to pass up so we decided to celebrate entering Mexico. We ordered Cerveza Fauna‘s IPA Lycan Lupus and a glass of Encuentro’s house wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, and nebiolo.

Cerveza Fauna IPA Lycan Lupus

Beth at Encuentro Guadelupe

We took our drinks and wandered around the main restaurant, event, and tasting area. As we did, the manager, Alex, asked us if we’d like to sample a coffee porter that he and another man in the room had brewed. It was pretty good! Alex then invited us to watch a short film and then said he would take us down to “The Cave.”

The film showed the inside of the small “Eco-Loft” rooms on the hillside above the main building. They were really simple and beautiful (and at $350 US a night way above my price range…).

Encuentro Guadalupe and Valle de Guadalupe

We headed down to the cellar where Alex explained that these boulders were here, in their exact places, when excavation began for the building and the architect decided to leave them as part of the building.

Encuentro Guadalupe cellar

We passed into the part of the cellar with the wine barrels and Alex poured a sample of cabernet franc directly from the barrel and handed it to me before unlocking an iron gate in the small fence separating the cellar from the natural rock of the hillside. He turned on a light and lead us into “the cave.”

According to Alex, they found this cave when they were excavating for the building. It had a natural opening at the top where water dripped down eroding the space. It was quiet, a perfect temperature, and inviting in its simplicity.

Wine cave

As we left the cellar, Alex told us about a hot springs up the valley. We weren’t sure that we wanted to pay the few dollars to go to the springs themselves but we did find a beautiful place to camp overlooking the valley full of vineyards.

Encuentro Guadalupe.

Valle de Guadalupe

I will definitely be coming back to this valley to sample wine, visit the wine museum in the nearby town (also full of wine tasting locations!), and probably to visit the hot springs. Experiences like sipping a pretty darn good local wine (while stealing samples of a great IPA too!) and then talking with someone like Alex are my favorite parts of traveling!

Wine Tasting: Ginkgo Forest Winery

While out and about getting ready for Christmas, my mom and I passed Ginkgo Forest Winery‘s tasting room on N. 30th. I thought it’d be fun to do a tasting so we headed in and sat down at a table. The tasting room attendant was a little busy but was really friendly and did everything she could to make our visit awesome including bringing over a map of the Wahluke Slope AVA so we could see where the grapes were grown. Mom and I employed the ever useful tag team tasting technique to make two tastings of 5 wines ($6 for the flight of five) cover the 10 wines they had open.

ginkgo forest winery

Whites:

2012 Viognier

2008 Gewürtztraminer: Neither the Viognier or the Gewürtztraminer were amazing but neither were they horrible.

2012 Ginkgo Blanco: Both mom and I found this to be realllly sweet. I sometimes like my whites with a touch of sweetness but this was a little cloying even to me—it was almost dessert wine tasting!

2010 Riesling: This was my favorite of the whites. They said it was a “sweeter” Riesling but I didn’t find it too bad.

Reds:

2008 Pinot Noir: This wine smelled a lot more promising than it tasted, in my opinion. Then again, I think I might have been permanently spoiled by Willamette Valley pinots.

2011 Coalesce: The Coalesce was a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. For a blend, I found it to be a little coarse.

2010 Malbec: This wine was delicious with big bold flavors. In fact, it was so bold Mom kept trying to tell me it was the Syrah (see below) but it was wayyy better.

2010 Syrah: About this point in our tasting, the wine maker himself came over to pour our wines. He was very proud of his award winning Syrah. It was pretty darn delicious, he was right. Not as good as the Malbec of the same vintage (see above) though.

2010 Barbera: Barbera was a new varietal to me. I enjoyed this wine but as is often the case with a new varietal it kind of takes your tastebuds by surprise and you don’t know how to process it. I’d totally drink this again though.

2010 Cabernet Franc: Yum. I really liked this wine. It was smooth and immensely drinkable.

I was kind of sad I wasn’t going to get to try their Cabernet Sauvignon since I’ve had some really good ones out of Eastern Washington (plus it’s one of my favorites) and the Wildwood Blend (it is 20% of that delicious Malbec). Mom and I debated for a bit and we decided the Wildwood was worth a chance and bought a bottle. She later decided to give it as her white elephant gift** in a family gift exchange. Fortunately, I drew “#1” in the exchange and gleefully made the final steal of the game. A Seahawks blanket or a bottle of wine? I think the right choice was made:

Ginkgo Forest

Oh, and the Wildwood? It was delicious.

 

**White elephant gift exchanges should be permanently banned.

Scamp Shakedown, Part 1

Last week, we took the Scamp out for it’s first camping adventure. We’d slept in it in town a couple of nights but with the new axle set up in place, it was time to take it out in the desert for a bit of a test run. Sylvia and her dog Blue joined us for the adventure and toasting to good times in the Scamp.

Toasting welcome to the Scamp

Hidden Valley

We headed out to a secret desert location. I rode in the Scamp to watch how our packing job held up to a rocky road while Forrest, Sylvia, and the dogs rode in the jeep. At our perfect little camp, we took the opportunity to just relax after a hectic week of buying & moving into the Scamp, selling the van, and taking care of projects.

I decided to attempt making skillet pizza for dinner. The pizzas turned out yummy but the recipe needs a bit of refining before I share it here. It was nice to discover that at least three people can quite comfortably eat in the Scamp. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many Scamp “dinner parties.”

Cooking in the Scamp

Scamp dinner party

Dinner party in the Scamp

Beth cooking in the Scamp

Beth cooking in the Scamp

Santa Barbara

Team 3Up was fortunate enough to be welcomed in Santa Barbara by Lyn and her husband. They showed us a wonderful time by welcoming us into their home and plying us with good conversation and drinks—just our style. Forrest even drove us to do some wine tasting. You know you’ve found good people when they’ll join you in your bed the day after you met them in person:

Lyn and me on the classiest wine touring bed ever.
Lyn and me on the classiest wine touring bed ever.

 

Wedding, Part 3: Castle Valley

Thursday morning, we got up, gathered our things, and prepared to head out to Castle Valley. I drove the jeep out to the house (after making a quick stop at the grocery store for the last pie ingredients) and was really quite delighted to see we’d found a beautiful spot for the wedding. I really wasn’t expecting to have Castleton Tower and Parriott Mesa so right there at our venue.

Sprocket with Parriott Mesa

F arrived not long after I did and we set to work unpacking the van. It didn’t take us too long to get everything unpacked and sorted. I put some elbow grease into cleaning up the BBQ while F washed the patio…there were some rough edges to soften to make it wedding ready! We even took this opportunity to hang up Christmas lights in the trees around the patio—no reason not to enjoy the festiveness for a few extra days!

Tony and Vanessa came out to say hello in the evening and stayed for dinner before heading back to town.We were sort of expecting Thomas and Tasha to arrive in the late afternoon but apparently they had fun exploring in the Salt Lake area and didn’t arrive until nearly 11pm. We stayed up and chatted for awhile trying to wait for Ezra and Jolleen but they didn’t pull into the house until around 1am.

Friday morning, we were up bright and early. Steve, Ezra’s dad, arrived in time for coffee. F was anxious to get out and go riding and I had PIES to bake. Turns out he had to wait for Jason to arrive and I had to wait for measuring cups since there were none in the house (fortunately, Jason called to ask if we needed anything before he drove from town and he brought me some measuring cups and spoons).

Once Jason arrived, it was a flurry of activity as I started furiously making pies and F geared up to head out. Several pies later, my mom and aunt arrived from town to assist me. Several more pies later, Amanda (our photographer) arrived at the house. Pie making continued as the dirt bikers returned and others filtered in from adventures in Arches and the greater Moab area. F’s aunt and uncle arrived from Wyoming with their daughter and her husband.

Relaxing on the porch

By the time Stacia and Andrea arrived after their long drive from Denver, it was time go visit Castle Creek Winery. We were all pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines. The sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and the cabernet sauvignon were all favorites. I had so much fun tasting wine with everyone, it was a really great way to wind down the day.

Castle Creek Winery

Back at the house, we had a frozen pizza feast for dinner (thanks Mom!), while people enjoyed some beer and wine on the patio and throughout the house, and then headed for bed.

Rock Climbing: Vantage, Washington

Last weekend, I went climbing in Vantage, Washington with Women Climbers Northwest. I haven’t been climbing since I graduated from Oregon State (that was two years ago! I can’t believe it!) so I definitely am not in “climbing shape”: weak fingers, feet not used to being shoved into climbing shoes. It was really fun to get outside on a gloriously beautiful weekend and enjoy the sunshine.

I drove over after work on Friday, driving out of the rain into the sun, stopping in Spokane to buy necessities for the weekend: lunches, breakfast, and a bottle of wine (Firesteed pinot noir!). By the time I got to Moses Lake I was quite hungry—I wasn’t really sure what I was in the mood for but the options were somewhat limited. Just as I considered heading back into the city center for some Subway (which I’ve had plenty of on EMT class nights) I found Woody’s. I was a bit turned off by the idea of $6-8 burgers at a hole in the wall but I was hungry and a shake sounded good. The burger, a bleu cheese burger, was worth every penny of its $6.75. The shake? Softserve based and not so amazing…

After eating my burger and shake over looking the odd pothole that is Moses Lake, I drove the last thirty miles or so to the climbing area. I’d actually driven right past the access road last year when I tasted wine at Cave B cellars on my way home from R2R. It was one of those awesome drives where you immediately drop down out of plain old desert into something fantastic. Continue reading “Rock Climbing: Vantage, Washington”

Wine Tasting: Jones Of Washington

I’ll post more about my weekend playing in the sunshine this week but for right now I’ll just post about wine tasting. Because we don’t need to read too much into that, right?

I found my way to Jones of Washington after I finished climbing yesterday. I wondered into their tasting room tired and dirty. I felt more than a little sheepish about the smell that I’m sure emanated from me but the tasting room employee either couldn’t smell me or was very gracious.

Jones was just awarded Wine Press Northwest’s Winery of the Year award. While I’ve had more outstanding single varietals at a winery, I must say they had a lot of very drinkable wines.

Their tasting room is located in small corner of their production facility. The tasting room employee was friendly and knowledgeable.  Their tasting had quite a few wines (I didn’t grab a copy of their tasting notes unfortunately) and I enjoyed most of them. Stand outs (for me, wine is always subjective), the pinot gris, syrah, petit syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. I came home with a bottle of the pinot gris—the warm weather impressed upon me the need to have a lovely bottle of white in my refrigerator at all times.

 

Wine Tasting: Preston Premium Wines

On our way back from Oregon we had a little bit of extra time to kill before arriving in Post Falls for class. Forrest asked me what we should do with the time right as we drove by a sign that said “Preston Wines, 3 miles.” Clearly, I knew what we should do with our “extra time.”

Preston Wines was the third winery licensed in Washington back in the 70s and the first in the Tri Cities. I did their complementary tasting of three wines as well as the $5 estate tasting. I wasn’t wildly impressed with any of their wines. In an area acclaimed for its wines, this would not be somewhere I’d recommend (although it’s location right off of US 395 is convenient).

Preston Wines Tasting Room

Their tasting room is set above the winery giving a pretty view of the vineyard and surrounding area. The pourer wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the process and couldn’t explain to me the differences between their labels (Preston vs. Long Tail Lizard).

Bottom line: Spend the extra 10 minutes to drive to one of the many area wineries in the Tri Cities area.