Milbrandt Vineyards – you feel like family.

IMG_1060My first visit to Milbrandt Vineyards tasting room in Prosser, Washington was on a birthday trip in August. How was it? Well even though we have, OK had, an agreement to not sign up for any more wine clubs we are now members. The tasting room is located next to Wine-O-Clock, one of our favorite restaurants. From the moment we entered we felt welcome, Jan sent us out to the deck to find a table.

Most tastings take place standing at the bar in the tasting room, a few will come to you if you sit at a table, but Milbrandt’s weekend tastings are a bit different. Jan brought us two “Flight Carriers” holding 5 glasses each, with a descriptive tag on each glass. She checked on us often, in fact I am sure we dominated her time. We loved that we could taste at our pace. It was the Viognier that won me over. Readers here know it is my favorite white these days. I thanked Jan by doing a quick sketch for her of a topiary that is on the patio.

IMG_1035This last week I went back, I was in the area doing seminars and had some time. With summer coming to an end a few hours on the patio, in the sun, with a glass of wine and my sketchpad sounded like the perfect prescription. The family welcome must be part of the culture because Shelly and Angela made it wonderful; we talked about travel, art, and wine. A glass of Viognier, and I was set.

Milbrandt Vineyards is a fourth generation operation, headed now by Butch and Jerry. I have not had the pleasure of tasting all their offerings, and of course I love the Viognier. The Mourvedre is a red with just enough body to not be overpowering, and smooth, no puckering feeling in the back of the mouth. We have a bottle in the cellar. Their Petite Sirah 2010 is fruity “with juicy vibrant flavors.” Both are destined for some good food and conversation.

I have written before that the ambience of the winery is almost as important as the terroir of the vineyard for my enjoyment of a wine. Milbrandt has done that. The deck and the tasting room, and especially the staff all make for a vineyard worth checking out.

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Reflection Vineyards, thanks for a wonderful September afternoon

One of the great joys of wine is discovery. Today in the Rattlesnake Hills wine region of Washington, the winery I was headed for was closed, so I went exploring. An easel sign near an orchard pointed the way to Reflection Vineyards, up a gravel road through the trees, and it was open. What a find! Holly made the tasting room a pleasant experience, when she is not at Reflection she works with Ron Bunnell, another of my favorite wine makers. I knew I was in for a treat.

2014-09-14 16.47.23My primary goal was a glass of white and a place to sketch, the setting was right for sketching; now all I needed was wine. Their only white is a Viognier, and what a wine. If I could only have one white wine I would be tempted to make it a Viognier, so I was pleased.

Kent and Allison bought the 40 acres now known as Reflection Vineyards in 2007, most of the land was in cherries, but they wanted to grow grapes. Their first planting was 16 rows of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. They did however keep some of the cherries.

They practice what is known as “free run” in the production of their reds. With free run the grapes are crushed but not pressed. Most wineries crush the grapes, which extracts the best of the juice, and then press the remaining skins and pulp to extract more of the juice. While pressing produces a higher yield the juice from free run is the highest quality possible.

Free run wines tend to be fruitier, less acidic, and lower in tannins. Tannins are what give some young wines that “pucker” feeling in the back of the throat. Free run reds are easier to drink young, and the fruit is enhanced; I never forget that wine is liquid fruit first of all. Reflection Vineyards currently produces a Mélange, Cabernet, Syrah, and the Viognier. I love a winery that focuses on what they do well.

The Viognier was just right, it has more body than a Pinot Gris, which of late I have been finding too thin for my taste. I have overcome my bias, illogical of course, of Chardonnay, but these days find the Viognier more enjoyable. Viognier is less buttery than a California Chardonnay, none of the citrus of a New Zealand, yet not as heavy as some Chardonnays can be.

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Reflection’s Viognier is the perfect balance in a white wine; enough fruit to make it fill the mouth, just dry enough to finish nicely, and a round enough feel to let you know you are embracing more than fruit juice. Sitting on their deck, sipping a glass, pen and paint in hand, made for a perfect afternoon.

I will be back, that is for sure, more of the reds next time. The real question is how long I can fight of the urge to sign up for another wine club, a battle I fail at too easily.logo