Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beautiful Surroundings and Great Wines At Cathedral Ridge

From Drop Box
How many times have you driven down the Gorge to Portland and seen the many billboards advertising Cathedral Ridge Winery? I know that I’ve seen those billboards 100 plus times and never actually took the time to leave the freeway and make a quick stop. Finally, the signs beckoned, and I found myself taking the exit at Hood River.

After the exit, and a quick winding drive up Country Club Road, we easily found the winery set back into the garden setting that surrounds it.

I was there on a Monday, so I expected it to be a rather quiet visit. Much to the contrary, I didn’t realize that they are one of the few wineries in the area to be open 7 days each week, and they were hopping with tourists.

Cathedral Ridge is owned by Robb Bell, who named the winery after the stunning rock face on Mount Hood that is just a few miles away. His drive to produce top quality wines in the region is evident immediately as you walk through the door of the tasting room. The awards and trophies from various competitions line the walls and shelves.

Robb brought Michael Sebastiani, 4th generation winemaker from the famed Sebastiani family out of Sonoma to be his winemaker. Michael was recognized in 2009 as one of the top 10 winemakers of the year. His love for the Columbia Gorge region comes from the ability to have a full palate of grapes to work from when making his wines.

The tasting room offers five varieties to sample from on any given day. (Being a journalist I was able to swindle them out of a taste or two extra.)

We started our tasting on the 2009 Riesling. I was taken by the off-dryness of this wine even though the sugar is nearly 3% I loved the way the fruit flavors ran free. Fresh apples with a hint of citrusy grapefruit on the mid-palate and a light sweetness on the finish. I bought some to pair with my spicy Mongolian barbecue.

The 2009 Chardonnay grabbed me with a nose and flavors up front of buttered popcorn. It is so rare to have a winemaker be unashamed of Chardonnay as it is meant to be. This wine is up front with butter and a finish of homemade butterscotch. Delicious!

Zinfandel from this region is magical. From the hillsides outside of the Dalles comes the fruit for the winery’s 2008 Zinfandel. Rich nose and flavors of blackberries, cassis, and mocha fill the mouth.

The 2007 Bordheauxd Red is Cathedral Ridge’s blend of Syrah, Cab, and Merlot. The wine offers blackberry, chocolate, and tobacco flavors, with a nice finish and velvet tannins.

I had the opportunity to taste a few other wines, as I mentioned, that were all fantastic, but one other that I want to talk about is the 2008 Bangsund Pinot Noir. For those of you who stray away from traditional Pinots because of their musty earthen flavors I highly recommend you try this one. The nose of plum and maple mix with flavors of bright cherry and cinnamon. Very nice!

Next time you are on your way past Hood River I encourage you to do as I did and stop at Cathedral Ridge.


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