Monday, April 27, 2009

Red, White and Rose

A wine tasting weekend in the Yakima Valley

April 25 and 26 was Jame's birthday weekend, as well as the NFL draft weekend. The latter was not particularly important to me, but it was to the former and shaping the weekend around the former was to me, important. So on Saturday while James attended to the NFL draft Mary, Ada and I went wine tasting in the Southern Yakima Valley, in the vicinity of Prosser. James stayed home with his friend John Rainier to watch the draft activities and have some beers.

We visited 6 (or 7) wineries on Saturday - Kestrel, Mercer, Hogue, Dessert Wind, Snoqualmie and Hinzerling. If there was a 7th it certainly wasn't memorable. The big name in this area and indeed one of the big guys in Washington State is Hogue Cellars; they have been around for a long time and their operation is as big as the name. Across the street from Hogue is Mercer Estates, a new comer with some of the same folks who supported Hogue Cellars early on.

The visit to Mercer Estates was a guided tour through a good sized up and coming operation, but the high point was when I was introduced to Mike Hogue by his son in law (who was our tour guide). Mike Hogue grows much (maybe all) of the fruit for Mercer Estates and still grows around 40% of the fruit for Hogue Cellars where he used to be more involved along with his brother who is still there (I think I got that right). Like my name Hoag, the name Hogue is also Scottish and as Mary watched us talking she said she saw lots of similarities in our features and mannerisms. Here we are in the reception area of Mercer estates - Mike and Mike.
The most interesting winery of the trip was one of the valley’s oldest, Hinzerling. We got there at closing time, after driving a couple of miles past it and then turning around, but they welcomed us in to there 3 stages of tasting - 14 total tastes. These included tasting some library Cabs as old as 1979. We picked up a 1983 for James (his birth year) and the 1994 (it was the best of the lot and very good). They also did a sherry, several ports and some other desert wines all commendable. The presentation in a beat up old building that look like a 1950’s garage/gas station was unique and well done with some good food pairings (tastes) with the desert wines. Keep your ear to the ground for special events or call ahead, Hinzerling is worth the trip.

Here we are arriving at James (goofy look on the left) and Ada's Saturday morning:
We got back to Ellensburg about 7:30 Saturday evening and found a sleepy James - he worked the doughnut shift a Safeway that morning so it was bedtime. Mary and I left him and Ada and we went and check-in to our hotel and then found some dinner at the Dakota Cafe. The fare was very good.

On Sunday we met James and Ada for a hardy breakfast at the Palace. They make a great breakfast that will get you started for just about any activity including wine tasting. We then headed south to Zillah, I82 exit 52. Stops for the day included Claar (tasting 14 wines not counting the barrels), 2 Mountains, Hyatt (They had some great music and a great view so we had lunch here and literally broke out James' birthday cake). Heading into the hills we found Porteus where we found a very good Zinfandel and then headed via the hillsides (or Steppes) to find Steppe Cellars. We enjoyed some great conversation at Steppe and look forward to a future trip or at least finding Steppe wines locally.

Here we are at 2 Mountains winery on Sunday. I really liked their label design:

Here are some shots from Hyatt where we had birthday cake. I won't tell you the story about dropping the cooler and having the cake plop out on the grass. Hyatt has a great view of Mt. Adams and Mount Rainier!

Home in Federal Way with the bounty:

We had a great time celebrating James' 26th birthday and meeting lots of new people who love wine like we do.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter at St. Leo

Easter Sunday

This was our first Easter Vigil Mass at St. Leo Cahtholic Church in Tacoma. We were parishoners last year, but we did not attend the Easter mass because we joined with our Faith Sharing group to witness our friend's baptism at St. Theresa's, our old parish. This year I (we) participated in the Triduum at St. Leo's. The Triduum is the three days of services that culminate in the Easter Vigil where the new members are welcomed into the church.

On Thursday Mary and I attended Holy Thursday mass, the parking lot was quite full when we arrived. The gospel reading was from John and is from the Last Supper when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. The Homilist explained that at the Council of Trent washing of the feet was seriously considered as a sacrament, but was voted down if you will because they wanted to keep it to seven sacraments. Nonetheless it is a powerful sacramental event when one washes the feet of their loved one. For Jesus that was everyone of us. Holy Thursday mass ends with the Eucharist (Christ) being taken from the sanctuary.

Friday I made the late afternoon commute to St. Leo by myself. The traffic was bumper-to-bumper and several times I thought about getting off the freeway and heading home instead of arriving late as I could see I would. I am glad I did not do this, but stayed true to my initial plan to participate in the Good Friday service. I arrived late and the parking lot was overflowing, I had to park on G Street below the church and walked up the hill to arrive in the middle of the first reading. The Good Friday service was in collaboration with another (non-Catholic) faith community, Urban Grace. Members of this community participated in the readings and the Urban Grace pastor delivered the homily. The Gospel was the Passion reading from John. The theme for the homily was the words Jesus spoke when the Roman soldiers came to arrest him. When they asked if he as Jessus of Nazareth he simply said "I am". These words have deep roots in old testament scripture, suggesting God's name is so holy, so sacred ... not to be spoken ... and the solidiers themselves fell back.

The most powerful part of the Good Friday service was the presentation of the cross. St. Leo has a simple wooden cross which has been in the entry area of the church all during lent. On Good Friday the cross is walked through the streets of Tacoma in a reinactment of the Stations of the Cross. At the Good Friday service the cross is carried into the church in a sacred ceremony. At St. Leo part of this ceremony includes passing the cross through the pews, overhead hand-to-outreached-hand so all parishoners/worshipers participate in this silent tearful procession of the cross. The ceremony comes to an end when the cross is placed against the baptismal font. The celebrants then venerate the cross before inviting all to come venerate the cross.

The third event in the Triduum is the Easter Vigil. The mass begins with a bonfire which and from the fire the Easter Candle is lit, light is again in the world. The mass includes Baptism of the new members of the church, those who have elected to enter the church after some period of education and discernment. It also includes Confirmation of these newly baptized as well as others who are previously baptized, but for some reason have not become full members of the Catholic church (other Christian denominations or for some reason not confirmed with their peer group). These folks too go through a period of discernment before choosing/asking to become full members of the Church. There were 10 new members welcomed into the church last night.

The entire service is filled with drama, literally and figuratively. Many of the readings (and there are many) are sung or acted out. Allehluia is dramatically returned to the church after being taken away for Lent. The celebrants sang the entire Eucharistic Prayer, it was beautiful. Perhaps the most dramatic is the Baptism when the celebrant (Father Steve) stands in the Baptismal font and invites all of the elect, one-by-one to join him and be Baptized. The mass is a powerful symbol of community for St. Leo with many ... many parishoners coming together and being involved in every aspect of the event.

The Vigil service is long, over two and a half hours, but truly a community celebration. Next year I expect we may be more involved in some way (probably not on the drama side). For this year, Mary and I got home close to midnight and welocmed Easter, continuing the celebration by dancing to a few tunes before heading to bed.

Happy Easter!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Birding and Blues and Grays

One more fantastic trip to Pacific City and the 2009 Birding and Blues festival. Pacific City is on the Pacific at Cape Kiwanda which is postcard noteworthy for its massive hay stack which sits about 1/2 mile off shore (my guess on the distance). The haystack is the hard rock headland remanant of a much more majestic cape most of which remains is a much softer (sandstone) geology that has been worn away by the pounding ocean, winter rains and the winds. The weekend was highlighted by bird and whale (the Gray Whales heading north) watching during the day Saturday followed in the evening with this years rollicking concert of Lloyd Jones blues sounds .... very nice all the way around.
We drove over to the Coast on Friday morning with a first stop at Apollini Vineyards in Hillsboro, to pick up our wine club selection. Conveniently we met Russ and Carol there, tasted their day's offerings and eventually walked out with a mixed case of Apollini wines. From there we followed Russ and Carol to Pacific City, about 75 miles away.
Arriving in Pacific City we went to the Senior Center (the B&B festival world headquarters) and registered for the weekend activities. Russ was to signed up to lead 2 whale watching trips (a hike up Cape Kiwanda to the observation post) and he had arranged for me to go along on those 2 trips and lead the birding portion of the trip. This was the first year for the whale watching as a scheduled B&B event and the air was tense with anticipation ... just how many people would show up. It is probably worth noting here that this years festival took place April 3-5; in past years it has always been the last weekend in February, but for some reason still unkown to me the event was changed to April this year. It may have been the crappy winter weather this year, where snow and ice storms frequently shutdown traffic in various and random locations throughout the Northwest. The Oregon Coast was particularly hard hit, but this is just speculation.
Registered for the weekend events, we headed back to the hacienda where we unpacked the cars, settled a little bit and then prepared for our first beach walk of the weekend. Settling in after the walk, Carol began dinner prep while Russ opened a bottle of wine started pouring. First up was a fabulous Syrah from a Sonoma winery that is still unknown to me. I was just enjoying the wine. The bottle was a bit cold so after a small glass each we opened a Bourdeax blend, another California offering. As we sipped Carol assembled and baked 2 serving trays of crab enchiladas (way more than enough for all of us) that were simply awesome, along with trimmings of coleslaw and a fried corn. A pleasant Rose from our stop at Apollini was a good compliment and rounded out the feast. By the time we finished dinner we were pretty well done in and sat and watched a little TV before bed.
Saturday morning events kicked off at 8:00 and Russ and I were supposed to be at the event center by 7:30. We had a group of about 12 people and we all piled into our various vehicles and drove the mile to the base of the cape, which is the end of the Pacific City beach. The beach starts about 3 miles south at the mouth of the Little Nestucca river. It is a substantial beach with a high dune running nearly its entire length until right at the Cape. Here, at the base of the Cape is the Pelican Brewery/Pub, some seaside condominiums built into the side of the cape and across the street the Cape Kiwanda Inn along with a few other shops. Surfers have found PC and the ocean is seldom without a small group of surfers looking to catch a wave. Let it be known the water is darn cold and wet suits are standard surfing garb.
Arriving at the base of the Cape we regathered the group and then set out for the Cape hike. For this event the hike is down the boat/car ramp that provides beach access for vehicles and then a 200 yard+ hike north on the beach before coming to the climb, a steep sand(dune) hillrising about 25-30 feet in its lowest part. This is truly 2 steps forward and 1 back climbing. Getting to the top of the climb a much more gradual slope on generally firmer ground took us out to the viewing station. We set up camp, identified about 6-7 different (species of) birds and saw a little Gray Whale activity. The gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) each year where they have their calves before returning to the Bering Sea. In April the whale migration is heading north to their Bering Sea feeding grounds. The Gray Whale migration is the longest migration route of all mammals. While we were on the hill Mary and Carol made our day and joined us.
The session was supposed to last from 8:00 to 10:40, but by 9:45 it was only the 4 of us so we headed back to the house. Mary and Carol took off for one of the class room sessions and Russ and I hung out at the house, which was my time to do my back exercises for the day. The climb up the dune was a bit strenuous though no apparent negative effect on my back. About 11:30 Russ got out the Land Cruiser and we drove up to pick up some beer for lunch and then went and picked up the ladies from their class on Crows. We headed home and had sandwiches and beer sitting on the patio in the sun ... splendid.
The afternoon session started about 1:30 and was pretty much a repeat of the morning. There were no new birds to see, but the group was different and helped reinforce some of the morning spotttings. And the whale activity was similar ... 1 or 2 confirmed spottings. Again the crowd thinned out early and we all headed home where Russ opened up a "Pra", a white wine from northeast Italy and we sat on the porch again, and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. Mary was on tap for dinner and had pre-prepared a Zitti which we planned to pair with 2 Barberas from Walla Walla. The Zitti along with a salad and bread was fabulous and a good portion came home with us. The wines were a different matter, one of the Barberas had a strong "barnyard" nose and taste ... not something we were ready for, though Russ was confident that some time in the decanter would help ... it did improve some, but even the next day it was still a rugged one to sip on. Thankfully we had a second Barbera, this one from Woodward Canyon, and it complemented Mary's Zitti very well.
That evening we walked, hopped fences and dodged dog pooh to get to the community center for the Lloyd Jones dance/concert. Lloyd and his band have been a regular as long as I have been going to the Birding and Blues ... if you didn't figure it out Lloyd and his band are the Blues portion of the weekend. The music was loud and the crowd was ready to dance and dance we did. The crowd was really eclectic with young kids (7/8 range) on up and included program participants, presenters, guides and more. This is one chance I have "each year" to dance and without Lloyd Jones my dance opportunities would be reduced by approximately 50%. We stayed for a set and a half, as long as our ears could stand it and then walk back to the hacienda.
The return trip in the dark was interesting, but we all got home with clean shoes. Sunday morning was quiet we took one last beach walk and spied a few more whales between the beach and the Pacific City haystack ... that's pretty close. After another lunch on the patio with a growler of Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Mary and I packed the car and headed home.
Once again we had a great time in Pacific City and at the Birding and Blues (and Gray Whales) festival. It is so nice to spend these times with good friends.

Here are some pictures from the Birding and Blues weekend.