UnCruise Adventures’ Rivers of Wine Cruise: Day 4 aboard Legacy

Locks lifted us up heading East and now they are lowering us as we backtrack toward the West.

A second morning without cell service and Internet has some frustrated, others relieved and more relaxed. We will get our connectivity fix when we head to tastings at the Walter Clore Winery and Culinary Center and Terra Blanca Winery where we will also have lunch.

Terra Blanca is one winery that kegs some of its wine for bars and restaurants. We tried its Viognier last night at dinner and it was excellent.

We tie up at “beautiful downtown Burbank” between a scrap heap and a grain elevator in an industrial park.  When asked why here, a crewman replied, “It’s a good dock to tie up to.”

Guess to him, pretty is as pretty does.

The crew does its best to improve the aesthetics our disembarkation with blow-up plastic palm trees and flamingoes at the foot of the gangplank.

Fires in British Columbia and Idaho have put a haze on the day that gets heavier as we journey north. We first visit the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, named for the Father of Washington’s wine industry.

Wine Program Director April Reddout leads us through a lively and informative blind tasting, Washington vs. Spain, challenging us to tell the Washington wines from the Spanish ones of the same grape.

We do more tastings and retail therapy in the tasting room where a wide variety of Washington wines is featured. I exit with a bottle of Ancestry Cellars 2013 di Donato

Sangiovese I tasted and two bottles of Treveri Laudare Brut sparkling wine I didn’t taste. The Center certainly succeeds in its mission to promote wines from Washington grapes.

The smoke-filled air almost obscures the stylish Pacific Northwest style landscaping at Terra Blanca Winery in the tiny, 4,040-acre Red Mountain AVA , realm of big reds.

Owner Keith Pilgrim greets us for lunch then gives part of the winery tour. We meet a section of Malbec vines and go from fermentation room to bottling room to the cave of French oak barrels. Along the way we learn that one ton of grapes produces 55 cases of wine, that it takes a minimum of four years from picking to drinking, how to decipher the writing on the cask heads, that each barrel is designed and toasted for a specific type of wine and when full weighs 650 pounds.

At a cost of $1,400 per barrel – with a three-year lifespan at Terra Blanca –no wonder the good stuff costs so much.

More tastings of Syrahs, Caberrnet Franc, Blends and Cabernets  follow, ending with the ultimate treat, a sample of a $125 bottle of Keith’s top tier 2010 J. T. Grey Cabernet Sauvignon. Personally, I look forward to the arrival of less grand but infinitely drinkable 2013 Arch Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon and the last two bottles of that Viognier.

Back aboard Legacy, our wine presentation is a vertical tasting of three vintages – 2000, 2002 and 2007 – of Terra Blanca Onyx Cabernet Sauvignon.

We take a brief break between sips to go on deck for the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

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