view from the Yaquina River

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Sense of Place

For all these years that I have been studying literature and art this idea of a sense of place has been a persistent theme. I first encountered it in literary criticism regarding the work of beloved Southern writer Eudora Welty. Having been born in and lived in Alabama until the age of 11, I was particularly drawn to Ms. Welty’s work and went on to read and digest more of the so-called “Southern Writers” including Faulkner’s entire collection. Residing as I do now in the atmospheric Northwest, this concept is coming back to haunt me…perhaps never more so than in Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. As I mentioned in a much earlier post on this site, this novel reads best when one of our majestic storms is blowing through. I have also written in earlier posts about a sense of place in particular as I described my experience of living in Toledo. Today I feel compelled to return to this theme.

In a couple of weeks our little village will be visited by a “big City” reporter from the Oregonian who is responding to a request by our events coordinator to come give Toledo a look over as a place of interest for a potential tourists. We who have an interest in promotion have been talking about the impending visit and “planning” how to best showcase our best features. I inwardly laugh at us as we sound disturbingly like the would-be advisers to an “old maid” who is about to have a chance to have an infrequent meeting with a potential beau. What are our best attributes and how do we show them in the most favorable manner? What would be our most intelligent topics of conversation? How can we show ourselves in the best light? This last question meant in a literal sense as we find ourselves enveloped in this chill that will not loosen its grip. Alas, he will not see our stunning flower baskets strung up and down Main Street nor enjoy a warm walk along the waterfront as the sun sparkles on the water. The light will be the weak winter sun analogous to the neon lights too often found in clothing store dressing rooms if we want to continue the comparison of the city to a woman.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…there’s just no getting around that. So, we may fuss and strain, but ultimately we are who we are, and the town is what it is. Perhaps the better question to focus on is why this place has so gripped our own hearts that we stay on rather than relocate elsewhere…indeed that others are drawn here from far flung places to join us. But, I shall not exclaim out virtues in this entry as you can read about those elsewhere in this blog, but I shall talk about why the visit is important to me.

This visit represents, for me, another chance to move toward economic stability. Yes, we have a lovely Main Street but too many of the shop fronts are empty. Yes, we have an industry here that provides jobs, but according to a recent study the mill provides 70% of the income…so I want increased economic stability which might arise from increased diversity in the job market. Yes, we are a “full service town” according to City Hall, but without funding, we stand to potentially lose some of those services like the library and the swimming pool. So, I suppose that I am in the midst of making an ironic compromise. I guess I am suggesting that we whore ourselves out so that when the much desired visitors have come to visit, they leave some of their money behind. But before I am too hard on myself, I’ll remember my beginnings as a Southerner…a Southern female in particular…one raised in the grand tradition of Southern hospitality, quick to offer a cool drink in the summer time and a warm fire in the winter. Yes, that image feels right. Because as surely as night follows day, you won’t find what Toledo has to offer any where else. It simply isn’t duplicated. So if the world is to have a chance to enjoy this little diamond (presently in the rough), we have to throw the gates open wide and invite them. We should generously allow them their visit to our majestic trees and the powerful Yaquina River; to our growing, dynamic community of artists; to our Bull of the Woods competition; to our wetlands and birds, to our biking and hiking, fishing, kayaking, and yes, to our unique offering of Main Street shops. We’ll practice Northwestern hospitality dressed in paid flannel and knitted caps rather than the white flannels and sun bonnets of hotter climes. So, we are open for business, come visit us and enjoy OUR sense of place.

P.S.  Fun Fact:  Members of the Daniel Boone family ended up settling just west of Toledo.  That gives me a thrill.  Just think about Boone's love of roaming ever westward...and his descendents made it to the Pacific coast.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Art of Ivan Kelly

In 2010, I started writing a series of articles on places to view the wonderful art to be found here in Toledo, Oregon. Today I continue that series with this entry about the Ivan Kelly Studio and Gallery. Kelly is an oil painter with prestigious credentials whose work can be found tucked away in the gallery/studio he and his wife Sharon created in 1993, and he has been painting full-time ever since.

Kelly is quiet man whose biography begins in Ireland where he grew up on a farm with generous access to fields, mountains, and coastline. This early experience resulted in his love of the landscape and the wild and domestic animals that inhabit it. His outdoors subjects include the dramatic Northwest Pacific Coast and those found on his painting trips to the Western Mountains including the area around the Grand Tetons, Banff, and Yellowstone.

This love of rugged landscape is evident when you visit his gallery. You will find not only tame gardens and civilized passageways, but also the raw outdoors of towering mountains, dense forest, and severe weather, with the self-assured confidence of nature very much in evidence.

Like a composer carefully building from the pastoral to the grandiosio, Ivan’s gallery is arranged to lead you from the quiet and familiar to the dramatic and naturally theatrical. As you enter, you first experience “Moonshine Falls” a beauty spot near Toledo. Feathery leaves complement the falling water. Moving on, one encounters “Rosemary & Daffodils a captivating still life of deep blues, bright yellows, and lilac formed from the close observation of the two coastal perennials. “Sun-filled Trees” makes the visitor yearn for a walk on this quiet contemplative path. The Beaver Creek series captures the natural beauty to be found on the Oregon Coast in “Fire and Queen Anne’s Lace” and “Summer on Beaver Creek” which includes a view of the bridge that combines nature and architecture. Moving on, the visitor encounters Kelly’s seascapes. In “Windswept” you seem to feel the cool ocean air and in “Driftwood, Cape Meares” the dramatic coast is punctuated by the haunting forest in the background. In “Haystack Rock from atop Kiwanda” the venerable rock is framed in the opening of a path emerging through the woods to the headland. “Pacific Sculpture” features the clouds of the Pacific Northwest. “Yaquina Cliffs” invites one to sit on the cliff top and look out to the broad Pacific horizon, a pastime many of us coastal dwellers treasure. Turning his eye to the Yaquina Bay, Kelly captures the “Bayfront” with a brilliantly lit sky as the backdrop to the harbored boats, and again in “Clearing a Winter Evening” one is treated to the brilliant light that follows a passing storm and is reflected in the surface of the bay. One work I was drawn to is called “Privateer, Nightfall.” This work features the 1800’s replica tall ship the Hawaiian Chieftain on which I was a yearly passenger when I lived near the San Francisco Bay, at anchor in Yaquina Bay. The crew who appear on the deck and in the rigging actually obliged Kelly by donning their period costumes leading one to believe that this painting is historical rather than from the 21st century.

Finally, Kelly introduces you to his dramatic mountains. “Silver Dawn” is breathtaking with the colors in the mountain stream and the definitive rocks. Yellows and oranges contrast with the forest greens, and a hazy light infuses the whole scene. And then there are the animals. In “Lone Bison” the subject commands center stage. And in “Two’s Company-Bison” you seem to feel and smell the air of the high plains. Kelly captures a bear in a sitting position browsing for lunch on mountain berries. In another painting, a mother and cubs explore logs in the foreground while towering peaks behind them belie the domestic safety of the scene. Kelly has also captured bighorn rams in “High Living Bighorns” where the subjects command the outcrop on which they have appeared. Kelly’s animals reveal the mountain dwellers most of us never see with our own eyes. The bodies are powerful with defined musculature and create the tension of movement against the still wilderness.

Kelly has participated in and collected awards from many national shows and exhibitions including the American Society of Marine Artists, as the featured artist of the Western Regional States exhibit at Coos Bay, the Oil Painters of America in both Carmel, California and Washington, D.C., and the Allied Artists of America in New York. The National American Society of Marine Artists juried “Sculptured by Pacific Storms,” a 8x16 oil painting by Kelly to be included in its 15th national Art Museum Exhibit Tour which includes eight public art museums throughout six states beginning October 2011. There is more information on Kelly’s website:

Next time you are headed for the coast, be sure to take a detour into Toledo to view Kelly’s work. His gallery/studio is located at 207 East Graham in Toledo, Oregon. The phone is (541) 336-1124.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I found this image on a friend's site.  The simple truth of it took my breath away.

Next time you wonder why your dreams aren't coming true, you might think about this.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the art of Nano Lopez

Two entries back, I promised to write about our encounter with the art of Nano Lopez. I am going to take care of that this time. When we announced our plans to visit the Walla Walla wine country, our neighbors, Michael and Judy Gibbons recommended that we try to see the work of sculptor Nano Lopez. During his marriage to Judy’s daughter, Mr. Lopez had been their son in law. I thought an artist visit sounded like a perfect companion to a day spent wine tasting so I eagerly Googled Mr. Lopez and got a map to his gallery.
About 1 pm in the afternoon, we decided to try to find Lopez’s location and finally did so with some difficulty. The building had no signage indicating its identity or the treasures it held inside. By this time considerable wine “tasting” had occurred, so the impediments to a visit took on the nature of a challenge to me. I had Jon park the car, and I circled the building doing reconnaissance. Through the windows, I could see that indeed there appeared to be activity going on and in a car shed, I spotted a trailer for hauling with a big NANO LOPEZ written across the side. Finally, I located an unlocked door in the rear of the building and walked in. To my surprise, I practically collided with the artist himself whom I recognized from pictures on his website. He was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see him…and the awkwardness of my intrusion began to dawn on me. However, the great sculptor himself quickly put me at ease. We chatted briefly about our connection through the Gibbons, and Lopez and his wife both made me and then Bob and then Jon feel very welcome. They summoned a young lady that I believe is their daughter and asked her to give us a tour. In retrospect, I am humbled by their graciousness and the audacity of my intrusion, wine notwithstanding.

And what a tour experience it was! First of all we viewed the gallery which held not only some of his famous bronzes. But also some paintings Lopez had done. All the art in this exhibition space had the distinct flavor of something born both of the Renaissance and of very modern sensibilities, something medieval and also of the future. I felt impressed to the core with the questions his art seems to pose: What is the relationship between man and machine? How can we show respect for both the man-made and the natural? What about the progression of time? What is “progress?” How do humans and nature coexist? And, many more. Over and over during the tour, I felt that I had stumbled into the studio of a Michelangelo or a Da Vinci. We saw the plaster casts being unwrapped, the bronze statues being adorned and painted—the whole process except for the actual firing. About a dozen assistants were bent over their work…each one performing some intricate and essential task. The largest piece that we saw was a life size ostrich destined for the lobby of a luxury resort in Las Vegas. For the last several years, Lopez has been working on a theme he titles Nanimals, the ostrich being part of this thesis.

Viewing the work of Nano Lopez leaves one in awe of the artist. I was amazed at the fine, close work that appears on his sculptures…spider web thin ropes, chains, and sprouting plants, and clock hands…unbelievable in a medium that requires such a taxing and complicated process. Well, you can’t really appreciate it unless you see it, so here is Nano’s website

His work is shown in galleries in 14 different states and three other countries. 

What a treat for the mind and soul! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nano Lopez.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Moon Over Toledo

The full moon will not arrive until the 9th, but if you are awake in the wee hours, she is putting on quite a show.  She awakened me by shining brightly into my bedroom window, illuminating all.

O, January Moon,
Lovely Luna.
Whisper in your silvered breath.
And I reply in wordless ecstasy.

O, January Moon,
Lovely Luna.
With you I ascend and ride the boundless sky to illuminate the churning waves in sea-spangled delight.
And when we set, I descend into senseless sleep, the essence of you clutched in my hand.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Wow, Bob and I just returned from a ten day trip to the Walla Walla Washington Wine Country, and what a treat it was! Our son has started his own wine brokerage and found that he could combine a business trip with some pleasure by inviting his parents to make the trip they had intended to make since about 2004 to Walla Walla (W²). I must say it was worth the wait because the boy surely did deliver on the fun factor by getting us appointments with some of W²’s top wine makers.

But let me start at the beginning. Not only was this our first trip to W², it was also our first trip through the gorge, our first time to see the gorgeous Columbia River and all the wonderful small towns on its banks. It was our first glimpse at Washington’s fields of windmills and the acres and acres of trees growing on that enigmatic tree farm right in the middle of nowhere. We left in the late morning in true Trusty fashion which put us in W² just at closing time for most of the tasting rooms, but we managed to sneak in one visit before heading out to downtown W². We arrived in time to watch the late afternoon sun sinking over the rolling hills just outside the Amavi tasting room. The simple but well appointed room boasted a wall of windows to showcase the main attraction—the grape vines. Jean-François Pellet is the winemaker. His friends in the biz call him J.F. The young man hosting the tasting room poured the lovely and toothsome wines for us—a 2008 Cabernet, a 2009 Syrah, a 2010 Semillon, and a 2010 Rosé. (Oh my, can we already be drinking 2010’s?) The cabernet was delightful in the way only a cabernet can be and is truly the product of the winemaker with a blend of 76% Cab, 16% Merlot, 5% Syrah, and 3% Cab Franc from four different vineyards that sees three different types of oak. Ever since Jon’s Seguin Moreau days, I always get curious about the oak. The Syrah was also delightful; it had rested in 100% French oak, as did the Semillon. The Rosé wowed; it was 100% Cab Franc, a perfect marriage of fruit and mineral.
We tried a few more tasting rooms that evening, but all had closed for the day, so we went to a wine bar called Vintage Cellars. There, I embarrassed myself by “recognizing” someone I have never actually met, but he was gracious like everyone else on the trip and brushed away my error with an enthusiastic handshake as if to say I was just sitting waiting for you to come in anyway. After some more treats and making friends with everyone in the small but well-appointed wine bar, Jon suggested we walk over to check out the wine selections at the Marcus Whitman. This beautiful and historic old hotel hosts a grand happy hour. Here is a link to the happy hour menu

If you go to W², don’t miss it.

So, the next day we accompanied Jon out to the old Airport where so many of the wineries are located. If I hadn’t seen this, I wouldn’t have believed it. The city very wisely took the acres of the old military air base and made it available to the business people, especially the wineries. They turned it into the Port of Walla Walla Winery Incubators. So there, laid out on a military grid, in one building after another was winery after winery. Some of the buildings look very much as they did years ago and some are extravagantly restored. This is wine-tasting made EZ.

Jon had an appointment to meet Joe Forest the winemaker at Patit Cellars. But we arrived early just to check the whole place out and happened upon a little jewel before the appointment. This jewel is CAVU Cellars. This turned out to be a Mom (Karen) and Pop (Jim) and Son (Joel) operation, so you know we had to spend some time there. Karen and Joel were on duty and graciously shared nine of their wines with us. A line from their website reads: CAVU is an old aviation weather acronym that means ‘Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited’. Pilots always like seeing that acronym on their weather forecast as it means a good flying day. It is an apt description for their wines as well. Expect to hear much more about these wines. We had to have at least one of everything we tasted which included: 2010 Barbera, 2009 Horizon Red, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (tank and barrel fermentation) and 2010 (Tank fermentation only) Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Malbec, 2010 Barbera Rose', and 2010 Petit Syrah. The Horizon Red is a wonderful red blend of cab, merlot, and males, easy drinking and full of flavor. The varietals are true with lots of Walla Walla terroir showing. The wines have been winning awards including a Double Gold for the Horizon in the 2009 Tri-Cities competition and for the Cab in the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards. Of the 2008 Barbera, Steve Tanzer says, "I can't think of too many other West Coast barberas that actually taste like barbera." 88 Pts. Here is the link to their web site. Again, don’t miss these guys.

After this delightful visit, we wandered back over to Patit Creek to find Joe Forest. Joe is now producing his own label called Tempus. What great fortune that Joe has agreed to have Jon broker his wines in Oregon! First of all, let me say that Joe is the quintessential gracious wine maker. He let us taste from the tanks, showed us the whole operation, and allowed Bob unlimited access for pictures (I’ve included some here.) He was BUSY, but took time to make us feel at home. There is a certain wonderful civil agreement that takes place when a winemaker turns his baby over to the wine broker. The wine broker must learn all about the wine and understand what makes it unique so that he can inform his customers—he has to fall a little bit in love. In the same way the winemaker must trust that the broker will know where best to place his wines and not allow them to become “lost” among the other offerings. Later, we followed Joe out to the old bunkers where he stores his wine (how appropriate is that?) to load the truck with Tempus for resale in Oregon. We made it a group effort with Jon, Bob, me, and Joe carefully loading the back of the Tahoe. Joe thoughtfully tried to stop me from helping with the heavy lifting. But I waved him away with, “In for a penny; in for a pound. This family supports your wine.”

Bet you haven't seen wine poured like this before!
 Joe Forest moved to Walla Walla in the fall of 2004. In the spring of 2005, he became the Assistant Winemaker at Dunham Cellars and is currently the Winemaker at Patit Creek Cellars. Joe's interest in wine and food is deep rooted. His father, Keith, instilled an appreciation of European culture in his family and was himself a "home winemaker." The name Tempus is a Latin word meaning time, and the label features the slow but sure tortoise. Tempus has a handy collection of awards for its wines as well, and was featured in Seattle Magazine as on of the Top 10 New Washington Wineries.

Currently, Tempus is offering a 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet comprised of Old Vine Sagemoor, Artz Vineyard on Red Mt, and Seven Hills Merlot. The oak is 100% French, mostly new, and a 2008 Walla Walla Valley Syrah that is meaty and floral, yes that is what I said, meaty and floral on more French oak. They also have a lovely 2008 Malbec with enough structure to demand breathing time. Ever a lover of Rhone style wines, I was excited to find the 2007 Syrah-Grenache Blend. As Joe describes it, “The 20% Grenache provides flavors of garrique (a French term for dried lavender) and raspberry freezer jam. I’m getting weak in the knees. Finally, they offer a 2010 Evergreen Vineyard Riesling which is YUMMY! The fermentation was carried out in a jacketed stainless steel tank and locked in at 53 degrees Fahrenheit for a duration of 81 days. Absolute perfection!

Joe’s wife Molly came out to bring him his lunch and we got to meet her too. What a delightful couple they are! I have pasted the Tempus website and Jon’s brokerage Legacy Wine Selections website below. YOU are not going to want to be left out of any of this. And remember, the case production is low. I saw it all in one smallish bunker!   Jon is still working on his website, but the get info page is up!

We made one other stop before we left the “Air Field” to Dunham Cellars to taste the offerings of one of Washington State’s top wine talents. We caught sight of a late model Jag outside the winery and wondered if it might be actor Kyle MacLachlan at work since he has joined forces with Dunham to make his Cabernet blend, Pursued by Bear. Didn’t see MacLachlan, but did taste some fine wines including 2007 Shirley Mays Chardonnay a lightly-oaked chard with a label that pays tribute to the winemaker’s grandmother. We also tasted Three Legged Red a red table wine of their finest Cabernets, Merlots, and Syrahs. The wine is named after Port, Eric Dunham’s rescued puppy. The love that would rescue a mauled puppy is evident in the wine…yummy. We also tasted his lovely 2008 Cabernet XIV, again outstanding. Find them at

O.K. by now, I am getting a little foggy about the order of events, but I haven’t forgotten any of the locations. We visited Basel Cellars where “our youngest” Andy Minor is the national sales director. The Basel Cellars Chateau is worth the trip alone, but of course the wines are excellent. Jon has actually visited this Estate a number of times including special winemaker dinners at which he was the chef. We sold Basel for years through both the Village Market and Deli and the Blue Cork Wine Bar. Their Claret is my choice for top value. Find them at . Katy was hosting the tasting room when we were there and she did a wonderful job. She was very knowledgeable about the wines and made us feel at home. We enjoyed their luscious Syrahs and Cabs, including their Earth Series. These folks do Bordeaux beautifully.

Leaving the French influence behind, we taste traveled to Italy with the next treat Jon arranged for us at Va Piano Vineyards where he knows winemaker Justin Wylie. Wylie has built a heavenly Tuscan Estate right there in the hills of Walla Walla. As their website says, “Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano. He who goes slowly, goes safely and goes far. This old Italian saying sums up Va Piano Vineyards approach to winemaking, and to life.” On the day we visited, Justin was accompanied by his wonderful little daughter Sienna who was celebrating her birthday that day. She joined us on our tour of the facility often asking to be raised up into her father’s arms to peek over the side of a barrel to inspect the readiness of the grapes…a budding winemaker to be sure. The tasting room manager Derri Reid shared Justin’s wine history with us as she poured us his wonderful wines. The inspiration for a Tuscan-themed winery and tasting room came about after he spent his senior year at Gonzaga University studying in Florence, Italy. He fell in love with the art, rustic architecture, culture, history, and warm hospitality he encountered there. Upon his return to the Walla Walla Valley (Justin is a fourth-generation native), his passion for wine making (and wine!) soon matched his passion for Tuscany and the seeds for Va Piano Vineyards were planted.

We tasted his luscious 2007 Cab and outstanding 2008 Syrah, plus one red and one white (Sauvignon Blanc) blend named Bruno’s Blend after Father Bruno Segatta a professor whom Justin met while attending Gonzaga University in Florence, Italy. Father Segatta, regular visitor at the Estate, taught Justin the value of “giving back” to the people and places that surround him. Justin certainly practices this philosophy in a number of ways including giving a portion of the proceeds of Bruno’s Blend to charity every year. He was also very generous that day to open two library wines for the Trusty family to taste and then gifted us with the remainder of the bottles. Here is another young winemaker to believe in…his products are superb with lots of love and thought in good measure.

When we were enjoying the wine shop and wine bar, one of our sales people came in one day with something quite mysterious and beautiful. Gramercy and Waters Wineries had collaborated on a wine making project. Here is their story.

21 Grams is an artistic collaboration between Waters Winery, Gramercy Cellars and artist Makoto Fujimura that reflects the inspiration of the soul in creating fine wine and fine art.

This exclusive, 100-case bottling is made from the finest lots of Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellars of Waters and Gramercy. The final blend from each vintage renders exquisite balance, intensity, layered complexity and a long finish. The label changes with each vintage, and showcases Fujimura’s modern abstract art using the ancient Japanese technique of Nihonga.

Waters and Gramercy donate proceeds from the sale of each bottle of 21 Grams to the International Arts Movement, a non-profit organization created by Fujimura to gather artists and creative catalysts from around the world to address the deep questions of art, faith and humanity.

In the early 1900’s, Dr. Duncan MacDougall hypothesized that 21 grams was the weight lost by a human body upon death. While not scientifically proven, this figure has become synonymous with the weight of the human soul.

When I tasted this wine, it was otherworldly. So naturally, I was anxious to visit the place of its origin. So, to Waters Winery we went and spent a delightful few hours with Robbi Ebel the sales director. She was gracious and kind and tasted us through Waters current selections with knowledge and style. First we tasted their 2010 Prelude which contains 60% Roussanne from Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills and 40% Estate-grown Viognier from Old Stones, in the Walla Walla Valley’s esteemed ‘Rocks’ growing region. Now, I’ve always been as at home with whites as reds, but the day I learned about the roussane grape, the heavens opened and poured fourth sunshine, so to say I loved this wine is an understatement. We also tried their 2010 Rosé, which is made from estate grown viognier and syrah. This is what they say on the website and it is 100% true. A deep strawberry red with copper glints, aromatics follow with more suggestions of strawberry, hibiscus, and an earthy spice. With alcohol well in check at 12.5%, a pleasant, creamy texture reveals intoxicatingly tart, bracing flavors with a citrus like twist. (As I write this, Bob is preparing roasted red pepper soup and chicken ceaser salad…think that Rose would match perfectly!)

We went on to taste the excellent reds. Alas, at $120 a bottle 21 grams was not available for tasting. My favorite was 2009 Interlude which is born in the most popular vineyards in Washington State including Cold Creek, Canoe Ridge and Seven Hills. The cooler growing season prompted the addition of Petit Verdot to add a final layer of weight and depth, resulting in a blend of 55% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. The nose is poignant – focused and ripe with spice covered red fruits. Later that weekend at the Taste of Tulalip a wine tasting attended by 2400 people, we met the winemaker Jamie Brown. Jamie is a rock star, literally, turned winemaker. I for one am glad he made a change of career…his work is delicious!

I have saved my best expereince for last. That was our visit to Long Shadows. (Alas, Bob left his camera in the car.) We were introduced to Long Shadows way back when they first began. Theirs is quite a story. But first, let me set the scene for you. Imagine the yellow-gold rolling hills of Walla Walla with nothing else in sight but the blue, blue sky. As you approach, suddenly from this simple setting rises a large modern structure of concrete and glass colored vivid red. As you enter, the first thing you see is an exquisite Chihuly glass chandelier; windows open on to the monochrome landscape framed by pedestals topped with large Chihuly baskets. You know you’ve entered something quite apart. The round table in the center of the room held the circle of wines…all the wonderful collaborations in a bottle…but that leads us back to the Long Shadows story. In their words…

After twenty years at the helm of the Stimson Lane wine group (Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and other wineries), Allen Shoup retired to pursue a personal dream. For years he had envisioned a joint venture with highly acclaimed winemakers from different regions of the world. His goal was to bring their expertise to Washington to create some of the most special wines ever crafted from the region’s top vineyards; wines that would stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best.

Encouraged by his associates, including long time friend and mentor, Robert G. Mondavi, Allen invited several of the world’s most talented and celebrated vintners to the sunny slopes of the Columbia Valley. Peering over steep cliffs into the valley where the Snake and Yakima Rivers flow into the mighty Columbia, each vintner embraced Allen's dream and agreed to lend their talents to create this tribute to the worldwide celebration of wine.

With their enthusiastic support and advice, Allen drew up plans to establish individual wineries that would reflect the reputation of each winemaker. He named the venture Long Shadows Vintners in tribute to this select group of individuals who have shaped the industry with their benchmark wines and wineries.

His vision is now unfolding. Long Shadows winemaker-partners are designing world-class wines comparable in stature to those they crafted in their native wine regions. They are touring the land, running the soil through their fingers, and surveying with practiced eye the leafy trellises that spill down the hillsides of the Columbia Valley.  This is the list of winemaker-partners.

Vintner Partners

Randy Dunn

John Duval

Gilles Nicault

Agustin Huneeus, Sr

Philippe Melka

Michel Rolland

Armin Diel

Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari

Yeah, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. I don’t have the words to do these wines justice, please visit their website to get a hint of the grand project at .

Shoup’s vision is now a reality and yes, these really are world class wines. I don’t know what else to say.

But oh yes, our visit. Just as we were working our way around the table of incredible wines, in walked Gilles Nicault. I was totally and unabashedly star struck. This is his bio from the website.

Gilles Nicault - Chester kidder
Gilles Nicault left the University of Avignon with a four year degree in Viticulture and Enology. He honed his craft in the fabled hillside vineyards and wineries of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne. Then, already a vintner of rising fame, Gilles traveled to America. He wanted to see for himself if reports of outstanding noble grapes from the eastern slopes of Washington state were indeed true.

His tour took him to the Staton Hills Winery of Yakima Valley in 1994, to Woodward Canyon in 1996, and included a stint at the Hogue Winery. He soon became part of the prestigious community of Washington enologists and winemakers.

Gilles discovered that he and Rick Small, owner of Woodward Canyon, shared the same philosophy and passion in producing world class wines, and in 1999 he was appointed as the head of Enology and Production of Woodward Canyon.

But it was in the vineyards of southern France where Gilles developed his deep convictions regarding the science of grape growing, and the profound role it plays in winemaking.

“Wines are made in the vineyard and only an excellent relationship between grower and winemaker allows the crafting of outstanding wines that reflect their terroir,” he explains.

Gilles has a passion for knowledge, and has shaped his career path to achieve maximum growth through exposure to new ideas. "Rick (Small) brought so much originality and creativity to wine making - and he was so open and generous with his knowledge – I will always pay homage to him. His willingness to support my decision to join Long Shadows is evident of the generous and gracious style of this man."

It was only natural that Gilles would want to join Allen Shoup’s state-of-the-art Long Shadows team. It is here where he will complete his search for the secrets of the world's most exceptional wines as he works alongside some of the world’s greatest winemakers. His exposure to their craftsmanship, with specific grape varieties and classic wine styles, allows him to perfect his own signature work with the Chester-Kidder winery.

Gilles is married to Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars, a highly accredited winemaker in her own right.

Gilles was friendly and generous with his time. He took us through the entire complex, tasted us from the tanks and barrels, and walked us up the stairs to peer into the amazing elixir. A winery assistant was “pumping over” which means he was holding a large hose that was pumping gallons of wine at a time from the bottom of the tank into the top pushing through the cap to mix all the tastes. Gilles casually turned to me and said, “Would you like to try?” As I nodded eagerly, he explained the gist of the simple procedure and what my efforts were intended to do. Can you say “Blown away?” That was me…not much will ever top that. Several days later I could be found murmuring, “I did pump over with Gilles Nicault.” There is no living with me now. Following the tour, Gilles graciously agreed to sign a bottle of Chester-Kidder for me; I will let you look at it if you come to my house. Wow, let me say it backwards Wow.

Well, you get the idea…from the impressive winery facility to the amazing vineyards growing on the slopes of the Columbia, Long Shadows is a wine lover’s dream.

But go see Walla Walla for yourself. The folks are friendly and the wines amazing.

While we were there, we also got to tour the studio of master sculptor Nano Lopez. That will be my next entry.

Carpe Diem Baby!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Veil by Wayne Plourde

As some of you know, I am a voracious reader. The word voracious has connotations of frenzied eating...and that's pretty much what happens when I get settled down with a good book...not a particular pretty sight, but there you are. So, it is with great delight that I enthusiastically recommend my latest meal…err… find The Veil by Wayne Plourde. The recommendation comes on a number of levels as I found the book both vastly entertaining and intellectually satisfying. Plourde’s work is wide in scope and deep in substance, particularly for those of who are fascinated with the narrowing space between science and metaphysics. The protagonist is a young MIT doctoral candidate, Cal, who has the great fortune to be under the guiding hand of a scientist, Dr. Frost, who is not afraid of the implications of the latest theories. The book follows Cal through MIT, Tibet, and Las Vegas (I told you it was wide in scope.) on his personal and professional pursuit of the Truth. Before you dismiss this work as geek material, let me say that there is plenty of action, sex, and insanity. But I have to say that for me, the perennial student, I enjoyed most the chapter containing Dr. Frost’s lecture summing up all the work from Einstein through Planck and Heisenberg, et al with a nod to my dear friend Carl (Jung).

Plourde’s writing is clear and direct. You don’t get lost in all the theoretical postulating, nor are the “other worldly” sequences beyond imagining. The scenes at the craps table are pure fun. Without a doubt, the book will stay with you long after you put it down as existential questions come to call in the wee hours. His descriptions of locations from a Buddhist temple in Tibet to a flea bag hotel in Mott Haven provide visual, sensual stimulation, and the characters that inhabit these places feel true.

The Veil is published as an ebook, and this was my first time reading in this form. At first, I was frustrated since not having a Kindle put me at a disadvantage in accessing this book. But, I learned that Amazon offers a free Kindle for PC downloadable application, so that turned out well. The Veil costs a mere $2.99. I encourage you to treat yourself to this delightful story from a clever, insightful, entertaining writer. You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, and on line.

For the locals who follow this blog, Plourde and his artist wife Sarah Gayle recently relocated to the Oregon Coast. They bought and are refurbishing the old Church on a Hill facility in Toledo into a gallery/studio named Sola Luna, which will also serve as an artist retreat and gathering place.