Bartholomew Graciano 2018 Review – A Surprising Washington Red

Out of all of the wineries near Tri-Cities, Washington, I visited during my trip to eastern Washington, none was more surprising than Bartholomew.

This unassuming winemaker is located in a small complex with several other wineries (not in the heart of the vineyards of Red Mountain AVA nearby), makes a large spread of wines well beyond the typical Bordeaux and Rhone styles you normally see in the state, are all rather delicious, and clock in at a respectable price point, too!

Naturally, during my visit I had to sample my way through every bottle that was available and enjoyed all of them.

One bottle I was not able to sample was the Graciano as they were running low on inventory. I went on faith that it would be just as good as the others I tried (also thanks to a recommendation from a friend, Valerie & Valise, who sampled the last of it before I arrived, too), and bought a bottle to take home.

It was simply delicious.

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Kopke Port House is a Must Stop in Vila Nova di Gaia (Porto)

When visiting Portugal, you're going to have no shortage of great wine at your disposal. This country produces amazing wines from north to south, and the Douro Valley wineries are known for producing a unique fortified wine- aptly named Port.

If you can't make it to the Douro Valley on your trip (either via on your own or via a Douro Valley day tour), don't fret. Porto is a hub for all things Port wine due to the region's unique history where winemakers would ship barrels down river to Vila Nova di Gaia (a distinctly separate city just across the river from Porto) for aging and subsequent shipping abroad.

Today, many of the most famous port houses still continue to age their Port wine on the banks of the Douro River and are open to visitors for tours and tastings. The oldest of which is the Kopke Port House (founded in 1638). Not only is it one of the smallest tasting rooms in the area, but it was also home to our favorite tasting outright- a premium flight we call the Decade's Flight.

So in this one, we thought we'd share more about Kopke, why you should splurge on this one particular flight, and how to get a table at Casa Kopke at all as this one is quite popular!

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Iron Horse Brut LD 2010 Review – Delicious Aged Sparkling Wine

When we visited several Sonoma wineries on a California trip a few years ago, we made sure to stop at Iron Horse Vineyards to try their acclaimed sparkling wines. We fell in love with them and brought many bottles home with us to enjoy later on.

Most of those bottles did not last very long, but we held onto a few to give a few more years of age to for good measure. One such bottle was Iron Horse Brut LD 2010, and we decided to open it up in mid-2022 to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary.

It was better than we expected.

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Ashbrook Estate Margaret River Verdelho 2018 Review

If you've ever looked at our wine map and thought our sampling of Australian wine was limited, well there is a reason for that- finding interesting Australian wine in the USA is, in our local stores at least, not so great.

But we still pursue these wines all the same, and every so often we find a gem that makes us really want to explore Australia more. Ashbrook Estate's Verdelho from the Margaret River was one such wine, and as soon as we finished this bottle we really wished we had another to open right away.

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Gordon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 Review

During my trip to eastern Washington for a conference, I was fortunate enough to sample many wineries near Tri-Cities, Washington. Naturally, as the conference was held in a wine region, many of the evening parties also included samples from various local producers as well.

As it turns out, I started to get a bit of a reputation as a wine lover during this (non-wine-related) conference and had several bottles gifted to me that ended up being leftovers from these various parties. Yes, with as much as the travel blogging community can consume, there were still bottles leftover from an event that got rained out, and Gordon Estate's Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was one such bottle that fell into my hands purely from chance.

While I'm not terribly sold on Cabernet Sauvignon as a grape, I have to admit, this bottle was quite nice.

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WSET Diploma D5 Review – Fortified Wine

If there was a module of WSET Diploma I was looking forward to, insofar as one can look forward to studying at this intense level, it most certainly was D5: Fortified Wines.

Part of this was because I simply adore fortified wines and was looking forward to studying (read: drinking), part was because I knew there was a ton I didn't know about fortified wine, and then also because out of all of the wine regions we've been to, the Douro Valley wineries (where Port is made) was one of our most recent trips prior to taking this module.

While it would be pretty easy for me to simply say that this module was rather intense, I do have to admit that I also walked away with a strong knowledge of all things fortified wine and no desire to drink them again any time soon as my consumption was, well, insane.

Note: I took the WSET Diploma D5 exam in June 2022. Test material and structure can and does change over time. I passed D5 with merit.

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How to Prepare for the WSET Diploma D5 Exam

WSET Diploma's D5 module is all about fortified wine. On the surface, this one sounds like a somewhat straightforward module if only because there aren't that many fortified wine categories and styles out there in the world.

But, as with all things WSET, simply stating this fact makes the program easier said than done. The exam, as always, is pretty insane.

So in this one I wanted to break down what you can expect for the exam and give some tips for studying!

Note: I took the WSET Diploma D5 exam in June 2022. Test material and structure can and does change over time. I passed D5 with merit.

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6 Wineries in Tri-Cities, Washington to Check Out

During our first visit to Washington, we wanted to head out to the eastern side of the state to go wine tasting. But we quickly found out that many wineries operate wine tasting rooms near Seattle as opposed to in the wine regions proper. So we stuck with wineries near Seattle and it ended up being a great trip.

When I had a chance to head to the eastern side of the state for a conference, I was ecstatic to be able to try out the wineries in Tri-Cities and its nearby surroundings (particularly Red Mountain AVA).

While I was only able to visit a handful during the visit, they ended up being quite lovely stops all around. So whether you are fans of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and others, this region is for you and we've got a number of great wineries for you to consider!

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Le Fraghe Chelidon Rondinella 2018 Review – A Rose-Esque Wine

For as much as we study wine, every so often we have a bottle that surprises us.

Sometimes this is because what is in the glass is completely different from what we expected. Other times is because we simply picked the wrong bottle for our meal and really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.

Le Fraghe Rondinella from Italy is one such bottle that hit all those marks. We opened it thinking we were having a somewhat intense Italian red and it turns out this one was characteristically more like a lighter rose.

Naturally, we were in for a surprise- one that was not necessarily what we wanted.

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Vinicola La Trinidad Afrodita 2019 Review – Mexican Chardonnay

When we visited Mexico City, we knew we had to try Mexican wine. We had heard that wine production in Mexico was increasing in recent years, but living in the United States we found that wines from the south of the border are hard to come by (and by hard, we mean virtually impossible- we simply never see it locally).

We have to admit that when we went to a few wine bars in Mexico, we left somewhat disappointed. The high alcohol and lower acidity in the wines were, well, harsh (and was something we expected since Mexico is so hot). But we did not let that deter us and we found some high-end bottles with good reviews at a wine shop in the city and took a risk by buying them sight unseen to bring home.

Vinicola La Trinidad Afrodita was one such bottle, and the Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc blend was one of our favorites from Mexico to date.

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