Let’s go to Walla Walla

I love wine. Like, really love wine.

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When I was 22 I worked in the tasting room at Arbor Crest Winery, a.k.a. BEST.JOB.EVER. My customers were always in a good mood, (how can you be cranky while tasting wine?), I received an amazing discount (50% off!), and if a tasting bottle was open for 3 days I could take home the remainder of the bottle at closing. I was able to enjoy delicious high quality wines on my minimum-wage-Carlo-Rossi budget. Life was grand.

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As summer turned to fall and hours dwindled, I decided I needed to use my degree and “get a real job.” But my love for wine remained and later grew into lots of wine tasting adventures. Soon I was a member to many wineries and receive shipments of liquid fabulousness in November and April.

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My in-laws are about to enjoy a lovely weekend in Walla Walla and asked for winery suggestions. Although I can’t enjoy a glass for another 6 months, I can give them a list of my favorites to enjoy for me.

L’Ecole N. 41

This is the first winery the hubs and I decided to become members of. I used to babysit their kids way back in the day, too! The winery is located in the historic (and gorgeous!) Frenchtown School. Read more about the location and their story here. I’m very sad about the change in label, even though I understand their reasoning.

Original Label

Woodward Canyon

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It is next door to L’Ecole, but blink and you’ll miss it! And don’t bring your debit card or you’ll end up purchasing a $120 magnum that you need to put away for 15-20 years. Or do, you won’t be too upset with yourself later.

Sleight of Hand Cellars

The artwork on the bottles is gorgeous, and we actually have one of them framed in our dining room.

Sweet Valley Wines

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We’re members here too, it is a small family run winery (like most Walla Walla wineries), and it started when the winemaker was in high school. He told his dad he wanted to start a winery (he is only 22 now) and the rest is history. I wish I had thought to start a winery in high school!

Tru Cellars

Washington Wine Weekend Trip - 2010

Ultra Sparkly Wine is their specialty.

What is your favorite Walla Walla wine?

Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon Recap

Better late than never, right?

I arrived in Newburg, OR on Saturday afternoon with my friend, Rhonda. We met Reese and checked into our, previously mentioned, smoking room at the Chateaux de Travelodge. I informed the front desk that I had reserved a non-smoking room, but they were completely booked. Inhaling 3rd degree smoke all night really impacted my body, and I woke up feeling sick to my stomach Sunday morning at the ripe ol’ time of 5:15 a.m.

standard pre-run peanut butter banana sandwich on whole wheat bread

After a quick digest of pre-run fuel, the gals and I set off to Dundee, OR, six miles down the road. We expected to have major issues parking, as Dundee is very small, with only one stop light, and over 12,000 runners signed up. However, we encountered no issues and parked across the highway from the race.

The starting area was in full swing when we arrived around 6:20 a.m., 40 minutes prior to start time. Only after we stepped out of a random group of people did we realize we had been standing in the bag check line, and had to go to the end of the line to check Rhonda’s sweatshirt. Sigh. Had I realized they would have a bag check I would have brought a soft pack with flip flops for after the race.

At 7 a.m. the line was still going strong, so the race management waited to start the race to ensure everyone was able to check their bags. I was pleased by how nice everyone was.

Then it was race time. I had my brand spankin’ new Garmin 405 all set to start and I lost GPS signal as I was crossing the start line! Grrr! I spent the first 3/4 mile fidgeting with it, nestling my water bottle between my armpit and my chest, until I was able to get a signal again. Therefore my watch results aren’t entirely accurate, but they give me a pretty good idea of exactly how difficult this course was.

Reese and I running somewhere around mile 4

The massive clouds of smoke from running through the vinyards…I was really wishing I wasn’t a mouth breather at this point!

I was going pretty steady for the first five miles or so. Then the hills really started to get to me. I knew a big hill was coming at mile 9, but I forgot about the monstrous one at mile 7.

*sidenote: the course and elevation were not posted on the course information page until about 2 weeks prior to race day.

Holy hell. I couldn’t even see the top of the hill, and it was a loop, so people kept passing me coming down the very steep, very skinny path. It was completely disheartening.

Once I got to the top, however, I was greeted by a beautiful vinyard.



I was also greeted by yet another hill! The vinyard was a diamond shape, so we went up, turned left, went up, turned left, went up, turned left, turned left and then finally went down.

On the second left Reese yelled something to the effect of there better be a lot of effing wine at the end of this bull.* Everyone around us started cracking up. It was all we could do, agony was all around us.

*Only with the real words. This is a PG blog after all y’all.

I thought I would enjoy going down the hill, but I didn’t. My knee chose that moment to seize up on me and it refused to run. I hobbled down the hill best I could, and attempted to jog a while longer.

But then I reached mile 9. Again, I couldn’t see the crest of the hill. I nearly broke down crying right then and there. But my body wouldn’t let me, it needed to conserve all the water it could to keep me hydrated!

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For the rest of the race I kept a steady walk/run approach, and encouraged Reese to go ahead without me. But she refused to leave my side, noting that we were going to run this race together, and she quickly became my biggest cheerleader.

Caption for mile marker 12: That last wrong mile brought to you by your friends at Crumbled Rock. Yes, it was a VERY wrong mile. So was mile 7, so was mile 9!

Then I hit mile marker 12. I knew I could do it: run for just 1.1 more miles. I was going strong, but then we were met with another hill! It was a gradual one, but my body was SO over hills! I had to walk again, and I am sure poor Reese cursed me for this in her head. But then we turned the final corner and it was downhill from there. As with Bloomsday, Reese and I grabbed hands and held them high above our heads, and sprinted toward the finish line! I have never been more happy to be done with a run than in that very moment.

We were handed cold water bottles, which I slammed immediately, and our gorgeous medals.

Then we stood in a very long line to pick up the most prized possession: a Fueled by Fine Wine Riedel wine glass, which served as our ticket into the massive finishers tent complete with tables of food (which was pretty picked over by the time my slow bootay hobbled inside) and nearly 30 wineries with bottles for tasting.

My final time was 2 hours, 53 minutes, 6 seconds. That is an average pace of 13 minutes, 12 seconds per mile. I would be embarrassed about this time, (I estimated a 2 hour, 25 minute finish), but this course was unlike any run I have ever done. It was literally the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life.

Rhonda commented that if this had been her first half-marathon she would have given up on running all together. She also jumped into mom mode and kept telling me how proud she was of me all weekend. I loved her for this. I was damn proud of myself for pushing through all the way to the finish, even though I wanted to stop and have a fireman carry me back each time I saw them after mile 7!

And even though I was defeated at first, I am eager to sign up for another half-marathon. I know I can improve my time SO much, and think of how accomplished I will feel then?

A few days post-race the Fueled by Fine Wine Director sent out an email asking for feedback. Rather than just share this information with him, I thought I would post it here in case any of you bloggies are thinking of running this race next year (July 8, 2o11).

Room for improvement:

More food!

By the time I reached the finishers tent the food had been picked over by people who had NOT run the race. Yes, supporters could purchase drink tickets for $20, but they should not have had access to the food. I managed to grab two halves of a banana, some stale bread, a nubbin of a crossant and two brownie bites. The cheese and the rest of the fruit were gone. I could have eaten more energy chews, but I was not in the mood for those at all. I wanted REAL food!

More porta potties along the route!

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Each water station needed 4 or 5 porta potties. Only a few had them, and only 1 or 2. I had to pee starting at mile 3, but refused to wait in the long porta potty lines. Then I passed a fake porta potty after mile 9 and was so upset, It was on a flatbed, just teasing me! I managed to snag a no-line potty break at mile 11 because I couldn’t hold it any longer.

Take debit/credit cards at the pre-race expo.

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The emails prior to the race said to bring your debit/credit cards, but then the clothing tent didn’t take cards. If they want to make more money, they will get more impulse purchases if people can actually spend money!

Don’t allow children and pets to be in the wine-tasting tent.

The emails prior to the race said no kids, yet for some reason there were tons of kids there. This is an 21 and over race, therefore kids have no business in the wine-tasting tent. Plus they were taking the runners food! If kids come to support their parents, that is great, but a separate tent for families would have alleviated some of the congestion.

Post the course before the race sign-up cut off date!

I knew there were hills, the website made that clear, but I was in no way prepared for the type of hills I would encounter. I was training on hills, but I could have been training a lot harder had I known what I had gotten myself into.

The good stuff:

This course was brutal, but it was beautiful.

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‘Nuff said.

I’m going to do this race again.

Maybe not next year, but I know I can improve my time, since now I know what to expect.

So there you have it, my first half-marathon recap. The Director also mentioned that for this race, PR stands for pretty run or painful run, as no one is going to have a stellar time. But for me, I’m just happy to have finished it without the PR standing for Paramedics Required!

What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?

WIAW travel edition: Oregon

I’ve been a bad blogger. I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which means most of my pictures never make it to the desktop. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean I’ve had a lot of fun eating experiences that are sitting on my camera waiting to be unleashed. Until then, I have another traveling eats edition of WIAW for y’all. Get excited

Friday morning I hit the road with my friend, and co-worker, Rhonda. Our destination is one of my all time favorite towns: Hood River, Oregon.
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Hood River, the windsurfing capitol of the world, is about an hour east of Portland, OR and is full of cute shops, eateries, wineries and breweries. We started the weekend off right at Full Sail Brewing Company.

We decided to split the artichoke dip app (with delicious whole wheat pita bread) and a sampler.


After enjoying all but the hoppy brews, Rhonda and I found a table at a Cancer fundraising event that happened to be going on up the street.

A hoola hooping contest started shortly after our arrival…
I didn’t enter, but I did enjoy a little hoola hoop action.
Impressive, no?

The next morning we found Doppio, a cute little coffee shop on the main downtown road. The line was very long, but it was worth it for a table in the sunshine and local organic ingredients.


After a little shopping, we headed to our next destination: Newberg, Oregon. The half-marathon was located in Dundee, Oregon, six miles down the road. Our dinner Saturday evening wasn’t the best, but we made up for it with a stop to Sweetest Thing, an adorable cupcake shop near our hotel.

I couldn’t decide on one flavor, so I wound up getting two! On the left is the s’mores, a chocolate cake with a ganach center and marshmellow buttercream frosting (omg, yum!) and on the right is the raspberry lemon drop.

They were heavenly, and helped us avoid our SMOKING room. Sigh. I waited too long to book a hotel room, and thought I was booking a non-smoking one, but after clicking back and forth between websites too many times, the non-smoking rooms had been booked and somehow I didn’t notice. We opened the window, put both fans on high blast and used half a bottle of fabreeze. The room smelt like clean smoke for about twenty minutes. It was a miserable experience (I’m allergic to smoke), and my run may or may not have been affected by the third-hand smoke conditions. But, luckily, we were able to check into a non-smoking room the next day.

After racing and showering, we ventured into Dundee, Oregon, a small winery driven town with one stoplight, and opted to have lunch at Dundee Bistro.

I ordered a side of truffle oil fries for the table,

and the fungi pizza for myself.spinach, oyster mushrooms, sweet onions & chevre

After lunch we decided to use some of our free tasting coupons from our race swag bag. First stop was Winter’s Hill. I wound up purchasing a case of their 2007 Pinot Blanc. Reese and Rhonda were slightly more economical and split a case. But it was a rockin’ deal at $99, and Oregon doesn’t have sales tax. Win, win!

Only after we had driven there did we notice you can go on a horseback wine tour!

The second stop was De Ponte.

We actually ran through the vinyards of Winter’s Hill and De Ponte had one of the water stations on their property. It was much more enjoyable to visit them AFTER the run then when we were actually on the course 😉

After wine tasting we decided to go to Panaderia y Taqueria, a cheap, hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, and it was a very good choice. The homemade chips and salsa excited our taste buds as we waited for our meals to arrive.

I also entertained the ladies with the contents of my purse while we waited.
What, you don’t need 8 lip gloss/stick/chapstick options? Two bottles of lotion aren’t in your bag? You don’t need a supply of bandaids, pepto bismol, advil, beano, pamprin, lactaid or other random pain relievers? Psh, you’re the weird one.

After lots of laughter, our meals arrived. I could barely eat half of my super burrito, but it was very delicious!

Rhonda left Oregon vowing to start a blog about me blogging, and I left Oregon with my camera full, my body sore and my belly stuffed 🙂

Have you been to Hood River or Dundee, Oregon?