Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Under a clear blue morning sky, we drove down into the Columbia River valley and up the other side through a fast and twisty valley on McNeil Canyon Road and up onto a moonscape. In our quest to hookup with US 2 heading east, we had to head straight south on Washington State highway 172 through a visually stunning vista. Dry grasslands, flat and barren, punctuated by large lava rocks that had been dumped there like shrapnel from when Mount Baker exploded some millennia ago. We stopped and got out of the car and experienced total silence. Nothingness. Not even a breeze.
We got back in and completed the last bit of the highway, which jogs only slightly when the highway engineers came up against a piece of lava as large as a house, and decided they couldn't be bothered to blow it out of the way.
We finally arrived at #2 and turned left to head east.
The top was down, the road was empty, and the barren grasslands gave way to endless golden fields, billowing off to the horizon like quilts spun of golden silk.
We rolled along through Hartline, Coulee City, Almira and Wilbur. The coulee is something to behold: Cutting its way through the prairie like a rock walled scar. The highway dips suddenly and dives across its floor, stone walls towering above us.
Then pine forests, and suddenly we are in Spokane and sweltering in the traffic. Through the city after a slight detour (is it really necessary to have both a Business 90 and an Interstate 90? Sheesh) and out the other side after a junk food lunch, then its a straight line north to tan the left side of our face, and we are off to Sandpoint, then as suddenly as we entered Idaho, we are through it and in Montana.
Then we start the long way up the side of Koocanusa to the cabin.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
We left immediately as it was already close to fourvo'clock and many of the wineries closed at five or six. Our friends had given us some tips of the top recommended wineries surrounding the lake, and we had picked one already to have dinner at (one of the few with a full restaurant) - which coincidentally turned out to be one of the most highly recommeded and award-winning. So we drove down, across the bridge and through the little town - looking a lot like Penticton mist have looked 25 years ago - and out along the north side of the lake toward Manson. The sun wa baking down and the lake glittered invitingly in the late afternoon sun.
We turned up a side road and made our way to Benson vineyards - one of the top rated and recommended places. They grow all their own grapes, unlike many of the other vineyards who import from other vineyards in the Columbia valley nearby. We enjoyed a couple of great wines there and bought a few bottles. The view across the lake was spectacular. From there we drove into Manson and up to Hard Row to Hoe vineyards. Very small, and still establishing themselves. Their theme, name, decor and wine names are all somewhat sly references to a cross-lake row boat business that ferried randy miners to a lakefront bordello
sometime in the lake's history. The lady serving had the patter down and was quite nice, but had only limited knowledgr of the wines, grapes, and varieties. We did enjoy a couple of whites, and so bought a couple of bottles there too. The S2000's trunk was a little too small for us to pick up cases at each winery stop, so we made do with two or three from each place.
We then drove back to the B&B to unpack and change for dinner. Then we made our way (top-up to preserve the coiffure) to Tsillan winery on the south shore of the lake. Tsillanis pronounced She-lan. Hence the lake and town name.
We had a great dinner on the lawn overlooking the lake and valley. The service was terrible (save for our wine server (Calin/Caitlin/?) who was super knowledgeable and friendly) but the food was really really good, and we had tasters of several good wines while we watched the sunset. So we bought a few bottles and made our way back to the B&B.