Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fun (and Funny) Side of Yakima

Okay, I know the previous post was a little depressing.  But I found Yakima to be a little depressing.  Not totally, just kind of over all depressing.

But there were funny things, things that had the two of us falling-over laughing.  Things that are just so funny.

The Yakima Valley Arboretum was advertising a Wild Mushroom Show and Exhibition.  Really.  Wild mushrooms.  Try to imagine WILD mushrooms.  Does anyone else envision chantrelles and puffballs running rampant?  yelling and screaming?  shooting guns or stabbing each other?  Wild West style mushrooms?  Or maybe they just harrass the orchids.

Next - there's the town of Granger nearby, in the valley, known as the Dinosaur Town.  Complete with a dinosaur park.  (No, we did NOT visit Granger - this is info we read in our local tourist magazine.)  Yes, life size models of dinosaurs (rendered in cement) are set up around town.  Directions in the town read, "pass the spinosaurus, then turn right onto Main St. and drive through the flanking dinosaurs. The toilets will be on the left; more dinos will be on the right, and if you continue driving you'll see even more dinosaurs in town."  Oh, the toilets that are mentioned?  Those are volcano toilets.  No, that doesn't mean you flush and the effluviant spews out at you.  It just means that the toilet building looks like a small volcano. 

As if a volcano toilet and cement dinosaurs weren't funny enough, here's the punchline - NO dinosaur fossils or bones or remains were found in Granger.  Or in the county.  Or in the entire state of Washington.  No, MASTODON bones were found in Granger.  Not dinosaurs, mastodons.  As in woolly mammoths.  Giant hairy elephant-like mammals.  Not giant reptiles like dinosaurs.  Ummm, do you think they might have just had cement mastodons and maybe an ice age glacier toilet instead?

On the other hand, the photos I've seen of the Granger dinosaurs really are pretty amazing sculptures, so I shouldn't laugh at them - but it truly is very funny to hear of a town where people tell you to turn right at the stegosaurus and then left at the tricerotops.

So did we go see the dinos?  Or the wanton mushrooms?

No, we went for adult entertainment.

Now that I have your attention - we went wine tasting.  Yes, Yakima Valley is an up and coming wine country.  The long growing season, plenty of sunshine, rivers and irrigation canals make this a wonderful place to grow grapes.  The rolling hills are reminiscent of Tuscany and Umbria, Italy - some of the great places for wine.  (Try an Orvieto white, or a Brunello from Montalcino, and you'll know I speak the truth.)

So we headed south through the gap in the hills, named Union Gap.  (Yes, Gary Puckett is from the area.)  We drove into the southern valley, along roads named by the original French settlers, past orchards with the end of the apple harvest, late season pears, grapes waiting for the first frost, and meandered around following signs, sampling wine.

We purchased two "passports" that allowed us free tasting at all the rattlesnake wineries.  (I'm not sure which wineries are rattlesnakes, or why they are named that, or if they choose to be rattlesnakes or not.  But this is one situation where it's good to find a rattlesnake.)

We started with whites.  Then moved on to full-bodied reds.  Then moved on to sweet reds, rosés, and ended with ultra-sweet reislings.  Or a tawny red muscat.  We did this at each of six or seven wineries.  We sipped and sampled and shared and giggled as the reds and whites blended into a lovely lavender fog that enveloped our brains.  Well, at least for three of us - my brother was the designated driver.  Despite only taking one or two sips of most wines, after six, seven, eight? wineries (one loses track) and four to six wines at each winery, all those sips added up to enough to make three of us quite tipsy.

Those many sips also made it easy to rrrrrrrrolllllll the names of wines off the tongue.  My little bit of Italian made it easy to request the Sangiovese - "San-joe-VEH-szeh" - with a lilt in the "joe" and a loving linger on the VEH - a heavy red that belongs to pasta con marinara.  Then the Nebbiolo - "Neh-bee-OH-low" - with a long caress on the OH!  A rich red tasting of nebulus clouds and adding to the lavender fog in my brain.  A wine that balances tagliatelle with black truffle sauce.  Nebbiolo, after a few sips, became NebbbiiOOOOOOOOlowwwwwww.  Followed by floating hands and fuzzy shoulders and a few sighs between giggles.

It was lovely.

We saw vintners pressing grape must to get out the last of the wine, and tasted what will be this years Merlot.  We admired views, and watched ducks and dogs who demanded attention.  We bought a few bottles of various wines, and carefully carried them home, where we celebrated my nephew's new job - his first job in his field of study post-college.  Not a job related to wineries, but still worth celebrating.

Then back to the house for slow-rotisseried leg of lamb (all my brothers all grill very well), wonderful side dishes (my sister-in-law is a great cook), and the meal ended with homemade brownies and glasses of that tawny muscat.

 And yes, THAT side of Yakima is fun, and not at all depressing.

Especially when one is enveloped in a lavender fog.

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