Blue Notes

I’m in  a blue mood, a good one.   I recently painted the outside and inside of my house blue.   Now I see beautiful blues everywhere.   I found these note cards in Sweden.   They are from Danish designer and painter Birthe Koustrup (1917 – 2000).   http://www.koustrup.info

Lotus Flowers, Handbook of Decorative Motifs by Birthe Koustrup

Decoration inspired by the Kakiemon familys work, c. 1780, Japan. Handbook of Decorative Motifs, Birthe Koustrup

Composition from a motif painted on a water pitcher, Song Era. Handbook of Decorative Motifs, Birthe Koustrup

 

Flowering Apricot. Inspriation from a Chinese Vase, Kangsi period. Handbook of Decorative Motifs, Birthe Koustrup

Design on a jar of ointment, eighteenth century, France. Handbook of Decorative Motifs, Birthe Koustrup

A blue door in the town of Halmstad, Sweden:

Dalarna blue

Another blue door, in the town of Simrishamn, Sweden:

blue door

Posted in Art | 1 Comment

The Relæ Experience

relae sign

To many, Copenhagen is a foodie destination.  You can’t think of Copenhagen without thinking of Restaurant Noma.   But Noma closed early this year.  No worries.  There are still two restaurants in Copenhagen ranked in the top 50 of the world.

Relæ takes reservations 60 days in advance, and I was right there online waiting to put in my request.   Even 60 days in advance, we had a choice of 530 pm or 9 pm, the main dinner hours already snapped up.  We took the 530 even though most of our dinners had been later and it is light until 10 pm.

DSC_4011

Relæ is ranked #39 on the website http://www.theworlds50best.com/.

We liked that Relæ’s atmosphere was very casual.  It might be high end food with high end prices, but the feeling was relaxed and comfortable.

We had a kitchen table, overlooking a food prep area.  I wanted that, and it was nice to talk with the chefs.

DSC_4016

The Relæ manifest is made very clear:

manifest

We chose, as usual, to do the full Relæ experience with wine pairings, approximately $250 for the food and wine.

menu price

menu

They had asked in advance about food requirements, and I had responded with no red meat, chicken or pork.  That seemed fine with them.  They substituted fish for the lamb in the above menu.  All your utensils for each course are handily stored in a pull out drawer right at your table.

silverware drawer

green strawberry tart

Our first appetizer was a green strawberry tart.

tarts and wine

As you can see in the photo, the wine was a bit cloudy.  I hadn’t expected that.  It turned out that I liked only about half the wines, and one I was unable to finish.  If I had it to do over, I would have ordered the full food experience, and skipped the wine pairings.  Some of the organic wine was just too organic for me.  But several were quite good.

One of the chefs preparing frozen almond milk crumbles:

DSC_4027

Celtuce, oregano and almond

The green strawberry tart was followed by celtuce with oregano and almond.  The celtuce was served on a bed of frozen almond milk crumbles, which began to melt immediately.  As I took this photo the chef recommended that I not wait much longer to enjoy the dish, as it was melting.  These details I would have missed if we hadn’t been seated at a kitchen table.

A chef preparing the oyster dish:

making oysters

Oyster with cucumber, juniper and seaweed vinegar:

oyster, cucumber and juniper

The oyster dish was awesome, and my favorite so far.  But wait, there was much more to come.

Buteo label

The Buteo, an Austrian white, was one of the wines I liked.  A 2015 Weingut Micahel Gindl, Weinviertel.

Buteo

After the oyster we had trout with crispy skin and browned butter.  This was much better than expected.  The crispy skin was delightful.

Trout with crispy skin:

trout

trout and cripsy skin

The next course was a fava and fennel creation, over which they poured fava bean oil.

fava and fennel 2

fava with sauce

The view of the kitchen from our table:

table with view

They chefs told us they love to work with vegetables and that the restaurant has its own farm.  They concentrate on what is in season and grown locally.  Our next course was carrots, with egg yolk and hollandaise.

carrots, eggyolk and hollandaise

 

L and carrot

As a little surprise extra, they had created a dish using turbot cheeks:

dish

Instead of the lamb on the menu, they served us turbot in butter with kohlrabi.

kohlrabi and seaweed

One of the wines that I did like, Groll n’Roll ’16, Sebastien Babass, Chanzeaux (France).

pouring red

After the eight courses of appetizers and fish, we had three types of dessert.   The first one was a pancake with fresh cheese, rhubarb and black olives.

fresh cheese, rhubarb and black olives

Another Austrian wine that I liked, a Sauvignon Blanc 2012 by Andreas Tscheppe, Glanz.

SB

Second dessert was curd with whey, buttermilk sorbet and woodruff.  The menu says “chervil”, but my notes taken right from the chefs says woodruff.

buttermilk and chervil, whole

buttermilk and chervil

And we finished with strawberries and sage, a sage parfait with strawberries and strawberry powder.

Strawberry and sage

You might think that we would be staggeringly full at this point, but the dishes were small and you are guaranteed the table for 2 1/2 hours.

It was delightful and the food excellent.

kitchen view

Posted in Denmark, Food and Wine | 2 Comments

Christiansborg Palace, Cophenhagen

Copenhagen street

After disembarking from the Juno, we spent one night in Goteborg.  The next morning we took the fast and easy train from Goteborg to Copenhagen, about 3 1/2 hours.  Arriving in Copenhagen, we had just 24 hours until our international departure, and it was raining.

Christiansborg Palace

With just a few hours to kill until our dinner reservation at Relae, (ranked #39 restaurant in the world by http://www.theworlds50best.com), we walked in the rain to the Christiansborg Palace to pay a royal visit.

The Alexander Hall:

reception room

I’m glad we did.  We bought the ticket allowing access to four venues;  The Royal Reception Rooms, The Ruins, The Royal Stables, and the The Royal Kitchen.

We started with the Royal Reception Rooms.

The Princess Chamber:

hall way

 

The Queen’s Library:

library

The Abildgaard Room:

pink room

A poster in the The Dining Hall describing the origins of the table and chairs:

dining hall info

The Dining Hall:

dining hall

My favorite room among them all was The Great Hall.   It is lined with beautiful tapestries created by Danish artist Bjord Norgaard.  These are not old tapestries, but given as a gift to Queen Margrethe II in 2000 on her 50th birthday, and completed on her 60th.  They narrate 1000 years of Denmark’s history, from Viking times to the present.

The Great Hall:

Great Hall

My sister taking in all the intricacies of The Viking Age tapestry, my favorite.

Viking tapestry

The Viking Age tapestry created by Bjorn Norgaard:

tapestry

After the Royal Reception Rooms, we walked to the Royal Stables.  They have several exhibits, including a stuffed horse, and a film, but I was disappointed that we saw no live horses.  The Danish kings were known for their white horses.

stables

 

horses exhibit

One area housed all the carriages and tack:

horse tack

We toured the ruins under the palace and then walked back to our hotel, just two blocks from the central train station.

It was still raining as we passed the Dragon Fountain, near Tivoli.

dragon fountain

 

L and fountain

Posted in Denmark | Leave a comment

Göta Canal Day Four

We had motored through Lake Vänern during the night.  The sunrise was spectacular, and very early.

sunrise 1

sunrise 2

Lake Vänern is at 48.3 meters above sea level.  On this day, the last day of the Classic Canal Cruise, we end in Goteborg (Gothenburg) on the west coast, and sea level.  After breakfast we arrived at Trollhättan.   The Trollhättan locks are a staircase of four locks, dropping 32 meters.

There are three lock systems here, the two oldest not in use.  We toured the Trollhättan Canal Museum, watching a very interesting film on the history and construction of the lock system.

Nils Ericson walk

The Old Locks

oldest lock

oldest lock from the bottom

Then we followed the Nils Ericson Walk, a self guided tour of the old lock system, first built in 1800.  The second set of locks were built in 1844.  Once a year they celebrate “Falls Day” and let the water flow over the original falls.  I think they told us it was one day in July.

The Second Locks  From 1844

second lock

Even though we’d been watching the lock procedures for four days, I still found it fascinating, and these locks were the deepest ones yet.

The following series of photos were taken as we descended from the top of Trollhättan and into the second level.  The new canal office, on the left as we descended, was built in 1935.

top of Trollhattan

T 1

T 2

T 3

T 4

T 5

T 6

T 7

Captain Albert

After descending the Trollhättan Locks, we cruised the river towards Goteborg and sat down to our last lunch on the Juno.

along the river

table

lunch menu

fish soup last lunch

fish soup

strawberry cake

On the river we passed one of the Juno’s sister ships, the M/S Diana.  She is the youngest of the three ships, launched in 1931.  It is customary for the younger ship to blow their horn first, and the older ship answers.

Diana

purple fiels

At the dock in Goteborg the crew lined up for farewells.

farewell

K shakes hands

 

 

Posted in Sweden | 2 Comments

Göta Canal Cruise Day Three

Motala

Day Three of the Classic Canal Cruise begins with a cruise on Lake Vättern, the highest lake elevation, then we rise to highest elevation of the trip, 91.5 meters through the Berg Canal, and begin the descent through more locks on our way back down to sea level.

We sailed out of Motala early, 0545, but I was up to witness it.  We cruised along Lake Vättern and made stop at Karlsborg Fortress.  We had planned to take the guided tour, but it was all in Swedish so we walked the parks along the shore.

DSC_3443

DSC_3442

Cruising again, the Juno passed through Forsvik lock, the oldest lock in the system dated back to 1813.

Entering Forsvik Lock:

entering Forsvik

This was a beautiful area with the hand dug canal linking natural lakes.  We passed through some very narrow areas, where a crew member walked along the shore and assisted with the sharp turns by using ropes.

DSC_3530

DSC_3537

The wood-lined canals and lakes are the wildest looking part of the canal.  We passed some sail boaters and saw campers on the shore.  One of the other passengers mentioned that he had heard Sweden refered to as “the most civilized wilderness in the world.”   I really liked that, and it seemed to fit.

DSC_3542

Lake Viken:

Lake Viken

Lunch was served as we cruised Lake Viken.  Today’s lunch was herring, and you can’t eat herring in Sweden without drinking schnapps.  So lunch was called S.O.S – Smor, ost and sill (or butter, cheese, and herring).

day three lunch

herring lunch

Julia serves schnapps

Julia came around with a platter of many flavors of schnapps.  I tried the dill flavored schnapps, one I’d never seen or heard of before.  It was interesting.  We also sang some well known drinking songs.  Although sung in Swedish, they had supplied us with the translations.  I never knew the English words to Helan går before, always singing it in Swedish.

dill schnapps

herring

schnapps toast

Helan Gar

After lunch we passed through Tåtorp, a hand operated lock.  This lock puts us at our highest elevation, and as we cruised through the Berg Canal, there is a obelisk that marks the highest point.  I did look for it, but didn’t see it, as it is made to look like a birch tree, and they did a very good job in that department.

The Hand Operated Lock at Tåtorp:

Tatorp

highest point, Berg Canal

After lunch we cruised through some very scenic farm land.

DSC_3591

DSC_3608

In Hajstorp we started to let back down.  We had four locks to go through, which allowed us to get out and walk along the canal again for about 1.5 km.

Hajstorp

DSC_3637

DSC_3649

Godhogen lock

After the four locks and a stroll, we sat down to another lovely dinner and watched the farmland roll by outside the window.

DSC_3685

dinner menu graphic

DSC_3697

DSC_3692

In the evening we reached Sjötorp and a set of eight locks.  As the Juno was let down through the locks, we got off again for a short walk and a visit to the Sjötorp Canal Museum.  In the last lock the ship was serviced with water and we waited to board.  The sun was setting at about 10:30.

DSC_3713

DSC_3718

DSC_3728

During the night the Juno continued to cruise Lake Vänern.  Lake Vänern is at 43 meters, so in this one day we had already let down 48 meters of altitude through the old lock system, some hand operated.

Posted in Sweden | Leave a comment

Göta Canal Day Two

Early morning Gota Canal day 2

I awoke at 0400 on day 2 of our cruise, as we made our way through the Söderköping lock.  It could have been the amount of light at 0400 or the noise of the water filling the lock, I’m not sure, but I was awake.  The light was beautiful, and there were few passengers on deck as the water filled the lock and the Juno rose another few feet.

DSC_3115

DSC_3119

We had quite a few locks to traverse today, starting right here in Söderköping.  As the Juno made her way through a narrow canal, the land around us came to life.  We saw a deer in a field, but few people were out and about at 0500.  As we approached the next set of locks – 8 in a distance of two kilometers – we asked to be let off so we could walk along the side.  This we did, and watched fascinated as the Juno made its way along the canal, gaining altitude with each lock.

DSC_3138

DSC_3175

I thought that after a few lock ascensions it would become ordinary.  But it did not.  Each time we entered a lock and the old wooden doors closed and the water rushed in, it was fascinating.

DSC_3191

DSC_3221

We really gained altitude today, rising from the Baltic Sea to Motala –  approximately 73 meters – where we spent the night in port.

DSC_3241

After passing the eight locks from Duvkullen to Carlsborg, we cruised through scenic farmland and brought our buffet breakfast up onto the deck.

DSC_3249

ship breakfast

At just past noon we reached the Carl Johan lock staircase, the longest in the canal system with seven connected locks.  We arrived after a few sailboats that we watched climb the lock system.

DSC_3290

DSC_3302

lock

We also had a tour of a local church, a nice change from being on the ship.  We walked to the convent of Vreta that dates from 1100.

DSC_3312

DSC_3315

DSC_3345

After touring the convent, we reconnected with the Juno at the Berg lock system, a very scenic area.  The sun was out and it was warm on deck.  We cruised past the first of two aqueducts in the canal, and watched the cars pass under us on the roadway.

DSC_3360

DSC_3383

We had dinner as we slowly cruised through the countryside and passed the second aqueduct at Kungs Norrby and cruisee onto Lake Boren, enjoying Jerusalem artichoke soup with garden cress creme and rye bread croutons, and broiled arctic char with roasted almond potatoes, sour fennel and white wine sauce with smoked rainbow trout roe and Jamtland tiramisu with cloudberries.

 

DSC_3392

The Dinner Show

DSC_3402

 

We passed the Gota Hotel, built in 1908, in Borensberg, Sweden, where we went through a hand-operated lock.

DSC_3419

dinner menu

menu graphic

dinner menu

arctic char

Julia served drinks on deck after dinner.

Julia

After dinner I retreated to our little cabin and miss the Borenshult lock system.  We spent the night docked in Motala.

 

Posted in Sweden | 1 Comment

Göta Canal Day One

DSC_2930
This trip to Sweden was not only about Midsommar and visiting family.  It was 50 years ago that my sister spent the summer in Sweden with our Grandmother and cruised the Göta Canal the first time.  It was our idea to recreate that trip, on the same ship and the same route.
Luckily for us, the M/S Juno – the oldest continuously operating passenger ship in the world – is still traversing  the Göta Canal.  We had booked this cruise late last year.   The Juno was built in 1874 in Motala, Sweden and is 31.45 meters in length, 6.68 meters in width and has a draft of 2.72 meters.  For our sold out cruise, the 29 cabins held 42 Swedes, 4 Germans, and yes, only 2 Americans.
http://www.gotacanal.se/en/
We boarded the M/S Juno in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan.  We had been warned about the size of the cabins, but they were still smaller than anticipated; two bunk beds, one sink and a “closet” that was two inches deep, enough to hang a few things flat against the wall.  Ok, no problem.  So we put the few items we needed in bags under the lower bunk, and everything else went into the cargo area with our suitcases.

As we sailed out of Stockholm, a cold rain came down in sheets.   Soon the sun was out, but now and then it would rain again.
As I squeezed past the Captain along the railing, he smiled and said “Swedish Summer.   Last year it was on a Tuesday.”  Albert Hakansson seemed like a very nice man, his crew calling him Albert, not Captain.

The Göta Canal is an engineering marvel that began in 1810.  It is called the Swedish Construction of the Millennium.  In combination with the Trollhatan locks, the canal links the east and west coasts of Sweden.  The journey sails through natural waterways and lakes, ninety kilometers of hand dug canals, and 66 locks.  We start at sea level.  Through a system of locks we gain a total of approximately 91 meters.  Lake Vattern is our highest lake at 88.2 meters.  We let down again through the impressive Trollhatan lock system, first designed and built in the 1800s.  The Trollhatan lock system now is very modern, but you can still tour the two older systems no longer used.

route map

 

The brochure for the cruise says it best:
Old-fashioned luxury.  Historic setting.  High-class food and superb wines.  The good life is yours as we slowly glide through the Swedish landscape on board some of the world’s oldest passenger ships along the unique, hand dug canal across the middle of Sweden created to serve as the artery for the country’s industrial revolution.  This is indeed one time when the pleasurable journey is much more important than the goal to be reached.
brochure
On our first day of the Göta Canal Classic Cruise that begins in Stockholm, we passed through the Hammarby Lock and into Lake Malaren.  We cruised past Drottningholm Palace, through Sodertalje lock and into the archipelago.

DSC_2981

DSC_2984
DSC_2986
As the brochure for the cruise states, there are faster and cheaper ways to travel from Stockholm to Goteborg, but nothing as scenic or relaxing.  The meals were stellar and the service impeccable.  Guests dress for dinner and enjoy a leisurely pace.  We were assigned a table for lunch and dinner, the table set with a different beautiful menu for each meal.

SCAN0225

dining room

 On day one, we stopped in the scenic town of Trosa.  We had two hours to explore, and then boarded the ship again.

DSC_3050

 Dinner was served at 7:30 pm.  The ship cruised through the night on the first night, arriving into the Soderkoping lock first thing in the morning at 04:55 the second day.

first night

 

cod dinner first night

 

 

L at dinner

Posted in Sweden | 4 Comments

Glad Midsommar

We departed Skane for Småland and a visit with family.  Our maternal great grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1890.  Her brothers stayed in Sweden, and their family welcomed us for Midsommar.

Småland is another beautiful area of Sweden with farms like Skane, but they also have forests.

We stayed with our cousin Christer and his wife Berit for four days.  Many, many thanks to them for the hospitality, food, entertainment and much shuttling around.  Our relatives came from the Almhult area, home of the IKEA headquarters.  The first IKEA store was here, and is now a museum.

We toured the museum with cousins.  It is well done and worth a visit.  It covers more than just the history of IKEA, but Sweden and design as well.  One display compared an antique chair with a modern IKEA chair.  In the photo below, the chair on the right is an original from 1780, designed by chair-maker Johan Peter Mansnerus.  The 1995 IKEA chair on the left was part of the 18th century furniture collaboration with the Swedish National Heritage Board.  There was a textile playground and you could put yourself on the cover of an IKEA catalog, which we did.

Our IKEA catalog covers with cousins Rolf and Christer:

SCAN0231

SCAN0232

Lunch at this IKEA was the best I’ve ever had at an IKEA, and is special to this museum restaurant only;  salmon balls.

We drove from Almhult to Melbystrand for Midsommer’s Eve, using smaller back roads, and were rewarded with a moose sighting.

I love fish soup, and try it whenever it is available.  A short walk from my cousin’s house in Melbystrand we had dinner at Kustvagen 46, which serves one of the best fish soups I’ve tasted.

A visit to Halmstad Midsommer’s Eve morning produced a crown of flowers that I wore to put me in the “Midsommer mood.”

For Midsommar’s Eve Christer and Berit prepared a traditional feast including herring (three versions), potatoes and of course a strawberry cake.  It was lovely.

To experience the traditional folk dances and costumes on Midsommar Day, we headed to Carl Linnaeus’ birthplace Linnés Råshult for an exhibition.   http://www.linnesrashult.se

 

Midsommar’s Day dinner we enjoyed with Christer and Berit’s son Tobias, his wife Johanna and their two kids at the old farmstead.  The fancy dining room is still as it always was and used for special dinners.

Mykolholt dining room

Posted in Family, Sweden | 4 Comments

Southern Sweden: Skåne , Viking Stones, and a Swedish winery (kind of)

I am back in Sweden for Midsommar, a beautiful time to visit.  After meeting my sister in Copenhagen, we took the very short train ride to Malmo, Sweden and picked up a rental car.  Sweden is an easy country for touring, with good road signs, driving on the right, and everyone speaks English.

Typical scenery between Malmo, Sweden and Ystad

We had reserved one of the three rooms at Monika’s B&B Hagebo.  Hagebo is out in the countryside along the southern coast of Sweden.  It was just what we were looking for, quiet and close to the Ales Stones.  http://www.hagebo.nu/

Dinner on the Ystad waterfront

In Ystad, after one long international flight, a train ride, and a one hour drive in a rental car. Time to take a break

It was an easy and scenic drive from Malmo, through flat countryside dotted with modern windmills.  We stopped in Ystad for dinner on the waterfront.

Hagebo B&B

Monika, proprietor of Hagebo B&B, and one of her pugs. We liked our stay and would recommend it.

Crashing at 8 pm on the first night, we were wide awake by 0500 the next day.  Midsommar time in southern Sweden it stays light until 11 pm and the sun rises again around 4 am.  On our first morning we took a little bicycle ride at 0600 from the B&B to the beach and around the country roads.  We saw crops of beets, potatoes, and wheat, and fields with cattle.

Out at 0600 for a bike ride

Hagestads Nature Reserve, the beach a short bike ride from Hagebo B&B

One of the reasons we chose Hagebo was its close proximity to Ale’s Stenar.  The standing stone ring is the oldest of its kind in Sweden.

The trail to Ales Stenar

Ales Stenar

After our early morning bike ride and breakfast, we drove the short distance to the Ale’s Stones, 59 boulders in the form of a ship, dating from 500 – 1000 CE.  The ancient monument sits on a bluff above the old fishing village of Kaseberga.  They were used as a landmark on a coastal chart dated 1684, and first described in a text dated 1624 by parish priest Niels Ipsen.  It was refreshing to see an ancient monument without graffiti or fences or warnings.  The stones are out in a field with a great view of the Baltic Sea.

stones

 

Above the small fishing village of Kaseberga

From the stones we made our way to what is billed as Sweden’s nicest beach, Sandhammaren.  The sand was very fine and white, but the water was quite cold.  Many families had gathered to enjoy the beach and kids were in the water, but it was windy as seems usual here on the southern coast.

to the beach

on the beach

The area is quite scenic for driving.  We passed big farms with huge old red barns, horses, cattle and windmills old and new.  The wind blew nonstop, so the windmills seem to make a lot of sense.  We had read about a Swedish winery and were intrigued, so we loaded the address into the GPS in the rental car and made our way to Simrishamn.

nordic sea winery

 

winery

The Nordic Sea Winery is a Swedish winery, sort of.  They don’t grow their own wine grapes yet (the vines out front are ornamental), you can’t buy a bottle of wine there, and tastings are scheduled in advance only on certain days, but we did have a wonderful lunch accompanied by a glass of one of the wines.  Nordic Sea Winery buys the wine from many countries, and then ages it at the Nordic Sea Winery.  I give them points for giving it a try, as buying alcohol in Sweden is harder than in the US.  It is not in the grocery stores, but only sold in a few locations.  The facility was impressive and they are definitely giving it a good try.  The salmon lunch was quite tasty, and reasonably priced too.

Nordic sea winery interior

 

salmon

The little town of Simrishamn is known for its streets of pretty houses.  We followed a walking tour of the old town and stopped to buy some textiles.  One of the only two stores in the area to buy wine was in the town, so we stopped there too.

blue and yellow houses

bike

pink house

The second full day of our vacation still found us wide awake at 0400.  It also happened to be the Summer Solstice, June 21.  So what do you do when you can’t sleep at 0400 on the Summer Solstice?  We drove back up to the Ale’s Stenar to see the early morning sun come up over the ancient stones.  We were the only tourists there at 0500.  The following pictures are from 0500 on the Solstice.

summer solstice sunrise

K and L at stones

Solstice stones

Southern Sweden is home to quite a few castles and old estates.  We visited two, but only toured the interior of one.  Our first stop was Kronovall Castle (also a hotel), where we had planned to have lunch.  We had read that the estate serves lunch beginning Midsommar, but it really didn’t start until the next Saturday, the day all Swedes celebrate Midsommar, not the actual Summer Solstice date.

KRONOVALL CASTLE

Kornovall

We walked the grounds then headed to Svaneholm Castle.  Not only was Svaneholm open, but they also had a special exhibit of dresses called In The Style Of Downton Abbey.  It was a collection of dresses, hats, and shoes worn by previous castle owners during the same time period as the PBS show Downton Abbey.  The castle was also full of antiques.  It was a nice tour and afterwards we enjoyed coffee and fika on the grounds before driving back into Malmo to drop off our rental car and take a train up to Almhult to meet with family and celebrate Midsommar.

SVANEHOLM CASTLE

Svaneholm Castle

Svaneholm castle window

Posted in Sweden | 3 Comments

Springtime in Oregon

plum blossom

A close-up of a plum blossom

purple and blue

Lilacs are my favorite flower, but timing a visit to Oregon while they are blooming is problematic.  This past winter and spring have been very cold and rainy in Oregon, so most plants are a few weeks behind what they were last year.  But I had the last week of April off from work, so I went up to the great Northwest in hopes of catching some lilacs in bloom.

white lilac, blue sky

My mom and I took a two day mini getaway to visit the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens and a few vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

Hulda's house

With constant rain and no sunshine, it was a gamble.  But we headed to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland, Washington for the Lilac Days which began April 22nd, and runs through Mothers Day.

fountain

Hulda's bedroom

Hulda Klager’s bedroom in the old house.

Hulda's kitchen

The kitchen in the Hulda Klager house

Not all the lilacs were in bloom, but enough were to satisfy my craving for them.   While we were there, the sun peaked out just enough to give me some blue backgrounds.  I was testing out a new Nikon Micro lens and was in search of a good lilac close-up.

good lilac

white lilac

pink lilac

A Moskvy Lilac at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

We toured Hulda’s house, only open during the Lilac Days, and enjoyed her garden.  Her home was built in 1889.  She worked with lilacs for years, and had 14 new varieties to show for it.  She passed away in 1960, and the local garden club stepped in to save the home and gardens.  Since 1976 the Hulda Klager Lilac Society has owned and maintained the Gardens.

grounds

The Hulda Klager home and gardens

sensation lilac

Sensation Lilac

After touring the lilac gardens, we headed south toward the Willamette Valley.  I had made reservations at the Joseph Mattey House B&B, square in the middle of the Oregon wine country.   The Joseph Mattery House B&B was built in 1892.  It was comfortable, centrally located and with gracious propietors who made a wonderful breakfast.  I would recommend staying there, and they even gave us passes for free wine tastings in the valley.       http://matteyhouse.com/

Mattey house

Mattey House B&B

Just minutes from the Mattey House B&B is Anne Amie Vineyards.  That was our first stop for wine tasting on the first evening.  There is no better view of the Willamette Valley than the tasting room at Anne Amie.  And it turned out to be complementary because we were staying at the Mattey House.

Anne Amie view

The view from the Anne Amie tasting room

Anne Amie tasting

Mattey house Pinot Noir room

The Pinot Noir room at the Joseph Mattey House B&B

Mattey house vines

Our second day was set up with two wine tastings.   Four Graces is located in Dundee, Oregon, a short 15 minute drive from the Mattey House B&B.

4 graces tasting room

The Four Graces tasting room.  The people were awesome and indulged me with a blind tasting.

blind tasting

I had made this appointment in advance, and requested a blind tasting.  Having just finished the book Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker, I have been trying to train my nose to pick out different scents.  Four Graces brought in three bottles in paper bags, so I could taste them blind.  Yes I knew they were Pinot Noirs, but the Four Graces wine list includes 22 Pinot Noirs, so I had no illusions that I could match the glass with the exact wine, but I was happy to be able to pick out the reserve from the three glasses.

L at 4 Graces

mom at 4 graces

My mom at Four Graces

The Four Graces Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is perfect for summer, so I ordered a few bottles.  My mother and I tasted four Pinot Noirs, all good, but the 2014 Lindsey’s Reserve Pinor Noir was stellar, so I also ordered two of those.   We also both liked the 2014 Dundee Hills Reserve Pinot Noir.

Patton valley

The “Smelling Station” in the Patton Valley tasting room.  It was fun to try to name the scents.

mason jars

From the Four Graces tasting room we drove back roads through the valley to the Patton Valley tasting room in Gaston.  This is another of my favorites.

On the wall of the tasting room they have a shelf of mason jars containing essences of what you might smell in a bottle of wine.  My mom and I went through the line-up, testing our smelling capabilities.  It was fun.

One of my favorite Pinot Noirs from Oregon is the 2012 Patton Valley Lorna-Marie.  It is no longer widely available, but a few bottles were discovered in their library, and I put them on hold.

We got lucky with a few moments when the sun broke through, but Oregon is pretty water logged at this point and most of the residents are ready for some sun.

Wee Willie closeup (2)

Wee Willie Winkie, my Oregon cat

Posted in Family, Food and Wine, Oregon, Seasons & Holidays, Uncategorized | 1 Comment