No Ordinary Adventure

Special Episode: The Thrill of Wine Tasting on the Rivers

July 29, 2022 No Ordinary Adventure by UnCruise Adventures
No Ordinary Adventure
Special Episode: The Thrill of Wine Tasting on the Rivers
Show Notes Transcript

In this extended episode, Captain Dan chats with experienced sommelier Julie Brigham, a self-proclaimed wine nerd (and UnCruise Adventures crewmember), and Dunham Cellars Communications Manager, Breanna Maiuri as they sip and share about all things wine. Hear Captain Dan's first homemade wine-making experience at the age of 14. More wine inspiration from around the world, and the fantastic wines in our own backyard of Washington and Oregon states.

Get comfortable, grab your own choice of wine, and let's recount childhood travel memories and how they connect to the olfactory senses in our brains and discerning wine flavors. We unfold the history of Dunham Cellars, the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and what you can expect when you journey with UnCruise on the Rivers of Adventure and Wine. Following a long tradition of storytelling in our episodes, we also dive into what to look for in wines, how they are aged, how to choose your favorites and other tasty vignettes and anecdotes throughout the interview. Come along for the No Ordinary Adventure!

Connect with Dunham Cellars at:
Order wine and join the wine club:
Guests will visit Dunham Cellars on their 7-night adventure with UnCruise Adventures:

Follow No Ordinary Adventure and UnCruise Adventures:
YouTube: UnCruise Adventures
Find more at

Contact the team at

Want to know more or want to leave us a voice mail for the podcast? Leave us a message here:

Hey adventures. Welcome to the no ordinary adventurer podcast, a place we call home for adventure and the conversations you want to have. We bring you inspiration stories from the field and talk with adventure travelers and industry experts from around the world. This is the place to fill your heart and head with tribal knowledge. Now, your host Dan Blanchard, a lifelong Mariner traveler, and CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a small boat adventure company defining the icon in UnCruise. Let's get started. Well, welcome everybody. This is Captain Dan Blanchard of UnCruise Adventures, and welcome to my podcast today is a little different. Because I actually have two excellent wine folks with me today. One of them we work with very closely from Don sellers, and another one is on staff with us and those Somalia in our own right. So we're going to talk wine today. And you know, I think we all have to agree that their adventure and wine is a great combination. Again, think of a better way to finish a ride, finished a hike, sit on the bow of the boat, and to have a really great glass of boom Cellars wine. And we carry Dunham on board. And we of course, feature them on our columbia river adventure trip as well. So we're really happy today to have a wonderful lady Brianna. And she's from Dunham cellars, and she's come from a long line of Italian farmers. So I'm sure that maybe she even has some Italian, Italian would say, Oh, this is so good or something. But because she comes from a long group of Italian farmers, which of course is the cradle of wine issues brings so much to the wall wall Wine Experience. And of course us with dumb sellers. She works as a manager of communications and events and this kind of thing. But she definitely has a passion for wine. She's been in the wine industry for over a decade. And but a lifetime of experience in food and adventure and of course wine. So Brianna, welcome. Thanks, Dan, I'm excited to be here. Well, you know, I'm not only excited to talk to you, but I just have the background art and the fact that you have a bottle sitting by itself to your right. And the only thing I regret is that you and Julie are going to get a chance to taste and I'm going to observe because I'm the designated driver, I think someone forgot to share with you that you're supposed to always have a bottle alignment. Will see I'm already learning always have a bottle of wine in hand. I'm picking up what you're putting down. Well, I also want to introduce you to Julie and Julie is on staff with UnCruise Adventures has been for quite a while. And this fulfill many different roles on board the boats. And and today, Julie, you're in a new position as well, because I as I recall, you're working in recruiting as well, isn't that right? Yeah, I just switched over to recruiting, you know, having a small child and working on the boats is not entirely compatible. But, you know, I still managed to sneak away to do the Somalia job every autumn. So that's very exciting for me. Well, that is very exciting. We're just we're just so happy to have you on our recruiting team. And, of course, I'm sure you have a requirement that people pass for any position, just basic wine knowledge is out, right? Yes, absolutely. Although I don't tell them that I'm a sommelier when I asked them about wine varietals in their interview. Oh, that's true. Well, you know, a, one of the things that I think both of you will appreciate is that, you know, since we've been running on the Columbia and Snake River system for many years now, wine and wine tours and food pairings and the history of the area have been super key highlights and you kind of stir that and mix it up with an adventure trip. And it was really an ideal thing. But Brianna from a standpoint of you know, maybe you could share with the listeners about Dunham cellars and what that history looks like and how it got started and how we work to this wonderful place today. Yeah. Dhanam was founded in 1995 by Joanne and Mike Dunham, and Mike's son Eric. They were the ninth bonded winery in Walla Walla and they kind of thought they'd be the last and it just exploded after that. And now there's over 150 wineries here. We started with our flagship wine, Cabernet Sauvignon which I have in my glass because you have to and we've just expanded from there, we started a wine club we added on buildings. We started in an old World War Two airplane maintenance hangar and put a wall in the middle of it, put a drain in the floor, and we're crushing and doing everything on one side of that hangar and then barreling down in the other side of the hangar. And just started from really nothing. And then now we have a seventh building campus and a beautiful spot for everyone to come visit whether they want to sit inside or outside. We have our founders artwork all over, which is what's behind me. Eric Dunham was an avid painter and cook and obviously winemaker, and it's just a really fun family atmosphere to be involved in now and be able to sit back and watch while I'm grow as the time goes on. Yeah, I love the story about the airplane hangar I have heard it before, but what you what you don't know. And what Julie doesn't know is that, you know, my dad was a World War Two aviation mechanic and he would test pilot the planes even though he wasn't an official pilot. And so, you know, when I've been down there, I just kind of revel and I looked around thinking cash, you know, my dad wasn't stationed here. But there's part of Jim Blanchard living in that that building, I'm convinced bring a little tear to my head and think about quite frankly. But that's one of the things I've always loved about the denim sellers story for sure. But you mentioned that you have a cat, or we get a you to kind of get a chance to taste this. Oh, I will. And Julie well, so maybe maybe the two of you could share with me and I'm gonna jump ahead just because it feels right for you to to have a have a drink, and I'll be the designated diver. But maybe maybe what we could do is granted you could share about the wine and then Julie, you walk us through the tasting and how you how somebody really goes through a tasting. Would that work for you guys? Well, so Brianna, tell us about it. Yeah, so Julie and I both have Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a board over idle that is typically picked last in our area in the wall curry region. It takes longer to ripe in longer for the fruit and the phenomics to develop. And then it goes through the standard crash fermentation and then malolactic fermentation, and then aging in the cellar. And it gets what we call new oak, it gets about 40%. That's standard for our red wine profile, especially on the cab, and we age it in bottle for a couple years. And then we release it and enjoy it as long as we can. Because each vintage is different and unique. And so I know Julie can go into a little more. So what details then this particular one that you're having today? What year is this? I have the 2018 2018 so it sucks that sometimes it's through the hard days of COVID. Yeah, we're reminiscing about pre COVID times when we drink the 2018 Oh, I love that. So So Julie, what are you and Brianna thinking about right now as you're gonna pour that glass and taste it what kind of process you go as a professional in really tasting? Well, if you come on the river cruise of our one of my presentations, because I'm a real big nerd is on the science of taste. And I like to do that the night before we go to Dunham actually so people can be thinking about that as they're tasting at Dunham cellars, you know, they say wine is history in a bottle or sunshine in a bottle. I really think that about this cab. But when I tell people because I think a lot of people have this idea that you're supposed to, you know, be able to list off Oh, it tastes like wet stone or you know, write blackberries. But I always tell our guests, the person the more personal the connection is, the more it will actually imprint on your brain. So if you're trying to remember a wine or connect with a wine, if it smells to you, like you know riding a horse as a kid through your grandfather's pasture, or you know, like eating ripe blackberries on a sunny day with your kids, definitely, those are a little bit more obscure things to say like you can't just say to a table a tooth like the blackberries in my uncle's garden from when I was four. But you know, you can you can remember that and it helps you to be more descriptive. So for me, that's the first thing. The other thing is that your sense of smell and taste are so interconnected in your brain and actually we're just starting to understand how our sense of smell works. Humans are actually way better at smelling than we have I've given ourselves credit for, in some cases, almost as good as rats or dogs. So, but it reaches our brains very quickly. So you can't expect yourself to be able to list up a whole range of things unless you've actually spent some time smelling things. So that's the other thing that I always say is, if you're eating a fruit, smell it first, it may sound strange, but that's the first thing that we would usually do. Actually, if you're evaluating wine, as a professional, you would usually look at it first. But I think more importantly, you're going to swirl the wine in your glass. And that's to get those volatile aromatic compounds going. So here we go. And then you're gonna stick your nose in and you don't just snort, you think, sniff delicately, like maybe a dog sniff a stent across the room. So because you don't want to fatigue your olfactory system. And usually what I tell people is grab onto something if you smell something familiar, and usually fruit is the easiest thing to start with. So I actually have the 2017. And you know, I keep saying blackberries, this definitely, to me has some of these black currant blackberries, black fruit, so often, it's easier to just first identify the color, you can tell me if I'm nerding out too much, Dan. No girl learned. But you can identify the color of the fruit first, or even if you are smelling some florals, it's sometimes easier to associate color, then to say, Oh, it's this specific fruit. So I would say this has black and maybe a little red fruit. And then you can follow that little rabbit down the rabbit hole. So you could say okay, smells like black current. Are they fresh blank currents? Are they underwrite black currents? Are they cooked? Are they dried? One of their components like do I smell any spices often if you smell different components that can give you clues as to how the wine was made or age. So for example, baking spices or leather or warm spices, pie spices, can tell you that it was aged in oak barrels, you know, you take down your your tasting ears, smelling notes, sorry, and then you get to drink it, which is great. And it's a little bit undignified if you roll air over the wine on your tongue, and then before you swallow it, and then you can suck air through your mouth. I'll demonstrate it's very addictive. You know, very professional, very, very professional, professional and there you will choose Brianna if he is your face, and I can't wait to see you this item to know this one. I just I was really impressed by this one. When I first tried it. I've only had it aged for a year. Less than a year. I mean, it's 2017. So it was sitting in you guys this feller but I could tell even when it was young that it was going to have a great structure for aging. And it just every time I drink it, it gets better. It's going to be hard for me to sit on those other bottles that I have for here. So Brianna, what do you get out of it? Well, mine is a 2018, which is a warmer vintage than 2017. In Washington State, the vintages got progressively warmer each year after 2012. Actually, up until this year, we're experiencing a cooler vintage. I taste more of the red cherry and the blueberries. So a little bit brighter Jameer fruits then Julie's tasting. Okay, now you too, of course, are both professionals and you're speaking to us in in terms that we would expect you but I will take a little tip and now let let from what you said, Julie, I mean, you know if it smells like asphalt, say and so now take off your professional and try to put it in terms of when you were a child before you knew all about wine and tell me what what are the words that come to mind now because now you're speaking Dan's like, Okay, this smells like, you know, when you're crossing an old wooden bridge in a park, and it's in the middle because I grew up in Seattle. It's in the middle of the Himalayan BlackBerry thickets, and like the planks are a little bit sunbaked and the blackberries are super ripe and some of them are falling off and a little bit rotting. That's and the leaves are warm. That's what it's like I can picture that. That means something to me. Okay, great. Well, let's see what you can come back with on that one. To me, it's kind of like, kind of like if you were eating high out at the lake while camping. I grew up in Montana. So it's kind of like a summer Montana night. It's what it reminds me like but Hi but I really liked the pilot camp while camping. That's just like, I mean, that's like luxury. Well, there's oak and wine. So it's natural to have some of that characteristic in there. True, true good stuff. So bringing it when we talk about, you know, Dunham and that kind of thing. Oh, you know, as far as the orchard goes, what kind of grapes do you grow there? So in the vineyard, your vineyard excuse me, okay. Like a farmer now? Yeah, you know, there are orchards south of us and north of us. Okay, so you're not far off. But vineyards, the fields that we grow the grapes in ours personally, we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, we grow mirlo Riesling, Malbec, petit for dough, Chardonnay. And these are in no particular order. And those are our main varietals that we produce. And then we also source Oh, and ganache. I think I forgot ganache. But we also source a serving on Blanc from contracted vineyard that we that we love and we're super close with. So we do a little bit of sourcing from our own vineyard. Our own state is what we call it. And then we have long term contracts from other vineyards that have different profiles and terroirs that we don't have direct access to. And we contract with them and get those fruit, the fruit in every year. So in Washington, there are many, many, many more winemakers than vineyards. And that's because of the geography of the state with the rain shadow. So most of the grapes are grown in eastern Washington, but a lot of the wineries are actually on the western side. So there are I think more wineries in Washington than in Oregon. But there are way more vineyards in Oregon because of the geography there. Most of the time, the grapes are grown by the winemaker, but in much, much smaller areas. Very good. That's good to know. Now, let's talk a little bit about the difference between red and white. And, and I know some of this just because I've done a lot of our wine trips, but for those that are listening, why do you age, a red wine and white wine I am because you know, anytime you go to buy a white wine, it's in the refrigerator usually, or often. It's a grocery store the wines wine outlet, whatever. And but it's not like you're buying a vintage, you're generally buying an aged wine for the most part. That's why is that the simplest way that I can get listeners started on understanding it is a red apple versus a green apple. There are different flavors in the skin. That's where the meat of it is. It's not in the meat of the fruit, it's the red grapes have more in them, they have more phenolic they have more tannins, they have more things that develop during the growing process that we utilize in the fermentation process. So white wines are stay stay white, because we immediately press the juice out of the out of the skins. And we throw away the skins and we don't use them for the most part during fermentation, which is about a two week process. The red grapes, and the that turn into red wine, get soaked, they get broken up, they get crushed. And then they get masked serrated, they get soaked with those skins, those red skins, which stains the juice, so it turns it red and it leeches out all of those tannins and all of the beautiful things that are in the skins and that's what flavors the wine. And so white wine is more delicate, it's more susceptible to the warm temperatures. So you want to chill it and you want to have an have a chance to have that experience of it coming to the perfect temperature and really seeing just the right amount of synoptics and kind of suppressing that alcohol flavor component to it. So it helps balance it to chill a white wine. I I'm picking up what you're putting down now what about you know, do we want to say I go and buy some white wine that I don't finish up this summer, which is generally you know, white to white guy during the summer months and but what happens if we just let white wine store I mean, is that is there an issue with that? Does it go bad faster? I'm just curious. If you've opened it, no closed it does go it doesn't last as long as as red wine. Unless it's unless it's reasoning reasoning ages really well, but Most white wines don't aged very well, because they just don't have the structure in them. They don't have the pH and the acidity in them to really hold up to that age. I was gonna say things that help wine be able to age because there's some reds that don't do well with aging either. If they're more delicate, I mean, they can still age longer than your average weight, but it's tannin, and tin. And actually, this is where I'm going nerdy again, tannins, actually, as they age they bond together and fall out of solution. So that's why you get sediment in older reds and, and some older whites, you can get tannin into whites by aging in them and oak. So if if a white has been aged in oak, if it has higher residual sugar, or if it has a higher acidity, you can usually age it longer. But you know, you definitely need to have good conditions for it. One last point about aging if you ever want to know how a wine might age you can call the producer and they'll talk to you people call me all the time and I give them my best guess you know when we we talk about wine obviously, you know I enjoy wine a lot many of us do when I go shopping but I tend to look for you know the grape that I'm looking for for that particular dinner and pairing and so you two are both enjoying a 17 and 18 cap from Tom sellers. I'm just interested from each of you and maybe we'll start with you Julie and then go to ground what could because we are talking to different vintages what would you pair with that particular model Julie? I mean the classic is is steak and I actually drink a different one of my other bottles of this with just a really easy prepared ribeye with a little canvas Allah and it was out of this world. But you know, you can also go kind of highbrow lowbrow, and eat it with a burger. Yeah, you can eat it with pizza actually is really good with cab weirdly, I know never. I was gonna say ribeye, we have a dinner coming up for our wine club members and ribeye is on the menu. And we're pouring the Team Cap. And that's all I've been able to think about for the pairing idea. Even though it's very fruit forward, there's a lot of acid in this wine and you want, you want to give it something to cut through. So ribeye topped with a slab of butter, when it's finishing would be perfect. Even if you had like a meat heavy pasta to kind of push through something that was like a creamy pasta. That would be really good. I like it. I just sounds like you really want to a pretty full kind of meal with this. Pretty hearty overall. Which I like. Yeah. So you know, talking about Dunham again. We're going to be down there very soon. I'm so excited. What's, what's the process? If you don't, because a lot of our guests, we encourage them to buy wine at the different locations we go. But what how does that work for Donald and particularly, you know, a lot of people worry about, you know how they're going to be able to ship wine home when they're from different states, is that still an issue? It just depends on where your guests are from. You bring so many fabulous people to us that are from all over. And it's always a different mix. But over the years, I have learned to create a form that has every single piece of information on shipping that they could possibly want to know. And then they can see if I can ship to their personal state. They tell us what they want. They fill out their information, I take their form, and I wait a week, at minimum to ship it. We wait longer if there's weather delays, if it's too hot, a lot of people don't realize you can't ship wine when it's hot. Otherwise, it will just boil in the bottle and your mind will be ruined. So we take all of that into consideration any special requests from the guests like Oh, I'm traveling for four more months, we'll hold it that long and ship it when it's best for them. So I think Julie can attest we've streamlined the process pretty well we know that you guys are on a on a timeline and you want to get down to Walla Walla to go check out downtown and so we make it as easy as possible. Well, and one thing I've learned my secret is I always carry an extra big roller bag with me. I can get two cases in there, which just about maxes out the airplane weight and and so I found that I go to my office where we have some of the hard fact of luggage. And I always take that down with me and I can almost always get two cases going so thank you for that. That's my tip to everybody. Bring an extra bag and just take it home with you. It works but also if you fly Alaska not to tell one airline specifically, but it is the regional one, certain airlines will let you check wine as a piece of luggage and certain airlines will let you do it for free. So definitely look into your checked bag policy with who you're flying in and out, have to get to UnCruise. Okay, I'm down with that good advice. So So Julie from from your standpoint, can you just describe, you know what the Wine Experience in general looks like when you're on an UnCruise adventure on the Columbia and Snake River system, you know, the program was designed by a nerd, you can nerd out as much as you want, or you don't have to, you know, there's a lot of adventures for people to go on to. But if you do want to nerd out, so I do more casual lunch pairings every day. And then I do dinner pairings and dessert pairings every day. So, you know, you're welcome to have a PBR or whatever, if you want to do that. But there's no pressure. But if you want to, you know, ask me why I paired certain things, I would love to talk to you about it. And then we do a lot of history of the area. Because you know, one of the cool things about going down those rivers that you get to see the geology as you're going down the river, you can see the different layers of soil. And really, we don't quite understand it, but soil is so important to the finish wines. And then you can see like, where the Missoula floods went through. And that was such a huge thing in the history of the area that has such a big impact on our wine, both in Washington and Oregon. So I talk a lot about the history, I give you a brief overview of wine and how it's made and you know, go a little bit, go back to the beginning of fermentation and, but also, you know, we do go over the science of taste. I like to do a junk food pairing so that you can learn the concepts of pairing. We get to go to Walla Walla and we always get to go to Dunham Brianna forgot to tell you about their their pup, they always have a pop there. That's right. Yeah. So great. Yeah, Sadie is so cute. And so adorable, consistent crowd favorite. We get to like, we get to see where all of the water from the Missoula flood stop, we get to actually like drive right past there. You know, in wall, a wall is so integral to the history of Washington wine. And yeah, I guess at the end, by the end of the week, if you're so inclined, you should know more about, you know, the chemistry of wine, the science of taste, the history of the area, you know, the geography of Washington and Oregon and just a little bit to have a little more confidence about your own wine knowledge. And you know, wherever you're coming from, I really tried to make it. If you know a lot about wine, you can still hopefully learn something about maybe chemistry or if you don't know anything about wine. I want to make it really approachable to everyone because it doesn't, it's not an easy thing. It's just as amazing, wonderful. Chemical magic. I love the chemical magic. It sounds like such an oxymoron. I love it. It's that I love the nerdy in that. You know, I just want to tell you both I just learned this today. But UnCruise Adventures and the wilderness legacy which runs on the Columbia and Snake rivers just was awarded in the top 10 in the world river cruise companies. And I mean in the world, and it's all based on the Columbia Snake River and our wine and adventure program. And you know, what's, what's cool about this, the sticks and river companies in Europe, and all this kind of thing. And not only we're in the top 10 But we are rated fourth amongst all the people that voted in the USA poll. And so cheers to both of you for making that happen. Right. now's a great time for guests that are listening to this podcast to call him for his adventures because we've got some offers, particularly for our last two sailings, which we're kind of gearing even amping up the wine more on our last two sailings in October and that's gonna present some opportunities for us to you know spend a little bit more time on the wine than then and it's still mixing with the adventure. So I think in addition to what you're saying, Julie I just want to you know, call out what a great way to go to get a little sweat on your brow during the day or in the morning and then go to a winery in the afternoon or have a Somali a on board the boat that evening. It's just such a great thing. Well, is there any you know recap that you might have three out of the listeners might appreciate hearing before we we close out and maybe share with us also how people can find you and done them online and that kind of thing. One thing I wanted to add to Julie's discussion About the cruises is, as a venue and a host. It's really cool to see all of these people. All of these years, I think I've met one or two people that have actually been done on before, had ever heard of Walla Walla before, really, they were on it for the adventure side and not the wine side. And they come in and I talk and they're like, Oh, I learned that Julie, Julie taught us that. And at the right time of the tour season, we've got fruit coming in. So they're tasting the specific varietals. And the crew is crushing literally on the other side of the room, and they're seeing it and it's all kind of coming together for them. And we're doing it in a setting that's just so without pretension. It's not pretentious at all. And it's just, it's our home. And these guests are coming in. And it's just a really fun time for us. And you can tell for the guests as well. So it's super cool to be a part of it. But as for where to find denim, denim You can order directly from us, you could join the wine club, you could visit us for one of our many events that we do throughout the year, we do a big festival weekend called Dunham days, we do harvest winemaker dinners, you could host a private event, you could come for a tasting, whatever you want. If you can't travel the wall, and you can't, you don't want to order wine and you want it right then give us a call, we're probably in your area, we have an awesome national sales manager who works the country and gets our wine all over. So we're probably in bottle shop or restaurant near you. So pretty easy to find us. And I would highly recommend it. I think that anybody that tries Don's product and Julie, I think you really put it well. Just the consistency that is there is amazing. And you know having having picked up many cases from you in the past have mixed wines. I you know, it was just amazing that all of it was super good quality 100. It was for me I like you know, I like easy drink, but also like the work complex calves and such. And I was just I think it hit home. And so thank you for all you do, they're very much appreciated. Do you really want to to finish up on any thoughts you might have? I just wanted to say people are always asking me, how what's the best way to buy the product that we feature. And I always say call the producer because like Brianna said, if you know, if you can't wait for them to ship it, they can usually tell you what, who distributes it in your state and where to get in touch with them. They're so helpful. And you know, going through the winery is so fun, because like Brianna said, you get to actually see what they're doing. They're actually making the wine right there. In the case of denim, they have all this cool furniture made out of my barrels, which is beautiful. They also make vinegar which I have been basically drinking your 18 year balsalmic all summer. Amazing news for you. I need to get like a nice this time. But you know, it's just fun to see, to see everybody in action. So I think that's one of the real treats for me about working on the river. But also, I'd say just form a relationship with your local producers, or you know, the producers in other states to call them they're super approachable. Well, ladies, thank you very much, Brianna. I'm looking so forward to get down to to Dunham and truly Of course, I'll be sailing with you this fall once in September and I think one once in October. So looking forward to being awkward with you again and just experiencing wind adventure. Thank you ladies blessings. And thanks. Well, this is Dan Blanchard with no ordinary adventure signing off with Julie and Brianna today. It's been really great having you too long. And we look forward to having you again. And I'll just remind everybody, that we start on the river here very shortly. We have great offerings out right now. And also look out for our September 3 trip where we're going to have a media crew on board. And we'll be getting a lot of stuff out in social media right after that trip about our cruises on the Columbia and Snake River. It's an awesome place. So for Captain Dan, thank you ladies and we'll see you next time thanks for listening to no ordinary adventure sharing locally harvested stories about adventure Be sure to subscribe leave a review tell a friend and help spread the word we are a community of nature lovers, intrepid travelers and outdoor adventure are mostly from the comfort of a small boat and we want to spread our love of this fascinating planet that's it for this episode now get inside