Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Alexis Bailly Vineyard – 18200 Kirby Ave So., Hastings, MN 55033

Alexis Bailly Vineyard, it was the best of atmospheres, it was the worst of wines.

grapevines outside of Alexis Bailly

The Alexis Bailly Vineyard will draw you in between the vines being right there, close enough to touch, to the tasting area, and the outdoor area where you can sit and drink.  I wanted to bring a basket of crackers and cheeses and make a picnic and enjoy wine at this vineyard.  Of all of the Minnesota vineyards this one feels like a real vineyard and winery.

wine equipment Alexis Bailly

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about the wine.  I will put in a disclaimer that the winery had just passed to the daughter and she did not seem to care about the wine as much as would be expected.  It is possible that she simply was a bit overwhelmed.  I did not taste a single wine during my visit that I wanted to drink more of or purchase.  That being said I am not sure if the wine has improved since then.  Sometimes people have a bad year and it takes time to figure out exactly what you are doing.

wine casks and portrait at Alexis Bailly

The wines feature a Frontenac grape which was developed by the U of M to withstand Minnesota winters.  Hardier does not always translate to a great tasting grape and part of my issue was probably this particular grape in their wine.

It looks like they may have won an award with one of their wines back in 2014 which had the Frontenac grape in it so somebody must like it.

rock chair at Alexis Bailly

If you want to enjoy a beautiful winery, see the grapes, sample some wines, and maybe sit back and take in the vineyard I would suggest going to this winery once.  Maybe the wine will not disappoint you.  It just was not for my pallet.

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower – Wyoming WY-110, Devils Tower, WY 82714

The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is a bit off the interstate, but absolutely worth the drive.  I have made a point of stopping 3 times to take a stroll around this big boy or at least snap a few shots.

Take advantage of this natural oddity, and the first national monument in the United States.  How did it come into being?  The legend is 6 or 7 little girls depending on the tribe were out and saw a bear or bears.  The ground rose up lifting the girls away from the bear(s).  The bear(s) tried the climb the tower, but could not reach the girls and clawed the sides.

The tower is amazing from a distance, but once you get close to it you will see the true awe.  There are 2 trails around the tower and you can climb the side of it.  It is really climbing and you need to check in before you start your climb.

2006 devil's tower rock climbers
The white dots are people.

You can just walk up and take a few snap shots without walking around this tower at all.  The best views of the tower are from the entrance.  It shows the scratched sides the best.  The boulders around the front are pretty interesting as well.

2006 devil's tower front view

The inner trail is of course shorter at about 1.3 miles.  The front and and the right side have the best views and pictures so if you can only do part of the trail do this section, counter clockwise.  You can also get a great view of the climbers in this area.  Some of the rocks around the base of the tower are huge.  Don’t fall into one of the cracks.  As long as you stay on the trail you will be fine.

2006 devil's tower inner circle

The outer trail is a bit longer, but has some other amazing views at 2.8 miles.  This trail heads away from the tower and gives you an outer view of this enormous structure.  We took this one to the left, clockwise.  devil's tower 2015 outter circle 59You will walk part of this in the grassy area and part of red soil.  You will find yourself stopping ever couple of steps just to snap another shot.

devil's tower 2015 outter circle 44

The views around the back away from the tower are fairly spectacular as well.

devil's tower 2015 outter circle 50

This trail gives you both some close views and some distant views of the tower.  It is worth the trek around nature.  You may even get to see a few deer like we did.  Just check yourself for ticks when you leave.  The trail brushes by a few pine trees and it is easy to pick those little bugs up as you pass by.

I cannot quite express how amazing Devil’s Tower is to view.  If you get a chance to see this national monument make sure you take advantage of it.

Big Horn Mountains

Big Horn Mountains – Wyoming via highway 14 or highway 16.

The route through 16 is the easiest one to pass.  Only a small portion of it is twisty and winding.  That portion is pretty neat and not too scary.  We usually take this route as we pass through.

Bighorn Mountain sky

The route through 14 is more scenic and I believe there are hiking trails on one of the offshoots.  Honestly there are a million trails in this area, but we found an easy one along the river on one of our trips through here.

Big Horns River along trail

I have seen bikers (cycling) traveling through the Big Horns.  I cannot imagine taking a bike up or down this mountain.

The views are amazing.  Stop as often as you can to take in those big skies and beautiful canyons.

Big Horn scenic view

Enjoy your trip through the Big Horns.  There are some neat little towns along the way.  You can make a trip out of traveling through the Big Horns, but more than likely you will be on your way to Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower, or Harney Peak in the Black Hills.  Happy travels.

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass – part in Wyoming (northwest corner before Yellowstone), part in Montana and all so beautiful.

Wyoming welcome sign tug of war between Montana and Wyoming Montana welcome sign

This drive is not for the faint of heart.  It twists and turns, it circles up and circles down, and all the while the view is amazing.  There are plenty of places to turn out and take a photo and you will want to stop and take those photos.

View of trees and mountains from Beartooth Pass

The bridge has a view to make your stomach drop.  It is horrifyingly beautiful.  I might be afraid of heights and that honestly almost makes it even more beautiful.  Those rock faces are incredible.

 

The bridge on Beartooth Pass

Even the valley portions of the drive are so incredible.

Green valley on Beartooth Pass

You can reach the top of the world on this road.

Sign for the top of the world

You can take as long as you want getting through this drive.  There are just so many beautiful shots that you can take it will be difficult not to spend hours driving on this pass.

View of mountains and valley from Beartooth Pass

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park – northern corner of Wyoming.

Sure Yellowstone National Park is just a huge volcano, but really who doesn’t enjoy risking their own lives walking on the crust of a giant volcano.  No risk, no reward and let me tell you the sights inside Yellowstone National Park are worth every moment of risk.

Bring your sunscreen!  I cannot stress this enough.  You will be outside walking around near pools of water all day.  Oh, and how incredibly beautiful these pools of water are, and dangerous.  A pool of water in Yellowstone National ParkThe water is so hot and deadly that if you fall in you are dead.  The microbes that live in the water are nothing to be messed with either.  They are what gives the water its beautiful coloration.

Beautiful light blue pool in Yellowstone

Let’s walk you through the park.

The first thing you need to know is do not try to get near the wildlife!  The locals take bets on whether the first tourist injured will be eaten by a bear or gourd by a buffalo.  DO NOT BE THAT GUY!  You can get out of your vehicle if the animal is far away, but not if they are close.  Do not get closer in an attempt to take a selfie with the nice buffalo.  They may look peaceful, but they are a huge destructive force of nature.

OK, now I can take you through the park.  You could easily spend a week in this park taking everything in.  There is both food and lodging in the park, but get a reservation for the lodging.

I will take you in through the East entrance.  The first thing you will come across is the fishing bridge, which you cannot fish at ironically enough.  Park, get our, and walk across it.  Take a photo, get back in your car.

Yellowstone Lake

Now you have a choice.  You can travel north to the mud volcano and Uncle Tom’s Trail or south to Old Faithful.  I would go north first.  Stop at the mud volcano.  It sticks of sulfur so prepare yourself for that.   Once you have your fill of the bubbles move north.

You are heading to Canyon Village and upper and lower falls.  This is where you will find Uncle Tom’s trail.  328 steps down to the bottom.  I hope you are in shape.  Really I have done this trail twice and the second time nearly killed me.  On the other hand I have seen a 60 year old make it all the way down and back up with less trouble than I had.  I tend to overheat and it was just too hot for me that day.  The upper falls are easier to get to if you want a short walk.  This hike is something to brag about so try it.

I am  not a huge fan of the northern loop.  If you have time check it out.  The mammoth hot springs are kind of neat.  Lots of animals along the road.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

OK, now get yourself down to the main attraction, Old Faithful.  You can tell your friends to what you on the webcam.  Wave and smile.  Wait for Old Faithful to go off so that you can say that you saw her.  OK, now for the cool geysers.  What?  Yeah, behind Old Faithful is a trail that walks past some of the coolest geysers out there.  Sure Old Faithful is big and regular so you know you will see her go off, but some of the ones on the trail are amazing.  It takes some luck and timing to see these guys in all of their glory, but there are many smaller ones to see as well.  Sunscreen, I must reiterate, have sunscreen for this walk.

No this isn’t everything.  There are so many things to see in this park you really do need about a week to see it all properly.  If you are short on time hit the big attractions:  Old Faithful and basically any place along the lower circle.  These will be your must sees.  Check out the lake.  Stop and walk around whatever looks interesting to you.  Maybe take a quick pass through the top half and check out the mammoth hot springs.  I feel like you see more animals in the top half and more water attractions in the bottom half.

A bridge and steam in Yellowstone

Stay on the trails at all times.  Bring a camera.  Enjoy yourself.

*Camera tip:  to get your camera to focus in steam include a railing or something that it can focus on and the rest will magically become clear.

mist and a wooden walkway

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

Buffalo Bill Historical Center – 720 Sheridan Ave, Cody, WY 82414

You could easily spend days in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  In fact it is more than just one museum.  There is all of the history to the left and a gun museum to the right.  Museums can be boring in my opinion, this one is not dull at all.  I enjoyed my walk through history.

A sign for Buffalo Bills Wild West show

The museum is in Cody, WY where William “Buffalo Bill” Cody had a ranch outside of town.  Large map with Cody Wyoming on it.The museum itself is in town and easy to get to.  The museum is filled with historical information and items from the past.

Animals represent a large part of the draw of Wyoming and this museum has tons of them.  From buffalo to the elk and bears of the area.

Display of buffalo

Did I mention the guns?  guns on the wall in cases

I do not believe I have ever seen so many firearms in one place.  There are walls of guns from riffles to hand guns to shot guns and more.  I have heard of men spending an entire day or two just looking through this section of the museum.  It really is quite impressive.

If you find yourself in Cody, WY with a day to spare I highly suggest checking out the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  I promise you will like it.

Steelhead Vineyards Pinot Noir

Steelhead Vineyards Pinot Noir

This wine kicked my butt, but it did not call me names.

The aroma of Steelhead Pinot Noir is divine once you allow the wine to breathe.  It is the kind of smell that says, this will be a good wine.

The wine is smooth, but not overly smooth.  There is a hint of dryness to it and something that my pallet does not like.  I am sure that whatever that hint, that flavor is that my body did not like is exactly what started the room spinning on my second glass.

That is right, only two glasses of this wine and I couldn’t see straight.  Fortunately I somehow managed to avoid a hangover, but what happened?

Steelhead Pinot Noir bottle

Based on taste, texture, and flavor I would say this is a great wine.  Based on how it treated me I am leery to try it again.

I will give this wine a 3/5 for now.  Maybe I will try again and be able to up that rating to a 4.

Dr. Loosen Riesling – Video

Dr. Loosen Riesling (Dr. L) was suggested to me by the president of the company that I was working for at the time.  He tried it and thought of me.

When I came across it in the store shortly after he suggested it I immediately bought a bottle and this became my new favorite wine.  I think I drank only this wine for four of five months straight after that.

It is the kind of wine that you can just sit down and have a glass.  It is smooth and slightly sweet.  It is easy to drink.  There is nothing bad about this wine.

This wine would be very easy for a person who doesn’t like or hasn’t developed a taste for wine yet.  It is sweet so it isn’t going to prepare you for a Merlot or Pinot Noir sometime down the road, but it could be your stepping stone to a sauvignon blanc or a chardonnay.

Not that you need to step up from a Riesling.  It is a wine of perfection in and of itself in my opinion.

If you are looking for a white wine I would highly suggest Dr. Loosen.

I give it a 5/5 rating.

Naked Riesling

Naked Riesling

I believe that this Riesling was very good the first few times I had it.  Good enough that we bought several bottles.  I recall it being smooth and not too sweet or bitter.  Perhaps on the level of a cabinet.

One thing that I must state is that this wine should not be stored in a sun room.  No wine should ever be stored in a room that turns into a greenhouse everyday.  This made my last experience with this wine not very good.

Naked Riesling bottle

That being said I do think that this wine is a very good wine.  There is nothing wrong with the flavor.  It is very smooth and drinkable as any good Riesling should be.  It isn’t amazing, but it is good.

This wine would pare well with fish and pork.  Pork maybe even better than the fish.  I would definitely serve this wine to guests.

I would rate this wine a 4/5.

Left Coast Cellars Pinot Noir

Left Coast Cellars Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir

This wine was suggested to me as a smooth wine from Oregon.  Two words that will always peak my interest when speaking about Pinot Noir wines, smooth and Oregon.

The wine seller was right that this is a good wine.  It is not too expensive, fifteen to twenty range.  It was fairly smooth with only an ever so slight bitterness.  The flavor was in no way overwhelming and not cumulative.  For me any negative flavors tend to come out and start to overwhelm me the more I drink.  This wine was just as good with each sip, if not better.

Left Coast Cellars Pinot Noir bottle

This is an interesting wine to have in your cellar.  I kind of wonder if this one wouldn’t be better a little aged.  It tasted like it had potential.

This particular wine was estate grown and bottled which should mean they used their own grapes and did not mass purchase those grown somewhere else.  This gives you an idea of the quality of the estate.  You generally try to put your best wines in bottles that you announce that you grew the grapes.

Overall I would give this wine a 4/5 rating.  Have no fear serving this wine at a dinner party.