Tasting Notes

Wine Recos

May 02, 2011

Au revoir...arrivederci...auf wiedersehen...adiós

Four years ago today, I launched this site as a means to chronicle my experiences connecting with the people and places behind Oregon and Washington wine. In keeping with this site's name, I yearned to go beyond the bottle to learn more about the land, the growers, the vines, and the makers who craft some truly extraordinary wines here in the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, I wanted to share these experiences so other consumers could become more connected to our region's bounty. What an incredibly fulfilling and deeply satisfying journey it has been these last four years. During...

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April 30, 2011

Maryhill 2009 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley

Full Disclosure: This wine was provided as a free sample from the producer. In the glass, the Maryhill 2009 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley (12.6%) was a clear, straw yellow/green color delivering floral, stone fruit notes combined with wet stone and a slight signature hint of petrol. On the palate, this Columbia Valley riesling offered crisp acidity and a pleasing minerality, with enough residual sugar to balance everything. I enjoyed this wine, especially knowing its price point of $14. I would definitely pick up another bottle of two. Related Links Maryhill Winery Site...

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April 13, 2011

Seven Hills 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Single Vineyard)

Full Disclosure: These wines were provided as a free sample from the producer. Seven Hills Winery has been a long-standing favorite of mine in the Walla Walla Valley. Year in and year out, Casey McClellan (founder/winemaker) has consistently produced well-balanced, low-alcohol wines that one can enjoy with a meal without it overpowering everything. And I enjoyed visiting their tasting room a few years back, which offered a true "beyond the bottle" experience (see review here). So I was excited when some PR folks representing Seven Hills Winery reached out to see if I was interested in trying a few samples....

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April 12, 2011

Brick House 2008 "Evelyn's" Pinot Noir

In the glass, the Brick House '08 "Evelyn's" Pinot Noir (13.5%) was a clear, garnet red color delivering these ethereal notes of fresh summer red berries with a hint of spice. The aroma was so delicate, so lovely, so pretty - an elegant wine. In the mouth, this Ribbon Ridge Pinot noir was well balanced and structured with a delicious combination of fruit, acidity, tannin and minerality. I wanted to experience more of the sights, smells and tastes of this wine after every sip. Glad to know there are a couple more bottles in the cellar to enjoy in the...

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March 14, 2011

Help Save the Bees

SlowFood USA is petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to commission an objective study to identify the causes of bee colony collapse disorder (CCD). I signed this petition not only to express my support for the study, but also counter any undue pressure the EPA is receiving from chemical interests to not take action. But action is exactly what is needed on this important issue. To learn more about this growing problem, please visit the SlowFood USA site, where you can also sign the petition online. In addition, here's a recent article on the global reach of CCD. Thanks to...

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February 23, 2011

I seek wines that make me reach

Over the last few months, I have been pulling a variety of Oregon and Washington wines from the cellar rather than buying new releases. I am doing this for a couple of reasons, one being the fact that my storage space had reached its capacity and another the sense that some older bottles might have passed their prime. It's been an interesting experience revisiting some of my favorite wines from the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages, as well as bottles that had been given to me or were purchased during tasting room visits. In doing so, I have...

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February 07, 2011

The Hands of Harvest

Here's a short video containing several dozen photographs from last Fall's wine harvest in the Willamette Valley...best viewed in full-screen, HD mode...enjoy....

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February 03, 2011

Cameron 2009 Giuliano Willamette Valley

This is a deliciously fun white wine in so many ways. The Cameron 2009 Giuliano (13.2%) is a blend of five varieties: friulano, auxerrois, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, and moscato. As a result, it's full of pretty floral notes in the glass, with these lively scents of apricot, peach, pear, and pineapple. Each sniff brings another layer of fruit to the surface, all of which is resting on an appealing foundation of minerality. The Giuliano blend provides a full mouthfeel, with a viscosity that avoided becoming syrupy. I really liked the residual sugar balanced against the crisp acidity in this...

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January 21, 2011

Well deserved praise for 2008 Oregon Pinot noir

Eric Asimov, wine critic at The New York Times, gives high marks to Oregon Pinot noir after he and several others in a panel tasted twenty different wines from 2008. Asimov joins an expanding chorus of reviewers heaping praise on this vintage - you can see his list of recommendations here. While Asimov cautions that his top ten picks aren't necessarily the "best" Oregon Pinot noir from 2008 (rather, just the favorites from the twenty tasted), I am not surprised to see some of the producers featured on his top ten list of recommendations. Belle Pente (#1), WillaKenzie (#2), Adelsheim...

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January 11, 2011

Brick House 2008 Chardonnay Ribbon Ridge AVA

I love this wine for so many reasons... It's an incredibly delicious, captivating wine, a Chardonnay made in the style of white Burgundy (e.g., whole cluster, neutral oak, native yeast, lees, unfined/unfiltered). The estate's twenty year old Dijon vines (clones 75, 76, 78, 99) are cultivated using sustainable practices (e.g., certified biodymanic and organic). The Chardonnay fruit is hand-picked and hand-crafted, with minimal intervention throughout the winemaking process. At only $24, it's an inexpensively priced Chardonnay considering the high quality, especially to others in its category. The 2008 Brick House has special memories attached to it as well. I first...

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January 06, 2011

Most Popular/Favorite Posts from 2010

Here's a list of the most viewed (and implied read) posts from last year, along with my favorites published in 2010. One thing is clear about this site: most of those visiting seek wine reviews or tasting notes. Even still, a significant number of visitors read my "Perspective" posts, which focus on relevant topics that go beyond how a wine tastes. A heartfelt thanks to all of you who visited BeyondtheBottle.com in 2010. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences with Oregon and Washington wine. I also hope my coverage helped enhance your own enjoyment of a wine,...

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December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays from BeyondtheBottle.com

Wishing you happy holidays! I look forward to sharing more of my experiences with Oregon and Washington wine in 2011. Hope you are able to enjoy a glass or bottle of something special from our region in the days ahead. Thanks for visiting and following my posts. Sincerely, Thad...

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December 05, 2010

Holiday gift ideas that go beyond the bottle

For that wine (or food) enthusiast on your holiday shopping list, here are a few gift ideas that go beyond the bottle. Please know that I am not receiving any compensation for recommending these products nor do I have any stake or interest in the companies behind these items. All products featured here are ones that I have purchased myself and would buy again. Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest by Cole Danehower This book lives up to its title as being "essential" to anyone just starting to enjoy Pacific Northwest wine or a long-standing lover of our...

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November 30, 2010

The worst or best of times for Oregon Pinot noir?

As the image above shows, there are some incredible deals right now when shopping for Oregon pinot noir. Who could have imagined two years ago that $30 bottles from the 2007 and 2008 vintages would be marked down to a $17 price point? Some producers and négociants did, which is why a plethora of new labels have been filling retail shelves and endcaps with Oregon Pinot noir under $20. Rather than drop prices on existing brands, some have chosen to launch new bottlings of Pinot noir at price points as low as $15. At the same time, others have...

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November 21, 2010

Seven of Hearts 2008 Chardonnay Yamhill-Carlton

In the glass, the Seven of Hearts 2008 Elvenglade Vineyard Chardonnay Yamhill-Carlton (13%) was a light, golden yellow color revealing floral citrus notes combined with a pleasing spice and minerality. On the palate, this mostly barrel fermented chardonnay had a predominant vanilla flavor, but it was tempered by the lemon peel and tropical fruit notes as well as the bright acidity. The lingering finish was pleasing due to the wine's minerality. I liked this $24 wine and look forward to future vintages from this producer. Related Links Travel Oregon Blog Review Seven of Hearts Web Site...

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Misty Oaks 2008 Constitution Ridge Pinot Blanc Umpqua Valley

Full Disclosure: This wine was provided as a free sample from the producer. I continue to be intrigued and delighted by Pinot blanc from Oregon. Unfortunately, I think it remains an undiscovered, if not underrated, wine. Over the last several years, I have really enjoyed drinking a variety of Pinot blancs from around the Willamette Valley. Little did I know that the Umpqua Valley was producing a terrific wine from this variety in the Misty Oaks 2008 "Constitution Ridge" Pinot Blanc (13.8%). In the glass, this estate grown Pinot blanc was a clear, light straw color offering notes of lemon...

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Biggio Hamina 2009 Pinot Grigio Cougar's Mark Vineyard WV

I am not a big fan of Oregon Pinot gris, as most seem monochromatic to me. I rarely buy it, opting instead for more interesting white varieties from the state such as Chardonnay and Riesling. My subjective palate even finds Pinot blanc more intriguing than most Pinot gris. The Biggio Hamina 2009 Pinot Grigio Cougar's Mark Vineyard Willamette Valley (12.9%) is an exception and enough of a standout that I would definitely buy more of this $17 wine. In the glass, this wine was a clear, light straw color, providing tropical notes of melon and pineapple combined with mineral scents...

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November 15, 2010

Photos: Belle Pente's biodiversity

When it comes to wine, there are tasting rooms, there are wineries, and then there are farms. Belle Pente Vineyard and Winery is a true farm, with a range of biodiversity that might surprise those who visit, including me. I arrived expecting to find rows of grapes, but instead came upon a diverse collection of animals grazing in the pastures surrounding the Belle Pente estate vineyard. Case in point, a small herd of Scottish highland cows with two six month old calves. Their moms were highly attentive to anyone approaching the fence, especially with a camera pointed at them...

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November 13, 2010

BeyondtheBottle.com is now on Facebook

If you're a member of Facebook, then you can now enjoy BeyondtheBottle.com at Facebook.com/BeyondtheBottle. Just visit the page and select the "Like" button and it will be added to your news feed. In doing so, you will have access to additional commentary and coverage of Oregon and Washington wine, as well as connect with others within the Facebook community. I invite you to add our new Facebook page to your favorites and use it to share your comments about my coverage of our region's wines and the people and places behind each bottle. Along the way, please feel free...

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Video: Harvest Day 2010

Last month, I had the opportunity to spend two days at Lemelson Vineyards, capturing a variety of activities during the peak of harvest in the Willamette Valley. This short video offers an intimate look at the hard work and team effort that goes into harvest each year, from the pick in the vineyard at sunrise to the sort in the winery thru sunset. Harvest Day 2010 from Beyond the Bottle on Vimeo....

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November 11, 2010

St. Innocent 2008 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir

In the glass, the 2008 St. Innocent Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (13.5%) was a clear, light garnet red offering red berry fruit, spice, and earth to the nose. On the palate, this Eola-Amity Hills pinot delivered well-balanced, rich fruit with bright acidity. A mineral thread was present from its intriguing start to its delicious finish. I am smitten with St. Innocent Pinot noir as well as their Chardonnay. And I commend these folks for the efforts they take to connect consumers to their wines. The back label of this and other St. Innocent bottles explain in detail where the...

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Review: Farm to Fork, Dundee, OR

It's a rare occasion when I will eat at the same restaurant twice in one month, let alone the same week. And I have yet to recall a situation where I have chosen to eat another meal in the same restaurant within a 24 hour period. Well, Farm to Fork in Dundee, Oregon, is now the only restaurant where I have eaten four meals (two dinners, one lunch and one breakfast) within such a short period of time. It's that good, plain and simple. Granted, I was staying at the Inn at Red Hills making it extremely convenient to...

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Cameron 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Cameron has become one of my favorite producers in the Dundee Hills AVA of Oregon. Year after year, these folks know how to craft outstanding wines from Dundee Hills fruit. The 2008 Cameron Pinot Noir Dundee Hills AVA (12.8%) is yet another example of excellent viticulture and fine winemaking. I could wax poetic about my experience drinking this wine, from the garnet red color in the glass, to the delights this bottle revealed in terms of fruit, acidity, and minerality over consecutive nights. But to be honest, Michael Alberty of Story Teller Wines in Portland does this wine better justice...

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November 09, 2010

Photos: The birds and the bees in the vineyard

A watchful eye and a handy shotgun were some of the approaches taken to keep birds away from ripening fruit at Brick House Vineyards. This year's harvest in the Willamette Valley suffered from a severe bird problem. Up close, you could see the damage from clusters picked clean of fruit. From a far, you could hear the shotguns, canons, and bird calls throughout the day. While birds were being scared away, honeybees didn't seem affected by all of the noise, as was evident by this one enjoying a taste of Brick House chardonnay the day before it was harvested....

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November 07, 2010

Photos: Chardonnay fruit at Belle Pente and Brick House

The fruit at both Belle Pente and Brick House tasted absolutely delicious on the vine. I am looking forward to opening a bottle of each 2010 Chardonnay a year from now. Chardonnay in Belle Pente Vineyard Chardonnay in Brick House Vineyard Related Links More coverage of Belle Pente Vineyard More coverage of Brick House Vineyards...

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November 04, 2010

Photos: Filling the bins with fresh picked fruit

Here are two of my favorite shots from the Belle Pente Vineyards harvest last month. It was amazing seeing how quickly these bins filled with fresh picked fruit. The pace this crew undertook to pick the fruit and load each bin was humbling. Thank goodness there are folks like the ones who worked this vineyard to bring this harvest in and eventually bring the fruit to our tables. Again, I am humbled by their hard work harvesting. Filling the bins with fresh picked fruit Clean clusters of delicious Pinot noir...

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November 03, 2010

Photos: Friends sorting Brick House Pinot noir

For a number of harvests now, several of Doug Tunnell's longstanding friends travel from distant lands to lend a hand picking grapes, sorting fruit, and doing whatever else that is needed. As old friends do, there was a lot of back and forth between Doug and his mates, which made for good fun as they worked a long day from the vineyard's rows to the barn's sorting table, processing bin after bin. I observed that there is more than just fruit that goes into Brick House wines; friendship plays an important part in crafting each bottle. Related Links More coverage...

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November 02, 2010

Photos: An afternoon at Brick House Vineyard

Upon arriving at Brick House Vineyards to shoot one afternoon during harvest, Doug Tunnell and Melissa Mills invited me to first sit down with the rest of their crew to have a glass of wine as they finished up a late lunch. That's what it is all about - taking pause and soaking it all in before getting back to work. I like that approach and appreciated the kind welcome from Doug and Melissa, who were such gracious hosts throughout my stay. Grace is a word that aptly describes Brick House wines, ones that I am a big fan of...

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November 01, 2010

Photos: Picking Pinot at Belle Pente

In yesterday's post and photo, I described how steep this vineyard was to climb and how out of shape I was trying to ascend it. Here are a couple of shots captured as the crews quickly harvested Pinot noir in this section of the Belle Pente estate vineyard. For more photos of harvest and other wine-related scenes, click on any photo or the Flickr module in the right hand column. Hope you are enjoying these images from harvest in the Willamette Valley. B>Related Links More coverage of Belle Pente Vineyards...

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October 31, 2010

Photos: Sunrise on Belle Pente Vineyard

With the sun about to rise over the horizon, I raced past the crew that had started picking Pinot noir at the bottom of the Belle Pente vineyard to find a high point from which to shoot. As I ascended the hillside, it dawned on me how steep this vineyard was and how bad of shape I was in. I instantly gained respect for those picking fruit, a group of men and women, young and old, who would quickly and methodically move up these slopes, without ever seeming to pause for a rest. I arrived to take this shot out...

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October 30, 2010

Photos: Harvest in the Willamette Valley

For three pristine days this month, I had the privilege of visiting several producers in the northern Willamette Valley, who were all at their peak of harvest activities. At each location, crews were hand picking tons of Pinot noir in the vineyard, while teams in the winery were hand sorting countless bins of fruit. It was a truly connective experience each day walking the rows and tasting the fruit at sunrise, following the harvest through early afternoon, and then finally watching clusters being sorted well past sunset. During harvest, the day's work is clearly never done until the last bin...

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October 17, 2010

With Starbucks serving wine, local producers should benefit

As a passionate consumer of Oregon and Washington wine, I am always eager to introduce folks near and far to our region's bounty, be it gifting favorite wines to scattered family and friends or sharing wine experiences with readers on this site. Not only do I enjoy introducing people to these wines, but I especially like seeing them become instant converts. It's unfortunate that Washington and Oregon wines aren't more widely known and available in other parts of the country. I am frequently disappointed when traveling outside our region to see how under-represented (if non-existent) Pacific Northwest wines are...

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October 15, 2010

Love & Squalor 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

There is something very telling about a wine when you unexpectedly discover during your meal that the bottle is almost, if not entirely, empty. You're so caught up in the enjoyment of it with your dinner, that you honestly forget about how much you (or those around you) have consumed. Not until you reach for another pour when suddenly that bottle feels unexpectedly light...and unfortunately empty. Such is the case with Love & Squalor Pinot noir. When my wife and I first experienced this wine more than year ago at clarklewis, we were shocked at how quickly a bottle of...

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Evesham Wood 2009 Chardonnay Willamette Valley

After enjoying a several bottles of this wine over the last few months, I realized that it had yet to be covered as a tasting note. As evidenced by the aforementioned consumption pattern, I am a big fan of this reasonably priced Oregon chardonnay ($14). The Evesham Wood 2009 Chardonnay WV (12.5%) was a clear, light golden yellow in the glass, delivering floral aromas of pear, peach, and lemon, combined with scents of crisp minerality. This Chablis-style chardonnay offers balanced fruit, acidity, and minerality on the palate - very refreshing with a lasting finish. We paired this Evesham Wood chardonnay...

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Evesham Wood 2009 Blanc du Puits Sec Eola-Amity Hills

The Evesham Wood 2009 Blanc du Puits Sec (12.5%) is delicious Alsatian-style wine, blending 90% Pinot gris and 20% Gewürztraminer, with small quantities of two other German grapes, Rieslaner and Kerner, included. In the glass, this Eola-Amity Hills white wine was a light yellow straw color in the glass delivering aromas of pineapple, pear, melon and peach fruit along with hints of spice. The Blanc du Puits Sec offered a light mouthfeel, with a nice balance between fruit, acidity, and residual sugar. We enjoyed this Evesham Wood with spicy Thai food and also as an aperitif the next evening before...

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September 30, 2010

Evesham Wood 2007 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills

For those who might have dismissed the 2007 vintage, I encourage you to get your hands on the Evesham Wood 2007 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills (13%). This wine is delayed gratification in the bottle...or better put, grace in the glass. Granted, I am clearly biased here - I remain a huge fan of the 2007 vintage in Oregon, as these are my kind of Pinot noir. Graceful, elegant, understated, ethereal...all fitting descriptions for the Evesham Wood Le Puits Sec. The last time I experienced this Evesham Wood pinot was the 2005, a bottle that made me an...

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St. Innocent 2008 Freedom Hill Chardonnay WV

After enjoying their 2007 last year and the 2008 this year, I am hooked on St. Innocent Freedom Hill Chardonnay. In the glass, this Willamette Valley chardonnay is a clear, vibrant yellow gold, delivering round aromas of floral peach and pear to the nose. On the palate, bright notes of fruit and acidity combine to make you want to sip more of this delightful wine. And the minerality that arrives in the finish is really appealing, prompting me to fill my glass again. I stocked up on the 2007 for the same reasons I am going to buy more of...

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September 29, 2010

Cristom 2008 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir

I really enjoyed the 2007 vintage of this wine, therefore was looking forward to trying the 2008, which did not disappoint. That said, the Cristom 2008 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir at 14% was a bit higher in alcohol relative to the 2007, which showed in the finish. Even still, we enjoyed this Cristom Pinot noir with our grilled King salmon, farro, heirloom tomatoes, and olive bread. A clear garnet red in the glass, the 2008 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee conveyed predominant red fruit aromas with an earthiness that followed. On the palate, there was balanced fruit flavors and acidity with...

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Crowley 2007 La Colina Vineyard Pinot Noir WV

A terrific wine, one that I am so thankful to have more of in the cellar. In the glass, the Crowley 2007 La Colina Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (13%) was a clear, deep garnet red color, delivering wonderful red berry fruit, earth, forest floor, and spice to the nose. On the palate, the Crowley La Colina ($36) was an incredibly well balanced wine, combining a harmony of cherry fruit flavors, complimentary acidity, and decent tannins. A smooth, round lingering finish. I have become a big fan of Tyson Crowley's wines with each bottle opened. His 2007s are reason enough...

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September 14, 2010

Hand-washed dishes vs. machine-picked grapes

Our dishwasher broke down yesterday, therefore I have spent the last two nights hand-washing more dishes and glasses than I care to count, let alone remember. Hopefully, our dishwasher will be repaired tomorrow afternoon, whereupon I will be relieved of this manual, time-consuming task. In the meantime, I have a newfound appreciation for the benefits this machine has brought to our lives, let alone millions of other households around the world. This appliance has reduced what was once hours of manual scrubbing into a quick load of mechanized cleaning. The dishwasher, and other appliances like it, are truly beneficial machines....

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Photography by Thad Westhusing


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