Friday, May 28, 2010

From the Labeling Line to Our Mouth: '08 WVV Estate Pinot

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This weekend is Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country in the Willamette Valley.  As pretty much one of the biggest deals in the wine event calendar in Oregon from a consumer perspective, it presents an opportunity to visit wineries normally closed to the public and taste wines just being released for the year. Today we got to taste one of those very wines, straight off of the labeling line and a day before being released to the public!

Jill, a soon to be contributor to The Oregon Wine Blog from Spokane, and I were traipsing around Oregon wine country trying to beat the crowds today when we happened upon one of our favorites, Willamette Valley Vineyards. After a brief Twitter-machine rendezvous, Christine, the face behind WVV's social media presence, met us in the tasting room with a huge smile on her face and a bottle in her hand. Exclusively for The Oregon Wine Blog, she had finagled a bottle of the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir literally off of the labeling line for us to take home to review. You see, tomorrow has been the much anticipated release of this fabulous wine, however, the labels didn't arrive to the winery until yesterday. Talk about cutting it close!

Why the delay on the label, you ask? Glad you asked and I'm happy to tell you. WVV has been working on a label redesign for all of their future single vineyard designate and Signature Cuvee wines -- a label that is crisp, clean, elegant, and beautifully describes the wine it encapsulates. The '08 Estate is the first to be graced with the new label so keep your eyes open for it at your local wine shop in the future. On to the wine.

Wanting to get this review out for your consuming needs this Memorial Day Weekend, we popped the bottle open after a delicious dinner of steak, halibut, and Oregon vegetable bounty. Immediately on the nose we noted a nice spice with relatively balanced notes of earthiness and fruit. The nose didn't scream "classic Oregon Pinot" but it did scream "delicious." We didn't have to wait long to find out.

On the palate we found quite a bit of tart fruit with hints of pomegranate, cranberry, and cherry backed with some subtle tobacco.  We found this to be a "very very good" pinot that could perhaps benefit from a little more time in the bottle before reaching it's peak.  It is bold enough to stand on it's own without a food pairing, but would go great with dinner as well.  It is among the first of the 2008's we've tasted and based on this example, 2008 is showing to be an excellent year for Oregon Pinot.  Definitely one to grab while they have it, as the Estate doesn't always last long on the shelves.

Thanks as always to Christine and the good folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards, and if you are looking for a great place to spend your Memorial Day, their tasting room is the place to do it.  Oh, and awesome job on the new label!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wine Country Resort Destination: The Allison Inn & Spa


Have you ever had an experience that completely changed your mind about something you thought or believed? The Allison, for me, was that experience. I'd never stayed at a resort before because I never understood the appeal. The whole idea struck me as stuffy and overdone and I'm too rugged to be a resort guy. Well, this was before the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon let me come stay there and take a test drive on behalf of The Oregon Wine Blog at a special rate.

Nestled in the north end of the Willamette Valley between the Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountain AVAs, the Allison is surrounded on all sides by the slopes and vineyards that make Oregon a world class Pinot Noir producer. They've also planted some small vineyards of their own onsite, though it'll be a few years before they're mature. The Allison Inn & Spa opened in the autumn of 2009 and it is a spectacular example of Northwest luxury. A LEED Gold certification puts The Allison in excellent company; fewer than 25 hotels worldwide have received LEED Gold status. It also makes the Allison fit firmly within the ethic of the Northwest's commitment to sustainability.

The Allison's restaurant and bar, The Jory, was named for the red soils of the surrounding vineyards in Willamette Valley. The Jory serves bistro style meals that celebrate the local ingredients of Oregon's bounty and the bar has 100 different Oregon Pinot Noirs, including 50 different by-the-glass pours, and various tasting flights, including one of three 2007 Pinot Noirs titled "The Critics are Wrong." Jory sommelier Ercolino Crugnale was recently recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top seven sommeliers in the United States.

There was a lot to be impressed with at The Allison Inn & Spa. Every detail was perfect, and it was all comfortable. The stuffiness I had associated with resorts was non-existent. They let you bring your dog, for Pete's sake. While the Allison pulls out all the stops for you and your pet, it also offers dog walking and pet sitting as well as sweet room service. Elsie made out with some lamb, kale and pieces of baguette.

While Elsie was getting room service, Gwynne went to a massage at the Spa at the Allison. In her words: "The massage was amazing. I could heap adjectives on top of that, but bottom like was that this was, hands down, the best massage I've ever had and more than worth it. From the moment I walked in until I left, the spa and the staff was phenomenal and helpful - even volunteering to keep an eye on the clock for me so I could relax in the steam room. I've never been someone who could sit on the beach all day or hang out at a spa - it seemed dull and not worth the time. After this visit, I completely understand the desire for a spa day. A steam room, a sauna, and the softest robes imaginable... On top of those, the big things, it's such a little thing, but I was really grateful that the locker room had hair ties and bobby pins to tie back my hair. Thoughtful touches like that show me the spa at the Allison knows what they're doing. If you're in Newberg, even if you're not staying at the Allison, make a reservation for a treatment. You'll thank me."

While Gwynne got "one of the best massages of her life" I went to the "living room" off the bar. The fireplace was crackling and I took in the the jazz trio and a glass of Penner Ash Pinot Noir while looking out on the grand lawn as dusk settled in on the Willamette Valley.

We had dinner at The Painted Lady instead of Jory, but all in all, the experience at The Allison was a refreshing one, on many levels. The decor at The Allison is tasteful without being ostentatious and comfortable on top of that, classic Northwest. They've combined luxury with attention to the environment and sustainability, blending the two more seamlessly than I've ever seen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Anam Cara Cellars...A Truer Sense of Place

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Six years ago, Gwynne and I made our first trip to Willamette Valley as new oenophiles. We were eagerly slurping down Oregon Pinot Noir, and enthralled with its elegance and its seemingly heightened sense of terroir when compared to much of the Washington wine we'd experienced. However, our youth came with certain monetary realities, and our ability to stockpile this gem in a bottle was somewhat limited. Nearly all of the wines we were tasting were over $20 and six years ago that was a stretch for us. With fish hooks sharpened in our pockets we made one last stop at August Cellars as we headed back to Seattle.

There was a lot going on at August Cellars: they were celebrating their recent grand opening and there were Oregon creameries and chocolatiers to round out the offerings. In the back of the facility sat a table with a Pinot Noir. One taste of Anam Cara Cellar's Pinot Noir and we were infatuated with the wine. We dug deep past the fish hooks. This was a wine we had to take home with us, price be damned. That wine - their first vintage - stayed in the wine rack for a few years, and when we did open it with friends, we relived that trip and those days when we had a sane wine budget.

Since that trip Anam Cara Cellars has always been the exemplar of Oregon Pinot Noir in my mind. On our recent trip to Willamette Valley we had the opportunity to visit with Sheila and Nick Nicholas of Anam Cara at their estate vineyard and home, located atop the 36-acre vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Sheila invited us for a stroll through the vineyards and Nick talked a little about the work he had ahead of him with bud break coming. There was bud thinning to be done, but the weather had been miserable after a mild winter. The vineyard had been an orchard, planted in 1906 with hazelnuts, walnuts and plums. Those all, Sheila pointed out, lend appealing character to the soil that gives Anam Cara a unique element of terroir. She'll get no argument from me.

To get started, we tasted through a flight of cool-climate Rieslings by Trisaeteum, Argyle and Brandborg as well as the Anam Cara Riesling. Anam Cara is a part of a movement in the Chehalem Mountain AVA to promote Rieslings grown in cooler climes. The flight of Rieslings showed the range of this varietal often dismissed as a sweet wine. The cool climate wines ranged from sweet honey notes to a refreshing smack of green apple and other bright fruits. A number of the winemakers are also putting a slide gauge on the back label of their Rieslings to indicate how sweet the wine is on a range from dry to sweet.

As we moved into their Pinot Noir I had to chuckle a little. Here I was with the owners and viticulturalists for a wine that we enjoyed so much and which held so much nostalgia for me and I was drinking their wine with them, and hanging out in their dining room.

Anam Cara Cellars makes a few different Pinot Noirs. They consult with winemaker Aron Hess from Daedalus Cellars but are heavily involved in the crafting of their wine. Nick spends a lot of time and thought on the clones they grow, managing the growing conditions and the cooperage selection. A full 20% of their total barrel inventory is new oak, which Nick likes a medium to long toast to pair with his fruit.

The 2008 Pinot Noir marks their fifth vintage, and they did some screw caps on this release. Nick and Sheila did the math on that first vintage we took home with us, and it cost them a fortune at almost $900 a bottle. Our splurge that day looked quite meager in comparison. In addition to the Nicholas Estate Pinot, there is an Estate Reserve, the 2007 of which Nick feels is almost ready for release after 17 months in the bottle. They also make two wines that are single block or barrel select wines. The Heather's Vineyard Pinot is a single block 114 clone Pinot Noir. The wine is elegant with brighter fruit character and a beautiful ruby color. No new oak is used on the Heather's Vineyard so you get a real sense of the fruit and floral aromatics on the nose. Like its namesake, their daughter, the Nicholas were looking to craft a beautiful and expressive wine, highlighting the elegance of the grapes. In contrast, the barrel-select wine, the Mark I, is a broad-shouldered Pinot Noir that speaks to the new oak and toasted notes that come along with it. While the Heather is chosen based on the block, Mark (so named for their son) is a barrel selection. When you compare the earthen characteristics and deep dark color of the Mark I to the light fruit character of the Heather, it goes a long way toward showing the versatility of the Pinot Noir grape.

The two wines produce a Yin and Yang effect. Using different clones, the Nicholas' have been successful in demonstrating the versatility of their fruit and site. Nick has crafted wines that speak not only of Oregon in a way that shows reverence for the terroir but also of his skill at producing Pinots that allow different elements of the fruit their chance at the spotlight.

Our time with Sheila and Nick was really incredible. We got to experience a wine that we really love with the people who know it best. We made new friends that morning and were thrilled and thankful for their hospitality and generosity. The name, Anam Cara, is Celtic for "friend of my soul" and is really the only applicable name for this wine made by these friends who clearly put their heart and soul into their vineyards, and ultimately their wines. We look forward to seeing Sheila and Nick again, and highly recommend you check out their wines, or pay them a visit when you're in the neighborhood.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Upcoming Event: 3rd Annual Wine Rocks Seattle

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If you recall, back in the autumn I posted an article about the 2nd Annual Wine Rocks Seattle. As you can see, it's back, and maybe a bit early, or maybe it's right on time. The event has shifted venues, and what's more rock n' roll than the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle? Well, maybe you say, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but I've got news for you, genius. That's in Cleveland. If they make wine in Ohio, I'm scared of it. So, back to our story...

The 3rd Annual Wine Rocks Seattle event is kicking off on Thursday evening, June 3rd from 7 until 10pm. That's in a couple weeks. The event benefits Art Corps, a non-profit that is committed to teaching arts to children of all economic background. Art Corps believes that art plays an important role in the education and daily lives of young people and the communities they live in.

At last year's Wine Rocks Seattle, there were a few things worth noting. There was the unbelievable wine that showcased the phenomenal work being done here in Washington. There was awesome music. There were winemakers rocking out and that bald guy from The Presidents of the United States of America even sang a few songs. And there was food and the food was silly good, folks. Silly and good. It was so good it was silly is what that means.

So get your tickets now, because last year's event sold out fast. If you see me there, say hello.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Beautiful Afternoon at King Estate Winery

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Last weekend I was asked to speak at The University of Oregon to students from the entire Oregon University System who were about to study abroad. I've done this a few times now and it's one of my favorite reasons to visit Eugene. I say that because now I have a new favorite destination; King Estate Winery.

My speaking engagement wasn't until 1:30, so the plan was for Josh, Alyssa, and I to hit up King Estate when they opened at 11. I had never been there before, but Josh had been talking it up for the better part of a year and what better way to check out a winery than at the minute they open? As we scaled it's long, winding driveway, we were greeted by this view:

Did I mention that it just so happened to be the most beautiful day of the year?

As you can see, King Estate isn't your average tasting room. In fact, it's a tasting room (technically two), vineyard, full service restaurant, and self-sustaining farm. We'll get to those last two points later. On to the wine!

We walked up to the tasting bar and were greeted by both Randy and Jill. Jill, who has been with King Estate for about a month, was receiving some words of advice from Randy, who is a veteran of the wine industry for approximately 21 years. As he put it, even his experience is old enough to drink. We certainly appreciated this as both were incredibly warm, friendly, and open to any questions we may have had. While talking about blogging, the Oregon wine industry in general, and of course King Estate, we had the opportunity to sample a dozen or so wines.

2007 Domaine Pinot Gris
This organic, 100% estate grown pinot gris is one that immediately jumped out to Josh. It's picked up quite a bit of hardware lately and I'm always excited to find a great pinot gris. This one certainly stood up to its reputation as possibly the best pinot gris I've ever had. While crisp like most Oregon gris, this one deviated from the standard green apple and pear hues by also incorporating those of more tropical fruits, such as tangerine and pineapple. Definitely worth picking up.

2008 next: Oregon Pinot Noir
King Estate's next line is their own foray into the under $20 wine market. What made this pinot noir stand out? It's a $18 pinot noir with all of the characteristics of one twice as much, just toned down a bit. I've found that many entry-level pinots feel a bit unfinished with a ton of tart, but not this one. Randy mentioned that this was specifically made to be a great pinot and not just what they had left over with a new label slapped on it. I highly recommend this one as well.

2007 NxNW Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
King Estate's NxNW line of wines is a really intriguing concept. Like many wineries who source grapes from the Columbia Valley or Walla Walla AVAs, it's sometimes not always clear which state your grapes are actually from. The solution? Embrace it with a new label celebrating your grapes' diversity! Their Walla Walla cab, for instance, sources from 11 vineyards. Their Columbia Valley cab, while completely different, sparked my interested with its unique hues of dark cherries, coffee, and plum.

With all three of us now equipped with full glasses of the previously mentioned cab sauv, Randy graciously offered to give us a tour of the facility. It's tough work, but we're semi-professional wine bloggers, so we had to agree.

Our first stop was outside looking over the estate while Randy explained what exactly we were looking at. The various plots of grapes were obvious, but what none of us realized is that they also grow various orchards of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even bees for honey! About 30% of this is used in-house at their restaurant, while the remainder is all donated to FOOD for Lane County. Definitely cool and always encouraging to see the great things our local wineries do for their communities.

Next up was to check out their production facility. On the way we learned about the King family themselves, who were the original founders of King Avionics. I didn't think avionics had much to do with winemaking until we saw how incredibly high tech their production facilities were. Not only were they spotless, but they're all connected to an internet-based monitoring system where the winemakers can view statistics from the comfort of their homes and change settings as needed.

From there we saw their bottling facility, the original tasting room, and this beautiful barrel room

I was running short on time at this point, so it was time for lunch! Randy handed us off to Tara, who was our server for the afternoon. As Randy put it, they essentially grow everything on-site aside from the beef (which is from 5 miles down the road) and cheese. I was immediately sold on their house-cured pastrami placed on house-made bread and house-made sauerkraut with a side of house-made chips. The verdict? The best pastrami sandwich I've ever had. Josh had the KE Burger, which also happened to be the best burger I've ever had. All in all lunch for three (minus drinks) was only $28. By far your best bet if you're anywhere near Eugene and want a phenomenal meal.

When we were done with our meals, Tara stopped by with what was described as a mispour of their pinot noir from the bar. It otherwise would have had to have been poured out, so might as well give it to us! We obliged and did our part to aid King Estate's conservation efforts.

All in all one of the best winery experiences I've had. A HUGE thanks goes out to Randy, Jill, and Tara for making our afternoon so memorable. King Estate is definitely a gem worth visiting for phenomenal wine, great people, and some of the best food I've ever had.

King Estate Winery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Draft for Palate

Romance Required?

Wine is beautiful. It's a romantic expression of the soils and climate in which it was grown. It's the essence of the fruit that struggled in rocky or sandy soils to produce a concentration of character. The wine has aged a few years in a barrel and can tell us what 5, 10 or 20 years ago tasted like. Wine in and of itself, is romance.

The romantic ties to wine go far beyond it's inherent character, there's a mystery to the process of wine making. There's the cork, everyone talks about how romantic that is. The presentation of wine carries with it tradition and romance, the stemware, the rituals.

Romance is over rated. Laurelhurst Cellars has a location that is about as romantic as a felony conviction for armed robbery. The winery, which may have had more romantic beginnings, is now located in Seattle's uber industrial Georgetown Neighborhood. The product of the hard work and passion, of three friends, Gabe Warner, Dave ???? and Greg Smallwood. Laurelhurst Cellars now resides in the rear of Greg's industrial equipment business. But make no mistake about it, this an endeavor based on love if it may lack a little of your traditional romantic trappings.

Despite this seeming discrepancy when it comes to romance, there's a lot of passion on the part of Dave, Greg and Gabe. Laurelhurst Cellars is a small winery by any standards, and all three of the guys have day jobs. Their dedication to the winery is not without enormous personal expense, both in cash out of pocket and their time. At significant periods in the winemaking process, from racking to bottling they spend late late evenings in the cellar, er, uh warehouse.

The passion though is apparent in the wines. Laurelhurst makes

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#WAwine ...#WAthehelldoesthatmean?

WAWine June 3

Josh Wade is an evil genius. If you look at his blog logo and Twitter picture, he's staring at you. Nay, he's staring through you, peering into your soul from behind that red "N." Like a Sesame Street segment on the letter N gone evil: "N is for Necronomicon kiddies....muhahhahahaha." The Evil Genius of #WAMerlot fame is at it again, and this time he's not stopping at Merlot, there's more #WA though. Josh likes the #WA. Hell, we all like #WA and that's the whole point. We'd like you to show the #WA some love. Whether you're in WA or in OR or in some other places with less ready access to Northwest wines, we'd like you to give WA a shot and maybe pass on the CA. (By the way, this is all much funnier if you say the letters phonetically. Also, Josh isn't really evil. Far from it, in fact. But it got your attention.)

So on June 3rd, #WAwine will be your chance to take part in a Washington wine tasting event, even if you're in someplace like Sturbridge, Massachuttes. If you're on the twitter machine and you're into the tweeting, you can have yourself a glass or a bottle or even a box of #WAwine and then you can tell the world what you think of it. Twitter is good for that sort of thing. And as someone who has tasted a great deal of #WAwine, I can tell you that you're gonna love it.

The more obvious goal of #WAWine is to get people to give Washington wine a whirl. It's more than that, though. It also creates relationships within the Washington Wine industry through the world of social media. Josh's last go at this, #WA Merlot was a wild success in this respect. Over 500 people used the twitter machine to fake talk in the twitter world about Washington Merlot. Those twitter users fake talked, or tweeted about Washington Merlot over 2000 times. In addition to the tweeting, there were 1000 people at nearly 80 locations throughout Washington, these people, and I was one of them, were not only real talking with other attendees and fake talking (tweeting) about Merlot but we were buying it, too.

Wineries like Kyra Wines, 509 Wines and Laurelhurst Cellars have registered

So on June 3rd you should cozy yourself up to a bottle of Washington Wine. If you don't have a favorite, peruse the list of wineries that are registered for the event and give one of their wines a try. There will be tasting rooms and wine bars throughout the state that are hosting opportunities for you to taste as much #WAwine or Washington Wine as your heart desires.

Think of it this way: you can be part of a phenomenon. When was the last time you got to say that? Except for the mullet thing, and that doesn't really count. It was more of a movement than a phenomenon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sokol Blosser...Walking the Talk


Not too long ago, I did a post about Sokol Blosser's Evolution and how well it paired with the signature sandwich from my hometown of Pittsburgh. The piece got picked up by the website of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I had a good chat with Lee, the marketing guy at Sokol Blosser who suggested that I "Come on down and let us show you a good time." Who am I to refuse such hospitality?

Anybody who knows anything about Oregon wine knows the name Sokol Blosser, pioneers in the Willamette Valley wine industry. If there's something going on, chances are Sokol Blosser is out in front leading the charge, whether by making adventurous wine blends that pair well with any variety of food, like the Meditrina and Evolution; progressive politics; or re-examining how wine can be made and the impacts it can have on the environment.

We arrived at Sokol Blosser and the tasting room was already bumping. We asked for Jenny, who poured us some wine as she packed a bag for us to begin our Sokol Blosser tour. We warmed up with some Pinot Gris, and then moved onto the Pinot Noir 09 Rose. Only 700 cases were made, and if last year is any indicator, the April release will be gone by June. Get some; it's excellent. Despite the quick sales, Jenny feels that there's a lot of consumer education yet to be done for Rose. I am in total agreement and I'm grateful to see the Northwest continue to bring out some excellent examples of Rose that will hopefully get us past the whole White Zinfandel nonsense those Californians cooked up.

Jenny next poured us the Evolution, and complimented me on my article, which I greatly appreciated. The Evolution represents two-thirds of Sokol Blosser's total production. Inspired by the 1974 Oregon State Plantings on the estate, the Evolution is a combination of nine varietals, many of which began as part of that cold climate planting experiment. The nine varietals and the Beatles' Revolution #9 resulted in the name and the blend. While the blend varies slightly from year to year, it never ceases to please.

We stepped outside in to the classic rainy weather of April in the Northwest and took a tour of the Sokol Blosser facility. The vineyards are planted on an old orchard and farm with each block being named for what came before; for example: Goose Pen Block, Peach Tree Block, etc. As we tasted through the Pinots, we talked about the 85-acre vineyard. We tasted the 2007 Pinot Noir, which was excellent. I have to shake my head every time I'm drinking Oregon Pinot from 2007. I am a big fan yet I'm aware of how they were panned by critics. I think the critics got it wrong, and Jenny again echoed what I'd heard all over on my trip to Willamette: the 07s are just now "coming out to play."

We toured the barrelhouse, which is the first LEED certified wine structure in the nation. For Sokol Blosser it represents sustainability which is another area to lend it's focus, passion and ingenuity. The vineyards are policed by cats and bluebirds as opposed to pesticides, 30% of all the winery's power is solar-generated and 30% is produced by wind turbines, a full 50% of their farm equipment uses biodiesel. Last, but not least, Sokol Blosser is targeting carbon neutrality in time for the 2030 Carbon Neutral challenge, though they hope to get there sooner.

Sokol Blosser has been certified organic by both the USDA and Oregon Tilth since 2005. They also participate in Salmon Safe certification. What differentiates Sokol Blosser from many other wineries in the areas of sustainability is their genuine and honest approach. They talk about their shortcomings as well as their green efforts. And they speak honestly about the practice of "green washing," a practice which has become all too common among larger companies. Sokol Blosser releases an annual Sustainability Report, wherein they talk about their successes, where they fell short of expectations, and their plans for the future.

Sustainability is a lifestyle at Sokol Blosser, from their office practices to the packaging they select. As they look toward the future there's little doubt that their dedication to this effort, like the dedication to their wine, will certainly bear fruit. If history is any guide, Sokol Blosser's efforts will benefit the Willamette Valley community and Northwest wine lovers alike.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's Nick, and a bottle of Pend d'Oreille Cabernet!

After a long day of work toiling in the coal mines today, Rick and I got in the Japanese Carmobile to come home. Upon arriving at Chateau de Drunko (our house), we found a vagrant and vagabond sitting on our coach smoking a cigar and holding a bottle in a paper bag. None of that, we said, as we pushed his shopping cart aside and realized it was actually Nick, a friend from Pullman! What a nice surprise! Oh yea, we forgot that the told us he was coming and in fact, we told him where the key was approximately 15 minutes earlier. There was no cigar, either.

To celebrate this monumental occasion of having a special friend from Eastern Washington in our humble abode, we decided to crack open a bottle of wine we knew would be good and we had been wanting to review for some time. Nick is NorCal boy, straight from the streets of Napa or Napcompton as we call it here in the hood. All joking aside, we decided to open a sweet bottle of wine and get Nick's perspective with his California palate.

Sitting on the rack was a bottle of 2006 Pend d'Oreille Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle, from the Terrior Series, is from Mike Berghan's vineyard in the Walla Walla River area of Washington. Bottled in Sandpoint, Idaho, we've loved literally everything that we have tried from Pend d'Oreille so were very excited that they sent us this bottle.

[pause for an interlude....well the interlude is actually me spilling half a bottle of wine on the wall and floor while writing this post. Don't tell the landlord.]

We cracked open the bottle, and poured [another] glass. Here's Nick's assessment:

Upon smelling this wine, I really have...I...have to admit that my nose is the weakest of my five senses. I don't know how to describe it, but it tastes good. A bit of an aftertaste that makes me pause, building in joy as it dissipates off of the palate. The best part is the middle.

Rick spruced up his palate and shared his perspective:

I smell a bit of spice with currants, and cranberry or pomegranate. The flavor is not as prominent as the nose, with a melding of fruit flavors deconstructing with spice on the finish. Solid Cabernet Sauvignon, reminding me more of a Southern Oregon wine as it's a bit tamer than many Walla Walla cabs.

All in all, another winner from Pend d'Oreille. They put out great stuff. This tastes like a little lower heat Cab and is very drinkable.

Again, let us emphasize, we've never had a wine from PO that we haven't enjoyed.  I can't wait to check out the winery in November.  If you get a chance, try their stuff.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wine Country Dining: Newberg Oregon's The Painted Lady

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As Gwynne and I were planning our Willamette Valley weekend, we solicited some advice from friends and fellow winos on where to eat in Newberg. Many of the recommendations included the line, "Go back to Portland and then...". We had already driven from Seattle to Newberg that day and had no desire to get back in the car. We wanted to let Newberg wow us, and we knew from experience that when talented culinarians set up shop in wine country, they know what they're doing. They are looking to highlight the local produce, but most especially to make food that is deserving of excellent wine. With all that in the cards, we headed to dinner at The Painted Lady.

The Painted Lady is located in a painted lady, a Victorian era home painted in multiple and contrasting hues. The Painted Lady movement was born in San Francisco to restore beautiful Victorian homes to their former splendor in accordance with the established standard. The house is only about a block off the the main street in downtown Newberg, and is surrounded by a white picket fence. The proprietors have granted a special meaning to The Painted Lady, applying the ethic of the movement behind these beautiful homes to their food. As the paint colors of the house compliment each other, bringing out aspects that might otherwise be unnoticed, so too, does their food strive to use complimentary flavor profiles that enhance the natural flavors of their ingredients.

The Painted Lady offers multi-course meals of local Northwest ingredients and wine pairings with each. The prix fixe menu allows diners a a four course offering for $60 per person, and you can have the courses fully paired with wine for an additional $40. During the slower season, The Painted Lady does a three course meal with a wine pairing for $60, featuring a different local winery each month. We signed up for two and made reservations for a Friday. We were excited because the featured winery for the April menu was Anam Cara Cellars, which is a personal favorite for Gwynne and I and was on our itinerary for the following day.

The three course meal started with a Oregon Shrimp Napoleon, paired with the Nicholas Estate 2008 Riesling. I was really surprised by this dish, it was a local item that made me feel like I was eating in a slightly more tropical clime. The shrimp and avocado were placed on and paired very well with the bright cool climate (Chehalem Mountain) riesling from Anam Cara. The meal was amazing, with the textures and flavors marrying extremely well. The wine pairing was suburb, bringing out the delicacy and sweetness of the shrimp and nicely complimenting the other ingredients.

The second course was more food than you could ever imagine, the pork shank with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. The pork shank is visually stunning standing in the middle of the plate atop the roasted cauliflower and potatoes. There is a metric ton of meat on the shank, and while I was able to plow through it, Gwynne didn't even come close to finishing her meal, and truth be told, were I not there, she would have had an embarrassing amount of meat left. The pork shank was paired with the 2007 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir. The wine is an incredible statement of the terroir over on Chehalem Mountain. It did very well with the natural flavors of the pork shank and the seasonal vegetables. This dish and pairing had Oregon written all over it.

At this point, as we tried deep breathing exercises to get us through the amount of food we had already eaten, and prepared for the dessert course, the chefs threw us for a loop by bringing out a complimentary cheese and Madeira interlude. This was an incredible adventure through Oregon's cheese-producing acumen. We were brought four cheeses, hazelnuts, quince paste and some local honey, complimented by a Madeira from The Rare Wine Company. The cheeses were an almost otherworldly experience and the Madeira changed Gwynne's opinion of that wine forever. The cheeses, from Rogue Creamery, River's Edge and Ancient Heritage make me wonder if cheese should have just waited to be invented until Oregon came along (no offense, France.)

Dessert arrived. It was an apple tart tatin topped with homemade ginger ice cream. It was perfection and delicious and was paired with the Anam Cara 2009 Late Harvest Gerwurtraminer. The pairing was spot on, the sweet fruity wine with the apple flavors and the tatin pastry. The ginger ice cream was incredible and brought a refreshing bit of zing to the dessert. Tatin is French, I think, for "ginormous."

As we prepared to depart, our waitress brought us a selection of chocolates, which they boxed in a small takeaway box when we cried uncle. There was so much food and all of it was delicious. The staff was highly attentive and very well-informed.

As we were planning our trip and when people asked where we ate, their responses confirmed our choice. People in Oregon are clearly impressed with what The Painted Lady is doing. Cliff Anderson of Anderson Family called it "the best restaurant in Oregon" and someone else said, "it's probably better than we deserve here in Newberg." I'm not in a position to confirm or deny what Cliff said, but I can easily argue what that other person had to say. Newberg is highly underrated and its producing some of the best Pinot Noir I've had. Allen and Jessica of The Painted Lady knew that when they selected Newberg. In addition to the great terroir, Newberg is home to some great people in the wine industry. I'd recommend you head down and grab a meal and a glass of wine with some of them. And The Painted Lady should be your first stop.

Painted Lady Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Feel the Wrath of Merlot...Merlot Gone Mad (like Steven Seagal)

There are tons of sweet revenge stories out there: The Count of Monte Cristo, A Boy Named Sue and, of course, the Steven Seagal classic, Hard to Kill, an action-packed classic of a man who knows how to fight and shoot guns and has been wronged. Much like Seagal's character, Mason Storm, Merlot has in some ways been left for dead by the hoity-toity wine drinking public. While Mason Storm escaped a second assassination attempt and was nursed back to health by Kelly LeBrock, self-applied acupuncture and punching a board, Merlot also had its supporters. The winemakers of Washington know what grows well here, and hell, they aren't going to let a movie about two goofballs wine tasting over a weekend inspire them to turn their backs on one of Washington's wine gems. In that regard, they're like Kelly LeBrock.

There are other supporters, like Josh Wade, Jamie Peha and Yashar Shayan who have helped to bring attention back to Washington Merlot. In Hard to Kill, Seagal had some buddies on the inside who were helping him figure out who put the hit out on him. Picture the aforementioned Jamie, Josh and Yashar.

What happens next is relatively formulaic; Mason Storm comes back and lays waste to the ne'er-do-wells. Anyone who gets in his way is summarily dismissed with an Akido move, a witty remark, and a sneer. Merlot would have more or less done that but, being a wine varietal, Merlot has no martial arts ability to speak of. Instead what Merlot has substituted are some ass-kicking good times. To wit Merlot Gone Mad at Tulalip Resort and Casino.

The Akido moves came fast and furious. There were about 50 wineries pouring, and they were pouring with fury. Instead of an elbow to the temple or a kick to the teeth, we were left with purple teeth. Purple from the smooth, balanced and rounded Merlots that are signature Washington. Purple from the dark fruit and tobacco or smoky accents on the pallet (and the teeth). There was delicious Merlot from wineries that stretched from Woodinville (Northwest Totem Cellars) to Red Mountain (Kiona Vineyards) down to Olympia (Donedei Cellars). There was even an local winemaker from nearby Arlington, a winery that I've never come across before, Felicity Wines who poured a delicious 2007 Merlot.

As you know, in many of his movies, Seagal likes to offer wisdom in the form of witty repartee, either from an ancient Asian culture, a Native American tradition, or a street-wise Italian American perspective. In place of Seagal's nod to ancient wisdom, we had the Merlot Seminar. Yashar Shayan released wry wit and knowledge upon us, as Seagal would. We got the pleasure of tasting six Washington Merlots, from several winemakers and vineyards. Don Corson from Camaraderie Cellars reviewed the press that Merlot has gotten to that of Cabernet, with surprising results. When Don compared the 90+ point wines from Spectator over the last year, Merlot and Cabernet both elicited the same remarks from writers regarding flavor profiles. Don had us taste the '06 and '03 from Camraderie and they were showing well, the '03 really mellowed out the tannins and was speaking as to why Merlot has a long life. Patricia Gellis, owner of Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain, talked about the longevity of Merlot and the pristine growing conditions that Washington provides this particular varietal. Noah Reed from Northstar talked about managing the huge tannins that you can get from Washington Merlot. He poured the '06 Northstar from Columbia Valley as well as the '06 from Walla Walla. Both were excellent; Gwynne preferred the Columbia Valley, while I went with the Walla Walla wine.

This seminar was very educational for an audience that really needed some education. The best, and most mis-guided question came from a woman who asked why some winemakers add artificial berry and cherry flavors to their wines while others only add natural flavors? There was a collective moment of WTF from the panel and some of us in the audience. This woman actually believed that the flavors you might smell or taste in a wine come from flavor additives. I needed to go lie down. The panelists were gracious in explaining that with the exception of fruit wines like rhubarb wine, the fruit flavors in wines come from the characteristics of the grape. We'll consider that particular misapprehension to be laid to rest.

The sneer that Seagal would have given never really came from Merlot, mad or otherwise. Merlot has forgiven us. It's welcomed us back with open arms, or really bottles, because grapes don't have arms. Washington Merlot continues to impress. There are the usual suspects like Kiona and Northstar as well as new wineries who are producing quality Merlot as part of their first releases, like Felicity Wines. What we've learned is that Merlot, like Steven Seagal, can lay down a serious hurting when need be, but ultimately, it's a wine that would rather just be enjoyed by you, over a meal, with friends or with people, most of whom you've never met, in the lobby of a casino. In any case, keep drinking.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tacos, Red Wine, and Fire on the Mountain

Operation: Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting
Report:  Field Observations, Day 1
Covert Agent: Joshua G. Gana
Status:  Declassified

In early April 2010, Agent Gana intercepted wire traffic on the twitter machine alluding to a bootleg gathering of winos in Eastern Washington. Early reports indicated a weekend of tacos, red wine, fire, and general carousing in the Yakima Valley area, under the guise of "Spring Barrel Tasting". Gana, with more than 10 years experience and specialized training as a wine palatification expert, recognized this as mere cover for what truly was sure to take place: a clash of twitterati, cougars, phenomenal wine, and down home hospitality.  Courtesy of the fine folks at Wine Yakima Valley, Agent Gana dispatched himself to the scene to infiltrate the winos, posing as a "Wine Writer" with "The Oregon Wine Blog," whatever that means. What follows is Gana's narrative of day 1.

Friday was a gorgeous day for wine tasting, unfortunately, most of the day was spent traveling in the german carmobile to get from Corvallis to the oasis of the Tri-Cities. Upon arriving, I was welcomed with the warm hospitality of the staff at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Pasco, a connection made through the graciousness of the staff at the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. Now I'm a man of habit and have extreme loyalty to another hotel chain across the river in Richland. I'll tell you what, though, the HIEx in Pasco has it going on and gives them a run for their money. An all-suite property next to a convention center and right off the highway, the accommodations were spacious and well-appointed, the staff wonderful, and the breakfast...well you'll just have to wait until day 2 to hear about that. Literally a hop, skip, and a jump from I-182, I was in the heart of wine country minutes after leaving the hotel.

Barnard Griffin was the first stop on this fine Friday evening as I worked my way into the valley. After sipping some of their 06 Cabernet and peeking at the new bottling facility, I was on the road. There were bigger and better things on the docket for this particular evening. Next stop, Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser's Vintners Village. After picking up my Premiere Pass for the weekend, allowing access to reserve and special tastings at nearly 30 wineries in the region, I wandered around observing the sheer brilliance of the event organization. Take the vintners village, for example. A whole day's worth of wineries within walking distance, great wine, and porta-potties set up on the road to boot. What more does a wino need? Thurston was a nice surprise, with a fabulous petite sirah in the barrel and tempranillo that made me swoon.

Next up was a brief jaunt to Alexandria Nicole Cellars, where there was a noticeable buzz in the air as the crowd got larger and the winemakers had less time to chat. Great wine, great setting, and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't a race to see how many wineries I could get to before the end of the day. I had to drive home, after all. ANC closed at 5, the "main event" of the evening wasn't until 6 PM at Red Mountain...can you say Picazo 7Seventeen? I could, and did. So did the cherry chipotle pork shanks I had as an appetizer. Yep. Frank, you are the man.

Main event time. Due to the generosity and kindness of one Neil Cooper, I found myself on the guest list for the Fidelitas Taco Wagon Dinner. Did you catch that? Fidelitas, Cooper, Tacos, and Wagons.  So the technical name of the event was the Feast of St. Fidelas, but there was legitimately a delicious taco cart carving pork off of a spit and serving up some gourmet mexican delight.  Paired with Champeoux merlot, I was in taco wine heaven.  Frequent Blog readers know that Clive (@clivity) has been firmly planted in the Washington Twitterati Hall of Fame.  Me (@OR_Wine_Blog), on the other hand, didn't meet many of the regular tweeters in person until the 'wagon dinner.  Coop (@coop_cwc) introduced me to @divatink, @heyjenk, and @littlebluest; icons on the machine.  And yes, we introduced ourselves by twitter handle.  A riveting conversation on social media and wine ensued.

The evening capped off with a soft opening of Cooper Wine Company, Red Mountain's newest winery. The event was a veritable who's who in the Eastern Washington Wine Industry. In the old Seth Ryan facility, Coop has made some significant transformations in the property and the wine, which is crafted under the tutelage of Charlie Hoppes. Cooper wine is for real. We tried three of his four offerings during our fabulous dinner at Picazo 7Seventeen in February, and this particular evening Coop was proud to share the fourth: a Walla Walla Cabernet. Amazing. I tried to stick a bottle in my jacket to take back to the hotel, to no avail. Can't wait until he opens in a few weeks. Oh yea, there was also a large bonfire.

Agent Gana, signing off. Report on Day 2 of "Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting" forthcoming.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Behind the Scenes at The Oregon Wine Awards

While one could rattle off a multitude of different wine awards in the state of Oregon alone, few even attempt to encapsulate the entire industry in a format that is truly impartial and intentional in its attempt to promote the wine itself. Christopher Chan, Certified Sommelier and Executive Director of the Seattle Wine Awards, made it his personal mission to create such an award ceremony.

Founded in 2008, The Oregon Wine Awards is designed specifically to highlight Oregon's wine industry and promote it on an international stage. Sure other wine awards may serve elephant ears or allow you to barf in porta potties after dropping your third glass, but The Oregon Wine Awards are serious business. This is especially important for the Oregon wine industry as while we may know some of the best wines in the world are grown and produced here, the reality is that our state's reputation is up against decades and centuries of tradition that rarely accepts newcomers.

The results of this competition were released over the weekend and we couldn't be more excited to visit some of the winners. But what really makes The Oregon Wine Awards so special? Who judges this thing and why should I care? Ever wonder what happens behind the closed doors at wine events?  Does The Oregon Wine Blog even know or are they just asking hypothetical questions at this point?

Rewind to March 20th and you have Josh and I checking out the judging as it happened. You know how we've written before about rolling up to gorgeous chateaus/castles/country clubs in German-engineered automobiles and are usually full of it? Well, this time we're actually serious. Josh and I had the pleasure of visiting Portland's historic Waverly Country Club on what may have been the most beautiful day of the year. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Upon entering the facility, Christopher quickly greeted us and filled us in on what has been going on. While we had made it there around the crack of noon, the tasting panel has been hard at work all morning sampling various wines from around the state. One thing he wanted to hit home right away with is that the folks we were about to talk to are not part of a judging panel. "The program is not a competition, but a wine recognition program, which makes the job more straight-forward. By removing the presence of outside influence such as the label, winemaker, and vineyard, its an eye opening experience." This immediately resonated with Josh and I as it set a great tone for the rest of the day to fully understand where our panelists were coming from.

After being briefed by Christoper, Josh and I introduced ourselves to Ron Wolf (Fenouil in the Pearl), Cole Danehower (Editor / Co-Publisher Northwest Palate Magazine), and David LeClaire (Portland Uncorked). All three gentlemen were not only incredibly nice and welcoming, but also gracious enough to share a ton of insight from only one question:

What’s your process in doing a judging panel?

Ron: You have to calibrate the palates at the first table, as you just woke up. You don’t want the first table to be different from the last. Wine tasting is like a memory, it’s a snapshot that is either blurry or crystal clear. Either way, you need to come back.

David: Being a wine judge sounds more glamorous that it is. You have to concentrate, it’s easy to get lost. The ability to remember wines over a period of years helps put it in context, specifically how Oregon fits with the world market.

Cole: I look to find where Oregon wine places on the world scene. I learn from others. In rating wine, you must apply world standards, not just local.

Ron: Sometimes the newest tasters have the best palate. Sometimes the best reviews you get are “out of the mouths of babes.”

David: Sometimes there is dialogue at the tables, it varies from tasting to tasting. Some look for consensus, some don’t.

Cole: Sometimes finding out what the wines are at the end of the process is really humbling. The tasting process is blind to label.

These men have three of the most notable palates in the entire state and essentially we were told that tasting is based off of experience, it's a lot of work, their own tastes are completely subjective, and that new wine drinkers can often times offer the best perspectives on a wine. I know we've hammered in over and over how great of a wine industry Oregon has, but I highly doubt you would hear that kind of feedback from more established regions in the world.

With introductions out of the way, we figured it was time to check out where all of the wine was stored. We can't share any photos, but we can explain a bit about what goes on. When entering the room, we were first greeted by Kyle, the Maitre’d at the Rainer Club, who assisting with the process. Even Kyle, with his breadth of wisdom and experience was blown away by how many wines were not just pinot gris or pinot noirs.

In short, a giant interconnected system of tables housed every wine submitted to the competition organized by varietal and price point. In total, 266 individual wines were displayed before us in what can only be described as a thing of beauty. Not just because Oregon wine is a beautiful thing, but also as a sign that Oregon wineries are legitimately supportive of this initiative. I guess it also helped that Josh and I were given free reign to taste whatever we wanted.

After a few dozen tastings or so, Josh and I stopped by the palate cleansing bar (for real) and witnessed a bit of tasting by more sophisticated industry experts than ourselves.

What's abundantly clear in this photo is that each flight that a member of the tasting panel has to try is quite robust and high in quantity.  What this photo doesn't share is that each one of those glasses sits atop a number that corresponds with a wine in the secret wine room.  Why is that important?  Christopher shared with us that integrity of the tastings is of top concern.  Not only is each wine painstakingly micromanaged enough to make sure each pour ends up in the correct glass, but each bottle is individually tasted to make sure that it isn't corked.  The amount of effort that goes into the process is surreal. 

At the end of the afternoon, both Josh and I left with a sense that the Oregon Wine Awards really is a unique venture that truly has the entire Oregon wine industry in its best interests.  While the country club atmosphere seemed rather stuffy at first glance, the reality is that everybody from the Oregon Wine Awards to the staff of the Waverly Country Club were some of the most kind, hospitable people we had ever met.  The setting is controlled and ensures the integrity of the program, thereby providing a real and unbiased rating for consumers.  It’s clear that all judges are passionate about the wine and the process, and engage in an honest, ethical, and respectful fashion.  We both look forward to next year and would like to thank Chrstopher and the staff at the Waverly Country Club for such a unique opportunity.  Oh, and when you see a wine that has been well-rated by the Oregon Wine Awards, know you have a wine that has made it's mark in the industry, is a good wine, and good value.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Revisiting The Reserve

Those of you who are regular readers of The Oregon Wine Blog know that it's rare for us to come across that wine. You know, the one you are still talking about months later... On April 1, 2010, Rick shared with the world one of those experiences that could be described as simply transformative; our foray into [yellow tail] The Reserve 2008 Shiraz.

A few weeks after our fateful stint as The Oregon [yellow tail] Blog, a box of mystery and intrigue showed up on our doorsteps. Among the treasures in the box we found the new lineup of [yellow tail] Reserve Wines, a Chardonnay and a Merlot -- with a new and improved label. Knowing we couldn't do justice to the Chardonnay and knowing our friends Peggy and Tom enjoy the varietal, this was a prime opportunity for a GUEST BLOGGER REVIEW! Peggy and Tom enjoy wine and have well-refined culinary palates, however, this represents their first wine review.

I'll let Peggy take it from there:

Tonight we planned a special dinner to go with the wine, since we were going to be serious about tasting it. We had potato wrapped halibut cooked on the panini with green beans, fresh strawberries and a green salad, and used our special fish plates. The first taste was not what I expected out of a chardonnay (my favorite is Bethel Heights Chardonnay so that’s my gauge for any chardonnay over $10 a bottle). It was sweet (Tom will give you his commentary in a moment). We tasted it with the strawberries and it leveled it out a bit, but it was still sweet. I don’t like a sweet chardonnay, if I want to drink fruit juice I’ll buy that – it’s much cheaper than wine. There is more than a hint of citrus – which I couldn’t identify until I tried it with a tomato. The label lists flavors like melon, peach and tropical fruit with notes of vanilla – probably what makes it so sweet. It should be labeled Chenin Blanc. “Pairs well with people watching” - you bet. Women (who don’t normally drink wine) will drink this like it’s a lemonade or other fruit juice and get quite drunk, quickly. All in all for me – Corbett Canyon is better for an everyday chardonnay than this one – it isn’t sweet (most of the time). I wouldn’t pay $10 a bottle for this, buy fruit juice instead.

Who else is excited by the potato wrapped halibut cooked on a panini grill? [Peggy, when are we coming over for dinner?]  Peggy's husband, Tom, didn't mince any words in sharing his thoughts:

The label says smooth and subtle, it is neither. It has a citrus bite to it that you have to kill by taking a bite of strawberry before each sip. It is smoother than the regular YT chard, but not enough to make me like it. The label was written not by the wine maker but by the marketing department who probably doesn’t drink wine. At least there is no evidence on the label that the person who wrote the label drank the wine. Maybe a pinch of vanilla, but only after a bite of strawberry because the citrus note wiped out all of the other flavors. You’ve heard of drink in 6 months, drink now, Too young for the moment? This is a don’t drink. To be fair, a year of aging might help it out but I do not think it will age well after that.

There you have it, friends, a review from those who identify with the very market [yellow tail] is reaching out towards.  Best paired with fish?  Maybe not.  Will it get chicks drunk?  You bet!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seattle Summer calls for Cotes du Fremont Rose (509 Wines)

One of Seattle's urban winemakers 509 Wines is releasing a new wine this week. The Cotes du Fremont Rose is hitting the streets - just in time for summer. The owner and one of the winemakers, Kevin Conroy, told me he was inspired to make this wine last summer while hanging out on an Eastlake neighborhood balcony, "There's nothing like summer in Seattle; I need to make a summer wine." Cotes du Fremont was born.

509's location on the shore of Lake Union and at the base of the Hills of Fremont lends the wine it's name. The Syrah-based Rose continues in 509 Wines Rhone-style varietal wheelhouse and is another step in the movement of legitimate winemakers trying to undo the damage those brainiacs in California did with White Zinfandel. I was given a bottle of the Cotes du Fremont by Stacey at 509 a few weeks ago and told to "sit on it" but not like that lady Flo from Mel's Diner, more like, "the wine was just bottled days ago, please give it due time."

The wine has a beautiful nose with summer all over it; full of grapefruit, field grasses and cut rhubarb. The pallet on the wine is strawberries and apricots, with a stony minerality and well-balanced acidity. This will be a good wine to sip on it's own or with any number of the foods summer brings us. If you're like me, you're ready for the grey skies to give way to the summer we know and love. While the weather has yet to get here, Friday will mark the arrival of the wine made for Seattle summertime. Let's just hope Mother Nature is a wine drinker.

(Get to the Rose release party this Friday, May 7th at 3pm in Fremont.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Upcoming Event: Sonoma Jazz + Wine and Song Around the Plaza

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Close your eyes (okay, well just pretend to close your eyes so that you can actually read on), it’s a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon and you’re walking around historic Sonoma Square. You pass by a small café and you hear sounds coming from what can only be described as angels singing. Your curiosity gets the best of you and you pop inside to inquire as to the source of these heavenly sounds only to be greeted by a glass of wine. Looking around you discover that the music that drew you inside is coming from a local jazz band. After listening for awhile and enjoying your wine you make your way back to the square. Just as you begin to think you could never experience something so amazing again, you walk by the next café and have the worst (or best?) case of déjà vu imaginable. Sound too good to be true, not at Sonoma Jazz+ Wine and Song it isn’t.

Presented by Sonoma Jazz +, a non-profit aimed at preserving jazz music through world-class festivals and education programs, Wine and Song Around the Plaza is a way to experience the best that Sonoma has to offer, all in one concentrated location. So leave the car at home and make your way to the Sonoma Square on May 22nd and 23rd.

This fantastic event, taking place on both Saturday and Sunday from 1:30-5:00pm, will feature over 20 participating wineries and 9 participating venues, each with their own band or musician rockin’ the day away. Tickets for this event are just $65 per day and get you 12 wine + song tastings, 4 food tastings, a complimentary water, tote, and souvenir wine glass. To experience all of these wineries individually would easily cost more than this so coming out to Wine and Song is not only a great price but a great way to experience some of the best wineries in the area.

If you can’t make it to the daytime activities (heck, even if you can), Sonoma Jazz + continues the fun into the night with some world class musical acts. Headlining on Friday May 21st, the evening before Wine and Song Around the Plaza kicks off is Crosby, Stills, and Nash. As we move into the weekend, Earth, Wind, and Fire will be sure to get the crowd groovin’ on Saturday and Elvis Costello will wrap up the festival on Sunday night. As with all concerts, tickets vary based off location but any seat under the tent is sure to be a great one.

If all this sounds like the way you want to spend a weekend in Sonoma in late May, Sonoma Jazz + Wine and Song is right up your ally. If I still haven’t convinced you to go or you are unable to make it, I will sacrifice my weekend to attend and write about it here on The Oregon Wine Blog.

Wined and Burgerville?

About a year ago we, at The Oregon Wine Blog, got word that Burgerville, a chain of restaurants exclusive to the Northwest, would be serving wine at one of their restaurants near to us. When I heard about this, I pleaded to be able to do this review, and my colleagues conceded. I kept waiting for the perfect moment to go to Burgerville, but it didn't present itself until just recently.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, Zac came into my office at 3p and asked if I was interested in going for a drive after work. I said sure, and he mentioned he was thinking of going to Seattle, as he had never been there, and while taken aback, I was game. He also mentioned that it would be the perfect time to go stop at Burgerville and make that post I needed to do. Nothing like a co-worker to remind me of my wine blog responsibilities. I had to find out from Josh exactly which Burgerville was serving wine, and at 6p, we were on our way for an adventure.

To share with you a little bit about Burgerville - they pride themselves on providing their customers with the best possible food while getting their products from local farmers and growers. There are currently about 40 restaurants scattered throughout Oregon and Washington. Parts of their menu will vary based on what is in season. As an example, when Walla Walla sweet onions are in season, that becomes part of the menu. Another example is that strawberries are currently in season, and as a result, they are part of the
seasonal menu. I have been a fan of Burgerville since I moved to the NW and was introduced to them 6 years ago, and am really glad that there is one a mere 20-25 minutes from me. It is a nice treat to have every once in a while.

I currently only know of one Burgerville that serves wine, which is the one in Salmon Creek, just about an hour and half north of Salem. Some information about Burgerville #21 is that: "Originally built in 1979, this restaurant has recently been replaced with a re-designed restaurant configuration, nearly doubling its volume. This restaurant serves two nearby hospitals, as well as the WSU Vancouver campus. It is the only Burgerville with a sunroom that can be used for community meetings." They also have free Wi-Fi.

Zac had never been to a Burgerville, and he was excited to see what this was all about. We both ordered the same thing, unintentionally, and I got the lucky fortune of adding something more to my order, a glass of 07 Lenore Syrah from Corvidae. I had never heard Corvidae and figured that if I was having a familiar burger, I had to try an unfamiliar wine. Based on their website, Corvidae specializes in wines that are under $20 per bottle. They appear to be an offshoot of Owen Roe Winery. The 07 Lenore Syrah that I had was paired perfectly with my pepper bacon cheeseburger.

Zac and I both liked the nose on this wine. It was full and had a bit of sweetness tied to it. But when it came to the palate, I definitely liked it more than Zac. I found the taste to be nice and full while it was also subtle. Zac on the other hand, having tried my drink since he was the one driving, thought
there was a disconnect between the nose and palate. He didn't think the way it was on the tongue mirrored what was on the nose. In his own words, "If I like the name better than the wine, that is a problem." While he and I disagreed with the palate of this Syrah, I could potentially see where he would anticipate this to be more full throughout. I, on the other hand, enjoyed that it wasn't overwhelming, and went down smooth. Oh well, to each his own.

I doubt this will be the last time I head up the road to Salmon Creek, and I would definitely recommend it for you to try for yourself as well, and please let us know what you think. I do hope that Burgerville will be able to expand wine to more of their restaurants as well.

Until next time...

Burgerville on Urbanspoon