Sunday, May 29, 2011

You've Got a Friend in Me!

We have all had those days where we get home from work and really want a glass of wine. Okay, let’s be honest with each other... there are those nights we really need a glass of wine. However, maybe you don’t want to dig out the bottle you have been cellaring for 10 years, or that really expensive bottle you are saving for a special occasion. On the other hand, you don’t want to drink swill that sells for about two bucks. On those nights I find myself staring at my wine cabinet and there is only one bottle that is staring back at me, that is calling to me. In fact, it smiles at me, just asking to be the chosen one. On those nights, I reach for some Friend’s Red, from Pedroncelli Winery.

Before Katie’s Uncle Jim and Auntie Zee brought us to Pedroncelli and I first tried Friend’s Red, I would usually shy away from table wines or anything was as non-descript as “red wine.” However, Jim and Zee raved about all the wines at this place so much that we just had to go and try it. Granted, they are a little biased towards Pedroncelli, as members of Club Ped and the 2011 bocce ball tournament champions. However, after our visit, I see what all the fuss was about.

Friend’s Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Sangiovese. I first notice the subtle spice of Zinfandel, while the Merlot and Sangiovese offer the fruit profile and the Syrah gives some weight to the whole thing. When you drink Friend’s Red, it stays with you and you can detect the hints of strawberry and pepper. Many table wines I have had before are so over-blended you feel like you are drinking the barrel leftovers without any thought or craft. Friend’s is not that wine. This is a smooth drinking red wine that stands on pretty strong legs. And now the best part, Friend’s Red is only $10 bucks a bottle, which makes it such a great everyday drinking wine.

Pedroncelli Winery, located in the Dry Creek Valley, is all of the things that we at WestToast love. Family owned? Check. Knowledgeable and friendly tasting room staff? Check. Easy drinking wines? Check. Non-intimidating approach? Check. Each of the wines we tasted, from the East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc to the hearty Mother Clone Zinfandel, are wines I would enjoy again and again. No wine will force you to empty your wallet, yet you still know that you are drinking quality, individually crafted wines. And all will leave you smiling. ;)


Friday, May 27, 2011

Enso Winery Grand Opening

"Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions." -Mike Ditka

No other quote has penetrated my existence the same way as this gem has. Not only does it make light of my chemical dependence on caffeine, but few men know what it takes to be a champion more than Coach Ditka. Why the hell am I talking about drinking coffee and Mike Ditka when the title of this article clearly states that I'm going to talk about the grand opening of Enso Winery? I'm getting there.

Those of you who have been keeping up with WestToast know that I've been really excited about the grand opening of Enso Winery this coming weekend. Particularly, my excitement stems from the fact that Enso is the embodiment of WestToast. They source grapes from up and down the entire west coast in order to make delicious, food-friendly wines that are accessible for those both seasoned and new to wine. While that may not be new, what is a first for me is the industry that inspired them to start making wine; coffee. Seriously!

Cheers, Poindexter. The days of wine being an ambiguous experience, wrought with feigned protocol and aloof adjectives are over. A new winery aims to do to wine what many coffee roasters in Portland have already done to coffee: Inform the drinker of the complexities of a good cup or glass, while making it more accessible and natural. Prefer your coffee with just the right boldness, with beans from only that one hillside on that one island with hints of that one spice? There’s probably a wine for that, and odds are, you can explore it locally in Portland at ENSO Winery and Tasting Lounge, opening on Memorial Day weekend.

“Some coffee roasters in town have taken coffee geekery to a whole new level and a lot of folks seem excited about it,” says Ryan Sharp, co-founder of ENSO Winery. “People in Portland really enjoy learning about the process of how something like wine, coffee, or beer is made, so we're helping to make wine and the winemaking process more understandable with our sort of educational bent.”

Co-founder Chris Wishart launched the winery with Sharp in 2010, beginning with a 300 square-foot garage as their barreling space. The aim was simple: Make quality NorthWest wines here in town that are “foodie-friendly” and unique. What has transpired is the new winery and tasting lounge in a retail strip in the Buckman neighborhood, which provides a casual setting to sample the wines at your own pace or engage with the winemakers themselves.

The public is invited to visit the opening of ENSO Winery and Tasting Lounge at 1416 SE Stark Street in Portland, to sample flights of their wines and other local wines, in addition to local beer, cheese, meat, and live music. Additional information can be found at

I told you it'd make sense! If you're around the Portland area for Memorial Day weekend, you owe it to yourself to stop by and check out Enso. Their relaxed atmosphere, great wines, and friendly personalities are a perfect combination for success. Don't believe me? Ask Mike Ditka.

I'll be there on Saturday as well, so come say hi!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Upcoming Event: Winesong 2011

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When it comes to northern California wine country, everyone knows about Sonoma and Napa counties, but there is a third, lesser known, county that is really starting to make a name for itself. Becoming increasingly well-known and popular, Mendocino County is one of the oldest grape growing areas in California and is home to the smallest AVA in North America. A laid back and casual wine growing region, Mendocino is full of family wineries that offer a non-intimidating approach to wine. With many wineries focusing on organic and sustainable winemaking, including America’s first carbon neutral winery, Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino County is known as California’s greenest wine region.
Admittedly, I have not really spent any time in Mendocino County exploring the great wineries they have to offer. That is why I am so excited to be covering the 2011 Winesong! event taking
place on September 9-10th.

On Friday September 9th, visitors will spend their afternoon at the Little River Inn barrel tasting the acclaimed Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley region. Each winery will be pouring a new vintage alongside an older, already released vintage, giving a chance to see how wine ages, develops, and changes over time. Tickets for Friday Barrel Tasting are only $40 and you’ll have the chance to meet and mingle with the winemakers at a beautiful location overlooking the Pacific Coast.

Saturday features two events for wine loves. The first event is a true Feast for the Senses as Winesong! invites 50 restaurants and food purveyors from Northern California to join and pair food with 100 wineries from wine regions up and down the West Toast, *cough, cough* I mean, the West Coast, as well as international producers from South Africa, Italy, and Chile. As a lover of both California coastal Pinot Noir and Oregon Pinot, I am looking forward to some side-by-side tasting. While strolling through the breathtaking Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, participants can sip delicious wines, eat delicious food, and enjoy live music while overlooking the Mendocino Coast and smelling the delicious salty air. Yep...pretty sure we’ll have sensory overload on this one. Just be sure to take time to stop and smell the roses.

(Is there a more beautiful place to enjoy great food and wine?)

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Winesong! auction serves as the primary fundraiser for the Mendocino Coast Hospital. I know I have said it before, but I love being a part of a wine country that gives so much back to the community. Entering its 27th year, the auction has raised over $4 million to aid the Mendocino Coast Hospital in providing quality health care and equipment.

It’s true that Mendocino may not be the first location thought of for a wine country getaway, but an event like Winesong! will feature some of the most hand-crafted and unique wines in California and beyond. And, instead of staying in a big hotel, stay in one of Mendocino’s many boutique bed and breakfasts or seaside inns and make this event part of a wonderful getaway, even if you live just down the road. I know that’s what Katie and I will be doing for 2011 Winesong!

Check back about a week after the event for my thoughts on this highly-anticipated event!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An after work diversion with Wine World Warehouse

In February I mentioned the cornucopia of wine that is Wine World Warehouse in Seattle, you may recall that I ride by the establishment on the good old King County Metro 44 to and from work every day.  Since that time, I'd been to the warehouse a few times to pick up a specific bottle, however, I had yet to take full advantage of one very critical feature: they offer free tastings and lots of them.

Perhaps I'm under emphasizing the fact that they have free tastings, and lots of them.  I'm talking every single day of the week, with wine being poured from 6:00 - 8:00 PM Monday - Friday and 2:00 - 5:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday.  On any given night, you may find offerings from between 1 and 10 different wineries, sometimes local, sometimes international.  For instance, this week you'll find:
  • Monday:  Argentina Festival
  • Tuesday:  Tour de France
  • Wednesday:  Shramsberg Napa Valley
  • Thursday:  Gonzalez Byass Spanish Wines
  • Friday:  Naches Heights Vineyard
  • Saturday:  Open Road Wine Company
See the variety I'm talking about?  Alright, back to my story.

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday it had been a particularly long first half of the week at work and I was looking to unwind a bit.  I was on the bus cruising down NE 45th Ave in the U-District and I saw the Wine World sign ahead, and it hit me.  Free tasting.  Every night.  Must stop.  I quickly consulted the Intertubes and was quite pleased to learn that Blog favorite Woodward Canyon was pouring that particular evening.  Rick, Alyssa, and I had downed a bottle of their Artist Series Cabernet the weekend before after the epic Ludacris show in Pullman and I was thirsty for some more.

I hopped off the bus, sashayed in, and was pleased to see that the tasting bar was empty of tasters as it was just 6:00 PM.  Woodward Canyon owner Rick Small was waiting at the counter with four wines ready to go, and after signing in with Wine World staff I was ready to go.  I enjoyed a lovely conversation with Rick, it was nice to hear his perspectives on the wine as well as learn more about the origin of the Nelms Road label, Woodward's declassified line.  As expected, the Artist Series was the star of the show but boy do I also love the Washington Chardonnay.  After an hour or so, I realized I better head home before the bus clientele got too shady, so off I went very pleased with the decision to stop.

Moral of the story?  If you are in the Seattle area any given night of the week and want to relax at the end of the work day, Wine World is a great place to do it.  They'll be tasting something, and does it really matter what?


Saturday, May 21, 2011

MORE Good Day Oregon Appearance and Memorial Day Suggestions

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As I'm sure all of you already know, I made my network TV debut yesterday morning on KPTV 12's MORE Good Day Oregon. The show was a lot of fun to do and I certainly hope I get to do it again some time. If you for some reason weren't watching TV at around 9:15AM on Friday morning in the Portland-Metro area, I thought I'd take this opportunity to sum up what I covered regarding fun Oregon wineries to hit up during Memorial Day weekend.

Willamette Valley Vineyards
Willamette Valley Vineyards is my de facto choice for Oregonians who want to get into wine, but may not know exactly what they like. Not only are they really great people, but WVV makes a little bit of everything. Because they have vineyards all over the state, they are able to make a wide range of whites, reds, and dessert wines to help almost any wine novice hone in on where their tastes lie. If you don't like anything at WVV, you probably just don't enjoy wine.

Over Memorial Day weekend, WVV will be hosting a Blind Tasting Competition of Pinot Noirs around the world. While I wouldn't suggest participating as a wine novice, I would highly suggest attending. Not only will the tasting competition be entertaining, but they'll also be cracking open some pre-release and library wines. Rarely will you have an opportunity to try such a wide array of different varietals, so check it out.

Stay in Portland and visit Enso Winery
Want to stay in town? No problem! A lot of newcomers to wine don't realize that you don't have to visit a vineyard to visit a winery. Many wineries source their grapes from multiple vineyards, which means they can produce the wine wherever they want. Portland, for example, is home to somewhere around eight licensed wineries all producing wine in an urban area. For a full list, check out

Specifically, I'd suggest hitting up the grand opening of Enso Winery. Located around 14th and Stark, Enso's approach is to create an inviting pub/lounge type atmosphere with great wines at an affordable price. They'll also have a rotating local beer on tap, so there's something for everyone. This is where Josh and I will be on Saturday, so come say hi!

Cana's Feast
If you're a bit more of an experienced wine drinker int he Willamette Valley and want to try something a bit different, try hitting up Cana's Feast in Carlton. Why? Wine maker Patrick Taylor typically uses Italian varietals and makes more Mediterranean-style wines, whereas most Oregon wineries use French varietals. They also have a very wide breadth of options, so Cana's Feast is perfect for newcomers as well.

For Memorial Day weekend, Cana's Feast will be closing their Cucina restaurant and, instead, will be pairing antipasti plates with wine tastings. I cannot emphasize enough how perfectly Patrick's wines pair with Chef Lisa's cuisine. If you want the full wine and food experience with world-class examples of both, here's your opportunity.

Sokol Blosser
This portion is a WestToast exclusive as, unfortunately, we ran out of time during the segment and I didn't get to talk about Sokol Blosser. While Sokol Blosser may not have a wide of a portfolio of varietals as my other picks, they do make some of the best Pinor Noir in the entire state. They also make the Meditrina and Evolution blends, which we have highlighted before as being the two best utility wines to pair with absolutely everything (such as Voodoo Donut Bacon Maple Bars, Primanti Brothers' Sandwiches, and Dave's Killer Bread Sin Dawgs).

Over Memorial Day weekend, Sokol Blosser will be doing live music, barrel tasting, and even popping open some library wines. Check out their events page for more info.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oh, Oh, Oh, it's Magic

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What happens when you bring together the not-really-snooty up-and-coming winos from The Oregon Wine Blog and the beer prowess of the [BW] Beer Blog?  No, it's definitely not a drunken love child; get your mind out of the gutter.  You get a little thing I like to call "synergy", also known as Semi-pretentious enthusiasts of wine, beer, and spirits of the West Coast.  That's this site.  Magic.

Sober followers of The Oregon Wine Blog certainly realize that we've covered more than Oregon and more than wine for a number of years.  As we expanded more and more into Washington, a number of readers asked whether we were going to broaden in name and scope.  No, I responded, I'm too lazy to rebrand and Rick's already redesigned the Blog twice.  Then we picked up a California Correspondent, and I moved to Washington.  Ironic, no?  So here I sit, wine glass in hand, writing the post announcing the launch of our new site: WestToast.  The rest, they say, is history.

The West Coast is a special place - the connection between people, place, and the spirit of wine, beer, distilled beverages, and culinary excellence in the region tell a compelling story.  From this story comes, a new online publication with a mission to make fine wine, craft brew, local spirits, and regional cuisine fun, sexy, and approachable for the next generation.

Don't worry, we've retained much of the writing staff as well as the witty, conversational format of The Oregon Wine Blog. WestToast recognizes a broadened scope both geographically and topically by covering wine, beer, spirits and cuisine in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and we've picked up some new staff and ideas along the way.

So there's the scoop.  Welcome, enjoy, and let us know if you have feedback or ideas!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Welcome to WestToast!

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Semi-pretentious enthusiasts of wine, beer, and spirits of the West Coast.

You've found The Oregon Wine Blog's newest venture, WestToast, prior to the official launch date!  Our hamsters need a few more days to run around the cage, but we're shooting for a May 20 release.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Locals Out and About 2

Wine and food and food and wine...these are a few of my favorite things!

And if we're talking food here, lets talk about my favorites there...Asian cuisine, french fries, and anything associated with breakfast. So now that you know what to do with me on our first date, I'll quit free-associating and let you in on what I've been up to. It has nothing to do with french fries (sadly), could have something to do with Asian cuisine (if I so chose), and has everything to do with breakfast food and wine (yeeee haaaaw).

Locals about the Willamette Valley...we (Chris, Jason, and I). Decided to take on a beautiful day in wine country. The day started at Eola Hills Winery in Rickreall, OR. Why Eola first??? Well I'll tell you this is where the breakfast food comes in - SUNDAY BRUNCH!!!

The winery space was filled with tables and sparkling lights. The effect was one that made me feel we were at a country wedding reception - clean, bright, and lacking pretension. Our hosts gave us a tour of the dining options - a series of cooking stations where we could watch our meal being made right before us (this was done in conjunction with Simply Delish Catering). We were able to choose from foods such as fried oysters, carved beef, eggs benedict (3 different kinds), crepes, waffles, and omelets. There were also tables featuring fruit, desserts, and pastries along with hot items such as biscuits and gravy, ham, and potatoes. It was a lovely and beautiful feast.

Part of our meal price was a drink ticket for a glass of wine or champagne. The three of us opted to pool our resources in order to get ourselves a bottle. We went for the 2009 Oregon White Riesling as our designated breakfast wine. It had a lovely nose - melon, peach, and pear with hints of citrus. I found it crisp and bright, with a sweet/tart punch at the start and a soft finish that gave me a lovely pear flavor. Chris and I decided to mix our first glasses with orange juice, making a beautiful quasi mimosa.

Fun and funky gifts like this wine holder were in the gift shop

The brunch was fantastic - we definitely got our money's worth. My favorite was the eggs benedict. There were three kinds - veggie, seafood, and traditional - and I opted for the traditional. The egg was done perfectly, the ham thinly sliced and flavorful, and the sauce was creamy and full. I also sampled the crepes, made thin and light with a wide variety of fillings including fruit, cheeses and sauces. I tried the 'Vin d' Ete' dessert wine on a cheese crepe and found it amazing! The waffles were also good - small enough to try a couple with toppings that included flavored butters and fruit sauces.

Filled with goodness, and enjoying happy sipping, all three of us gave the Eola Hills Sunday Brunch (9:30-2:00) a big thumbs up, and have made plans to make plans to go back again!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The name is Merry...Cellars that is.

"You take North Grand out of town.  Turn at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads towards the engineering lab. Drive around the bend, through some wheat fields, and you'll find it," I overhead the clerk tell my friend Kyle as I was browsing through the shop. We were at the Old Post Office wine shop in Pullman, Washington, having recovered from a Ludacris concert at Beasley Coliseum the night before. By the way, if you'd like to be hip the kids call him "Luda".  We knew there was wine in them there hills, and we were on a mission to find it. Stat.

Merry Cellars was the destination du jour, a winery that we were all tangentially familiar with from our time living in Pullman.  Back in my day, Merry Cellars was located at the Old Post Office, so you could understand the confusion when we walked through the door and found a wine shop and production brewpub but no winery tasting room.  Unfazed and armed with directions, we hopped back in the car and headed to the other side of town...all of a 5 minute find the man they call Merry and drink his wine.

Founded in 2004, Merry Cellars seeks to craft age worthy and approachable wines, those which are elegant yet casual enough to serve at the family dinner table.  Winemaker and owner Patrick Merry finds a sense of place in his wine, capturing the essence of the Palouse region through small lot productions.  The winery uses a minimalist, hand-crafted approach through the entire wine-making process, and as we were soon to discover, produces some outstanding wines from varietals that are relatively rare but up and coming in Eastern Washington.  And talk about fruit!  Sourcing from some of the finer vineyards in Walla Walla and Columbia Valley, most of the wines in the Merry Cellars portfolio are backed with Les Collines, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek, Stone Ridge, and Echo West offerings.

We turned at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads to the engineering lab.  We drove around the  bend and through some wheat fields, and there it was.  In an otherwise unassuming building, with simply some sandwich boards announcing it's presence stood what was to be the start of a great afternoon of wine tasting.  We walked through the door, a rag-tag group consisting of Rick and myself, blog regulars Alyssa and Kyle, and my brother Chris.  Immediately we were greeted with a smile and some glasses by Joe, a relative newcomer to the Merry Cellars family but certainly an asset to the tasting room, and Bruno, the Merry Cellars puppy.  At 12-weeks old and adding an incredibly cute and cuddly attribute to our experience, Bruno was conked out on a pillow in the corner of the tasting room after reportedly lapping up spilled Carmenere off of the floor.   I'd guess we tasted 6 or 7 wines, although my notes are sketchy in that arena.  In fact, they don't exist so I'm going to profile a few wines that stuck out among the crowd and we'll go from there:

2008 Crimson: Merry Cellar's interpretation of a Bordeaux blend, the Crimson brings about 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance in Cab Franc to the table. Smoky and masculine as described by the winery, this one has long been Kyle's favorite Merry wine.

2008 Carmenere: This one was a nice surprise to our group, many who were completely unfamiliar with Carmenere as a varietal. Entirely from Seven Hills Vineyard, spice and pepper was evident on the nose but we found a very well-balance wine on the palate. Yum.

2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Merlot: This is the one that I took home and for good reason. A deep, rich, but moderately tannic wine, the merlot has been critically acclaimed by everyone and their brother. It's classic Columbia Valley, delicious every time. In fact, my brother did enjoy it.

After tasting through, Joe asked if we were interested in seeing the back room as they were in the process of bottling. Never ones to turn down back room tours or back door deals, we were in. He led us through a gorgeous barrel room, which is available for events by the way, to the bottling line. When I say bottling line I mean a group of Merry Cellar's closest friends hand bottling each and every drop of the wine with care and attention to detail. It's definitely cool to see.

Merry Cellars is one of those places that is a bit off of the beaten path, well at least in Pullman terms, so really not much. Firmly planted in a college community, they have a phenomenal opportunity to help in our mission of making wine more approachable to the next generation, and the winery is a great place to spend a hot Palouse summer afternoon sipping wine on the their patio. There's also a puppy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Locals Out and About 1

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Though I have been here in the Willamette Valley for a few months now, I had not really gotten out and about to some of the local wineries. The hubbub (not to mention the cost) of moving and settling in kept me pretty close to home. The times I did get out of town were to head off to faraway places such as Portland, Jackson, and Mt. Shasta. I was quickly getting myself into that rut where a person can be in one place for years, but never take part in the entertainment close to home - kind of like growing up in NY but never seeing the Statue of Liberty, living in Washington and never seeing Mount Saint Helens, or living in Utah and never going skiing (not that I know ANYONE for whom all of these apply).

So it was great when my friend Chris suggested a trip into wine country last weekend. We rolled out semi-early, and wined and dined our way through the area around Monmouth for the day, enjoying lovely wine and vittles where ever we went. Instead of writing a loooong piece about the whole day, I have decided I will break it up and highlight my favorite parts as to give them a bit more credence.

One of the wineries we went to was Firesteed. Just off of 99W North of Rickreal, we spotted Firesteed on our way to another location, and decided if we had time we would check it out. With the firm belief that you really always have time for wine, we made sure to stop in on our way back by. We climbed the hill up to the massive warehouse and tasting room, and wondered for a moment if it was open as there seemed to be no cars there. Upon entering the tasting room we met our hosts, John and Kristen, who greeted us with friendly smiles. When hearing we were there for a tasting, John replied "suh-weet!" We knew we had come to a great place.

Modern and edgy with a rustic flair, the tasting room was comfortable and posh without seeming pretentious. I especially enjoyed the wine rack that seemed to be made out of old barn wood standing behind the counter. A large window behind the bar allowed us to sneak a peak at the barrel room that included a massive German-style barrel with a stainless steel door on the front. We were informed that this was used for short-term white wines in place of stainless steel fermenters. Don't get me wrong however, there were still the big steelies there as well, towering to one side and making me want very much to climb in for a nice swim (yeah, I am strange - I'm OK with it). We joked warmly about that for a bit, and learned that the only way to clean them out was to actually get inside and scrape and spray - so perhaps I might get a chance to see the inside of them after all...add it to the bucket list - pun intended.

The lighting provided beautiful shadows around my glass as I tasted

We tried a number of wines while at Firesteed, here are the ones I enjoyed the most!

Our tasting started with their 2008 Pinot Gris. I found it to be light and silky on the nose with a large dose of melon and peach. There was a citrus-y topnote that promised crispness along with hints of wild honey. I found it tart and crisp with a silky smoothness that was cool on my tongue. There were hints of melon and peach that came through a strong green apple flavor. It made me dream of summer heat, honey barbecued chicken, and sweet corn roasted on the grill in the husk.

We also were able to try the 2008 Chardonnay - W3. The W's in W3 stand for Walla-Walla and Willamette where the grapes are grown. I found the nose toasty and cool simultaneously along with a high sharpness that suggested the wine would pack a punch. I found it to be the exact opposite upon tasting it however - it was smooth, mellow, and silky. The oak flavor was soft and subtle, hitting me gently at the finish. I noted a floral aspect at the top of my palette along with a balance of tart and sweet fall fruit - pear and apple. Not a huge fan of chardonnay, I was pleased to find this wine highly drinkable. Its strength and complexity would be wonderful by the glass, or paired with foods that are sweet and spicy.

I really enjoyed trying the 2005 Cayalla RTW (red table wine). This wine continued my current love affair with Oregon red varietals. The nose was rich and earthy and filled with dark fruity notes along with chocolate and vanilla. I found the taste equally deep with cherry at the front, an oily and peppery cocoa at the middle, and a long finish filled with mineral, earth, and moss. If there ever was a wine I would call a comfort food, this would be it. I'd drink it on its own, but really wanted to have it with my mom's macaroni and cheese followed by chocolate chip cookies. Despite the homeyness of this wine, I think it would stand well in a fine dining situation as well.

Another wine I noted well was the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The nose opened into a strong and complex mixture of berry and spice - deep and clear - blackberry, clove and pepper with almost a citrus flash that lingered late, opening up my sinuses and asking me to take another whiff. A long-time lover of the mountains, I found this wine to be the olfactory equivalent of springtime in the peaks just below the snow line. The taste was fresh, full, and tantalizing, and completely matched what I had just smelled. I enjoyed the acidic texture and the greenness of the finish. I loved loved loved this wine. I doubt I would pair it with anything lest I lose something from my experience of it, but if forced to choose I'd eat it with Greek food - feta cheese, olives, and smoky roast lamb.

All in all the experience at Firesteed was one of hospitality, fun, and great wines. I walked out with a bottle of the Cayalla RTW and (duh!) the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. As the weather improves here in the area I intend on hopping on my bicycle and visiting them again!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Erath 2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir and 5lbs of Ham

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Last Thanksgiving, I really took a chance and exposed the inner workings of my family with what a typical holiday looks like. Instead of the usual drunken complaintfest we normally experience, it ended up being one of the best Thanksgivings ever thanks to Josh joining us, some Castle Crashers, and Erath's 2008 Leland Pinot Noir.

While Josh didn't join us last weekend, I tried to replicate as much of the experience as I could for Easter dinner. Nobody in my family is very religious, so Easter is more or less an opportunity for us to get together and stuff our faces with ham and ham accessories. To fully accessorize the ham while also partaking in the requisite alcohol consumption, I decided to make another one of Erath's Pinot Noirs a part of my holiday experience. This Easter I decided to open a bottle of Erath's 2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir.

For the sake of disclosure, this was a promotional bottle sent to me by Erath. Like all wines we review, I'm still going to be just as critical as I would otherwise.

Picture this scene: It's about 3pm and Alyssa and I have just arrived at my parents' house. Grandma is spaced out on the couch staring into oblivion, my mom is busy in the kitchen, my sister is on a laptop, and my dad isn't anywhere to be fouOH THERE HE IS! Alyssa and I are greeted with a big group hug out of nowhere and one thing is obvious; he's been hitting the sauce for a few hours. If there's anything that makes his loud ramblings any easier to bear, it's having a few drinks yourself.

To counter this, I realized it was the perfect time to have a glass of Pinot Noir before dinner and then another once dinner was served. As I popped its cork, I immediately picked up the aroma of sweet cranberries. My dad must have been fascinated too as he asked whether this wine was "sweet or dry". I don't even know how to respond that anymore as I'm pretty sure he doesn't know the difference. Instead, I read the wine's tasting notes to him:

This traditional offering from Dick Erath’s home vineyard reflects the classic Dundee Hills Pinot Noir style – bright red fruit with a soft body. Vibrant cranberry aromas with an ethereal hint of violets provide a pleasing introduction to juicy, cinnamon-spiced, strawberry flavors – laced with a streak of rich mocha – that build to a satisfyingly prolonged finish

Dad: "Is this expensive?"
Me: "It retails for about $45"
At that point he took the liberty of grabbing the bottle and taking a swig from it.
Dad: "Let's drink it like it's cheap!"
Me: "No."

I got the bottle back and my mom took it upon herself to usher him out of the dining room. Finally I could start pouring. Erath's 2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir pours a very bright, translucent ruby color that is much lighter than your typical Oregon Pinot Noir. As the tasting notes state, you're immediately greeted with powerful cranberry hues followed by what I identified as red fruits and cocoa. That said, the tartness of the cranberry really steals the show as other flavors are somewhat over powered.

The tartness was somewhat subdued when paired with ham and more savory side dishes. Although Erath suggests pairing this wine with savory duck and pork dishes, I disagree only because this wine paired like peanut butter and jelly when paired with cheese cake. The rich, creaminess of the cheesecake both subdued the tartness and combined with its lesser hues to really bring out its full flavor.

In short, I would definitely recommend trying this Pinot Noir if given the opportunity, but I would urge you to ignore its pairing suggestions and instead have it with some sort of rich dessert. Wine and dessert? I know, life is rough sometimes.

A huge thank you goes out to Erath for providing the wine as well as an apology for probably writing the least-classiest way to review an otherwise phenomenal Pinot Noir.

Up next on my series of wine for the holidays: Memorial Day weekend and whatever my dad agrees not to take pulls of.