Monday, December 30, 2013

Gift Horse 5: 2009 Firesteed Pinot Noir


I can feel 2014 coming around the corner! What will you be drinking when it rolls up? I really enjoy the symbolic notion of a clean slate - a fresh start - a time to reflect and set goals and move forward. Last year I pulled out a mix of Oregon wines for a game night in Corvallis. The year before that, I sipped whiskey by a fire 8 miles up the Deschutes, and the year before that I sampled champagne and watched fireworks from a hotel window in Salt Lake City. This year I am in Boston, and I think the plan is a quiet night in. James Bond may play a role in the evening. 

What will I be bringing? 2009 Firesteed Pinot Noir: I had two bottles of this, and cracked into one last week to find that it is drinking very well. Cherry and spice and everything nice in this brilliantly-colored wine. I think it is an excellent choice for after-dinner sipping by the fire (indoors or out). It would also be a great complement to a pork dish, or even something a little more powerful in flavor. The plan is to make up small plates, and enjoy the evening in with good friends! 

Happy 2014!
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Gift Horse 4: 2011 Eola Hills Reserve Pinot Noir


HELP! I was asked to bring wine to a party, and I don't know anything about wine. What do I doooo!?!?!?! 

Ok, let's start with taking some deep breaths and realizing this is not actually a crisis. Calmed down? Cool - now we can chat. 

So your friend is having a dinner party and asked you to bring wine. Perhaps they were fooled by the last wine contribution to their events and think you know what you are doing with selection. Perhaps they are about as clueless about wine as you are, and just wanted to delegate the responsibility and let someone else look like an oaf. Perhaps no one gives a care about what they are drinking, and no matter what you get it will taste like wine and people will drink it. Regardless you have been tasked, and you need to get going. The party is in an hour.

My first (and simplest) question is: what do you like, and what does your friend like? Go with that. 

Second (and slightly more complex): do your get red or white? Find out what is being served for food, and Google "wine pairing 101." Don't know what is being served? I refer you to question #1. Go with that.

Third (and most complex): what will happen if you choose poorly? If the answer is "I will be barbecued by my friends and paired with the bad choice wine," go with #2. If the answer is "nothing," go with #1. 

One wine i am going to bring to a party this season: 2011 Eola Hills Reserve Pinot Noir. Why not give them a taste of what the Willamette Valley is known for? This pinot will certainly fit the bill - lightly oaky with a gentle spiciness and a lot of ripe dark fruit, this wine would be amazing with heavier dishes like beef. It can also pair nicely with stronger vegetarian dishes with nutty or mushroom flavors. 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Gift Horse 3: 2011 Tyee Gewurztraminer


What if you are the person planning the party you say? How does all of this wine business stack up on the receiving end? If you are going to be putting together the shindig, you have to think about what kind of event it will be and plan accordingly. Serving food? You have either the option of doing your own pairings, or asking your guests to bring something. If you choose the latter, you also need to decide how much guidance to give. I had friends over for a small dinner party last week, and decided to delegate wine to my roommate. All I said was "citrusy white," which actually is more specific than a lot of people might be - most say "red" or "white" and leave it at that. It is appropriate to ask for a bit more (ie. varietal), but if you are going to really micromanage the selection, I recommend just getting the wine on your own.

If you ask someone to bring wine to a party, it is good form to open it and share. Of course, there might be a situation where the wine to person ratio is too great, and something goes unopened. That's OK, but if you are asking people to bring it, that is not a gift. That said, like I mentioned in Gift Horse 1, if someone shows up with a wine that was not requested, there is no obligation to open it. Why, you ask? Well think about it like this: what if someone showed up to your dinner party with a different cut of meat (or veggie main dish) than you were planning on serving? Do you change your plans and serve that? Probably not. It is OK to say "thank you," set the gift wine aside, and move on with your planned meal. I recommend sending a thank you note of some kind afterward. 

Recent pick: 2011 Tyee Gewurztraminer: Lots of tropical and local fruit and spice in this wine - pineapple, guava, mango, pear, and melon. All of this with a spiciness reminiscent of ginger and cardamom. The 2012 vintage of this wine is also excellent, and carries a lot of the same flavors. This wine is dry, and would be excellent with spicy foods, or just sipping on its own. 
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

(My) Wedding Review Part 1: The Wine

I know it may seem surprising if you've stuck with my writing for a while, but a woman actually agreed to marry me. I didn't even have to bribe her! That happened a couple of months ago and since I finally have some photos to accompany this article, I thought I'd take a moment to go over the food and beverages we decided to use and why.


Writing for a publication that focuses on the best of the region we call home was both a blessing and a curse. For one, I have a reputation to live up to. Our friends and family know this and expect the best from us. On the other hand, we're also fairly early in our careers and were financing the wedding ourselves.

Would it be possible to wow everybody with locally-sourced wine, beer, and food on a budget? Of course!

I'll do this series in three parts. Wine, beer, and food will be presented in that order. Up first, the wine.

One theme Alyssa and I really wanted to run with was Portland. It's where we live, where we got married, and where we both work. A good portion of our guests were coming from out of town and our wedding would be the perfect opportunity to highlight why we enjoy this city so much. Long time readers will probably know where I'm going with this, but for those of you who may not have guessed already, it was an easy decision for us to source our wine from Enso Urban Winery on SE Stark. About Enso:
We are a small-batch artisan wine producer, located in the heart of Portland’s Eastside. Our passion is to make wines that speak of the place where they were grown, the climate they were grown in, and their true varietal character. Let each bottle be it’s own enso – an expression of the moment.
Enso embodies everything I love about the culture of the West Coast and they just so happen to make all of their wine in downtown Portland. On top of their wine being delicious and very affordable, it was a no-brainer. So what did we select?
Bartender provided by MyBartender.com
RESONATE Red #7 ($16/bottle) - Enso's RESONATE series are their current red or white blend that they feel like making at any given moment. Each iteration of RESONATE changes, so you'll never get the same thing each time. We chose #7 (which was on its way out for #8 soon) because of the specific blend. At 67% Washington Sangiovese and 33% Washington Barbera, it's both a crowd pleaser and an Italian blend that meshes perfectly with Alyssa's palate.

So how was it received? Turns out we didn't actually have a lot of red wine drinkers in the house. That said, those who do like red wine really enjoyed it. Having something local was a big hit and the fact it highlighted Italian varietals made it very unique compared to typical wedding wine. I myself stuck with this most of the night and couldn't have been happier.

RESONATE White #5 ($14/bottle) - While there weren't quite as many red wine drinkers, it turns out that significantly more liked white wine. According to those who I informally poled, this was either the best or one of the best white wines they've ever had. This blend comes to us at 85% Washington Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Oregon Muller-Thurgau, so quite possibly something our guests will never experience again either.
Warning: consumption of white wine can cause, uh, this...
What I learned and advice: We didn't know much about the beverage preferences of our guests ahead of time, so we made an assumption regarding how much everybody would eat or drink by estimating high. This didn't end up being much of a problem for us since I had no issue giving extra bottles away or taking them home, but I also could have saved money on wine by purchasing less. If you're comfortable doing so and want to make sure you're putting your money where it counts, it may be worthwhile to casually poll your guests regarding their beverage preferences.

That said, picking good wine that you actually enjoy will go a long way with guests who enjoy wine. Your crazy aunt may like box wine or 2 Buck Chuck, but my philosophy is to only serve wine that you yourself would want to drink. If you don't know much about wine, find a friend who does and have them help you pick something that meets your budget. One white blend and one red blend was absolutely the right way to go.

Up next: beer!
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Gift Horse 2: 2012 Erath Pinot Blanc


Let's talk about cost when giving wine as a gift - is it OK for the wine you are giving to be one that does not lighten your wallet too much? Well, consider the occasion, the person, and most importantly, the wine. We did a series not too long ago called "That's a Steal" that highlights wines with an amazing value for the price point. Not able to spring $30-$50 on something "fancy?" No worries. Check out our staff picks from that series...or go to your local wine store (not the wine section in a grocery store) and ask the staff to help you. 

I was in Boston last year prior to Thanksgiving, and was going to head to NY to see my family. My mother had asked me to bring wine. While in the wine store, I ended up chatting up a fellow who was picking the wine for their holiday dinner. He thought I was a staff member, and thus asked me to help him out. His goal: get wine that was tasty enough for the winos at the table, but was not very expensive because most of the folks at the dinner did not really care or know about good wine. This was also my goal, so we trekked around the store and shopped together. I ended up with 3 bottles, but he walked out with 3 cases! The staff at the store were so appreciative, they gave me a free corkscrew with my purchase. 

One wine that is delicious and does not break the bank is 2012 Erath Pinot Blanc. If you want to bring the essence of Oregon summer to the party, this is a wine that can help you do it. Bright and fragrant, this wine carries melon and apple flavors as well as honey and citrus. It goes well with a cheese plate, and can also cut the saltiness of ham. This wine will please a range of guests, and has a price point that will not break the bank.
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Gift Horse 1: Spindrift 2012 Pinot Gris

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Party Season!!! 

Regardless of whether you have a holiday to celebrate in the upcoming weeks, I imagine you will have one or two social engagements to attend. While it depends on the occasion if a host/hostess/party planner gift is in order per social norms, I personally like to give a little something as acknowledgement of their efforts. While wine is not always the most appropriate gift to give, it sure does come in handy in a lot of situations. I plan on highlighting the wines I will be gifting to family and friends. 

First, it is important to note that giving wine as a gift does not imply that you will be drinking it at the function. Even if you thoughtfully and skillfully figure out what food is being served, there is a chance that the person throwing the party will already have drinks planned, so if your intention is to get to drink the wine you are giving, get two bottles and keep one at home. Know that if the person throwing the party does not open your wine, they are not looking the gift horse in the mouth, but moving along on their agenda - it is their party after all!

One wine I plan on gifting this season is 2012 Pinot Gris from Spindrift. This is a light and citrusy wine with crisp character and a soft finish. Serve it lightly chilled (pull it from the fridge about 30-45 minutes before serving) to allow it to fully express its flavors. In my opinion, people regularly over chill their white wine, and thus can't taste the more complex flavors, which include floral notes and grapefruit. It pairs well with chicken or fish - I'd go with something a bit heavier if you are talking turkey.


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ninkasi's Thanksgiving Beer

Looking for a little boozy goodness to crack open on Thursday after all of the turkey is gone?

Boy, have I got a deal for you.

I have absolutely no idea if Ninkasi had Thanksgiving in mind when they brewed the Imperiale High Gravity Stout, but it sure left me screaming thanks when I cracked it open the other night.

It also left me a bit buzzed which is an added bonus when spending an extended amount of time with the family. Just kidding, Mom.

Let's cut to the chase.

According to Ninkasi, or resident Eugene beer expert:

Rich, full bodied and surprisingly smooth, Imperiale Stout has a big roast hit up front, and rich, dark malt flavors balanced with ample hop bitterness to finish.

Part of their special release series, better grab some while you can.

Brewery: Ninkasi Brewing
Style: Imperial Stout
BeerAdvocate.com Rating: 81
RateBeer.com Rating: 89
Serving: 22oz bottle
ABV: 9.1%

And...the tasting notes:

Roasted malt up front, with a smooth and creamy body warming the mouth. Caramel, toffee, molasses and a touch coffee notes are present but are unified in one amazingly drinkable beer. Let us bundle you up!

Looking at the ratings in the scientific online beer communities, I was a bit surprised. I quite enjoyed this brew as I do most of the Ninkasi dark lineup. It appears that the most common complaint is it's bitterness; with an IBU of of 70 I suppose that is a valid complaint if you don't like hops.

That...or the reviewers were just a little sleepy after too much turkey and beer.

Nonetheless, I stand by my claim that this is worth checking out. Perhaps with the pumpkin pie.

Cheers!
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's Barrel Aged Beer Season!

Tis the season to be jolly and merry and all that crap.

Said me, never.

Deep down, beneath my suave and sexy exterior, hidden behind a soft voice and an apparently kind heart, I'm a grinch. At least when it comes to most winter holidays.

I just can't get behind all of the glitter and the flitter and the ho ho ho's and that stuff. What I can get behind, however, is winter beer -- thank god the boozy stuff comes out during the holiday season.

Ever since a fateful night many years ago when Rick introduced me to Deschutes Mirror Mirror, barrel aged beer has been somewhat of a special treat for me. So special that half of my reserve wine cooler is now filled with the stuff.

There are worse problems to have in life.

You'll certainly get some more in depth reviews as we proceed through the next couple of months, but in the meantime, here is what I'm stoked about this winter:
  • Deschutes The Abyss Imperial Stout: A deep, dark Imperial Stout, The Abyss has almost immeasurable depth and complexity. The 2013 vintage is being released today in the Bend and Portland Brewpubs. How can you go wrong with what the Reddit beer community describes as "the best fucking motor oil you'll ever drink"?
  • Reuben's Brews Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout: They had 444 bottles available...that is, if you got to the brewery within the first hour on release day. Luckily for me (and select friends), the brewery is 2 blocks away so I made it with plenty of time to spare. Deep, dark, seductive. Tried this one on draft and can't wait to crack the bottle open.
  • Fremont Brewery KDS Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star: Another one that's pretty well sold out, but at least in Seattle you can still find a couple bottles laying around at your local craft beer store. It's Fremont's already delicious Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
  • Block 15 Figgy Pudding: Brewed with English pale & specialty malts and molasses. Matured in freshly emptied brandy barrels, conditioned with roasted mission figs, and then gently spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and nutmeg. Complex aromas and flavours of aged brandy, figs, spice, oak and vanilla with a velvety warm finish. The ultimate holiday beer to enjoy with friends, family, and elves. With a release date of November 16 and only 60 cases, you better get your ass down to Corvallis to pick some up.
  • Full Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout:  Formerly known as Black Gold, this beer was brewed in December of 2011 and has since aged in Kentucky Bourbon casks from Maker's Mark, Four Roses, Jim Beam. This extended aging presents hints of vanilla and allows the Stout to pick up the flavors of the wood, bourbon and oak. Probably the most readily available of the beers I've listed, don't underestimate it's excellence based on it's availability.
These should keep you drinking long into the dark winter nights.

What's your favorite barrel-aged beer?

Cheers.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Subplot No. 26


The joys of fall harvest - creamy squash, crisp apples, sweet late-season corn, tangy greens, earthy potatoes, and the sense that one has benefited from the bounty of the year. As we pulled the plants out of the beds and took stock of the year's gardening outcomes, it was clear it had been an excellent season. We put in the kale, garlic, and broccoli, counted the jars of pickled goodness, and set to drying the last of the apples. 

My companion wine for these endeavors comes from Bookwalter Winery in Richland, WA - Subplot No. 26. I grabbed this red blend in a rush while grabbing canning accoutrement. Honestly, the orangey-red label was what caught my eye. I've had a soft spot for red blends of late, and this one looked like I could not go wrong in choosing it. My assumption was correct - dark and earthy, this wine boasts dark fruitiness, with bitter and mineral hints on the finish. I found the mouth feel smooth, and the whole experienced balanced. I'd pair this wine with any of the red wine favorites, and it went swimmingly with apple pie and Vermont cheddar. 
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

American Beer Is Awful -OR- Taste Is Subjective

Some of you may remember the write up I did about Finland's plethora of canned beverages last Summer. My friend, Matti, was a good sport about it and had a good laugh. This Summer was his turn to visit me and what I thought would be a magical journey into the wonders of Northwest craft beer turned into something else. Not bad, but different.

Being the huge fans of local craft beer that we are, Josh and I made sure Matti would have the opportunity to try a little bit of everything the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Trips to Seattle, Tri-Cities WA, Hood River, and Portland offered up a ton of local breweries for us to wow him with. That didn't go quite as planned. I'll get into details later, but let's take a look at beers he tried and my interpretation of his reaction to them (worst to best):

Is this poison? I'm pretty sure you're tying to kill me
  • Full Sail Berliner Weiss
  • Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
  • Deschutes Six Bullets Belgian IPA
  • Deschutes River Ale
  • Deschutes Chainbreaker IPA

  • This is awful
  • Deschutes Double D Imperial Spelt Ale
  • Deschutes Jubelale
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
  • Elysian Great Pumpkin Imperial Ale
  • Bridgeport Stumptown Tart
  • Full Sail Wassail
  • Double Mountain White Rider
  • White Bluff Dunkelweiss

  • I'd pour this out if you weren't watching
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Saison
  • Fremont Bourbon Barrel Abominable Winter Ale
  • Hopworks Lager
  • Hopworks Velvet ESB
  • Double Mountain Black Irish
  • White Bluff ROCKtoberfest
  • Old Town Brewing Porter
  • Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale
  • Negro Modelo

  • I'll finish this
  • Oakshire Espresso Stout
  • Olympia

  • This is really good beer!
  • Full Sail Session Black Lager
  • Full Sail Session Lager

  • I'm sure I missed a few beers, but you get the picture. My initial reaction was that I was kind of embarrassed. I had talked up how amazing the beer is here and he hated the vast majority of it. While the two Session beers aren't bad by any stretch, I never imagined they would top any of the listings above them.

    But then I reminded myself that taste is completely subjective. While my version of this list would look a whole lot different, he isn't wrong. People like what they like and you can't really force that. Sure, it significantly reduces what you'll like if a beer that was brewed within a 100 miles (kilometers/kelvin/whatever) of a single hop is too hoppy, but damn it, they're out there!

    So here's to you, my ale-averse buddy. The next round of $1 Olys are on me.

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    Monday, October 21, 2013

    They Make Wine There: Missouri Edition

    Deep in the heart of the midwest, you'll find Boulevard Brewing Company crafting some of the finest brew Kansas City has ever seen.

    Kansas City...now is that Kansas, or Missouri?

    Missouri...or Missoura?

    One could argue the intricacies of pronunciation all day long, but we'd rather you crack open a cold one and read along as we tell you the tale of an improbable wine coming out of Kansas City, Missouri.

    The Story

    You see, in 2006, Boulevard opened a new brewing facility with a quite delightful event space incorporated into the venue. With wide eyes and a brewery downstairs, dreams of hosting weddings and other beer-fueled moments of joy soared throughout the Boulevard team.

    Imagine their disgust upon learning that Boulevard didn't have a license to sell their beer onsite. Furthermore, according to Missouri's backwards alcohol laws, breweries aren't even eligible for retail licenses. Finding the notion of bringing outside kegs in to an event venue on Boulevard's property wholly unacceptable, enter Boulevard Wines. Believe it or not, Missouri law does in fact allow wine manufacturers to sell alcoholic beverages on premises...so lickety split Boulevard set up a little winery operation and the rest is history.

    Initially importing California fruit, in 2010 Boulevard starting producing about 350 cases per year using homegrown Missouri grapes which is how the Henry County 2009 Cabernet Franc came to my palate.

    It actually came via my friends Drew and Kate who attended a wedding recently in Kansas City and were gratious enough to bring a bottle back to share.

    So yes, Missouri...they make wine there!

    The Wine

    So say the winery:
    In the rolling hills of west central Missouri, our tiny vineyard is nestled in a pastoral paradise of family farms, meandering streams, and hardwood forest. This estate-grown Cabernet Franc pours a deep ruby color, with an inviting aroma of black fruits, cassis, and spice. On the palate, layers of blackberry, plum, and currant reveal earthy notes with hints of pepper and tobacco.
    So say Josh, Drew, Kate, and Gomer (the cat):

    Upon pouring into three glasses and a cat dish, we found the wine was accurately described visually with a deep red and slightly rusty notes. Drew mentioned that the vineyard is likely on an old tobacco field, which might influence the fruit.

    Kate immediately commented that the wine smelled like an anorexic cab, and Drew got notes of gasoline which I echoed with some pepper. Gomer picked up hints of tobacco; American Spirit, not Camel. Classy cat.

    Upon tasting, we found the wine to be spicy and tart; Drew indicated it was "pretty good" and Kate guzzled it down commenting that it was better than other Missouri wines. I didn't realize there were other Missouri wines.

    All in all, we found the Henry County wine to be more fruit forward that the gassy nose would have led us to believe. Once you get over the conflict of the smell and the taste, it's one of the better "They Make Wine There?" offerings that I've had.

    Not that it compares to a Washington cab, but after all, what does?
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    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    That's A Steal: A little Rascal to fight off the rain

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    It's pouring in Portland right now as I sit snuggled up on the coach with a big cozy sweatshirt on, football on TV in the background, an entire bottle of wine in front of me and a big black dog anxious to help me write this post.

    While some of my WestToast colleagues have their back pockets filled with "That's A Steal" ideas, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I don't mind an inexpensive wine but I struggle to find bottles that I like enough to buy again. The bottle I finally found is actually the third one I've attempts for the purpose of this post.

    Tonight, as many Portlanders avoided the record setting September rain, I scoured the aisles of North Portland's New Seasons for a bottle worthy of a post.  Since those failed attemps earlier in the month - I decided I was going to go with an inexpensive bottle of one of my favorite varietals.  It's hard to miss when it comes to Oregon Pinot Noir.  It's big, bold and almost like a meal of flavor across your palette. 

    My eyes kept stopping on one on the shelf tonight.  I had enjoyed it before but was hesitant to pick it up because of the glaring price tags surrounding it.  When one lovely looking lady grabbed two bottles off the shelf though I moved in, making sure to grab one before other customers outsmarted me.  I'm sure glad that I did.

    You might recognize the Rascal label because of the angel dog image on the label.  The Oregon Pinot Noir is from The Great Oregon Wine Co. part of Stone Wolf Vineyards and was actually created just a few years ago as winemakers looked for a way to deal with an overabundance of grapes.  You can read more in the 2010 story in The Oregonian.

    I paid $8.99 for it at PCC but I'd guess you can find it for even less at other stores.  The bottle is one that will go down easily either on its own or mixed with your favorite rainy day dinner.  There are great cherry and earth tones inside the inexpensive bottle - even Moose thinks the rascally goodness inside is lipsmacking good.

    I'm starting a list of wines to always have on my shelf and this will be one of them - though I'm sure there will be more than one Pinot Noir on it because if you like it big and bold - these black grape wines can't be beat.  Enjoy a glass, or three, tonight.  You can afford to throw back a little Rascal.
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    Monday, September 30, 2013

    That's a Steal! Foris Fly Over Red

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    I've been a slacker of late - not writing much of anything except for nerdy things like literature reviews and strategic plans. I suppose we all have times when life things move into a lull...I suppose the past months have been that for me with the blog. If you were someone who has been pining for my beverage musings...I'm sorry. I don't however imagine that my absence has taken too much of a toll...

    When I thought about the concept of "that's a steal," I was inspired to look at the notion broadly...not just the wine, but the food as well. I'd picked up a bottle of Fly Over Red, a Rogue Valley blend for Foris Winery, and I wanted to create around it a meal that was also delicious and inexpensive. Red blends are rather like my wine comfort food, and so I decided that I'd test out this one along with my ultimate food of comfort - grilled cheese and soup.


    Of course I never do anything the "normal" way, so what I ended up with was open-faced grilled cheese with squash soup and a bean and corn salad. Since most of the food came from my garden, the total cost of the meal was about $2. What a steal! The wine, at $13 for the bottle, was by far the spendiest item in the bunch, but it was most definitely worth every penny. This wine is incredibly smooth, dark in flavor, and with a silky and heavy mouth feel. The nose is fruity with a bit of vanilla, which is what comes at the start of a sip as well...followed by just a bit of spice in the finish. I may have helped myself to more than one glass...

    I figured I'd leave the recipes here as well in the event something looked good to you:

    Summer squash soup (slow cooker version)
    - 5lb yellow summer squash
    - 4T bouillon (I used veggie, but you can use any kind you like)
    - 1 gallon water
    - 1 onion
    - 4 cloves of garlic
    - salt and white pepper to taste
    - 1c 2% milk

    Place all ingredients in a crock pot and put on low overnight. In the morning blend well with a hand blender until smooth. Add milk and let rewarm. Makes about 1 gallon of soup. I know the proportions are HUGE - I made enough to freeze.

    Black bean and corn salad
    - 1 can black beans
    - 4 ears of sweet corn, uncooked
    - 1 red bell pepper
    - 1 medium red onion
    - 3T chopped, fresh cilantro
    - 1/4c lime juice
    - 1t cumin
    - 1t olive oil
    - salt and pepper to taste

    Cut kernels off of corn. Wash and drain beans. Chop pepper and onion finely. Toss all vegetables with the cilantro and cumin. Whisk oil and lime juice together to form an emulsion and pour over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2-4 servings depending on how much you like salad!

    Grilled cheese - go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq7G-Q9ZwC0 to see Hannah Harto's awesome episode of "My Drunk Kitchen." Seems apropos.
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    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    That's a Steal: Every Day Drinkers

    When I say "every day drinker", I'm not talking about your alcoholic cousin Eddie.

    No offense intended any of our readers actually have an alcoholic cousin Eddie.  Alcoholism is a serious disease and we support treatment for those in need.

    What I am talking about is the bottle of wine you have absolutely no concerns about opening on a night like tonight, pouring yourself a glass, and writing a blog post.  I've been horrible about following my own advice and have none of those bottles on my rack right now so alas, I abstain.

    I often get asked for suggestions for every day drinking wines that are in our "That's a Steal" price category; typically $15 or less.  So I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Just for you, our fair readers, I share my top Pacific Northwest every day drinking selections:

    • H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, usually on sale for about $12. All Horse Heaven Hills fruit. You’d think it cost double what it does.
    • Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, usually on sale for $8.99 at your local grocer. Best “cheap” wine out there.
    • Desert Wind Ruah, often around $15 at the large grocers. A pretty nice red blend from the Wahluke Slope area.
    • Tamarack Firehouse Red, around $16. An even nicer red blend from Walla Walla.
    • Barnard Griffin Syrah, $15 in the stores. The Barnard Griffin “tulip label” wines are all very solid, reasonably priced, and broadly available.
    • StoneCap: All three of their reds are nice, less than $10. This is all estate fruit from Goose Ridge that didn’t fit the profile for whatever they are putting out under the Goose Ridge label.
    • Terra Blanca Arch Terrace: While listed at $25, you can often find most of these reds in the $17 range. It’s all Red Mountain estate fruit and is one of the best Red Mountain deals out there.

    Personally I’d go with the H3, Desert Wind, and Barnard Griffin as every day drinkers…the Tamarack is a great "with dinner wine"…and the Terra Blanca for guests or to take to a party, etc.

    StoneCap and the Grand Estates are nice, but I can tell the difference between those and the rest of the list.  I'm also a bit of a snob.

    Enjoy!
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    Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    #WineWednesday: Future Home of Our Wine Cellar

    Many of you playing along at home know that my wife and I just purchased our first home. We were actively searching for about 7 months and it was a lesson in compromise for sure. However, the one thing we never wavered on was having a place for our wine. Over the years we have had wine stored in spare bedrooms, closets, and even just on the floor in the living/dining room. Since we were looking to buy a place, we needed to make sure we could have appropriate storage for our 150-200+ bottles of wine. I give a range because while I normally keep my CellarTracker updated, once we started packing and moving it became all out of whack. One of my first orders of business is to re-inventory everything.

    While it ain't pretty yet, I bring you the future home of our wine cellar. Our house is oriented north-south so our garage stays nice and cool. The open houses were on some relatively hot days here in Santa Rosa, CA and this area was still a cool 60 degrees, making it a great option to take care of the valuables.

    Wine storage is important and I have definitely lost plenty of bottles due to poor storage so I am quite excited to have an area dedicated to the wine.

    Cheers!

    Jesse





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    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    That's a Steal: Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Riesling

    My absolute favorite part about wine-related journalism isn't when we get to taste super expensive wines (although that can certainly be fun), but suggesting incredible wines to my friends who ask what to get on a budget. No, one does not need to splurge to impress guests when it comes to wine. In fact, I'm going to use Josh's strategy and show a slightly different route you can take with less than $10.


    Let's say you have guests coming over and you know you want to serve wine, but do your guests even drink wine? If they do, are they kind of snobby about it? If they don't, are they going to be scared off by something especially complex? You certainly don't want to bust out a box wine and everybody knows that 2 Buck Chuck is awful. Don't worry, I've got your back. BOOM:


    Willamette Valley Vineyards' 2012 Riesling is where it's at. Yeah, I went there. A white wine. Call me a cheater, but our only criteria were "wines under $15" and I picked this up at Winco of all places for $9.95.

    When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, you want something approachable enough for non-wine drinkers, but also something interesting enough for people who know their way around a tasting room. WVV's Riesling does just that and here's what they have to say about it:
    A semi-sweet wine. The nose opens with aromas of pear and pineapple, followed by lighter notes of citrus skin and sweet honeysuckle. The sip is led by dominant flavors of granny smith apple and stone fruit that lead into a creamy mouthfeel. Sweet and sour notes are supported by crisp acidity leading into the finish. Peak drinkability 2012 - 2014.
    WVV's assessment is pretty spot on. I'm half way through the glass in the picture and the nose is sweet with hints of honey and pear. Taste follows through with the same. Plenty of residual sugar to please those typically turned off by wine, but subtle hints of green apple and honey to keep it complex enough for wine fans.

    To further add to its resume, this stuff is extremely versatile. It goes well by itself, you can pair it with almost any dinner, and it even goes great with dessert.

    So go on. Next time you need a wine on the cheaper end of the spectrum, don't be afraid to pick up Willamette Valley Vineyards' Riesling. You're in for a treat.
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    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    That's a Steal: Hedges CMS

    1 comment
    Value.

    It's a notion that is subjective both in it's definition and it's connotation.

    If you were to crack open a dictionary, you'd likely find the concept of worth, utility, and importance synonymous with value.

    To me, it's about opportunity cost...what do I have to give up in order to receive the benefit of a particular object or experience. In the most tangible sense, that's money.

    You weren't expecting us to get all academic on you, were you?

    When it comes to my wine purchases, value takes shape in a number of ways. No, it's not just whatever is cheap, although cost is a factor. I find value in wines that should cost more than they do based on their quality. I find value in wines that are at a price point that is suitable for everyday drinking, but who's quality meets my snobby standards.

    Inexpensive, but good.

    Over the next couple of weeks, each of our writers will be exploring a value wine that is a staple in their cellar. While each of us has a different threshold of value, we're shooting for under $15 per bottle. The kind of wine that we use to introduce new wine drinkers to the Pacific Northwest and California, at a price that's appealing. So, here we go - the "That's a Steal" series.

    I have a mental list of about dozen wines that are in that south of $15 range that are nice representations of the terrior, so for this journey, I wanted to do one better. Less than $10, tax not included.

    What I settled on was a wine that is always rock solid, represents Washington well, broadly distributed, and is just about always on sale in the $10 range: 2010 Hedges CMS.

    On sale at Safeway for a sticker price $9.98 today, it just met my criteria.

    Oh, you need a Safeway Club Card for that price, but doesn't everyone have one of those already?

    Hedges CMS

    Located on a gorgeous estate on Red Mountain, Hedges Family Estate puts some fantastic Red Mountain AVA wine. They also have a line focusing on the Columbia Valley AVA, which is where you find the CMS.

    According to Hedges:
    CMS Red, Washington State's original blended red wine, has been produced and bottled by the estate since 1987. Consistently recognized as one of the best values in Washington State, CMS Red combines elegance and historic blending practices with top quality vineyard sources in the Columbia Valley. A style consistent with classic northern latitude wine growing, the CMS Red is known for a more Columbia Valley AVA regionally driven style, giving way to purity and structure over modernity
    A blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 12% Syrah, the CMS had a 65,555 case production in 2010 and was estate produced from Columbia Valley fruit. Don't let the price fool you, the fruit comes from some of the best vineyards in the valley including Destiny Ridge, Sagemoor, Goose Ridge, and Hedges. A blend gives the winemaker the opportunity to be a bit creative, and do it at a palatable price. You'll find some of the best values out there in the blends.

    Upon cracking the CMS open, I noticed a gorgeous, dark purple color. Sure, I'd enjoyed the wine many times before...but this was the first time I actually studied the look. While relatively a small percentage, the CMS took it's lead from the Syrah camp with little translucency.

    The nose is gorgeous; fruit forward, strong black cherry, and classic Washington notes. I got some cranberry and currant out of it, noting that it was a very inviting smell just out of the bottle.

    The first sip yields a very nice smooth mouthfeel. I was hit with a lingering punch of acid at the end, moderate tannins, and a strong cranberry and dark berry flavor. It was delicious and I found myself continuting to sip throughout the evening.

    Extremely drinkable, and you won't feel bad (in the pocketbook that is) if you drink the whole bottle.

    We hope you enjoy "That's a Steal", and perhaps find a few more value wines to add to your cellar!

    Cheers.
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    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Seattle Beer 5k

    I had the great fortune to get up to Seattle this past weekend to see Sir Paul McCartney play at Safeco Field. Man, can he rock! 3 hours of awesomeness including encores with the remaining members of Nirvana. It was a great concert, and the kickoff to an excellent weekend. 

    But really...how does one follow that????

    My friends Dennis and Rita offered up an incredible suggestion - join them as they lead the Beer 5k offered through their branch of the company, City Running Tours. It's exactly how it sounds...take a run to see the sights in the city, and top it off with a frosty brew. Exercise and beer? Count me in. 


    The Beer 5k starts and ends at the Fremont Brewery (I will get to that later), and treks around the fun and funky neighborhood of Fremont. The tour takes runners along a relatively easy run (a couple of short and satisfying hills at the start) to see the artwork, Gasworks Park, and along the Burke-Gilman trail. We shook hands with Lenin, used our bodies as sundials, and even climbed on dinosaurs and trolls. Dennis and Rita were awesome guides (bias aside, of course), and filled the tour with photo ops and silly jokes. It was a great way to see a part of Seattle that I love, and learn something new around every corner.


    We wrapped up, as I said, at the Fremont Brewery. I enjoyed the open-air feel of the space and the outdoor seating. The brewery was even dog-friendly, and I got to pet ALL THE DOGS!!!! I tried the Randall IPA. Unlike the intensely hoppy IPAs I usually find in the Northwest, this was balanced with hops and citrus. Lemon-y with a ginger nip, this was a great beer to sip while chatting with the other runners. 

    Thanks Dennis and Rita!
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    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    Portland's Miracle Mile

    On my last visit to Portland, Rick and I decided to hit up Southeast for an evening.  In doing so, we found what I now deem Portland's Miracle Mile. Portland, Oregon, that is.

    Beer.  Wings.  Cocktails...with house made gin.  Orgasmic Southeast Asian cuisine.  Pie.  Ice Cream if you want it.  More pie.  And, two hot guys out on the town.  Portland style.

    What the heck more could you ask for?

    So perhaps I exaggerate a little, but the stretch of SE Division Street between SE 32nd and SE 35th was a pretty awesome place to spend a Friday night.

    The evening started at The Hedge House, one of Lompoc Brewing's community brewpubs.  I'd never had Lompoc so I was excited to check it out.  A perfect sunny afternoon, we arrived with every intention of sitting on the patio, drinking some beer, and having some pub-food for dinner. Patio seating was full, but fortunately they have a really cool porch that is also available for beer-consuming pleasure. That hit the spot and added a layer of depth to our SE neighborhood experience. As I was sipping on my quite delicious Lompoc Specialty Draft (LSD) and it's 6.9% ABV splendor, I had a realization.

    We were a block away from Pok Pok! Not to sound all Portland trendy hipstery, but I'm going to anyway...Pok Pok is one of my favorite Portland eateries. Specializing in authentic street food of Southeast Asia, we found Pok Pok *before* they were named one of the 20 Most Important Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit, or before chef/owner Andy Ricker won the 2011 James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest.

    To Pok Pok for dinner, but there's always a line so the pro tip of the day is to get your name on the list and head across the street to one of Ricker's other joints, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, to await your table and drink fantastic coktails. House infused Kaffir Lime gin and tonics help pass the time for us, and an order of Pok Pok's famous Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings will get you prepped to head back across the street for dinner. Spicy, of course.

    Back at Pok Pok, you can't go wrong with the menu selections. Rick and I had a spicy Isaan flank steak salad and a Chaing Mai sausage with herbs. Fantastic. They also make cocktails that will leave your loins yearning for more.

    So if all of that wasn't enough, on the way back to the car is Lauretta Jean's hand made pie shop, right next to the Hedge House. Offering a variety of house made seasonal pies, you can choose as to whether you're feeling creamy or fruity and dive in from there. I tried the coconut cream pie and loved it. They also feature booze and Stumptown coffee.

    If pie isn't whetting your whistle, Salt & Straw just opened a store across the street from Lauretta Jean's. It's about the best ice cream you'll ever have, although I don't often have the tolerance to wait in line.

    So there's a perfect evening in Portland, all in the stretch of a mile on NE Division Street.

    Actually, it's more like 0.1 miles if you're counting.
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    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    I like Big...Bottom Whiskey

    Nestled deliciously in a office park in the fifth-largest city in Oregon, Big Bottom Whiskey is a delightful treat in the town of Hillsboro.

    An area once inhabitated by the Atfalati tribe of the Kalapuya for thousands of years, in recent times Hillsboro has been more recently known as the center of Oregon's silicone forest with companies such as Intel, Yahoo!, and a variety of semiconductor companies calling it home.

    What does this have to do with whiskey?  Absolutely nothing other than making the point that there really isn't much going on in Hillsboro, other than Big Bottom that is.  Oh, and a marginal semi-pro baseball team called the Hillsboro Hops.

    It really is in an non-descript office park.

    I first heard of Big Bottom over a year ago when they picked up a gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  I recall thinking to myself, "Whiskey?  Finished in a Port Cask?  Two of my favorite things!"

    So what is this Big Bottom thing all about?  According to the distillery:
    Big Bottom Whiskey Founder and Vice President of the Oregon Distiller’s Guild, Ted Pappas, started the company in 2010. As a 1991 graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, all of Pappas’ whiskeys are proofed at 91° as a tribute to his classmates.

    Not only does Big Bottom Whiskey offer a 36% rye American straight bourbon, Ted also focuses on producing specialty finished bourbons such as the multiple awards winning, Port Cask Finished Bourbon.
    The Big Bottom name comes from an old growth forest located in Clackamas County, Oregon, as reprinted on the labels.

    Upon visiting the tasting room recently, Rick and I found 5 selections available for sample:
    • American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
    • 111 Proof American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
    • Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Port Cask Finish
    • Wild Bill Batch #2, finished in Tawny Port Casks
    • Single Barrel Cask Strength American Straight Bourbon Whiskey
    As you can probably tell, this isn't your daddy's whiskey.
    I tasted everything except the 111 Proof, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.  The Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a solid everyday drinking bourbon; the port cask finishes were quite unique as specialty spirits; and the Single Barrel was the star of the show.

    Unfortunately for me, the Single Barrel sold out while we were in the tasting room so I wasn't able to snag a bottle.  I took home the Straight Bourbon Whiskey at a quite reasonable price of less than $30.

    While a bit disappointed they didn't have any of their Zinfandel cask aged bourbon left, I was overall very pleased with our tasting experience and would definitely encourage you to visit next time you are passing through Hillsboro.

    It's even worth a trip just to Hillsboro next time you're in Portland.
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    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    #WineWednesday: The California Invasion

    As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

    The last couple of posts and twitter messages I have talked about an upcoming trip to Oregon for a family reunion. Katie and I will be spending a week in the small coastal town of Yachats, Oregon spending time with family from all over California, Oregon, and as far away as Tennessee. It is going to be a great week and there will hopefully be a little time to get away to the Willamette Valley and enjoy some Oregon vino.

    If you are like me, I tend to be asked quite often to be the person that picks out the wine for dinner, orders something off the wine list, or like this week, supply the wine for family events. While our family in Oregon is bringing several bottles from the Beaver State, we have been asked to introduce folks to California wine. As such, we are bringing up 7 bottles from our neck of the woods. As California gets ready to invade Oregon, I thought I would share my selections for the week.

    2011 Colagrossi Duetto – a 100% Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Perhaps a risky choice as Oregonians sure do love their Pinot but the Russian River Valley is the place to get it in California.

    2008 Quivira Vineyards Petit Sirah – 100% Petit Sirah and introduced for the family members who need their full bodied wines...I’m lookin’ at you, Mike Boyle!

    2007 Wesley Ashley Wines Cuvee – A blend of Carignan (51.5%), Grenache (15%), Cinsault (14%), Petit Sirah (11%), Mourvedre (4.5%), and Pinot Noir (4%). An easy drinking red blend with a lot of varieties that most of the family will have never heard of...time to introduce them to something new.

    2010 Frick Winery Viognier – A beautiful expression of this grape out of Dry Creek Valley. We’ll be on the coast but it will still be a little warm so a crisp white may be in order.

    2011 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc – Continuing on the trend of introducing them to something new I am choosing one of my favorite wines right now and from a winemaker that helped to “shepherd my palate” into Rhone wines. I have also had the pleasure of working most of his bottling lines and my family loves a good story.

    2009 Domaine Carneros Vermeil Demi-Sec – It is a holiday weekend so you have to bring bubbles. This vintage is not as sweet has previous ones and so is much more drinkable, in my opinion.
     
    And finally,

    2009 Domaine Carneros Brut – Such a wonderful “weekday” sparkling wine that is great on any occasion, or no occasion at all. Oh yeah, we’re bringing it in a magnum bottle. Bigger is better.

    You may be noticing a couple trends in our selections. First there are several Rhone wines. Simply put, that is what Katie and I are drinking a lot of right now and thus what we have in the cellar. Second, there are several small producers (Frick, Colagrossi, Wesley Ashley, and Two Shepherds). This is also really intentional. Family can buy Clos du Bois or Coppola anywhere, but with this I get to introduce them to some really incredible winemakers that I have been fortunate enough to work with and have written about. Our family loves the story behind the wines and some of these wines, I helped to bottle. Introducing them to these producers is one more way to continue to support the smaller winemakers who are in it for the passion of making wine.

    And with that, California invades Oregon. Next week’s post will come from the shores of Yachats, OR.

    Until next week,

    Cheers!
    Jesse
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    Friday, June 28, 2013

    Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout

    2 comments
    Stone Brewing Company and I go way back. When I was writing for my now-defunct beer blog, I covered almost the entire gamut of Stone ales available at the time. I fell in love with their Russian Imperial Stout, made Arrogant Bastard part of my regular rotation, and discovered that there really is such thing as too much hops (looking at you, Double Bastard). Since then, I have to admit that they've somewhat fallen off my radar in an effort to reach out to different breweries.

    That stops now.

    While walking through Barbur World Foods' kick-ass beer cooler, something in the California section caught my eye. It was similar, yet different. Stone, yes. Russian Imperial Stout, awesome, yet still familiar. Espresso, done deal! Coffee and imperial stouts/porters are two of my favorite things, so it was an easy choice to pick up Stone's Espresso Russian Imperial Stout.

    To catch you up a bit, Stone's regular Russian Imperial Stout is one of those beers that picks up new hardware whenever it competes. Beer publications around the world typically rank it near the top 100 beers and I can understand that assessment. It's big, boozy, and resembles a black hole. Now for the espresso variant:
    Like the classic version, this Odd Year edition was brewed in the authentic, historical style of an imperial Russian stout, but with the addition of several hundred pounds of espresso beans from our friends at Ryan Bros. Coffee. Layers of flavor and complexity augment an already enigmatic brew, leaving this darkly delicious libation positively brimming with deep, rich espresso flavors that meld beautifully with the roasty bitterness of the dark malts.
    This is the beer-equivalent to talking dirty to me. Let's jump right in.

    Brewery: Stone Brewing Company
    Style: Imperial Espresso Stout
    BeerAdvocate.com Rating: 97 (users)
    RateBeer.com Rating: 4/5
    Serving: 22oz bottle
    ABV: 11%

    Appearance: Jet black with medium tan head that dissipates into a thin lace. One could mistake the glass itself as being black. It's that black.

    Smell: Big notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and caramelized sugar. This is going to be tasty.

    Taste: All of the above and then some. Chocolate and espresso hit first, then dissipates to chocolate, sugar, and the warmth of 11% abv. Very thick mouthfeel to the extent one could almost chew this. Creme brulee comes to mind after a little bit.

    If you're a fan of espresso stouts, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Simply put, it's everything you want in an imperial espresso stout and then some. Well done, Stone.
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    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    #WineWednesday: Goin' Rogue in Oregon

    1 comment
    As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.
    In just over a week Katie and I will be heading up to the Oregon to spend a week in the coastal town of Yachats. Katie’s family is having a family reunion and I must say, they chose a great location. 

    To get in the spirit, we have been stepping away from our usual California wine and beer and sipping on some delicious Oregon refreshments. First was picking up a 6-pack of Rogue Dead Guy Ale the other day at the store....yeah, that’s already gone. Tonight we decided to open up a bottle of wine after dinner and I gave Katie the choice of Oregon or California. In preparation for the trip, she also went with Oregon and so I grabbed a bottle of 2007 Griffin Creek Tempranillo from the Rogue Valley. Griffin Creek is a label from Willamette Valley Vineyards and one of the first Oregon wines I tried while living in the Pacific Northwest.

    I must admit that I don’t drink enough Oregon wine and sometimes I get surprised when I pour a glass and it is lighter in color than expected. This tempranillo was more translucent then I thought it would be and it had this beautiful reddish brown, reminding me of rust. But not the bad kind of rust that is slowly taking over our 1996 Ford Explorer, but the good kind of rust....okay, so there really is no good kind of rust, but the color was still pretty.

    It was a little flat on the nose at first so it needed a little time to breathe. After awhile it started expressing this plum and leather aroma that was totally inviting. It was medium bodied and I picked up on cherry, plum, and just a hint of vanilla on the finish. With the medium body and tannins, I could see enjoying this wine with a lot of different food options, but was also great as a post dinner wine. I am definitely in the Oregon spirit and am looking forward to making it out to the Willamette Valley while up there. 


    The particulars:
    2007 Griffin Creek Tempranillo
    AVA: Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon
    Abv: 12.5%
    Aging: 18 months French Oak

    Until next week, cheers!
    Jesse
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    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    BrewCycle Portland


    What's better than going on a cycle trip with your friends to drink some beer, or sip some wine? Having that cycle be shared among ALL THE FRIENDS!!! That was a recent experience of mine in Portland - a tour with BrewCycle Portland for my friend Jaqcueline's birthday.


    I love to cycle...so I was rarin' to go - I wanted to take the bike out by myself...but it's better with friends for sure!

    12-15 people, one bike, a fun and funny driver, your own iPod mix, snacks, and a trek to breweries in NW Portland. I can't think of a better way to spend a day. Pedaling was a lot of fun - not too heart-racing that it becomes too difficult, the bikes only move about 6mph max. We rode right around on the streets, through traffic lights, and around corners. Our host did the steering, and we did the rest. Though you can't drink on the bikes (city ordinances), you can bring along plenty of delicious snacks to nosh on as you move from place to place.


    We went to Caps & Corks, a bottle and tap room with a massive selection. I totally got to geek out on the shelves and shelves of beer and wine, mostly local, and enjoy the rustic-Portland-pub (it's a thing) atmosphere. Gordon and I sampled the Anvil Ale ESP from AleSmith in San Diego. This lightly hoppy and gently malty amber is well-balanced and crisp. Though listed as a bitter, I did not find it all that biting, but more well-rounded and easy to drink.


    We also hit up the Deschutes Brewery, where we lazed a bit in the sun in the front entryway. Here I sampled the Imperial Smoked Porter. Chocolatey and rich, the smokiness in this beer seemed almost nutty and toasty rather than smoky. I enjoyed the creamy mouth feel and maltiness, and thought it went well with the fries we picked up as a snack.


    Bridgeport was another stop along the way. I enjoyed their multi-tier space, and a lovely taste of the Smooth Ryed. This beer is delightfully hoppy with a spicy nip of rye in the finish. What I liked best about it is the crispness of the beer - refreshing near the end of the ride. Drinking this in closing certainly made my BrewCycle experience a Smooth Ryed indeed!


    I think the best part of the BrewCycle experience is not even the beer. Everywhere we rode we got high fives, laughter, and waves from the people on the street! We were able to laugh, joke, and enjoy the ride as a group, and our tunes were awesome. You don't even have to have 12-15 friends in order to participate. They will pair you up with other groups to get a full bike, so you might even make some new friends along the way.


    Thanks BrewCycle!!!!!
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    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Getting Hitched? Pick Some Wine.

    1 comment
    The sun is finally starting to peek out in the Pacific Northwest, and the onset of spring and summer signifies a very important time for many Pacific Northwesterners: Wedding Season. Domestic Partnership Season, Civil Union Season, whatever words you’d like to use to define your relationship season. Being the semi-pretentious wine enthusiast in my social group, I often find myself responding to a question along the lines of, “What wine should I serve at my wedding?” In fact, recently a couple different groups of friends have asked me that very question, at least that was my interpretation of the grumbling about how high the corkage fees were at their wedding venues and the per-bottle cost through the caterer.

    As I reflected on the question, I realized just how important and complicated a decision wine selection can be for a wedding. You’re dealing with a tough crowd. Aunt Suzie drinks the boxed stuff, Uncle Jim likes only the finest French wine, and your father-in-law never met a bottle he didn’t like…as long as it’s from Washington. How can you meet everybody’s needs? Then, there’s the financial impact. Most wines purchased by the bottle from a caterer are north of $30.00 per bottle for the most entry-level wine, the stuff you can find for $6.99 at the store. If you provide your own, a $10.00 per bottle corkage fee is standard. How can you get the best value on an already expensive day? Finally, the always-elusive question of how much wine to buy? Don’t get overwhelmed; keep reading and I’ll take the guesswork out of outfitting the special day with Northwest bounty.

    The Basics:

    The easy decision would be to put your wine selection entirely in the hands of a caterer. There are many caterers that do a fine job, however, with a little time and attention you can often save money and better reflect the Pacific Northwest wine scene at your celebration.
    • Keep it simple. One red, one white. That’s it. People are there to celebrate the union of two people, not taste through a flight of 50 wines. By selecting wines with broad appeal, you’ll satisfy most guest’s palate with just two offerings.
    • How much? Common consensus is that half a bottle for each adult guest is a good start. If your friends imbibe more than the average bear or you plan on serving wine before and during the ceremony, adjust accordingly.
    • Keep it local. Washington and Oregon are world-class wine regions.
    With those principles in mind, here are three different wine packages to consider when planning a wedding.

    The Budget Menu:

    This package offers broad appeal at a very reasonable cost.
    • 2010 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. This red wine from Paterson, WA is medium bodied and has broad appeal. While it retails at $13.00, it’s always on sale at my local grocery store for around $9.00.
    • 2010 Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc. A textbook Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley, perfect for a warm summer day. Retailing at $9.00, it’s often available in the $7.00 range on sale.
    The Wine Aficionado Menu:

    Stepping things up a notch, this mix balances cost with quality. Nothing too extravagant because let’s be honest, your guests probably don’t have as refined of a palate as you.
    • 2010 Desert Wind Ruah. From the Wahluke Slope, this merlot-based blend if very approachable and works with food or by itself. Retailing at $20.00, I find it often on sale for $15.00 per bottle.
    • 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris. A crisp but well-balanced Oregon white, the Pinot Gris is awesome with seafood but can stand on it's own. At $16.00 per bottle, it’s a great value.
    The Portlandia Menu:

    Want a little Oregon quirk and whimsy in your wedding? These selections are for you.
    • Sokol Blosser Evolution Red. A red pinot-noir based blend with syrah and zinfandel, this Oregon wine pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
    • Sokol Blosser Evolution White. A white blend of 9 different varietals, this also pairs with anything. Retail is $15.00.
    Most importantly, though, make it meaningful to you.  The wine selections of two different couples I know with weddings on the horizon have done just that; leveraging special memories, relationships, and experiences from wineries can add icing to the proverbial cake of the day.  Those selections are as follows:
    • Couple 1:  Willamette Valley Vineyards being central to their wine universe, they took my Pinot Gris selection and added a more delicate, sophisticated red in the Estate Pinot Noir ($30).
    • Couple 2:  The awesomeness of Enso Winery just screams Portland, so for this local wedding the Resonate Red and White blends were perfect.
    Keep your eyes open for sales and if you buy by the case you’ll often receive an additional 10% discount. Hopefully these suggestions get you going in the right direction and will help your new partnership start off on the right foot. If not, at least you drank some good wine.

    Cheers!

    In the spirit of full disclosure, much of this post is repurposed from a piece I did for a now-defunct Seattle lifestyle website about 2 years ago.  So there you have it.
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    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    #WineWednesday: Hot Wine is Gross

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    As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

    This week I was looking forward to writing this post for a couple reasons. The first is that all of last week I was not able to enjoy any delicious wine and I was really looking forward to a nice glass. See, I was on the AIDS LifeCycle last week, a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles over 7 days to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS research, education, and services. The second reason was the bottle had been picked out for a long time. This past week Katie and I celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary. On our wedding, we had our caterer set aside a case of wine we served at the wedding and each year we open a bottle to celebrate. We were married at BR Cohn Winery and we served the 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon. This was to be the bottle I opened this week. However, you can see that the dog’s arms are empty this week...and here’s why.

    Unfortunately, an unnamed individual, while traveling down to Los Angeles to meet me at the finish line accidentally left the bottle in the car while they were at work. That day happened to be particularly warm and the temperature outside was in the 90’s, meaning the temperature inside the car was considerably hotter...they didn’t even crack a window like you should when leaving a dog or baby in the car (it's still okay to do that, right?)

    When we went to open it to celebrate, to no surprise the wine had cooked a bit and the cork seal was compromised. You can know this because there is wine all around the cork, instead of just on the bottom like there should be. So this #WineWednesday, I give you the simple tip of don’t leave wine in a hot car because the results aren’t pretty. When traveling with wine, consider your transportation plans. Do you need to bring a cooler with you to store the wine while driving? Will you be in the car long? All these matter when traveling with wine.

    Until next week, cheers!

    Jesse
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