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. 

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.


    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 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 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?

    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.