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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