Monday, April 13, 2015

Your Passport to Northwest Wines

Last Friday night (4/10/2015) brought the Grand Tasting of Columbia Gorge wines to Portland. If your were lucky enough to attend the tasting, you got just a glimpse of what that region has to offer. If you didn't make it, rest assured that the Gorge is just a short drive away and you can still get to know all those wines and more.

And I'm going to make that even easier for you. 

I'm giving away TWO FREE PASSPORTS to one lucky person so they can sip their way through the Northwest wine country and discover the beauty of the region. With over 170 tasting rooms opening their doors to you, you can meander through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia to really get to the heart of Northwest Wine Country experience.

These passports are valued at over $1,500 each, but with one simple entry, they can be yours for free.

Your entry is simply to write a haiku in the comments section (read about haiku here). Write about wine, the area, or whatever inspires you about this contest. I'll select one person to receive the two passports and then you can begin planning your adventure (passports are valid through January 31, 2016, but this contest ends April 31st, 2015).

For more information about the passport program and participating wineries, visit

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Beauty of the Blend

There’s no doubt about it, Oregon takes its winemaking seriously. The state is recognized nationally as a leading pinot noir producer, and is becoming known for putting its own stamp on pinot gris and chardonnay as well. But with all these great single varietal wines on the shelves, the stunning red blends crafted in every Oregon wine region might just be the industry’s best kept secret. Combining artistry and chemistry with quality, value and complexity, Oregon’s red blends come together to produce a tapestry of flavors that will improve your dinner experience. Read more about these great wines at 1859 Magazine.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Crafting the Perfect Cocktail

Learn some fancy bartending skills and impress your friends at the same time. You probably shouldn't expect to come away spinning drinks like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, but your friends will appreciate your fancy new moves nonetheless. And if they're not blown away by your yet undiscovered talent, they'll still be happy you're able to get them drunk in style.

Join Portland master Mixologist James Jackson for a Spring Cocktail Class at Salty's on the Columbia as you learn how to construct four tasty springy beverages. Then, imbibe them alongside the ideal small bites and take home all the recipes to repeat the adventure again and again. All this, and Salty's will throw in the riverfront views to sweeten the experience at no extra cost.

Saturday April 11th.
$45 per person (including gratuity)

Cocktail: Cowboy Up - Bourbon, Galliano, Vermouth
Food Pairing: Crispy pork belly with golden raisin salad

Cocktail: Basil Grape Refresher - Vodka, bitters, Lime Juice, Ginger Ale
Food Pairing: Coconut Clams with Thai Basil

Cocktail: Salty's Sangria
Food Pairing: Cantaloupe Tartar with Dungeness Crab, Charred JalapeƱo Fennel, Peach Gastrique

Cocktail: French 75 - Gin, Lime Juice, Contreau, Champagne
Food Pairing: Lemon Ginger Tart with Seasonal Berries

21 and older - Space is limited. 
Call 503-288-4444 to reserve your space.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

April is Columbia Gorge Wine Passport Month

Mark your calendars, next month will be the 7th annual Wine Passport event in the Columbia Gorge wine region!   

And though there's plenty to enjoy in the Gorge, you don't even have to make a special trip to be able taste Gorge wines!

Portland Grand Tasting
Friday, April 10, 2015
1900 NW 18th Ave. Portland, OR 97209

Tickets are $35 each, including a Passport ($50 value), or $25 without a Passport. Tickets include a souvenir glass and a preview of 23 different wineries along with appetizers from Eat Tray Chic. After last year’s sell-out event, this tasting will be held at a larger space, though tickets are still limited. Tickets availalble at

Other Noteworthy Passport Month Events:

Food & Wine Weekend- April 11th-12th
Celebrate the greatest gift to the palate; the perfect marriage of food and wine.  

Gorge Grapes Weekend- April 18th-19th
Explore what makes the Columbia Gorge Wine Region “A world of wine in 40 miles.”  

Barrel & Reserve Tasting Weekend- April 25th-26th
Discover what makes a reserve wine “Reserve.”  

The Passport offers holders an array of exceptional experiences with wine including opportunities to try special wines, tour cellars and barrel rooms, meet winemakers and more. It's like a VIP ticket to a behind-the-scenes look at Columbia Gorge wineries.

Passports are $25 each and offer a value of over $200 in complimentary, wine experiences, more than 53 exclusive activities and up to 30% discounts on wine and merchandise. Passports are available for purchase at all 24 participating wineries or on

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Spirited Event - THIRST Fest 2015

It is most definitely that time of year again. Events are springing up like colorful flowers from the quiet winter earth. This one just came across my radar, but it looks like something that could bring you lots of good cheer and brighten a dreary weekend.

THIRST Fest opens Friday, March 13th and runs through Saturday, March 14th at THE Melody Ballroom in Portland at 615 S.E. Alder Street, Portland, Oregon.
Attendees at THIRST Fest 2015, now in its second year, will be greeted by some of Portland’s most glamorous and gregarious hosts, and will introduce members of the LGBTQ community to some of the newest alcoholic beverages hitting the glass. The two-day event at Portland’s THE Melody Ballroom will feature beverage and cocktail sampling, cocktail competitions, and a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to influence its own latest trends in mixology.  More than 40 craft distilleries, craft breweries and select wineries will be participating

Chat with local and national winemakers, craft distillers and brewers, and watch Portland’s top bartender’s battle for the 2nd Annual THIRST Fest Battle of the Bartenders Cup.  Local celebrity judges will decide which bartender will reign supreme, and attendees will be able to taste each competitor’s unique creations after they have left the stage. Bring it Home!  A full service, OLCC licenses liquor outlet will be available to sell distilled spirits at the show, and wine and beer vendors will be able to sell their wares direct to attendees at the event.  

Ticket Cost per person:                   
1 Day Ticket $ 20.00 on-line OR  $ 25.00 at the door*
2 Day Ticket + Collectible Event Shirt $50 online                       

Friday, March 13th from 5-10pm
Saturday, March 14th from 4-10pm

* Admission PLUS!
With paid admission, 1 day attendees receive 7 tasting tokens. 2 day attendees receive 15 tasting tokens.  (Additional tokens will be available for purchase at the event.)

For more information go to or on Facebook: THIRST Fest

Monday, October 13, 2014

Local Restaurants Tap Oregon Wine

You shop local, you eat local—you even vacation local. But are you choosing to drink local? We have a world-class wine region right at our fingertips, yet sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to order a wine from the menu that’s been imported from France, Italy, Australia or Argentina than it is to order a wine produced less than thirty miles from the restaurant.

Fortunately, restaurants are increasingly supporting the Oregon wine scene. Some menus have extensive bottle selections that include hard-to-find library wines. Others list a variety of wines by the glass or host special winemaker dinners. The newest trend—and most sustainable—is the selection of rotating wines on tap.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Talk Wine With Me: David Specter of Bells Up Winery

In this on-going interview series, I will introduce you to a different Oregon winemaker in the hopes that as you learn more about them, you'll also be interested in learning more about their wines. You might discover how and why they came to make wine, you may gain a better understanding of their palate and how it influences the wines they craft, you might get some great new ideas for what and where to eat, what to drink, or you might get a glimpse of the future. Whatever you take away, I hope includes a deeper appreciation for the notion that behind every bottle, behind every brand, behind every decorated or undecorated label, stands a person with a unique vision and a personality all their own. Let's step back and discover how those characteristics intertwine with and become that memorable wine in your glass.

Q. What was the first wine you ever drank?
A. My family very rarely drank alcohol – not for any religious or social reasons but it just wasn’t something they did.  But when I was like 8 or 9 years old, someone opened a bottle of Manischewitz at a family event.  I have no idea why. Anyway, being the curious kid I was I asked to have a sip, with completely predictable results.

Q.What was the first wine you ever enjoyed? 
A. I was cooking dinner for a date and was trying to impress her so I served up a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling. The wine experience was better than the date experience!

Q. Tell me about your aha wine moment. Either when you realized you wanted to make wine, or when you gained an understanding of the beauty and complexity wine offers. 
A. I was at EPCOT in Orlando with a good friend of mine from school and we split a nice bottle of Cotes du Rhone at the restaurant in the French pavilion. Between interplay of the wine and the food, I started to realize that amazing things were possible and began learning whatever I could.

Q. What's your favorite part about being a winemaker?
A. I can’t pick just one. I love to craft a wine – to me it’s like composing a symphony where you’re bringing together individual instruments and voices to create something larger than the sum of its component parts. I also love sharing my passion with others, whether they be wine geeks or just folks out for a nice afternoon. My fondest memories of visiting wineries have always been based on the people I encountered, and my vision for our winery is to be a place where our customers can have that kind of experience.

Q. What's your harvest kickoff soundtrack?
A. Interesting question. Before I started in the industry, I saw harvest as this dramatic event and I was absolutely sure that the theme music would be something similarly dramatic – like Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (many know it as the theme to the movie 2001) or Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” But now that I’m spending more time in the vineyard, I see harvest as just another step in the journey from grapes to wine and chose something much more low key - Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly.” There’s a line in that song I always think about that is so perfect for winemaking - “So I've started out for God knows where / I guess I'll know when I get there.” At harvest, we don’t know exactly what wines will emerge from the process to come but we can’t wait to make the journey.

Q. What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
A. I don’t like to stress out about food and wine pairings – I think most wines can be paired with more foods than traditional “rules” allow for.  So my favorite pairing is simple – pizza and chianti were made for each other.

Q. You're celebrating the end of a busy week, what's your go-to drink?
A. Depends on whether we’re talking good busy or bad busy. Good busy leads to seasonally appropriate wine. Bad busy leads to bourbon.

Q. Right now do you have a full fridge or empty fridge?
I have a moderately full fridge but my freezer is stuffed to the gills. With a 5-year-old and a busy schedule, I can’t cook fresh as much as I’d like so when we do find time to cook we tend to make a lot and freeze the overage. At least then we can pull out quality leftovers whenever we need.

Q. Is there a wine you hate to love?
A. Oh goodness no. Wine is a world full of possibilities so why would we feel bad about discovering something wonderful?

Q. Is there a wine you love to hate?
A. Heavily oaked chardonnay. A TOUCH of wood is okay, but leave the heavy toast barrels out of the rotation, please.

Q. What's your guilty pleasure? One you're willing to admit anyway.
A. Thick, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Preferably with semi-sweet chocolate chunks. Believe it or not, Costco’s store-brand cookies are tremendous. Nothing else should go into the cookie – save your nuts, grains, and raisins for something else and away from my cookies!

Q. Winemakers sometimes seem like they're married to their job. How do you find balance in your life?
A. Be as efficient as you can with your time management. Make things as simple as possible, prioritize your tasks well and, most importantly, demand from yourself that personal/family time is as much a priority as everything else in your life. Keep your expectations of yourself realistic. None of us are superhuman and nobody can do everything. Trying to micromanage or stretch yourself too much in this business for any length of time is only going to burn you out and hurt the quality of your product and brand. So find good people to work with, delegate as much as you can, and trust them to do the job.

Q. What are you working on right now that most excites you?
A. Our inaugural vintage (2013) pinot noir and syrah to be released in 2015. They’re coming along great in the barrel and I’m really excited to see how they are at bottling!

Q. Favorite wine - variety, region or brand.
A. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love Oregon pinot noir above all else but my heart will always be loyal to seyval blanc. It’s a white grape I worked with when I lived in Ohio and you’ll see it throughout the Midwest and northeast. It’s a hybrid, meaning that it has both vinifera and non-vinifera parentage. It’s extremely flexible in that you can steel ferment (which I prefer) or barrel ferment, with distinct but amazing results. It has a citrus flavor profile, a nice clean minerality, and no trace of the foxy characteristics you often find in hybrids. My first winemaking medals came with this wine, and I’m installing a block of it in our estate vineyard in 2015. I can’t wait to share it with the Willamette Valley.

Q. Favorite restaurant
A. Haven’t been in the area long enough to endorse a favorite – way too many to choose from!

David Specter of Bells Up Winery is a relative newcomer to the Oregon wine scene. Founded in 2013, Bells Up Winery, located in Newberg Oregon, is scheduled to release the first of their wines in the Spring of 2015. The name Bells Up is a reference to a dramatic moment in classical music where the composure instructs French horn players to lift the bells of their instruments upward and project their sound with maximum intensity. Specter, a French horn player who played in bands and symphonic groups throughout hight school and college feels the winery is his "Bells Up" moment. Bells Up planted their estate vineyard in Spring 2014 and has been working hard building their estate winery and tasting facility. Keep your eyes peeled for good things to come.