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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Variety of Tasting Panels at Feast Portland to Tempt You

Feast Portland. The name about says it all. For a weekend full of OTT culinary madness, it's the event guaranteed to deliver. It's also less than two weeks away and if you haven't purchased tickets yet, many of the hot events have long sold out.

But you're in luck because tickets are still attainable for some of the more affordable Tasting Panels. Think Chardonnay, Negronis, Sour Beer, Beans and Booze (and by beans, they mean coffee beans), Lagers and Tiki Cocktails. And if you're anything like me, than tasting experiences are right up your dark alley. So, check the schedule and reserve your space before these sell out too. Follow @FeastPdx on Twitter for ticket giveaways and event news.

Chardonnay is For Lovers:

Friday, Sept 19th - Noon-1pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
Forget about California Butter Bombs. Let Bon Appétit’s Wine Insider, David Lynch, lead you through a tasting of some of the Oregon’s best bottles and show you why Anything But Chardonnay is no way to drink.
Still not convinced? Featuring some of Oregon’s finest Chardonnay producers such as Evening Land, Bergstrom, and Chehalem. The other four? It's a secret now, but buy your ticket and enjoy the surprise.
Friday, Sept 19th - 2pm-3pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
Sour beers are often been called “The Wine Drinker’s Beer?” Enjoy one of my favorite producers, Ale Apothecary’s Sahalie, as well as The Common’s Trillium, sure to tempt even the most ardent wine lover in the audience. Pucker up!
Friday, Sept 19th - 4pm-5pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
Any time is Negroni O'Clock. Whether a brunch worthy quaffer, an afternoon delight or a last-call nightcap, learn how the classic Negroni can be transformed for all times of the day. Enjoy four different styles of the classic Negroni. For example, a breakfast version that's a twist on the Belllini featuring some local producers like Aria Dry Gin and Imbue Petal & Thorn Vermouth blended with a puree of local peaches.

Beans and Booze


Saturday, Sept 20th - 12:45-1:45pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
Coffee and spirits are two great favorite buzz-worthy ingredients.Enjoy local legends Stumptown Coffee Roasters, House Spirits Distillery and industry titans Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Alex Negranza. Bring your mugs and your martini glasses folks. You’re gonna get buzzed.
As a guest, you’ll be able to taste Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s infamous espresso martini without having to wait in line!
Saturday, Sept 20th - 2:30-2:30pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
Make Lager. Not war. Yup, lighter style brews are all the rage. Come taste the best new lagers, Kolsch, Hefeweizens and more as we explore the lighter side of beer with some favorite brewers and beer geeks.
The panel be featuring some pretty killer local lagers such as Worthy Brewing’s Easy Day Kolsch and also showcasing some notable ales from around the country, like Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co.’s All Day IPA.
Saturday, Sept 20th - 4:15-5:15pm
Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall $55
The Tiki Gods will be pouring four classic cocktails including Planter’s Punch, Three Dots and a Dash, Mai Tai, and Sailor’s Grog! Forget the trip to the islands, it'll feel like an island escape in September.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Behind the Wine Label - Part 2

Personality can be defined as the evident traits in one’s character as it impresses another. To say that every wine embodies its own personality would not be a bold enough statement. How each winemaker influences their wine’s personality is reminiscent of parent’s influence on some of the personality traits of their child. Each wine may start from the same place, but both nature and nurture will predict the qualities it expresses in the end.
In the second part of the Behind the Wine Label series, we’ll take a closer look at some of Oregon’s male winemakers and how they’re imprinting their personality stamp on their wines. Read more about these impressive and memorable personalities here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Game is Afoot!

Here's news of an event that might and should not pass under your radar.

On Sunday, September 7, 2014, from 11:30am-4:30pm , a truly wild event will be taking place outside Portland proper. It might just be a meat orgy! Revered chefs from some of my favorite Portland and Seattle restaurants will be facing off in a culinary competition to see who can produce the best dish using Nicky USA's meat and wild game.

The sensational and unbelievable Portland vs. Seattle match ups include:

Joshua McFadden of Ava Genes (Portland) vs. Shane Ryan of Matt's in the Market (Seattle)
Josh Schofield of Toro Bravo (Portland) vs. Rob Sevcik of Loulay (Seattle)
Jin Soo Yang of Bamboo Sushi (Portland) vs. Jason Stoneburner of Bastille (Seattle)
Jason French of Ned Ludd (Portland) vs. Mike Easton of Il Corvo (Seattle)

The showdown will be taking place at the Wy'east Annex at Timberline lodge. Guests will enjoy samples of each competition dish and vote for the winner while they eat their way through the artisan marketplace featuring products from regional artisan purveyors. For more information about the food sponsors and the extensive list of market participants, visit the Wild About Game website.

Tickets for this unique and guaranteed-to-be-flavorful culinary event will set you back $65 for a whole day of eating pleasure ($75 at the door). Make a weekend of it and join Timberline chef Jason Stoller Smith and last year's winner Aaron Barnett of St. Jack for a pre-game feast on Saturday, Sept 6th, 2014.

Tickets are available here.
For more information about Nicky USA or the event, click here.

Game on! Go Portland!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Talk Wine with Me: Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis of Ghost Hill Cellars

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. This horrible little bottle of something red on the British Airways flight from San Francisco to France (via Heathrow) as I departed for my Junior year of High School as an exchange student. They asked if we wanted wine with our meal… so of course we all said yes…it was terrible! Thank goodness my host father in Arcachon, Gilbert, insisted on changing my mind about wine!

Q. What was the first wine you ever enjoyed?
A. I think it was a gradual process. Gilbert would put a little of red Bordeaux in my glass at dinner and then water it down. Each night he put a little more wine and a little less water until I was able to enjoy a small glass of wine with the family at the evening meal. It was important to him that I was able to understand and appreciate the role that wine played in their culture and their lives. I think the first night I had a glass of wine with no water was a life changing moment; even though I didn’t realize it at the time and wouldn’t see the impact of it until more than a decade later. Today I am so grateful for that experience and how it helped lead me to where I am today.

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. See above… Other than that… maybe the night at a Rotary International dinner in a winery outside of Bordeaux when I realized that the wine I was drinking and that everyone was floored by was older than I was!  I wish I could remember what the wine was. But I do know that it was from 1973 and it was 1992 when we were drinking it

Q. What's your favorite part about being a winemaker?
A. Creating something that makes people happy. 

Q. What's your harvest kickoff soundtrack?
A. Changes every year… but I love to blast classical violin in the winery when there alone late at night.  The acoustics at Scott Paul Wines where I make the wines for Ghost Hill and Gypsy Dancer (and my own) are incredible. It is really a sanctuary; Kelley Fox (of Scott Paul Wines) and I often refer to it as "the Cathedral." 

Q. What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
A. Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir Blanc or WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Blanc and fresh oysters either from OR or WA – favorites are the little Kumomotos or Shigokus from Washington or extra smalls from Netarts Bay in Oregon.

Q. You're celebrating the end of a busy week, what's your go-to drink?
A. BUBBLES!  Even better if it’s a rosé champagne. One of my favorite go-to is the Rosé Champagne from Marc Chauvet imported by Scott Paul Imports.

Q. Full fridge or empty fridge?
A. It fluctuates a lot. This time of year it is pretty full with the great stuff coming out of my garden!  J  During harvest… you might find condiments. LOL

Q. Is there a wine you hate to love?
A. Barolo – Because great ones are so darn expensive!

Q. Is there a wine you love to hate?
A.  California Cabs – There is always an exception to the rule… but high alcohol, over extracted and over-oaked Cabernet Sauvignon is not something I enjoy at all; that and over-oaked Chardonnay are two things I can’t stand.

Q. What's your guilty pleasure?
A.  Scotch – neat, and the older the better.

Q. What are you working on right now that excites you?
A. Finally releasing my own brand! I'll be releasing a Syrah from the North Willamette Valley and a Viognier from the Applegate Valley. The brand is “A La Main” (pronounced “a la man” – which means “to be done by hand”). It should be available for purchase in July.

Q. Favorite wine - variety, region or brand.
A. This is tough! It depends on SO many factors and variables. I have always loved the Alliette Pinot Noir from Willakenzie, and that started way BEFORE Thibaud.  ;)  I have a strong adoration for the lovely Rosés from the south of France and am inspired by true cool climate Syrah, such as the incredible ones from the N. Rhone Valley. In truth, my favorite wine is the one I am drinking at any given moment with family and friends that will forever be cherished for both the memories it will leave imprinted on my heart and then brought back each time that wine is enjoyed again.

Ghost Hill Cellars, in the Yamhill Carlton AVA is owned by the Bayliss-Bower family. 15 acres of Pinot Noir is planted on Willakenzie soil to produce in what is my opinion to be some of the region's finest and most elegant estate wines. In 2005, Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis, winemaker for Ghost Hill Cellars, Gypsy Dancer and now her own label A La Main, left a career as an F-15 aviation technician with the National Guard, to pursue a her passion for making wine. According to Rebecca, "Pinot Noir should be listened to  and gently encouraged to reveal its beautiful, haunting and ethereal flavors." A busy mother and winemaker, read more about Rebecca here in 1859 Magazine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Talk Wine with Me: Jason Brumley of Xylem Wines

This new series of articles will expose a side of the winemaker you don't often see—their up-close and personal side. The purpose is for you to learn a little more about each winemaker's philosophy.You might discover how and why they came to make wine, you may gain a better understanding of their palates and how it influences the wines the make, you might just get some great new ideas for what to eat and what to drink or you might get a glimpse of the future. Whatever you do take away, I hope it includes further developing an appreciation for the notion that behind every bottle, behind every brand, behind every decorated and undecorated label, stands a person with a unique vision and a personality all their own, and how these individual characteristics intertwine with and become the wine in your glass. 


Q. What was your "Aha moment"?
A. I had worked in restaurants for 15 years and had been the wine steward for a French bistro in Oklahoma City (yes, there's a French bistro in Oklahoma City) for a few of those years when my girlfriend (now wife), Cokie Anderson, and I took a trip through the Willamette Valley and then over to the coast. I had already been playing around with the notion of finding a spot in Oklahoma that might be suitable for growing a few grapevines and making a little wine (nothing commercial mind you), so that seed was sort of already planted. The beauty of the Willamette Valley itself, the wines produced here, and the communal spirit of those involved in the winemaking industry in northwest Oregon spoke to my soul in a way that nothing ever really had. I knew that I had finally found a calling. As we sat in a hotel room looking out at the Pacific Ocean and listening to the sound of the crashing waves come through the open window, I turned to Cokie and said, "I'm moving out here to make wine and you can come with me if you would like." We flew back out 3 weeks later and began looking for a house to buy in McMinnville. 

That's about as "Aha!" as it gets. 

Q. What is your favorite part about being a winemaker? 
A. I've always liked telling and reading stories and each bottle of wine that we make tells a story of vineyard, varietal, and vintage if you listen to it. 

Q. What is your harvest kickoff soundtrack? 
A. I'm a Grateful Dead fan and my best friend and business partner in the vineyard and winery, Forrest Schaad, and I began a little project a few years ago of listening to every live Grateful Dead show in chronological order that is available on archive.org (no repeats of the same show). So, whatever show is next in line when harvest begins will be the kickoff soundtrack. It will likely be a show somewhere in the winter of 1970 or 1971.

Q. What is your favorite food and wine pairing?

A. I love rich shellfish and a good acid-driven Chardonnay. Chardonnay is always the wine that I choose when asked the "You're on a desert island..." question. I figure that a desert island should have plenty of seafood around and there's nothing better than Chardonnay to pair with varying types of seafood.

Q. Right now: Eempty or full fridge?
A. My fridge is currently full of fresh local berries, veggies, and mushrooms. We try to eat locally and support as many small farmers in the area as possible. The communal spirit of the area extends out, not only in the wine industry, but in so many other facets of our life. It's such a privilege to have such diversity available withing such a small radius of where we live.  

Q. What wine do you hate to love?
A. I may get berated for this, but I actually like certain wines with a bit of brettanomyces. Not all wines play well with brett, but some are quite intriguing with it. I believe that we have moved into a realm of such clean and pure wines that many of them are technically great, but lack that "je ne sais quoi" that I often enjoy.

Q. What wine do you love to hate?
A. White Zinfandel...'nuff said.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure (one you'll admit here)?
A. I'm a hedonist, so guilt and pleasure don't exist in the same realm. If I feel guilty about it, then it's not pleasurable. 

Q. What are working on right now that truly excites you? 
A. The vineyard is absolute excitement for me. Forrest and I have been working together on this piece of property in the Chehalem Mountains since 2009 and the young vines are just now coming online. More blocks will be coming on in future years and I cannot wait to taste the fruit and wines from those vines. 

Q. What is your favorite varietal? 
A. Chardonnay!!! Some day, I hope to establish a vineyard and a label that is nothing but Chardonnay. I want to buy an old church and have it moved, re-built, and converted into a winery on top of a hill that overlooks the vines. I will call it 'The First Church of the Eternal Chardonnay'. I will wash the sinful red stains of Pinot Noir from your soul and ye shall be pure again. 

Xylem Wines is a fully functioning, residence-based winery located in McMinnville, Oregon - in the heart of Oregon's wine country. It is the result of two friends sharing a passion for viticulture and winemaking, Jason Brumley and Forrest Schaad. The vineyards are located on Schaad's family estate in the Chehalem Mountain AVA, which was originally planted to fruits and nuts in the 1950's and then to vinifer in 1980. The winery is located in the Brumley residence. In 2012, Brumley and Schaad ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the winery and expansion of their vineyards. They are excitedly preparing for their second annual release at the end of June.