Thursday, October 27, 2011

Win Tickets to Taste Southern Oregon Wineries in Portland


I imagine Southern Oregon wineries often feel much like the Cinderella sister, forgotten to be invited to all the grand tasting events and always overlooked in favor of the Gorge and Willamette Valley stepsisters. This time however, the glass slipper’s on the other foot as the entire Southern Oregon American Viticultural Area (AVA) becomes the Belle of the Ball at the upcoming Southern Oregon Wine Tasting on Sunday, November 13th, from 4-7pm at the Portland Art Museum.

“Go now, before the word gets out!”

One of the fastest growing wine regions in the country, the Southern Oregon AVA has grown from a mere 23 wineries just six years ago to more than 70 wineries today, and on this rare occasion, Portland will enjoy the experience of being able to sample the entire region in one very chic room, conveniently and accessibly located in downtown Portland. Showcasing unusual varietals unique to the region like Albarino, Viognier, Roussane, Tempranillo, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and other exciting blends, this town is in for a real tasting treat, Southern Oregon winery-style.

Participating wineries you can expect to sip include Abacela, Agate Ridge Vineyard, Brandborg Winery, Bridgeview Winery, Cliff Creek Cellars, Deer Creek Vineyards, Del RioVinyeards, Folin Cellars, Foris Winery, Henry Estate Winery, LaBrasseur Vineyard, Melrose Vineyard, Pyranees Vineyard & Cellars, Quady North, RoxyAnn Winery, Slagle Creek Vineyard, Spangler Vineyards, TeSo’Aria, TroonVineyard, Vadai Wines, Valley View Winery and Wooldridge Creek.

WIN, WIN, WINE! 

Let me send you to the ball! I get to be Fairy Godmother for a night…I have a pair of tickets (valued at $78) that I’d like to share with one very lucky reader, the shoe doesn't have to fit and your chances of winning are pretty darn good. Simply leave a comment here on this blogpost about why you’d like to attend the Southern Oregon Wine Tasting by midnight November 10th, after which time, I’ll randomly select a winner – hopefully it will be you!

Tickets cost $39 per guest and the Portland Art Museum is located at 1219 SW Park Avenue. For more information and to purchase tickets for this comprehensive tasting extravaganza, call (800) 781-9463 or visit sorwa.org.

___________________________

** A trade tasting event is scheduled for the following day on Monday, November 14 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Davis Street Tavern, located at 500 NW Davis Street. The event is free to media members, restaurant buyers, wine distributors and other members of the wine industry. For more information, and to RSVP contact regina.vaccari@gmail.com or call (541) 282-3041.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Oregon Keg Wine is Alive in Portland's Slabtown!

As we located a prime parking spot near the address of where the restaurant was supposed to be, I remarked on the lack of signage to my friend Robert, saying, “I guess you have to just know where it is… it’s so New York”. To which he added, “Yeah, New York five minutes ago.” I felt like I'd heard that before recently. Having just come from the fabulous grand opening of the highly recommended Springbox Art Gallery in NW Portland, my friend and I, ready for our next round of entertainment, set out for the elusive The Bent Brick with one lofty goal, to sample absolutely everything on the menu.

How many times have you looked at a menu, unable to decide what to order because everything was so equally tempting? Imagine looking at that very same menu and then turning to your waiter and saying, “I’d like to order everything on the menu please.” Well, that’s what we did, because for just $48 per person, you can “Eat the Whole Menu.” Though we ordered it just for one, it was still way more food than even two hungry people really could or needed to eat in one sitting… and it sure was fun. A scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally came to mind, when Sally's friend Marie quotes Harry's friend Jess to him by saying "Restaurants are to people in the 80's what theater was to people in the 60's." Thirty years later and restaurants are still much like theater, providing an entire evening of worthwhile entertainment, or perhaps I'm just stuck in the 80's.

One part chic restaurant, one part casual tavern, two parts remarkable establishment, The Bent Brick opened about three months ago in Portland’s old industrial Slabtown district. There are several stories behind how this district got its name. One of the kinder, gentler ones, as told by The Bent Brick's General Manager Anna Josephson, is that long ago when the area was part of the city’s wood processing district, people would come out to pick up the discarded scraps of wood (or “slabs” as they were called) to use for firewood, etc. Another urban legend is that if one frequented that rough part of town, which went from Old Town up to the Pearl back in the day, you would end up like a slab or in a slab, or something like that. Paying homage to the Slabtown history, the Bent Brick has incorporated slabs of wood (not bodies) into their urban décor, particularly in the Jenga Lounge, which is perfect for a large group to take over, or for smaller groups to mingle at in a community fashion when the tables are full or for a more intimate setting. With roll-up garage-style doors, sleek metal seating and lots of old exposed brick and pipes, the restaurant has done an admirable job of incorporating the building’s history with contemporary touches ultimately achieving a striking balance of comfort and excitement.

Scott Dolich, chef and owner, has a clear vision for The Bent Brick, an offshoot of Park Kitchen: to focus on investigating stylistic choices while using only domestic ingredients… everything is sourced as locally as possible. Neither the kitchen nor the bar uses a single imported product, and not just their pepper and pigs, they don’t overlook where their dry goods come from either and make many of their own products like vinegars and syrups themselves. You won’t find olive oil in their kitchen as the domestic versions are too expensive, but Chef Dolich has found a way around that, roasting domestic canola oil to develop more complex flavors.

I’d met Chef Dolich initially at a Raptor Ridge Winery #ReTweet (more on that to come in the next post or so) and was impressed when I heard him eloquently say, “As you eat through a meal, sometimes you have to have periodic knocks in the head to wake you up”. This might actually sum up my relationship with food, wine and dining out: Perhaps I just really enjoy being knocked in the head, so to speak.

So, on the prowl for knocks and wake up calls, my friend and I devoured mussels on the half shell with smoky aioli and a Tabasco mignonette (though the photo is of a whole order, we only had one little tasty mussel to sample), fried cheese curds with fried applesauce (for the Gluten-free eaters who still love fried food), crab with Louie sauce, cucumbers, grapes and lucky four-leaf clovers and a fascinating dish of braised sunflowers seeds, peppers, cheddar cheese and hickory which tasted oddly but interestingly like a savory sunflower seed oatmeal.

 Dolich expressed that “Each dish should have a reference point, not just be a dish that tastes good”, so, we also enjoyed a beet and faro salad with seeded crisps inspired by a simple everything bagel, crispy pork rinds, an amazing tomatillo gazpacho serving elegantly as a bed for a tasty scoop of Padron pepper gelato, Virginia ham rillettes, a shrimp, corn, tomato and coriander salad and sweetbreads with cabbage, horseradish, dill, bacon. By the time the roast and braised dishes arrived at the table (a pork with root beer glaze and perfectly pink beef with smoke, onions and potatoes), I was beyond just loosening the button on my pants and felt like I might just possibly explode. Unable to let even one more morsel of food pass my supremely satisfied lips, I unbelievably passed on the main courses and then just stared at the dessert dishes too, taking pleasure in watching my friend Robert enjoy them… alone.


While the food the kitchen presents is impressive, healthy, a bit surprising and inspired, those qualities are conveyed in the bar as well. 100-percent domestic, between the list of attention-grabbing cocktails and out-of-the-ordinary local wines, knocks in the head are virtually around every corner. Their keg wine program is actually what first caught my attention. With 15 Oregon and Washington wines on tap at one time, The Bent Brick passes the savings on to their consumers allowing them to enjoy glasses of the best current release wines from regional vintners like Patricia Green, Grochau Cellars, J Daan, Viento and Andrew Rich, just to name a few, for an implausibly low $5-$9 a glass.

The bar also offers a selection of local and domestic beers and features cocktails like the Path to Victory: a warming blend of Cana’s Feast Chinato, bourbon, gingersnap, bitters and vinegar or the Lakeside: a lovely and refreshing mix of vodka, rhubarb, verjus and elderflower. With a generous Happy Hour and a Half from 5:00-6:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday, guests will enjoy fine wine (by the glass or carafe), beer (by the glass, bottle or pitcher), cocktails and food specials that will wake up the palate without breaking the bank.

Though I failed in my attempt to actually “Eat the Whole Menu”, now I do have a reason to go back… other than just because it might be one of my favorite new hangouts. Discover The Bent Brick for yourself at 1639 NW Marshall St., join them on Facebook and Twitter, contact them at info@thebentbrick.com or call (503) 688-1655 for reservations and more information.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oregon Wineries Toast to Good Health!


Saluté, santé, slainte, salud… Across the spectrum of languages, when one raises a glass to make a toast, it typically involves a drink to good health. Since wine and the quest for good health have been linked for centuries (if not millennia), it’s only appropriate that the Oregon wine industry joined hands with Tuality Healthcare to make a giant step towards meeting basic health care needs by providing services to Oregon’s migrant farm workers as well as their families through the ¡Salud! program and its mobile wellness clinics.

According to the ¡Salud! website and an article in Wine BusinessMonthly, the ¡Salud! Organization, celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, was founded by Dick and Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards in collaboration with Tuality Healthcare physicians, and has made a difference to the tune of over $8 million since its inception. The most effective and far-reaching program of its kind in the United States, Oregon vintners and healthcare providers have shown both their commitment to and respect for their seasonal vineyard crews. In the words of Nancy Ponzi (recipient of this year’s Legacy Award), “Without them, our wines would not be possible.”

Only a select number of the most prestigious wineries are invited to join the ¡Salud! “Vintner’s Circle” each year. Participating wineries craft a cuvée of their most premium barrels and create a wine to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The money raised provides cholesterol and diabetes screening, blood pressure checks, wellness information, including cancer awareness, flu and tetanus vaccinations, vision and dental screenings, classes and certifications as well as major medical and referrals as needed for workers and their families from over 200 participating vineyards.

On a wow and rare occasion, I had the opportunity to taste several of Adelsheim Vineyards’s prior vintage ¡Salud! cuvees, they crafted specifically for the annual ¡Salud! auction. For the first time ever, and to help promote ¡Salud! and its 20-year anniversary, Adelsheim poured ¡Salud! wines from their library to a select group of Oregon wine connoisseurs from the upcoming 2010 vintage (to be auctioned this year) as well as wines from the year’s 2004, 2003, 1999, 1998 and 1994. Just a handful of these rare bottles remain in existence today, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see how these wines aged as well as gain an understanding for how the wineries selected their finest blends. The 2010 is showing tremendous promise with a glassful of already-balanced fruit, acid and structure, and it was fun to taste the 17-year-old 1994, but the 1999, featuring fruit from the Goldschmidt Vineyard in the Dundee Hills (which is now the Winderlea Estate), and still showing beautiful notes of strawberries (though a bit more like cooked strawberries than fresh ones at this point) was the clearly star of the show.

Even with the tremendous success of the ¡Salud! program, it currently only reaches only 40% of the Northern Willamette Valley vineyards and workers… leaving considerable room for growth. The 20th Anniversary Auction and Dinner are scheduled to take place the weekend of November 11th and 12th at Domaine Drouhin and the Governer Hotel. Tickets for this worthwhile cause are $395 and available through www.saludauction.org

Monday, October 10, 2011

47 Words About Oregon's Sip 47 – A Region in its Own Right

For the fourth annual Regional Wine Week, the peeps behind the DrinkLocalWine.com have challenged writers, bloggers and enthusiasts to write about wine regions in the other 47 states (places besides Oregon, California and Washington). I know, right? I’m almost certain there are fine regions in the other U.S. states, and yes, they probably could use coverage more than others, however, for obvious reasons, I just couldn’t let this one pass by. Besides, it’s considerably more fun to make your own rules.



47 Words About Oregon's Sip 47 – A Region in its Own Right
Discover…
Oregon’s best-kept secret.
Explore…
A hidden gem of wine trails.
Meander…
Willamette Valley’s “Road Less Traveled”.
Savor…
Artisan wines, world-class Pinot noir, premium sparkling wines and craft saké.
Experience…
The road with one streetlight that might make you forget about other wine regions in the world.

(For more information on Oregon's Sip 47,  visit their website and join them on Facebook.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome the Harvest Season with Parsnips, Cream and Bacon… Cheers to Vintage 2011

After reading this insightful post from Wind Up Bird Communications about the importance of being oneself, I was truly inspired. I realized that amongst other things, I am still a writer and fancy myself something of a raconteur, and these elements culminate in my blog, and to that I must remain true. So, what better way to revive this sleepy web log, which has been resting for nearly a year, than with an infusion of the 2011 harvest season?

Backstory: I got my foothold in the Oregon wine industry door working for Ponzi Vineyards as their Marketing Communications Manager many moons ago. I can remember the first harvest season I went through while employed there… it was soooo romantic. Heck, for me, just being on the grounds of a working winery was like a storybook story. Daily, I’d watch from my office window, as the timid deer, turkey vultures and quail made their welcomed appearances, wandering by with reckless abandon. With my front row seat, I could literally watch the grapes ripening on the vines as I wrote engaging newsletter copy and designed ads.

When “Crush” began, it was like a whole nother animal. The fruit arrived and the structured frenzy that ensued was like a magnificently choreographed dance. Everyone knew their part and everyone performed like the spotlight was on them… and for all intents and purposes, it was. The forklift driver was under tremendous pressure to lift and deliver tons of grapes to the people on the sorting line, who waited with baited breath like gold-panners ready to sift through the next drop. Everyone worked tangentially, in unison, to get the succulent fruit from the vineyard to the totes and into fermentation bins or the presses as quickly as they could, and this rarely happened in favorable weather conditions. On my way to the fax machine, I'd pass through the main winery building where the harvest crew would be punching down the grapes that were going through their period of cold soak… the fruit still so fresh and sticky sweet as the air became thick with the drone of the fruit flies. I'd make my way passed the cool barrel room, heavy with aromas of oak and age that would stop me in my tracks and force me to inhale their thick and dusky scent, practically making me forget the whole reason I was there in the first place. Oh yeah, the fax.

Trying to get my work done during harvest typically included dodging fruit totes, hoses, fermenter bins, people, trucks, forklifts, muddy boots and vicious yellow jackets… not that I'm complaining. It also included leisurely and satisfying harvest lunches prepared by professional chefs served with world-class wine at a table surrounded by international and interesting people all passionate about the same the thing… it was my first experience to truly live and breathe "Harvest".

In addition to the winery, the Ponzi family owns a restaurant in the heart of Oregon’s wine country called The Dundee Bistro. Back in the day (though I’m not sure if they do this anymore), they used to have the sous chef from their restaurant come up and cook for the hungry (understatement) harvest crew. They generously allowed the regular staff (me) to join in on the elaborate lunches, and since I’m one admittedly and easily wooed by fine food and wine, you know I was smitten. One day, Chef Eddie made us a Parsnip Soup with Bacon Crumbles, which he selected a gorgeous Ponzi Pinot Blanc to pair with. I’d honestly never really met a parsnip I liked prior to that, in fact for years, I'd been picking them out of my mom's homemade chicken soups.Yet here Eddie had fashioned them into a soup which immediately became tops on of my list of favorites. And with the wine, it was sheer perfection; the acidity cut right through both the cream of the soup and salt of the bacon while the tart and floral components in the wine were effortlessly balanced by the sweet and savory qualities of the parsnips. I might have even swooned or drooled… or both.

Eddie somehow pulled off a disappearing act during lunch before I had a chance to pin him down for the recipe, he must have been onto me. When I called him at the restaurant the next day in an effort to obtain cooking instructions for the most fabulous and surprisingly delicious soup I’d ever tasted, I believe he told me he didn’t really have an actual recipe for it, and might have even said that he’d just pulled it out of his ass. Well, it certainly didn’t taste like it came out of his ass, but he clearly wasn't going to be any help. Over the next several months, I experimented with many versions, until I came upon this one from Emeril Lagasse and the Food Network, which seemed to be as close to Eddie’s as I could really recall, though I've added nutmeg to his recipe for added intrigue. The addition of the potato crisps indeed requires a bit more effort, and though not required, truly is worth the trouble. Alternatively, you could serve it with a loaf of bread, make your own boule like my industrious blogger friend Todd at the Portland Charcuterie Project for a seriously yummy treat.


Each year, as the days grow noticeably shorter, the skies begin to darken and the weather starts to turn chilly and less forgiving, I turn to this hearty dinner to warm up with and celebrate the arrival of the fall season. Last weekend, at the Lake Oswego Farmers Market, after I found these prized parnsips and dry-cured Maialino bacon, I realized what time of year it was already and immediately knew what was destined be on my menu in the coming week. So tonight, in honor of  Crush 2011, I’ll be serving up this heart-warming and tummy-satisfying soup (inspired by Chef Eddie and the Ponzis), alongside an excpetional 2010 Willakenzie Pinot Blanc I’ve set aside especially for the occasion. Though I do wish you could join me at my table, you can recreate this meal on your own, with your own bottle of Oregon Pinot Blanc. You could also try it with Oregon Pinot Gris for another delightful pairing, either way I'm certain it will become a favorite of yours as well. I raise my glass of refreshing Pinot Blanc to the entire Oregon wine industry and send wishes of safety, fun and success for Vintage 2011… cheers!

Cream of Parsnip Soup with Potato Crisps and Bacon
By Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

10 cups chicken stock
3 pounds parsnips, peeled and diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces raw bacon, chopped
1/2 pound new potatoes, thinly sliced and soaking in cold water
1 tablespoon chopped chives

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter in a 6-quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the bay leaf, garlic and nutmeg and stir another minute until the spices release their aromatics.
3. Add the stock and parsnips and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the parsnips are very soft, about 1 hour.
4. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool a little. Discard bay leaf.
5. Using a hand-held blender, carefully puree soup until smooth. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper.
6. In a small saute pan, over medium heat, render bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon, drain on paper towels and reserve bacon fat.
7. Pour bacon fat onto cookie sheet and add the potato slices in one layer (because what isn't better cooked in bacon grease?). Put into the preheated oven and cook until potatoes are crispy and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer potatoes to paper towel lined plate when done. Season with salt.
8. To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with the crispy potatoes, bacon and chives.