Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back in Blanc

If you haven’t yet discovered Oregon Pinot blanc, it’s high time you do. Because, in addition to producing some of the best Pinot noir in the world, Oregon makes a damn fine Pinot blanc as well.

Not to be confused at all with Chardonnay, and especially not with Melon, Pinot blanc is actually a genetic mutation of Pinot noir, and quite possibly more like the Cinderella sister—often forgotten about and left without a date for the Ball. Around the world, Pinot blanc may be blended with other grapes to produce more complex flavors, but Oregon tends to be more purist, letting the lovely and distinctive tropical, spicy and floral notes of this wine shine through.

One of my favorite pairings with Pinot blanc is oysters, but a close second is Pasta al Melone (see recipe below). This sweet, savory and rich meal is perfectly balanced by the dry style of Oregon Pinot blanc. So, with an abundance of both warm summer days and juicy melons in high season, what better time than now to give these both a try? The pasta dish is simple to prepare, but impressive enough to serve to company. Serve it with a seasonal green salad and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce. It's like a fairytale food and wine pairing.

Some favorite wines for you to explore:

Spindrift Cellars 2011 Pinot Blanc ($16) – Honeydew melon and lemon curd entertain your palate while zingy acids liven up your meal.

J. Scott Cellars 2011 Pinot Blanc ($15) – Pear, pineapple and sour apple make your mouth water—lingers long after your last swallow.

Bethel Heights 2011 Estate Grown Pinot Blanc ($18) – An array of citrus, creamy lemon curd, tart green apples, pear and nutmeg cookies. Sweet on the nose, but brilliant and racy acidity in the mouth. It's like the Energizer bunny of wine.

Chehalem 2011 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Blanc ($28) – A more floral and traditional Pinot Blanc. Juicy white peaches, Anjou pear and delicate orange blossoms grace the glass. This wine has it all… great minerality, succlent fruit, rich body and snappy acidity.

The Four Graces 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc ($24) – Tropical flavors of pineapple, papaya and lychee are perfectly complemented by white tea, ginger and creamy custard.

Elk Cove 2012 Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley  ($19) – Clean and crisp with a focus  on the fruit. Aromas of orange peel, pear and white flowers make this divine when paired with salty and rich foods.

With just over 200 acres planted to Pinot blanc in Oregon, Pinot blanc is not the most common wine from this region. Yet a number of Oregon producers are turning out wines that would make even Price Charming take notice. In addition to those listed above, other wineries producing noteworthy Pinot blanc are Ponzi Vineyards, Foris, WillaKenzie Estate, Rex Hill, Amity, Adelshiem and Left Coast Cellars.


Pasta al Melone (serves 4-6 people)

4 T butter
1 T vegetable oil
3 cups cantelope diced into ¼ inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ t tomato paste
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Tonnarelli or pasta of your choice (cooked according to directions)

  1. Put butter and oil into sauté pan and turn heat to high. When oil is hot, add melon.
  2. Cook melon for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until melon softens but is not entirely broken down, most of the pieces should still be separate.
  3. Add cream, lemon juice and tomato paste and cook until reduced by half.
  4. Add salt and pepper, stir gently and remove from heat.
  5. Pour sauce over prepared pasta and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Evening Land Tri-Fecta

Evening Land Vineyards (ELV), the new kid in town, has quite a reputation already. It’s one of ambition, quality, brilliance and beauty… the stuff legends are made of.

Not many wineries produce wine in multiple locations. While a few Oregon wineries also make wine in California or Washington, and even fewer number make wine in both Oregon and Burgundy, Evening Land actually makes wine in all three locations with fruit from esteemed vineyards in these areas—Oregon, California and France. Stop in at their new Dundee tasting room and sip for yourself. You might just not believe your tastebuds.

With vineyards and wine production in the Willamette Valley, Sonoma Coast and in an idyllic 12th century chateau in the legendary Burgundy France, ELV offers tasters a chance to experience the wide world of wine. Enjoy them all, side-by-side, and explore the qualities distinctive to each specific growing region, as well as the varietal similarities.

Discover the minerality of the Evening Land Chardonnays, each of them bright, rich, alive and impressive showing flavors of lemon, grapefruit peel, pear and white blossoms.

The ELV Pinot Noirs are simply captivating. The Willamette Valley blue label (ELV's elegant labels are color-coded according to price), a blend of three different vineyard sites (Lemelson, Stoller and Eola Springs), is surprisingly priced in the “affordable” Oregon Pinot Noir category. At just $25 a bottle retail, it’s a wine you definitely want to get your corkscrew into and add to your regular line-up. 

The Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir is simply stunning. On the savory side of Pinot, the wine is still dripping with sweet, luscious black cherries and tart red raspberries. This acid-driven wine is perfectly balanced…a symphony of fruit, earth, minerals and old-world style, all the notes coming together in perfect harmony. Sublime. Quixotic. Pour me another glass.

Though I’d tried ELV's wines before, this comprehensive and more focused tasting made quite an impression on me. All of the wines (with the exception of the Spanish Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is wisely being discontinued) are even better than remembered or expected. Evening Land is definitely a winery to put on your “Must Visit” and "Must Taste" lists.