Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Guaranteed Good Time in Wine Country - 10 Tips for Wine Tasting Success

Like a gun shot starting a horse race, Memorial Day has officially kicked off wine tasting season in the Willamette Valley. I ran the following article on the now defunct Gary Vaynerchuk website Cork'd many years ago. The same tips still apply.

Wine is produced in each and every one of the 50 United States. So, as wine making and wine tasting become more popular in the U.S., and wine regions continue to expand faster than my waistline, more and more of us have the unique opportunity to sample the wine bounty than ever before. If you’re planning to visit tasting rooms in Wine Country, USA anytime soon, there are a few things you should know to help make the most out of your experience.

1. Limit the number of wineries you plan to visit to three or four. It’s tempting to try to taste as much as you can, and to try and stop at every winery you pass by. But squeezing too many visits into one day not only limits your overall experience, it just might ruin it. Take your time, sit on the decks and soak up the view, walk the grounds, the vineyards or the cellar if permitted. Talk to the tasting room staff or the winemaker, if they’re around; they usually love to share their knowledge about wine and their personal stories with those who show interest.

2. Avoid wearing perfumes, colognes, heavily scented body/hair products and lipstick. Strong chemical aromas will mask or even alter both the aromas and the flavors of the wine… not only for you, but also for wine drinkers around you, so be considerate. Lipstick will immediately turn your pourer off. One look at you and all they can think about is the extra time and effort it will take to wash and buff your glass special so the next guest isn’t wearing your lipstick too.

3. Don't chew gum. It’s not school, but you’re there to taste, so that's all I have to say about that.

4. Leave the kids and dogs at home. It's not fun for children shadowing their parents all day as they drive from winery to winery, and no, tasting room employees don’t double as babysitters and won’t entertain them. So, while it sounds like Fluffy would have lots of grounds to roam, vineyards to explore and moles to chase, most wineries don’t allow pets on the property (as they often have their own). Exception to the rule: Do your research first and select one winery with picnic grounds and an outdoor activity like bocce ball, horseshoes or disc golf to keep the kids busy while you sip away (but still leave the dogs at home).

5. Be prepared to spend a little cash (or to swipe the plastic). Once upon a time, wine tasting was a free activity, but like my youth, those days are long gone. If you’re prepared to spend roughly $10 per person at each winery, you won't have any disappointing surprises. You're not obligated to buy anything, but tasting rooms are actually in business to sell wine. So, if you like something or enjoyed your experience, take home a bottle and take home the memory. Some wineries will even waive the tasting fees with purchase.

6. A little preparation goes a long way. Have a cooler on hand to store your purchases. It can get quite warm in the car while touring the countryside (think sauna). You'll want to protect the precious bottles of wine you bring home. Nothing will ruin your day faster than an expensive bottle of cooked wine.

7. Bring a lunch, buy a bottle and stay awhile. It’s not speed dating for wine—no need to rush off to the next. Pull up a chair and watch the grapes ripen. Slowing down never felt so good.

8. Remember the five S’s: swirl, sniff, sip, savor and spit.

9. Yes, it's OK to spit and dump, in fact, please do! Spit buckets are conveniently located on every tasting room bar (or you can ask for your own cup to be more discreet). Though spitting can be awkward and perhaps even messy for novice wine tasters, a little backsplash is much more desirable than a stumbling drunk. It might seem wasteful and perhaps even rude, but the best option (if you’re not driving) is to have a small taste of everything you’re poured and then dump the remaining wine instead of drinking the whole glass.

10. Keep in mind you’re a guest on someone else’s property. Wineries can be a dangerous place if you wander where you shouldn't go (remember Agustus Glup in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). Wineries are often family businesses with the family living on the grounds, so don't open closed doors and always be respectful. Wine can be an aphrodesiac, but wait till you get home (or at least until off winery grounds) to take your clothes off. Many wineries actually have cameras in place, and the staff (while having great stories to tell for months) really don’t enjoy having to chase half-naked (and fully naked) people off the grounds… and yes, I do speak from experience.

Wine tasting is a fun activity and whether or not you follow these simple suggestions, you’re on your way to creating memories to last a lifetime. These tips will ensure a successful and embarrassment–free tasting experience. So, now that you now how to do it, all you need to is get out there and taste, enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Feast Portland Ticket Sales Commence…NOW!

Prepare to loosen your belts because tickets are on sale for Oregon's quintessential culinary event of the year. The event takes place September 18-21, 2014, but get your tickets NOW because they sell out FAST (rumor has it one of the events has already sold out)!

Entering its third year, this four-day party for your mouth brings together leading chefs, artisans, farmers, winemakers, brewers and distillers from Oregon and beyond for one delicious weekend with over 35 events at venues across Portland. At the core of this annual exhibition of bounty is a mission to end childhood hunger in Oregon and across America by donating festival net proceeds to Share Our Strength and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, giving more than $99,000 in its first two years.

Here's a shortlist of hot ticket items. A complete listing of events and participants can be found at

The Hot 10 Dinner: Celebrating Bon Appétit's Best New Restaurants in America
Location: Ava Gene’s | Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $200
Feel the pulse of the country’s best restaurants at this multi-course dinner prepared by past and present recipients of the “Hot 10,” Bon Appétit's annual short list of the best new restaurants in America, as named each year by Restaurant and Drinks Editor Andrew Knowlton. Hosted by Knowlton and Editor in Chief Adam Rapoport this dinner is a showcase of Hot 10 alums as well as one chef/restaurant from the 2014 list to be unveiled in late August.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational Presented By Dave’s Killer Bread
Location: Director Park | Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Time: 6pm-9pm | Price: $95
The goal: Sandwich Supernova. The event: The Sandwich Invitational, Feast Portland’s killer kick-off party, where wildly imaginative, chef’d-up interpretations redefine everything you thought the humble sandwich could be. This year, 13 of America’s top chefs gather under the stars at Downtown Portland’s Director Park in their quest for sandwich success. Test your sandwich savvy by voting for the People’s Choice winner, wash it down with local Widmer Brothers Brewing beers, Northwest wines and cocktails and you have yourself a deliciously unforgettable evening. 

Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting Presented by Alaska Airlines
Location: Pioneer Courthouse Square | Date: Friday, September 19, 2014 and Saturday, September 20, 2014 | Time: 12pm-5pm | Price: $60
Oregon is known for outstanding artisan offerings such as cheese, charcuterie, wine, beer and coffee. Come taste them all at the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting when we transform Portland’s “living room” into the city’s dining room for two days of Feast-ing!  At the festival’s premiere daytime event, you can eat and drink your way through artisans, wineries and breweries. And while you’re indulging in Oregon’s best, the country’s top chefs return to the KitchenAid Main Demo Stage for lively cooking demonstrations. Whether you’re new to Oregon’s bounty or a dedicated locavore this event is not to be missed.  

USA Pears Night Market at Zidell Yards
Location: Zidell Yards | Date: Friday, September 19, 2014 | Time: 6pm-9pm | Price: $125
The nation’s liveliest outdoor celebration of global street food moves to the iconic Portland waterfront at Zidell Yards. So get ready for an evening that is bigger, bolder, and somehow, filled with even more food! Situated below the Ross Island Bridge, the Night Market will overlook the central artery of this port town, the Willamette River. New street food offerings will include the plethora of Asian options you’ve grown to love, along with Italian, Argentinian, Indian and more. With a who’s who of Oregon craft beer, wine, and spirits, you’ll be ready for an experience that embodies the sights, sounds, and tastes of an international culinary journey.

Oregonian Media Group High Comfort at The Nines
Location: The Nines Hotel | Date: Saturday, September 20, 2014 | Time: 6pm-9pm | Price: $175
Feast Portland doubles down again this year, with more than 20 chefs pushing comfort food out of its comfort zone at High Comfort. Put on your cuff links and high heels ladies and gents, cuz we’re headed to The Nines Hotel for the most decadent culinary event around. Oregon’s top winemakers will personally keep your glass full and you’ll be fed silly by the nation’s top culinary talent from Portland to NYC and everywhere in between. Don’t plan anything early the next day!

Brunch Village
Location: Pioneer Courthouse Square | Date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Time: 11am-2pm | Price: $75
We’ve gathered the best of the brunch for Feast Portland’s newest event, Brunch Village. If you’ve ever found yourself waiting in line outside of that must-get-into brunch place, if you’re a baron of Bloody Mary’s, a sultan of scrambled eggs, then pull up a chair and join us for the best boozy brunch ever. Chefs from Portland and around the country will build their “towns” of bacon, eggs, pastries, and everything else that makes brunch our favorite meal of the day. Pile your plate up high, relax and take in the first-ever Feast Cocktail Competition, where Portland’s top bartenders mix up their favorite drinks for brunch glory. We guarantee you’ll apply for citizenship of Brunch Village.

Hands-On Classes & Tasting Panels
Location: Throughout Downtown Portland | Date: Friday, September 19, 2014 – Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Prices: $55-$125
For those who want to bring home more than just a fully belly from the festival, Feast Portland’s Hands-On Classes provide a rare opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade directly from the nation’s most skilled artisans and chefs. The Tasting Panels explore new trends in the beverage world, with discussions and tastings of wine, beer and cocktails led by local and national experts.

Dinner Series:
New KitchenCru Dinner Series Debuts
Traditional Feast Portland Dinner Series Returns
Location: KitchenCru Culinary Prepspace and Various Portland Restaurants | Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 – Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Prices: $100-$175
KitchenCru is a shared use kitchen and culinary incubator in the heart of Portland – thus it’s the perfect location for the Feast Portland KitchenCru Dinner Series, our brand-new, next-level, multi-chef, collaborative dinner series where chefs from around the country will bring together their unique perspectives for once-in-a-lifetime dinner experiences. Feast Portland’s popular traditional dinner series also returns, pairing a visiting chef with a Portland favorite, creating the menus of their lives. With a spotlight on the best Oregon ingredients and local wines, attendees will feast on the culinary excellence of the country’s top chefs and those from our own backyard.

State of the Art with Adelsheim Vineyard and Willamette Valley Vineyards
Location: KitchenCru Culinary Prepspace | Date: Friday, September 19, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $175
Join a super group of the country’s leading edge chefs for what will be one of most interesting dinners ever to happen on Oregon soil. Local boy Justin Woodward (Castagna, Portland) will be joined by Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn, San Francisco), Homaro Cantu (Moto, Chicago), Matt Accarrino (SPQR, San Francisco) and pastry chef Matt Tinder (The Restaurant at Meadowood, Napa Valley) in this culinary super jam.

Pop Stars with Elk Cove Vineyards and Ponzi Vineyards
Location: KitchenCru Culinary Prepspace | Date: Saturday, September 20, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $150
Pop-up dinners and restaurants are the culmination of inventive culinary themes and vanguard chefs, so we’ve gathered together our favorite “pop stars” including Sarah Simmons (City Grit, NYC) along with local pop heroes Katy Millard (Coquine, Portland) and Will Preisch and Joel Stocks (Holdfast Dining, Portland) in one kitchen for one night to create what is sure to be a once-in-a lifetime meal.

Girls! Girls! Girls! with Elizabeth Chambers Cellar and Domaine Serene
Location: KitchenCru Culinary Prepspace | Date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $175
Those who claim that men monopolize the culinary world simply haven’t been paying attention for the past decade. Be schooled by bad-ass lady chefs Kuniko Yagi (Hinoki and the Bird, Los Angeles), Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC), Naomi Pomeroy (Beast, Portland), and Johanna Ware (Smallwares, Portland) as they ‘lean in’ and show you why women are leading the culinary conversation more than ever.  

Edward Lee and Jenn Louis at Lincoln Restaurant with King Estate
Location: Lincoln Restaurant | Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $150
Two Top Chef alums join forces at Lincoln for a food reality TV junkie’s fantasy dinner. Kentucky-based chef Edward Lee (610 Magnolia, Louisville) and Jenn Louis (Lincoln, Portland) will serve up delicious dishes full of Oregon bounty.

Anita Lo and Gregory Gourdet at Departure with R. Stuart & Co. Winery and Sokol Blosser
Location: Departure Restaurant | Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $150
Two masters of invention spiked with Asian flair, Anita Lo (Annisa, NYC) and Gregory Gourdet (Departure, Portland) come together for an unforgettable evening. At Annisa, Chef Lo has been collecting stars – one  from the Michelin guide and a rare three sparklers from The New York Times in the past year – while Chef Gourdet has been turning heads as a prolific chef and budding television personality. We’ve even thrown in Downtown’s best view for good measure because we take ‘unforgettable’ seriously.

Ari Taymor and Sarah Pliner at Aviary with Archery Summit
Location: Aviary Restaurant | Date: Friday, September 19, 2014 | Time: 7pm | Price: $150
Chef Ari Taymor (Alma, Los Angeles) ventures north to team up with Sarah Pliner (Aviary, PDX) for a dinner to remember. Two food world Picassos, Taymor and Pliner, root classic technique at the heart of their food, but add a world of abstraction and creativity that brings it to another level. You won’t want to miss what they create together.

Tickets can be purchased at for the more than 35 events around Portland, Oregon, and offer a broad range, from “The Package,” which includes one ticket each to the Friday Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, Saturday Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, Sandwich Invitational, Night Market, Brunch Village and High Comfort, at $530, to tasting panels at $55.

In addition, visitors and media are invited to expand their Feast experience by taking advantage of pre- and post-event options that will take them to Oregon tastemakers’ favorite mouthwatering spots. Travel Oregon’s “Trails to Feast” inspirational itineraries give a firsthand look into Oregon’s bounty – meeting the farmers, fishermen, winemakers, foragers and food artisans who contributed the ingredients behind Feast. For more information or to plan your tasty adventure, go to

To apply for a Feast Portland 2014 Media Credential or Blogger Pass, please visit To learn about becoming a Feast Portland sponsor, please email

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Behind Every Wine Label Lies a Real Personality

A label is only the surface-level story of the wine. A winemaker’s job, besides making the best wine possible with a given vintage, is often to be the face of the brand. Winemakers attend wine dinners near and far, and participate in market tastings to acquaint potential consumers with their wines. With so many bottles on the shelf to choose from, it’s not easy to develop brand loyalty. Opportunities that allow the winemaker to display his or her personality and create a faithful fan are often what bring people back to the same wines each year. Discovering how a winemaker puts their touch on the wine requires one to look beyond the label on the bottle.

In this two-part series, I will peel back the label to show you how Oregon winemakers pour their heart, soul and personality into each bottle. I’ll start here with some of the female powerhouses of Oregon wine. Read the whole story Behind the Wine Label here…