Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Regional Wine Blogger Bids Sad Farewell



Hiatus… it might be the name of a painful medical condition, like “I heard he had to have surgery to fix his chronic hiatus before it did him in”. Or perhaps it’s the name of a very mysterious female body part, “As she simmered with arousal, he pressed his finger against her hiatus, watching it noticeably swell with anticipation under the heat of his magical touch”. The word “hiatus” sounds slightly better than the word “blog”, which I sadly always correlate with the word “vomit”, as in “Excuse me, I’ve really got to go, I think I’m gonna blog tonight.” And though the Hosemaster of Wine would probably argue that 99% of all wine blogs are basically vomit in essence, in this particular instance, my dreaded hiatus has nothing to do with holes in the diaphragm, natural clefts in the human anatomy or the sudden and forceful expulsion of one's stomach contents through one's mouth.

It’s true, for the past year, I’ve been living the life of a glamorous full-time wine blogger—writing nightly until three o’clock in the morning, producing posts that ultimately appealed to only a minute segment of the population, for nothing more than sheer pride in one’s work, one comment (if I was lucky, and it was usually from fellow wine blogger and ardent supporter Josh Wade) and an occasional invitation to a wine event here or there. But finally, the hard work, long hours and sacrifice has paid off; due to the surprising and overwhelming success of my blog and social media skills (and my background in wine marketing), I’ve been able to secure gainful employment in the wine industry. There were those who said blogging would be a waste of time, a waste of money, a waste of effort and precious resources. A waste of talent. I heard it all but trudged on anyway, forging my own wine trail, as I was certain (hoping) it would lead me to salvation, redemption, infamy, temptation… employment. And almost exactly one year to the date later from the inception of Sip with Me, I accepted a position as Marketing Director for a prominent Oregon winery.


So, now I’m struggling with whether or not this blog is a conflict of interest to my new job. And while I don’t’ think it is in principal (high tides raise all ships after all), it certainly is a competition for my time, energy and focus. So, I’ve made the painfully difficult yet practical decision to tear myself away from Sip with Me for a bit to focus again on my career—well the part of it that makes it possible for me to pay the bills anyway. Ultimately, my hope is to create a blog for the winery, but I’m still leading them towards the light, the true path. Until then, my voice may be somewhat quieter, but I hope you’ll continue to follow me on Twitter and continue to enjoy this blog as a resource when planning your next Oregon wine country outing or when you just want to escape into the romance, beauty and mystique of all that’s wine.

Infinite thanks to you all for reading and supporting me over the past year. I'm grateful for the time we've shared together and the things we've learned along the way… may we sip together again soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Riesling Revival in Oregon

Riesling ought to think about changing its name to a symbol as the varietal’s probably had more comebacks than Prince himself. With its most recent resurgence, and something of a cult-following in recent years, there’s a whole collective of serious consumers who actually seek out the aged petrol qualities Riesling develops. And as more and more people discover the Rhine wine’s secrets... (Click here to read the full story on Cork'd)

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Honor of the Harvest… Romancing the Vine

He stands before her
She is naked
Innocent
Fresh
Exposed
Vulnerable
All life and limbs
She quivers
Feeling his hot breath on her bare extremities
Cutting the chill of the biting morning air


He stands before her
Coaxing from her
Gentle beauty
Development
Growth
Potential
All the promise of the future

He savors each moment with her
As if it’s their last
He’s tender
Gentle
Caring
Nurturing
Cultivating
He loves her
Sees things in her no other sees


He persuades her
Tugs on her
Pulls on her
Supports her
Tucks her in
Moves her where he wants her to be
She surrenders to his will
Lets him guide her

He stands before her
His strong and agile hands
So dirty
Fondling her
Flesh
Fruit
She submits
She succumbs


He stands before her
Charming her
Encouraging her
To finish
Pick
Pluck
He casts her off
To be savored by others

She stands alone
Stripped
Bare
Crushed
Squeezed
Squashed
Thinking only of him
He who allowed her to be

She retreats into herself
Quiet
Dormant
Still
She wonders if he even remembers
Knowing he thinks about the next
As she prepares to give all of herself
To her love
To him
Again.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Free Tickets to the Northwest Food and Wine Festival


Northwest food and wine lovers LOOK OUT! The food and wine festival to beat all festivals is coming soon to the incomparable Pure Space in Portland's Pearl district. This is one event you don't want to miss, in fact, it's the one you've been waiting all year for! On November 13, from 4-8pm, over 600 wines from Oregon and beyond, in addition to gourmet bites from regional restaurants, will be available to sample in a truly exceptional setting.

Many wineries will be offering special incentives such as case discounts and free shipping. Take advantage of this great opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done early. I know, it's not even October and here I am, trumpeting commercialism, yet facts are facts, the Northwest Food and Wine Festival makes it just too easy to please all the wineauxs on your holiday list. That's my kind of one-stop-shopping!

If you'd like to attend this event, purchase your tickets online OR try to win mine; I have two pairs I intend on sharing with some very lucky readers. Winning them couldn't be much easier, simply leave a comment below with a compelling reason why I should select you. To double your chances (two names in the lucky beret), become a fan on Facebook and leave a comment there as well.
The first winner will be chosen on October 15, good luck!

600 wines is a lot to taste and I trust (hope, hope, hope) you won't get to them all. But here's a mostly up-to-date list of participating wineries so you're sure to make your mark, before you get set and go. Sip with you then!

Airfield Estates
Agate Field Vineyard
AlexEli Vineyard
Alexander Valley Vineyards
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Ankeny Vineyard Winery
Artisanal Wine Cellars
Atticus
Barking Frog
Basel Cellars
Beaucanon Estate
Birchfield Winery
Blue Mountain Cider Company
Blue Pirate
Bolla Wines
Bonterra
Brown Box Wines
Buty Winery
Canyons Edge Winery
Carlton Cellars
Cathedral Ridge Winery
Cavu Cellars
Chandler Reach Vineyards
Cerulean Wine
Cottonwood Winery of Oregon
Dalla Vina Wines now Terra Vina Wines
Desert Wind Winery
DiStefano Winery
Dobbes Family Estate
Domaine Napa Wine Company
Duck Pond Cellars
Dukes Family Vineyards
EdenVale Winery
Eola Hills Wine Cellars
Eugene Wine Cellars
Evergreen Vineyards
Fetzer Winery
Firesteed Cellars
Five Star Cellars
Five RiversWinery
Forgeron Cellars
Foris Vineyards Winery
Gilbert Cellars
Gilstrap Brothers Wine Company
Girardet Wine Cellars
Girly Girl Wines
Glen Fiona
Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and Winery
Hawkins Cellars
Henry Estate
Hoodsport Winery
HV Wines
K Vintners
Kana Winery
Kenwood Vineyards
Kestral Vintners
Kontos Cellars
Korbel
Laurelwood Brewing Co.
Little Black Dress Wines
Stella Artois
Hoegaarden
Leffe
Marshals Winery
Martin & Weyrich Winery
Masset Winery
McCormick Family Vineyard - "Memaloose"
Mercer Wine Estate
Methven Family Vineyards
Michael David Winery
Mount Baker Winery
Mt. Hood Winery
Naked Winery
Namaste Vineyards
Nota Bene Cellars
Pheasant Valley Winery
Pine Ridge Vineyards
Quady North
Quenett Winery
Red Star Tavern
Rex Hill
Ribera Vineyards, LLC
Roza Ridge
Rusty Grape Vineyard
Seven Sisters
Seven of Hearts - Luminus Hills
Silver Lake Winery at Roza Hills
Simpatica
Snake River Winery
Sonoma Cutrer
Springhouse Cellar
Stangeland Vineyards & Winery
Stella Fino Winery
Sweet Valley Wines
Terra Blanca Winery
Terra Vina Wines
Tertulia Cellars
The Pines 1852
The Wine Haven
Beaucanon Estates
Martin & Weyrich
Mt Baker Winery
Airfield Estates
Utopia Vineyard & Winery
Valley of the Moon Winery
Valley View Winery
Vercingetorix - VX Vineyard
Vin duLac
Vinn
Volcano Vineyards
Walnut City WineWorks
Washington Wine Works
Waving Tree Winery
White Salmon Vineyard
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Willamette Wine Works
Wilridge Winery
Wy'East Vineyards
Youngberg Hills Winery
Zefina Winery - Corus Estates
Zerba Cellars

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Metrovino… Top-Notch Wine Bar, Enticing Restaurant or a Whole Lot of Both?

Metrovino, located in Portland’s upscale and uber-trendy Pearl district, is a
serious restaurant first and an excellent winebar second. Or, is that serious wine bar first, and an excellent restaurant second? Actually, they’d both be correct. Go for the food, go for the wine, either way you’re sure to leave satisfied.



Co-owner and manager Todd Steele, moved to Portland from San Francisco bringing his love of food and wine with him. While working for Agrivino Wine Center, he learned about the Enomatic wine systems and a seed was planted. He nurtured the dream and in 2009, Metrovino took root in Portland’s Pearl District.

The Enomatic (invented in Tuscany in 2002) is a state-of-the-art wine preservation and serving system that eliminates waste, provides portioned-controlled servings, with an option for Wine Card technology, including software to create unique business solutions for customers. Metrovino’s bar features seven highly charged, temperature-controlled, argon-charged machines, that keeps great wines fresh for weeks, allowing the option to sell over 90 rare and unusual wines (including sparkling wine) by the taste (1.75 oz), glass (5.25 oz) or bottle, enabling near-limitless options for food and wine pairings. Glasses of wine range in price from $6-$60.


Recently, Metrovino’s Double Cheeseburger was selected by Willamette Week as Portland’s #1 Bistro Burger (out of 72 sampled), but Chef Gregory Denton, named The Oregonian's "chef to watch" in 2009, makes a lot more than just a mean burger. The refined yet rustic New American menu reflects a history of cooking, traveling and eating, incorporating Asian, Scandanavian and Northwest influences.

Check out the nightly five-course tasting menu, with seasonal favorites and wine flights. For more information and reservations, please call 503-517-7778 or visit www.metrovinopdx.com. For more updates, look for Metrovino on Twitter at @metrovino and Facebook at MetrovinoPDX. Try the food, try the wine. With award-winning food and some of the world’s finest wine at your fingertips, it’s an adventurous restaurant AND wine bar sure to make it onto your list of favorites.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Helioterrra's Inaugural Release is a Reason to Party

With the number of Oregon wineries popping up quicker than mushrooms, and no one really seeming to know how many there actually are anymore, another one bursts onto the scene. I've been a fan of Anne Hubatch's since she was winemaker at Apolloni Vineyards in Forest Grove. Now she's a consulting winemaker for Apolloni, as well as a few other brands, a social media guru and has created quite a splash in Portland with her new private label, Helioterra Wines.


This Saturday, from 12-5pm, sample the wine and
celebrate Helioterra’s Open House Release Party. 

The grand premiere will feature tastings of 
Helioterra’s 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 
and 2009 Vintner’s Select Pinot Noir. 

To sweeten the deal, Vincent Wine Company, another intriguing newcomer 
on the wine scene, will be previewing his 2009 Pinot Noirs, and as if that’s not 
enough firsts, Hubatch will also be showing wines from her co-operative 
and covert venture, *Guild Winemakers.


Open House Release Party
Saturday, September 18th
Noon to 5pm

At the winery:


The name Helioterra symbolizes Oregon’s state gemstone Heliolite (also known as Sunstone) and is the combination of the Greek words helio and terra, meaning sun and earth. It was inspired by the inherent relationship between the sun, the earth and the vine—all precursors for fine wine.


Hubatch produced nearly 400 cases in her inaugural 2009 vintage, which she describes as “a grounded, honest expression of her winemaking style, reflecting feminine sensibilities," at Boedecker and Grouchau Cellars’ Portland Wine Project… a sunstone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland and miles from any vineyards. Hubatch selects fruit from Apolloni, Buckhaven and Domaine Coteau Vineyards and ultimately aims to deliver premium wines without top-tier prices. Hubatch plans to release a Pinot Blanc and Syrah next spring, and though she is considering distribution, right now she's focusing on sales in her own backyard.

*I'm about to expose a deep, dark and juicy secret about the Guild Winemakers brand, so shhhhhhh! Promise that you won't tell a soul; we wouldn't want word getting out about how Guild puts the emphasis on value-driven Oregon wines. The Guild White (which is predominantly Pinot Gris) retails for $12.00 a bottle, while the Guild Red, retailing for a very affordable $13.00 a bottle, is a Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. With case discounts on top of the great price, they're practically paying you to drink it!

Case discounts will offered for all three brands and if futures were ordered, they’ll be available for pick-up. Click here for more information or to RSVP.  Follow Helioterra Wines on Twitter here or friend them on Facebook here.

I look forward to sipping with you on Saturday!

______________________________________________________________

Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Book of the Pacific Northwest Every Wine Lover Must Have…

The Pacific Northwest is finally becoming known for more than just rain… discover the splendor of wine regions and expertly crafted wines the north-western states have to offer in Cole Danehower’s new book, Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest. Danehower is a leading regional wine writer, co-Publisher of Northwest Palate and winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Journalism Award, and now he’s the author of a definitive work on a world-class wine region.

For nearly the past decade, Lisa Shara Hall’s detailed book Wines of the Pacific Northwest has served as the quintessential guide to wines, regions and producers in the states of Washington and Oregon. Ten years however, does a lot to a landscape and a region, as many of the founding wineries have now gone supernova, doubling in size, while countless other rising stars have emerged on the scene. Danehower builds upon Hall’s earlier work while bravely and ambitiously tackling the entire Pacific Northwest, exploring the powerhouse of wine regions exploding in not only Washington and Oregon, but also British Columbia and Idaho. Yes, Idaho.

Rich with history, geography, geology, climate, colorful maps and suggestions for supreme sampling, Essential Wines and Wineries of the Northwest offers a wealth of information for both the wine novice and the avid connoisseur, in a very easy to digest format. The book is technical and sophisticated enough for the wine savvy, while interesting and engaging even for the neophyte.


Magnificently captured by the photographically genius eye of Andrea Johnson (whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Wine Spectator and Sunset Magazine), the breathtaking images alone give someone cause enough to purchase the book. But its Danehower’s words that you'll keep coming back for, words that serve as an instrumental resource and invaluable guide for anyone selecting wines, planning a tour, or for the curious seeking more information about this young but distinctively impressive region. A book no wine lover’s library should be without.

Would you like your very own signed copy of Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest by Cole Danehower? I happen to have one extra copy for one very lucky fan! For your chance to win, please leave a comment below and I will select the winner at random. Contest deadline is Friday, September 17, 2010. Good luck!

Cheers!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Sweetness of Holidays and Wine Judges

Today, the vibrant sound of the shofar wakes us from slumber and signals the Jewish New Year. Opposite from Auld Lang Syne, which questions whether old times should be forgot, the Rosh Hashanah holy day is about remembering and a day of solemn judgment when the wicked, righteous and intermediate classes have their fates determined. Whereas the righteous are immediately inscribed into the Book of Life (sealed to live), the intermediate class has ten days (until Yom Kippur) to become better before being blotted out forever, along with the wicked. Historical liturgy defines the day as when all (wo)men pass before God, but for me, the day is mostly about remembering the prior year with quiet reflection.

With the first birthday of my blog just passing, I’ve definitely been looking back on the past year maybe a bit more than usual, and aside from all the great lessons I’ve learned, I continue to ruminate over the vast array of wine I’ve consumed. Not that I typically indulge in delusions of grandeur, but with the Rosh Hashanah holiday, I’ve also found myself engaged in this silly fantasy where all the wines I’ve consumed over the past year pass before me again and I have to make a decision about their worthiness. In other words, I have to sit in judgment over all these wines. What kind of person really judges wine?

I am certain there’s more than a few righteous wines I’d immediately seal in my “Book of Life” (do I sense another Top 10 list in the works?), fated to live on and enjoy another sweet year, and there’s most certainly at least a wicked one in the bunch too. But then there are all those intermediate wines that will have to prove themselves to me, and thoughts of examining each of them thoroughly and completely for all their astonishing virtues and each of their remarkable sins is already stimulating my thirsty palate and hungry mind.

So, what kind of wine judge would I be? Maybe I’d be like Randy and say “Yo Dawg, you know I’m a huge fan, but I just wasn’t feeling you tonight.” Perhaps, I’ve a bit more Paula in me, unable to make anyone feel bad, “Oh, you have a lovely range of expression and you really stayed true to who you are, don’t listen to what Randy says.” I see myself more like Simon I guess, maybe a bit too honest, “I don’t mean to be rude, but what in the bloody hell was that?” Can you see it now? It could be a whole new series… “Wine Idol”.

A fun little diversion, but let’s get back to the real purpose of the day. Jewish or not, raise a glass of your best dessert wine (the one with the most residual sugar) and toast with me tonight: May the coming the year be filled with the sticky sweetness of apples and honey and an exploration of truly righteous wine. Shana Tova Umetukah.

L'Chaim, Cheers, Salud, Salute, Prosit, Skal, Gan Bay, Sante, Kampai, Chuc-dee, Zai Gesunt…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Burning Question: So, How Many Did I Taste in a Year?

I would have never thought a year ago, I’d be where I am today. Honestly, I thought I would have tasted every, or nearly every, Oregon winery. But, here I am publicly admitting I didn’t… some might call it epic fail.

Maybe I’m just saying this because I’m drunk on all the free wine, but as it turns out, I’m glad I failed. I set a goal and I didn’t actually achieve the goal. In the process, I took a u-turn (or a turn into the Twilight Zone) and went a direction I never intended or imagined I’d go, and as it turns out, I’ve quite enjoyed the journey.

I’ll admit, I’ve been beating myself up a bit over the last few months when it became painfully apparent I wouldn’t actually achieve my goal. I kept on going though—touring, sipping, learning, blogging—regardless of what I could or couldn’t do; some might call it integrity, perhaps more accurately would be to say that wine blogging is something of an addiction. As it turns out, because of Sip with Me, I’ve seen, done and tasted more in a year than most people do in a lifetime, and that’s quite an achievement. Sharing the Oregon wine story with the world has been an added bonus, the personal reward for which I could have never anticipated.

The Burning Question

So, everyone’s asking me for the number. I officially visited 196 wineries of the 365 on my master list. That’s only 54% — a big fat fail. To be complately clear—I tasted many more wineries than 196, but didn’t officially visit their tasting rooms, so I can’t actually count them in my quest. A winery a day doesn’t seem so hard, but life, family, money, schedules, winter, navigational challenges, distance, stress and exhaustion were hurdles that jumped out at me and blocked my path more often than I anticipated.

Below is a list of the 10 Best and Worst Things I’ve Discovered About Being a Wine Blogger in the past year.

1. You meet amazing people—from winemakers, wine writers and other wine bloggers to wine lovers who are actually charged up by what you’re doing.
2. Wine samples. I’ve been able to sample a ridiculous amount of wine (reminder, mostly spat not drank).
3. From leisure to educational, wine opportunities and events abound and many doors have opened up.
4. Wine blogging = a great excuse for drinking as much wine as you want.
5. Other people think it’s cool, perhaps even romantic—and as we all know, impressing others is very important.
6. Blogging is worse than being a flasher: You’re expected to expose yourself to the public every day, and to keep upping the ante.
7. Everyone wants to use you… for free. Here post this about me, write about my event, my wine, my book, my product, my restaurant, my event space…
8. You can never leave the job at the office, like your shadow, your blog follows you wherever you go.
9. I finally understand where the word “blog” came from. Its similarity to the word Blob is no accident, and it very well might take over and smother you if you let it (see number 8 and 10).
10. A blog is really just a fancy word for Ball and Chain. You’re attached to it—all the time, you can’t just leave it behind. You’re always thinking about it, worrying about it, dragging it with you in public, in private. The two of you will become inseparable. Trust me, I’m now introduced as “This is Tamara, she’s a wine blogger.”

Okay, so my blog officially turned One. And like a typical one-year-old, my legs are just becoming sturdy beneath me and I am still just beginning to find the strength in my voice. But I’m growing fast, and I’ll be running and yelling before you know it. My journey through wine will continue as I persist in my goal to visit as many Oregon wineries as I can, though this time, without the pressure of any rigid timelines to adhere to. I hope you continue to read Sip with Me, because after all, it’s all about the wine, not about the time. On to bigger and better things!

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Pinot with Syrah Envy?

Yes, I tried to convince you, perhaps even seduce you. I thought it would be easy. Not that I’m overly confident, but I do know I’m special. I also know however, it takes a certain someone who can truly appreciate my elegance, my raciness, my subtle yet profound beauty. Anyone can drink from my vessel, guzzling me down without notice, but not just anyone can savor me, relish me… take pleasure in understanding each of my delicate nuances and learning every unique thing about me. I know I’m difficult, unpredictable and perhaps a bit fickle, but that’s part of what makes me exciting—call it complex. I guess you just don’t get me. Bottle after bottle, again and again, you’ll just keep going back to your dependable Syrah.

So, come on. Tell me. What does Syrah have that I don’t have? Two names? I do too, really! Did you know in Germany, I’m known as Spatburgunder. Come on, how sexy is that? I know it doesn’t have the same stripper finesse as say, Shiraz, but Baby, I’m a class act. Perhaps I’m just not big enough for you though, you like a fuller body. Have you tasted me after a season hanging around California? I can plump up real nice. Not dark enough? Well, you must not have tasted me when I was (at my worst and) completely over-extracted. Perhaps you prefer overt to subtle? Intense and powerful versus restrained? If that’s truly your preference, my love, I will never be what you’re looking for.

So, I give up. I lay myself down in defeat. I will lie here for years gathering dust, aging gracefully, until the one who can truly appreciate me, the one who really wants to see me open up, the one who desires both a sensual and intellectual experience, takes notice. That person will pick me up gently, tenderly brush the years away from the sweep of my neck and curve of my body—and with their eyes agape, in awe of the treasure discovered, make all kinds of plans for exactly how they intend to enjoy their precious and most cherished love of all, Pinot Noir.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yamhill-Carlton AVA Comes to Portland

Get ready, get set, taste! Taste the place. Taste the people. Taste the experience. On August 30, 2010, Yamhill-Carlton AVA will be bringing the Valley to you in downtown Portland with a select gathering of Estate Wineries showcasing the Yamhill-Carlton AVA at the Gerding Theater, Portland Armory.

Monday, August 30, 2010, 5 to 8pm
128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland

Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door.
A few tickets still remain, to purchase yours, please click here or call 503-864-2991.


Participating Wineries:

Alexana Estate Vineyard & Winery
Atticus Wine
Belle Pente
Carlton Cellars
Carlton Hill Vineyard
Merriman Wines
Roots
Stag Hollow
Wahle Vineyards & Cellars

More wineries TBA!

Participating Restaurants:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cruise In Offers More than Mere Burgers

Normally, when I think of diners, I think of greasy spoons, but the Cruise In Country Diner is doing things a bit differently, taking the grease out and replacing it with locally sourced, healthy products instead. Alright, there's still a little grease, but it's organic, grass-fed beef juice that'll be dribbling down your chin.

On a recent exploration of some of Oregon’s small producers, Sylke Neal-Finnigan and Allison George of the Washington County Visitor’s Association wooed me with the wines from Ardiri Wines, Beran Vineyards and A Blooming Hill Vineyard (reviews to come soon). While navigating the countryside on that beautiful Friday afternoon, we passed a little diner I had previously noticed, advertising their selection of local beer and wine. I casually, and half-jokingly, said we should go… I could have sworn I heard those burgers calling to me, a whispering voice floating on the breeze… "Eat Me". Sylke must have heard them calling too, because after our tasting, she suggested we go grab burgers. Fantastic idea, I wish I had thought of it.


I don’t typically write about restaurants (there’s already more than enough restaurant reviewers out there), but every once in a while, something special jumps out at me, gets me really excited, and I just have to spread the word.

The Cruise In Country Diner, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, on the busy corner of River Road and Farmington, was founded by Terry (nicknamed Mr. Organic) and Nancy Newman Hummel just over a year and a half ago. Aside from the extensive selection of mouth-watering beef and buffalo burgers to choose from, like the Hemi-Challenger (3-patties) and the healthier Convertible (no bun), Cruise Inn is taking things to new heights, offering natural, organic and local produce, gluten-free buns and beer, 13 local micro-brews on tap, local draught root beer, four neighborhood wines (from Oak Knoll, Beran Vineyards, Helvetia Vineyards and Forest Grove Cellars), handmade shakes, even organic coffee and ketchup… all at affordable prices and good for the whole family. I've lost track of how many wins that is.

The owners, who were were being the very best hosts as they circulated the restaurant, and mingled with guests. Nancy told us how the addictive bottomless fries we were devouring were picked up that very morning from Hoffman Farms, just down the road; it doesn’t get much fresher or more local than that.

The premium quality is to be savored in every bite, and though they insist they’re not fast food, our orders were delivered so promptly, it was like they knew what we were going to order before we did. Next time you’re anywhere near the Hillsboro area, squeeze in a visit to the Cruise In… the 1950's car memorabilia will catch your interest, but it's the burgers that will capture your heart.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's Really In that Glass of Wine

Hold the smooth, cool glass in your nimble fingers. Rest your gaze firmly on the fluid inside, fixed stare… hypnotic. Like a diamond, you study it closely, looking for composition, color and clarity. You focus your attention to these qualities but before you’re even aware it’s happened, the liquid has released its aromas and it's already made a solid and lasting impression on you. Part of reason that wine makes such an immediate impression on you is that so many things have made an impression on that wine in in the process of delivering it from vineyard to glass. So what's really in that glass of wine? Here’s just a few things that came to mind…


Rich blood, sweet sweat and salty tears.

A snapshot of a growing season—wind, rain, sun, blue skies, sunsets, rainbows and clouds.

A whole lot of money—barrels, bottles, corks, capsules, labels, equipment and staff.

Bugs.

Dirt.

Skin, pulp, seeds, stems.

Sickness, health.

Respect, love, appreciation, admiration.

Passion, tenderness.

Someone’s hopes, dreams, expectations, aspirations, successes, failures.

Life.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Pimpin' Ride Through Oregon Wine Country

Two very entrepreneurial young men (not to mention more than just slightly adorable) and one classic double-decker bus named Candy are an inspiring example of both free spirit and free enterprise. Owned by high school friends Brooks Thompson and Kent Metcalf, the Portland dynamic duo have been a business force to be reckoned for the past decade. Putting their business plan, Double Decker PDX, into action, Brooks and Kent recently purchased an iconic, cherry-red double-decker Bristol London bus with the intent on restoring it to more than just its original glory, to provide Oregon with a unique and luxury charter/limousine experience.

Brooks and Kent have overcome a great many obstacles getting this bus running and they’ve blogged about their journey, from purchasing the broken down bus, to transporting it to Portland, to renovating it and obtaining funding. They’ve taken their tourism plan one step further and are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint by using biodiesel and off-setting mileage by planting trees.

I was one of the lucky ones… I got to make Candy’s inaugural ride. Like a beautiful and innocent debutant making her first grand entrance, Candy’s debut was quite the ceremony. As a part of an impromptu Willamette Valley pre-Wine Blogger’s Conference tour, Solena Grand Cru Estate arranged for our group of wine bloggers from all over the United States to be picked up in style… being met by Candy, coffee and Voodoo Doughnuts for the maiden voyage.

The sight of the historic vehicle was enough to excite this old girl, but when I saw the luxuriously and lovingly refurbished interior, that was when my heart really went pitter patter. Two-stories, a convertible top, leather banquette seating, wine fridge, bar, state-of-the-art sound system and contemporary details made it a ride to remember. The opportunities are endless for this exciting charter service. As I sat soaking in the first sunny day of the summer, I made a mental note about both the service they provide and the way they provide service. If you’re looking to make a lasting impression, for your next wine country tour, meeting or party and have your guests delivered in modern and contemporary style, page Brooks and Kent of DoubleDeckerPDX to the helm. They’ll make it an event your guests won't soon forget. Check out their affordable packages at www.doubledeckerpdx.com and then call 503-575-5875 to schedule your trip.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taste Italy in the Valley Today at Canas Feast

Italy's one of my favorite places for simple and rustic food that transports you back in time, the rich history you're being transported to when you experience the delectable food and the entrancing wines they've been making for about as much time. Today is Italy in the Valley at the Canas Feast Winery in Carlton and I'm looking forward to an opportunity to taste Oregon's interpretation of Italian varieties.

For only $15, sample Oregon's version of Italian wines, experience gourmet olive oils, get a voucher for a mouth-watering panini from the Cucina and take home a logo glass to remember it all. I'm thinking I'll be tasting some Dolcetto, Arneis, Sangiovese, Moscato and of course Pinot Grigio, but I'm really anticipating a few surprises. It should be fun day, so come out and sip Oregon's Italy with me. Ciao and hope to see you there!

Breaking News: In addition to the 13 different wineries, 30 wines, a food ticket, and Olive Oil from the Willamette Valley's only Olive Oil producer, there's also going to be Italian cars to drool over… Ferraris and Lamborghinis! All for just 15 bucks!!! Don't miss it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Walking Away…

Oftentimes, when I first open a bottle, I’m full of all kinds of nervous anticipation and fluttering excitement. My eyes open wide and pupils dilate, taking in its handsome package. It’s new, and yeah maybe it was cheap, but so what. It still could be great, right? Imagine affordable AND great.

On this particular night, I unscrewed that tight little cap with my own bare hands and poured the liquid libation into my waiting vessel.  A little swirl first and then I brought the glass to my nose for the first sniff. It was the first sign something wasn't quite right; did it even smell much like anything at all? I let a small amount of the highly alcoholic fermented juice pass my lips and float across my tongue that was waiting for a taste almost as eagerly as it waited for it’s first French kiss. What my mouth discovered, instead of the combination of warm tenderness and ignitable passion I seek in my wine, was an awkward bite of harsh tannins and fierce acidity that moved me not to indulge again, but to pour the glass down the sink instead.

I gave it way too many chances, hoping it would open up, improve with a little time, show even a hint of its tremendous potential. But finally I realized I'm worth more than plonk wine.

So I dumped it.


I poured that bottle of crappy wine that might have been the greatest disappointment of my life right down the stainless steel drain. And it was gone. Just like that. I wouldn’t have to think of it or taste it ever again. Because ultimately, if a wine just isn’t pleasing you and never will, does it really deserve to be in your glass? It felt good to find the strength to just walk away and wait for the real thing. My advice to you: Dump the plonk, you'll be glad you did. Until we sip again…

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eat Wine. Pray Wine. Love Wine.

Though I genuinely loved the book and admit I've not yet seen the movie, here's my homage to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.


Eat wine—Okay, I guess when it comes down to it, I don't just like to drink wine, I like to eat it too. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, ingrained since my early days of eating Manishevitz-laden charoset for Passover each year… and loving it. When I think about it, some of my most favorite recipes of all time are made with wine—slow-cooked sauce bolognese with homemade pappardelle, steamed clams with white wine sauce over linguini, wine-poached pears with cardamom whipped cream, or a concentrated, sweet and savory port-reduction sauce over a fine cut of beef. So, in the spirit of eating wine, here’s a recipe for my favorite reduction.

INGREDIENTS:
10 peeled shallots, cut in half
3 teaspoons of olive oil
sea salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups Port (or Port-style) wine


DIRECTIONS:
Toss the shallots with the olive oil and seasonings in a large saute pan and roast for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cover the shallots with the port wine, bring to a boil over medium heat, continue to cook until thickened and reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Strain, cool slightly and serve while warm over practically anything (beef, chicken, pork, potatoes…).

On a side note and possible future tangent, I've been using a fabulous Barnard Griffin Syrah Port. And even though it’s delicious, should they really be calling it Port if it’s from Washington? Just saying.

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Pray Wine—When my parents were moving many years ago, I volunteered to pack up their wine "cellar" closet for them, excited to look through what crazy stuff they’d collected over the years. My folks aren’t collectors by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my mom (who doesn’t drink) buys wine at Costco if and only if she thinks she’s getting a good deal (it's all about the deal). They also have a tendency to save bottles they’ve received as gifts over the years, and that’s what I was interested in perusing. Most of it was passoverable, especially knowing the conditions under which they’d been cellared, until I came across a little box hidden towards the back of the dark and dusty closet which held a treasure I could not believe… and I promise, it wasn’t a Blue Nun.


I slowly creaked the box open and peered in, much like Charlie Bucket did when he discovered his golden ticket. But I didn't find a golden ticket. Instead, I lay my bulging eyes upon the dazzling golden label of a bottle of 1990 Dom Perignon—one glance was all it took, I immediately knew that little gem would be going home with me. I placed the revered bottle upon its alter in my shrine (“cellar”) for several years. And then I prayed—giving thanks daily—wondering of its promise. One New Year’s Eve, after a sommelier-friend suggested to me that my wine might be peaking, I carefully took Dom off the alter and prepared the bottle for the festive ceremony. On that holy day, we all made our own silent prayers as we released its cork, and much like an old church revival, we worshipped its heavenly body, singing of its glory, long into the night. Hallelujah!

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Love Wine—It’s no secret that I love wine. I’ve sacrificed a great deal in the name of my passion and my commitment to continue down this long and winding road of search and discovery—uncovering something new about wine, myself and my palate at every turn. Wine’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember, first in a religious setting, drinking small amounts at temple and on holidays, then in an early educational one, as I sipped from my father’s glass of house reds and ros├ęs he ordered at the Italian restaurant each Sunday night. Next was my recreational path… [sigh]. Yes, I did include alcohol as part of my weekend schedule of entertainment in high school. But, while my friends were beer bonging from the cheapest keg they could afford, I was the one sipping fruity wine coolers. Years later, when we all got fake IDs and went out to the bars, my friends guzzled pitchers of frosty beer while I proudly ordered white wine spritzers, having graduated from juvenile wine coolers.


Laugh all you want, but Manishevitz, wine coolers and spritzers were like gateway wines for me because it wasn't too long before I was the one confidently ordering bottles of Spanish Tempranillo and Albarino in our local Mediterranean restaurant trying to turn my friends on to real wine, and the rest shall we say is history—or perhaps the future. I guess it boils down to the simple fact that like Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s my complete journey, through the pleasure and the soul searching, which has brought me to this moment where I can both accept and embrace my love of wine that's rooted deep in learning and growing, discovering and enjoying, realizing and appreciating. Until we sip again…

Cheers!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Save the Date: Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

Race through the Willamette Valley, one of the best Pinot Noir producing regions in the world, past vines dripping with grapes nearly ready for harvest. Begin your wine country run at the magnificent Stoller Vineyards, finishing up in the quaint little town of Carlton where you can enjoy the popular post-race Wine & Music Festival.

Save the date and start training for the upcoming Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on Sunday, September 5, 2010. Premiering on Labor Day weekend, the fourth annual Wine Country Half Marathon Series was produced by Destination Races alongside the Napa-to-Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathons.

Registration is currently open, but nearly full so hurry and sign up now!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Win 2 Tickets to the Dundee Hills Wine Experience

The wines of the celebrated Dundee Hills, known for their bright red fruit and complexity, are going to take Portland by storm at this year's upcoming Dundee Hills Wine Experience — and one very lucky reader will win two complimentary tickets to taste it all! 
This fabulous event features three generations; the founders who put the Dundee Hills on the world stage in the 70s and 80s, the legends who continued to build the reputation of the Dundee Hills in the 90s and the rising stars who have made their mark over the last decade.

Thursday, August 26
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Left Bank Annex in The Rose Quarter
101 N Weidler, Portland OR

Hurry, tickets are $45 before August 15th or $50 at the door (includes Pinot Noir glass). Visit Dundee Hills for additional information or to purchase your tickets before they're sold out.

For your chance to win two tickets, just leave a comment below or on my Facebook page about how much you'd like to attend this event (and please take a moment to "Like" me while you're there). I will randomly select one person on Friday, August 20th, 2010 and will announce the winner in a blog post on Saturday, August 21st. Good luck and get commenting!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Don't Miss the Best of Oregon Food & Wine Fest This Weekend!

This Saturday, August 14, from 5:00– 9:00 p.m, enjoy life's finest pairings… great food and even better wines at the second annual Best of Oregon Food and Wine Festival. Remarkable Oregon wines will be served alongside the creations from some of Oregon’s most notable chefs, all under one spectacular roof at the fabulously elegant Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha, Oregon.

Featuring 30 memorable Oregon wineries and 20 aritsan food producers, tickets to the main festival are a ridiculously low $30.00 pre-sale and $35.00 at the door and wines will even be available for purchase!!

Check out the line-up of food and wine and then purchase your tickets today, visit www.bestoforegonfoodandwine.com! Contact Claudia Bowers at praviawines@gmail.com for more information. Proceeds benefit Doernbecher Children's Hospital Foundation.

Hope to sip with you there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

East Willamette Valley Part 2… A Breath of Fresh Air


Wasson Brothers, conveniently located on Highway 26, halfway between Portland and Mt. Hood was established by twin brothers Jim and John, and is generally known for their dessert wines, but is actually the oldest winery in Clackamas County. Wasson Brothers been on the scene for over 25 years and purchase all their fruit locally. They primarily grow all their own fruit with the exception of Merlot, Niagra and Concord grapes. They produce a private label of white Riesling for Timberline Lodge that’s sweet, crisp and fruit. Many garageista winemakers sign up on a list to purchase juice after it’s been crushed but prior to inoculation for home wine making.


The 80–acre Christopher Bridge Satori Springs estate, now owned and operated by the Carlberg family, has been in the family since the 1950’s. 15 acres is planted organically and biodynamically, specializing in estate Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (and some experimental varieties), with wines made by winemaker Christopher Carlberg. Chris describes wine as an experience, something I’m very akin to. He says he makes his wines so they dance rather than march, glitter rather than blind and caress rather than coerce. Subtle, subliminal beauty. They’ve recently built a lovely tasting room with deck affording stunning and relaxing valley views. A cozy fireplace is sure to warm you in the winter months as does the friendly hospitality all year round. The 2008 Pinot Gris has great acidity and just a hint of residual sugar making it sweet on the entrance yet dry in the mouth. At $12, this wine is a steal!! Drinking the 2007 Pinot Noir was like walking through the forest during summer when it’s been dry for some time. You find some sweet wild raspberries and acidic, tart cherries that taste a bit of the dusty earth. You swear you also detect some roses, but realize your standing next to a wild rose bush, breathing in the sweet and fragrant aromas instead… inhaling the moment.


Oswego Hills – Ahhh, my neighborhood winery and it only took me nearly a year to visit and review it. This gorgeous winery, located just minutes from my house, and extremely accessible from anywhere in the Portland-Metro area, is a surprising backdrop of vineyards, farmland and intricately restored historic barns located directly in the hills above West Linn and Lake Oswego. Jerry and Leslie Marshall own the 40-acre estate and have planted 15 acres, producing their first commercial vintage in 2001. Originally an equestrian center (home to Roy Roger’s horse Trigger), the Marshalls actually lived right behind the property for 40 years dreaming of ownership, until 1997 when they purchased the estate and were able to make their dream a reality. Oswego Hills produces 12 wines, the non-estate wines are all sourced from one vineyard in Benton City, Washington. Oswego Hills is probably known best for their Marechal Foch, tasting of plum, raisin and allspice (and the only red wine that can be chilled), it’s simply gorgeous with a bit of dark chocolate. Visit Oswego Hills and discover the magnificent homestead just a stone’s throw from the city. You'll be glad, both for the welcome escape and the pleasant discovery.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Torkscrew Can't Pop This Lady's Top… #CorkscrewFail

Wine gadgets… they're everywhere. If they’re good, they gain momentum and take off like the Rabbit. If they’re not so good, they flounder like, well, a flounder. With that in mind, I present the Torkscrew—designed to make all of your bottle opening woes come to an end. One device for every bottle (beer, champagne, cork and screw cap wine)… or so I thought. I guess sometimes things just can’t live up to the expectation. I was recently gifted a nifty Torkscrew, and though I wish I was writing about a revolutionary new bottle opener, I’m blogging about a sad lack of performance instead.

With the growing trend in wines finished with the Stelvin screw cap closure, and particularly with how resistant consumers and restaurants remain to this non-traditional closure, the Torkscrew supposedly bridges this gap. Yes, we all know how awkward it can be presenting or receiving a bottle of screw capped wine at an expensive restaurant. The Torkscrew was originally invented with this very problem in mind. Though the thought of a sommelier, wine concierge or waiter pulling out a device to open a bottle that could be opened with their hands probably doesn’t really help matters much. A screw cap is still just a screw cap and will always be just a screw cap. Either we get past it or we don’t (topic for another discussion), but still, hoping a silly little gadget could make a difference, I gave it the old college try.

My first challenge for the Torkscrew was using the corkscrew end to open a traditional cork closure. It actually required a great amount of effort to remove the cork. I prefer my simple double-lever corkscrew and wouldn’t likely use this device again as a regular corkscrew (R&D advice: It would probably help if the top was shaped more like a fulcrum, the round shape actually made it difficult to grip and turn).

My next test was to open a Stelvin screw cap bottle. The original argument behind the Torkscrew’s use is to preserve the presentation process in the restaurant when delivering a bottle of screw cap wine. I’m not sure how the presentation process can be preserved when I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to open the damn screw cap bottle. Frustration ensued, and got the better of me (I used my hands), but I enjoyed my wine… no thanks to the Torkscrew.

I tweeted @Torkscrew expressing my frustration and my desire to blog about the fact I couldn’t open a screw cap wine bottle with their device, and they just directed me to their demonstration video, where the inventor makes it look so easy. I watched her video and then gave the tempting Torkscrew another chance with another Stelvin closure on a different kind of bottle… reaching the same frustrating result. I couldn’t open the bottle using the handy dandy little tool and had to use my own handy dandy hands to do so instead… what a surprise.

Using a device to open a bottle you can open with your hand makes perfect sense though, if you also agree that a tool should be invented for opening doorknobs. Though I hoped it would be more like a fork, a utensil that makes the process cleaner, smoother and easier… instead it just made the whole process comical (not in itself a bad thing, if you’re purchasing the Torkscrew as a gag or source of humor).

Feeling on a bit of a mission though, as if I don’t have enough missions going on, I decided to open a bottle of bubbles I had in sitting the fridge. According to the Torkscrew demonstration, the inventor makes that look easy breezy too. It could have been the saving grace for the device, because even after countless years of fearing black eyes, I still pass the job of popping a champagne cork off (just like pumping gas) to the nearest man around. Alas, the Torkscrew let me down again and now I’ll have to call a man to open that bottle of bubbles that’s teasing me with its svelte-shaped bottle, dripping wet with condensation and her impenetrable closure.

Torkscrew… I so wanted to believe in you, with your clever idea and all your cute colors. And while I hate to give a negative review and I’d like to say you’ll be sipping with me again in the future, I’m afraid you’ll more likely be seeing the aisles of my local Goodwill store instead and will hopefully fulfill someone else’s desires. So, until we sip again…

Cheers!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pinots From Around the World at Grochau Cellars August 11

Join Grochau Cellars for Pinots From Around The World.

Just a few seats remain for this is informal wine education tasting event with John Grochau of Grochau Cellars. Blind taste a varied selection of Pinot noirs from regions near and far. Test your memory, knowledge and palates to see if you can figure out where the wines came from and how they are similar. Feel free to try and stump the crowd with your own mystery bottle of Pinot noir.

$15 charge is waived with enrollment in gc Circle wine club (No charge for gc Circle wine club members).

Hurry, reserve your space by Monday August 9th! Contact Carl Giavanti at cgiavanti@mindspring.com or call the winery at 503-522-2455.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wine is Truth and Everything is Not as it Appears

The following video would not have came to be without the help of several people. A deep and heartfelt thank you to Hunter, for your inspiration and your enduring support. A special call out and hand of applause to my dear friend and creative genius Joe Herrig of Suburban Wino who helped me turn this vision into a reality, thank you Joe, for your video-making brilliance and for making the process so dang easy. Lastly, but only in order mentioned, thank you for reading, watching and indulging my passion.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Feeling Lucky? Your Chance to Win Art and Pinot Noir?

I received this fantastic opportunity from a wine friend. It's so exciting, I thought I'd share it with you:

You can become the proud owner of a James Frey Artist Series Pinot Noir painting (valued at $3500); Frey's work is magnificent and brilliantly incorporates wine elements such as grapevines and soil into the composition. Support the Chehalem Cultural Center by purchasing a $25 (tax deductible) raffle ticket to win the 2009 Artist Series No. 8 Pinot Noir AND a double magnum (that's four bottles) of the wine with your painting on it.


Purchase your raffle ticket(s) in person at the Trisaetum tasting room, the Art Elements Gallery in Newberg or at the Chehalem Cultural Center. To purchase tickets by phone, call Alice or Ryan at the Trisaetum Winery, 503.538.9898.

The drawing will take place on August 28, 2010 and there's no limit to the number of tickets anyone may purchase. Thanks for helping support the Chehalem Cultural Center and good luck to all those who enter!!

Cheers!