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
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.



Skin, pulp, seeds, stems.

Sickness, health.

Respect, love, appreciation, admiration.

Passion, tenderness.

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


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…


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.

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

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.


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!


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 rosés 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…


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…


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!!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Off The Beaten Wine Path - Part 1

Undiscovered East Willamette Valley Wine Treasures

Like a nomad in an unexplored land, feel like you’re discovering a whole new wine country in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. On the east side of the Willamette River lies more than 1,500 acres of wine grapes and more than a dozen boutique wineries you’ve probably never heard of and must see and taste for yourself to understand what you’re truly missing.

Piluso Vineyard

Owned by Sandee and Pinky Piluso, together they make the perfect team—Sandee makes the wine and Pinky drives the tractor. Four-acres were planted in 2000 and Piluso Vineyard yielded their first commercial vintage in 2003, but the property’s history goes back much further than that. Originally an old prune orchard, the magnificent historic home was built in 1890 and the remnants of an old prune dryer still remain on the grounds today. The first acre of their four-acre planting was considered an experiment—with 13 different clones and varieties to determine how each of the grapes performed—the Piluso’s now have Gruner Veltliner, Muller Thurgau, Viognier, Dolcetto, Tempranillo, Gamay Noir, Marechal Foche and Pinot Noir planted to vine. Their wines are all produced using estate fruit, except a Chardonnay dessert wine made in the ice wine style. To say the wines are lovely would be an understatement. They’re well balanced, interesting and complex in both aroma and flavor profiles with excellent structure and really showcase what this area is capable of producing… these are wines you’ll want to purchase by the case.

Silver Falls Vineyards

Planted in the early 1970’s by Duane and Gail Defrees, Silver Falls Vineyard’s winery, designating nearby Silver Falls State Park, was originally a turkey barn before it was a winery and now boasts 18 acres of Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Muscat on the 100-acre working farm. The wines, produced at the nearby Chateau Bianca by winemaker Andreas Wetzel, are very reasonably priced and the location is perfect to host events both large and small.

Pudding River Wine Cellars

Nestled against the banks of the river it’s named for, Pudding River Wine Cellars is owned and operated by the Bateman family. The 13-acre estate features a 100-year-old farmhouse and five acres of Pinot noir planted in 2003. The winery also sources grapes from nearby growers to produce small lots of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier. A testament to Pudding River’s accomplishments, they earned 90 points from Robert Parker and gold medals (from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Oregon Wine Awards) for their very first vintage of Estate Pinot noir… clearly a winery that won’t be a hidden gem for long. Keep your eyes on this one; winemaker Sean Driggers is doing very interesting things in the cellar. He produces three different and noteworthy Chardonnays per vintage, varying only in method; a traditional barrel-fermented style, a stainless steel fermented (unoaked) version and a Reserve, aged two full years in neutral oak. Pudding River’s label, featuring a rooster in tribute to the poultry farm history of the estate, deems “Life is good, the palate is pleased and the rooster crows again.” Clearly a motto this family can live by.

Vitis Ridge

Vitis Ridge shares their brand new tasting space with Seven Brides Brewing Company in the quaint little downtown of Silverton, Oregon. Glen Brunger (winemaker), Chris and Sharon Deckelmann (wine growers) and Bruce and Sally Eich began Vitis Ridge in 2003 with their first vintage of Marechal Foche. The winery now produces over 2,500 cases of 18 different varieties of wine (including four dessert wines) from their 80 acres of vineyards, but their signature varietal remains to be Marechal Foche from their home estate vineyard. The beer looked great, consider sticking around for a taste of that as well.

Alexeli Vineyard & Winery

Located in Molalla near the famous Oregon Garden in the East Willamette Valley, Alexeli owns and manages a 28-year-old, 18-acre vineyard planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau. Alexeli has made a firm commitment to a healthy planet, avoiding the use of pesticides and heavy metals in the vineyards… where they believe the wine is made. Their very memorable wines, made by Phillip Kramer, are worth crossing the river and traveling the bucolic back roads for. Producing less than 400 cases, a year they epitomize the term boutique. Their inviting patio and lake scream out to buy a bottle of Bubela’s Blend and relax a while… you may as well just give in.

St. Josef’s Winery

Romance, friendship and warmth abound at St. Josef’s Winery where you feel like you’ve walked onto the grounds of a European estate instead of a winery in Canby at the End of the Oregon Trail. Owner and winemaker Josef Fleischmann, of Hungarian descent, extends his trans-continental hospitality and charm from his magnificent yet truly unintimidating tasting room. Producing wines meant to be affordably drinkable, Joseph produces five whites, five reds and he’s as quick with a joke as he is with the bottle. Enjoy the patio or lounge by the lake; the setting is like an engraved invitation you can’t refuse. With a host of summer events, as well as their traditional Grape Stomp Festival each Fall, St. Josef’s welcomes you with something for the whole family.

Stay off the beaten wine path and stick with me. There's still lots more to check out on the east side, so don't go far… next time we'll explore Christopher Bridge, Wasson Brothers Winery and my very own neighbor winery, Oswego Hills. Until we sip again…