Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Seduce a Wineaux

In the not-too-distant-past, a conversation ensued between this dear man I was dating and I. While walking through the wine store picking out everyday wines to enjoy together we came across the 'Other Whites' section, when he turned to me and said, “Oh, I love Vagner.” I stopped short in my tracks and thought hard, painfully racking my tired brain. Is he referring to a specific producer? Are we still talking about wine here or did we move on to music? What does he know that I don’t? I casually sauntered over to where he was standing and began to scan the bottles, trying to identify what he could possibly be referring to without looking like a complete moron. As I perused the various labels, the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. With a sly smile, I looked at him and asked, “Do you mean Viognier?” (pronounced Vee-on-YAY!) I quietly chuckled under my breath, both not wanting to embarrass him, and not wanting to look like an obnoxious wine snob (i.e. a total ass), but was completely enamored, finding his naiveté endearing if not adorable. Secretly, I began composing the blog “What NOT to Say to Woo a Wine Lover” in my head, which in turn inspired the following post, “How to Seduce a Wineaux.”

1.     The way you look at me is making me turn as red as that glass of wine, please don’t stop.
2.     You’re eyes are as sparkling as this glass of Champagne.
3.     I’d abstain from wine for month for just one night with you.
4.     I promise, I’ll last longer than a bottle of the finest Bordeaux.
5.     You’re so cute, I could just bottle you and drink you up.
6.     You’re spicier than Syrah.
7.     You’re so hot, you could make my wine mull with just one look.
8.     You’re about as intoxicating as fortified wine.
9.     This date is going so well, how about we drop everything and open a winery together. I’ve got the money, you’ve got the ideas and the connections, and we both have great taste in wine.
10. I’m local, organic and biodynamic – wanna taste?
11. Tell me you like GSMs? Let’s head back to my place and I’ll show you my version.
12. How about I make you breakfast and serve you a Champagne cocktail tomorrow morning in bed?
13. If I poured you a glass, I’d use my good stemware.
14. I’m new in town, where’s the best place to taste some really good local wine?
15. Do you like books? I heard Been Doon So Long is the perfect bedtime story.
16. I studied in France and worked harvest in Italy, I’ve learned some of the secrets to making great wine and I’d love to share them with you.
17. I’ve a bottle of Domaine Romanée Conti with your name all over it.
18. If you were a dessert, I’d drizzle Port and chocolate all over you.
19. “You and I”  sounds like the name of the next great wine. Are you game?
20. What are you doing this Fall? Cause I would love to make you part of this season’s harvest.
21. I’m something of a garagista. I’ve been working on this Syrah, come barrel taste it and tell me what you think?
22. You need a wine tasting partner? Cause I ‘m something of a wine geek.
23. People say I’m a barrel of fun.
24. This wine is good, but I know just the food pairing that would take it to a whole nother level.
25. If I was going to name a bottle of wine, I’d name it after you.
26. I was sent a bunch of bottles of ultra-expensive California Cabernets to review and I could sure use another palate! Want to come back to my place and help?
27. I bet you drink lots of wine because the antioxidents are obviously doing your body really good.
28. Weather like this makes me just want to sit around a fire and drink wine all day.
29. I make a great steak dinner and have the perfect bottle set aside for just this occasion.
30. Let’s run away to New Zealand together. We can work harvest, travel the countryside and then stop in Figi on the way home to recharge. Tell me you’re in.
31. Like a fine bottle of wine, I’d like nothing more than to lay you sideways.
32. Would you like to do some wine tasting? I’ll taste you first.
33. I love to make good wine. I bet I can make you whine good too.
34. I think I must have drank too much wine, because when you walked in, the room started to spin.
35. The best way to taste this wine is from my lips.
36. If I tasted you, I’d roll you around with my tongue for hours.
37. Wow! I thought my wine had nice legs!

When writing this post, I was originally hoping for the Top 50 best pick-up lines. Maybe you can help me write the rest? Woo me with your favorite pick-up lines for scoring with a wine lover in the comments section below. Come on, let’s have some fun!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top 10 Things NOT to Say to Woo a Wine Lover…

1. So, what do you think the best name would be for a Walmart wine?

2. I got this wine from Trader Joes, it was a steal! How about we go back to your place, unscrew the cap and taste it together?

3. I just love this Pinot Noir from Ohio, what do you think?

4. Well Robert Parker likes it. He gave it a 94, we don't even have to taste it!

5. How Merlot can you go?

6. Hey baby, wanna corkscrew?

7. I bet you've never seen a bung hole like mine!

8. Really, I only drink white wine, can we order a buttery California Chardonnay instead of that Syrah you find so interesting?

9. Nice rack!

10. This wine smells of pretentious cow poo, bacon, barnyard, rotten eggs, green olives, asparagus, green pepper, the zoo, forest floor, mushrooms and cat pee. Want some?

For a few ideas that might help you go the distance with your favorite wineaux, read here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Going Against the Grain… of Rice — Not Your Average Oregon Wine Dinner

Momokawa Saké, premium Junmai saké from Saké One is not your grandpa’s saké.

Attending a recent wine dinner at Wildwood Restaurant in Portland (one so unlike every other wine dinner), in addition to the amazing meal, I found myself absolutely devouring the subject of saké.

The first dinner in this year's Momokawa Supper Club, a series of dinners at restaurants like Wildwood, Andina (March 19) and Saucebox (April 23), was intended to expose the mysteries of saké and showcase how diverse the beverage can actually be (think beyond sushi). The Momokawa Supper Club challenges local chef geniuses to have fun with the menu and create something non-traditionally Asian.

Served cold and in crystal stemware, as opposed to shot glasses, it was obvious this wine was meant to be sipped and treated like a fine wine, not just quickly tossed back and forgotten as a warm saké of your youth would have been. Wildwood Chef Dustin Clark created a brilliant menu, one with both Northwest and Italian influence that magically made the sakés come alive. Chef Clark says the rice wines are low in acid and are actually very easy to pair with food. According to Dewey Weddington, VP of Marketing for Saké One, “There’s an increasing number of restaurants offering saké that don’t even prepare any Japanese food.” After eating Clark’s menu, I’m convinced of the possibilities.

There’s a wide variety of sakes available allowing chefs and bartenders the experience to explore the different densities, textures and flavor profiles… could be the wet dream of someone with a culinary imagination. The wines are sulfite-free, vegan-friendly and gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean they’re headache-free, as some urban legend might imply. Too much of anything just leads to no good.

Greeted with a glass of Nama Ginju, the bar was set pretty high. A rich, dense, undiluted raw saké, the wine sipped more like a traditional fine white wine than a saké, opening my palate with tropical flavors of honeydew melon and white peaches like a vacation from the dreary Northwest winter. Crisp and clean with bright acidity, the wine was a brilliant introduction to what was to be expected, or rather, unexpected.

The first course was accompanied by a glass of Momakawa Organic Junmai Ginjo.  Chef Clark paired this wine with an assortment of fried goodies. As if fried anything wouldn’t be good enough, Chef Clark seemed to be inspired by traditional Tempura, creating a non-traditional dish he called Fritto Misto, which was actually a platter of fried Meyer lemons, fennel and sweet onions. Having never had fried Meyer lemons, I have to say this was sheer brilliance. The oil, salt and thinly sliced lemon tartness seemed to dry this thicker bodied wine out, while bringing out a complementary sweetness that wasn’t present all on it’s own. The sake, which was lovely without food, became so much more complex… floral and yeasty = amazing.

My favorite dish was probably the Pan Seared Scallops with Parsnips, Olives and Grapefruit served alongside the Momokawa Silver, a drier wine with higher alcohol levels and pear and green apple notes. The creamy texture of the food was gorgeous with the wine, yet the citrus focus melded with the food and made it an obvious home run. Though this wine would be fantastic with sushi, it was simply stunning with Chef Dustin Clark’s scallops.

The most brilliant pairing of the night was the Saké-Braised Pork Belly with Gingery Brussel Sprouts, Basil and Carrot Purée. Paired with the Momokawa Diamond, the saké seemed to bring out that elusive third flavor that wouldn’t have existed on its own. In this case the wine and the ginger flavors of the food combined creating white pepper and baking spice flavors that added a dreamy and nearly hypnotic element to the creative dish. Momokawa Silver is known to by a dry wine with a tropical nose and aromas of white flowers and melon, yet paired with this dish, the pepper and clove components truly sang. Standing ovation to the chef.

Not time to stand and clap yet, there was still dessert to be eaten. Fresh Bay Leaf Panna Cotta with Paige Mandarin Curd and Lime Sorbet was paired with Momokawa Pearl sake. Delicious, if not a bit Orange Juliusy. A good pairing for the Nigori wine, which is the sweetest of the sakes. In Japan, woman often drink Nigori preferring its sweeter style and it’s also the number one saké seller in the United States. Nigori means cloudy (no, that's not a glass of milk next to my dessert), which is appropriate considering its appearance… the wine is completely unfiltered and contains rice solids. Dewey recommends serving it very chilled and shaking it real well before serving, not something you would think to do all your own. I was thankful for the expert advice.

Overall, in addition to the spectacular meal, I truly found myself gaining an education in saké. Some of what I learned: These wines are meant to be enjoyed and not cellared, in fact the recommended drinking time is 12-18 months from the date of bottling. The Murai family, the partner company who owns Momokawa is merely 200+ years old, a baby in the lifespan of saké producers. The leftover rice flower goes into cattle feed for Tillamook cows and ultimately becomes Tillamook cheddar cheese. Koji is the mold put on steamed rice that converts the rice to sugar and imparts a great deal of the wine’s flavor. Sakés don’t oxidize the way wines from grape juice do and should be stored in the fridge.

Though I’ve seen a number of bars serving saké cocktails lately, if you’d like to have your culinary mind completely blown away, I highly recommend attending one of the other dinners in the series, at Andina or Saucebox. And if you want to experience saké beyond Oregon saké, paired with more traditional Asian cuisine, be sure to attend the Saké Festival in Portland on April 12th. Raise your glass and say “Kan Pai!”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cochon 555 Returns to Portland

Any publicity is good publicity. Ask Lindsay Lohan, the trainwreck actress, singer, model who just hosted the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live and posed for Playboy. But I’d be willing to bet dollars to bacon maple doughnuts, that Cochon 555 isn’t hoping for more publicity from its Portland event the likes of which it received on it’s last Porktown visit in 2010.

When Cochon 555 started their national tour of 14 major cities in 2009, one would suspect they had to know it would likely be the pork butt of more than just a few jokes. Thankfully, the food, the wine and the whole hog experience have proven tasty enough to never be teased, taunted or laughed at, despite the number of irresistible mocking options.

An event probably not for the faint of heart, those keeping Kosher or for the vegetarian, Cochon 555, is scheduled to descend on Portland this Sunday, March 11th at THE ORIGINAL. The hogwild event consists of five chefs, five pigs, five winemakers who gather together in a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event designed to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs.

You can expect five local chef extraordinaires (Naomi Pomeroy – Beast, Vitaly Paley – Paley’s Place, Rita Jia You – Lucky Strike, Adam Sappington – The Country Cat and Jason Barwikowski – The Woodsman Tavern) to prepare a nose-to-tail menu created from heritage breed pigs for an audience of pork-loving epicureans.

As if the pork isn’t enough, great wine from local wineries will be sipped and a myriad of culinary opportunities will be available to take advantage of, including demonstrations on butchering, an interactive tasting contest with Cathy Whims of Nostrana/ Oven and Shaker, as well as spirits, oyster and chocolate tastings.

Tickets: $125 per person for general admission; $200 for VIP (including a welcome cocktail from The King's Ginger, HamaHama Oysters, tastings from Anne Amie, Buty, Big Table Farm, Chehalem, The Cheese Bar, Double Mountain Brewery, The Meadow and Domaine Serene paired with Iberico De Bellota by Fermin).

For tickets and more details about the event, visit or follow @cochon555 on Twitter.