Thursday, April 12, 2012

40 Miles of World-Class Wine - Columbia Gorge Passport Weekend

Upon leaving the Preview Grand Tasting for the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Passport Weekend this past Monday, what I came away with (besides very purple teeth) was a sense of urgency to visit all the wineries I’ve not yet visited and an overall positive impression of a region that’s doing more than just one thing right.

What really struck me, besides all the great wines and food from Nora’s Table, was how several of the wineries have taken alternative approaches to traditional packaging. Naked Winery, for example, has produced a line of wines in recycled and recyclable plastic bottles that’s simply perfect for summer outings called Outdoor Vino (you might have even already seen this wine on the "Bad Tattoo" episode of Portlandia). Quenett Winery is making Copa de Vino, single servings of wine available in plastic cups that allow imbibers to toast life where ever they go, and Springhouse Cellars has been putting their wine in reusable growler-like glass bottles, reducing the amount of new bottles they use as well as offering their patrons a substantial savings on the wine.

Though there were many standouts at the Passport Preview Tasting, several wineries left an indelible imprint on my palate. In fact, one was so good, I had to ignore the "It's Hip to Spit" cup in my hand and ask for a glass to enjoy after I tasted everything else. Though I truly enjoyed a variety of wonderful wines that day, the following is a list of the ones that really spoke to me:

AlmaTerra Wines - 2007 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre
Aniche Cellars – 2010 Sirius (a co-fermented Barbera and Zinfandel)
COR Cellars – 2009 Malbec
Jan Mark Cellars – 2010 Chardonnay
Marchesi Vineyards – 2009 Barbera
Maryhill Winery – 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Memaloose Wines – 2009 Cabernet Franc and 2009 Grenache/Syrah/Viognier
Phelps Creek - 2009 Cuvée Alexandrine
Quenett Winery – 2010 Chardonnay and 2009 Zinfandel
Syncline – 2011 Rosé (Sinsault/Mouvedre/Counoise/Carignon)
The Pines 1852 – 2008 Big Red (a gorgeous blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel for just $16)
Viento – NV Brut Rosé (my hands down favorite of the day, a gorgeous sparkler of Pinot Noir and Riesling)
Waving Tree - 2008 Barbera
Wy’East Vineyards – 2011 Pinot Gris

For just $15, you’ll enjoy a variety of benefits from each participating winery, such as waived tasting fees, barrel tastings, library tastings, food and generous discounts on purchases (with potential savings up to $800!). The Passport Weekend spans two states and affords wine lovers an opportunity to discover a “World of Wine in 40 Miles” while learning what makes this region both unique and special.

With 26 wineries participating, and April marking the beginning of prime wildflower viewing in the scenic Gorge, now’s the perfect time to take advantage of the season and journey to the Columbia Gorge for Passport Weekend (April 13th-15th). Visit their website for more information and to purchase your Passport to fun.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Love Oregon Wine?

In Oregon, besides daffodils and cherry blossoms, spring is the time when wine events are in full bloom. It seems like there’s one popping up practically every weekend! So, if you’re trying to narrow down your list of events you must attend, I suggest you keep this one at the top.

With the sad (but hopefully temporary) disappearing act of the crowd-pleaser Portland Indie Food and Wine Festival, Unwine’d will making its inaugural debut with a bang at the end of this month. On April 29th, from 3-6pm, approximately 100 wineries and 14 restaurants will gather together at the Left Bank Annex for a tasting not soon to be forgotten.

The "A" list alone includes recognizable heavy hitters like Adelsheim, Archery Summit, Anne Amie and Anam Cara, or find new loves sipping the goods from boutique wineries such as Angel Vine, Amelie Robert and Andrew Rich, just to name a few. Check out the extensive list of participants and you’ll understand why this is one event you definitely shouldn’t miss!

And if the impressive array of wine isn’t enough reason to attend, notable local restaurants including Allium Bistro, Blue Hour, Davis Street Tavern, Park Kitchen, Terrace Kitchen, Joel Palmer House and many more will be on hand serving culinary creations sure to enhance the flavors of these wines.

If learning’s your thing, visit the wine education stations to increase your wine knowledge. You’ll also take home a souvenir wine glass and can purchase bottles you just can't live without from the event’s wine store.

Thanks to the Oregon Wine Board, I’m offering one of my readers the chance to win 2 tickets to THE Oregon wine event of the year. And I’ll make it really easy for you by providing multiple ways to enter. Increase your chances of winning by entering each way. Do all three and earn yourself three entries into the contest! You have until Friday, April 13th (your lucky day) to enter. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Saturday, April 14th.

1.  Simply comment on this blog about your favorite producer or the one that interests you the most. Include your name and email address so I can track you down when you win.

2.  Visit the Sip with Me Facebook page, like it while you’re there (you know I like you!), and comment on the post with your favorite Oregon producer or the one you’re just dying to taste.

3.  Tweet all about it. Copy and use this following phrase when Tweeting and BAM!, you’ll be entered to win.

I love #OregonWine! Enter to WIN 2 tickets to @Unwined_ORWine from @sipwithme! #wine — Please RT

Monday, April 2, 2012

Discover Local Spirits at this Year's TOAST

On Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th, Portland will raise its shot glass to welcome the second annual TOAST event. The Oregon Artisan Spirit Tasting, taking place on the Sky Bridge level of the World Trade Center, is the largest craft spirit tasting in the country. Featuring over 55 distillers, the event will focus on the local craft spirit scene, with infusions from the national and international level as well.

Small producers will be pouring over 100 different hand-crafted spirits, giving guests the opportunity to taste every thing from A to Z… well A to W (Absinthe to Whiskey). Diversity and quality will be strongly represented, with nearly every spirit category available to taste, but the key word here is really quality. See for yourself how these locally crafted products speak for themselves and why you’ll never want to buy a bottle of generic liquor again.

Not only are the potent potions pleasingly potable, they’re also plain old smart. You can now enjoy a potpourri of inebriants and feel good about it the next day because buying these products promotes jobs in Oregon and pumps money into the local economy. You’ll know you’ve done your part to keep money in this state by supporting local producers and agriculture all the while minimizing your carbon footprint buying products that haven’t been shipped across the country or across the oceans to get here.

Top bartenders will be showing off their techniques, talking art and science as they blend the distillations to your liking in the Mix Lounge. In addition to imbibing the artisan spirits in ways you never thought possible, you’ll discover the pro’s secrets for creating unique cocktails which you can use to impress your friends at your next party. If that’s not enough, you’ll find complementary memorable recipe cards from each producer to create your own library of local libations. But that's not all you can take home. This year, for the first time in Oregon, the OLCC is making it easy for you to buy what you like by allowing guests to purchase bottles, condiments and bar accessories at the event's Bottle Shop.

TOAST will be open from 3-8pm, April 28-29, with a $49 admission price at the door that includes spirit and cocktail samples, a logo souvenir glass and a light buffet to absorb some of that alcohol. Save a couple bucks and purchase your tickets online in advance for only $40 or indulge in a weekend of intoxicants for a mere $75. 

Be safe and avoid the hassle of calling a cab. Hotel Fifty and the Downtown Marriott Hotel are offering a special rate of just $119/night for those who might anticipate a little overindulgence and want to make a better plan in advance. Contact them for reservations. TOAST is sponsored and presented by The Oregonian, KINK FM, KXL FM News and the Oregon Distillers Guild.

And just in case you were wondering, the event is restricted to those 21 and over with a valid ID.