Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Give it Up for Oregon's 17th AVA

The Oregon Wine Board recently announced that Elkton Oregon received approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau  (TTB) becoming the state’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Elkton Oregon AVA, Oregon's 17th, is located within the Umpqua Valley AVA, which is also a part of the greater Southern Oregon AVA.

Some call it terrior.

Similar to wine appellations in Europe, AVAs are designated when someone petitions the TTB proving that specific areas show qualities determined to be unique to that region's geography with boundaries that are specifically defined. The Elkton AVA is on the Umpqua River and a mere 36 miles from the Pacific Ocean. This location brings daily sea breezes and penetrating fog, giving Elkton its unique climate – cool, maritime and temperate. According to Charles Humble of the Oregon Wine Center, “The climate in Elkton is quite different from the prevailing perceptions of the surrounding areas. Southern Oregon is most often thought of as warmer and drier than winegrowing areas farther north in the Willamette Valley.”

Humble says, “The newest Oregon AVA is the fulfillment of wine pioneer Ken Thomason’s dream of growing world class cool climate Pinot noir and white grapes near the small town of Elkton, which has a population of 170. Thomason began planting grapes in 1972 on a west-facing bench two miles east of Elkton at a site now owned by Mike and Vonnie Landt of Rivers Edge Winery.”

The newly attained AVA status will enable winegrowers and winemakers within the Elkton Oregon AVA to better describe the origin of their wines while allowing consumers to better identify wines from that region at the point of sale. Some wineries and winemakers feel that narrowing the AVA down to such a small area actually makes it harder to sell the wine. I've heard people say they have a hard enough time describing to someone where the Willamette Valley is, or the Umpqua River Valley, much less having to explain places like Chehalem Mountain, or Elkton, for that matter. This argument speaks to me, but I'm not in education, I'm a marketing person…I've learned to embrace the KISS philosophy, Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Ultimately, this article isn't intended to debate the merits or detriments of AVAs, it's about sharing the news that Oregon now has 17 different and unique ways to denote their wines. So let's all raise our collective glass for a warm welcome to Elkton Oregon AVA. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Food and Wine Combinations that are Downright Deligious!

Pairing Pinot Noir with food can be as simple as grilled salmon, mushrooms or pork. And while that combination can be positively scintillating, when you challenge yourself to think outside the culinary box, doing so might just get you the golden ticket to epicurean heaven.

Dreaming of taking the food and wine experience to a whole new level, WillaKenzie Events Manager Claudia Bowers looked beyond traditional French or Northwestern fare to showcase how truly versatile the varietal could be, especially when paired with unexpected foods. Bowers worked with Portland chef extraordinaire Ricardo Segura of Patanegra restaurant, and the esteemed winemakers from WillaKenzie Estate, Elk Cove Vineyards and Ghost Hill Cellars to create a Pinot and Paella dinner that would expose people to a new trend in wine and culinary education.

You heard me right, she said Pinot and Paella.

According to Bowers, pairing Pinot Noir and Paella was a natural idea. “I wanted to show how Pinot Noir is the Little Black Dress of wine, it goes with everything is truly perfect for every event,” said Bowers.

When asked how his wines stood up against the exotic flavors of saffron and paprika of the paella, WillaKenzie Estate Winemaker, Thibaud Mandet says, “as long as the exotic flavors are not too strong and overwhelming, the match will be a good one. Wines with high acid levels, moderate tannins, solid structure and complex aromatics help, and Pinot Noir can be versatile that way.”

“It’s all about balance and intensity”, Mandet says.

When Patanegra Chef Ricardo Segura was challenged with serving paella with Pinot noir—a classically Spanish rice dish served in his restaurant—with Pinot Noir, instead of Spanish wines like Tempranillo or Grenache, he knew he had to make a few modifications. According to Segura, “There are so many variations of paella. In this instance, I utilized rabbit broth and meat to make the paella more rich than typical, complementing the lush, rustic, earthy and fruity components of the wine.”

Pinot Noir and Paella is just one of the many potential success stories. Because Pinot Noir is such a well-balanced wine, it can be coupled with a wide variety of foods and your imagination is your only limitation… don't let it hold you back. Combining food and wine can be a religious experience, this one will leave you praying for more.

Patanegra Paella 
by Ricardo Segura of Patanegra
Serves 6-8 people

1.5 lbs. escolar
1.5 lbs. mussels
1.5 lbs. prawns
1.5 lbs. langostinos
1.5 lbs rabbit
½ lb chorizo
½ lb chicken
½ lb ham
½ lb calamari
¼ lb roasted red peppers
1 ½ cups Sofrito (garlic, onions, peppers and tomatoes that have been pre-simmered)
Parsley for garnish
2 cups paella rice (short grain - Bomba is preferred, Arborio will do in a pinch)
Spanish paprika
4 cups rabbit (or chicken) stock
1 T saffron
Sea salt to taste
  1. Heat some olive oil in a paella pan and sear/brown the rabbit, chorizo and ham.
  2. Add the calamari and stir over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the Sofrito and continue stirring.
  4. Slowly add rice, level off in the pan and then do not touch.
  5. Add stock and bring to boil, then add salt and saffron and reduce temperature.
  6. Reduce temperature, add remaining fish/seafood.
  7. Cover and finish in 375 degree oven (or on stove over low heat) for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Let rest for 5 minutes, serve, give thanks and devour.