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Category Archives: Portland

Tuesdays with Kelsey

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Tuesday is officially my favorite day of the week. St. Clair Brown, a new wine kitchen that is just a five minute walk away, hosts a Locals Night on Tuesdays where they offer half off all glasses of wine. And if you’re a member – like me – then you get an additional 10% off everything you order, plus one FREE glass of wine! My bill last Tuesday was only $20 for three glasses of wine and an order of hummus, including an on-the-house sampling of some reds that I had not yet tried. It was actually my third time there in a week… obsessed much? Yes.

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This Tuesday I ventured out of my neighborhood and took a short drive to Sonoma Plaza with my new coworker, who shall be known as Kitty from this point forth. On Tuesdays the town of Sonoma hosts a farmer’s market in the historical plaza on the square, which is also the only city park in California to allow open containers until dusk. Add some live music and you have the perfect al fresco dinner!

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Kitty and I perused some of the farm stands before setting up blanket in the park. I was in awe of the colorful displays of bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and enormous eggplant! After picking up a bounty of fresh produce (along with the yellow tomatoes and squash that Kitty gave me from her garden), we checked out some of the hot food stands. We didn’t get too far before stopping at a Thai stand to pick up some tofu pad thai and fresh tofu spring rolls. The spring rolls were wrapped in Chinese pancakes (the kind you get with moo shu pork), which I loved! The pad thai could have been a little spicier, but I loved the earthy components from the roasted peppers and baked tofu.

pad thai

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Next up: coconut lemongrass soup from Chai’s Gourmet. The soup was savory yet sweet, and not too creamy – with big chunks of kabocha squash. Kitty spotted Harvey’s Mini Donut Truck and put an order in for key lime donuts: mini donut holes with sweet key lime glaze and graham cracker crumbs. I had four! And I don’t even like donuts!

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We enjoyed all of these delicious bites with a bottle of 2012 Archery Summit Premier Cuvée Pinot Noir, a wine from the collection at my new company (and coincidentally, a favorite winery of mine). The Pinot is incredibly versatile, and actually paired pretty well with the pad thai and spring rolls. As for the donuts, I would have paired those with a creamy Chardonnay. They also had a maple bacon donut, which would go perfectly with Syrah! I see a donut-wine-pairing post in my future…

Portland: Pinotinerary, Day 2

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I had initially planned to visit five wineries for Day 2 in Willamette Valley, but after our packed first day and Bobes coming down with a little cold, we decided to cut the day to three wineries and include a nice lunch in the town of Newberg.

Dundee Hills Pinotinerary
10:30am – leave Portland
11:30am – tasting at WHITE ROSE ESTATE
12:30pm – tasting at ARCHERY SUMMIT
2:00pm – lunch at RECIPE
3:00pm – tasting at ANDERSON FAMILY VINEYARDS
4:00pm – ship wine home via MAIL ROOM
4:15pm – head back to Portland

View from White Rose Estate

View from White Rose Estate

Upon pulling up to White Rose Estate, Bobes and I were in awe of the beautiful landscaping. In fact, we spent about five minutes snapping photos of the views and each other before even entering the tasting room, which was an interesting juxtaposition to the exterior. Inside was much more rustic, with an antique coffee set, leather furniture, and wire-cage lamps. The tasting room was quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, but there were two other couples from Connecticut and North Carolina. We were impressed that the winery attracted people from all over the country, that is until we tasted the wines and understood why! We were served three different Pinot Noirs, including the 2011 Durant Vineyard, 2011 Guillen Vineyard and the 2011 Anderson Family Vineyard. All of the wines were rather pricey ($60-80) but excellent, and Bobes and I each decided to purchase a bottle of the Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir. I liked the wine for its complex balance of ripe fruit and earth tones – a trait that Oregon is known for. We also loved the Anderson Family Vineyard Pinot from White Rose, and we were excited to visit their winery later in the day.

Pinot Noir vines at White Rose Estate

Pinot Noir vines at White Rose Estate

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antique coffee set at White Rose

Our next stop was Archery Summit, one of the most well-known and oldest wineries in the Willamette Valley. It’s located at the end of a long unpaved road that starts just down the road from White Rose. The property is beautiful, with an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards, wine caves, and private tours of their winemaking facilities and vineyards. We enjoyed our tasting outside on the patio and relaxed as we sipped on some of the best Pinot in the Valley, including the 2011 Permier Cuvee, 2011 Renegade Ridge, 2011 Looney Vineyard and 2011 Arcus Estate (their most expensive at $100 a bottle). I very much enjoyed the Renegade Ridge, but once I tasted the Arcus Estate Pinot I was in Wino Heaven. The wine opened with aromas of plum tart and black cherries, and I tasted more spice and dark fruit – like cinnamon and blueberries – that lingered on the palate in the finish. My father had warned me not to buy anything there because the wines are too expensive, but once I found out that they offered a 30% industry discount I caved and bought the Arcus, which is going directly into the vault! I would highly recommend visiting this winery to anyone touring the Willamette Valley. The staff was so friendly and accommodating, and their wines were outstanding and definitely worth tasting even if you don’t plan on buying.

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Bobes and I ran into another friend at the winery! And note our deliberate defiance to “the end of summer” by wearing white after Labor Day.

After Archery Summit we headed North to the town of Newberg to have some lunch. Phillip at Sineann had suggested Recipe to us, and we’re so glad we took his advice. The restaurant is in a converted house with a beautiful garden patio, which is where we sat for lunch. Their lunch menu offers up a selection of appetizers, soup, salads, sandwiches and a burger – everything sourced from local farms and prepared simply (of course, we’re in Portlandia). I ordered the Burrata and the shrimp roll, and Bobes opted for the mushroom soup and flat iron steak sandwich. We split the shrimp roll and the sandwich, and agreed that the shrimp roll was only slightly better. Our service was a little slow, but we were beginning to notice how that was a bit of a trend in Portland. The food was tasty and reasonably priced and the restaurant is centrally located with its own parking lot, making it a convenient lunch destination between wine tastings.

After lunch Bobes and I headed off to our third and final winery of the day, Anderson Family Vineyards; a small operation lead by a husband, wife and tasting room manager. All grapes are estate-grown and they specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The tasting is conducted out of a converted garage space attached to the home of the husband and wife, and they offer two verticals of 08, 09, 10 Chardonnay and 07, 08, 09 Pinot Noir – all from their estate on Dundee Hill. They do this to show the differences and similarities of a wine from year to year, based on weather and other growing factors. For example, 2008 was an excellent year in Oregon for Pinot Noir because of late blooming and a warm October. And their 2008 Pinot Noir happened to be my favorite of the three. I was also impressed by their Chardonnays, in particular the 2009 (I found the 2008 to be slightly passed it’s prime, but still pretty impressive for an older vintage). There wines are very well priced at $24-40, and they have a pretty small production of about 1200 cases, farmed organically and aged slowly in their cool caves. The vibe in the tasting room is very casual and laid-back, and you really sense that it’s a family-run operation. The wines are top-notch and a great representation of the deep roots in the Dundee Hills. It was the perfect place to end our Pinotinerary, and I can’t wait to visit them again and taste new vintages.

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Before heading back to Portland, we stopped at Mail Room in Newberg so we could get our wine packed up for shipping/flying. Bobes decided to pack his wine and check the box for his flight, but I purchased a total of 9 bottles so I had to ship mine back to San Francisco. When we put our wines down on the counter, one of the employees immediately noticed that one of the bottles was leaking a bit. It was one of the White Rose Durant Vineyard Pinot Noirs! However, the bottle was cool to the touch and the cork did not expand, and all the rest of the bottles in our case were fine, including the other bottle of White Rose. We had been very careful about parking in the shade and protecting the bottles from the heat, so it was strange that only one of them would have seemingly heat-related damage.  In any case, we packed up our wines and called White Rose to see if they would exchange the bottle for us. As luck would have it, they said “of course, please come back and bring it in and we’ll make the exchange”. So we headed back down the road towards Dundee and up the hill to White Rose. The 25 minute detour was definitely worth replacing a $60 bottle of Pinot Noir, and it’s a good thing the guy at Mail Room was so perceptive! I would definitely recommend using them to ship any wines purchased on your next Portland Pinotinerary.

I had such a great first visit to Pinot Land, Oregon and I am so excited to go back again (hopefully with my father) and visit new wineries as well as some of my old favorites. I certainly have a new found love for Oregon Pinot – and it’s a good thing because I have 6 bottles to show for it!

Portland: Pinotinerary, Day 1

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in charge of the winetineraries for the Portland trip. Since we would be tasting Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for the majority of our two days in the valley, Bobes and I declared it to be a Pinotinerary!

With a little help from my father, and some suggestions from one of Bobes’ friends in New Orleans, I narrowed down our list to ten wineries, split over two days (though, the second day we decided to cut out two of them and carve out some time to go out to lunch – but I’ll get to that…).

Chehalem Mountain Pinotinerary
9:30am – leave Portland
10:30am – pick up picnic lunch at RED HILLS MARKET
11:00am – tasting at ARGYLE WINERY for sparkling wine
12:00pm – tasting at BERGSTRÖM WINES with outdoor seating
1:00pm – tasting and picnic lunch at TRISAETUM
2:30pm – tasting at VIDON VINEYARD (only open to people on mailing list
3:30pm – reservation for tasting at SINEANN
4:30pm – head back to Portland

Each winery was better and better as the day went on, and luckily I paced myself well enough that I could still taste the wines by the end of the day!

Argyle

Argyle Winery is known for their sparkling wines, but they also make some delicious stills. Bobes and I each opted for the sparkling flight, sampling their 2010 Vintage Brut, 2009 Blanc de Blancs, 2008 Knudsen Vineyard Brut, and the 2009 Brut Rose (which is widely distributed). My favorite was the Knudsen Vineyard Brut, and I considered purchasing a bottle until I sampled the 2010 Black Brut. The Black Brut changes every year, but is a blend of Pinot Noir from several different Argyle Vineyards. It’s juicy and ripe, and would be the perfect match to grilled meats or a bowl of chile. I never can resist a red sparkler, especially at only $30 a bottle!

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Outdoor patio at Bergstrom

We drove out to Chehalem Mountain for the duration of our Pinotinerary, starting with Bergström Wines. Bergström makes several different Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, of which we tasted four. We were able to sit outside on their beautiful patio, overlooking the estate. I enjoyed most of the wines, especially the Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, but unfortunately it was only available to club members. While Bergström was a very elegant, elevated experience, their wines were a little pricey for my budget. Still, it’s a great place to bring a picnic, take in the view, and sip on some fancy Pinot Noir!

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Bergstrom estate

Our third stop of the day was at Trisaetum, a small winery with beautiful estate grounds. They also feature a collection of paintings and photography by James Frey, the owner and founder of Trisaetum. AND, they have a patio in the back of the tasting room that is perfect for post-tasting picnics, of which we took advantage with our delicious artisan sandwiches from Red Hills Market. And if that’s not enough to make you check it out, they have something other than Pinot Noir (though, their Pinots are fantastic). Our tasting began with a medium dry Riesling and a Dry Riesling, both of which were bright and delicious but I preferred the more dry of the two. As for the Pinots, my favorite was the 2011 Coast Range Single Vineyard Pinot Noir; a complex balance of acidity and vibrant fruit, and also one of the staff favorites!

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Estate Vines at Trisaetum

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Pinot Noir grapes, ready for harvest!

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Art gallery at Trisaetum

We drove a little further down the road to VIDON, where we were lucky to get in for a tasting before they close to the public on October 1st – members still welcome by appointment. As we walked into the tasting room/winemaking facility/barrel room, we were greeted by Don (owner and winemaker) and Dave (tasting room manager), who were finishing up some pre-Harvest work. As we waited for Dave to finish up, Don started us off with some Rosé (only $10!) and told of stories of his tech days in Silicon Valley (we later found out he was a former Apollo engineer). Dave and Don switched roles and we were introduced to their line up of Pinot Noir: 2010 Chehalem Mountains 3 Clones, 2011 Chehalem Mountains 3 Clones, 2011 Brigitta Clone 777, 2011 Mirabelle Clone 115, 2011 Hans Clone Pommard. We also got to try a splash of the 2009 Chehalem Mountains Barrel Select, their most expensive wine at $80 and only available to members. All of the wines were not typical to the big, fruit-forward Pinots that we had previously tasted in the area, which I was grateful for. With such a small production of 1000 to 1300 cases annually, they are able to hand pick the Pinot Noir grapes from the estate and apply a hands-on fermentation process that larger wineries overlook. The result is an array of delicate wines with mild earth tones and bright fruit, with great aging potential. Inevitably, I decided to join the wine club so that I would not be deprived of any future visits or wine purchases. And since my father was the one to recommend the winery, I looped him in on the membership.

VIDON Pinot Noir tasting selection

VIDON Pinot Noir tasting selection

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VIDON estate grapes

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Last, but certainly not least, was our visit to Sineann, an up and coming Willamette Valley winery offering a wide selection of varietals and vintages. We were lucky enough to do our tasting with the winemaker and owner, Peter Rosback, who let us taste about ten different wines – or everything that was open – including but not limited to their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (made in Marlborough, NZ), 2012 Columbia Gorge Pinot Gris, 2008 McGinlay’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2011 Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2009 Wyeast Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2010 Champoux Vineyards Petit Verdot, 2007 Sugarloaf Mt. Vineyard Merlot, and 2006 Lazare Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from Napa). It’s a good thing I took notes because otherwise I would not have remembered some of the details on these wines. Bobes and I both selected the Resonance Vineyard Pinot as our favorite, and I also took home a bottle of their Pinot Gris and 2006 Cab. I loved the low-key, dynamic vibe of this vineyard, down to the unique glass stoppers that they use for their wines. While I enjoyed the opportunity to taste estate-grown wines all day, I also appreciated Peter’s method of sourcing fruit from the finest vineyards available to him, including New Zealand where he travels twice a year to make Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. It was truly an enthusiastic and unique wine tasting experience, and a great way to end the day!

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Me and Sineann winemaker, Peter Rosback

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View from inside the tasting room at Sineann

It was without a doubt, the perfect day in Willamette Valley, and a wonderful introduction to Oregon Pinot Noir. But the trip wasn’t over, and Bobes and I had another full day of Pinot tasting ahead of us. Stay tuned!

Ava Gene’s

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Bobes and I decided to split up the food and wine planning for our Portland trip; him on dinner reservations and me on the winetinerary, or #Pinotinerary as we referred to on Instagram. The dinner reservation that we were most excited for was at Ava Gene’s, especially after the latest issue of Bon Appetit, declaring it the #5 restaurant in the country. We were joined by our mutual friend and Portland local, who shall be known as Patches from this point forth.

menu of the day

Patches had been to Ava Gene’s a couple of times, so he guided us through the menu. I started off with their Switchblade Royale cocktail, composed of Lambrusco, bourbon, Amaro Nonino, honey, and lemon juice. It was a good combination of sweet and strong – just how I like my cocktails (and men)! After perusing the menu for about 15 minutes, we finally settled on our orders:

  • Toasted bread with roasted cherry tomatoes and whipped ricotta
  • Toasted bread with warm chicken livers, plums and marsala
  • “Tuscan Cavalry” – raw black kale, Parmesan, bread crumbs
  • Plate of vegetables with egg and Tonnato sauce
  • Sagna Riccia with lamb ragu in white sauce and Lacinato kale (for Patches)
  • Casarecci with sausage sugo, basil and ricotta (for me)
  • Corn Agnolotti with lobster mushrooms and thyme (for Bobes)
  • Peanut gelato

My favorite of the appetizers was probably the kale salad, but I also loved the tonnato sauce and the chicken liver toast. Patches was a little skeptical about the livers, but Bobes helped me finish it off. The plum was the perfect sweet addition to offset the richness of the livers.

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As for the pasta course, my favorite dish was luckily my own! The smooth ricotta blended with the spicy sausage sugo was a great combination of flavors and consistency. I was so full, but I still managed to be a clean plater! The corn agnolotti was also very good, but a little too sweet for me. And Patches pasta was excellent; I thought the white sauce was a unique representation of the ragu and I would love to replicate it some day.

The peanut gelato was the perfect way to end the meal, but by that point I could only fit a few bites into my already full stomach.

Patches, Bobes and I all agreed that the food was spectacular, both in presentation and taste. However, our service was another story. The general service was friendly and clean, but our particular server was uninvolved and nonchalant. She forgot the smaller things that a #5 restaurant shouldn’t overlook: introducing herself, filling our water glasses, offering another round of drinks, and simply asking us how we were enjoying our meal. Lucky for her, we figured the restaurant pooled tips so we didn’t gip her too badly. But I was sure to say something to the manager on my way out, after I reiterated how delicious our food and drinks were.

Still, I would like to think that she was having a bad night and that the service for a place like this is top notch. Our meal was $50 each, which was pretty reasonable considering the quality of the food (and the fact that we didn’t order a bottle of wine helped). I would certainly recommend Ava Gene’s to any food lovers visiting Portland, and be sure to make a reservation in advance as they were quite busy for a Sunday night at 9pm over a holiday weekend!

(Please excuse the poor photos, the restaurant was very dark and my iPhone’s camera couldn’t hack it)

Portland: Kerns

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I extended my Labor Day weekend a bit this year and joined a friend (who will be known as Bobes from this point forth) in Portland for a few days. Bobes and I rented a one bedroom apartment in Kerns, a cute and slightly suburban area in the lower Northeast. I immediately fell in love with our little neighborhood and couldn’t wait to go out and explore!

As I waited for Bobes to return from Hood River, where he had previously attended a wedding, I stopped over at Migration Brewing Co. for a few pints of Clem’s Cream. I’m a bit picky when it comes to beers; I like ambers, blonds, and wheat beers. The waitress let me try a few samples of their lighter beers on tap, and I selected the Clem’s Cream – perfect for a hot sunny day on their deck. I also found out that they sold growlers to go for only $8 on Sundays! What a steal! I imagine they get pretty crowded at night, as they also serve up some tasty bar food and have a large front patio for patrons to enjoy their pints.

Cream ale

Once Bobes arrived, we ventured a few blocks down NE 28th Ave for a delicious late lunch at Navarre. Navarre is a casual restaurant serving small and large plates with a European influence. They change the menu weekly based on what they receive from their CSA box, providing some of the freshest, seasonal ingredients. The food is simple and delicious, and took me right back to Tuscany.

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Our waitress encouraged us to order several small plates to share, so we selected the fois gras toast, peach and heirloom tomato salad, farro salad, hanger steak, and mussels. It was the perfect amount of food and everything was so delicious! I particularly enjoyed the hanger steak and farro salad (obviously), and they both paired nicely with my glass of Domaine Vico Rosé.

Just a half block from our apartment was Bakery Bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stopped in for Breakfast on our last day in Portland and had an excellent Mexican-influenced meal. Bobes ordered the breakfast burrito while I selected the Melas: scrambled eggs with leeks, corn tortilla chips, pica de gallo, green chiles, chorizo, avocado and quesa fresca. YUM! They also had a beautiful selection of scones, biscuits and other baked goods. The place was crawling with young mommies and their clan of toddlers, but they were pretty cute so I didn’t mind! Bakery Bar also makes an assortment of different toasts, pizzas and salads. I would certainly like to go back and try their pizza some day.

portland-breakfast-bakery-bar-exterior

If traveling to Portland, I would recommend staying in this adorable neighborhood. And if it’s available, I would recommend renting Dan’s apartment on airbnb! It was both comfortable and modern, with a huge bathroom and comfy couch for watching movies after a long day of wine and food!

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