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Category Archives: Willamette Valley

Spicy Rice Noodles with Shrimp

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This week I received an email from Epicurious highlighting an Asian rice noodle dish with fresh, julienned veggies. I decided to test the recipe out on my pescetarian friend, with a few small changes. It was a big hit, and we finished the entire bowl of noodles while engrossed in ABC Thursday night television, i.e. Shondaland.

Rice Noodles with Shrimp (serves 2)

  • 4 TB tamari or soy sauce, divided
  • 4 TB rice vinegar, divided
  • 1 TB, plus 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 1/2 lb uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, julienned cucumber
  • 1/2 cup peeled, julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup julienned radishes
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 oz rice noodles*
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

*Rice noodles can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store. My favorite brand is Poolee Rice Stick Noodles.

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In a small bowl, combine 2 TB tamari, 2 TB rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, and white pepper. Add shrimp to marinade and refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour.

In another small bowl, combine 2 TB tamari, 1 TB rice vinegar, 1 TB sesame oil, honey and Sriracha. Set aside.

I used my julienne peeler to prepare the carrots, cucumber and radishes. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend making a purchase. It’s also great for zucchini noodles. OXO sells one for only $10 with a grip handle, but I prefer my stainless steel piece because it’s easier to clean.

bottle-shot-2013-Chenin-Blanc-ViognierCombine the vegetables in a large bowl, then add 1 TB of rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and let sit for 15 minutes.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add rice noodles and cook for two minutes. Drain, then rinse with cold water to cool. Add noodles to vegetables, and toss in the tamari mixture.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high flame. Add marinated shrimp and cook for two minutes on each side. Add shrimp to the bowl of noodles and top with cilantro. Serve cool or warm.

We enjoyed our meal with some Domain Serene “r” Rose, which provided as a sweet yet zesty balance to the spicy umami flavors in the noodles. This meal would also pair well with Chenin Blanc-Viognier from Pine Ridge, a vibrant and refreshing white blend that always makes a great companion to Asian food. It may be officially fall, but we’re still drinking summer wines here in Napa!

SFBW: Chardonnay

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Last summer I started a casual wine club with GGD and some other wino friends. I called it San Francisco Bragging & Wining (SFBW), as a nod to my father’s wine club that he created back in his early days in San Diego: La Jolla Bragging & Tasting. We would get about 12-15 people together once a month, and I would assign each person what to bring (table wine, blind wine, or food). After getting our palates wet with some table wines, we would taste 3-4 wines blind, discuss them, then reveal. There were some very successful (and very intoxicating) meetings, but it wasn’t quite moving in the direction that I had originally envisioned.

After some brainstorming with GGD, we decided to restructure the club so that it would be more focused and organized, attracting people who are invested in learning more about wine. Instead of assigning contributions to everyone, we choose the wines that are most representative of the topic being discussed, buy some cheese and other food items to pair, and charge everyone a ticket price ranging from $18-28 (depending on how much we spent on wines) – limiting the amount of attendees to 12 people. So far, it’s been pretty successful and our attendees have learned a lot!

Our meeting last week was focused on Chardonnay, specifically Unoaked vs. Oaked and American vs. French. Here was the line up:

Starter: Sparkling Chardonnay

Set 1: Unoaked California vs. France 

Set 2: Oaked California vs. France

Set 3: California vs. France Blind Tasting

Mumm

Unoaked Chardonnays

Unoaked Chardonnays

Oaked Chardonnays

Oaked Chardonnays

With the exception of the Mumm and Hunnicutt, I bought everything at K&L Wine Merchants in San Francisco with a budget of about $100 (the total came out to $108.66). I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to purchase from California, but I definitely needed help with my French selections. The staff at K&L are incredibly friendly and helpful, and one of the guys spent 45 minutes with me selecting wines that would best represent each category.

GGD purchased all the food from Trader Joe’s the day of the tasting: smoked salmon, green apples and pears, soft goat cheese, triple cream brie, Iberico cheese, buttered popcorn, crackers and sweet waffle cookies. We selected food that would pair well with certain flavors in the wine, whether it highlighted the creamy component of oaked Chardonnay, or brought out the citrus fruit in a brighter Chardonnay.

Another friend of mine, who shall be known as Sabrina from this point forth, created an epic Powerpoint presentation with information on Chardonnay origins, taste profiles, types of oak that are used, and regions where it is grown. I supplemented this with printed handouts on descriptions of the wines being tasted, an aroma wheel, and a deductive tasting grid (primarily used for the blind tasting). We wanted to provide enough information to people to taste with reasoning, but not too much so that people were overwhelmed. I think we struck a good balance!

tasting table

As for the tasting component, each person received a small glass and a large glass so that they could taste side by side and notice the differences between the wines in each set. For example, the La Crema had that thick, buttery taste that some Chardonnays are known for, while the Saint Romain was slightly more crisp because of the cool climate and rocky soils in Burgundy. The idea was to give people enough tasting experience with California and French wines, oaked and unoaked, so that they could make an educated assessment when the blind tasting was given at the end of the evening.

Sure enough, nearly everyone was able to ascertain that the wines were made in French oak, with most people agreeing that it was less new oak than aged. Two girls were able to distinguish between the Chablis and the Hunnicutt, and the other eight attendees mixed up the two (I didn’t participate in the blind portion because I was the one that concealed them). This may have been because Hunnicutt makes their wine in a Chablis-style, and both wines exhibited flavors of citrus and wet stone. It was a tough call, indeed!

Chablis vs. Hunnicutt

Chablis vs. Hunnicutt

We finished off the night with some Cabernet, socializing and planning the topic for our next meeting: Pinot Noir. I’ve already started to make selections of which wines we will taste from Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Santa Barbara, Willamette Valley, and Burgundy. I can’t wait to taste the wines with everyone else!

If you live in the Bay Area and you’re interested in attending a wine class, please contact me to get more information or to be added to our email list. Cheers!

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!

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