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Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

Local Innovation at The Bewildered Pig

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Last week I traveled to Mendocino with Canuck for an early birthday celebration! He let me do the majority of the planning – including two breweries (no, I don’t just drink wine) – but did suggest a dinner spot in Philo for our first night of the trip: The Bewildered Pig. I trust Canuck’s picks, especially when it comes to food, and after checking out their menu and hearing that his friend from culinary school is the sous chef, I got pretty excited about this place.

The Bewildered Pig is the brainchild of Chef Janelle Weaver and her partner, Daniel. After spending several years as an executive chef at a prestigious Napa winery, Janelle ventured out on her own culinary endeavor with the goal to create an unpretentious restaurant with a large focus on farm to fork, sourcing everything locally (their pigs come from down the street) and from their own gardens. The dishes are elegant yet casual, refined yet rustic, sophisticated yet simple; dualities that I learned Janelle possesses herself after chatting with her throughout the course of the night.

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The wine list is a combination of selections from Anderson Valley and Sonoma County and an extensive list of Old World favorites. Keeping with the local theme, I selected the 2014 Balo “Suitcase 828” Estate Pinot Noir. The wine was more feminine on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, bright red fruit and an element of freshness. But the palate was bold and earthy, reflecting more of a masculine tone. One of the things I love most about Pinot Noir (especially Pinots from Anderson Valley) is how androgynous it can be, which makes it a versatile wine for food pairings. Sure enough, it paired perfectly with nearly everything that we ate.

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We started off the evening with a delectable amuse-bouche from the kitchen: Penny Royal Laychee Crostini with a Pea & Fava Pistou. (Side note: Penny Royal is a local farm and creamery that offers tours and tastings Thursday through Monday in their new shop on Hwy 128. They make a variety of cheeses that are also available at one of my favorite Philo wineries, Navarro Vineyards.) Our delicious cheesy bite was followed by a house made Mendocino County Heritage Pork country pâté with Dijon mustard and shallot chutney – the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.

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On to the vegetables. Canuck selected “Celebration of Carrots” and I chose an assortment of seasoned radishes with salt and butter. The radishes were simple yet so satisfying, and it felt good to eat some raw vegetables after an afternoon of beer tasting (be sure to stop in Anderson Valley Brewery on your way into Philo). The carrot plate was indeed a celebration and quite possibly the best vegetable dish I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The plate is composed of a seven different uses and varieties of carrots: confit tiny Thumbelina and French, pickled rainbow, housemade carrot crackers, fried carrot fronds, carrot top pesto and garlic aioli. I talked about this dish to anyone who would listen for several days. I’m still holding out hope that Canuck will find a way to recreate it…

And as if those were not enough starters, we picked two more to share: smoked local black cod potato salad, and Gulf prawns with garlic lemon aioli and what Janelle and her team affectionately call “fluff,” an array of herbs, flowers and stuff. The cod is local (Princess Seafood out of Fort Bragg) and smoked by Angelo’s in Sonoma. It’s served with heirloom potatoes, confited in olive oil, and fresh shaved Petit Teton horseradish, bloomed mustard seeds, whipped crème fraîche, herbs, watercress… and probably a few other amazing things that I am missing. Not only was it beautifully presented (like all of the evening’s dishes), but the combination of flavors was beautiful to eat.

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Last but not least, we each ordered the Lamb Duo (despite the fact that Canuck usually prefers not to order the same thing as his dining partner). It was written on the menu with all of my favorite Spring things so it was impossible to resist. In hindsight, we agreed that it easily could have been shared considering the amount of food we had leading up to our entrées, but we still managed to finish the majority of our dishes. The Lamb Duo was composed of lamb loin and confit cap, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi, fresh tarragon, chives, lemon zest, fava beans, asparagus, fava leaf and garlic puree, served with a lamb anise hyssop reduction. I never imagined that all of these things could exist so cohesively on one plate, but it was near perfection.

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If you don’t already have enough reasons to visit Anderson Valley – the plethora of unique and inexpensive wineries, fishing along the Redwood lined highway, bountiful farms and orchards, whimsical seaside villages, adorable inns and a brewery in a town with their own made up language – add this dining experience to the list. The Bewildered Pig is truly a destination restaurant, worth every mile traveled, and I intend to make it a regular pilgrimage. In fact, I can’t wait to go back and see what other seasonal items they have on their fantastic menu.

Big thanks to Janelle, Izzy and the entire team for such a memorable evening!

Collaborative Chicken & Dumplings

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Something wonderful happened a month ago; Annie P. moved into the apartment that I share with KDD, becoming our new roommate! The transition has been pretty smooth, and I am very pleased with the increase in collaborative cooking in the kitchen. Since Annie P. and I have lived together, we’ve made roasted pork loin with lemon-garlic broccolini, Brussels sprouts and ham pizza, and most recently, chicken and dumplings with mushrooms.

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The chicken and dumplings recipe was featured on the February 2014 cover of Bon Appetit. When I first read the recipe, I flagged it but figured it would be something which I would have to devote extra time because it involved a minor amount of “baking” – which I define as anything that uses baking powder, something I tend to avoid at all costs. But after a closer look, I realized the dumpling assembly was in fact much easier than I originally perceived. Still, I was happy to assign this part of the recipe to Annie P. while I worked to prepare the stew. We made only a few changes to the original recipe, but the most relevant was the cooking of the dumplings in the actual broth – which I highly recommend.

Chicken Stew with Mushrooms (serves 4-6)

  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 whole chicken legs, with bone and skin
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms (i.e. crimini, porcini, shiitake, maitake, oyster)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper

Dumplings (makes 10)

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (don’t skimp on this!)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup low fat milk
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

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In a large Dutch oven (6-8 quarts), crisp the bacon over a medium flame. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; once cooled, transfer to a small dish. Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow bowl. Season chicken legs with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Cook chicken, skin side down, in the same pot over medium heat until skins are deep golden brown and crisp (do not turn) – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

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Cook the mushrooms in the same pot, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.

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Add wine to the pot and simmer, until reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Add chicken, bacon, thyme, bay leaves and broth, then season with salt and pepper. If you can’t fit all the broth, add enough to fill the pot (you can add the rest 2/3 of the way through the cook time). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer partially covered for 2 hours. Check the stew every 20 minutes to skim off the layer of fat that settles on the surface.

Beginning the stew

Beginning the stew

The stew after the mushrooms are added

The stew after the mushrooms are added

Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling batter. Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, pepper, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and milk (batter will be slightly lumpy), and set aside.

After the stew has cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken legs from the pot and plate in shallow bowls. Using two spoons, drop small spoonfuls of dumpling batter into the broth. Cook for 5 minutes on simmer, turning the dumplings halfway through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to the bowls with chicken, then use a ladle to add the remaining stew to the bowl (be careful not to include any bay leaves or thyme sprigs).

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Cooking the dumplings in the broth

Turning the dumplings

Turning the dumplings

The flavors in this stew were rich and earthy and the layers of ingredients melded together perfectly, probably thanks to the base of bacon fat used to crisp the chicken and sauté the vegetables. The texture of the dumplings was almost like a soft scone. I loved the addition of lemon zest to the batter, as it provided a tangy freshness to the dish that complemented the savoriness.

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The final dish

As great as the stew was the night I made it, the leftovers the next day were even better! I particularly liked the softer texture of the dumplings after the batter had rested in the refrigerator overnight. So I highly recommend making enough stew to give yourself some leftovers for dinner the next night. Here are some tips on how I prepared and stored my leftover stew: Before transferring any extra stew to a container, remove and shred any remaining chicken from the bone into the broth. Discard the bones, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Store leftover dumpling batter in a separate container. Reheat in a pot and add 1-2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and a few fresh thyme sprigs; simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Cook the dumplings in the broth for five minutes, turning halfway through. Yum all over again!

Pair this dish with an earthy 2011 Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, such as Melville 2011 Estate Pinot Noir or MacPhail 2011 Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir. The cool ocean breeze in the Sta. Rita Hills combined with the rocky soil makes this is a great region for fuller-bodied Pinot Noir, and the 2011 vintage shows bold flavors of coca-cola, vanilla, nutmeg and blueberry, which will nicely compliment the earthy tones in the stew.

MacPhail Knows Pinot

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One of my favorite visits during the Morrison Family Wine Weekend was to a spot I hadn’t been to before, but came highly recommended to me by the folks at Barrique (perhaps because their brother is assistant winemaker William Weese). MacPhail Family Wines is tucked back along a dirt road off of Westside Road in Healdsburg, and they host groups of up to 12 people by appointment only for $20 per person.

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My parents and I had a 1pm appointment but were running a little late because our tasting and tour at Ridge went over two hours (no complaints!). I called Lauren in the tasting room to let her know we were running a bit behind schedule, and she nicely said it was not a problem and she would see us soon. (Take note, dear readers. If you’re going to be running late to an appointment, even just 10 minutes, always call in advance to let them know.)

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My mom was thrilled to see a winery dog on the premise when we arrived – a friendly Bernese mountain dog named Zuni. As my mom played with the dog and my father looked at the wines, the tasting room manager showed me the plans for the new tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. After a few minutes, Lauren led us over to the tasting table, surrounded by fermentation tanks and barrels of wine.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

Tasting room plans for Sebastopol.

We started off with the 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast, a creamy yet fruitful wine with hints of honey and green apple – a great balance of oak and fruit.  Next was their 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, which was simply sublime. The strawberry fruit flavors mingled with the acid perfectly, making for a dry Rose that would go perfectly with spicy Asian food – or by itself! Immediately my parents suggested buying three bottles – two to be paired with our Saturday night dinner at B*Star, and one for keeps. They’ve since moved on to their 2013 vintage, and I can imagine it will taste just as amazing!

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Onto the reds… Lauren poured us four side-by-side glasses of a selection of their Pinot Noir: 2012 Wightman House Vineyard Anderson Valley, 2011 Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley2011 Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast, , and 2011 Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. All the wines were great, but my personal two favorites were the Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley and Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. I loved the ripeness of the Dutton Ranch, while the Rita’s Crown was very unique with it’s flavors of cola, tart cherry and a bit of licorice.

Pinot Noir line up.

Pinot Noir line up.

Lauren served the wines left to right in the order above, which also happens to be from North to South in terms of the vineyard locations. This was a great way to taste through the wines because it really showcased the range of terroir that the winery is utilizing. For example, Russian River Valley is known for blackberry-like, ripe Pinot Noirs; in part due to the fog layer that blankets the valley, as well as the cool ocean breeze coming over the Sonoma Mountains. The Santa Rita Hills in the Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara county) are also affected by fog and cool breeze, but the soil is more rocky and the elevation is higher so the wines that come from here have more layers and natural acidity.

MacPhail had several other Pinots from various vineyards in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and even Oregon. We only tried the four, but I look forward to tasting some more of their excellent wines when their tasting room opens at The Barlow. Until then, be sure to make an appointment at their Healdsburg tasting room. This is a great small, family-owned winery and the customer service is exceptional – and so is the Pinot Noir!

Half Birthday Celebrations

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Yes, I’m serious. I’m one of those extravagant weirdos that celebrates their half birthday. Why not? It’s just another (great) reason to celebrate; and in my case the celebration meant making a beautiful meal and sharing some fancy wines with a few close girlfriends.

It’s officially Dungeness Crab season in San Francisco, so I decided to make a West Coast version of Maryland Phillip’s crab cakes as the main course. I also wanted to try my hand at Yotam Ottolenghi’s eggplant recipe from his Plenty cookbook – a Half Birthday present for myself – and thought that would make for a hearty side dish. I also made some spicy yogurt dipping sauce for the crab cakes, as well as an Asian cucumber salad (also from Plenty). Everything looked and tasted great!

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West Coast Crab Cakes (makes 6 cakes)

  • 16 oz. Dungeness Crab meatcrab cakes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 TB melted butter
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

Roasted Eggplant (serves 6)

  • 3 large, long eggplants
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 1/2 TB
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate, or 1/2 cup Pom
  • 1 tsp Zahtarphoto 1
  • 9 TB buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of salt

Cucumber Salad (serves 6)

  • 3 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB sunflower oil, or olive oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, peeled
  • 1 TB toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 TB chopped cilantro

All the prep takes about two hours, with a lot of downtime for cheese sampling and wine tasting. Start by mixing the ingredients for the crab cakes. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the crab. Gently fold in the crab meat, being careful not to break up the lumps. Shape into cakes and refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour to retain shape.

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Next, prepare the dressing for the salad. Whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar and oils in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sliced red onion and mix well, then leave aside to marinate for about an hour.

Meanwhile, you can begin to make the roasted eggplant. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look – don’t eat it). Use a sharp knife to make diagonal cuts into the “meat” of each eggplant half, without cutting through the skin.

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Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft and nicely browned.

While the eggplants are in the oven, remove the seeds from the pomegranate using this handy method. Then, make the yogurt sauce. Whisk together buttermilk, Greek yogurt, 1 1/t TB olive oil, garlic and salt. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

With about 15 minutes left to the eggplant, finish preparing the salad. Place the ginger, garlic and salt in a mini food processor and combine until it becomes a sort of paste. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the contents into the bowl with the onion and dressing, then stir together. Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then cut each half on an angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add the cucumber to the bowl, followed by the sesame seeds and cilantro. Stir well and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Right before you serve it, tip out some of the excess dressing that has accumulated at the bottom.

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It should be about time to remove the eggplant from the oven. Once cooled, transfer to a serving platter. Spoon plenty of the buttermilk sauce over each eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle Zahtar and pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme sprigs. Finish off with a drizzle of olive oil, and bam! What a beautiful dish!

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Lastly – and because they need to be served hot – put the crab cakes in the oven and lower the heat to 375. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until evenly browned on each side. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving dish.

PortalupiI served three delicious wines with this meal: 2011 Chappellet Chenin Blanc Napa Valley to be paired with the crab cakes and salad, 2010 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russian River Valley il Migliore to be paired with the eggplant, and 2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley to be paired with after dinner chit chat – and Annie P.’s chocolate mint half cake (best baking friend everrrrrr). All three wines were very special to me, and I was happy to share them with my friends. The Chenin Blanc was actually purchased on my birthday this past year, so it was the perfect occasion and it paired wonderfully with the crab cakes. The Portalupi Pinot was fantastic, and had just the right amount of earthiness to pair with the hearty eggplant. The Cabernet could have used a few more years, but it was still drinking well and it was the perfect wine to end the evening.

So I urge you, dear readers, to find something to celebrate. Whether it’s your half birthday, or some other random occasion, it’s a great excuse to enjoy delicious food and wine – and try out some new recipes while you’re at it!

The Husch Experience

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I’m still dreaming about being back in Comptche, warming my toes in front of the fire and sipping on a 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – my favorite varietal right now. Starry had never been to Anderson Valley before and I had been once in June 2009, so I thought it would be cool to repeat my original Anderson Valley Winetinery, adding in a couple new stops as well. We packed as many wineries into Saturday that we could handle, beginning the day of tasting with one of my favorites: Husch Vineyards.

The tasting room at Husch

The tasting room at Husch

Husch is one of the oldest wineries in Anderson Valley, and the tasting room building is 110 years old! There are guesses as to what its purpose was before the winery existed: a pony barn, grain storage, chicken coop. Whatever it was, I’m glad Tony Husch had the brilliant idea to make a winery out of the property! In 1979, Husch Vineyards was sold to Hugo Oswald Jr., and the winery is still owned by the third generation of Oswalds. A few years ago, Husch bottled a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah and called the wine Grand Oz. I got to taste the 2009 Grand Oz (second vintage) this past weekend, which is only available in the tasting room with a 2 bottle limit per person. Grand Oz is smooth and delicious, with bright fruit and a hint of spice. I was tempted to purchase a bottle, but I didn’t want to blow my budget at the first stop!

The wall of awards

The wall of awards

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starry and I were led by Mike as we each tasted six different wines from the current selection at Husch (of which there are 16). Mike had been working in the tasting room for about six years, and before that he was launching rockets at Cape Canaveral! He even launched one of the missions to Mars, and got a little nostalgic when recounting to us his days at the Cape. I love the attention that you get from the host at small wineries like this, and I also love to taste the wines that are only available in the tasting room. So I opted for a diverse selection of winery exclusives, including: 2012 Renegade Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino, 2012 T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley, 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Syrah Mendocino and of course, the 2009 Grand Oz Mendocino.

selection at Husch

While Starry and I both really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite of the whites was most certainly the T-Bud; slightly sweet with hints of pear and grapefruit on the nose and a refreshing palate of citrus and baking spice. I also had a sip of Starry’s 2012 Vine One Chardonnay Mendocino, which was light and delicate with floral aromatics and fermented mostly in stainless steel tanks. I would later learn that much of Anderson Valley white wine is fermented in stainless steel with just a touch of oak. I think this is because the Anderson Valley white varietals are mostly cool climate grapes, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are more delicate and bright, and possess zesty and somewhat tropical flavors so an overabundance of oak in the fermentation process would clash with the natural flavors in the wine.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

The Gewurz vines outside the Husch tasting room.

As for my red selections, I was very pleased and particularly enjoyed the 91 point (Wine Enthusiast) 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir. The wine had complex aromas of toast and black cherry, with a soft yet full palate. For only $38 (not including my industry discount), I couldn’t resist buying a bottle! I also enjoyed the 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir, a historically significant wine because it was the first planting of Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley. The wine had a lot of body and complexity, with hints of cloves on the nose and a soft, velvety finish in the mouth. Of course, neither of these compared to the Grand Oz, which simply blew me away.

Grand Oz

Mike was pleased to tell us that they had sold out of their innaugural 2008 vintage of the Grand Oz, a vintage that all wineries in Anderson Valley struggled with due to the forest fires. We had heard that some wineries tried to profit off the unique smoky flavor, claiming that it was a piece of history and created an interesting tasting Pinot Noir. While this may be true in some sense, Starry and I knew better than to be duped by this marketing twist. We did manage to taste some 2008 Pinot from other wineries throughout the weekend. While most we found to be undrinkable – with one even smelling like gasoline – we hardly noticed the smoke in a 2008 Pinot Noir from Breggo. This probably had something to do with the reverse osmosis truck that they used during production.

Husch Vineyards proved to be the perfect start to our weekend, and Mike’s in-depth account of the winery’s background and the history of the valley made the experience all the more special. This tasting also launched my new obsession with 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – which I’m told is one of the best years in the region for growing Pinot. Thank goodness the bottle prices in Anderson Valley are more than reasonable; not to mention that the majority of the wineries offer free tastings to the public! The wine nerd in me has never been so happy to live in Northern California.

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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