Coeur d’Alene Resort Serves Up First Annual Food & Wine Festival

Coeur d’Alene Resort Serves Up First Annual Food & Wine Festival

April 6-7 is the perfect time for a spring road trip to beautiful Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and the first class wine and culinary programs of the area make it a tantalizing proposition.

The idyllic Coeur d’Alene Resort will play host to its first two-day Food & Wine Festival on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7...

Read More

Twenty Years Young; Brooks celebrates founder, friends and bright future

Twenty Years Young; Brooks celebrates founder, friends and bright future

A person’s story doesn’t always end when they die. For some loved ones, it’s merely a chapter in a book they hadn't finished reading. When Janie Brooks Heuck stepped off the plane in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2004 and into the welcoming arms of a group of Willamette Valley winemakers, she did so with an open heart and discovered her own destiny in her brother’s legacy.

Throughout 2018, Brooks Wines is celebrating its 20th anniversary by honoring the winemakers who came together on that fateful day at Jimi Brooks' home, shortly after he died suddenly, leaving the close-knit community grief-stricken and in shock...

Read More

The Quest to Save Old Vine Riesling

The Quest to Save Old Vine Riesling

When thinking of Riesling, a famous line by a fictitious character comes to mind: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” That was Jessica Rabbit’s defense for her alluring curves in the 1988 movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In the wine world there are a few varietals that, through no fault of their own, are equally misunderstood...

Read More

Willamette Valley taster: A Day of Wine and an Overnight in Style

Willamette Valley taster: A Day of Wine and an Overnight in Style

Home to over 500 wineries, ‘Let’s go tasting in the Willamette Valley’ can be a broad statement. When you have friends like Janine Julian of THE VINE TRAVELERS, not so much. And, when you’re able to spend the day with a few other cool chicks who also crave a layered pinot, it’s a full blown adventure.

 

Read More

Clark County transplant managing balancing act with wine and family

Clark County transplant managing balancing act with wine and family

After years of following, Pam Walden, owner/winemaker of Willful Wine Company, is leading and her graceful confidence is contagious.

A relative newcomer to Vancouver, Washington, Clark County wasn’t specifically on her radar. When I asked her how she ended up on the North Bank, her response was honest and unapologetic.

“Some guy,” she laughed. “I ended up in Nepal because of a guy. I ended up in winemaking because of a guy. It’s as good of a reason as any.”

Read More

Tasting blind: a fun way to test your wine skills

Tasting blind: a fun way to test your wine skills

If the phrase ‘blind wine tasting’ sends shivers down your spine and conjures up inadequate feelings reminiscent of your SAT test then you haven’t enjoyed a chill NW blind tasting.

“The blind tasting event started on a whim,” said Ben Stuart, winemaker at Burnt Bridge Cellars in Vancouver, Washington. “The idea literally hit about 15 minutes before we opened. I did a lot of blind tasting at school and with friends and thought it might be fun for our customers.”

Read More

Resilience of Oregon biodynamic winery byproduct of community

Resilience of Oregon biodynamic winery byproduct of community

It doesn’t take many encounters with Willamette Valley winemakers to discover the real reason it was named 2016 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

While the wine is world-class, it is the people who made the Willamette Valley what it is. It has been my observation that wine regions are successful in relation to their collaborative spirit. In other words, closed fists garner limited prosperity.

The Willamette Valley was built on the backs of people who demonstrated community. After all, at the end of the day, most winemakers are also farmers. Since the founding of this great country, farmers have relied on one another to bring in the crop, share equipment, impart knowledge and be a support system when their world is crumbling around them.

Read More

White Rose Estate stands out in a valley of worthy contenders

Its hilltop perch affords White Rose Estate expansive Willamette Valley views. Dan Eierdam
Its hilltop perch affords White Rose Estate expansive Willamette Valley views. Dan Eierdam

If you’re a winery in the Willamette Valley it can be hard to stand out unless you have a story, a niche or, frankly, just a really cool tasting room.

White Rose Estate has all three bases covered.

Story – Aerospace industry manufacturer pursues passion for pinot and lands on a hilltop vineyard overlooking the expansive Willamette Valley. After purchasing the land with circa 1980 vines gracing it, Greg Sanders sets about building a solid reputation as a winemaker who consistently produces deep, luscious vintages poised to cellar with increasing grace and elegance. Several years later, Sanders passes the torch to long-time right-hand man turned assistant winemaker turned winemaker, Jesus Guillén who emulates Sanders’ style in action and by bottle.

A side-by-side tasting of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir—one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent—was a unique wine education experience. Viki Eierdam
A side-by-side tasting of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir—one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent—was a unique wine education experience. Viki Eierdam

Niche – Neoclassical Pinot Noir.  The basis of this winemaking style is old vines. One can plant vines and enjoy a harvest in three years but depth, character and concentration come about over time in similar fashion to cellaring a bottle. Several other components go into Neoclassical Winemaking including harvesting all grapes into canvas totes to keep the stems intact, pressing everything in-house with two manual presses to control the amount of tannin extracted and whole cluster fermentation.

Partially underground, the tasting room of White Rose produces a unique mood for visits. Viki Eierdam
Partially underground, the tasting room of White Rose produces a unique mood for visits. Viki Eierdam

Really cool tasting room – This is, hands down, my favorite part. On the approach, White Rose’s tasting room looks like a hobbit house. Walking in only confirmed my suspicion. It is, in fact, partially underground which produces a unique mood for tastings. Tasting room associates, Charlie and Margo, help with that, feeding off of one another like a sort of modern odd couple. Charlie divulges all the nuances of Greg and Jesus’s winemaking philosophy in a honed and focused manner while Margo absolutely exudes her excitement about the different vintages, the smell of the lavender and other fragrant herbs planted on property and just about anything else with an infectious demeanor.

Margo allowed us a glimpse into their underground barrel room located directly underneath the tasting room of White Rose Estate as well as one of the manual presses used during harvest. Viki Eierdam
Margo allowed us a glimpse into their underground barrel room located directly underneath the tasting room of White Rose Estate as well as one of the manual presses used during harvest. Viki Eierdam

Wine lovers looking for a true experience will not be disappointed at White Rose Estate. Bottle prices reflect their quality (ranging from $60-$95 for the five that I tried) but tastings are $15. Of particular note was a side-by-side of their 2013 Luciole Vineyard Pinot Noir; one with 20 percent stem inclusion and the other with 80 percent. The flavor profiles were quite different, as one would expect, with a greater concentration of earthy aromatics and palate descriptors in the 80 percent. It’s a rare opportunity to have this level of wine education and a reflection of the overall tasting experience at White Rose Estate.

White Rose is located within a cluster of wineries in Dayton, Oregon (Stoller, Durant and La Colina), making it a perfect addition to a day of tasting.

 

McMinnville rolls out new wine passport program

Over 500 wineries is a daunting number even for the most ardent wine fan so it’s nice when visitor centers take some of the guess work out of a few days of exploration. Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, Visit McMinnville has rolled out the Wine Walk. A passport program highlighting 20 tasting rooms, the Wine Walk is a fun way to sample some of what the expansive Willamette Valley has to offer.

The majority of the tasting rooms covered with the passport are within a 15-minute walk from one another, making it a fun way to explore all the other businesses and storefronts that comprise the compact downtown core. Two particularly unique tasting rooms include Elizabeth Chambers Cellar—a refurbished, nearly 90 year-old diesel power plant——and Walnut City WineWorks, which once housed the Willamette Valley Walnut Company.

Dan Eierdam

Dan Eierdam

Lest anyone forget those grapes come from the fertile soil of the Valley, In the Hills is a selection of five very special wineries that allow visitors to enjoy an idyllic drive along country roads dotted with picturesque vineyards. On the short list are Maysara—a biodynamic winery—and Youngberg Hill Vineyards, where guests can enjoy sweeping vineyard views and spend the night at their award-winning bed and breakfast.

A downloadable map is located at VisitMcMinnville.com and complete passport booklets can be picked up at any stop along the way. Coming in June, an app for iOS and Android will be available, as well. Tasting fees apply at each location but prize levels are a great incentive for participation.

After collecting 10 stamps, a 33 Books Co. tasting notes journal along with a Wine Walk sticker and pen become mementos of your experience. Based in Portland, Oregon, 33 Books Co. is a publishing company focused on amazing liquids and foodie stuff and allows users to keep their personal notes in one convenient spot. The one designed for the Wine Walk has a handy wine flavor wheel, color meter and other tidbits that help novices and experts keep track of standouts.

Fifteen stamps rewards you with a commemorative Wine Walk GoVino wine glass, perfect for outdoor wine drinking (think picnics, RVing, camping and hiking). Visit McMinnville has left no craft beverage unrepresented in the Wine Walk. Five bonus stamps cover three breweries and two locations pouring spirits. Collect these stamps over and above the wine stamps and receive a Wine Walk Cap Lifter—a flat cap opener about the size of a credit card.

Wine Walk Cap Lifter
Wine Walk Cap Lifter

In an effort to incorporate as many top shelf tourist attractions as McMinnville has to offer, stamped maps are returned to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Located about three miles from the main drag, this museum is a world of its own with a theater, waterpark and many educational opportunities for all ages.

With a smorgasbord of adventures vying for our summer attention, the Wine Walk is a fun way to get to know or revisit the winecentric town of McMinnville.

 

Oregon winegrowers repairing the reputation of a noble grape

Some like it lightly oaked, others prefer a bright and lively acidity. We’re talking about chardonnay and before you say “I do not like chardonnay”, keep in mind that overly-oaked chardonnay has been all but lost to feathered bangs, jelly shoes and scrunchies.

That’s right, there are trends—even in wine making— that sometimes just do not need to be revisited. Oregon is one state in particular giving it their all to convince wine drinkers that just because chardonnay is most notably found in Chablis, France does not mean it should taste anything like the Chablis jugs of old.

At the 5th Annual Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, winemakers and serious consumers were led in a tasting of five different chardonnay styles by a panel of Willamette Valley vineyard owners and winemakers. ©Andrea Johnson Photography
At the 5th Annual Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, winemakers and serious consumers were led in a tasting of five different chardonnay styles by a panel of Willamette Valley vineyard owners and winemakers. ©Andrea Johnson Photography

At the 5th Annual Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, winemakers and serious consumers came together to analyze five different chardonnay styles from five different winemakers who all purchase their fruit from the same vineyard—Durant Vineyards. The panel consisted of Thomas Bachelder from Bachelder Oregon, Joe Dobbes of Dobbes Family Estate, Marcus Goodfellow from Goodfellow Family Cellars, Brian Marcy of Big Table Farm and Paul Durant from Durant Vineyards (winemaker Isabelle Dutartre). The wildly popular, funny and articulate Elaine Brown presided over the two-hour discussion and her commentary peeled away at the layers of this rather austere grape.

Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting was an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from nearly 50 Oregon wineries. Viki Eierdam
Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting was an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from nearly 50 Oregon wineries. Viki Eierdam

And that is the hint of why chardonnay is sometimes so overly-manipulated. In the cool climates of France where it grows, the goal is a lean, crisp wine with high acidity that makes a refreshing accompaniment to seafood in its youth and turns creamier with a beautiful round mouth-feel to pair with heavier sauces as it ages. For some reason there was a time when American winemakers felt it needed to be more.

But let’s jump ahead to now and NOW is a wonderful time for chardonnay. At the Grand Tasting, attendees were able to sample exquisite examples from nearly 50 Oregon wineries.

I was also privileged to attend a media dinner hosted at Adelsheim Vineyard the night before. Sixteen of us gathered around a communal table and enjoyed a lively conversation about the winemaker’s process, inspiration and hopes for the future of Oregon Chardonnay.

Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting was an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from nearly 50 Oregon wineries and talk to local winemakers. ©Andrea Johnson Photography
Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting was an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from nearly 50 Oregon wineries and talk to local winemakers. ©Andrea Johnson Photography

Throughout the meal we were taken from a couple newer vintages of Domaine Drouhin and Alexana to progressively older vintages of Stoller and Adelsheim wines to a library tasting (2008, 2007, 2006) of Chehalem, Evening Land and Ponzi. True to form, the newer vintages had the vibrant balance with a hint of spice and citrus that cut through rich seafood and pasta sauces. With a little more age, the acidity helped the wines hold up to show more complex notes of honey and deeper baking spices. The library vintages (and their commentary) were an honest expression of the winemakers’ style. Bready notes become more evident (like brioche), fruit notes become softer (from lemon to nectarine and orange) and the creamy, rounded mouth-feel is quite pronounced.

These winemakers are taking a misunderstood varietal and, with  just the right amount of new French oak aging—no more than 30 percent and often times less—developing an elegant and restrained Oregon Chardonnay style that’s quickly repairing the reputation of a noble grape.

For 2017 information, go to www.oregonchardonnaycelebration.org.

 

Simple wine and food pairing tips to try at home

It happens at every wine tasting event; someone puts a glass to their lips to try what is touted to be a phenomenal representation of chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon. Expectations are high and then quickly dashed as the liquid mixes in their mouth and lingers on their palate. Egad, it might even be spit out!

So what just happened? Are they not a sophisticated wine drinker? Was the wine corked? Suffering a bit from volatile acidity (VA)? Sadly, it could just be the wine really needed to be paired with the right food to be properly appreciated but some people will walk away with the judgement that all chardonnay is too oaked or cab sauv is unapproachable.

Participating in Portland Dining Month throughout March, Ned Ludd is also one of 18 Portland restaurants to win the 2016 Oregon Wine A-List award. Dan Eierdam
Participating in Portland Dining Month throughout March, Ned Ludd is also one of 18 Portland restaurants to win the 2016 Oregon Wine A-List award. Dan Eierdam

Portland Dining Month, going on throughout March, is an excellent opportunity to not only try a specially-selected three-course meal for $29 per person at over 100 top notch restaurants but18 of those are Oregon Wine A-Listers. For an additional $15-$20, diners can enjoy each course expertly paired with a wine and taste for themselves how different varietals complement certain foods and vice versa.

At a recent Ned Ludd visit, I enjoyed three Willamette Valley Brooks wines with my meal and the first course superbly illustrated my point. Their 2013 Riesling was a bit petrol on the palate. While petrol in riesling is a desired quality for aging, it’s not always pleasant to sip on its own and not everyone likes the flavor. Paired with escarole with lemon, parmesan, walnuts and parsley, the mildly off-putting features of this wine blended beautifully with the herbal and earthy characteristics of the salad.

A wine paired with the right food brings out the best qualities in both. Dan Eierdam
A wine paired with the right food brings out the best qualities in both. Dan Eierdam

This exercise can be tried at home with a bottle of dry riesling though may not replicate exactly since Brooks practices organic and biodynamic farming, lending their grapes to more significantly display any environmental stresses occurring during the growing and harvest seasons. Regardless, take a sip of the riesling then a bite of blue cheese, aged parmesan, lightly toasted walnuts or green olive (I.e. Castelvetrano) and another sip of the riesling. The protein in the cheese, earthiness in the nut or herbal notes in the olive bring completely different characteristics to the forefront of the mouth.

Moving through the meal, the 2013 Pinot Noir with the pork chop or roasted squash with polenta and broccoli salsa verde again emphasized earthy qualities. On its own, this pinot was a bit lighter than even I prefer but, with all the rains at harvest, 2013 was a difficult year and the wine’s elegance actually deepened with the food combination. At home, an earthy Willamette Valley pinot noir (as opposed to a fruit forward one typically found in warmer climates like Southern Oregon or Eastern Washington) served with a platter of aged goat cheese, black olives (I.e. Cerignola) or crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic spread over crostini will take the wine to a whole new level.

An earthy pinot noir accentuates the earthy characteristics in grilled meats such as pork chops. Dan Eierdam
An earthy pinot noir accentuates the earthy characteristics in grilled meats such as pork chops. Dan Eierdam

The 2014 Tethys, Late Harvest Riesling capped off the yoghurt panna cotta with pomegranate and pistachio dessert decadently. Dried fruit, honey and nectar notes in this dessert wine struck a luscious balance. At home, a late harvest riesling could be served with a simple assortment of dried fruits (apricot, peach, fig), stilton cheese and toasted, candied pecans or, as Brooks suggests, vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.