Sunday, July 29, 2012

IPNC Walkabout

We are waiting and relaxing in our wonderful room at Allison Spa before we jump tounge first in to 70 wines and a whole lot of great food tastes at IPNC Walkabout. Our friend Rebecca Pittock Sholdis is pouring her Ghost Hill Cellars wine today. I am presenting both Scott Wright (owner) and Kelley Fox (winemaker) of Scott Paul a print from the first of the editions I am doing for SALUD! this year.
We will be tasting and spitting lots of wine. Seems like a waste to some but NO ONE can taste that many wines and drink even a little of what is offered and survive.
$150 may seem like a lot for tasting wines but if you were to go to all 70 wineries and pay even $5 for tastings (some are as high as $15) you would be paying $350 and you would not be getting all the extras such as great foods and other treats. And you get to meet the winemakers and owners.

Well! We are back from the event and Linda is drawing a bath while I blog.
The wines were all over the place in both source and taste, from N.Z. to France, from BC and Washington, to right here in Oregon and south to California. It was an exciting event, with wine snobs, new tasters, and everyone between. I did my best to be objective, and because I enjoy the distinct difference the come out of Pinot Noir, I had a really good time!
My first taste was at ADEA and it was good to see my friend Dean and his wife Ann. They were always very gracious about donating "one bottle" and it was always a nice Magnum. The wine he was pouring today was the '09 Cherry Grove. This vineyards fruit produced an 89 point wine in '07 and this '09 is just starting to sing the same tune. This needs to lay down for at least 3 more years so that the complexity can anneal. Big wide mouth feel with a little tartness but a finish that shows real promise. Hold till 2015.
I visited with Alexana Winery for a moment and will do more extensive notes on them in a few days after I go up and visit the new tasting room at Alexana Winery & Tasting Room,12001 NE Worden Hill Road in Newberg, OR
Great wines made by Lynn Penner-Ash, especially the ones from their own vineyard.
Wendy and Anndy Johnston, from BC brought a very tasty wine from their winery, Averill Creek, to the gathering. They are located on the northestern part of Vancouver Isalnd near Duncan. The wine is rich and soft with a generous helping of black fruit and a bit of jam. Two of the other winemakers today commented on how surprised they were with the maturity of taste from these vines. I want to visit them and find out their secret.
The next wine was Bethel Heights, an Oregon stalwart, who's wines are consistently rich and welcoming. This year was no exception. The '09's are packed with dark berry and a good tannin reserve and should be held for another two to three years. Ben and Mimi Casteel were pouring some teriffic wine.
Maison Ambroise was well represented by owner and winemaker Bertrand Ambroise pouring his wonderful Pinot Noir. One of the best wines I tasted. Replete with blackberry and a hint of roasted meat, this wine is dark and rich and lovely. He grows all his own fruit and follows organic farming from start to finish.
Ellen Brittan of Brittan Vineyards was swamped with people trying to get a taste of the wine she was showing. I have tasted both the Gestalt Block and the Basalt Block and loved them both. She gave me a bottle a few years ago for the one bottle project and it sold VERY well. Please try some of their wines, you will not be disappointed.
Ray Walsh
Ray Walsh was doing his best to keep up with the demand for tastes of his Capitello Wines and I heard from a lot of folks that his was among the best there. He makes wine in both NZ and Eugene and for a couple of other wineries in Oregon. His wine is consistently rich and elegant as it was today.
One of the wineries I am doing an etching of this year for SALUD! is Brooks, so I stopped by to say hello to Janie and let her know I had taken the perfect (for my purposes) shot of the winery. I just picked up the three pack of their Rieslings and can't wait to do a taste comparison.
Craig Camp
After a visit to Juniper Grove Farm and a few samples of the incredible goat cheese they make, it was back to tasting.
Craig Camp of Cornerstone was very excited about his Oregon Pinot made by Tony Rynders. Dark, with hazelnut, black fruit, and a sweet high note finish, this wine is presenting great Pinot Noir quality. I plan on visiting and getting some to keep (2015).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Couple of Coastal Catches

Looking south from Otter Crest
This morning we left Eugene heading for the coast a little later than we had wanted so we stopped at somewhere I had been meaning to visit for some time. Our Daily Bread is a member of Travel Lane County and I have been hearing about how great the food is, how big the wine list is, and how nice the owners and staff are. Today we found out for ourselves. The place is a converted church and is kind of quirky in a good way. It feels very relaxed and from the conversations I heard between the staff and what I assumed to be steady client, very jovial. The food was perfect and just the right amount. I had fish and slaw. The fish was fresh and hand dipped, then deep fried. It was not at all greasy and was perfectly done. Linda had a Thia wrap and had problems finishing the entire thing, but she powered through because it was so good, and it was healthy. I skipped the wine but looked at the impressive list of local wines, many of which were new to me, and that is indeed a feat! We shall return!
Next stop was at  Domaine Meriwether for a taste and a visit. We have a good stock of the sparklers but had not yet tasted the '06 Pinot Noir. Well rounded, smooth and with a lush mouth feel, it is an impressive wine. I like that they hold wines back for release as it gives them time to build a bit in bottle. I plan on going back and doing some more serious notes.
We drove up the coast to Newport and a bite and a taste of the beers at Rogue. Linda has never been a big beer fan but some of the ones she tasted today turned her head a bit. She really liked the Good Chit Ale while I like the Brutal IPA. Ask for a four glass taste next time you are in.
Dan with his '09 Pinot Noir

After a visit to Earthworks Gallery and the Newport Aquarium (MUST see the shark tanks you can walk through!!!) we Stopped for a taste at Flying Dutchman Winery at Otter Crest. Yes, they make wine on the coast, and these guys make it right there next to the ocean! Be warned, Dan (holding the bottle) can sell Eskimos to icewater so expect to by at least one bottle of their fine wines. I picked up a bottle of the Conductor's Reserve, a blend of cab, merlot, and other grapes. A percentage of the money goes to support the Newport Symphony I love visiting them for a glass and a stroll out the back to the deck where you overlook the Inn at Otter Crest and the beautiful Pacific. We got to meet some visitors who were having lunch out on the cliff: Three Cedar Waxwings were going after the abundance of berries on the Salal bushes.
We arrived at our final stop of the day in Depoe Bay. I sometimes take advantage of social media offers and this one has proved worth trying. We are staying at a little B and B called the Harbor Lights Inn that overlooks the worlds smallest navigable harbor. It is just perfect! Very nice folks and quiet, save for the gulls, but that IS the coast. Bob, the owner, directed us to The Tidal Raves restaurant saying that it is one of the best on the coast. He was right! We were greeted by the hostess and told there would be a twenty minute wait (something we are not used to) but that she would bring us our wine while we waited. I ordered  a bottle of Four Graces 2010 Pinot Noir and was very pleased. She brought us our wine on a serving tray with much flurry, and as Linda said, we were treated like royalty. The wine is soft and forgiving with a lush notes of cane berry and spice. The taste was perfect with both my Crab Louis, the Seared Sea Scallops on potato hash studded with sun dried tomato, bacon. and smoked tomato glaze, for Linda's Goat Cheese with a walnut crusted tart and for the grilled eggplant with marinara. All the food was fresh and local, was beautifully prepared and plated, and was pro. Everything was amazingly good and the wine was the topper. The decor is modern and novel while paying homage to the local. The menu is very heavily weighted to seafood, well duh!, but it has a nice warm spot for vegetarians like Linda. We will be sure to make the trip back for both the food and for the B&B.
We hada quiet night with the distant sound of the ocean and this morning Iwas awoken with the sounds of the gulls and the fishermen getting boats ready. Very relaxing and charming. When you come, bring a bathrobe or dressing gown.
We just met a nice couple involved with, Go take a look! Very cool.
Other notes: The water presure is perfect! The view is wonderful and you get to watch the boats come and go.
In the morning we drive to Astoria and then to Portland for JAW Fest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

IPNC Coming This Weekend!

I am taking my lovely wife on an adventure up the coast of Oregon, then over to Portland for a weekend of theater, then an afternoon of wine tasting at the IPNC event and a stay at Allison Spa, with dinner at Jory. A full four days with lots of great wines and food.
We are staying at a small hotel in Depoe Bay called Harbor Lights Inn, overlooking the smallest harbor you have ever seen:
The World’s Smallest Harbor

world's smallest harbor
Depoe Bay is the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor, currently covering approximately six acres, with a 50-foot wide, 100-foot long rockbound, dog-legged channel connecting to the Pacific Ocean. There are two freshwater creeks that flow into the harbor; North Depoe Creek enters at the northeasterly corner, and South Depoe Creek enters at the southeasterly corner. These creeks are very different in character. North Depoe Creek is rocky-bottomed and fairly fast flowing, while South Depoe Creek is sandy-bottomed and slow moving. Originally, the inner bay was shallow with a beach area on the east side surrounded by a cedar forest. Boats would simply anchor in the bay, afloat during high tide and resting on the bottom during low tide.

We plan on visiting Astoria for lunch, then heading east to Portland for the JAW Fest at PCS and a stay at the Westin.
The JAW festival allows for new works to be read before an audience and critiqued on the spot after the reading. Lots of plays have come out of the readings to be performed at theaters in Portland. It is a great way to see new works and meet the playwrights.
On Sunday we will check in to Allison Spa and head out for a day of wine tasting at IPNC's walkabout in the park. We are very excited this year as one of our best friends, Rebecca Pittock Shouldis, the wine savant at Ghost Hill, will be presenting. Her 2011 Pinot Noir Blanc is headed for fame and fortune and will be featured as an editors choice in an upcoming issue of a prominent wine mag! This is one of the most remarkable wines I have tasted here in Oregon.
We are having dinner  with our wonderful friends Rebecca and Thibaud Mandet, the star winemaker at WillaKenzie Winery, at Jory, and both have promised to bring a wine. Thibaud may bring a bottle of his 2009WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Aliette that just  received BEST PINOT NOIR FROM THE UNITED STATES in the recent Decanter World Wine Awards! The2009 Aliette scored a Gold Medal, then went on to compete for BEST IN SHOW Pinot Noir from the U.S., and won!  Should be a fun evening!
After a day of spa treatment I will put Linda on the plane for San Jose' and return home to get back to work on my prints for SALUD!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Impromtu Wine Class

Had a great day day! Stopped at Market of Choice and got to give an impromptu wine class to a couple of women up visiting from Grass Pants. Had them try the Spangler Chardonnay, a tasty Chard from the Umqua Valley with a totally unoaked taste. It opens with citrus, lime and sandalwood, followed by a mouth-feel and flavor of green apple, lemon and a bit of snap pea. Perfect for a hot summer day! Also recommended Drew's 2010 Harper Voit Surlie Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc is Drew Voit’s present to all wine lovers after the long winter. The Surlie name refers to the wine being aged "sur lie" which means “on the lees” ( the dead yeast cells), imparting a very enjoyable creaminess on the palate. Neutral oak barrels were used for fermentation. The wine is crisp and light, yet creamy and mouth filling .Creme fresh, lemon curd, Greek Yogurt, tonic water and bright limon.
I hope they enjoyed the wines.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SALUD! Prints and a Pint

On the way back from hanging art at PeaceHealth's HQ in Vancouver I took a little side trip down to Carlton and took a couple of shots of Scott Paul's tasting room hoping to find the perfect one to begin my etching. This year I am printing ten small sets of etchings and one set on wood like this one in my show last year at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum.The print on the left is the one I did last year for Ken Wright.
I think I got a couple of good ones to start with. I dropped my jars off at Republic of Jam then went around the corner to taste a bit at Troon. I got there in time for Cate to pour me a taste of a wine I had not had in the states, or at least did not remember. A few years ago on a trip to Europe, Chris tasted and fell in love with Vermentino. The best known examples come from northern Italy (particularly in the region of Liguria) and the island of Sardinia, where the wines are crisp, citrusy and generally unoaked. It is a fairly common wine served with fresh seafood and is a perfect match to the daytime meals. In '06 Troon grafted it to Chardonnay roots that were planted in '72 and it is the first to be grown in Oregon. It has also been grown in the Paso Robles area since about '94.
This '11 wine is made with 12% Viognier, adding a nice nose and a little more flowery notes to a bright, clean, and crisp wine with distinctive citrus character, refreshing acidity and surprising richness. I picked up a couple of bottles and plan on serving them at our next deck outing.
After a quick visit to R.Stuart's wine bar in Mac I drove down to Salem for a bite and a beer with my friend Rebecca, winemaker savant at Ghost Hill. We met at The Brick and sat outside. Salem has done such a great job keeping the downtown vital. There is outside cafe seating everywhere and all the tables were full.
I had a beer from my home town Ninkasi's Total Domination and one of The Brick's Bun-less Burgers. Perfect match! If you have not had this beer pr any of the others they make you are loosing out. It is the best beer I have ever tasted and, at 63, I have tasted a few, both here and all over the world.
Next trip will be to take shots at Penner-Ash.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Revisting Old Friends at Art in the Vineyard

Yesterday I took my wife Linda to Art in the Vineyard for our traditional walk through to see what we don't need and can't afford. But this year was much different: Linda met her friend Susan and I visited a lot of wine booths.
The first stop was for a taste of Methven's Pinot Gris. Light, clean, and nicely balanced with mellow fruits and a very pleasant mouth feel and aftertaste. Then a quick change of pace with a very good '11Gamay Noir. This is one of if not the best Gamay I have had in Oregon. Mellow, large black fruit, plums and rich ripe berry. Wow! This one is worth the trip up to the winery!
After chatting with Allen about the wines and the outlook for this years crop, I wandered over to AlexEli for a taste of another rare but worthwhile wine: '10 Muller-Thurgau. This was a real surprise as the only other time I have tasted this wine in Oregon was at a winery in Umpqua and it was NOT a great wine. This one is lush with pear and white peach with a great acid balance and a soft fruit finish. If you try no other wine at the wine booths, try this one.
Next stop was at Namaste' and a visit with Dave. I must say this was a day for different wines than I usually go for. At his booth I went for a bit of the '07 Merlot and was rewarded with a silky smooth, rich mouth filling taste. It is a spectacular wine and need no other description other than "great". It is not yet on his web site but ask for it when you visit and expect a real treat.
The tragic story he told me after I tasted and bought a bottle of his name sake wine, '07 "Big Red" made me glad I got one of these rare bottles. He had made a small batch of the killer wine and let it age and grow for a good long time. He was told it was ready to pick up so he loaded up the truck and brought it home. As he turned up in to the drive it shifted and he lost 19 cases. Heart broken, he finished the night with Jack D., not his wine. If you get the chance, please visit him and let him share the story and have a glass of an amazingly bold wine.
Across the way was the booth for Rivers Edge where the owners, Mike and Vonnie Landt, who started out in '96 and have been making very fine wines for a number of years. I love the '07 Pinot noir Barrel Select. It has turned in to a really superb wine and the only have a few cases left.
I stopped by Kandarian to see if Jeff was around but he had just stepped out. I was about to taste one his fine wines but Linda came and distracted me. Jeff makes wine for King Estate and his wines are only wines King does not make, such as a really tasty Syrah and a killer Sauvignon Blanc. We carry his wines at the Travel Lane County Adventure Center at Gateway. Stop by and grab a few bottles.
I visited with the folks from Rainsong and showed them the etching I did of there tree up the hill from the tasting room. Next was Lone Oak where I sampled a rich smooth Pinot. They are in a very old area of wine growing and are near Broadley. Great grape land and it is showing up in their wines. Dave and his wife Yvonne did their first production in '06 and the wines have been getting better every year.
Last stop was at Vitis Ridge where my friend Michael Bailey was hanging out. He is a wine broker who specializes in small production wineries and you have to be THIS TALL to go on his ride. He is very selective so I always trust his judgement on wineries. He introduced my to Vitis a few years ago when I was doing the one bottle project and they gave a bottle every year. The wines coming from the east side of the valley, across the freeway from the big wine ares, hold a lot of surprises. AlexEli is there as well as Pudding River and Silver Falls. They did a dead clever map showing why it is worth the drive and a visit.
I ended up with a bottle of Big Red, and a bottle of AlexEli Muller-Thurgau, a full tummy, and a happy wife.