Drinking Patricia Green Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Aromas of gooseberry, baked apple, preserved lemon. The palate is a bit weighty, maybe some lees stirring? Kind of creamy with a citrus curd texture. Delicious.
Kelly & I are heading out of town this Saturday. First stop, Louisville. I've been before & really loved the city. My friend lives in the Highlands so its walking distance to some great places on Bardstown Rd. We've been to NIOS, Seviche...where else should we go?
After that we are onward to St Joseph, MI to see my friend Sarah's new spawn, Isla.
Next its onward to Chicago. I love love LOVE that city. I used to spend time there when I was a kid but its a whole new world as an adult. Where should we go? Anyone heard anything about Piccolo Sogno, Cafe Prosecco, The Publican? Where else should we go? What about great wine shops?
After Chicago it will be much needed family time with Mom, Dad, my sister Danyl & niece Halei.
Sunday morning, day 1 of Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) came quite early. Even though I was a good boy & went back to my hotel early, & didn't go to Lumpys, that alarm clock was still a little jarring. However, I quickly realized that I was in Willamette Valley & was about to embark on a magical experience. That woke me up fairly quickly! I put on my super fluffy robe & sauntered down to the shared Euro style bathroom & showered. Once clean, I dressed appropriately comfortable & headed down to the bakery next door to grab a coffee. I hopped into my rental & drove the 1.5 miles to the McMinnville Comfort Inn where my bus (RED BUS! WE'RE HOT!) was picking up. I was one of the first up by the bus so I offered to help my camp counselor decorate said bus. We lined the bus with red streamers, flames & other sorts of "inferno" type things. As more people started filing in the counselors popped open Argyle Brut 2000 sparkling wine a super delicious 60/40 pinot noir chardonnay blend. What a way to start the day! They had orange juice on hand for mimosas but screw that! I didn't want to sully my beautiful bubbles with OJ! We finally loaded onto the bus & headed off to our first destination. Upon arriving at Evergreen Vineyards & Aerospace Museum we were greeted by a gorgeous breakfast spread with local salmon, homemade pastries, local eggs, local berries & delicious coffee. We ate adjacent to the famous Spruce Goose of Howard Hughes fame. That plane was the size of Rhode Island! It was HUGE!! At breakfast I met two very nice people from Arkansas, Erin & Mark, & a very nice woman from Iowa, Elyn. After breakfast we headed into the IMAX theatre to be introduced to the participating wineries of OPC 2009. A young boy, all of 15 maybe?, walked up to the podium & told us about how his father, the owner/winemaker of Brooks Vineyards, died last year. He explained that everyone up on that stage & throughout the Willamette Valley banded together & helped them finish out the harvest, bottle the wine & pretty much saved them during this horrible time. He said that if it weren't for those people his family's winery wouldn't have made it through. I imagine it would have been difficult to find a dry eye in that place. After the introductions we watched a brand new HD film about the birth & future of the Willamette Valley's wine industry. I hope this film gets released on the web because it truly was a moving piece about a marginal area & the dreams & aspirations of a small group of dreamers who strive to create world-class wine.
Next it was back on the Red bus & on to Archery Summit Vineyards for a seminar on winemaking. The barrel room at AS was cool, moist & dark with a multitude of barrels holding sleeping wine. We were led through a series of three different stations about three different stages of wine making.
Station A: 1. Harvest -Determining ripeness -Picking
2. Reception -Equipment & processes
Station B: 3. Pre-Ferment -Modification of Must -Additions to Must
4.Fermentation -Management of Extraction -Pressing-Managing Tannins & Texture
Station C: 5. Aging -Maturing -Barrels
6.Finishing -Blending -Stabilization -Bottling
After these in depth seminars with the likes of Jason Lett & David Adelsheim we were treated to a delicious wine country lunch out on the gorgeous patio overlooking the valley. Red Hills Provincial Dining catered a lunch of roast pork sandwiches, minted pea salad & a few other delicious little things that are escaping me now.
As we dug into the yummy spread all of us were gazing around at the beautiful scenery & beginning to make friends with one another. Most everyone there was open, friendly & cool but there were a few pompous wine jerks who thought they were the be all end all of wine. Cmon!! Get over yourselves! Anyway, I digress. The conversations swirled from Txakolina to gruner to expectations of the rest of Camp. We were an interesting bunch, some from Iowa & Tennessee, some from Chicago, Charlotte, Vegas, UK. All in all everyone was just ecstatic to be there & loving every minute of it.
Tuesday July 28th Sole Restaurant will be hosting an oyster & wine tasting at 6:00 p.m. Elizabeth Mall of Delta Wholesale has personally selected the wines to pair with each oyster course. The tasting will be very casual in style & will include 5 courses with 5 wines. Cost to attend is $40/person plus gratuity. To reserve a spot call Sole Restaurant at 901.334.5950.
The lovely Elizabeth offered her gorgeous Midtown bungalow for the first meeting of The Carova Milk Bar in a long, long, looooooong time. Why has it been so long? I really don't know. Memphis blessed us with a tolerable Summer evening; & by tolerable I mean it was ONLY 90 degrees. So we began with Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2008 ($25.99 at Joe's) out on the patio. E already had a lovely spread of olives, sausage, cheeses & sushi waiting for us as sipped. Next up was a Vincent Girardin Morey St-Denis 2001. The aroma was brimming with dark cherry & forest floor, on the palate the wine was rich & dark with tart cherry & a sort of tea-like tannin. It was heavenly with a red Cerignola olive. Lance & Fiona popped open the first of their wines, a 2007 Neal Family Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley.
Elizabeth had the first course, a super summery salad of butter lettuce, toasted walnuts, fresh cherries, creamy blue cheese & a gorgeously elegant ginger-sesame vinaigrette. First off, I'll admit that the wine we chose to pair with this dish seems like an odd pairing or even a mistake. However, isn't experimentation kind of the point? Anyway, I digress. Richie & Meagan so kindly shared with us a DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate 1994. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot & cabernet franc had aged into a gorgeous, sensual little thing. The rich liqueur-like fruit had softened into a woodsy, dried fruit, pantry spiced red wine that had a haunting presence. The cherries in the salad made the wines texture explode with voluptuousness yet still remaining elegant enough for the salad. Our next wine was a Peter Lehman Eight Songs Shiraz 1999. Its amazing how it takes 10 years for a Aussie shiraz to calm down to a state of drinkability. To be perfectly honest, I really am not much for Australian wines but this one was pretty special. The decade of age had turned this from a bombastic fruit laden alcoholic monster into a spicy, sweet moderately bodied viscous Rotie-wannabe. Its not often that I get to taste something that makes me realize how much I need to keep an open mind at ALL times.
The next selection was from Elizabeth's cellar, a Robert Sinskey Cabernet Franc 2001 Los Carneros. Lower quality, overcropped cab francs reek of stewed bell pepper. The hallmark of a excellent one is a pepper quality yes, but more of a black peppercorn. It also had a plum skin aroma that was lively & rich with hint of violet. The wine's velvet texture was smooth & supple with a lively finish.
For our next course yours truly prepared a Provencal Fish Stew with pernod, fennel, white wine, cod, flounder, scallops, shrimp & homemade shrimp stock. To pair with this I brought a Domaine des Baumard Savennieres 2006 ($30.99 at Joe's). The waxy, honeycomb notes & bright acidity really matched well with the fennel & pernod. Those flavors in the stew really amplified the texture & minerality in the wine. The rich broth poached the fish just perfectly....if I do say so myself.
Our next wine was also courtesy of yours truly, Martinelli Lolita Ranch Pinot Noir 2004 Russian River Valley. I love how a big, brawny, masculine pinot comes from a woman, the legendary Helen Turley. At 5 years old this bad boy could have gone another 5 easy. The nose was all dark, dark cherry & brambly fruit with fresh wild herb & earthy mushroom. This wine was big & rich with a sensual lusciousness that was voluptuous & at 15.8 alcohol I was shocked at the balance. Then again that shows how much of a deft hand Mrs. Turley has with this ripe fruit.
Next course was provided by Richie & Meagan. Their home-smoked salmon baklava was a savory twist on that Mediterranean classic. Crispy layers of phyllo dough encased salmon they smoked themselves folded with honeyed goat cheese & dill. They topped it with creme fraiche, flying fish & smelt roe & fresh dill. That gorgeous little dish was paired with a spicy little sparkler, Szigeti Gruner Veltliner Brut NV Austria $20.99. The white pepper & stone fruit notes amplified the smoky-sweet flavors in the salmon-klava. This bubbly also woke up our palate after the previous reds.
Lance & Fiona lavished us with another vinous beauty, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 1995 Pauillac. Ok, so here's the thing. I am really just not a Bordeaux guy. I know it may sound weird but I'm just not. However, again I was shown how I should always have a wine open mind & palate. Its not often that I get to taste something so classic & traditional as a Pauillac. This right here was a wine from a region that has made countless winemakers across the world fall in love with wine, plant grapes & make their own wine. Lance said that the last time he had this wine it was a bruiser, soooo we were initially going to decant. After a little preliminary taste through by Richie & I to confirm the order we decided to skip the decanter. 14 years of bottle age had softened it & integrated its power & weight into velvet soft texture & dark, tart red currant fruit.
As if we needed anymore food at all, Kelly plated up his chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches that he made himself (I'm so proud!) Elizabeth turned to me & said "alright. why don't you head downstairs into my cellar & pick 2 wines to open." !!!!! Wha wha Whaaat?? What to do? What, what to say? What to pick? Should I? Shouldn't I? I remember saying "I don't really know if you want me down there...WHOOSH! And off I flew downstairs followed closely by Richie & Meagan. Oh would Elizabeth regret thiiiis. I stopped myself from pulling anything that was too outrageous, well....kind of. We emerged upstairs with Williams Selyem Zinfandel Forchini Vineyard 2002 & Michel Chapoutier Les Meysonniers 1998 Crozes-Hermitage. We weren't all that bad because we did tell her that we would be more than happy to take them back downstairs & try again. Elizabeth just smiled & said "pop em!" The W-S zin was first. It was all brambly, wild red raspberry, fig & clove. The palate was sweet but balanced with a really cool earthy spice note. 7 years had been very good to this wine, it lost none of its prowess & presence. What made this wine special was not only that it was really very delicious, but that Elizabeth chose to share this beauty with us. Well kind of chose.... The Chapoutier was next. One whiff & taste & I turned to Kelly & said "this is like beef bourginon!" It really was! It was meaty & rich with layers & layers of savory, earthy notes. The finish lingered for what seemed like a millennium. It was truly spectacular.
The wine, food & great friends made this summer evening something I won't soon forget.
The first night of Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) was jam packed with things to do. From 4-7 was the Camper Orientation at Ponzi Wine Bar where all 50 participating wineries were pouring. At first it seemed a bit overwhelming. All these wines....sensory overload...! Once I picked myself up off the floor I realized that I need a game plan. Must have bubbles. I visited Soter Vineyards table & sampled their stunning Brut Rosé. In the glass it had such a gorgeous pale fleshtone with nice slow moving tiny bubbles. Super delicious. Up next was a sip of Argyle 2005 Brut which was filled with toasty, yeasty orange peel & apricot marmalade notes. The dosage left a hint of sweet fruit on the palate. I also tasted bright citrus, cooked apple, rainier cherry & a supple rich finish. After these two bubbles it was on to some still rosé from Soter. It was light pink/salmon with a distinct aroma of chalky, rocky soil & crushed cherries. The palate just made me smile. Fresh, bright & fruit with a soft, dry finish. I think at that point I just grabbed some salmon & sat down to take it all in. I...just couldn't believe I was actually there! Looking around I saw wine geeks just like myself sipping & spitting with big smiles on their faces. The winemakers were pouring their wines & chatting with those of us who were curious enough to ask questions. Everyone was emanating pure happiness. It was great. I do wish that my fellow campers were a little more eager to interact with one another but maybe they were quietly soaking it all in like I was. After OPC orientation I made my way up a long winding gravel road to Torii Mor Vineyards & Winery. I was invited to a casual backyard cookout by Marge & Ron Olson, the winery owners. I arrived a little early so I was the first one there. There were bottles of pinot gris, pinot blanc & riesling chilling as well as magnums of 2004 Olson Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. Their home & tasting room are adjacent to their 35 year old Olson Estate Vineyard & situated atop the Dundee Hills Appellation. Their dog Corky conveniently laid at my feet waiting for me to drop my lamb burger stuffed with feta & sun dried tomatoes. The setting was absolutely stunning. Perched at the edge of their deck I could look down into the valley & across it to Mt. Hood. Their Olson Estate Pinot Noir easily matched the setting. It was rich with dark cherry & earthy spices on the nose. The palate was silky textured, round & beautifully balanced; so sensual & fleshy. This was just ridiculous! Was I really here?
Its been awhile since I've flown by myself anywhere. But for this trip I had to suck it up & fly without Kelly because Oregon Pinot Camp is for the wine biz & by invite only. This stunning site was my welcome mat to Portland, Oregon.
There were folks from all of the U.S., UK, Japan, Canada & Europe. It was a veritable melting pot of wine folks from all over the world. After stepping off the plane I picked up my rental car & drove straight down to McMinnville. I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Hotel Oregon online & I'm glad that I did. The other hotel selections were Comfort Inn & their ilk. Hotel Oregon is a boutique Euro-style (meaning shared bathrooms) hotel in a renovated bank/retail office building. Its funky, cute, cool & loaded with personality. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind sharing a bathroom. After checking in I headed down a few blocks to have lunch at La Rambla. McMinnville has this awesome little village vibe with great shops & restaurants. La Rambla specializes in authentic Spanish cuisine. I haven't eaten like that since Barcelona. My first plate was Jamon Serrano (heaven) on San Simon cheese over homemade grainy toasted bread.
This dish was pure Spanish bliss. Mmmmmmmm.
My next plate was a Tortilla Espanola with egg & potato served over classic Romesco sauce & topped with garlic aioli. On the side is a little salad with chopped hazelnuts, dried blueberries & hazelnut vinaigrette with manchego cheese.
With a full belly I was ready to face the winemakers at Saturday night's OPC (Oregon Pinot Camp) orientation.
I really just have no words. What I just experienced in Oregon was something I'll never forget & never be able to recreate. I've been blessed. The people in the Willamette Valley wine industry are some of the most open, collaborative, friendly & sharing people I've ever had the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine with. They opened their homes, their kitchens, their bottles & their wealth of knowledge to me & for that I will always be grateful. Thank you Oregon.