With our bellies full from lunch at Dundee Bistro & feeling good after a glass of bubbly on their patio we headed across the street to Argyle. They make some of the best bubblies in the new world, in my humble opinion, & some top notch pinot noir as well. The staff was friendly, boisterous, knowledgeable & just down right happy! Kelly went through the "Red, White & Bubbly" flight & I tasted through all the bubbles. I love the texture that the Argyle sparkling wine
After checking into our gorgeous guesthouse on Renegade Ridge Vineyard (part of Archery Summit Estate) we sat on the deck & marveled at the view. The Willamette Valley was laid out before us & it was a clear enough day to see all the way to Mt Hood.
Gazing at that view I was at peace & felt as if every sound had been sucked out of the air. The breeze was calm, crisp & consistent & the sunlight warmed our exposed skin. I walked down into the vines & got reacquainted. It felt as if I'd been away from a vineyard forever & I just couldn't stand to be away for any longer.
There is something very calming & primal about caressing a small green grape bunch knowing full well what it will grow to be & hopefully turned into.
I could have stayed on that deck forever & stared out until darkness fell on the Valley. However I wanted to show Kelly the Willamette Valley I love so we got cleaned up & headed to McMinnville. We tried to go have a drink at the back bar at Nick's Italian Cafe but they weren't open on Mondays. So we strolled down to Hotel Oregon to have a cocktail on the rooftop. I stayed at this old school Euro-style hotel last year during Oregon Pinot Camp & let me just say...it's cool. It's like a hostel but better & with a roof top bar where you can see all over the Valley. After a few drinks & listening to some interesting conversations by fellow rooftop gazers we made our way down the stairs & back to Nick's. It was 8:35 so I didn't think we'd have a problem getting in. The hostess at the door informed us that they were closed. I looked around at the full dining room & said out loud to her "are you kidding?" She said that they weren't seating anyone else & that the kitchen said they weren't taking anymore tables. AT 8:35 AT NIGHT WITH A FULL DINING ROOM??? What the hell? What else could we do except turn tail & head down the street. I was bummed because I really thought that Kelly would enjoy Nick's because he loves Italian food. Instead of Italian we dined on Spanish that evening at La Rambla.
This gorgeous platter was bulging with olives, chorizo, jamon serrano, fig bread, quince paste, mahon cheese, manchego, cabrales & blue cheese stuffed bacon wrapped dates. Perfect alongside a bottle of Westrey Pinot Noir 2007.
I started reading a blog, Samantha Sans Dosage, quite some time ago. I'm not even sure how long it's been actually but I know it has been long enough that I felt comfortable referring to her as a friend. Sam's writing is raw, poignant & without pretense which is exactly why I fell in love with her. We began to learn more about each other after becoming "friends" on FaceBook. We communicated more & made each other laugh & obviously talked about food & wine along the way.
Just after I started reading Sam I started reading a blogger who was a little closer to home...actually a lot closer since he was in my hometown. Ben Carter is an all around lover of cocktails, wine, cigars & the culinary arts in general. Unlike Sam & I he isn't in the business...the wine/liquor biz that is. The man is a workhorse writer though, always putting up posts & makes me feel like I am way far behind in this whole blogging thing.
Sam's son just turned 21 & she & her husband Carl (Call-o to everyone in their 'hood) were going to celebrate with him in Louisville. Jeremy is a Junior at University of Louisville & if he's anything like his mama then he's pretty awesome. Sam mentioned awhile back that she was coming into this neck of the woods. She said Call-o was watching a show about Memphis on Travel Channel & he said "I miss Memphis". Since they were going to be in Louisville for the birthday they decided to make a trip to Memphis as well. When she mentioned that I was all over it. I lobbied hard for the Memphis side trip & was ecstatic to finally meet her. I messaged both Ben & Sam & invited them over for dinner to my house so we could get to know each other, geek out over wines, & eat some good food. When Carl & Sam pulled up in front of the house in the LA Party Van I ran out into the yard to greet them with a big hug. It's hard to believe that Sam & Carl have a son who is 21 because the two of them look so young! We started with a little chit chat & how was your trip & all that & then we popped the bubbles.
Finally I was tasting Agrapart. I've read Sam wax poetic about how wonderful this Champagne is & salivated over her words. Dammit I wanted some of this too! But alas poor Memphis never gets a lot of the good stuff. Don't get me wrong we get some great wines here but when it comes to Champagne we are seriously lacking. The Agrapart was clean, razor sharp & elegant. I would show a picture but I was so caught up in it all that I simply forgot.
My very good friends Justin (aka The Chubby Vegetarian) & Amy joined us for dinner & brought a super delicious stuffed eggplant that satiated even the carnivores at the table. Justin said he was just going to sit back & listen in on the wine talk but both he & Amy know what they like & thats what really matters. Just as we sat down to dinner Sam popped open the Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang 2007. I had been waiting for this moment for weeks. She'd mentioned that perhaps she'd be bringing along a bottle of it. The first sip was jarring, I just couldn't believe I was actually tasting wine from such a crazy genius like Dagueneau. We popped open a Clos Rougeard Saumur (2005 Sam?) that was everything I love about wine. It was gamy, feral, earthy, stinky, funky & truly smelled of a horse barn. To me these are all positive things but I know there are many out there who just want their wine to taste & smell of sweet fruit so obviously they should avoid this one. The Rougeard was positively one of the most excitingly sensual & unique wines I've ever experienced.
This past Monday morning we awoke at 4 am to hop in Max's van & speed off towards MEM (Memphis International Airport). The last time I was up at that hour it was from the night before. However, we had good reason to be awake at this ungodly hour; a flight to Portland Oregon!!! I've been to Oregon once before just over a year ago. That first trip was incredibly magical & ever since then I've wanted to share it with Kelly. I wanted to show him why I fell in love with the region's food, wine, beauty & energy. This trip was going to be a mix of business & pleasure. Wine tours, tastings but also relaxing, eating, drinking good wine & interesting cocktails. It took us a bit of time to get the rental car so we were about 20 minutes late for our first appointment which was at Ponzi.
Laurel Dent, Marketing Manager at Ponzi, led us through a few rows of the older blocks on the Estate. These gnarly trunk vines were so beautiful to look at. Wild, rustic, moss covered, with warped & twisted angles. Gorgeous agriculture. Laurel was so pleasant, friendly, warm & knowledgable & really made the experience special to me. One of the standouts was the riesling. It was bright, pungent, full of petrol & flint notes & had a mouthwatering acidity that lingered in a lovely way on my palate. I had only twelve spaces available in my wine case luggage & I instantly knew the Ponzi Riesling would take up one space.
Poor Kelly was starving halfway through & actually said "we need to get lunch..soon". Laurel suggested the Dundee Bistro which was conveniently located near the guesthouse we were staying in so we headed down into the Willamette Valley floor for lunch. Since it was such a gorgeous day (& not oppressively hot & sticky humid like in Memphis) we sat down outside & ordered some bubbly. Relaxing, soaking up the sun & sipping on some beautiful sparkling from Burgundy (Sorry Argyle!) was heaven. Our excursion had begun.
We didn't realize it but we were a half an hour late for our appt at Archery Summit. Feeling like a total ass I sheepishly sipped my rosé while Chris led us to the demonstration rows just outside of the tasting room. To my surprise I found this small row of vines. I had to guess what the LT stood for, with a fuzzy head mind you, so maybe it won't take you a long to figure out
Kelly & I are in Willamette Valley for the week. I'm just overwhelmed with sheer elation to be back in one of the most amazing wine growing regions in the world. After finally getting our rental car we sped down to Ponzi to taste some incredible Riesling. Dolcetto & of course Pinot Noir. It's quiet there even though its so near Portland.
It has been quite awhile since I had been to Umai. More than likely its been almost two years. The reason being that I had two disappointing experiences there. The food was mostly good but one time we got some very very very bad mussels. Both times we received less than mediocre service.
However, some of my best friends love Umai & always sing its praises. So maybe things have changed I thought. Last night I was craving sushi in a bad bad way. It was as if I would shrivel up & die if I didn't get some fresh raw fish. I've been told that Ken Lumpkin (chef-owner at Umai) not only sources some of the best fish in town but is also a master at what to do or rather not do to it. I badgered Max & Marlinee into coming along with me which didn't take much talking into since they love Umai & love Ken.
We sat down in the very minuscule dining room (I love a small dining room, it just feels intimate) & ordered Morimoto Soba Ales for Max & I. Max suggested that we just have Ken put out sushi for us as opposed to order off the menu. I'm down for anything most days so I agreed. While we were waiting he explained that Ken sources from the same fish purveyors as Masaharu Morimoto so I was even more impressed & excited!
Regardless of whether or not its true about his sources all thoughts of that were immediately forgotten when our two large sushi platters were brought to the table. Of course in my state of fish euphoria I neglected to take pictures. Foolish I know. Anyway, the sushi was absolutely beautiful to gaze at. Perfectly arranged & displaying an obviousness as to Ken's exquisite knife skills.
The barracuda sashimi was meaty, oily, a little smoky & with a perfect brininess to it. Never had anything like it before. The parrot fish was like eating a silken cloud. It wasn't about flavor so much as texture. Creamy, luscious & melt in the mouth.
Ken is a sushi master for sure & I will return as soon as I can. If you are a sushi fan & anywhere near Memphis you absolutely must go to Umai.
Sonoma County's Russian River Valley & the adjacent Dry Creek Valley are home to some impressive wineries & absolutely stunning landscapes. Joe's Wines & Liquors is leading a 4 day excursion Sept 29-Oct 3 through some of the best vineyards & wineries in these two regions. This won't be your normal everyday run-of-the mill tasting room trip. This will be a hands on, behind the scenes, wine country "immersion". Meet the winemakers, vineyard managers, taste barrel samples, walk the vineyards. There are only a few spots available for this trip so if you are interested contact Joe's Wines, 901.725.4252