Food Porn Friday! Loiregon Dinner at SE Wine Collective

Yes, yes, its been a hot second since I last posted. Let me tell you a one word answer for why this is:

SUMMER. 

Like a child who just got out of school, I have been suffering (although it really doesn’t feel like suffering) from extreme lack of desire to focus or even be inside. Summers in South Carolina were so hot, long and brutal that I confess to never really enjoying them. But this?! THIS Summer is the real deal. IT STAYS LIGHT UNTIL 10:00, y’all! And I have a sweet front porch. And a garden. So yes- my love for writing is real. But sometimes I just. don’t. wanna. And to be honest, I can’t really apologize for that. It’s summer!

But I’m breaking the spell today and I hope you’re ready for a truly gratuitous food porn edition. I’ve been thinking about the food from last week’s Vive Loiregon! Dinner at the SE Wine Collective a lot. There were several items that left quite an impression. Couple that with another meal I had there about two weeks prior, and I gotta tellya- Chef Althea is the real deal. I love her style; non-fussy but precisely composed and thought-out. That tiny kitchen is churnin’ out some really fantastic eats. I’ve always liked small kitchens.

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First a little background on the Loiregon Dinner, because it was such a fun and inventive way to bring food and wine together: the dinner featured four wines that were all sourced from the Quady North Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Herb Quady was even there!

This guy.

This guy.

I had a brief fangirl moment, since I have been crushing on Herb’s rosé for months. But I kept it together.

But back to the dinner! All four wines were sourced from Herb’s Quady North vineyard. All wines were “Loirecentric” (I made that word up) and three out of the four were made from all Cabernet Franc. By Loirecentric, I mean that all four wines were made as a sort of ode to France’s Loire Valley.

We started with the Jackalope Whité, 2014. Whité, you ask? Well, ya see… this wine was originally supposed to be a rosé. But is any wine really “supposed” to be anything? This wine just wasn’t having it and didn’t retain any pigment. Hence, it has been dubbed Whité, which I think makes for a fantastic story and I respect the wine’s tenacity to be what it wanted. The Whité was served with some passed appetizers:

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I looooved this one: mussels with sauce vert and a potato crisp. The little crunch you got alongside the mussel was perfection.

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Pork Rillettes on crostini with picked cherries– likewise, the pickled cherries were fantastic. They maintained their sweetness, but something pickled always sets off a fat-rich item like pork rillettes.

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We then moved outside, where it was as picturesque a Portland night as you can imagine. About four days later, the heat set in. Oye. The first wine served was one I had also tried and loved not so long ago at the PDX Urban Wine Experience- the Division-Villages “Béton” Cabernet Franc/Gamay, 2014. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this red is absolutely ideal for serving with a slight chill on a warm night. Aged in concrete, the mineral notes really pop alongside its bright, tangy fruit content. The Gamay grapes for this wine were fermented carbonically, and when that meets the slatey smokiness of the Cab Franc- tres magnifique!

Plus, the label? The best.

Plus, the label? The best.

Served with the Béton was one of my favorite things to pair with wine: tartare! This was Full Circle bison tartare with smoked egg yolk (wicked cool, and cool lookin’), morels and a semolina cracker:

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So dainty.

Raw meat is a fun thing to pair with wine, and this wine in particular. The mineral content is nicely offset by the raw meat. The iron/blood (sounds gross, tastes great) goes well with a mineral-driven red. No lie.

Next we had Leah Jorgenson’s “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc, 2013– another wine I have had and loved before- with a beautiful chilled zucchini, nasturtium leaf & pistachio soup topped with Oregon Olive Mill olive oil:

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Leah’s wine was one of my first Southern Oregon Cab Francs that I tried back in December or January. It packs an awesome punch of gunsmoke, sweet blackberries, plums and hints of something floral- hibiscus, I believe someone mentioned at the dinner. I had to confess to those around me that back on the east coast, word on Southern Oregon hasn’t really spread. Before I moved out here, I pretty much thought Oregon stopped at the Rogue Valley (d’oh).

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If anyone could and should spread the Southern Oregon love to the other coast, its these folks. You heard it here.

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We finished with a grilled flat iron steak, crispy smoked new potatoes, caper & green olive aioli, baby arugula, lemon vinaigrette and chives. To drink? Quady North Mae’s Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2011. This is a richly scented red, with well-woven notes of chocolate, sweet red pepper, cedar and briary goodness.

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Oh! One more thing: Pholia Family Farms Hillis Peak Goat Cheese with strawberry coulis, pickled green strawberry, brown sugar & cracked pepper walnuts. And a wee sip of the just disgorged (literally, Tom disappeared, came back with a wet shirt and announced “its been disgorged) Division Crémant de Portland, 2013. I’ve had a few versions of this wine- first in December when it had just been bottled, again in February, and then this one which had hung out on the lees much longer. It offered a more honeyed palate, more developed and settled into itself. Pretty durn good.

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This was a freaking great dinner. Completely non-pretentious. At the beginning, Herb waxed poetic about the idea of a “winemaker dinner” versus “dinner with the winemakers.” I really think this concept was captured; no one preached, no one made “sales-y” pushes, no one talked about scores. It was just about enjoying the company, the food and the wine as one experience.

Side note- I do apologize- I took pictures of Kate, Tom, Corey and Leah as well, but they all came out just dreadfully. I can’t bring myself to include them. The “mid-sentence facial twist” just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Oh, and last but not least, this guy was also an excellent dinner companion:

Cassidy. Good boy.

Cassidy. Good boy.

Many thanks to all involved for such a wonderful evening!

PDX Urban Wineries Tasting- Oregon Wine Month has begun!

Oregon Wine Month is off with a bang, y’all! There are so many great events going on this month, I really can’t even. This past Saturday was a good one! The PDX Urban Wineries hosted the 5th annual Urban Wine Experience at Union/Pine. It was my first, but hopefully not last! Something I love about the Urban wine scene in Portland is that there’s always someone willing to try something new and different. Its incredibly refreshing in an industry like this to see people take risks. Even if they’re not always successful or if they result in a string of catastrophes. How else does one learn but by experience? In any case… The theme of the day for me was pleasant surprises. I tasted a lot of wines that really made me stop, think and consider their true validity within the scope of Oregon wine. Much excites. Lets get to it.

For anyone reading thats not familiar with the Portland Urban Wineries, they are a group of movers and shakers who all make their wine within the city of Portland, their grapes hailing from near (the Valley) and far (Rogue/Applegate/Columbia/Gorge, etc). There’s actually a fair amount of pedigree floating around this group of people; years &/or harvests spent with names like Adelsheim, Apollini, Penner-Ash, Evesham Wood, Belle Pente, Drylands and Grochau. That ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, y’know?

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Faves? I have plenty. Helioterra’s “Starthistle” Riesling/Huxelrebe blend (pictured, the one with the handwriting that’s waiting on label approval) scored major points for being two of my favorite things: 1.) a refreshing, aromatic white and 2.) containing a grape that I’d never heard of. Huxelrebe is a grape found mostly in Germany, and is a cross of Chasselas and Courtiller Musqué (yet another I haven’t heard of). Given the microscopic amount of Chasselas found here in Oregon, its not shocking that this grape can grow here, but its still a wonder to behold in my opinion. The Helioterra Columbia Valley Mourvédre was also fantastic; polished, with a whopping fruit content and a bit of that savory, earthy Mourvédre “funk”. Winemaker Anne Hubatch was a delight, as an added bonus.

The Division Wine Co. Wines were all showing beautifully! I gotta admit, the Francophiliac wines of Kate & Tom Monroe have wound their way into my heart for good. It was a warm day, and I was struck by how perfect the two reds they poured were for warm weather. The Division-Villages “Les Petits Fers” Gamay is about as vibrant and lively as they come. I love a red that can be served with a slight chill, and this one is ideal for just that. The Division-Villages “Béton” Cabernet Franc/Gamay is a blissful little grape marriage. Focused and spicy, with unadulterated streaks of mineralty and a blip of intense Gamay freshness. Yum. The Cabernet Franc grapes are sourced from the Quady North Vineyard, so.. yeah, they rock.

I hadn’t had a good Viognier in a hot second, so the Jackalope “Voyager” Viognier was a treat. My favorite Viogniers tend to be boisterous on the nose and balanced out with quenching acid on the finish. This wine was just that. Spring in a bottle would be an apt way to describe this wine; perfumed, heady and exciting notes of jasmine, honeysuckle & white flowers leap out of the glass. No shortage of apricot, peach and tangerine zest on the palate keep it from being a flab-fest. With a retail price of $20, this wine is a total steal.

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The wines of Vincent Wine Company had a really tangible sophistication to them. I was super excited to find out that this winemaker, Vincent Fritzsche, (along with John Grochau and aforementioned badass Anne Hubatch) are the masterminds behind the Guild Winemakers, two wines that I crushed very hard on back in SC. This is a majorly talented group, IMHO. The Guild wines kicked the bejeezus out of so many wines in their price point, I wouldn’t shut up about them for quite some time. Cellar on Greene regulars will probably remember this (side note- miss y’all!)

Fullerton Wines would be another one to watch. The oldest son and winemaker, Alex, was pouring on Saturday and had a youthful enthusiasm that was pretty infectious. Having worked under Lynn Penner-Ash and Josh Bergstrom, he does have a few notches on his belt to add to his charm. The Rosé was a favorite; I seem to recall that the 2013 is sold out, but the 2014 will be bottled in the next few weeks. I’ll sign myself up for one of those fo’ sho’.

IMG_9257I could probably keep going- and props to YOU if you’re still reading! This post got long. Suffice to say, the existence of the PDX Urban Wineries is pretty darn awesome. This sounds strange coming from someone who lives in the Valley and can be at any one of a dozen wineries within 20 minutes… but there’s something extra exciting about all these wines being made within the city limits, and many of them in one location. We can’t all own vineyards, y’know?

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Days 16 & 17: Willakenzie!

I didn’t forget about days 16 and 17! I did take one day off, though. This whole “Friday” being the end of the week thing is new to me, so I have trouble focusing on anything on Friday afternoons. But I knew I had a great duo for today: two awesome picks from Willakenzie Estate! I bought these wines on a magical afternoon of sunshine and lemon drops. Between Willakenzie and Patton Valley, it was actually one of my favorite tasting days I’ve had since I’ve been here. So allow that to be a preface to these two wines, the WillaKenzie Estate Blanc de Pinots, 2011 and WillaKenzie Estate Gamay Noir, 2012.

So, remember when I said Pinot Noir wasn’t allowed in my project unless it was blended? Well, I pretty much made that rule because of this wine. Because I already owned it, loved it, wanted to marry it, and put it in this series of posts.

 

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

This wine is included because, although I don’t think its disclosed on the bottle, it IS blended with a bit of Gamay and Pinot Meunier. For anyone that doesn’t know, it IS possible to make a white wine out of a Pinot Noir grape! A grape’s color is contained in its skin, so if you crush it right quick (Southern expression), the skin’s color doesn’t bleed into the actual juice. You 86 the skins and that shit turns out white. Voila! 

The first white Pinot Noir I had was from Anne Amie about 5 years ago, and I had never heard of such a thing. Since then, I see the trend continuing, but most wineries that make one don’t make enough to sell to the masses- I’m not sure if this one sees any distribution at all, but don’t quote me on that.

IMG_8046This has been, to date, my favorite White Pinot I’ve tasted. Why? Its style is a bit different; White Pinot is sort of a novelty, and this one in particular is fermented in stainless steel, maintaining the high acidity and overall cool nature of the 2011 vintage. White Pinot can be barrel fermented (like Red Pinot) and barrel aged for a more textured wine, and often is. Some might say that thats what White Pinot should be. Me? I dig this one because its the total opposite. Lean and puckery, this wine screams across your tastebuds with notes of white pepper, granny smith apple, citrus, white flowers, and a hint of sour patch kids. I really appreciate this wine’s against the grain’s nature. Its a white wine, 100%, whereas a lot of White Pinot Noirs fall into an abyss of “what am I?”  I like that too; I like a wine that challenges your notions of what it “should” be, and totally appreciate it. The Anne Amie “Prismé” is gorgeous and definitely worth your hard-earned dollars. For me, this particular wine just speaks to me. So, as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that. This could be a polarizing wine for many wine nerds, but I should at least mention that this wine got 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. Holla!

Next up? Another gem from WillaKenzie! And one of my FAVE Oregon grapes by far- GAMAY! And 2012 was absolutely spectacular for Oregon Gamay. And this Oregon Gamay.

Yum.

Yum.

Why do I like Gamay? Have I said this before? I think I have, with the Chehalem Gamay post back in November. But let me reiterate. Gamay is delicious. Gamay is deeply colored, accessible, spicy, fun, and fully alive. This particular one reverberates on the tongue with deep yet exuberant notes of blackberries, red licorice, plums and cranberry compote. Aged for 10 months in 20% new barrels, it has a touch of softness and vanilla and maintains a supreme drinkability. It should be drunk now and often, in my opinion. A super fun wine. Just do it.

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This Blanc de Pinots sparked an interesting discussion in my house about the intention behind making White Pinot in general, and what it is meant to be. I stand behind my opinion on this wine. Maybe I am remiss and haven’t paid enough homage to the history of White Pinot… but I gotta say, I think this is the most sellable White Pinot Noir that I’ve had. To me. Granted, we all sell things that we like, so maybe that’s what makes it sellable. Its an interesting subject. I certainly welcome any opinions anyone has on this style of wine and would never dismiss thoughts on the subject. All I’m sayin’ is, I like dis one.

It is also worth mentioning that WillaKenzie Estate is certified sustainable, LIVE and salmon safe. And their location is AMAZE:

I die.

I die.

I highly recommend a stop in to WillaKenzie!

I bought these wines at the tasting room for $25 and $24, respectively. Cheers, y’all!

 

Chehalem Gamay Noir, 12 Oregon, Ribbon Ridge

It’s the third Thursday in November! We know what that means. Beaujolais Nouveau Day! The day the wine world rejoices in the conclusion of another year’s harvest and people everywhere toasts with a bottle of this fruity, light little wine. Check out the Beaujolais Nouveau: Explained! post I wrote about for Wine Awesomeness: the Back Label the other day. It’s a fun lil’ read. But for my own selfish purposes, I want to delve into another kind of Gamay- the kind that grows in Oregon! Yes, it does! It is fast becoming one of my favorite Oregon grapes. If you think about it, it makes sense; the Beaujolais region and the Burgundy region of France are pretty close together, geographically. So it is logical that Gamay and Pinot Noir would both enjoy the lovely climate here in Oregon. Pinot Noir definitely put Oregon on the map, and there’s not a *ton* of Gamay planted here in comparison. But they’re worth seeking out! Especially this one, made by one of my favorite producers- Chehalem Wines!

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Mysterious looking.. that’s because it came from a TAP!

Wine on tap- woohoo!

Wine on tap- woohoo!

Yup, as you can see above, I bought this wine “growler-style”! I’ve been wrestling with whether its still called a growler if its a Liter, and if it has wine rather than beer. I don’t see why not. Come to find out, my receipt from Chehalem says “growler.” So that answers that. So on the day that I visited the Chehalem Tasting Room in Newberg, there was Pinot Blanc and Gamay both on tap. The glass containers are $5 the first time you buy them, and then they’re yours. The cost, for 1 Liter of what’s on tap, is the same as the cost of a 750ml bottle of that wine. But you get a ‘lil bit more! And that’s a nice “thank you” for reusing your packaging, cutting down your footprint, and just in general making a little less work for those involved. Plus, it’s cool! Wine in keg form is not exactly a brand-new idea, but plenty (like Chehalem) are embracing it. Its great for restaurants, as the product stays fresher and there’s very little waste. You may have been to a restaurant or wine bar with a wine tap system, they’re becoming more popular.

I love this.

I love this.

So, why exactly do I love Oregon Gamay? Because its good- obvs. It’s quite different than French Gamay (especially Beaujolais Nouveau- that’s sort of in it’s own category), but there are slight overlaps. You might think it was Pinot Noir if you had to take a wild guess. The most obvious difference, right off the bat, is that it is darker in color. A blackish-purple. Whereas Pinot Noir can sometimes be a little “shy”, this Gamay is pretty outgoing. A broad palate of crushed blackberries and plum compote are met with high tones of red raspberry and black cherry. There is a noticeable freshness (I think this quality makes it a great tap wine) and vibrancy to this wine’s personality. The acidic balance is nice, and it drinks incredibly easily. Some soft floral notes, combined with a little herbaceous-ness (that’s a word), make this a multi-dimensional and versatile wine. It may even (gasp!) be a great Thanksgiving wine! I also love French Cru Beaujolais as Thanksgiving picks, so this is not exactly a revelatory statement.

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I’ve now had a total of three 2012 Oregon Gamay Noir, and they’ve all been fantastic. Beaujolais is a touch warmer than Burgundy, so maybe the Gamay grapes just reveled in this slightly warmer vintage here in Willamette. So here we are, getting to reap the benefits of happy grapes. That makes me happy. This kinda happy:

Happyyyyyyyy

Happyyyyyyyy

That about wraps it up for today- cheers, y’all! This bottle was purchased at the Chehalem Tasting Room in Newberg for $24. 

 

Jean Francois Merieau “Le Bois Jacou” Gamay, ’10 Touraine

Anyone in need of a perfect Summer red?

I did the hard work for you, and found one!

Granted, it was not really very hard at all- in fact it was easy.  A fellow ginger wine nerd friend of mine happens to sell this wine.  And we were all like, hey, we need some new juice.  And he was all like, hey, this one’s the bomb, y’all will literally feel like a Koala bear crapped a rainbow in your brain if you try it. So we did, and we do, and that’s the story of how we came to have this wine!  *ba-dum-chhhkk*

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So I’ve visited this wine a few times in the last two weeks (visited is a word I like to use that means DRANK), and it it truly sublime.  I’ve only ever written about one other Gamay, the Verdier & Logel Cotes du Forez (see here), which really was one of my favorite wines of 2011.  And customers seemed to like it, too.  And as I said in that post, Gamay is an awesome Fall red.  The flavor profile falls in very nicely with a various sundry of Fall-flavored culinary delights; this is true.  But it begs to be mentioned that Gamay is a PERFECT Summer red, too!  And egads, do we ever need good Summer reds here in Cola.  Seeing as how it lasts almost half the year.  Most of you know me to be a huge fan of whites and pinks in the summer, but you can’t escape the need for a nice red now and then, even when it’s 95 degrees.

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So why, exactly?  Well, first of all- this wine is most delicious slightly chilled.  No need to stress about exactly how slight a chill- just stick it in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes and you’ll be good to go.  And if you forget to do that, and you think you might rather have a root canal than wait 15 minutes for your wine to chill- take an ice cube- drop it in the glass with the wine- swirl it around for 30 seconds, and then take the ice cube out.  You should be good to go.  Some may consider that sacrilegious, but it works.

So now you have a slightly chilled glass of red wine and it’s hot out, and you desire something easy to sip, low in alcohol/high in acid, and fun to drink; since Summer is fun and all.  Cha-CHING!  This wine is all of those things.  What I like most about Gamay in general is that it is incredibly friendly and vibrant.  It gives you all it’s awesome right up front.  But not in a slutty Lindsay Lohan kind of way.  Just a quirky, glad-to-know-ya kind of way.

There are so many fun flavors and aromas to be found; it leans towards darker fruit up front (plums, a hint of black cherry) but also plenty of characteristic Gamay bright red fruit (strawberries, pomegranates, raspberries).  The nose is a bit exotic- herbal notes of sage, violets and fresh lavender, followed by a touch of grass, black pepper, and a bit of lemon that gives the finish a nice lift.  It tastes like a wine that was grown in a specific place (well- duh, all wine is).  But this one really encapsulates it’s terroir beautifully and with spunk.  It is fresh and happy to be alive.

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So that’s about all I got to say about this wine, and I highly recommend you stop in and try a glass, or take a bottle home for $15.  I’m going to keep drinking it and watching The Fugitive.  Happy Monday Funday!

Verdier & Logel Gamay, 2009 Cotes du Forez

Here is the latest in my “unusual fall reds” quest for Fall 2011!  Gamay.  Yes, yes- the same grape that will forever be linked with the phenomenon that is Beaujolais Nouveau.  A phenomenon that has never really grabbed ahold of me, personally.  But its a fun celebration none-the-less.  But let’s not talk about that; let’s instead discuss this particular Fun Fall Red!  

The latest Cellar on Greene acquisition from Sour Grapes Wine is this Domaine Verdier-Logel “Cuvee des Gourmets”, 2009 France.  So what exactly is so fun about this ‘lil guy?  DUH- it tastes good!  And DUH number two- it’s inexpensive!  $12 retail, to be exact.  But back to the tasting good part.  This wine is magnificently vibrant, which is what I enjoy most about it.  There’s so much excitement going on in this bottle.  Its pure and clear aromas of cherry blossoms, violets, and a hint of something metallic are inviting.  A delicious, tart palate of sour cherry, dried raisins and blackcurrants, and no shortage of black peppery spice.  All that spice, coupled with high acidity and low alcohol make this a truly perfect food wine!  Any kind of poultry (quail, anyone?!), a sharp cheese… I’m even thinking this wine could take on a light cream sauce?  mmmm.

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I even took this wine for a little stroll with my camera earlier, to try to capture its really beautiful color!  It was a short walk, but I managed to get a decent picture.  Thanks iPhone!

Forez. Not Fez.

So what about this place on the label, Cotes du Forez?  No, not Cotes du Fez.  Turns out it’s a relatively new AOC (aka officially recognized wine region), roughly located in the Loire Valley, but also fairly close to Burgundy.  It’s fairly small and Gamay is its only planted grape.  Legend holds there is some Gamay Rose to be found there- which really intrigues me.  The producer of this wine, Domaine Verdier-Logel, is apparently one of the better known producers in this little region, and they seem fairly legit- Organic winemaking to boot.  Pretty cool.  This wine is particularly true to it’s nature, in my book- something very common in much of Sour Grapes Wine’s portfolio.  Now their SC salesperson, however…  Also, I came across this very well-written post about the 2010 vintage of this wine here, for anyone interested!

So feel free to grab a wee taste of this the next time you’re in our neck of the woods!  It’s currently by the glass, so it’ll be open for the tasting for the foreseeable future.  Before I dip out for the day, allow me to digress for a minute with a small rant to this site, who linked my Zweigelt post a few weeks ago.  Mind you, this is a wordpress site created by a marketing team.  Which should be fairly evident, but in case there was any doubt.  Hey peeps- thanks for the ping.  However, there is a definite sort of back-handed compliment air floating around.  My blog is designed to take strange things (like Zweigelt, which IS strange to my intended audience) and make them fun and accessible.  Sorry if my “rendition” of the history of Zweigelt wasn’t up to par.  The information I provided was not false.  Is there more to it?  Maybe.  My intention was to make the history of the grape memorable and fun.  I find people remember things better when they have a humorous association to go along with it.  At least normal people.

Also, they presumed me a “he”.  Which is never really appreciated by we “she’s”.  You can go ahead and fix that anytime.