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!

Cuvée Stroll at The Allison

What’d you do on Friday evening? Sample tons of goodies from local producers alongside some awesome Willamette Valley wine? That’s exactly what went down at The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg this past Friday night! I got to be a fly on the wall… well, a fly that tasted lots of delicious food and wine. So not really a fly at all. I was there, and it was great!

After the event concluded, I found myself continually thinking about many of the local producers that were there, and plotting how I was to acquire some of the goodies I sampled. Of course, I could’ve just purchased them that evening, but I’ve never been one to make life easy for myself.

Want a little peek at the bounty of snacks and sips available? Here ya go!

Victoria's Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Victoria’s Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

The Face Rock Creamery people were *not* shy with the samples. A favorite was their twist on an “apple pie”- an oat cake, apple butter and a big ol’ slice of moderately sharp cheddar. The sweet & sharp together are pretty delicious. Deschutes Brewery had a great pairing as well- a little goat cheese-caramel tart, paired with their Spiced Saison, Zarabanda. Jory brought the heat with some delightful little BBQ pork sliders with cole slaw- since I spent the last several years in the South, I have eaten my share of BBQ, and these were delish. I chatted with the chef about how I’d never heard of putting cole slaw ON things until I lived in the South. Now I don’t think I can live without it. Another favorite was the Republic of Jam– they had a apricot-cardamom curry sauce that they served with meatballs. Oy! So good. Guess what’s in my fridge right now? Apricot-cardamom jam. I wasted no time in buying that one.

Is this real?

Is this real?

The Carlton Bakery, if you haven’t been, is a divine feast for the senses. Probably some of the best baked goods I’ve ever had. Plus if you go there, make sure to grab a cappuccino from Brenda at Common Grounds, which is basically in the parking lot of the Carlton Bakery. Woman makes a mean cappuccino.

Who's that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

Who’s that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

There were many awesome winemakers there on Friday as well. Lynn Penner-Ash, Luisa Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem, Rollin Soles of ROCO, Steven Guy from Brick House and several more. The size of the crowd was perfect, allowing everyone to have plenty of time to converse without having to push your way to any one table and fight for space. We’ve all been to those kind of tastings, amiright? 

Cuvée Stroll was part of Cuvée Weekend, but many of the folks I spoke to were locals (Portland/Tualatin, etc), as you could purchase tickets to this event “a la carte.” Definitely worth a quick drive, as you’d be hard-pressed to find so many great winemakers and artisan producers under one roof, short of large food & wine festivals. The Allison provided a lovely and intimate experience. No surprise there.

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Many thanks to The Allison and all the wonderful vendors. Cheers!

Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, 2015

…. a more appropriate title might be: How I Managed to Taste Over 60 Oregon Chardonnays in less than 24 hours

Yup. All of 'em.

Yup. All of ’em.

So that happened.

I had planned to approach this post in a different way. Originally I had made it my mission to take detailed tasting notes on every wine that was open. It didn’t take but 5 minutes into the Grand Tasting to realize that that wasn’t going to happen. My brain was buzzing from all the information and thoughts expressed at the technical panel, and I really wanted to simply enjoy the roomful of Chardonnay I was in, in a purely experiential fashion. Of course, I will share some standouts and tasting notes, but I’ve had a full 48 hours to process the event and I think my words can be better served to express the tone, energy and real message of the event. So lets get started.

WTF is a clone again?

WTF is a clone again?

The theme of the Symposium this year was Attack of the Clones. This might not mean much to your average sipper of wine, but this topic served as a backdrop to what ended up being, to me, the real theme of the day.

So take a step back with me, if you will. Think about the first real story or conversation you took part in or overheard about Oregon Chardonnay. Did it go something like this? “Yeah, they’ve always had Chardonnay in Oregon, but in the beginning they planted all the wrong clones and so it sucked for a long time, until they figured out which ones to use. Now its pretty good. I mean, its getting better.”

Yes? Well… here’s the thing. Thats not entirely correct. The first speaker of the day, Jason Lett, started the day out with a bang by offering up a few quotes dating back to the 1970’s affirming Oregon as a legitimate place to produce Chardonnay. I’m paraphrasing, but in 1975 the LA Times was quoted as saying Oregon could do “as well as California” with Chardonnay. In 1987, Robert Parker reported that Oregon would “catapult” onto the Chardonnay scene due to its similarity to Burgundy.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

Is there truth to the “wrong clone” argument? Sure. There was a kernel of legitimacy that started the clone conversation, but somehow it has been the resounding soundbite that stayed with the rest of the world. Want to rebuff the “wrong clone” argument? Here’s one: The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Chardonnay Reserve (we tasted the 2012 vintage on Saturday) is sourced from the original vineyards plantings, and they’re currently at the ripe age of about 40 years (and own-rooted!). What clone was first planted by David Lett? The Draper selection, a member of the Wente “family”, from the Draper Ranch in St. Helena, CA. How d’ya like dem apples?

Which leads me to the soundbite that I feel most suits the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium: Its time to change the conversation. 

Boom! Okay, let us pause for a moment to pay homage to Don Draper. Isn’t it serendipitous that I was just talking about the Draper clone?!

"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

So I issue you this challenge, Oregon Chardonnay lovers: change the conversation. Its our job as Oregon wine drinkers and ambassadors for the region to shut down the “they planted the wrong clones” rhetoric. Take it in a different direction. Like the Willamette Valley being a natural home for a cool-climate varietal like Chardonnay. Like the bracing spine of acid that lies at the heart of a good Oregon Chard, stitching it together for decades of ageability. Like the fact that many Oregon Chardonnay vines are just *now* hitting their stride, age-wise, and we’ve only begun to see what these vines are capable of. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that at the core of Chardonnay from this region lies the most energetic, vibrant and haunting persona.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Before we move on to a few gratuitous Wine Porn pictures, a lovely quote from Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights: “Chardonnay needs the restriction of site if it is to become a transparent ware of beauty.” Mimi spoke last, and maybe the room was just itching for a female voice, but her thoughts really seemed to lift the room. Very inspirational.

Want to be jealous? Here’s a lovely crop job of everything I tasted:

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Just remember…

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…Don’t hate the player…

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… hate the game.

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Or maybe hate no one.

Alright alright. You want my top five? You can have ’em. In no particular order. These are just five that stayed with me, all things including price range considered:

FullSizeRender (41)1.) Walter Scott Chardonnay, 2013 Eola-Amity Hills, X-Novo Vineyard. 100 cases made, $45.

A real stunner; one of the more distinctly expressive wines of the day. Like that smokey, gunflinty edge? Cause I’m all about it. Polished, sleek, impossible to resist.

FullSizeRender (42)2.) Big Table Farm Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 476 cases made, $45.

I’ll admit it: I’m totally infatuated with these labels. Of course, the wine inside is killer too. Busty in all the right places, it packs clearly delineated spice, candied lemon, the silkiest of textures, and of course that vein of acid we all love.

IMG_72433.) Belle Pente Chardonnay, 10 Willamette Valley, Belle Pente Vineyard. 330 cases made, $30.

Brian’s 2010 was in a wonderful place on Saturday. I think it actually had an advantage over some of the ’12s and ’13s being poured. An unfair advantage? Oh no. This is a current release. Brian also has his 2010 Riesling as a current release and lemmee tellya- that thing is no joke either. Patience is a virtue, folks. In any case, the cool 2010 vintage did wonders for whites. $30 is insane.

FullSizeRender (44)4.) Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay, 13 Dundee Hills. 3,075 cases made, $35.

By the way, its very difficult picking favorites here, in case you were wondering. This is a favorite because it always hits that vervy place that I love, always reminiscent of a Chablis. Go figure, since they’re DDO. Somewhat larger case production, but this is some good GD Chardonnay.

FullSizeRender (46)5.) Bergstrom “Sigrid” Chardonnay, 12/13 Willamette Valley. $85, ? cases made.

I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer. Sigrid is Queen. Sexy, sexy, sexy. Did I say sexy? They poured 2012 and 2013 on Saturday. Honestly, I can’t recall if I had a preference for one over the other. I had a 2010 vintage in January that knocked me on my ass. Bow down, bitches.

FullSizeRender (45)BONUS: DeLancellotti Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 50 cases made, $50.

Why is it a bonus? Well, because there’s a very good chance there’s none left and I don’t want to be a tease. I first had this wine back in November and was pleasantly reminded of how killer it is on Saturday. Nicely woven oak that isn’t overpowering, to my taste.

Okay, one more bonus: Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Chardonnay, 05. WHUT. This is an extra bonus, because it was poured at the media dinner on Friday night, and my super-spoiled self got to attend. Its almost not fair to mention. This thing was freakin’ singin’, y’all.

Thats about all I have for you on this wrap up of the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium. It has sold out every year. You should go.

*Mic drop.*

Oh, and here’s an adorable picture of the “B” table. I wear my bias on my sleeve.

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Want to hear a few other awesome lady wine writer’s perspectives on The Chardonnay Symposium? Check out Jade Helm and Julie Arnan’s posts!