Sparkling Month: Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant, 2014

Say hello to Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant!

mischief managed.

mischief managed.

This little doll is about as charming as they come. I’ve written about Division Wine Co. before, but this wine fresh from winemaker Kate Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines. Gamine means a girl with a mischievous charm. As a lover of words in general, I’m a fan of this one.  This is an enchanting wine, starting with the fact that its made from Grenache: Grenache from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Grenache is a grape I don’t typically associate with sparkling wine. There’s nothing specific that makes it wrong for sparkling (to me), but especially in a hot climate like Southern Oregon, it has the potential to turn into a hulking monster of a red wine. Alcohol contents can get super high in Grenache in general, which is what makes this wine such an altogether pleasant surprise!

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Delicate, girly, coy… and yes, a little mischievous. Pale pink, with a faint and fine bead. The nose is subtle at first, but becomes a bit more revealing after a few minutes. FullSizeRender (11)Strawberry, cherry pit, fragrant herbs & cantaloupe, leaving you with a fun zesty tingle on the tongue. Given its Pet Nat status, the sparkle that’s found here is a light one, but it doesn’t deflate and leave you wanting more- it maintains it’s fine effervescence. Actually, this wine also drinks well on day two! I opened it last night and kept it overnight with a bubble-topper, and its still razor-sharp. The actual bubbles are no longer with us, but at this point it drinks like  a light, clean, tart rosé. Which is never a bad thing.

Pet Nat sparkling has often been described as “rustic”, and with due reason- but in this case, while there is a touch of that little funk, its a very refined wine. It is sophisticated and ultra-feminine. Normally I resist the use of gender assignment when it comes to wine (because 2015), but this wine just speaks femininity to me. In all forms, not just the light, flirty, girly side of femininity- the general badass side, too. Like this:

... or maybe it's just what I'm listening to currently.

Her walk is mean, yo.

This wine will cost you a ridiculous $26. There’s no ‘this was a sample’ disclosure here. I crushed hard on this wine and bought a couple, along with the Gamine Syrah, which is likewise ridiculously good. That wine is so good, actually, that I don’t even want to tell you about it because I’m concerned it will sell out and I won’t get to have any more. I believe the PetNat was only about 70 cases made, so that too is something  you’re gonna want to get your paws on rather soon, IMO. I think this wine is a really fantastic step for Oregon sparkling in general. A year ago if you would have told me there was a PetNat Grenache Rosé coming out of Southern Oregon, I might’ve looked at you CRAYzy.

One last side note- I love these labels! And to no one’s surprise, the talented Maija Rebecca did the watercolors for the Gamine wines. Love. Her.

I love this wine. It reminds me of pale pink lipstick, parasols, dimples, muddy pink rain boots, a sunny field of lavender, beachy hair waves, and Queen Anne’s lace. How’s that for free-association?

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Wine Wednesday edition: Statera Cellars

Sometimes I feel busier than I am. And then sometimes I actually am busy. It was my original intention to post this in an attempt to lend a hand to some fellow Oregon wine industry folks, Luke Mathews and Meredith Bell so they could reach their kickstarter goal for their baby, Statera Cellars. Luke emailed me some info last week, and I was intrigued. I was headed to see Straight Outta Compton that night, so I came up with this brainchild:

Yeah, I'm kinda thug like that.

I’ll be here all night, folks.

And yes, I created a few more Straight Outta images that day. This one was the best. But it does have basis in reality- from their press release:

“Three single vineyard Chardonnay wines from Statera Cellars are in their final stages of fermentation. Established in 2014, Statera Cellars is an independent winery that focuses exclusively on Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley–an area predominantly known for pinot noir–by examining wines made from storied single vineyards.

Statera Cellars is the brainchild of Meredith Bell & Luke Mathews, two area locals whose mission is to produce Chardonnay with zero additives until bottling. Using only neutral oak, native ferments and temperature control, Statera wines are markedly natural. The first vintage will be released early in 2016 but opportunities to purchase futures and taste barrel samples with the winemakers will be available during summer 2015.”

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I’d had it in mind to write something on young people in the area who are starting their own projects, as I think its a very cool thing to witness. Something that attracted me to Oregon was the sense of community that is alive and well here. Sure enough, when I went to Luke & Meredith’s kickstarter today as I sat down to write this, they had just surpassed their goal! I was internally happy, and still thought I’d throw up this post regardless. If they collect $300 more dollars before August 29th, they can purchase a settling tank. $500 more and a settling tank, a bulldog, and hoses can be purchased. I read that and at first thought it meant that they would get an *actual* bulldog. Which would also be great, wouldn’t it?

They’re offering some pretty cool rewards to their backers, too: a picnic in a vineyard, dinners, bombshell leggings (okay, so I’m not cool enough to even know what those are, but they look great), and a release party planned for April of next year. Fun times! I know I’ll be looking forward to tasting what Luke & Meredith have created. Check it out and consider pouring one out for these two and their hard work.

Cheers!

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?

Sunday Funday: Sparkling Dinner at Southeast Wine Collective!

Warning! This post contains a vast amount of both food and wine porn. If you’re ready to drool, please read on, as I’m very excited to share the details of this awesome dinner I attended this past Tuesday. You’ve been warned!

If I had to pick a highlight of the time I’ve spent in Oregon, I’m pretty sure this dinner would be it! For several reasons; first, it was a very well-executed dinner- logistically and the food and wine were on point. Second, I haven’t had the good fortune to actually attend that many wine dinners in my day. Usually I was the one working them. Not in a “oh, poor me” sense, as I’ve had my fair share of amazing food and wine in my day. But to actually sit, relax, converse with fellow wine people, and be served is a real treat. So much preparation goes into an event like this, from portion size, seating, when to pour the next wine, menu planning… I could go on and on. So when I sit at a dinner like this, I remember all these little minute details and I appreciate the effort even more. So now, on with the show!

menu

The Urban Winery scene in Portland is new to me, but I really like the concept. The Southeast Wine Collective is a home for custom crush operations, coming together in like mind to grow their respective businesses. This dinner was the last of the year in their Supper Social series, and it featured first-ever Sparkling releases from members of the Collective and a handful of other Oregon winemakers. The food was courtesy of Kachka, an award-winning Russian restaurant in Southeast Portland. I was SO excited when I read that this dinner featured Russian food! I love experiencing food from a culture that I’m relatively unfamiliar with. And I like Sparkling wine, like, a lot.

The first sparklings served were the 2011 Kramer Vineyards Brut and the 2013 Bubbles by Enso. Paired alongside was a lavish display of appetizers. I arrived hungry.. not quite hangry, but hungry, so I immediately started sort of wishing that no one else would sit at our table so we could have all the apps to ourselves. Side note: this was an unnecessary concern on my part, as there was more than enough food AND the people we sat with were awesome.

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

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Sparkling Pinot Gris, courtesy of Enso.

I loved the sharpness of the Kramer Brut; it is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has razor-like focus, clear delineation, and offers bright notes of orchard fruit, fresh flowers, citrus zest and pear. Excellent. The Bubbles by Enso were a study in experimentation, which I really appreciated! Made from 100% Pinot Gris, it was made using methode ancestrale– a labor of love, this wine was. To sum up the process, I’ll quote Enso’s Instagram account: “This is how we disgorge our BUBBLES by ENSO: Store upside down for a year, dunk in freezing cold water for a couple minutes, pop the cap to let the yeast fall out, flip and top off with more BUBBLES and recap! No sulfur. No fancy machinery.” There ya go! Relatively full-bodied, this bubbly is definitely interest-piquing and worth a try.

Bay Shrimp "Olivier", Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

Bay Shrimp “Olivier”, Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

I love smokey little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

I love smoky little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all that was just course ONE! Be still my heart. Next up we enjoyed the Division Wine Company’s 2013 Cremant de Portland. I really love the packaging on this one:

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This wine is just a baby- it hadn’t been in the bottle very long when we tried it. This wine is after my heart; it is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Gamay- three of my favorite grapes, and sort of an ode to the Loire/Burgundy regions of France that Kate and Tom are fond of. Its pinkish hue (which you can’t see here) is fleeting and delicate. The nose here is lightly floral, with hints of red fruit and a touch of spice. I can see these elements “marrying” quite nicely with some time in bottle.

Paired with this was probably my favorite dish of the night: Broth & Piroshky. A stunning crab broth with scallion and a Dungeness Crab Pillowy Bun. Crab. Pillowy. Bun?! I didn’t even know these things could be combined in such a way. Absolutely delicious. If anything would make someone break a gluten-free diet &/or experiment- this is it.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

The next course was also impressive; 2011 J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir paired with Mushroom Vareniki- a little dumpling filled with foraged mushroom duxelle and liberally dolloped with sour cream. Yeah, I Instagrammed that one. I couldn’t resist:

I'm a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

I’m a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

This is my new jam.

This is my new jam.

Kind of a show-stealer, the J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir was perfection. If you’re a lover of Oregon wine, you gotta get your hands on this. Owner and winemaker Jim Prosser claims the process nearly killed him, but dude- if you gotta pick a way to go out… Sourced from the Temperance Hill Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this cool vintage provided perfect conditions for Sparkling wine production. The acid in this wine absolutely sings and is met with gorgeous notes of strawberry, red currant, hints of lees, and a vein of poignant spice and smoke. This wine underwent 28 months… 28 months! of riddling, creating an ultra-fine bead and to die for texture. If you’ve always held Argyle Brut Rosé and Soter Brut Rosé as your “standards” of Oregon Sparkling, go ahead and add this to your roster. I really can’t say enough about it. Get on it.

We finished with what else- meat! Latkes & Brisket paired with the 2009 Teutonic Wine Company Riesling Brut.

Loved it.

Loved it.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

I am fond of Riesling Brut; I’m not entirely sure how many (if any) other producers in Willamette make a Riesling Brut other than Teutonic. They’re an Alsatian-style producer, and they’ve been sitting on this Brut for years! I enjoyed the touch of petrol on the forefront of this bubbly, it clearly distinguishes itself as being made out of Riesling. A background of golden apple, peaches & apricots. A tremendously fun wine to pair with food. Even if you’re so stuffed you can barely move. The applesauce accompaniment actually set this off very nicely. This is more of a wine-nerd wine, but a good one. For a really fun look at the making of this wine, check out Teutonic’s blog.

So, are you hungry? Thirsty? You must really be a glutton for punishment if you made it all the way to the end of this post! Fortunately, if you live in Portland or the surrounding area, you can go check out Kachka- it was recently awarded Restaurant of the Year by Eater and Willamette Week. Fear not, food-lovers. It is there and waiting for you.

This dinner was a total feast for the senses and I’m incredibly appreciative to have been included. Cheers!