Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 26: Belle Oiseau! Belle Waz-what?

Behold, one of my favorite Oregon whites, the Belle Pente Belle Oiseau, 2011! 

Belle Oiseau means "Pretty Bird".

Belle Oiseau means “Pretty Bird.” Also, Belle Waz-Oh. 

As it turns out, this wine is beloved by many Oregonians. And with due reason. Winemaker Brian O’Donnell developed this wine for Portland’s Le Pigeon and its little sister restaurant, Little Bird, with the help of General Manager/Partner Andy Fortgang. Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro are currently taking two out of my top five spots for drool-worthy Instagram feeds here in Portland, by the way. I seriously can’t wait to go to either one. Sometimes they Instagram their staff meals, too. I might just show up sometime roughly when I suppose a staff meal would take place.

I’m sure they’d love that.

I mean, seriously. I can't even. How good would this wine be with this?!

I mean, seriously. I can’t even. How good would this wine be with this?!

In any case, this wine was developed as an ode to an Alsatian “Edelzwicker”, a blend of “Noble” varietals. Historically, the grapes would all come from the same parcel, and could even be co-fermented. The 2011 vintage is a blend of mostly Pinot Gris and Riesling, with a bit of Muscat. I’ve had it on a few occasions, but this is the first bottle I’ve purchased for just me. And let me tell you. The more time I spend with this bottle, the more enamored I am with it. On a given Tuesday, I could open a bottle, drink a glass, then say to myself- ok, later for that. But this is the kind of wine where I find myself sneaking another half a glass… then another. Its like an old friend. You can keep coming back to it, and every time you do you’re reminded how much you like it.

A very dry wine with just a touch of RS, it drinks like a lean, clean little machine. Delicate and precise, is has defined stone fruit and white floral characteristics, with soft lemon and golden apple in the background. Sharp enough to cut through something fatty (this wine was developed specifically with charcuterie in mind), yet would be great with light, fresh fare (oysters, anyone?) as well. The finish is lifted with some higher aromatics of jasmine and fresh laundry.

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Of course I’ve already declared my clear personal bias for Belle Pente, but this really is one of my favorite Oregon whites. Originally, this wine was restaurant-only, and sold in keg form. I read in one article that it sold for $8 a glass and $20 for a half-lifer carafe- which is RIDIC- in a perfect way. So well-priced. I would love to share a carafe of this wine, bistro-style, for $20. It sounds too good to be true to me. In any case, this wine in bottle form sells for $18. I purchased it at the winery, and honestly I don’t know if any retailers carry it. They very well could, I just don’t know personally. If you’re local, I of course suggest bringing yourself down to Carlton to buy some at the winery. If you’re not, you’ll have to get a plane ticket. But its cool, you’ll be happy you did.

Gah! I know I’m a day behind right now, but I’m trying my best to wrap up the Thirty Grapes project in the best way possible. Seriously, I’m TRYING. Cheers!

 

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Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 19! Oink.

Happy Monday! This is such a fun and brilliant little wine- the EIEIO Swine Wine “Rie-Chard”, 2013 Willamette Valley. 

Piglet.

Piglet. Adorbs. 

I actually had this bottle several weeks ago, when I had the good fortune to be introduced to Jay McDonald, winemaker and owner of EIEIO wines (Jay McDonald had a farm, EIEIO! get it?!) I absolutely loved it the minute I saw it. I do have a fondness for pigs, so I was a little predisposed.

Jay is sort of like a Horcrux of this area… but in a good way. I’ll explain. Jay opened The Tasting Room in Carlton back in the day right in the center of town in a really cool old bank building. I can’t find an exact date, but suffice to say it was right when a lot of Oregon winemakers that are now very well-established were just getting their start. The Tasting Room was a retail store/tasting room (go figure) where local producers could get their wines out to the people before they were big enough to have tasting rooms of their own. Legend holds that many-a now well-known winemakers had help from Jay in the beginning. Thats why he’s a Horcrux- he has a bit of all of their souls. But again, not in a sinister way.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

So that is a little background- but Jay has been making his own wine since 1998. The “Swine Wines” as they’re called, come in Pinot Noir and this Rie-Chard form. This particular bottle is known as a Piglet, as its a 375ml bottle. The full-size 750ml’s are available for purchase on his website here. I’m not totally positive on the availability of the 375’s, so don’t hate me.

So whats the story on this little Piggy? It is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, not your most common bedfellows; obviously no one told them that, because they make a lovely couple in this wine. It captures the cool-climate persona of the Willamette Valley with finesse. Gentle, yet with a bracing acidity, it will enchant with aromas of pear, quince, green apple and nuances of honeysuckle. If you’re patient enough to let this wine open up, its texture will soften and charm your pants off. This wine is actually what began my fondness for half bottles. They’re just fun, doggone it. A slight amount of residual sugar makes it very accessible and bright. Good clean fun. Plus, did I mention its cute? Its cute.

Jay’s Chardonnay is downright fantastic as well- really looking forward to the Chardonnay Symposium in just over a month! This concludes Day 19. Hope you enjoyed your intro to one of the coolest dudes in the Valley!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 11!

Coming to you from a soggy Sunday afternoon at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, allow me to present my first (but definitely not last) Riesling of this project- Mad Violets Wine Co. Riesling, 2012 Dundee Hills!

Riesling Rules.

Riesling Rules.

I’ve been seeing these wines around the area and crushing hard on the labels for a few weeks. I think they’re well-designed, eye-catching and classy. The owners’ property is in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the Buttonfield Estate Vineyard. This Riesling is sourced from the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. I used to drive by the Maresh vineyard every day- its effing gorgeous. This is, according to the Mad Violets website, the oldest Riesling vineyard in Yamhill County, planted in 1970. This wine definitely has a gorgeous “old vine” quality to it; the concentration and minerality are very striking.

At just 180 cases made (and from the Maresh Vineyard?!), this wine is insanely well-priced at $25. Its clean, focused, pristine and tastes damn good. Absolutely nothing in the world makes me want food more than Riesling. Sushi? Yes. Thai? Yes. And my favorite thing with Riesling? FRIED CHICKEN. Well, specifically you need fried chicken with a sweet n’ spicy sauce like honey-wasabi. The crunchy/salty of fried chicken and obvious fat content is cut so well by a high-acid Riesling. I’m making myself hungry. I’m also making myself want to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi in Vegas and eat their fried chicken. Oye. 

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The initial nose on this wine is a pleasant medium petrol; I really try not to use that word often because I don’t want it to be off-putting, but true Riesling-lovers will understand what I mean; Petrol is actually a delicious thing to smell. Following close behind are layers of prickly lime zest, honeysuckle, caramelized pears, apricots and fuzzy white peach. Well-balanced and freaking gulpable. At 10% alcohol, this is both a great food wine and a perfect afternoon sipper.

After I left the Studio, I went and tried a few Rieslings at a nearby winery that sported some very high scores and slightly higher price points. While I did like them, honestly I preferred this one. It has serious heart and soul. Kudos!

Anyone have a suggestion for a Riesling I just GOTTA try? I’m on the hunt. Holler at me.

 

Penner-Ash Riesling, 11 Oregon, Willamette

It’s BANANAS how good this stuff is!

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Please, oh please don’t disregard this post if you think you don’t like Riesling.  You will break my Riesling-loving heart if you do.  Did you know that most wine-loving people have a deep preoccupation with Riesling?  We do.  There are lots of reasons, some of which I will touch on today.  Bossman and I have tried for several years to put a pep in people’s step about Riesling.  Unfortunately, most of the time it has been wasted effort.  Riesling flights, Riesling pairings, Riesling weeks… always, there will be a handful of people who love it, and the rest largely ignore it.  *woe are we*

Consider this, in case you still think it’s just us: the Summer of Riesling was started in 2008, and went national in 2011.  It’s a pretty awesome campaign, and a lot of fantastic restaurants and wine shops around the US participate.  This Summer I’m having my own Summer of Riesling, and it begins and ends with the Penner-Ash!  If I can get YOU to buy this, or at least have a glass or two at Cellar, I will have won.  Why now?  Well, I am still fresh and doe-eyed over my amazing trip to Oregon Pinot Camp, it’s hot as hades (aka perfect Riesling weather), and this was one of the wines (and wineries) I totally fell for on the trip.  And the reason you’re hearing about it today is that we just put it on by-the-glass at Cellar! We are definitely the only restaurant in SC to be pouring this wine by the glass, and it is also our first-ever Willamette Riesling!  that is reason enough to celebrate…

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I’m already feeling wordy today, so I’m gonna get straight to the point before I babble on too long;  this shit is bananas. The first thing you need to know about this wine is that is is gorgeously dry.  This is an excellent way for it to be.  Willamette, as many of us know, is a cool climate.  Cool climates mean (among other things) acidity.  Riesling is naturally high in acid, and also offers some of the most exciting, vibrant aromas your nose could ever encounter.  This wine is focused, pure and happy to be alive.  A bright nose of tangerine, fresh lime zest, apricots, honeydew melon, honeysuckle and a touch of something soapy and clean will greet you.  A little touch of petrol is hiding in there too.  The body is a nice combination of lightening-quick acidity and a silky mouthfeel.  The minerality on the finish stays with you for quite a bit…

Which leads me to one of the BEST reasons to love Riesling– minerality and acid mean FOOD!  Riesling and food are meant to be togther.  What kind of food?  So many kinds!  Your options are not limited- that’s yet another BEST reason to like Riesling- versatility!  One of my all-time favorite combinations is Riesling with Thai cuisine.  The power of a dish that has a bit of spice and a high-acid white with nice fruit such as this = mind-blowing. The “prickle” that many Rieslings offer also makes it a great match for fried items (don’t act like you too good for fried food).  What else?  Sushi.  Shellfish.  Indian Curries.  BBQ.  Grilled fruit that you throw on a fresh green salad.  There are several menu items this week at Cellar that beg for this wine- Torched Beef Shoulder Tataki with ponzu, cukes, pineapple, sriracha, lime and cilantro; Sockeye Salmon with thai chile glaze and pineapple salsa, and the Gorgonzola Stuffed Peach Salad.  Speaking of Gorgonzola- this wine, in addition to being a pleasant afternoon or dinner sipper would make a marvelous palate-cleanser with a cheese plate for dessert.  A nice strong Blue cheese with a bit a honey and a sip of this?  BOOM.  that’s it.

Another reason why you must try this wine: for lack of better words, because I’m telling you to.  I would love for you to really “get” why I’m pushing Willamette Valley whites, and this is a good way to get it.  Plus, Riesling is only the beginning!  Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau… Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, but whites are doing some amazing things to help keep it there.  Trust me.

Here are a few pictures of Penner-Ash, this wine’s home:

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This wine is available for retail purchase ($24) as well as by-the-glass at Cellar!  Drink up, at just over 300 cases made, it won’t last forever!  And I’m putting a decent dent in it pretty much every night…

Some white wines for Royal Wedding day!

So, I’ve been up since 4 relishing every detail of the Royal Wedding…

aaaahahahaha!  No I haven’t.  Not at all.  I get the fascination and I’m not a hater, but it’s not my thing.  Although I will admit to browsing Tom & Lorenzo for a few pictures of the dress.  Interestingly, I was enamored of the Maid of Honor’s dress rather than the sea of lace and fabric worn by the bride.  But good choice with McQueen, and it was a pretty amazing piece of craftsmanship.  That’s enough of that!  Let’s move on to things I REALLY like…

WHITE. WINE.  I can’t get enough white wine.  I’ve been trying to write this post for about two weeks.  I started with just picking the Chono Sauvignon Blanc.  Then we got the Anne Amie Muller-Thurgau in and I fell madly in love, so I was going to have it be a dual post.  Then the 2010 Kung Fu Girl came in.  Then just this week, two more favorites arrived.  So, this is a big fat post dedicated to perrenial favorites and new obsessions.

First is my original blog pick, the Chono Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Chile.  Those of you who read me often know I’ve been in a Chile phase for months now, and I think THIS wine might be the root cause of it all.  So deep is my love of this wine.  I love this wine and I love its price ($11).  This is definitely one of those wines that reminds you that is IS possible to drink delicious wine and not pay a lot for it.  It is effortless in its tangy, thirst-quenching, fruity-with-a-hint-of-herbs palate.  Perfect acidity on the finish really make this one refreshing.  There is just enough grapefruit present to make it enjoyable, yet not have the ONLY thing you can think about be the taste of grapefruit, as is the occasional case with New Zealand Sauv Blancs.  Love it.

Next in the procession comes the Anne Amie Muller-Thurgau, 2010 Oregon.  ($16).  I just call it MULL-er for short.  This is one of my favorite weird grapes.  I thought it might have been a fluke when I fell hard for the Colterenzio Muller-Thurgau last year.  But no.  The Anne Amie is representin’ and I’m into it.  There’s lots more wine-nerdy info on Muller in the Colterezio post, so for today we’ll keep it simple and say that Muller is sort of like a cross between an off-dry Riesling and an old world Gewurztraminer.  Aromas of fresh white flowers, melon, yellow apples and light citrus permeate- and then the finish offers a little zing! of spice and minerality.    Yum.  ‘Nuff said.

So to wrap things up for today, here’s a few things that just came in.  The 2010 vintage of the Kung Fu Girl Riesling is here!  and it’s awesome.  The ’10 is probably better than the ’09 by just a hair- read this post of the ’09 and than just take it up a notch on the wow scale.  And it still maintains its nice price of $14.  Lioco Chardonnay, 2009 Sonoma is here, too!  This is a gorgeous Cali Chard that will leave you speechless.  If you’ve EVER uttered the words “I don’t like Chardonnay,” the Lioco will laugh in your face.  And then change your mind.  It’s one of the cool kids.  Lush and fruit-forward with aromas of lemon curd and pears, followed by a really gorgeous, silky mouthfeel.  None of that over-oaked over-buttered Cali Chard business.  Which has its place, but not here.  $19 gets you this bottle.  Last is a literal party-in-a-bottle, the Xarmant Txakolina, 2009 Spain for $15.50.  Never had Chak-oh-lee-na?  It’s awesome.  It’s sort of like Vinho Verde’s step-sibling, as it has a teeny fizz when you open it and it’s lean, tart and focused.  Tons of green apple and notes of lemon thyme and other herbs.  Yet another awesome pool or porch sipping wine.

Hopefully one of these spoke to you!  Actually, ALL of these wines are by the glass at Cellar right now, so you’re welcome to try a taste the next time you’re around to see what you think!  Ciao for today!

Can I get a taste of Riesling? Dr. L Riesling, 2008

This post might only hit home to a few of you.  If you just happened to stumble into my blog from a search engine, you might find another review that is more informative elsewhere.  That’s fine.  But if you care to read on, I will of course touch on how great this wine is, share a few tasting notes, and give it my ringing endorsement.  It’s awesome.  It’s an amazing value at $12.  It got 90 points from Wine Spectator, and was the number 62 wine of last year.  It rocks!

But I also want to share the reason why I chose to write about this particular wine on this particular day.  We, my “family” at the restaurants, and the 5 Points community, lost our favorite drinker of fine German Riesling this past week, James “Stump” Johnson.  I will never be able to see Riesling, think about Riesling, or drink Riesling again without thinking of him.  That is only a drop in the bucket.  There are countless other things that I will see, hear, and think about that will remind me of him and his sweet smile.  I hope that sometime soon those things will make me smile, because right now they only make me hurt.  I’ve never lost someone that I saw every single day, that I relied on every single day… that was just such a part of my life every day.  He’s just gone.  He is so gone.  When I say the words “James died on Thursday,” or “we lost James this week,” it still doesn’t feel real.  I can still hear his voice.  I can still see him walking.  It doesn’t feel right.  He is missing.  I miss him.  I feel alone without him around.  There is an empty space lingering in the air at Cellar, it’s tangible and I feel it all the time.  We all do.

Here he is, having his taste of Riesling.  He always asked for it in the same way, too… “Can I get a taste of Riesling?”  A taste is a technical term for about half a glass, or sometimes a full glass, depending on our mood.  James preferred German Riesling, which is why the Loosen Brothers “Dr. L” Riesling is such a good choice for today’s post…

The Dr. L  is a light, racy little Riesling.  It is tangy and perfectly balanced.  It smells like a warm summer day.  Baking spices, honey, honeysuckle, and peaches with a nice clean aura.  It strikes me as a very excitable wine- very eager.  Lovely, fresh tastes of nectarines, apricots, lemon and lime zest, and minerals are quite up front and boisterous.  A perfect freshness and zap of acidity finishes it off quite nicely.  This wine will please a Riesling afficianado, as well as serve as a lovely introduction for someone who doesn’t think they like Riesling- or doesn’t think they like wine in general!

My most favorite food and wine pairing in the worrrrld is Riesling and spicy food, especially Thai!  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  Anything light and spicy is perfect with this- ceviche, nachos, even a spicy sashimi preparation.  Or just a simple grilled white fish with lime, cilantro, ginger, etc etc.  This is making me crave my favorite Red Curry Duck from Basil in Charleston.  It is the epitome of refreshment to sip on a glass of Riesling like the Dr. L while chowing down on something that has a little heat. However, if you want to make a full tribute to Stump,  you would drink it while eating Fried Fish & Grits, or maybe the Spanish Chicken from the Blue Cactus (if you 86 the nuts, it is known as Stump Chicken), OR the Peach-Mustard BBQ Salmon from Mr. Friendly’s.  Or maybe KFC.  Although please choose the former… KFC is pretty gross.

But whatever you’re dining on, if you had the good fortune to know James, please raise a glass of Riesling and toast to the most kind-hearted, funniest, most loyal friend that many of us have ever known.  There will never be another James Johnson.  He adored me and would have done anything for me and I feel so lucky to have had him in my life.  I wouldn’t trade the pain I feel now for the time I spent with him.  It was worth it, James.  You were worth it.  All the messes, tastes of Riesling, Budweisers, $2, needing to buy air freshener for the bathrooms, and all the other inconveniences.  They were worth it just to know you.  Your best boss lady loved you lots.