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 27 & 28: Field Trip to Portland!

Yesterday I field-tripped up to Portland and paid a visit to the SE Wine Collective! I mean, it WAS Wednesday after all. What better day to have an extended happy hour? Its been unbelievably foggy in the Valley all week, but as soon as I got closer to Portland, the sun was out and it an absolutely gorgeous afternoon. Happy, I was.

The SE Wine Collective was the site of a killer dinner that I went to back in December. I hadn’t been back since, and was excited to explore a few reds in particular. It was really convenient to be able to sample two Cab Francs from Southern Oregon in one place, by the glass/taste. Can any other place really say that? Not sure, but in any case- its darn awesome. Lets dive in. Its Cab Franc time, baby.

Did you know Cab Franc grows in Southern Oregon? I didn’t, before I moved here. Its sort of fun to look back on this blog project and realize that a few of my favorite finds of the month were actually from Southern Oregon. I didn’t see that coming at all, and its a really cool discovery.

Up first was the Jackalope Cabernet Franc, 2013 Applegate Valley:

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Cabernet Franc is a fascinating grape; it can be in the “fresh, red fruit” category and it can also be in the “deep dark tannic monster” category. This one leaned towards the former; it had some nice dark fruit coursing through its veins, but the warm raspberry definitely showed through. A hint of blackberry preserves and coffee bean, and some young, green leafy business going on, along with peppercorn and bay leaves. Really a cool wine that has a lot of different elements at work, without seeming disjointed. Fun to drink. According to the website, less than 70 cases made.

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Next in Cab Franc world was actually a bottle I have seen in a few stores and really wanted to buy. I am loving the packaging on the Willful Cabernet Franc, 2012 Applegate Valley:

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

There’s a cool story here. I’ll paraphrase, as you can surely Google if you’re so inclined. Willful Wine Company was born in 2012, and produces Pinot Noir from their estate in Dundee (I also tried this- great), and small quantities of other Northwest varietals. The owner and winemaker’s name is Pam Walden, and there’s some background here involving Daedalus Cellars/Jezebel wines. I don’t feel like I can do the full story justice without sounding like an idiot, but in any case- if this is only the second year that Pam has released wine under the Willful label- the woman can make some damn wine. I’m sold. This juice is fantastic. Actually, I’ll go out on a limb and say this might be my favorite new discovery of this 30 days.

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This is a big ol’ wine, with full flavors of black cherry and raspberry jam, followed by a high “ding” of sour cherry. Its oak profile is round and integrated; its a curvy wine but incredibly balanced. The finish is long and creamy with baking spices, pepper and subtle vanilla. Theres a nice play of savory/gamey/wildness (all technical terms) but not so much as to drown out the fruit. Its fleshed out nicely, yet not in my opinion overworked. Is that enough praise? I like the wine. Go get it.

I also tried the SE Wine Collective Red Blend- a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay & Cab Franc- it was in keg form, so no photo- but it was a super fun wine! Buoyant, fresh, tart, pomegranate-y and a really great keg wine for all those reasons.

I did a sort of “create your own flight” deal with these wines, and just put together the three tastes individually; they were $4, $5 and $3 each, respectively. Bottles are available for purchase too, for dine-in and take home. The SE Collective also has some pre-determined flights on the menu- the couple who were seated near me were sipping on the Chenin Blanc flight- three from around the world. The place is a fun concept and reminds me a lot of Cellar on Greene, except wine is being made there, which makes it that much cooler.

Also, I ate these dates, which were ridic:

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Ridic is a good thing, by the way. These dates were stuffed with gorgonzola & hazelnuts and wrapped in prosciutto, seared, and drizzled with honey. Freakin’ delicious. You’d think I was being paid to say these things, but really I’m not. I just like the place. You should check it out.

Cheers, and thanks to the Collective for making it so easy to try two Oregon Cab Francs in one place! Score.

 

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!

 

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!

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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!