I had the pleasure of returning to Oregon last week for a few days to work, donate some time for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) and visit our ‘sleeping’ grapes. IPNC is a three-day event, famous around the globe, as a mecca for lovers of Pinot Noir and northwest cuisine. During the weekend, world-renowned winemakers, northwest chefs, esteemed media, epicures and wine lovers gather in McMinnville, Oregon, for time exploring Pinot Noir, savoring unforgettable meals, and learning and celebrating with luminaries of the food and wine world. I had the pleasure of being invited to work with the great folks at Sokol Blosser on a few events and help out overall. I viewed participating and volunteering at this experience as an honor, especially since we were able to speak about Labor Wines, our first real introduction to many of these wonderful folks, with the blessing of our amazing friends at Sokol Blosser.
Once I arrived, I headed straight to Coffee People inside the Portland Airport for my customary Cafe Americano . I don’t know what it is, but every time I fly into the PDX airport, I have to stop and get a shot of caffeine from this Oregon roaster.
I then headed off to the wine country, driving straight to Sokol Blosser and headed to the IPNC pre-kickoff dinner. Setup in the Sokol Blosser courtyard, with plenty of their wines being shared, there was a collection of small purveyors present to share their wares to the attendees (wine writers, friends of SB and guests overall) including Michael Kelly Brown (MKB), Director of Marketing for Sokol Blosser shucking oysters to order and his buddy Al grilling some on the BBQ. To their right was Eric Ferguson with Fino In Fondo, showing off 4 of their different charcuterie cuts and then Scott Ketterman and his wife of Crown Paella were creating a paella extravaganza with a gigantic Paella pan.
All throughout, Sokol Blosser was pouring their 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and three vintages (’07, ’08 & ’09) of Pinot Noir. Later in the evening, a collection of 2009 Pinot Noir infused chocolate truffles by Moonstruck Chocolates were brought out, a perfectly sweet finish to a lovely evening.
On Friday, I started the day at one of my favorite wine country food haunts, Community Plate. This restaurant is dedicated to the local area and wine country, purchasing and serving products from no further than 100 miles away while being as sustainable as possible. I visited for my mandatory Hazelnut Milk Latte, a true treat and so delicious! The featured dish that morning happened to be a decadent Dungeness crab and herb scramble which I had complemented by a fantastically fresh greens salad. Absolutely perfect!
Following a quick visit to our wine storage facility, I was grabbed by MKB and taken to the IPNC kickoff luncheon, a true honor to attend! Lunch was held outside on the green Oak Grove at Linfield College, on a beautiful Oregon summer day. While the food was delicious, a Dungeness crab salad with gooseberries and picked cucumbers then a wonderful collection on a antipasti plate, the real star was the continuous parade of Pinot Noir that kept hitting our table. I was floored by this experience, running into countless stars of Oregon wine making and being able to enjoy the day.
I next headed off to the hills of the Yamhill-Carlton District for a visit to our winemaker and to taste out our 2011 Pinot Noir. Mind you this wine is nowhere close to ready, as it is not even in bottle yet, so we had the pleasure of enjoying a barrel sample. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW EXCITED I AM! This vintage was a curious one as it was cool/cold (reminiscent of the 2010) until the last month of harvest when temperatures warmed up to finish the wines with a great balance of acid to sugar. The 2011 will be our third Pinot Noir vintage for Labor Wines and it keeps getting better and better! Our wines are made for you to enjoy now, but if you’d like to age them, please feel free! I truly believe that you will be very happy with the 2011.
Leaving the winery I stopped into our friends over at Anam Cara Cellars for a quick hello and visit. If you haven’t tasted their juice yet you are truly missing out! After this stop, I headed back into Dundee to see our buddy Chris Cullina at Argyle Winery, who let me know he had a surprise for me; there was a back room blind tasting of Grower Champagne going on and he invited me to join. Um, yes! Wow, wow and wow, what a special and unexpected treat.
Heading back up valley, I visited with my dear friend Margaret Stewart of Chehalem Wines and some of her friends for a glass of wine on the patio and a touch of downtime. This was a great idea and much needed. Then, it was off to The Allison – the finest hotel in the valley, a true 4-star property. Walking into Jory restaurant, I ran smack into Pam Walden, a wonderful woman and also the owner of Daedalus Cellars. We were able to catch up for a bit before one of my favorite people in wine, Tahmiene Momtazi of Maysara Winery, showed up. We all sat together, along with some other friends and had a great night catching up.
On Saturday morning, after caffeinating at the Red Hills Market, I ventured back to Sokol Blosser to help setup the IPNC seminar, tasting and luncheon. Guests were welcomed with the 2011 Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noir to enjoy while they were led on a guided tour of the property by Alex Sokol Blosser himself (Sokol Blosser’s Co-President). Joining Alex for this experience and seminar were Josh Bergstrom of Bergstrom Wines, Thierry Huber of Domaine Huber Verdereau (of Volnay) and Peter Rosback of Sineann.
Guests were treated to a delightful, seasonal wine-country lunch by Chef Paul Bachand of Recipe Restaurant in Newberg, with the menu including:
- Beet Gazpacho with horseradish panna cotta
- Caneroli rice salad with radicchio, cucumber julienne, lemon vinaigrette, razor clam ceviche with preserved tomatoes.
- Seared duck breast with Farro and arugula salad, smoked walnut gremolata.
- Poppy seed Panna Cotta with apricot jam and baklava cookie.
Wines that were sampled during the luncheon included the Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris & 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, the Bergstrom Wines Bergstrom Vineyard 2009, the Domaine Huber Verdereau 2010 Pommard and the Sineann McGinlay’s Vineyard Marlborough. To finish the meal and pair with dessert, guests had the pleasure of enjoying the Sokol Blosser 2009 White Riesling, a forced Ice wine. WOW.
After wrapping up the lunch and helping to clean up, I decided to do a round of speed tastings over at:
- Durant – better known as growers, they just opened a gorgeous tasting room.
- White Rose – gorgeous views, rich and full Pinot Noirs that have gotten some great scores.
- DePont Cellars – a true treat. Wonderful Melon in the muscadet style and a killer rose.
- Stoller – finally got a chance to taste their wines in property and it was fun. Some surprises were their Tempranillo, Syrah & Pinot Noir blend, a bargain at $19 a bottle and a single block Pinot Noir.
After a quick recharge, it was off to my friends, Scott and Courtney for some homemade margaritas; a must in wine country, especially after a long day of wine tasting. Then, a gorgeous Oregon sunset before a chance to sample a bottle I was gifted, the 2001 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir – which was delicious, with at least another 10-15 years it can age. The capper on the evening was then pulled out, Soter 1997 Brut Rose an intense sparkling wine that is just starting to show it’s age.
On Sunday morning I had a chance to catch up with my buddy Bill Hanson of Libra Wines for a little breakfast and conversation. Bill and I go back a few years, so it’s always nice when we can catch up to talk wine and life. This morning was no different and it was a ton if fun. Before hitting the road back to PDX, I stopped into the Daedelus Cellars tasting room for a few quick sips. Nothing but delicious, this was a nice treat to enjoy.
Making it to Portland, we ventured to Pok Pok Noi, another great restaurant by Andy Ricker, the best Thai street food purveyor we currently have in the states. Today, did not disappoint, with the below dishes shared for the table, while enjoying a spot on their back patio:
- Khao Man Som Tam – Green papaya salad (papaya pok pok) served with coconut rice, sweet shredded Carlton Farms pork, friend shallots and cilantro.
- Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings – Fresh, natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic, served with Vietnamese Table Salad.
- Tam Kai Yaang – Spicy, roasted game-hen salad with long beans, tomatoes, peanuts, Chicnese celery, cilantro, Thai chilies, dry shrimp, garlic, lime, palm sugar, fish sauce and made in the pok pok
Venturing next to the Pearl District in the city, my favorite neighborhood in Portland by the way, we hit Deschutes Brewery to try out their Gluten Free Pale Ale. I’m glad I had a chance to try this beer, a little sweeter than I would have preferred but good nonetheless. Then, we popped over to The Parlor, a new New Orleans themed restaurant/oyster bar for a quick beverage and some delicious oysters. Before hitting the road, I had to visit Clyde Common, my favorite bar in Portland, who has one of the best cocktail programs in the entire country. Sipping on a Ramazotti digestif, with house made ginger beer back, it couldn’t have gotten much better.
I can truly say my heart is in Oregon, especially after this trip. It’s not cliche but 100% true. Can’t wait to be back soon.
If you have a story, pictures enjoying Labor or would like to place an order, feel free and share with us on Facebook or via Twitter. As well, you can always email me directly, Corey@LaborWines.com or call on cell, 702.466.0987.
Everything takes Labor to accomplish. Labor Wines – A Labor of Love.