This past week we had the chance to experience some special times in the Willamette Valley, labeling our 2012 Pinot Noir Magnums and visiting friends throughout the area. The 2012 vintage in Oregon is being hailed as the ‘vintage of the decade’ with storybook conditions for bud break and harvest, with ripe and healthy fruit. I strongly recommend purchasing all of the 2012 that you can find; some to enjoy now and more to lay down, as it will get better with age.
On Monday evening we enjoyed some fantastic wine country hospitality courtesy of my dear friend Alex Sokol Blosser, Co-President/Winemaker of his family’s winery, Sokol Blosser. We enjoyed a selection of local cheeses and fresh vegetables from the garden along with their first release of Evolution Sparkling wine, a delicious choice for a gorgeous Oregon Summer early evening. Sitting on the back patio, amidst the Pinot Noir vines and great company, it was a perfect night.
Tuesday morning, we ran by my favorite place to start the morning in McMinnville, Community Plate, operated and owned by Scott and Courtney Cunningham. This is truly a ‘power couple’ in the Valley, who both have hearts of gold and believe in where they live. I love having a chance to see these two friends, and of course enjoying my morning Hazelnut Milk Latte, a CP specialty!
Heading deeper into the country side, we made our way over to Elk Cove Vineyards, the family winery that happens to make our delicious wines. Catching up with various members of the ECV team, who are all fantastic people, we spent some quality time with Heather Perkin, Associate Winemaker, who was good to taste us through some of the 2012 Single Vineyard wines and the 2013’s in tank, resting.
After getting some wine in our glasses, we began the task of hand-labeling our 2012 Magnums. Let me tell you, this is not an easy process; lining up the labels on the bottle, making sure there are no bubbles, keeping the label straight and making sure everything looks good before peeling off the backing. It took some time, but was well worth it seeing those 36 (only!) magnums lined up, ready to find new homes.
Coming back from our accomplished task, we stopped in Carlton and had a chance to enjoy lunch for the first time at The Horse Radish. I was EXTREMELY pleasantly surprised by the quality of food, service and overall experience. I had a locally raised, shaved ham sandwich on gluten-free bread with fig jam which was delicious, paired with a bottle of 2012 Penner-Ash Rubeo, a blend of Pinot Noir & Syrah.
Ending the day of tasting, we stopped in to see some friends over at Stoller Family Estate before they closed, tasting a variety of their valley offerings, including back vintages. Funny enough, I think my highlight was actually their 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir, which was bright, lightly acidic, vibrant and full of flavor.
On Wednesday we ventured to see an old friend of mine, Margaret Barry, Director of Consumer Sales at Raptor Ridge. Let me say, if you have never been to Raptor Ridge, GO NOW! It is a gorgeous tasting room set atop the Chehalem Mountain range, with vines that cover the hillside and fantastic views over the valley. We had a chance to taste through their line up and have some great conversation over cheeses and meats on their tasting room patio, what a great way to spend a morning in the wine country! And, before we left, Margaret encouraged us to head out to the winery entrance and pick some Rainier Cherries off their trees, since they had so many. I’ve never picked cherries before, but being at a vineyard, grabbing this fresh stone fruit and tasting how ripe and delicious it was, was truly special.
Bouncing around the valley some more, we visited Lee Medina of Sokol Blosser Winery, popping into their beautiful tasting room for a hello and quick taste of their new wines, before grabbing a late lunch at the Red Hills Market in Dundee, the Willamette’s baby-brother version of Oakville Grocer in Napa. This is a great place for a cup of Stumptown coffee, quick lunch stop or centrally located meeting point, as most of the valley runs through there during the day at some point.
We then headed over to Bergstrom Winery, to taste their latest releases and visit with Erik, their Tasting Room manager. I personally believe that Josh Bergstrom, winemaker and owner, is one of the most talented winemakers in the valley and I have always enjoyed his wines. The star of the show was completely unexpected, their 2012 Sigrid Chardonnay. I truly felt like I was drinking a White Burgundy; it had the polish, austerity, flavor, oak profile, fruit, depth and was just a joy to drink. Erik and his team’s hospitality was fantastic in an idyllic setting, really special to enjoy.
Wrapping up the collection of days, we had our traditional dinner at Nick’s Italian Café in Downtown McMinnville. Nick’s has been feeding the valley’s finest since 1977 and is THE winemaker’s hangout to share stories, swap bottles of wine and just to catch up with friends. It has always been a casual spot to grab a bowl of pasta or pizza, but the menu has really been modernized with even more local produce and farm raised animals, courtesy of Nick’s son in law, Erik. I love visiting this spot as it reminds me of the vast resources of the Willamette Valley and how you can truly embrace them.
It was another fantastic collection of experiences in the valley with an amazing group of people who are embracing the culture of hospitality and sharing their part of the world with visitors. I’m glad that in a small way, we are a part of that fabric and am thrilled to be able to show others what Oregon is all about. And remember, 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.
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.