The Horse Radish
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.