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A funghi only a mother could love..morels

Check out this beautiful funghi! Admittedly, what looks like a couple of shriveled up baby pine cones might only be something that only a funghi forager (like myself) would get excited about.  Well believe me, when I found this lovely pair (after 45 minutes of foraging) I was jumping up and down!

Gateway to funghi fun..Camp Mather

My first ever mushroom foray took place several weeks ago right outside the gates of Yosemite National Park.  The idea for the trip was spearheaded by my good friend Keelyn, an experienced mushroom forager, who has foraged and found many a morel, chanterelle and porcini in the woods of Northern California and Washington. Also along for the ride were my SF friends Kirk W. and Tara P.

Camp Mather, which is owned by the City of San Francisco Parks and Recreation department,  was our headquarters that weekend. The historic camp was located just south of the Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance and just several miles from where we were set to forage.

Springtime is generally when morels start to make their appearance in these parts..often in areas that have experienced either a burn several years prior, or where there’s lots of brush or undergrowth for them to hide under.

don't worry..we know what we're doing.. The San Francisco Mycological Society

Our weekend mushroom trip (which coincided with Kee’s birthday) was organized by the San Francisco Mycological Society, an organization which helps educate and promote the appreciation and enjoyment of mushrooms throughout the Bay Area.

Several times during the year, the MSSF organizes weekend trips to various locations around northern California in order to collect, enjoy and (hopefully) consume the non-poisonous delicacies that the group finds.

way over mumu's head: the MSSF funghi slideshow

After getting settled in our cabins, the four of us headed over to the cafeteria for a spaghetti dinner and then a post prandial slideshow of, yes mushrooms. Slide after slide after slide of beautifully drawn mushrooms, but oddly enough, not a single slide was shown illuminating what I was to be foraging for the next day. Nonetheless, it was really pretty awesome seeing this group so passionate and into their shrooms..

morel mushroom maestro: Norm

The following morning the four of us (fortified with coffee, oatmeal and powdered eggs) headed for the hills with several other eager to find funghi folk, and Norm, our group leader. Luckily for us, Norm was considered one of the best, and has lead such expeditions for the past 26 years. This, mes amis, is man who knows how to find les champignons.

the journey begins.. foraging for morels

Before traipsing off into the woods,  Norm instructed our group on what to look for when foraging for morels. More specifically, morels seem to love decay. Areas that contain a considerable amount of dead or decomposing organic material were good places to look.

Also, morels seemed to thrive in areas that had experienced burns (i.e. forest fires) a year or two prior. The exact reason for this is not really known, however given Norm’s vast experience on the subject, I took this information as a given.

leave no log unturned..Tara foraging for morels

Dead or decaying organic matter includes places under and around felled trees, under (vast piles of) pine needles, and in moist deep dirt. Here is Tara, demonstrating the lost art of morel foraging. This picture is pretty typical of how we spent most of the eight hours out “in the field” that day.  And apart from having to squint all day and a sore back, there are hazards to foraging. Five minutes after taking this picture, Tara and I turned over a log and found an impressive scorpion!

Where's Waldo?

And did I mention that these buggers are hard to see! One of our fellow foragers compared morel foraging to looking at a Where’s Waldo picture. You really have to look hard, and sometimes you’ll still miss the morel pretty much directly under your feet.

Unlike Chanterelles, which are a bright golden yellow and easily visible, or porcinis with their round reddish caps, morels just “disappear” into their surroundings., and as such they really do an excellent job at eluding capture.

The first is always the sweetest: Kirk's morel find

Which is pretty much what happened to Kirk the first hour out. Zippo, nada..but when he did find his first set, victory was oh so sweet! Once Kirk was officially initiated, he was cooking with gas and there was no looking back. And with all of our mushroom eagle eyes in focus and our foraging baskets, the four of us found about 5 lbs of morels!

Keelyn examining additional funghi finds..

Back at Camp Mather that evening, our crew unloaded our bounty, along with a slew of other non morels that we had discovered along the way. The senior taxonomists of the MSSF were on hand to identify each specimen and indicate whether or not they were edible.

Also on hand were several bottles of Navarro Vineyards Chenin Blanc to enjoy after a long day of foraging. I certainly have a new found appreciation for foraging and the delicacy of the morel mushroom. What a rewarding day it was looking for these little morsels of earth’s buried treasure!

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Bordeaux 2010 begins at Château Malartic- Lagravière

Over the river, through the woods, and across a roundabout is how myself and team K&L arrived in Bordeaux not too long ago.  The occasion? The Union des Grand Cru des Bordeaux was holding its annual en primeur week, where wine professionals and press from around the world descend upon the region to taste the newest vintage before the wine or prices are released.

From April 5-7th, tastings were held throughout the region and included the communes of Graves,  Pessac-Leognan, Listrac-Medoc, Haut-Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Sauternes & Barsac, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. As you can already imagine, a lot of young, full-bodied 2010 Bordeaux was going to be tasted. And we were ready for it!

Bordeaux 2010: I will be filling you in on some of the highlights of this amazing, once in a lifetime trip. It was my first time to Bordeaux, and I am grateful to have been invited to participate with and learn from the best (this is a shout out to Clyde B. and Ralph S.).

Here is my tweet on the 2010 vintage: Bold, rich fruit, with a rich mid-palate. Ripe, yet tannic structure with impressive acidity. Built for the long haul. Prices will be off the hook for classed growths.

Let the tasting begin!

Our first stop was at Château Malartic-Lagravière, located in the commune of Pessac-Léognan.  Just beyond the magnificent chateau and estate vineyards, the tasting hall was in full swing with paticipants lining up to sign in and grab their i.d. badges.

Once inside, the best of Graves and Pessac-Leognan were in attendance.  At this first tasting I had the opportunity to taste approximately 40+ wines from throughout the region.

The vineyards of Château Malartic-Lagravière

Domaine de Chevalier, Château La Louviere, Château Haut-Bailly; these were several of my top picks for the region in 2010.  In the next few days and fresh off the press, K&L Wine Merchants  will release its annual Bordeaux vintage and tasting report which will include a detailed vintage report as well as tasting notes on the hundreds of wines that were tasted throughout this trip. I will be sure to include a link when it becomes available!

Hospitality by Barry Flanagan at Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte

After knocking out this first tasting, our stomachs were grumbling. One cannot live on wine alone! So we hopped back into our 8 person passenger van and high-tailed it over to Château Smith Haut-Lafitte.

Displayed amongst the vines and throughout the estate are wonderfully evocative sculptures from artists around the world.  The gigantic rabbit/hare seen above and named “Hospitality” is the work of Welsh sculptor Barry Flanagan.

Clyde Beffa a.k.a. the MWB contemplating a stay at Les Sources de Caudalie..

In addition to a world winery, the grounds are home to Les Sources de Caudalie, a first class spa and retreat.  Les Sources also boasts two delicious dining venues. La Grand’Vigne, which presents the ultimate in fine dining spa cuisine, and La Table du Lavoir, a more casual bistro style restaurant where Clyde had reserved a table for lunch that day.

Enjoying a break in the action @ La Table du Lavoir

Clyde, Kerri, Mark, Alison sat down to casual an oh so civilized lunch before heading back out for a second round of tasting that afternoon.

And what to drink with such a delicious lunch? (I ordered the beef carpaccio with vegetables and hazelnut and the sea bream a la plancha). How about a bottle each of 2006 Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc and 2007 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge?

Believe it or not, our group tried to keep our lunch and wine consumption on the light side as a) we had to drive to our next destination b) there was indeed some great wine to be tasted, and we needed to be “on point” to do so. Our plan was to meet up with a second group of K&L folk who had just arrived from Paris.

We finished lunch with a delicious lemon tart, a couple of canelé. I fortified myself with a shot of espresso and then we were off to an afternoon of tastings at Château Pape Clement and Château Haut-Brion.

For more photos of lunch at La Table du Lavoir, please check out Les Photos on the right hand side bar.

 

More to come from Bordeaux 2010!

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California dreamin: Yosemites majestic Half Dome

It’s a winter wonderland out here in the mountains of California! This picture that I recently snapped of Yosemite’s Half Dome is, as you can see, was covered in snow on a recent trip that I took to the mountains with my friends Keelyn, Kelly and Kirk.

The 3 Ks: Kelly -Kirk- Keelyn

What was on the agenda for that weekend? Snowshoeing, cooking, and appropriate wine pairings with one of my favorite styles of wine. I affectionately call them, those Bitey mountain wines!

Why bitey? Because wines in this category hail almost exclusively from cool climate and (yes) mountainous regions, that often provide them with a solid spine of bracing acidity and snap so to speak.

A portal to a winter whites and wines...

Generally lighter in body and alcohol than wines whose vines are grown at lower altitudes and in warmer climates, these brisk wines (especially the whites) are a refreshing way to wind down “après ski” or a full day running around and soaking up all that great mountain air.

Kee & Mumu @ Crane Flat (foreshadowing: mushroom hat)

Each of us was responsible for preparing one main dish a night, and to supply a (certainly) delicious and (hopefully) appropriate wine pairing to boot. Most of you who check in regulary already know Keelyn. She is a great friend and a fantastic cook.

Well, Keelyn were the first up to bat on day 1, and true to form, did not disappoint!

While Kirk,, Kelly and I sucked down this bottle of Sorelle Bronca Prosecco, (don’t worry, kee was in on it too) Keelyn prepared her delicious Pasta di Tonno alla Manu.  Bascially, a tomato sauce with tuna, capers, onion, anchovies and hot peppers served over pasta. ..should have snapped a picture, but we were so hungry that I totally lost focus..next time!

This sparkling wine made from the prosecco grape, hails from Valdobbiadene Italy’s Veneto, a hilly region just below the Italian Alps.

It’s vibrant, crisp, and of course fizzy, but without the richer, more evolved flavors of say champagne. Think instead of hazelnuts or brioche, white peach and fuji apple.  If, après ski, I was stranded on a snowing mountain and had to pick one wine, it would definitely be prosecco.

from the mountains and valleys of the Val dAosta

While Kee was busy in the kitchen, Kelly prepared a fantastic salumi and cheese plate for us to snack on.  Fra’Mani  salumi, assorted cheeses and (my favorite) potato chips worked great with our crisp bubbly.

What? No more prosecco? No problem, Kirk opened this delicious petite rouge, from the Val d’Aosta, located in the NW corner of Piedmonte Italy. It’s crunchy blackberry fruits and cracked pepper notes in particular worked great with our savory salumi and cheeses.

Incidently, both of these Italian wines are imported and available locally by Oliver McCrum.

On day 2, after an afternoon of snowshoeing (about 6miles!) it was my turn to prepare dinner.  Who got off the easiest on this culinary trip? Me!  In the French Alps, a classic dish to prepare après ski and with the local wines is none other than fondue.

So here is an action shot of Kee enjoying the fruits of my hard work in the kitchen.  Yep, my fondue was delicious and it did not last long!

Along with the classic boiled potatos, and bread accompaniments, I also blanched some broccoli spears for fondue dunking. Afterall, it’s good to eat your vegees.

This crisp, dry, low alchohol (around 11%) Savoie white from the Cellier des Cray is the prefect wine to pair with rich, cheesy fondue.  This particular rendition, which hails from the cru of Chignin and is made with an indigenous grape called Jacquère, did not disappoint.

Fast forward to evening 3, and it was time for Kirk’s tour in the kitchen. Actually, Kirk probably spent the least amount of time cooking because, being the careful planner that he is, decided to bring up a crock pot and maximize his time and efficiency.

I’m glad someone was thinking like this! Look what we got to enjoy! A hearty beef stew… a la Daniel Boone is what we christened it. Why? Kirk is in fact a descendant of Daniel Boone (he told me this before his 3rd glass of wine), and as this dish was created up here in the mountains, it seemed really fitting!

The Goth looking black label that you see in the background is a delicious red from none other than Bugey which is located in the Savoie region of France. Thanks to local importer Charles Neal, this vibrant, cool climate mountain red made from the local Mondeuse grape is the perfect match to this rich stew.

For more pictures of our Yosemite trip, please check out Les Photos on the blog sidebar.

In the next several weeks, we’ll be heading back up to Yosemite to forage for morels..  STAY TUNED!

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A Ridge Zinfandel retrospective and then some

Several weeks ago, my good friend Matthew suggested the following idea:  Hey, I have some bottles of wine that need opening, so how about if we do a tasting at your place and invite over some wine peeps? My answer: Hmm, O.K.!

The theme for the evening: A Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel retrospective, all pulled from M’s cellar.

In the wine world, Ridge is the stuff of legend. Located in the Santa Cruz mountains and about 1 hour 15 minutes from San Francisco, Ridge is world renowned for consistently producing some of the very best wines that the U.S.A has to offer. Along with a range of Zinfandel based wines from vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles, Ridge also produces  Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux inspired red, and chardonnay from the Montebello vineyard located up in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The iconic 1971 Ridge Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon placed 5th (and above 9 other French and Califorina wines) at the 1976 Judgement of Paris blind tasting. On a more personal note, the 1978 Ridge Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon (purchased on a whim with my friend Eric)   is hands down the best California wine I have ever tasted. What a sublime and absolutely memorable experience.

Matthew has been a member of Ridge’s ATP (Advance Tasting Program)  for over a decade. Within that time Matthew has amassed a formidable collection of Ridge single vineyard wines, most of which include Zinfandel and Rhone based reds. So what’s a guy to do when the cellar is full and more wine is on the way? Open (more than) a few bottles and share them with your friends!

DB breakin' it down..Ridge style

Our tasting group that evening was comprised of myself, Matthew, Stephanie, Keelyn, Wolfgang and Wes. Serendipitously, one of the invitees that evening was my good friend Dan Buckler, Ridge’s Regional Sales manager and our special guest star. As we tasted through the lineup, Dan introduced each wine by detailing the history, geography, soil makeup and vinification practices of each wine.

A good student of the vine: Matthews' tasting notes

Below is list of wines that we uncorked, tasted and enjoyed that evening. My contribution to the evening involved an enormous crock pot of braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and a garden salad to pair with this fine selection of hearty american Zins.

 

 

Flight # 1 Ridge Dusi Ranch Zinfandel (ATP)

 


Ridge’s Dusi Ranch bottling comes from a distance parcel of vines located on the estate vineyards in Paso Robles, California.

The Zinfandel vines here are approximately 87 years old, planted on original rootstock, and completely dry-farmed.

1998 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel   14,9% abv

100% Zinfandel

1999 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel    14,5% abv

100% Zinfandel

2000 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel     14,6% abv

100% Zinfandel

 

Flight # 2 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel

 


The Pagani Ranch vineyard is planted to 30 acres of mostly 100 year old Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Alicante Bouschet.

The gravely loam vineyard, situated along Highway 12 in the Sonoma Valley near Kenwood, experiences to cool, foggy mornings and warm days.

Pagani Ranch is generally cooler than either Geyserville or Lytton Springs.

1998 Ridge Pagani Ranch California Zinfandel  14,2% abv

88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah

1999 Ridge Pagani Ranch California Zinfandel  14,1% abv

90% Zinfandel, 7% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah

 

Flight # 3 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel  (ATP)

 


The Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah from the Mazzoni / Home Ranch Vineyard was originally planted by Italian immigrant Guiseppe Mazzoni and his fourteen year old brother in law Abramo Trusendi at the turn of the 20th century. The vineyard is situated on the west side of the Alexander Valley and just north of Geyserville. The head trained, spur pruned vines are planted in gravelly, clay loam soils and are dry farmed.

1999 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel 13,7% abv

50% Zinfandel, 32% Carignane, 18% Petite Sirah

2000 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel 13,7% abv

47% Zinfandel, 47% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah

 

Flight # 4 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel

 


Ridge’s Lytton Springs vineyard lies just north of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.  Here, 100+ year old Zinfandel vines, along with a smattering of Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Grenache are planted on benchland soils comprised of gravel and clay. Each varietal is fermented separately using only natural yeasts in order to preserve the individual characteristics of the fruit from the vineyards.

1999 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel  14,5% abv

70% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 3% Mataro (Mourvedre)

2000 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel   14,8% abv

80% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah

 

 

Flight # 5 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel

 


Ridge’s Geyserville estate vineyards are located on the western side of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  Warm days, coupled with cool evening breezes and morning fog provide an ideal growing environment for Zinfandel. In fact, the Zinfandel vines grown at the Geyserville estate are the oldest that Ridge farms. A section of the vineyard known as the “Old Patch” is planted to vines that are 130+ years of age! Throughout the past century, Zinfandel, as well as other “mixed blacks” (Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro) have made the deep gravelly loam strewn with river rocks their home.

1998 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel   14,1% abv

74% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 1% Mataro (Mourvedre)

1999 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel   14,8% abv

68% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane, 16% Petite Sirah

2000 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel    14,9% abv

66% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 17% Petite Sirah

 

Flight # 6 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel

 

The York Creek vineyard represents Ridge’s sole Napa Valley vineyard site. The vineyard is located at the western edge of the Napa Valley on Spring Mountain and just north of the town of St. Helena. Amidst a plentiful forest of native Madrone oak, the vineyard lies at 1250-1800 feet above sea level.

The vineyard is named for a nearby creek which flows year round. The higher (than the Napa Valley floor) elevation and cooler temperatures allow the head trained and spur pruned vines to produce fruit with intensity, structure and longevity. Old vine Petite Sirah and Zinfandel excel on the gravelly loam soils of Spring Mountain.

1997 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel  15,3% abv

95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah

1998 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel   14,9% abv

88% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah

1999 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel (Late Harvest)   16% abv

98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah

2000 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel    15% abv

88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah

 

Many thanks to Matthew for providing these Ridge gems from his cellar, and to Dan for his insight and expertise!

Next: Mumu and Susan on la route du vin to Napa’s Howell Mountain.



 

 

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The star of the evening

I am pre-empting coverage of harvest 2010 with this inspired dinner that I recently hosted with several of my good friends. Some of you might recall my first post on la sagra dei funghi  that transpired just about 1 year ago. Well this year the  festivities moved over to my place. The star of the evening was this gorgeous truffle from Piemonte, that would find it’s way into our first 2 courses.

..making it look so easy!

Last year’s funghi feast was hosted by my friend Elisabeth (a.k.a. Bip). This year, the foodies convened at my place. I have often proclaimed that Bip is truly awesome in the kitchen. Not only are her culinary creations delicious, she seems to execute each dish with perfect timing and ease.

This time around, Bip arrived at my house with a few bags of choice ingredients, a bottle of nebbiolo, and her own home made pasta.

After ramping up our appetites with a beautifully arranged platter of salumni, artisanal cheeses and various antipasti, (thank you Sunhee!) It was time to get down to truffi business.

Toasted brioche with scrambled eggs, topped with shaved truffle!

Pinot meunier and truffes

What to pair with this rich and earthy first course? How about a high acid, dry and somewhat earthy-nutty champagne like the Collard Picard pictured above? This food wine pairing combination was really perfect.

This particular cuvee is composed of 80% Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. It is fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. The reserve wine, which is primarily from the 2004 vintage is aged in giant foudres (1000 liter or larger barrels) to encourage some contact with oxygen but to avoid flavoring the wine with overt barrel characteristics.

Next, Elisabeth whipped up an assorted funghi medley to accompany her house made pasta. A bit more shaved truffle finished off the dish. Bip paired this earthy pasta course with a lovely nebbiolo from Piedmonte (see Les Photos)

finishing on a lighter note..

After a brief repose, it was time to prepare the main course. We decided to slowly taper, and progress to a lighter main course and side. Two very fresh snappers were stuffed with lemons, fennel and doused in pastis. The fish was then oven roasted for about 40 minutes. Along side, a tian of roasted tomatos provided a zip and acidity to the mild white fish.

Keelyn also contributed a hearty fennel gratin to the mix. I need to get this recipe!

To finish things off, I made pumpkin pot de creme, topped with shaved milk chocolate and whipped cream.

Thanks to my fellow sagra dei funghi friends and foodies.

Let’s do this again next year!

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Time for a glass of wine!

Our walk through the vineyards at Winderlea eventually brought us to the far side of the property and a cabana with a magnificent view to the Dundee Hills. With all that hard work and brain power expended that morning, it was now time for a little R&R!

What did our hosts have in store for the us rest of the afternoon? A comparative pinot noir tasting paired with a multi-course lunch prepared by chef David Bergen of Tina’s restaurant in Dundee. Our group arrived just in time to sample chef Bergen’s first culinary treat that afternoon. A glass of  pinot noir rosé paired with pan fried Willapa oysters and sorrel mayonnaise.

back at Winderlea headquarters..

With our appetites fired up and lunchtime fast approaching, our group wandered through the vineyards and back up the hill to the Winderlea winery. Here, we were greeted by Donna Morris, as well as some of the most amazing aromas to ever emanate from a kitchen..

le menu

Those Willapa oysters were just the beginning! The main food /wine pairing theme today was pork (from a small local farm) as the menu above indicates.  Chef Bergen’s risotto with pancetta and porcini mushrooms was probably the best I have ever had.

Winderlea, Erath and Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir

And what exactly pairs best with such an inspired menu? How about pinot noir! Take your pick..as our group was presented with multiple flights of pinot noirs from the Winderlea, Erath and Stoller Vineyards. During lunch, I was fortunate enough to sit next to and chat up winemaker Robert Brittan, who is also the owner of his eponymous winery.

Turns out, Robert is a huge fan of cool climate syrah. More specifically those from the northern Rhone, which, as the Rhone buyer for K&L Wine Merchants, are right up my alley! Robert also kindly suggested that instead of making wine, my chances of success and the fun factor would be greatly increased if I made beer instead. Something tells me that he is probably right.

As we enjoyed courses one, two and three, winemaker Melissa Burr of Stoller Vineyards  led us through each of the various pinots noirs poured before us.  Erath’s Prince Hill Vineyard, the Winderlea 2008 lineup, as well as those from Stoller vineyards.

Winemaker Melissa Burr of Stoller Vineyards

 

Q:Were we able to recognize any general tasting consistencies regarding those wines produced on the east side of the Dundee Hills vs. those produced on the west side?

 A: Those wines form the East Side of the Dundee Hills seemed to exhibit more red fruit nuances, a spicy quality, and a bit more levity and brightness. The tannins also seemed a bit more fine. In contrast, wines from the West Side of the Dundee Hills displayed a touch more weight, and body, along with more blue fruit and earthier notes. The wines also seemed to carry a bit more tannic structure than those from the east side.

After lunch it was finally time for me to pack it up and head off to the airport for my return to the Bay Area.  As I had to leave a bit early, Donna sent me off with a selection of cookies for the ride back to Portland. My final moments at Oregon Pinot Camp were drawing to a close. What a wonderful experience. I learned so much in 3 days about the land, the people, and why cool climate varietals are really hitting their stride in these parts..

To those of you who live in Oregon, lucky you! To those of us who live in California, the plane ride is a short one, and the drive from Portland airport a scenic 45-60 minute drive. Of course there is great wine country here in California, but Oregon is different. Way different. And that is what makes a visit so rewarding and new. I look forward to exploring other wine growing regions of this state.

Good bye OPC, and thanks for the great experience!

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After our afternoon in the Bethel Heights soil pits, it was time to wash up and partake in the OPC annual salmon bake. Skewering large salmon fillets on wood planks and roasting over an open fire (as seen above)..then feasting!

This year’s OPC salmon bake was hosted by Stoller Vineyards. Located smack dab in the middle of the Dundee Hills AVA, Stoller produces a range of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot noir rose. They are also the first gold LEED certified winery in the United States.

Pursuing and attaining this certification says mountains about the commitment Bill and Cathy Stoller have towards making a positive impact on the planet. Building a winery towards attaining LEED certification takes time, money and serious planning. Thank you Stoller vineyards for being such trailblazers and setting the bar so high when it comes to winegrowing, winemaking and a clean and healthy environment.

 

As myself and the other campers scampered around from table to table tasting wines and chatting it up, I grabbed a glass of 2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling. I have to admit that over the course of 3 days I tasted, re-tasted, then saddled up to the table for yet another taste of this lively white. Crisp and bright, with great acidity and nuances of fuji apple, pear and white peaches, this Riesling is a steal at $14 a bottle. Such a deal!

With my glass of Riesling in hand, I headed over to watch the salmon bake prep in action. This culinary tradition has deep roots throughout the pacific northwest. For centuries, Native American Indian tribes like the Makah, S’Klallam and Umpqua would spear freshly caught salmon on cedar or ironwood planks and roast the fish to perfection over hot coals. This Summer 2010 at Stoller vineyards was no different, except that we’d get to drink some pretty amazing wines with this culinary treat.

 

Like this 1987 Pinot Gris aged to perfection from Eyrie Vineyards, located in the Dundee Hills AVA. Eyrie Vineyards is one of the Willamette Valleys’ true originals. It is considered by many to be  the “birthplace” of Oregon pinot noir as it was founded when the region was truly in its infancy back in the mid 1960s. This is where it all began..when David Lett, a recent viticulture and enology grad of UC Davis,  planted the first pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris cuttings in the region. Papa Pinot, as David Lett came to be known, was a visionary, and he is greatly respected by everyone who knows and appreciates wines from this region.

At 23 years of age, this pinot gris (incidently, Lett was the first to plant this varietal in the USA) was nowhere near tired. What a treat to taste a wine made by the man himself, Papa Pinot.

NEXT: Oregons’ Cool Climate Whites

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