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.
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..
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.
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.
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!