Oregon’s Alternative Wines for the Adventurous

It’s easy to return to the familiar wines. The wines we know we like. After all, there’s comfort in the familiar, right? However, during a time when it’s critical to exercise caution in the everyday routines of our lives, wine is one aspect where we can choose adventure. Let’s talk about the less talked about wine varieties and explore Oregon’s alternative wines.

Think about wine from Oregon, and Pinot Noir is sure to come to mind. Or maybe one of the other leading planted varieties – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Each of them fine selections in their own right. However, given the choice between those or a juicy red Zweigelt or fragrant Gewurztraminer I say back the truck up and head down the road less traveled! In fact, there are over 70 varieties beyond Pinot Noir grown in Oregon.

Did you know that Muller Thurgau is the seventh most planted variety in Oregon’s Willamette Valley? In case you’re not familiar, Muller sounds like Bueller, as in Ferris Bueller – the very one that took an infamous day off. Gewurztraminer is sixth. Pinot Blanc fifth. What makes these varieties compelling? Distinct personalities. Food friendliness. Character. Ultimately, this is the kind of juice I’m craving right now.

Oregons Alternative Wines

Six of Oregon’s Alternative Wines

While in Oregon last summer on a wine-soaked journey hosted by some of Willamette Valley’s wine industry veterans, I was exposed to a number of the ‘other varietals’. These are the wines that captivated me.

Gamay Noir
Brick House Vineyards
$34 SRP
Don’t confuse Oregon Gamay Noir for the highly promoted Beajuololais Nouveau. Although the same red grape variety is involved, carbonic maceration is not used here. Brick House practices Biodynamic farming on its 40 acres and ferments with indigenous yeast. The result is a serious wine with notes of cherry, baking spice, and slate. I was extremely excited when I saw this wine being carried at VinoSocial client Esquin!
Try this if you like:  Pinot Noir.
Pair with:  roast chicken, Asian cuisine, sausage, and special occasions.

Kerner

Minumus / Craft Wine Co.
$30 SRP
Prepare a picnic, pour a glass of this captivating white wine, and get lost in the moment. The name of the grape is pronounced similarly to coroner but with an e instead of o. Sure, maybe coroner isn’t the best word to use but isn’t it going to be easy to remember now? The name comes from Dr. Julius Kerner who developed this delectable cross between Riesling and Trollinger. This fascinating wine inspired me to take advantage of a recent shipping deal and order more of the Minumus alt wines, Vermentino and Muller Thurgau among them.
Try this if you like:  Picpoul or other refreshing white wines.
Pair with:  bacon wrapped goat cheese atop a salad.

Muller Thurgau

Sokol Blosser
$28 SRP
With limited free time during a day of wine education at the property, I ventured into the tasting room for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sampling and purchased this bottle as a result. Sokol Blosser is one of the founding wineries of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated, and deeply committed to being good stewards of the land. They also happen to be the first commercial producer of Muller Thurgau in the U.S. This fragrant, pretty white wine evokes spring.
Try this if you like:  Torrontes, or off-dry white wines.
Pair with:  Thanksgiving dinner. Some sweetness on the wine also lends itself to spicy food.

Pinot Meunier

Left Coast Estate
$50 SRP
This red grape is mostly known as a blending partner in Champagne. Here it is on its own, opulent, fruity, and delightfully gulpable. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this wine!
Try this if you like:  Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir.
Pair with:  risotto and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Pinot Noir Rosé

Maysara Winery
$20 SRP
Okay, okay, so it’s made from Pinot Noir. However, rosé of Pinot Noir drinks differently. After a tour of Biodynamic Momtazi Vineyards, I couldn’t resist purchasing this alluring bottle at the tasting room.
Try this if you like:  rich, fruity rosé.
Pair with:  sunny days on the deck and summer influenced food.

Pinot Blanc

Native Flora
$34 SRP
Scott Flora’s fascinating philosophy of farming is all about experimentation and improvability. This wine is for people with an adventurous spirit who desire a glass filled with something that gets along well with food.
Try this if you like:  Pinot Gris.
Pairs well with:  light seafood.

Now is a great time to pour something other than the usual in your wine glass. Let Oregon’s alternative wines take you to another place.

Resources

Willamette Valley Wine

Let’s Talk About Pecorino Wine

From atop an Italian hillside down to the Adriatic Sea grows a grape called Pecorino. Can you visualize rows of vineyards dancing in the sun among a backdrop of craggy mountains? A little daydreaming is sure to do us good right now. So, let’s talk about Pecorino wine.

First, let’s be clear. Yes, I’m talking about Pecorino wine, not Pecorino cheese. Not that there’s anything wrong with the robust Italian cheese! It’s flavorful, salty, and part of my adulthood rather than childhood. Thus, Pecorino cheese does share some similarities to the Pecorino grape variety. The wine, however, is a little less prevalent here in the United States. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Pecorino Wine”

Become a Better Wine Drinker at Taste Washington Seminars

Taste Washington, the state’s premier wine and food festival, has grown leaps and bounds over the years. However, one thing remains the same – the Taste Washington Seminars are my favorite part of the 4 day Washington wine extravaganza. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the seated events where I can take my time tasting. Undoubtedly, it has something to do with the quality of both the speakers and the wine poured at each seminar. Not to mention, what I’ve learned at the Taste Washington Seminars has made me appreciate wine more. That in turn has made me a better wine drinker. The seminars can do the same for you!

Taste Washington Seminar

At a past seminar, Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil waxed poetic about Washington wine, vividly describing each pour as only she can. As the audience sipped on Syrah from cult producer Cayuse she uttered,

“This wine is primal scream. Wonderfully corrupt.”

 

Continue reading “Become a Better Wine Drinker at Taste Washington Seminars”

Pairing Pinot Noir with Food

Pairing Pinot Noir with food is one of the best ways I know of to up your dinner game. After all, this variety of red wine is generally lighter in body and lower in tannin than most red wines. Those qualities can make it quite food friendly. Think of Pinot Noir as a refined dinner date that offers engaging conversation while gradually revealing its sophisticated personality.

Location Matters

Here in the Pacific Northwest, incredible examples of Pinot Noir can be found in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. While attending the Wine Writers Educational Tour in August, I was taken on a far-reaching journey, exploring the diverse characteristics of the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within this region.

Pinot Noir Tasting
Tasting Oregon Pinot Noir is the Best Way to Understand It

The Dundee Hills AVA is generally known for producing Pinot Noir that is red fruit oriented. By contrast, the Yamhill-Carlton AVA can tend to produce wines with riper, blue fruit characteristics.

Wines from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA were explained by Shane Moore, Winemaker at Zena Crown, as depicting circular shapes.

“Elevation is a big dictator of the wine you’re going to get,” remarked Luisa Ponzi, second generation winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards.

Winemaking Matters

Not only do different vineyard sources influence what’s in bottle, winemakers have different styles. For example, winemaker Erik Kramer of WillaKenzie is looking for “flavor town” when making picking decisions.

By contrast, Aaron Bell, winemaker at Domaine Drouhin, is “looking for liquid cashmere.”

What does this all boil down to when selecting a recipe to serve with a bottle of Pinot Noir? It means that those softer, circular wines can work with lighter fare. Alternately, those riper styles can make a nice counterpoint to a fattier, hearty dish. Below are some further guidelines to help pair Pinot Noir with dinner.

Flavors in Pinot Noir

Consider the flavors of the wine, and create a match by incorporating or complementing those flavors in the food:
Cherry
Raspberry
Strawberry
Vanilla
Clove

Base Ingredients

Start with one of these proteins to pair with Pinot Noir:
Chicken
Duck
Rabbit
Quail
Salmon
Tuna (think Ahi/seared or grilled)
Pork (to be clear, this includes bacon and sausages)
Beef
Lamb

Bridge Ingredients

And/or include ingredients that connect the wine with the food:
Beets
Berries
Cherries
Dijon Mustard
Eggplant
Lentils
Mushrooms
Truffles

Thanksgiving wine and food

Suggested Dishes for Pairing Pinot Noir

If you’re hungry for more wine and food pairing, check out these posts:

Pairing Malbec with Food

Pairing Merlot with Food

Pairing Chardonnay with Food

Pairing Rosé with Summertime Foods

How to Pair Chardonnay with Food

Chardonnay is one of the most popular wine varieties in the world. In fact, it is the most widely planted white grape variety here in Washington State. This food friendly white wine also happens to complement a number of my favorite dishes! To create the ultimate match, here are some easy tips to pair chardonnay with food.

Chardonnay Food Pairing
Shrimp Risotto and Chardonnay are a great match

Flavors in Chardonnay

Match Chardonnay with food using similar or contrasting flavors.
♦ Pear ♦ Lemon ♦ Apple ♦ Pineapple ♦ Vanilla ♦ Butter

Base Ingredients

Select a base ingredient that is likely to match with the variety.
♦ Crab ♦ Shrimp ♦ Scallops ♦ Mussels ♦ Halibut ♦ Salmon
♦ Chicken ♦ Turkey ♦ Quail ♦ Lobster

Bridge Ingredients

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
Tip: select one or just a few. A dish that’s too busy competes with the wine rather than complements it.
♦ Apple ♦ Pear ♦ Fennel ♦ Citrus ♦ Corn ♦ Dijon Mustard ♦ Vanilla
♦ Dairy ♦ Roasted Garlic ♦ Parmesan ♦ Swiss Cheese

Suggested to Pair Chardonnay with Food

When we’re in a celebratory mood at our house, I make a batch of crab cakes and break out a lightly oaked chardonnay. This pairing is THE way to celebrate a special occasion! Buttered corn makes a terrific side.

Food Pairing for Chardonnay
Crab Cakes and Chardonnay are the ultimate celebratory pairing

Riff on risotto and drizzle it with truffle oil for a decadent pairing. Or, keep it classic and top that risotto with some shrimp. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Chablis. Chablis hails from the Bourgogne region in France where the Chardonnay is known for its bright acidity and minerality. Translation:  it’s the opposite of buttery California Chardonnay.

Alternatively, try dishes such as lemon chicken, corn chowder (chilled or warm), roasted salmon, or Thanksgiving fare. It is also a nice pairing for my Light Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.

Chardonnay Day

One of my early experiences on Twitter involved participating in wine chats. Initially there was Taste Live. Then, Rick Bakas founded Chardonnay day in 2010. It gave us the perfect excuse to gather with friends over food and wine. Of course, it also meant posting impressions of the wines and pairings on Twitter.

Chardonnay Day still takes place annually on the Thursday before Memorial Day. Either Twitter or Instagram are great places to share your experience. If you’re celebrating on this day, be sure to use the #ChardDay hashtag and tag me so I can see how you choose to pair Chardonnay with food!

#LetsTalkAboutWine