Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Good food & Wine and Not Much Exercise



On our first trip to Oregon's Willamette Valley wine country some years ago we floated in a balloon high above the vineyards early on a sunny summer morning. This time around we were greeted by a watery winter sun when we arrived in Newberg for wine tasting with friends. In the morning we drove through the peaceful countryside with its rolling hills covered with sleeping vines and filbert orchards where each tree was hung with hundreds of chartreuse colored catkins, presaging spring. In between the orchards and vineyards the rural scene was embellished with alpacas and llamas grazing alongside sheep and goats in green pastures.



Our drive was just a short tour covering parts of three North Willamette Valley American Viticultural Areas: Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge and Dundee Hills, all famous for prize-winning Pinot Noirs. The Worden Hill Wine Trail in the Ribbon Ridge area was having an open house at all ten wineries – far too many to visit, especially before lunch. But we did stop at the venerable Aldesheim tasting room and at Black Walnut which has a gorgeous hilltop inn with expansive views over their vineyards and the misty Valley. The proprietor was busy getting a shipment of their Pinot Noirs to Germany ready to go. The luxurious inn would look at home in Tuscany – truly a place to celebrate a special event.



Lunch was at Recipe, an old home turned into a stylish bistro filled with voluble eaters and drinkers. Glenn had Croque Madame, rich with ham and Gruyere topped with an egg sunny side up. I tried the vinaigrette-dressed warm bitter greens dotted with thick-cut bacon pieces and chestnuts all topped with a slice of country bread also supporting a just-laid egg.  Of course, a glass of Pinot Noir from their extensive wine list accompanied our meal. 





Soon it was time for our first official  tasting. We started at Ferraro Cellars, owned by another friend, one who had visited us in Italy. In contrast to many of the other wineries in the area he concentrates on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel made from grapes grown east of the Cascade mountains. A few sips encouraged us to buy a case of his Merlot to put aside in our own small cellar. The next stop was at Archery Summit, home to highly rated Pinot Noirs. Our tasting event was presented formally in their candle-lit cave filled with rows of huge oak barrels full of aging wines. Soon bottles of 2009 Premier Cuvee joined the others already in the car trunk.

Replete with enough tasting for the day we moved on to dinner in a delightful restaurant called SubTerra (because it is down a flight of steps between two tasting rooms). We lingered long over wild mushroom risotto and skillet roasted mussels in marinara sauce. Like much of the food served in the area the mussels were locally sourced, in this case fresh from Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast. Our selections were listed as "small plates" but were almost more than we could eat. With bottles lined up along a ledge next to our table we were tempted into having just one more glass to make our day complete.

Winter is peaceful but our next trip will be at harvest time when the color of the vines and their fruit will brighten the scene.


Courtesy Wikipedia
Courtesy Wikipedia

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