Wine Down Eugene March 26 – April 1
This past weekend, Eugene Daily News writer and photographer, Sandy Harris, and I took a road trip up to the northwestern reaches of the state to attend an event that took place in the picture-perfect bedroom community of Forest Grove – located in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country.
Unlike most of the wine-centric events I attend around the state of Oregon, this event focused on Oregon craft beverages. Hosted by SakéOne, producers of premium Oregon craft saké and importers of high quality saké from Japan, vendors that participated in sharing their craft beverages alongside Saké One for this media event included a cidery, a brewery, a distillery, a meadery, and a winery that’s home to the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley.
As a true lover of saké, especially when paired with all sorts of sushi dishes, I was super excited to visit the home of SakéOne, producers of some of the most delicious and unique sakés I’ve ever had. With a goal that reflects their name (to be the number one saké company in America), SakéOne chose Oregon as its home base because of the water quality – and water quality in saké is super important since it makes up 80 percent of the beverage. Aside from aiming towards being the number one saké company in the country, SakéOne thinks educating Americans on how saké should be served is equally important. Folks, contrary to popular belief, saké should not be served warm. It should be served chilled, a lot like white wine, and served in a wine glass. The three sakés that we sampled were SakéMoto (a smooth, elegant Junmai saké imported from Japan), Momokawa Organic Nigori (a creamy, gingery, coconut-y tropical delight) and the outstanding, and my favorite, g fifty – a complex beauty with alluring aromas like none other.
A visit to the table that housed Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider brought on a few sips of the most unique hard ciders I’ve ever tasted. First we sampled their most “cider-like” cider, the Revelation Newtown Pippin, which was naturally fermented and super dry (the way ciders were meant to be). Then we tried the super unique, limited release Lorrie’s Gold. Unlike any cider I’ve ever had, Lorrie’s Gold had zero carbonation and offered a complex, tannic structure. My favorite of the three was the Hellelujah Hopricot, a Belgian wit-style cider made using heirloom American apples, coriander, orange peel and paradise grains. Being fermented with French saison and Belgian ale yeasts gave it a craft beer quality that I found really pleasing, adding a whole load of depth and character. Then apricot juice is added and it’s finished off with whole-leaf Cascade and Amarillo Hops, creating a cider with pronounced, palate pleasing hoppiness. Yes, he’s a reverend (ordained, not practicing), yes, his name is Nat, and yes, he is the master cider maker.
Next to Reverend Nat’s was Kookoolan World Meadery, where we were treated to some samples of Kombucha, Elegance Mead and Vin de Noix (Green Walnut Wine). We started with a sip of the Kombucha, which I was reluctant about at first. I’ve had a taste of Kombucha “soda” before and found it awfully sugary and vinegary, and frankly, not my style of drink, at all. My hesitation dissipated at first sniff of the beautiful aromatics of the Kookoolan Kombucha. Apparently, natural Kombucha, like Kookoolan’s, has 1.5 percent alcohol, so it can’t be sold as a soda. The Kombuchas that are sold as sodas go through a process to get rid of the alcohol which forces adding sugar and selected essences, ending with that too sugary, too vinegary product that I didn’t like. Kookoolan’s Kombucha is divine, and it’s got just four ingredients: Black Tea, sugar, culture and water. The super elegant mead with the super appropriate name, “Elegance,” is also divine, and absolutely stands apart from other meads I’ve tried in the past; in fact, it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried. I guess I could sum up the products we sampled from Kookoolan as elegant and divine, because their unique Green Walnut Wine also fit into those two categories, just perfectly.
With only enough room in the Wine Down Eugene to feature three of the six extremely unique craft beverage companies, please follow me over to my award-winning website, WineJulia.com, where each of the other companies will be featured in separate articles over the next few weeks; including, a piece on the savory and delicious bites that were provided by one of Forest Grove’s top restaurants, 1910 Main – An American Bistro. The other three vendors were David Hill Winery, Vertigo Brewing and Big Bottom Whiskey.
Sandy, being the fantastically talented photographer that she is, put together a photo essay using her beautiful photos taken during our road trip to Forest Grove for the Oregon Craft Beverage Event. Check it out here.