Capitello Wines

Pairing Challenge: Sauvignon Blanc


There are some very logical choices in terms of food and wine pairings. Some common ones include Pinot noir and earthy dishes, like mushroom sauce or roasted chicken. Or Pinot Gris and white fish. Then there are the ones that can stump you, like Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, acidic, and herbaceous, this wine can be a hard one to work with.


Recently, on a cold winter evening I was preparing some teriyaki chicken stir fry and thought, this could work with Sauvignon Blanc. I was right. The slight sweetness of the teriyaki sauce paired with the green flavors of the Sauvignon blanc were well balanced. This particular occasion I had on hand some Capitello 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and it was an excellent choice. It would also pair well with Chinese or Thai food, it is that hint of sweetness that really brings out the flavors in this varietal. Cheers!

Straw Wine: Capitello Wines Adventure Continues

Winemaker Ray Walsh harvests Sauvignon Blanc from straw mats

Last month, I stumbled upon an intriguing lay out of freshly harvested grapes on straw mats while visiting a local winery, and I tracked down Capitello Wines winemaker, Ray Walsh, to find out what he was doing with these clusters of Sauvignon Blanc. After a brief interview with Walsh, I learned that the grapes on the straw mats were going to be used to make Straw Wine.

Straw Wine, which is sometimes called Raisin Wine, is a sweet dessert wine made from the concentrated juice of dried grapes, and Walsh is the first winemaker in Oregon to experiment with this process of winemaking.

After my first conversation with Walsh about his adventure with making Straw Wine, I put together an article on my award-winning website,, Straw Wine: A New Adventure for Capitello Wines.

Dried Sauvignon Blanc clusters ready to be pressed

About a month later, when Walsh was ready to harvest the dried grapes from the straw mats, I met him at the winery to witness this labor intensive process. Aside from sorting through each cluster by hand, the grapes are then gently pressed to extract the small bits of sweet juice from the dried grapes.

To follow me on this journey of the making of Oregon’s first Straw Wine, visit my wine website,, where you’ll find pictures and details of the entire process from beginning to end. The second article in this on-going series can be found by clicking here.

Straw Wine: A New Adventure for Capitello Wines

Straw Wine

I recently stopped by Domaine Meriwether, located in Veneta just off of Highway 126, to pick up a couple bottles of the newly released Celebration Cuvee Sparkling Wine, and I noticed something very different inside the winery.

Along the back walls, there were stacks upon stacks of straw matting holding clusters of freshly harvested grapes. Having never seen this sort of display before, Buzz Kawders, owner of Domaine Meriwether, was quick to explain that winemaker Ray Walsh, of Capitello Wines, was in the midst of a new winemaking adventure: he was creating the Pacific Northwests first Straw Wine. 

Kawders explained that the grapes on the straw mats would remain there for the next three or so months to dry up like raisins. The remaining concentrated juice would then be pressed and made into wine – a wine that is somewhat similar to ice wine.

Capitello Wines

Ray Walsh is a well-known local winemaker who produces award winning wines under his label, Capitello Wines. He’s also the winemaker for Domaine Meriwether, and he has a solid reputation in the Willamette Valley. Walsh has been bringing new ideas to the wine scene with his fresh, hands-on approach to winemaking, and his wines are consistently true to the varietals characteristics. I enjoy each vintage of both his Willamette Valley wines and Marlborough, New Zealand wines.

I contacted Walsh to find out the details regarding his new adventure in making Straw Wine, and posted our conversation in detail on my award winning wine blog, Follow me over to to find out more about what may be Oregon’s first and only Straw Wine. 

Which Winery Will Wine Down Your Memorial Weekend?



Benton-Lane Winery

Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses
May 28th, 29th, & 30th

Blue skies and warm days are on their way, and local wineries will be swinging their doors open for one of the South Willamette Valley’s highly anticipated and most celebrated 3 day wine events: Memorial Day Weekend Winery Open Houses. It’s the official kick-off to the summer season at the wineries; featuring, special releases, barrel tastings, live music, artisan treats and an endless flow of their locally, hand crafted wine- from Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah to Huxelrebe and Sweet Rosé. Each winery entices us to head their way for a number of reasons, so here’s a list of what they’ll be indulging us with this 2011 Memorial Day Weekend:

Benton-Lane Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11a-5p. $10 admission includes logo glass and gourmet tapas. Live music with Jerome Monaco Saturday and Sunday- 12:30-4:30p. Gourmet Pizza Tapas on Monday. Also hosting the new Ebony Wines-grown in Oregon’s rockiest vineyards!

Brigadoon Wine Company: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. Enjoy a Pinot-Picnic in the Park. Bring a lunch, chairs or a blanket & sample the Shown families 3 delicious Pinot’s while relaxing in a beautiful park-like setting at the Brigadoon Wine Co. property. FREE admission

Chateau Lorane's Lake Louise

Chateau Lorane: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11:30a-5:30p. $10 admission includes logo glass (free under 21). Taste over 20 different wines, live music, art festival, delicious food available for purchase provided by Flavors Catering. All this on the shores of the beautiful Lake Louise! Rain or Shine.

Domaine Meriwether: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-4p. $10 fee for 4 tastes of wine and a plate of food. Live music

Capitello Wines will be featured at Domaine Meriwether!

Iris Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 11a-5p. Free wine tasting all 3 days! 25% discount on case purchases, including mixed cases.

King Estate: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday. New releases & restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner.

The deck at LaVelle Vineyards

LaVelle Vineyards: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, enjoy live performances by the 5 piece band-‘Concrete Loveseat’ on Sunday and Monday. Delectable food will be catered by Field to Table.

Noble Estate Vineyard & Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p, live acoustic music Saturday & Sunday. $5 tasting fee which includes 6 wines- fee waived with a bottle purchase.

Pfeiffer Winery: Open Wednesday – Monday 11a-5p, offering Italian Chocolates & appetizer’s with wine tasting. Private Pinot Clinics will be held in the Grotto every 90 minutes. Owners Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer will be your guides with barrel tasting of their 2010 Pinot Noir Futures and official release of the highly anticipated 2008 Blue Dot Pinot Noir Reserve. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy their water garden falls and streams.

RainSong Vineyard: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-5p. Featuring new releases, 20% case discounts, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and barrel tasting! Admission is FREE.

The tasting room red barn at Saginaw Vineyard

Saginaw Vineyard: Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11a-5p, but open late Friday for live music with Timothy Patrick 6p-9p

Silvan Ridge Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12-6p wine tasting, live music, sales on wine; Sat. 2-5p “The Valley Boys” Live; Sun. 2-5p “Just Say Yes” Live; Mon. 2-5p “Apropos” Live. FREE admission

Sarver Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 12-8p, complimentary tastings paired with cheese and chocolate.

Sweet Cheeks Winery: Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday from 12-6p, Live Music by “Taste”, food available for purchase, wine specials, and an art festival. New vintages of Rosy Cheeks and Riesling will be available & admission is free

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company: Friday 6-9p live music; Saturday 3-9p live music starts at 6p; Sunday 3-7p; $7 tasting fee for flight of 7 wines. Light snacks.

Opine Cellars wines will also be available to sample at Territorial.

We are truly blessed to be in the midst of these unparalleled wineries of the South Willamette Valley. Thanks to the efforts and hard work of all the people involved in meticulously planning these fun-filled Memorial Day Weekend events, there will be loads of fun to be had by all.

But, know this: Before I blow off the dust from my flip flops and sun-glasses, and unpack the boxes that have housed my favorite t-shirts and shorts for the last 8 months, I’ll take a moment to remember those who have fallen in battle fulfilling their obligation to the great country in which I live. The freedoms that I enjoy everyday are protected and ensured by men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect my country and what it stands for.  After a moment of silence and heartfelt gratitude so deserving of our military, I’ll be ready to swirl, sip, and savor all that our stellar local wineries have to offer, and I will raise a glass to our American heroes.

Cheers to my Dad, my hero: Lt. Col. Maurice H. Leiser, 1954 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Dedicated to God, his beloved family, and the United States Army–he is forever in my heart. 1931-2009.

Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene