Jade Helm

Independence Week: Wine Down Eugene


With a week of beautiful weather ahead, the 4th of July weekend is bursting at the seams with wine wine events.  This weeks wine down is another refreshing break from the standard with a guest article from Jade Helm of Tasting Pour.  Also, we’ll have Wine and Beer courtesy of BigFoot Distributing and The Steel Pail out at Dexter Lake State Park for this 4th of July (click for details)

Pairing Food and Wine: Cabernet Cliche

Cabernet Sauvignon and grilled steak sounds like a cliche.  Sometimes when a food and wine pairing is a match made in heaven there is no good reason to complicate it. We knew a Texan once who had a quick reply about the reason people call Texas “God’s Country.”  “People say it ’cause it’s based on fact.”  Well people pair it ’cause it’s based on taste.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
A grass fed, grass finished local cut of beef filet hits the grill and that smell of smoke and initial singe tell your nose you are in for something good.  Your 1998 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon has a cork that is both wine soaked and intact and you decant your Cabernet Sauvignon to give the air time to dance across the surface. Simple, basic, tried and true but there are lessons to be learned. And why does Tasting Pour think you should learn about pairing food and wine? So you can repeat your triumphs and avoid repeating mistakes. See Drink what you Like.
photo by Jade Helm / Tastingpour.blogspot.com
photo by Jade Helm / Tastingpour.blogspot.com
Lesson One – Consider the Entire Meal
The Cabernet Sauvignon will be served with more than just the steak.  We paired a green salad with blue cheese to match the wine’s richness, dried currants to pick up the fruit flavors, and an acidic dressing for balance. Our roasted potatoes were mixed with peppery smoked bacon to compliment the grilled steak and the savory flavors in the wine. Rosemary in the potatoes highlighted the herbaceous notes often found in Cabernet Sauvignon.  Steamed carrots with butter and brown sugar added a touch of sweetness absent from other parts of the meal.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
Lesson Two – Pairing an Older Wine
Because this wine had aged 15+ years we expected the tannins to be softened, the fruit flavors to be integrated and transformed to dried fruits, and a dominance of tertiary flavors like leather, meat, and earth. We stored our wine on it’s side to keep the wine in contact with the cork and made sure it was in a cool dark place.  This bottle was purchased from a trusted retailer.  We were rewarded with a wine that can be described as “sitting in a leather chair by the fireplace with the smells of Christmas baking in the kitchen,”  In other words; leather, smoke, baking spices.  Because the tannins had softened it was a perfect pairing with the more delicate filet.  For more information on learning  which wines to store please see our series Pour and Store here and here.
photo by Jade Helm
photo by Jade Helm
Lesson Three – Oregon Produces More than Pinot Noir
Our wine, La Garza Cellars 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, comes from the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon. The area is known as “The Hundred Valleys of Umpqua” because of the diverse climates that allow for a wide range of varietals.  This isn’t typical Pinot Noir country.  While cooler, marine influenced microclimates exist in the northern areas around the town of Elkton, much of the Umpqua Valley is drier and warmer.   Spangler Vineyards, formerly La Garza Cellars, produces Cabernet Sauvignon from ungrafted older vines (planted 1968-1971).
Grilled Meat Food and Wine Pairing

Please share some of your wine and food pairing hurrahs or faux paus. For more wine pairing tips click here.

Wine Pairing Weekend #1 Bloggers: Be sure to check out the great pairings my fellow bloggers have come up with for the first Wine Pairing Weekend! 

Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing “Lemon Marmalade-Glazed Duck Legs + Holman Ranch’s Off-Dry Pinot Gris

Vino Travels – An Italian Wine Blog will share “Food and Wine Pairing: BBQ with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Grape Experiences is sharing “Wine and Dine: Sinfo Rosado 2012 with Chicken Enchilada Burgers

Pull that Cork posted “Rolled Pork Florentine on the Grill, Which Wine Pairs Best?”

From Cooking Chat, “Grilled Pork Tenderloin Paired with a Bonny Doon Syrah

Meal Diva blogged about “Grilled Sausage Kabobs and White Wine

Curious Cuisiniere paired “Wine Grilled Chicken with Lewis Station Winery’s Oaked Chardonnay

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the July Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on “Refreshing summer wine pairings” on Saturday, July 12.

— Jade

This article re-published with permission.

Armchair AVAs


As new-comers to Oregon, we haven’t known what to expect – especially weather wise.  A chilly winter day found us on a road trip from Salem to Eugene and we were surprised at the scenery.  Yes the sky was gray, but a magnificent expansive gray.  Yes the fog was thick, but by midday it floated above forested hillsides revealing evergreens that looked almost black in the overcast.

Shop for wines b yt the AVA - Route 5 NW Wine Bar
Shop for wines by the AVA at Route 5 NW Wine Bar

The reason for the trip was a vineyard and winery tour.  We, at Tasting Pour, love visiting vineyards.  Nothing beats experiencing the soil first hand, gazing at the hillsides, and passing sheep peacefully grazing in pastures along the journey.  There are only so many vineyards one can visit in a day – especially the shorter days of the Pacific Northwest fall and winter.  And for those not lucky enough to live here, a very long vacation would be required to really experience the wine offerings. We found an alternative at Route 5 NW Wine Bar in Eugene.  Here visitor’s can experience armchair AVA (American Viticultural Area) tasting. Route 5, a recent addition to the Marche line of restaurants, is designed to allow guests to taste the wines of a number of AVAs in one location.  Featuring North West wines, the retail shop and wine list are divided as Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill Carlton, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, etc.  “This is an affordable way for people to teach themselves about Northwest wines, tasting AVAs by the glass,” shares “Wine Queen” Kirsten Hansen.  Drinks are available in sizes from “splash” to “the flask.”  Kirsten is a wealth of wine knowledge explaining vintage differences and sharing detailed information about individual producer practices.  In addition to casual chats with guests, Kirsten plans to offer fun wine education tastings beginning in 2014.  Route 5 NW Wine Bar also features snacks ranging from spicy roasted hazelnuts to light meals such as flat bread pizzas.  In keeping with the Marche Restaurant Group philosophy, ingredients are sourced locally when possible.

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company
Territorial is located in the eclectic Whiteaker Neighborhood

For an urban winery experience, we visited Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company.  You still get that fermented juice and barrel smell, yet you are a short drive or walk from other fun stops. Owner and “Oregon Grape Herder” Alan Mitchell produces all of the fruit from Bell Pine and Equinox Vineyards- winery owned vineyards about 20 minutes away.  This is a small production winery, 3-5K cases a year, with a cool neighborhood vibe.  Artwork adorns the building inside and out and Thursday and Friday nights are cozy with regulars coming for the wine and the local live music.  We did a barrel tasting of their soon to be released 2012 Stones Throw Pinot Noir and you might have to get in line behind us for a bottle.

Mark Nicholl of the new Oregon Wine LAB
Mark Nicholl of the new Oregon Wine LAB

There is a new kid on the block in Eugene, Mark Nicholl’s tasting room called Oregon Wine L.A.B. – Local Artisan Brands.  Mark greets visitors with a lovely Australian accent and a casual welcome. The bar is a gorgeous piece of polished maple and decorations include a turntable and kitschy mid century lamp.  An honors graduate of the University of Adelaide’s wine making program, Mark offers food friendly wines and a comfortable but chic place to hang out and taste.  Only open a short time, his future plans include an on-site production facility, a sensory classroom, lounge area and a dart room – because he likes darts.  Mark’s personality, and the atmosphere of his tasting room, are reflected in his brand William Rose.  The label features a 1930’s Bentley, name Demon Bird, which is the preferred mode of transportation for William Rose – a general troublemaker who roams the countryside.  We left with two bottles of Gewurztraminer and an unusual 50/50 blend of Barbera and Syrah. Also available are local brands such as Bodner Wine Company.

Ray Walsh
Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines thieves some wine from a barrel at Territorial

Why not take the opportunity to do some international wine comparisons.  Capitello Wines has opened a new tasting room in the former Lord Leebrick Theatre building.  Owner and winemaker, Ray Walsh, offers both Oregon and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  Dessert and sparkling wines are also on the menu.  Ray started his winemaking career in New Zealand and has lived in Oregon over 20 years.  His New Zealand grapes come from his aunt and uncle’s vineyard.  Ray’s Oregon grapes come from vineyards with a focus on organic or sustainable practices.  “I work with growers I have known many years. I like to work on a handshake.”  And that is the vibe you get from Ray.  A visit to Capitello Wines Tasting Room usually means running into Ray or his wife Jennifer.  They invite you to grab a book from their small library and relax over a glass of wine.  By the way, Ray is the winemaker at Territorial.  The wine world can be small and wonderful.

The wine world can also be very welcoming, especially in Eugene.  A large local wine club is just one of the reasons that Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars expanded into the area.  From Umpqua Valley, Pyrenees is the first Southern Oregon winery to open a tasting room in Eugene, and the location will be a fusion featuring wine tasting during the day and a lounge experience in the evening.  They have hired a mixologist to concoct wine based cocktails.  Expect unusual combinations like Sauvignon Blanc, Cava, rosemary and mint.  In addition to Pyrenees’ artisan wines, you can enjoy a selection of beer or sparkling wines.  “When people visit the tasting room at our winery it is like being in our living room,” says proprietor Robert Stryk.  “We want to bring that atmosphere to our tasting room in Eugene.”  Pyrenees wines are only available through the winery, tasting room, and online.  Just another reason to visit Eugene and experience a wide variety of wines in one tasting trip.

Editorial Note: The Lounge at Pyrenees will be celebrating their grand opening February 7, 5-10 pm, 946 Willamette Street, in the old Woolworth building – downtown Eugene.