I don’t know about you, but those of us who live in the Bay Area understand this peculiar thing called Indian Summer. It was the last day of September and finally, it’s got hot! This called for some delicious white wine. (Mind you it’s been raining, hailing and freezing for the last week, now that it’s November but…) So I went to my trusty top shelf of my refrigerator where I keep whites and rose for ready consumption and found the Seven of Hearts 2011 Pinot Gris in my fridge, ripe for the opening. I also happened to find a 2010 that was buried in there from a long ago visit! WOOHOOO! Vertical! Pinot Gris is a bit of a dark hourse, being a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. Not white or red exactly, it literally is…gris (grey). This Pinot Gris comes from a site in north eastern Oregon that typically has warm days and cool nights. With the longer growing season of 2011, it was perfect for Pinot Gris. Created from four lots, each one was fermented separately three in neutral oak which allows the wine to really develop a personality. The fourth lot was fermented in stainless steel, which gives the crisp brightness that lights up the wine. This is a dry, delicious wonder that was bright and citrus driven, with lovely mineral notes followed by rich pears, stone fruit and ripe luscious peaches. At only $18 a bottle, this is a no brainier The 2011’s older sister, 2010, had been hiding in the back of my fridge. When I found it I was excited to do a side by side. The older vintage was a deep golden color, with rich peach flavors and spiced pear and tropical fruits, including kumquat. The bottle age definitely made a difference, but the oak was more present, and baking spice, apple and vanilla were showing through. These two sisters were a delightful summer reprieve and I was happy to enjoy them on a warm day. I look forward to visiting Byron again soon! Teh 2011 was provided as a sample, but I earned that 2010 all on my own!
While attending Carlton’s Walk in the Park, I was lucky enough to meet Ken Morrison of K&M Wines. Clearly passionate about Oregon wine, he began his winemaking career 15 years ago with the grapes on the vineyard property he lives on. With 6 acres planted and 3 more in process, K&M produces about 500 cases annually. Initially Ken’s hobby, he and his partner Mauro Hernandez (the M) have grown this hobby in to a small business, pursuing their dream of food, wine, and entertaining. I was excited by Ken’s 2007 Pinot at the Walk in the Park, and little did I know that I would be seeing quite a bit of him over the next day and a half! As the Blitz Carlton Crew split up in to two smaller groups on Monday morning, you’ve already heard about my adventure up the hill to Luminous Hills. Later that afternoon, after we rolled out of Cuvee’s delicious lunch, we walked around Carlton and did speed tastings in several tasting rooms. The first was K&M. I was delighted to see that I would get the opportunity to taste more of Ken’s wine in a more focused (but fast) environment, and it confirmed that I did indeed like the wine very much. First up, the 2010 Chardonnay, 50% Alchemy Vineyard Estate fruit and bursting with sandlewood, hazlenuts, and smoke. Fermented sur lie, in 100% neutral oak, this is gorgeous example of an Oregon chardonnay. The 2009 Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir is the a blend of the estate vineyard and Dundee Hills fruit, and is a classic, bursting with cherries and red fruit. Dense and smoky, it is full of dark raspberry with soft, silky tannins. With only 25% new oak, it has a subtle finish that is much appreciated. My favorite of the tasting was the 2007 Alchemy Vineyard Pinoit Noir, a special treat Ken was pouring at A Walk in the Park. Panned by critics, loved by pinotphiles, this is a very good example of the Oregon Pinot Noirs from this year. Raspberry, pomegranate strawberry and creamy vanilla, it is a classically elegant Pinot that K&M held back for a few extra months in oak to give it a long silky finish. Yum! K&M Wines keeps prices affordable, and you can afford to splurge on these little luxuries. With the Reserve Pinot Noir topping the charts at $35, even the most budget minded wine lover can taste the Oregon terroir. Thanks again Ken for the great wines and the entertaining ride back to Portland! K&M Wines is located in Carlton, Oregon. Make sure you say hi if you make the trip!
Pinot! On our Blitz Carlton tour of the Yamhill-Carlton wine region, I was lucky enough to visit the Luminous Hills vineyard sight. I have tasted the wines of Byron Dooley a few times before, as he owns the Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills labels, but this visit was special. Piling in to the trusty Subaru wagon (legally required if you live in Oregon), we trekked up a rough and ready road to the beautiful rolling hills. The steep slopes of the site are hidden from the main road and are a beautiful hollow in the hills where the cool air pools in the valley. The vineyard is located in the southwest corner of the Yamhill-Carlton District, in a uniquely high elevation site full of both Jory and sedimentary soils. The two soils, which are very different, combined with the specific clones that Byron uses to make these wines, create some delicious and complex Oregon Pinot Noirs. Like many vineyards in the area, the bulk of the plantings are Pommard, with blocks of 777, 667, and 115 also planted to add terroir and variety. The property is dry farmed, which maximizes the site’s terroir, although emergency irrigation is possible if needed in a difficult vintage Sustainable farmed, the three Pinot Noirs from Luminous Hills are each distinct, wonderful, and full of character – much like Byron himself! Luminous Hills producers four wines. I will let you taste them for yourself, but the details are: Rose of Pinot Noir – This is such a delicious refresher, with 70% purpose made from Pommard and 777, and 30 Saignee. The clean, crisp flavors jump out of the glass, and the bolder style is perfect to tuck away in your cellar. Estate Grown Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton – This affordable luxury contains all four clones from the property, and is a clear picture of the location. Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill-Carlton LUX – this wine is only Pommard and 777, with the richness of the Pommard overlapping the bright spikes of the 777. The higher elevation of the vineyard produces brighter, elegant fruit. This is my fave! Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill Carlton- Utilizing the 667 clone from the top of the vineyard and the 115 from the bottom, the Astra has more whole cluster fermentation and is a rich, bold wine. I hope you will stop by the tasting room in Carlton when you are in the Willamette Valley! Byron, Lena and the chocolate will be waiting for you!
The Carlton Inn B&B is a beautiful old farmhouse located just off the main square in Carlton, Oregon. After dinner and after cocktails, Liza, Mary, Matt, Megan and I wandered down the road to check in with the Inn’s owner, Karen. The rest of our posse was housed in various inns around Carlton, and I look forward to hearing more about their stays as well. Having just bought the inn two weeks before our arrival, Karen was a lovely and welcoming hostess who gave us a tour and ensured that we had everything we needed. With a background in hospitality and spa services, we knew we were in good hands. Built in 1915, the house had four beautiful rooms. The master room, which Megan & Matt were lodged in, had a sitting room with a day bed and could easily sleep 3-4. Liza and Mary each had one of the other upstairs rooms, with gently sloping ceilings, and cozy beds. I had the garden room, a large room just off the kitchen over looking the patio. Karen showed us around, and then we assured her we were snug for the night so she could go on with her evening. Our small group wandered back in to town to meet the rest of the crew, and had an impromptu raid on 7 of Hearts before bringing a few stragglers back to the Inn for a bit of wine and giggles. Karen was welcoming and accommodating, and provided glasses, a lovely seating area on the patio, and even snacks for a few of our hungrier friends. After several bottles of wine, we all hit the wall and the sack. The comfortable rooms were snug, and came complete with plenty of electrical outlets and wifi throughout the house, to satisfy our needs for the interwebs. Early bird Megan was up and tweeting before more the next morning! The next morning, we woke up to fresh coffee, and a feast for breakfast! Starting with Mud River coffee, in an endless carafe (thanks Karen!), we had homemade granola with yogurt. This could have been breakfast enough, but we continued with fresh fruit. Then, the main dish. Karen swore she was experimenting, but this was an amazing breakfast of French Toast bread pudding, with slabs of butter and syrup, and of course – bacon. Since we had to ensure that the new owner knew that bloggers run on bacon, we were pleased to see the delicious rashers appear. This beautiful, quiet, and welcoming inn in the heart of wine country is a great deal – in the low season, rooms go from $139-159 per night. In the high season, rooms go up a bit, but are still very reasonable. Considering the feast we had for breakfast, I’m ok with it! I know I will be coming back to visit as soon as I can. Karen has plans to convert the garage in to a spa space, which I know will be wonderful. Wine, breakfast for a King and a massage? Why yes […]
After we meandered through the Walk in the Park, the Blitz Carlton crew headed back in to town and met up at Republic of Jam for cocktails and catching up. The Republic of Jam is a unique shop that specializes in jams and culinary concoctions of distinction made from local farms and suppliers. Each jar of jam contains at least one pound of fresh fruit, with half of the sugar of traditional jams – making them deliciously savory as well as sweet. These are not your average jams! With flavors like Apricot Vanilla Riesling and Mango Viognier, you are sure to have your taste buds teased and enthralled. In this little slice of heaven, members of the Jam Nation (the shop’s quarterly club) can wander the shelves of little gems like the much coveted Pacific Berry Jam, only made once a year, or perhaps some Cherry Black Pepper jam to spread on your pork chop. With other items such as Spiced Pomegranate Culinary Syrup as well as mustards, the sky is the limit when it comes with creative uses of these sauces and spreads. Republic of Jam’s proprietresses, Amy Wilder and Lynnette Shaw, are creative and inspired jam masters who are only limited by the supply of season fruit. The creative recipies and inspirations that they come up with are truly amazing. On our visit, we were treated to several nibbles as well as three cocktails, using both jams and culinary syrups. Try some fresh chevre or farmers cheese with a little blueberry jam, or perhaps a Smoked Tomato jam with bacon sandwich! The first cocktail was Plum Ginger culinary syrup, paired wit local winery Kramer Vineyards Brut. This created a Plum Royale, and the flavor of the plums make it a refreshingly fun sparkler, with a twist. When I got home, I had a bottle of Spiced Pomegranate syrup, so I tried that as well – and boy! What a way to ring in the holidays! Next up locally crafted artisan gin was paired with Blueberry Lemon jam, slowly dissolved in a glass with a generous slug of gin, topped with sparkling water. Lemon Blueberry Gin fizz anyone? I had two…or three! Hey, I was walking 2 blocks back to the B&B and the restaurant for dinner was next door. Our final jam libation was a Strawberry Mint Julep, created with Temperance Trader Bourbon, bitters, and Strawberry Black Pepper culinary syrup. With the unexpected kick of pepper at the end of a sweet julep, this was absolutely delicious. If you are in Carlton, be sure to stop by! Situated between 7 of Hearts winery and Horseradish cafe, you can stroll the main street all day and never be bored. As for me, I have about 7 jars of jam collected on my counter, and 3 culinary syrups in my fridge. This weekend is the Craft Spirits Carnival, and I will be doing my best mixology routine tomorrow! We’ll see how it goes… Happy jamming!
After the Wine Bloggers Conference in August, I was invited to spend an extra day or two in the town of Carlton. Carlton is a small farming town, in the Willamette, bordered by McMinnville, about an hour outside of Portland. With over 40 wineries in the town and AVA of Yamhill-Carlton, it was an adventure waiting to happen! On Sunday afternoon, after the WBC wrapped up, the Blitz Bus fetched us and whisked us away to Carlton. Now this is no ordinary bus! A converted school bus, with red leather couches in the back, we rocked it all the way down 99 to our first stop, where 7 of Hearts Winery greeted us with a splash (or gulp) or rose, much needed after a hot and dusty bus ride. After fetching our swag bags full of locally baked bread, jam and other goodies we were off! Once everyone gathered, we hopped back on the Blitz Bus and hightailed it over to the park, where we started our tour at an annual tradition, the Carlton Walk in the Park. This festival is a celebration of 10 years of commitment of the town, and supported local charities, with wine, food and local artisans selling their wares to the beat of live music. Of course, our hostess with the mostess Lynette Shaw, of the Republic of Jam was quick point out the way to the wine tent! After a few sips of delicious wine, the fact that i had missed lunch became eminent and I raided the RibSlayer tent for a slab of ribs. Luckily for me, the plate of food was enough for an army, so I split it with my doppleganger Liza, and washed it down with a glass of hard cider from Carlton CyderWorks. I am a huge fan of the cider, and the Newton Pippin was a crisp, dry and refreshing beverage on a hot day, and it went so very well with pork ribs! Wandering around the wine tent, I met the delightful Ken of K&M Cellars, who was keen to get lessons on tweeting from Melanie and myself. Ken, who was a great sport, was thrilled to share his wines with us, and little did I know my itinerary would take me by his tasting room the next day (more on that soon).The most fulfilling accomplishment of The Walk in the Park is that, after a week, over 10 wineries visited and at least 100 tasted, Melanie found a rose that she liked! Most of us enjoy a rose of pinot noir, particularly on a hot day such as this, but Melanie has a peculiar aversion to strawberries. Now, we tried to convince her that this was a delicious taste, with many samples of rose, from many regions of Oregon. Alas, our efforts were fruitless…until – could it be? In the wine tent, we found Monk’s Gate Winery. Some of the posse visited the winery the next day, but I got to taste some lovely wines from this 50 acre farm in Carlton. The sense of community and […]