The restaurant is a monument to the old style 1950s Americanized Chinese cuisine. Waiters in tuxedos, all the well-known dishes served in a classy manner, and the big production and display of Peking duck complete with the head thrust up in the air with a nod to A Christmas Story. My own attempt at making Peking duck at home was not a success, but I was happy with the result at the restaurant. The skin was crazy delicious. The rest of the dishes are something of a blur, as I hadn't eaten in 24 hours, had been up since 4 a.m., and was enchanted by the great storytelling from the winemakers. I was a little disappointed that most of the meal could not be eaten with chopsticks--there's a whole branch of my family that's Chinese and I've been versatile with 筷子 since the age of six. There was that residual fear of "I'm a southerner in New York and I need to demonstrate that I know what I'm doing, also, thanks to the Civil War I had to apply for a visa to enter the state". Once the bowl of fried rice arrived I engaged in a little Guangzhou-style shoveling between sips of Pinot Noir.
One blog post can't contain everything that we experienced at this dinner. You'd really need to write a book to truly communicate all of the tasting notes, background details, and stories shared that evening. One I will mention is that Brian talked about the winemaker Jimi Brookes who died before harvest at the tender age of 38. Six other Oregon winemakers pitched in and devoted one day per week to make sure that all of the grapes got picked and processed properly, and a trust was set up for his young son. You'll find similar stories around the wine producing regions of the world, but Oregon is unique in America for being mostly comprised of this particular communitarian group of small family wineries that help each other out.
Among my favorites of the night were the Abacela Albariño, the WVV Estate Pinot Noir, and the Cliff Creek Syrah. I had a few one-on-one conversations with Earl, mostly about cotton farming in Missouri and the labeling laws for American "Port". We also bumped into each other a few times throughout the weekend at the Snooth PVA event and on a random street corner in the city. These guys were so friendly and engaging, and they all welcomed us to come and visit their wineries and offered the use of a few beater cars around the farms if we needed transportation. Like my trip to Preston in Sonoma, I fear that if I go out there I might drop all of my Memphis ties and settle down as a cook and goat-herder for some small Oregon winery.
Oregon is also unique in a few other regards. You've got winemakers making serious Vermentino and Albariño far from their home soils. There are temperature swings that are much broader than California, and when you drill down to microclimates you've got mountains and valleys and deserts and other biomes in a relatively small area. It's also the only region in the world where Pinot Gris is the most-planted white grape--Friuli is #2 and Alsace is #3.
Overall I was impressed with the wines, and while I could share a ton of technical details I found this particular tasting to be the most meaningful of all that I attended during that weekend in New York. The winemakers opened their hearts and souls to share their love of winemaking and stewardship of the earth. Likewise, by that point in the evening all twenty of us had been together just long enough to start having some real conversations, and what is amazing is that we've had lots more communication between each other since then. You can read their stories about this same tasting through the following links below these micro reviews of the wines:
- 2009 Soter Rosé - dry and nutty with mild raspberry flavors
- 2011 Troon Vermentino - peach and apricot, mild and mineral, light and delicate
- 2012 Abacela Albariño - ripe acidity and lemon zest with a light body
- 2009 Belle Pente Pinot Gris - creamy and smooth
- 2011 Chehalem Chardonnay - butter and vanilla, Burgundy and Dijon clones used
- 2010 Stoller Chardonnay - peach and a nice round body
- 2011 Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay - beautiful, mild, mellow, and outstanding balance
- 2009 WVV Estate Pinot Noir - strawberry and great earthiness
- 2009 WVV Elton Pinot Noir - red cherry and firmer tannins from the volcanic soil
- 2010 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir - soft and creamy with wild strawberries
- 2009 Belle Pente Pinot Noir - stronger Pinot Noir with bigger fruit and firmer tannins
- 2007 Cliff Creek Syrah - classic pepper and black cherry with great acidity
- 2009 Roxy Ann Syrah - that great "cherry pie" aroma, firm tannins and acidity
- 2011 Brooks Tethys Riesling - golden honey aroma with great dark notes
- 2010 Elk Cove Ultima - much deeper dessert wine with hints of caramel
Note: This trip was provided by Snooth.