Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wine Bloggers — Part III

What better way to start the day than with wine and doughnuts? And, if you are in Portland, it has to be Voodoo Doughnuts. It was surprising how many people from all over the country had heard of Voodoo Doughnuts and were planning a visit during their time in Portland. Sparkling wine and dessert wines were an excellent accompaniment — all provided by the Wine of Languedoc folks. Don’t knock it until you try it.

We visited another Portland institution, Pok Pok,  for lunch, thanks to the kind peole at Nomacorc. The food was excellent and we enjoyed interesting conversations, including several about wines of Virginia (the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 was in Williamsburg, Virginia).

The most interesting session of the conference was a blind tasting of unusual — very unusual, to some of us — wines, led by Sheri Sauter Morano, sponsored by Winebow. They included:  Hondarrabi Zuri from Spain’s Basque area; Nuragus di Cagliari from Italy; Mux Branco from Portugal; Sauvignon Gris from Chile; Gaglioppo from Italy; Zweigelt from Austria; Bonarda from Argentina; and Callet from Mallorca.

The lesson? Try wines made from grapes you might not have heard of and wines from places you might not expect. Most of the wines we tasted were $20 or less; two were $24 and $25; and one was $45.

King Estate went all-out for the final dinner. The conference could not take all 350 people to the winery south of Eugene, so they brought King Estate to Portland — wines, food from the estate, chef, kitchen staff, and serving staff.

The menu was as exceptional as the winery:
  • Salad of fennel, heirloom tomato, grilled corn, duck breast prosciutto
  • Confit of spot prawns with cucumber, roasted peach, opal basil
  • Wild chinook salmon, garlic sausage, potato gnocchi, leeks, balsamic
  • Roast top loin of beef, wild mushrooms, Yukon potato balls, shallot marmalade
  • Lemon panna cotta with summer berries, lavender syrup
The food and wine were excellent. Unfortunately, many people throughout the banquet room were so busy with Twitter — the tweets were scrolling on two giant screens during the dinner — that face-to-face conversations suffered. This was the only disappointment of the evening.

The weekend ended with a buffet lunch also sponsored by wines from Languedoc in France. Another yummy meal.

Overall, an interesting event, quite different from the International Pinot Noir Celebration. We have learned a lot about wine this summer.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wine Bloggers — Part II

From Chile to Argentina. The wine distributor Winebow sponsored a brunch of Argentinian wines and food on the first day of the conference. The wine and food pairings — accompanied by tango dancers and tango music — brought back good memories of our 2011 trip to Buenos Aires and Mendoza. The menu:
  • Pomegranate lime ceviche with shrimp, garnished with cayenne and sugar on the rim of the cup
  • Scallops seared on big blocks of sea salt, black bean hummus
  • Corn and cheese empanadas with spinach aioli
  • Beef empanadas with raisin balsamic, Kalamata olives, and red pepper puree
  • Pork belly braised with cumin and ancho chile, cherry barbecue sauce, polenta
  • Butternut risotto with cinnamon beets and goat cheese
  • Cherry-smoked duck breast on a rye cracker with micro greens and kumquat jam
  • Stuffed fig with brie and cilantro
  • Flat iron steak mainated in chimichurri with chipotle sweet potatoes and cilantro

Scallops with black bean hummus
Empanadas were a big hit with diners
The excellent food was paired with wines from Alma Negra, Bodegas Nieto Senetiner, Bodega Catena Zapata and Catena Alta, and Bodega Renacer — some old favorites and some wines new to us. 

Bloggers then began the hard work of talking about wine and blogging. Exhausting. So when it was time for dinner, we were ready.

People got on random buses to visit nearby wineries. We were lucky to get on the bus to Phelps Creek Vineyards near Hood River in the Columbia Gorge. Phelps Creek hosted the dinner with winemakers and wines from Viento Wines, The Pines Vineyard, Cathedral Ridge Winery, and Naked Winery. Mike was especially excited for the chance to taste The Pines Old Vine Zinfandel, which is made from the grapes of vines planted more than 100 years ago. History in a glass!

Some of the evening’s excellent wines
The beautiful Phelps Creek vineyard
Again, we enjoyed excellent wine and food pairings:
  • Appetizers: dungeness crab and ricotta salata tortilla española with nasturtium pesto; corn mousse with smoked salmon; and beet and pink peppercorn salad
  • Lobster mushroom carpaccio with lovage and sauteed chanterelles with treviso and pickled currants
  • Sturgeon and zucchini salads
  • Lamb loin with cherry chutney, pototato gougère
  • Braised beef short rib with fresh pocha beans and heirloom pepper carrot sauce
  • Goat cheeseake with peach licorice coulis
Mike and Lonnie Wright from The Pines

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wine Bloggers Conference — Part I

The Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland was another extravaganza of wine and food. Because of the wide range of food, wine, and fun, this will be a three-part summary.

Bubbles on the bus
The event started with a pre-conference event sponsored by Wines of Chile. We loaded on a double-decker bus, where we enjoyed some sparkling rosé, perfect for a hot (90°+ F) day. We traveled to three Portland restaurants for food and Chilean wine pairings. The Wines of Chile representatives gave us an excellent overview of their products. (And Sue got to gripe to someone with influence about the illegibility of some Chilean wine labels — small type, unfortunate color choices, or both. Good wine, though.)

First stop was Andina, a terrific Peruvian restaurant, for grilled octopus kebabs with chimichurri and various sauces, paired with Chilean Sauvignon  Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Next was Clyde Common, for three courses: charred mission figs with pepper-cured duck bacon; seared lamb pâté with farro and cherry mostarda; and shaved beef brisket with ricotta salata and tomatillo relish. The courses were paired with Chilean Merlot, old-vine Carignan, and a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère. Yummy.

Then we had a Portland food cart experience, with empanada-type pies, french fries, and crepes (the pear and chocolate crepe was excellent). Street-food wines were Chilean Chardonnay; Syrah; Cabernet Sauvignon; and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, and Malbec.

French fry food cart
In addition to being great fun, the tour proved that Chilean wines go well with all types of food.

You may note throughout these menus and those from IPNC that duck is a Very Big Deal. So is lamb.

The conference officially started with a reception sponsored by the Oregon Wine Board. We enjoyed wine from some of our favorites — R. Stuart and Scott Paul, for example — and some new finds.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

IPNC Part IV — Sunday

For us, IPNC ended with the Sunday sparkling brunch (we did not attend the grand tasting Sunday afternoon). We enjoyed five different sparkling wines — from Spain, Oregon, California, Canada, and France — with:
  • Pork hash
  • French toast bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream
  • Eggs Benedict: classic, spinach and mushroom, shrimp and crab
  • Salumi and salami selection
  • Breads and pastries
  • Berries and melons
  • Oysters on the half shell, mignonette
  • Albacore, yellowtail, and salmon sashimi
  • Dungeness crab and avocado rolls
  • Sunomono with shrimp
  • Biscuits with pork sausage gravy or mushroom gravy

So that is the end of the IPNC 2012 food report. Don’t you want to attend?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

IPNC Part III — Saturday

And the hits just keep on coming. Another wonderful breakfast (see Friday).

Today our assigned groups were put on buses and taken to a winery for a tour, lunch, and wine tasting with four different winemakers. We did not know where we were going in advance. We were fortunate enough to  go to Anne Amie with our bus host and wine rock star Rollin Soles from ROCO. It was definitely a different experience than Counter Culture on Thursday night, but just as much fun. The view from Anne Amie never gets old.

We tasted wines with winemakers from four wineries: Anne Amie, La Crema, ROCO, and Ransom. Each was excellent.

Lunch followed the wine tasting. Again, a fortunate winery assignment because our lunch chef was Seis Kamamura from Michael Mina's Burgundy-inspired restaurant  RN74 in Seattle (RN74 is the main road that runs north and south through Burgundy). Another luscious menu:
  • Appetizers: smoked salmon toast with pickled pearl onion, capers, dill; wild mushroom ragout with bone marrow; vichyssoise with creme fraiche, chive oil
  • Smoked chicken breast, sweet corn, tomato, goat cheese
  • Braised duck breast, maitake mushrooms
  • Peach tart, roasted almonds, créme Chantilly
We were so engrossed in our lovely meal that I forgot to take photos. But it looked as good as it tasted.

Saturday night was the big salmon bake. Everyone talked up the salmon bake as the premiere event. It exceeded expectations.

The menu:
  • Chinook salmon with celery root and gremolata
  • Bavette steak with blistered Padrón peppers, cherry tomatoes, mint
  • Pork loin with peach mostarda
  • Farro salad with olives, cherry tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese, sauce vert
  • Green bean and yellow bean salad with candied hazelnuts, carmelized onions, hazelnut viaigrette
  • Greens with grilled nectarines, apricots, and peaches; goat cheese, Pinot Noir vinaigrette
  • Roasted Chioggia beets with baby spinach, baby rainbow carrots, blue cheese
  • Shelling bean ragout with mushrooms and sweet peppers
  • Beluga lentil salad with roasted fennel, lemon cucumbers, fines herbes

Then, the dessert buffet. What a buffet! 
  • Chocolate raspberry cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting
  • Coconut sticky rice with blackberry coulis
  • Mixed berry cobbler
  • Cherry jubilee floats
  • Peach Melba floats
  • Nectarine whiskey pie pops
  • Lemon lavender blueberry tarts
  • Blue cheese hazelnut plum strudel
  • Goat cheese panna cotta with poached peaches
  • Mexican chocolate cream puffs with sea salt caramel
  • Red velvet cake
  • Almond apricot vol au vent
  • Walnut coffee whoopie pies
  • Oregon cheese board, crackers, flatbread

Friday, August 10, 2012

IPNC Part II —Friday

The meals, which focus on high-quality Oregon products, are a highlight of IPNC.

Breakfast is a treat, with bowls of fresh Oregon blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries; granola; hazelnuts; pastries from the likes of Pearl Bakery in Portland; yogurt; bacon and sausage; and hard-boiled eggs.

Scott Wright from Scott Paul Wines
For lunches and dinners, the organizers cleverly sit a winemaker at each table to give participants some one-on-one time with the people who make what we are drinking. Some wines are on the tables to start. As if by magic, more and more wine from various makers appears.

For Friday lunch, we fortuitously sat at the Scott Paul Wines table with owner Scott Wright and winemaker Kelley Fox (it was great to see so many women winemakers at this event). Friday lunch:
  • Dungeness Crab Louie, cucumber, gooseberries, sorrell
  • Antipasto plate with coppa, braseola, chorizo and cacciatore; albacore tuna; mozzarella; watermelon and cherry tomato salad; fingerling potato salad; roasted corn and pepper salad; baguette
  • Chocolate fish with red currants
Antipasto plate
The Grand Dinner on Friday night was also a stunner. We sat with Moe and Flora Momtazi, delightful people, whose biodynamically produced wines from Maysara Winery are fabulous and a perfect complement to the meal.
  • Vichyssoise with sweet onion, corn and lobster salad, foie gras, aged balsamic vinaigrette
  • Rabbit fricassee, English peas, harissa polenta
  • Rack lamb chops and cevapcici (sausage) with sour cherry relish; green bean salad with pickled cherries, hazelnuts, black currant vinaigrette, crisp shallots; rye crouton with sheep’s milk cheese
  • Olive oil tea cake, hibiscus tea mousse, fresh and confit cherries
The food was beautiful as well as delicious
Successfully serving hundreds of people was an art in itself
Every meal included Stumptown Coffee and Smith Tea.

Throughout the weekend, chefs, kitchen staff, sommeliers, and servers we top-notch: professional and friendly while serving 1,000 happy diners.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

IPNC Part I — Thursday

A whole weekend of Pinot Noir. That is the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon. We attended this year because Mike gave a talk at the University of Pinot. Let me say right here that this was the best organized event I have ever attended. Ever.

IPNC celebrates not only Pinot Noir, but astounding food by chefs from the Northwest. You can see the full list on the IPNC Web site. We know that our family and friends often like to know what is on the menu, so here is a taste (pun intended).

Thursday, we went to the Anne Amie Vineyards Counter Culture, billed as “a celebration of international wine and urban street food.” The food was paired with wines mostly from Oregon, but also with some from California, Canada, and New Zealand. We ate, in random order:
Porchetta at Counter Culture
  • Classic yakitori
  • Mumbai grilled sandwiches
  • Pinot Noir sangria popsicles
  • Bacon butterscotch chip cookies with cream cheese icing
  • Chicken liver mousse on crostini with blackberry compote
  • Smoked beef tongue sandwiches (full disclosure: Sue did not eat beef tongue)
  • Salted caramel ice cream and apricot ice cream
  • Grilled pork loin skewers with peanut sauce and cucumber relish
  • Pork taco with pineapple, salsa de arbol, onions, cilantro
  • Porchetta with peaches
  • Braised beef sliders with blue cheese and carmelized onions
  • Waffle with gorgonzola dolce and raspberry
  • Lamb kebabs with olive-tomato relish

We are off to a good start. This is the first of four IPNC reports. Stay tuned.