Oregon Wine

Wine Discoveries: Oregon at DC’s Annual Chef’s Best

At this year’s 22nd Annual Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction, always a fabulous event benefitting the wonderful Food & Friends organization, I was delighted to find a wine tasting table among the 55 DC area best chefs’ tables!

B&L Brands was on hand to sample 13 of their wines. Unfortunately I discovered them when they were down to only two, but both were very nice wines from Oregon.

Del Rio Vineyards 2011 Rose Jolee

  • Variety: Early Muscat & Riesling blend, with a splash of red blend for color
  • Aroma: Tropical fruit and rose
  • Taste: Sparkling strawberry and grapefruit
  • My thoughts: This wine comes from one of the largest vineyards in Southern Oregon. Along the Rouge River, this family run business first planted in 1997 and now has over 200,000 vines. The wine was a lovely strawberry dance on the palate.

Mile Marker Mile 71 Pinot Gris

  • Variety: Pinot Gris
  • Aroma: Citrus, pear and honey
  • Taste: Honey, citrus and almond
  • My thoughts: This wine tasted like an Italian pignole cookie! Yum! This is B&L Brands wine launched last year with Mile Marker Wine Co. Named after the mile markers you find along your journeys, this is about their wine journey. For this wine, they followed US 99 and at Mile Marker 71 is McMinnville, Oregon, a fantastic place for Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

Cheers to Oregon wine discoveries benefitting a great cause!


About the 22nd Annual Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction

On Tuesday, June 26, 55 of the DC area’s best chefs dished up special tastings of their culinary creations at the Washington Hilton for the 22nd Annual Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction presented by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation. The event raised $850,000 for Food & Friends, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. Proceeds from Chef’s Best will ensure the delivery of 1.2 million nutritious, home-delivered meals to Food & Friends’ more than 2,800 clients living with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other live challenging illnesses.

Rosé Season is Here!

Rosé is back in season…at least here in the Washington, DC area where temperatures are already soaring, making it the perfect time for the refreshing wine. I’ve discovered two new ones you’ll definitely want to check out.

 2011 A to Z Rosé

  • Varietal: 100% Sangiovese organically grown
  • Aroma: Strawberry, raspberry, blueberry
  • Taste: Juicy watermelon and cherry with tropical notes and a crisp finish
  • Price: $11
  • My thoughts: Yum! This is a BIG juicy rosé made from Sangiovese grapes. A to Z is a great Oregon winery I’ve enjoyed for some time. Living in Amsterdam, our local wine shop, Grape District, carried their Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir which was a good American wine to have in Europe. I spotted this wine out at The Majestic restaurant. The intense pink color was striking in the bottle. Unfortunately the one they were pouring for the customer was their last. Then I happened upon it last week at my local Whole Foods Market! I was not disappointed when I opened the bottle. Like their other wines, it’s the ‘Essence of Oregon’ … ‘Aristocratic wines at Democratic Prices’, as they say.

Bebé Sparkling Rosé

  • Varietal: Prosecco and Raboso grape blend
  • Aroma: Strawberry and vanilla
  • Taste: A crisp juicy strawberry vanilla
  • Price: $12
  • My thoughts: From the maker of my favorite Prosecco, I finally found this sparkling rosé (at a wine shop in Frederick, MD)! It’s a gorgeous pop top bottle with snazzy striped label full of strawberry vanilla deliciousness! Bebé, meaning Baby, Prosecco is from the small family owned vineyards of Vini Tonon and Musarango in Italy’s Veneto Region (origin of all Prosecco) and made exclusively for Siema Wines, a local importer/distributor.

Cheers to Rosé season!

Graffiato: DC Spot Pairs Italian + Local Perfectly

Out last night for my husband’s birthday, we discovered one of our new favorite DC restaurants…Graffiato by Mike Isabella. I’d heard the hype over the last 10 months since they opened and tried to get reservations a few times last minute but no luck. As my husband loves Italian and not too fancy, I thought this would be a great spot for him. While I don’t often write up restaurants unless part of a trip, this one is definitely worth sharing for all locals and those traveling to DC!

Mike Isabella, Season Six Top Chef participant and runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars, is really coming on the DC scene. The 130-seat Italian-inspired spot serves small plates and artisanal pizzas inspired by the food Mike grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother. Seasonal and local are big here from the produce to locally cured meats to the wine and beer.

As a wine writer, I’ll start there. Fabulous wine list…my perfect combination of Italian + Virginia + Oregon. I loved every wine I tasted…

  • Montelvini Prosecco, Italy: served from their tap in the bar, it’s a fruity sparkling aperitif
  • Shindig Organic Pinot Grigio Rosé, Oregon: what fun!! Tasted just like the name… combination of Pinot Grigio + Rosé. Must find this wine for summer sipping!
  • Graffiato Red 1.0 Nebbiolo, Virginia: This wine is delicious and locally made by Breaux Vineyards, a really great winery in Purcellville! Mike worked with them to create this house wine. It’s a perfect combination of cedar, red fruit and caramel in aroma and taste!
  • Breaux Vineyards 2010 Nebbiolo Ice, Virginia: Rosé scents, nice sweet treat (not overly syrupy sweet) and perfect pairing with our Zeppoles.

We ate GOOD! I love Italian small plates…you can try more things!!

  • Flatbread with pepperoni sauce: WOW! Tastes like ground up pepperoni!
  • Broccolini with spicy pepper relish, walnut and feta: crisp and delish
  • Roasted Cauliflower with pecorino and mint: red onions gave it a perfect zip
  • Asparagus with pancetta and egg: great spin on one of our favorite Dutch dishes
  • Sweet Pea Tortellini with guanciale, pecorino and mint: a taste of spring
  • Hand Cut Spaghetti with olive oil poached cherry tomatoes and basil: loved the cherry tomato prep
  • Crispy Potato Gnocchi with wild mushrooms, favas and stracciatella: favorite pasta, so different
  • Zeppoles with orange zest and strawberry sugar dusting: yummy little fruity pebble popovers
It was a perfect evening… food, drinks, coffee, ambiance… and Kevin, our server, was so nice, knowledgable and attentive. Definitely ask for him!

Graffiatio has a convenient two-story spot downtown next to the Verizon Center in Chinatown. They also have a 15-seat bar you can stop into for drinks and a bite if you can’t get in for dinner but it’s worth the planning ahead!

Cheers to Mike on a fabulous Italian-inspired and locally supportive restaurant! Look forward to checking out his upcoming Mexican spot in Georgetown.

A Slice of Oregon’s Willamette Valley: Stangeland Vineyards

Tasting with Larry Miller, owner and winemaker of Stangeland Vineyards & Winery in Oregon, you feel right at home with him and his wines. On a little East Coast tour, Larry was at Planet Wine in Alexandria yesterday giving customers a peak into his four-acres of vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. As a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, I was anxious to taste Larry’s offerings.

Larry planted his first grapes in 1978, which by his count makes him the fourth oldest vineyards in the Hills region. At first he sold his grapes to other winemakers then in 1991 produced his first vintage. Today he makes predominately Pinot Noir wines along with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Tempranillo.  In total about 2,500 cases per year.

Yesterday we tasted the 2009 Pinot Gris and 2008 Chardonnay for whites. Both nice and quite different than your typical expressions of these wines in the Northwest U.S. The Pinot Gris has some residual sugar but still a nice acidity and finish. The Chardonnay is a nice cool climate white similarly to a white Burgundy from France.

His Pinot Noir impressed me the most. Again not what I’ve typically tasted in Oregon Pinot Noir. We went from the 2009 Pinot Noir to the 2008 Miller’s Vineyard to the 2008 Estate Reserve to the 2009 Vermeer Vineyard. As we went up the tasting, the complexity and richness increased…more concentrated fruit, smooth, round and caramel. The Vermeer Vineyard was phenomenal! And the 2009 Pinot Noir is a great price for a great wine…

Stangeland Pinot Noir 2009

  • Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir, a blend of grapes from different vineyards but the ’09 is predominately Miller’s Vineyard
  • Aroma: Red fruit
  • Taste: Caramelly blueberry deliciousnes
  • Price: $20
  • My thoughts:  This wine packs lots of fruit with a nice finish. Great stand alone wine that doesn’t need to be paired with food.

Stangeland has won three gold medals and three silver medals at the famous Mondial des Pinots in Switzerland…the only Oregon winery with that accreditation.

Ask your local wine shop about ordering Stangeland or you can also order online.

The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is northwest of Salem, Oregon (here’s great interactive map of the wine region) and sits right in the heart of the state’s well-known Willamette Valley.

Cheers to Stangeland, a great slice of Oregon Pinot!


Colorful Easter Wine

Out biking Saturday, we popped into two of our local wine shops, both doing Easter Wine Pairing tastings.

First stop was UNWINED…they were tasting a colorful line-up of pink Rosé (German and Spanish), white Gewürztraminer (Oregon) and red Pinot Noir (French Bourgogne).

My personal favorite and we picked up a bottle to pair with Easter dinner…

Schloss Schönborn PINK 2011

  • Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Very berry
  • Taste: Red berries like raspberry with vanilla, hints of citrus
  • Price: $19.99
  • My Thoughts: I’ve had very few, if any, Rosés from Germany. This was a lovely wine from the Rheingau Valley. Located right in the heart of the valley, many of their vineyards on the slope of the river have been part of the family estate since 1349. They grow 90% Riesling and 10% Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. This is a fabulous use of their Pinot Noir. It looked beautiful on the Easter dinner table and its fresh light fruit taste was perfect for the warm day and glazed ham with roasted veggies meal.

Also worth checking out is the Gewüztraminer from Oregon. I haven’t seen many of that wine coming out of Oregon … this one from Brandborg Winery & Vineyard is yummy!

Cheers to pink wine for Easter!