Monday morning found me in the classroom again, taking my summer term final. It’s been a long and strenuous class, but it’s over now, giving me five weeks free from class before fall term starts.
Naturally, after spending my summer so far in class rooms, I wanted to celebrate a bit. Wine tasting seemed a great way to do so, and yesterday I hopped a bus to Dundee with a few friends. We had talked with Erica Landon, BH’s new sommelier, a few days before hand, and she set up some spots for us to visit. The plan was to hit Argyle first, and sample their five methode Champenoise sparkling bottles (!) and numerous Pinot variations.
From Argyle, we moved on to de Lancellotti vineyards in the Chehalem AVA, which is next door to Bergström Vineyards. We visited both, and both have fantastic wines. Paul de Lancellotti gave us the rundown on his family’s small, limited production vineyard, and filled us in on his close work with Josh Bergström, his brother-in-law. Paul was very knowledgeable and passionate, and his vineyard had the most intimate, personal feel of any I have been to in the Willamette valley (save maybe Bella Vida). We talked about the bio-dynamic farming process and bullshitted about surfing and stand-up paddle boarding while his kids ran around the yard shooting things will BB guns. It was a nice change from some of the pomp and money of Willamette Valley vineyards.
Bergström set us up with a nice spot on their patio overlooking the rolling vineyards, where we had some lunch and tasted everything they had to offer. From there, we made a quick unscheduled detour to Adelsheim, before making our way to Penner-Ash, our last stop for the day.
Penner-Ash is by far the most impressive winery I’ve been to in the Willamette Valley, both for their incredible wines and their state of the art, high-tech, beautifully crafted facility. The Oregon timber-constructed building overlooks rolling hills and valleys, and Mt. Hood sits far off in the distance past all of the open fields and rows of grapes. The building has solid granite floors, and large windows providing lots of nice views and filling, natural light. After a tour of the barrel rooms and facility, we tasted nine wines ranging from late harvest Riesling to Pinot Noir, and even sampled their Syrah— which is a varietal that not many Willamette wineries are making. The Penner-Ash staff was nice enough to throw in a tasting of the limited production, grand cru-esque Pas de Nom Pinot Noir (250 cases!) that retails for over $100 per bottle. In short, they were very, very nice to us.
It was a bit hectic getting to Dundee and back with no car, as we (for obvious reasons) didn’t want to drive. I still haven’t figured out the most effective, most economical way to get down to the Oregon wine country without a car, and I’m still trying to come up with another means of touring there (bike, perhaps?). Nevertheless, it was a good day. Hopefully I can get two more days in down there before the weather turns into perpetual rain.
My weekend was made exponentially more enjoyable because my close friend Crazy Jim stopped through town yesterday with his girlfriend Marianne. I haven’t seen them since spring 2010’s road trip, when I met up with them in Death Valley for some desert camping. CJ and I rarely get to see each other these days, so we decided to make the most of it. I’ve worked for some time at Blue Hour, but I’ve never really had a reason to make reservations and eat in the dining room. Friends in town for one night seemed reason enough, so we did just that.
Blue Hour recently acquired a new executive chef, Thomas Boyce, previously of Spago in So-Cal. He’s brought some quite fantastic flavors to the Blue Hour menu, and I have been wanting to sample them all (a good thing really, since I sell the dishes). We had an employee tasting a few days ago and paired wine with the dishes, but there were a few items I still wanted to sample.
We picked up a few bottles of wine, a Willamette pinot and an ‘06 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (generously purchased by Crazy Jim after I dropped/broke the ‘08 I had waiting to be drunk— see previous post). Both wines went well with our 3 course meal that included pâté de tête, rabbit ragu gnocchi, marinated tomato and watermelon salad, octopus terrine, chanterelle farro, leg of lamb, and duck breast. Chocolate torte dessert was accompanied by Argyle’s fantastic méthode champenoise bubbly. All of this was during the warm August evening sunset over Portland’s Pearl District.
Seeing it from the other side of the service perspective, I have a new view of just what all the hype is about when it comes to Blue Hour. It is a nice spot to spend some time with some good people. In proofreading this post, I realized that I just wrote like a food blogger I would probably hate, yet that is just how I feel about it. It was really nice.