Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Saké Tasting at Saké One, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

America's first American-owned Saké brewery, Saké One is awesome. The people are friendly, the saké brewery tours are fascinating, and the sakés show just how diverse and tasty sakés can be. The optional tours are free and take place at 1, 2, and 3pm daily, and to sample the sakés costs between $3-10 (the ten-dollar tasting comes with food pairings—what a deal!).


Mural of saké making at Saké One

You'll learn all about making saké when you visit, but I will take a moment to talk about the variables that make different sakés unique. Before visiting, I had no idea what distinguished sakés. There are tons  of different styles of saké, including junmai and ginjo, and saké producers craft each style by making specific decisions regarding the type of koji; the type of yeast; dilution; filtration; and pasteurization.
At first, I really had no idea what to make of the milky substance in my glass (cringe)

Koji is one of the most important aspects of a saké: it is a mold spore that is introduced to the rice to break down starches and produce sugar. At Saké One, koji is added to the rice in a cedar-paneled, sauna-like room. Once the sugar is produced, the saké master can add a particular strain of yeast to ferment the sugar, turning it into alcohol. Just like with wine, yeast also determines the ultimate flavors of saké.

Say 'hi' to Retail Sales Manager, Joann, when you're there!

The last three variables are pretty easy to understand: dilution is how much water added to the saké; filtration is how fine the filters are when filtering saké; and pasteurization is whether or not the saké is boiled to eliminate bacteria (and some flavors, too). Water is a very important part of saké, and Saké One uses water from the Oregon Coastal Ranges, which is soft and ideal for saké making.


This stuff is just plain killer.

At Saké One, you can taste through a flight of sakés made in different ways. Each tasted completely different—some looked milky, while others were clear. All came at great prices, with half bottles of saké beginning at $7.


Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wine Tasting at Montinore Estate Winery, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

The largest biodynamic and organic-certified winery in Oregon, Montinore Estate is one of the top 25 wine producers by volume in the state, and it's wines are distinctly different from those of other wineries.



During a private tour with winemaker Ben Thomas, we walked the 650-acre estate of rolling hills, untended swatches of native plants, beautiful vineyards, and winery facilities and heard his take on biodynamic wines. Ben said that the winery uses native yeasts whenever possible; this means that the winery ferments its grapes using yeasts already present in the environment. The winery actually collects these yeasts from the air, and then cultivates them on large, petri-like dishes. Then, they test each yeast with the grapes to choose the best.

Montinore Winemaker Ben Thomas

As we walked a driveway with hundred-year-old maple trees along either side, Ben explained why he likes native yeasts. He said that, in general, they have broader flavors; more aromatics; and more earthy flavors. I found this interesting since I'd just tasted through several of the winery's white wines and found most of them lacked clear identities. The aromas were not sharp; seemingly flabby. Was this what he meant by "broad?" Since so many people love Montinore wines, I'm going to have to guess that this is the case—at least regarding the whites.

Warm and dry inside, we tasted Montinore's red wines. The reds did have huge noses on them, and they were nice and balanced on the palate. In short, I vastly preferred the reds to the whites.

See what you think: Montinore is open for tastings daily, and you can taste five wines for $5 (fee refunded with purchase). Look out for these standout wines:
  • 2012 Borealis (semi-sweet white blend)
  • 2009 Parson's Ridge Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Graham's Block 7 Pinot Noir
Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Nigerian Dwarf Goat Cheese! Quail Run Creamery, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

Pulling up to Quail Run Creamery, tiny goats scampered in pens nearby, playfully headbutting one another. This was ridiculous. Just take a look:


 I mean... come on.


As well as being cute, these little fellas produce milk with 8% butter fat content—the highest of any goat breed—which makes excellent cheese. It's unlike any other goat cheese that I've ever tried—it is smooth to the end without the acidic, somewhat bitter bite that some goat cheeses have. Scott and Summer Dominic Catino own and operate Quali Run Creamery, just 40 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon, and you can visit and buy goat cheeses on Sundays or schedule a cheese-making class in advance.

Scott and Summer are super hospitable, laid-back folk. They know everything about goats and cheese!
For adventurous cheese lovers, Quail Run Creamery offers cheese-making classes for $70/person once a month, and you can choose to make soft or hard cheese, or mozzarella. Each class comes with wine and ends with a plate full of Quail Run cheese as well as other agricultural produce from the area—such as bruschetta with local tomatoes and Olympic Provisions salami.

You haven't lived until you've eaten a Caprese salad with fresh, goats milk mozzarella.
Quail Run Creamery Chevre with Republic of Jam Blood Orange Jam

During my visit, we made mozzarella, and Scott made it look easy. Soon, I was molding my own Italian-style mozzarella balls. The entire class typically lasts three hours. As an added bonus, Scott and Summer are building an Italian-style, woodfired pizza oven, so classes will end with pizza beginning in July 2013. Everyone will get to eat fresh Nigerian Dwarf goat cheese on woodfired pizza!


As a special treat, the farm's best doe, Mary, gave birth to four kids while we were there.



If you don't have time for a cheese-making class, do visit Quail Run Creamery on a Sunday to pick up some goat-cheese feta, chevre, and mozzarella, as well as to take a gander at the goats. If you're visiting the northern Willamette Valley during the week, you can also purchase Quail Run Creamery cheeses at the Gaston Market and eat them in dishes at the 1910 Main Restaurant and Cruise In Country Diner.



Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wine Tasting at David Hill Winery, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

The pinot noir grapevines on the David Hill winery property are some of the first ever planted in Willamette Valley, but whether or not they are the oldest is pretty fiercely contested. Located outside of Forest Grove, David Hill makes both excellent white and red wines, and the tasting room is open daily, offering tastes of seven wines for $5 (fee waived with purchase). I highly recommend visiting; the wines are both delicious and well priced.

David Hill Winery is located inside of a low-down rustic and historic farmhouse

In the history of Oregon wine, the names David Lett and Charles Coury are like George Washington and Ben Franklin: those guys were the wackos studying oenology at UC Davis who predicted (correctly) that Oregon would be the next big pinot noir producer after Burgundy, France. Local folklore says that David Lett smuggled pinot noir rootstock (along with many other rootstocks, including silvaner, gewurztraminer, and marsanne) from Burgundy to Oregon in the 1960s, and that he and Charles cloned the rootstock until they had enough to plant a vineyard.

The vineyard they planted is still alive and well, and it is located on the David Hill winery estate. Because David "smuggled" the vines in, there are no official records of when this happened—and thereby no proof that the pinot vines are the oldest in Oregon. Nevertheless, when I spoke with Jason Bull, David Hill's winemaker, he confirmed that David Lett brought the rootstock to Oregon in 1965.

David Hill Winemaker Jason Bull
Today, David Hill winery creates killer wines. I love the pinot gris, riesling, and pinot noirs. Also, the big, bold Farmhouse Red, which comes in a $12 bottle or $40 box (4 bottles), is an excellent table wine. The whites tend to be slightly off-dry, with residual sugar levels between 1 and 3 percent. When wine tasting, check out these standout wines:
  • 2012 Pinot Gris
  • 2011 Riesling
  • 2009 Estate Winemaker Cuvee Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Estate Blackjack Pinot Noir
  • N/V Farmhouse Red



Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.






Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wine Tasting at Ardiri Winery, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

A great set up for a picnic

Ardiri Winery, located in the northern Willamette Valley, gives you the unique opportunity to taste pinot noirs from California and Oregon produced by the same winemaker side by side. Let the games begin!

But before we get to this fierce California/Oregon rivalry, I've got to tell you about the insane deal that Ardiri is offering this 2013 Memorial Day Weekend: They are selling 5-bottle jugs of their 2009 Estate Pinot Noir for $59! That's $12 a bottle for pinot noir produced by a boutique producer. Last year, their 5-bottle jugs sold out fast, and, this year, they're only releasing 120 jugs—so make sure to visit them asap.

While you're there, you can taste verticals (flights of the same wine from different vintages) of their Los Carneros and Chehalem Mountain pinot noirs. Tastings cost $10 (refunded with 2-bottle purchase), and they're open Friday-Sunday year round (by appointment Wednesday and Thursday, too). These pinot noir wines are made from the same clones by the same winemaker, and it's a fun way to taste the contrast between terroirs. Ardiri also makes the Due Stati pinot noir, a wine made of both California and Oregon grapes.

As you'd probably suspect, the California pinot noirs were more fruity thanks to a warmer climate and the Oregon pinots had more herbal flavors. I tried to step outside of my Oregonian "house palate," and my favorite wines were actually from both states:

  • 2010 Los Carneros Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

Ardiri's wines come at a great price, and every bottle is $30 or less. The winery has tons of seating options, and it's a good place to enjoy a picnic with views of the valley. In fact, many of the seating areas at the winery have their own fireplaces.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip

Over the next month, we'll visit the greatest wine regions of the northwest United States and southwest Canada:

  • Willamette Valley, Oregon: home to some of the best pinot noir on earth
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: home to urban wineries, farm-fresh produce, and islands galore
  • Okanagan, BC: the Napa Valley of the north
  • and the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla wine region in Washington state: home to budget-friendly cabernet sauvignons and many other bold red varietals

—surely an epic road trip in the making. I'll be traveling with travel mates Marcy Gordon, of Forbes Travel Napa Valley, and Kristin Kearns, editor and fiction author. Since I live in Portland, Oregon, the Willamette Valley portion of the road trip will focus in on the northern part of the Willamette Valley: Washington County. This lesser-traveled part of Willamette Valley is home to some of the area's most delicious artisanal cheese, meat, jam, cider, and sake products as well as excellent, under-the-radar wineries, such as David Hill, Apolloni, Kramer Vineyards, Ponzi Vineyards, Hawks View, Alloro, and Raptor Ridge Winery. The well-known biodynamic/organic-certified winery, Montinore, is also located here.


Fields of blooming clover

Northern Willamette wine country is just 40 minutes from downtown Portland, making it one of the  city's closest wine regions. Nevertheless, most travelers hit the 99W and drive straight toward Newberg and Dundee Hills. The wineries around those towns are great, but they're already in the national spotlight. For a more personalized winery experience, hit northern Willamette and the towns of Gaston, Forest Grove, and Banks. You'll appreciate the difference in bottle prices, too.





With an history based in agriculture, northern Willamette Valley has tons of great restaurants serving very local ingredients, and this makes all of the difference. In addition, northern Willamette has local producers that offer unique culinary experiences, such as cheese-making classes. Washington County is quite a bread basket. Here is a list of restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, and gourmet producers that are worth checking out:

Hotels and B&Bs:

  • McMenamins Grand Lodge, wow is Washington County short on hotels and accommodations in general. This is definitely the only non-chain hotel in the area, and it's pretty sweet. Typical McMenamins-style artworks and rustic rooms inside of a historic, Oregon building—in this case, a one-time Masonic lodge.
  • The Suite at Gentle Acres, a two-bedroom accommodation for up to 4 people, it has modern amenities and costs $225/night or $1300/week at the time of writing.
  • The Chains: Since northern Willamette Valley is home to major companies like Nike and Intel, a huge selection of business hotels exist, from Best Western to Budget Inn.

Restaurants:

  • 1910 Main Restaurant, (aka, the place I ate deep-fried meatloaf!) serves comfort food comprised of regional ingredients
  • Cruise In Country Diner, serving a huge selection of burgers and other diner fare comprised mostly of local and organic ingredients
  • South Store Cafe, for picnic lunches packed to go
  • Maggie's Buns, for gigantic, delicious pastries and complete breakfasts
  • Syun Izakaya, some of Oregon's best sushi served with a huge sake selection, including Sake One sakes
  • Chennai Masala, top notch, authentic Indian food
  • DeCarli Restaurant, Italian-style NW fine dining
  • Du Kuh Bee, one of those hard-to-find Korean restaurants that the area is famous for; don't let the strip-mall surroundings turn you off: this is great food
  • Nakwon, another authentic Korean joint

Artisanal Food:

  • Quail Run Creamery, Nigerian Dwarf Goat Cheeses my friend (and cheese-making classes)
  • Sake One, the first American-owned sake brewery in the United States, and boy, if you haven't experienced sake outside of a sushi restaurant, this place will blow your mind
  • Bull Run Cider, producers of hard cider
  • Smith Berry Barn, pick your own fruits and berries and tons of artisanal food products, including jams, relishes, honey, and herbs
  • L-Bar-T Bison Ranch, local buffalo/bison meat with onsite store
  • Hillsboro Tuesday Marketplace, farmers market with live music
  • Beaverton Farmers Market, most Saturdays, February-November
  • U-Pick, you can't miss them; there are tons of farms, such as Unger's Farms Store, welcoming you to shop local; find a huge concentration along Scholls Ferry Road.

Articles on these as well as the area's great wineries soon to follow. In the meantime, here's a map of northern Willamette Valley with food and wine attractions on it (click on the map to enlarge):



This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Washington County tourism board.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Ravenous Traveler: A Fresher than Fresh Restaurant Recommendation in Amsterdam



This article originally appeared on EuropeUpClose.com

Before visiting The Netherlands, I wasn’t sure what type of food the Dutch eat. I had a vague idea or two, but both ideas were pickled. Could one subsist on pickled foods alone? I truly hoped not.

For a fine-dining meal with some of the freshest ingredients available in all of Europe, check out Restaurant De Kas on your next trip to Amsterdam. Located inside of a beautiful greenhouse in Klein Dantzig Park, the restaurant grows many of its own vegetables onsite. Heading the kitchen is Michelin-star Chef Gert Jan Hageman, and, on my most recent trip to Amsterdam, he prepared an amazing feast that demonstrated what the cutting-edge culinary scene in The Netherlands is all about.

Continue Reading Here----->

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