Tag Archives: Willamette Valley

A WEEKEND IN EUGENE – AND FAREWELL TO OREGON

Dorianne and I spent our final four days visiting Oregon in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon and located in the southern portion of the famed Willamette Valley, the major “wine country” of Oregon. Our stay was both business and pleasure, as I had some speaking engagements here, but we did find some time to enjoy a bit of the local wine scene.

We dined at Café 440, Marche, the Market Food Court, and at King’s Estate Winery and Vineyards. We did a wine tasting and saw a Flamenco show at The Oregon Wine Lab, and we drank a few bottles at our friend’s home where we stayed.

Eugene is a college town, and on that side of the 5 Freeway, there is a downtown and quite a few restaurants, most of the kind that college students can afford; on the other side of the freeway there are the chain stores and some additional restaurants (like Café 440).

Let’s hit the highlights.

King’s Estate (LINK) is the largest of the area wineries – it would be a large operation just about anywhere. With over 500 acres under cultivation here and sourcing from a number of other vineyards in Oregon, some of which they own, they are large producers – the largest US producer of Pinot Gris, their flagship wine.

The estate is crowned by a hill, atop which sits the winery/tasting room/restaurant complex, designed to look like a Tuscan estate. Vineyards surround the complex. We had lunch in the dining room, which surrounds the tasting room. There are also tables outside on a large stone patio overlooking some beautiful scenery. You can get tasting flights with your meal if you like. I had the Pinot Noir flight, as did Dorianne. Our good friend, Linda Finley had the Pinot Gris flight. Our favorite among the Pinot Noirs was the estate Pinot Noir blend, which was the least expensive of the three wines in the flight.

After a very good lunch, we moved over to the tasting room and met Nicholas, one of the three gentlemen on duty. King’s Estate makes some very good wines – especially their  Pinot Gris and Pinot Noirs, but their Chardonnay is also exceptional – very light and crisp, more of a Chablis style, and at a price point of only $18, a great value.

On Saturday evening, we were joined by our local host, Carole Angius, for an early dinner at Marche (LINK), rated the #1 restaurant in Eugene by TripAdvisor.com. We stuck to appetizers, but everything was beautifully prepared and delicious. The wine list is also excellent – we had a French Macon Chardonnay by the glass, as we were going to a wine tasting afterward. I highly recommend Marche.

Flamenco in Eugene? Why not? The Oregon Wine Lab (LINK), a local urban winery and wine bar, was featuring a Flamenco show – more of a demonstration by a visiting teacher from New York and some of his local students. That part of the evening was fun (LINK to previous postings about Flamenco).

The wines made at The Oregon Wine Lab carry the William Rose (LINK) label. We tasted several during the evening. Our favorite was the 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir ($28). The whites that we tried were all very high in acid. There is also a 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($48) that we did not taste. I would say that the wines here are drinkable but not outstanding – but the place is fun and there was a large crown enjoying the dancing and consuming a lot of wine.

Café 440 (LINK) is a reliably good place to eat. I had a dinner and a lunch there. The service is good, the food is good, and there is a decent list of mostly local wines and craft beers (plus a full bar). Worth a visit.

There is a nice wine shop in the 5th Street Marketplace (LINK) with a great selection of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs and other wines from Oregon and around the world. You can also taste wines and have a meal from the marketplace deli.

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Display at 5th Street Marketplace

So that wraps up our five week visit to Oregon. We had a wonderful time, some really good wine and food, and saw the beautiful scenery. From Ashland and the Rogue & Applegate Valleys; to Roseburg and the Umpqua Valley; to Portland and the northern Willamette Valley; to Eugene and the southern Willamette Valley, there is much to see and many great wines to drink. We shall return!

WEEKEND IN PORTLAND WITH WINE (AND FOOD)

Dorianne and I spent Easter weekend in Portland, Oregon, staying downtown at the Westin Hotel. This post is an overview of the food and wine experiences of our weekend. I realize that we only experienced a sampling of what this great city has to offer.

Upon arrival at the Westin Hotel (LINK) on Friday, we were greeted with a wine tasting in the hotel lobby. ENSO (LINK), an Urban Winery featuring varietals and blends sourced from Oregon, California, and Washington. The tasting featured a white blend, a 2012 Counoise (unusual for these parts), and a red blend. All were very drinkable, especially the red blend which had low acidity and a very smooth viscosity. The Counoise was heavier and more viscous, with nice notes of red fruit and a hint of minerality.

After chatting with Kimberly Parks, the Enso Wine Club Coordinator and a number of other hotel guests about wine and travel, it was time to go upstairs and change for our dinner reservation at Jake’s Famous Crawfish (LINK), a member of the Landry’s Group. We walked the four block from our hotel in the crisp evening weather, passing the iconic Portland Food Trucks surrounding the park nearby (almost all closed at night).

Jake’s is that quintessential downtown seafood house – lots of wood, excellent and experienced servers, a long menu of selections and a great wine list. We ordered a bottle of Ponzi Pinot Gris (LINK) (LINK to NOTES), one of the better known Willamette Valley (LINK) producers. We were not disappointed – light and crisp with balanced acidity, mushrooms on the nose, and pear and pepper on the palate. A very nice wine. It went well with our Kamiai oysters, with Dorianne’s halibut and with my horseradish encrusted steelhead. It was a wonderful meal in a great atmosphere – not really adventurous, but solid and everyone knew what they were doing.

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Lunch on Saturday at Bamboo Sushi SW (LINK), one of four in Portland, for some really excellent food accompanied by a Sapporo draft beer. The lunch specials here are really a great value. We spent the afternoon on a city tour with good friends David Alexander and Patience Muanza and her son, Josh. The tour included walking along 23rd Street in Nob Hill (LINK) and sampling some food (dessert!) and a flight of Willamette Pinot Noirs at Papa Hayden Café (LINK).

Dinner on Saturday was with good friends Laura Berman and Craig Benelli (LINK) at Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen (LINK), a very busy place with more of a Portland feel to it. Crowded – with a system where you wait in line, order, then wait for a table, and they bring you your food – and loud, it was a fun evening very different from our other dinners in town. The Pho was great. Luc Lac has wines by the glass or 1/2 bottle only (!); we discovered a very nice Rosé from Tavel (LINK), the only AOP in France that produces only rosé wines. As an added bonus, we ran into Dorianne’s nephew, Brian Nelson and his wife, Krista, from LA.

Sunday we went to the New Thought Center for Spiritual Living (LINK) in Lake Oswego for Easter service, where Rev. Dr. David Alexander presides over a large and vibrant spiritual community. Then off to lunch/brunch at St. Honoré Boulangerie (LINK) near the lake. Amazing baked goods – very French – and wonderful sandwiches accompanied by a French Pinot Gris made for a nice repast.

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The Patisserie Case at St. Honore Cafe in Lake Oswego

After a relaxing afternoon of napping and surfing the web in our hotel room it was time for what would become the highlight of our Portland visit, food and wine wise. Our dinner reservations at Veritable Quandry (LINK), was a very special experience indeed. A friend recommended it to us (we had already made reservations) and noted that her brother, Matt, works there.  Matt made us feel very welcome indeed, as did our excellent server, but it is Chef Annie Cuggino who is the star of this show. The food was simply excellent – no other word will do. A wine list that is appropriately heavily Oregon-centric but with a good number of other global wine regions represented, rounded out a marvelous dining experience.

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Pork Chop in Cider & Ale Sauce
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Trout in Cannelloni Bean Puree

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Located in a lovely garden-style building of brick and steel near the river on the edge of downtown, Veritable Quandry is a local gem and has been since 1971. The garden seating is closed now, but we were seated at a table next to a floor to ceiling window. The long bar is also inviting – you pass by it as you enter. I was tempted to order a cocktail, but that wine list was simply too inviting. We selected a 2007 Stone Mountain Vineyard Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (LINK) from a list of about three dozen Oregon Pinots. It was an amazing wine – smooth, peppery, light enough to accompany Dorianne’s trout and enough body to hold up to my pork chop in a cider and ale sauce. Then house made sorbets and an Inniskillin Ice Wine for dessert. A truly delicious meal in every respect.

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The sad news: Veritable Quandry is slated to close in the next several months – the city is taking the land for a new court house and the owner has decided not to relocate. So get here soon! Some photos of the meal experience are above.

As we depart Portland after this short visit, I know that we will return – there is too much left undone and some things we want to experience again!