Thursday, August 23, 2012

#WBC12 Washington County Excursion Part One

What can I say about my recent trip to Portland, OR and the Wine Blogger’s Conference (WBC)? Better yet what can I not say about my trip? I have so many memories to last a lifetime from the amazing excursions, great wines, scrumptious food and t
First I have to give kudos to those that made my trip so spectacular. To the Wine Blogger’s Conference for arranging and picking such a phenomenal site, to the Washington Visitors Board for providing a memorable excursion to WashingtonCounty, the Oregon Wine Board and to Thea Dwelle for awarding me a scholarship to attend, without my trip would not have been possible. There are many others that work hard to pull off this annual conference and to all of you I raise my glass.
I spent the first part of my trip on my own in Portland’s downtown area but I’ll cover that in a separate post.

My first leg of the WBC started on Wednesday with an excursion to WashingtonCounty hosted by the Washington County Visitors Association. There were twenty of us that eagerly boarded the bus with anticipation of what was in store for us. As we headed towards WashingtonCounty, the gateway to WillametteValley, we were given a lesson in the bedrock soils of the area. The first known geological change was fifteen million years ago when the WillametteValley was created as a result of the Earth’s shifting plates forcing what is now known as Western Oregon up out of the sea. This shift left the floor of the valley filled with layers of basalt. The plates continued to shift over thousands of years shaping the countryside.
Around eighteen thousand years ago, during the ice age, the melting of a glacial dam near what is now Missoula, Montana flooded the Valley over a number of times creating a wall of water as tall as a forty-two floor sky scraper. The water washed over the hills, flooding the area, leaving behind rich silts. This in addition to a layer of wind blown silt known as loess gives the WillametteValley a rich soil composition perfect for growing superior wines.

Not sure how to pronounce, well it’s “Willamette, damn it”.

SakéOne Brewery Forest Grove, OR
We spent our time in Forest Grove, located in the foothills of the CoastRange and the base of the TillamookStateForest. First stop SakéOne, America’s only owned and operated large production saké brewery. Our merry little group was greeted by Steve Vuylsteke president and CEO. After touring the brewery and capturing a bit of the process from start to finish we all had the same question; is saké beer or is it wine? The answer, it’s neither, it’s saké.
Saké goes through a parallel fermentation process separating it from both beer and wine. The process goes something like this:
Start with clean and pure water. Rice is the second component; remove hull and polish then wash, soak and steam. Add Koji mold to turn the starch into sugar. Prepare yeast and begin brewing process. After the brewing process is complete the saké is pasteurized and moved into steel tanks to rest and mature. A few weeks later the saké is ready to bottle and enjoy.
I enjoyed all the tasting samples but do have a few that are my favorite:
Moonstone Asian – crisp pear aromas and flavors.
Junmai Ginjo Genshu – bold fruit and spice flavors.
Momokawa Ruby Junmai Ginjo – Tropical fruit and berry flavors.
Saké is naturally gluten and sulfite free and we were told there is less of a regret the day after should you imbibe a little too much. With saké as smooth as those we tasted, it’s very easy to do.
Unlike fine wines, fine sake should be consumed within twelve months of being bottled. Serve in a wine glass and enjoy. An open bottle will last about two weeks.
The best news, SakéOne is available nationwide in retail stores, Costco and World Market. Look for Momokawa, Moonstone or Yoshinogawa brands.
SakéOne, 820 Elm St, Forest Grove, OR97116

McMenamins Grand Lodge, Forest Grove, OR
After we’d had our fill of saké we made our way to our hotel, McMenamin’s Grand Lodge. The mild Oregon temps gave way to a sweltering heat wave during the duration of my stay with temps hovering around one hundred degrees. The stately hotel is European style with no AC and plenty of conveniently located shared bathrooms. I was worried about sharing a bathroom but not once did I run into another person either on my way or while in the bathroom. To combat those rare hot days each room has a large window, transom (didn’t find that until the next day) and a box fan in the closet. I set the fan on a chair next to the bed and was fine all night.
The former Masonic and Eastern Star Home was built in 1922 and served as a rest home for aging Masons. When the Masonic and Eastern Star Home moved in 1999, the McMenamin brothers purchased the property and began renovations. Quirky sometimes twisted touches can be seen throughout the hotel. Grab a walking map from the front desk and wander around the floors, just watch out for the Lavender Lady said to haunt the hotel. There were a few strange occurrences reported by my fellow travelers. Was it the Lavender Lady or just too much wine? We may never know.
McMenamins Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave, Forest Grove, OR 97116

Wine Makers Dinner at 1910 Main
That evening we were treated to a seven course meal prepared by the staff of 1910 Main, Forest Grove’s premier restaurant. The food was sourced locally and the meal was a true foodie delight. Joining us for the evening were winemakers and representatives from PonziVineyards, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Raptor Ridge, Garden Vineyards and Apolloni Vineyards.
From the Gin Cured Oregon Coho Salmon Tartar paired with 2011 Apolloni Sparkling Rosé to the L Bar T Buffalo Bolognaise with Gnocchi paired with 2009 Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve, the dinner was simply amazing. My favorite was the Pruitt’s Farm Fresh Corn Spoonbread with Oregon Dungeness Crab and Poached Quail Egg. A feast for both the eyes and the stomach.
A quick look at some of the wines we tasted that evening:
2011 Apolloni Sparkling Rosé – strawberry and watermelon with a hint of citrus finish.
2011 Raptor Ridge Gruener Veltliner Estate – a favorite of the night –acidic with notes of mineral and lemon that pairs well with many foods but works exceptionally well with spicy foods. Watch out, this is an acid bomb but in a good way.
2011 Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris – Peach and melon flavors
2009 Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve – Pear and apricot notes
There were many others but just too many to keep track of and enjoy the evening.

As we rode back to our warm hotel rooms with our bellies full many of us decided to enjoy a few more glasses of wine on the patio adjacent to McMenamins Ironwork Grill. There we shared stories and got to know each other and geared up for three days of serious wine tasting and good times.

Stayed tuned next week I’ll get more into the wines of Oregon and cover some of the wineries I was able to visit while I let my liver rest for a bit.
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