Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brooks Winery: Inspiration in Every Bottle

I first heard of Brooks Winery a number of years ago. Their story is one that will inspire and brings new meaning to the unity of the wine industry. Brooks Winery was founded in 1998 by Portland native Jimi Brooks. The winery is dedicated to organic and biodynamic farming producing world class Pinot Noir and Riesling. Nestled in the Eola-Amity Hills of the Willamette Valley, Brooks Winery has known hardship, having to overcome sadness in order to reach the top. 

Jimi Brooks was dedicated to both his family and making exceptional wines. In 2004, Jimi was a rising star in the Oregon wine industry when tragedy struck. At the young age of 38, Jimi suffered a fatal heart attack. Jimi intended to one day leave the winery to his son Pascal. With the unexpected death, the timing came well before planned. At this time, Pascal was not more than 7 years old. Making him the youngest winery owner ever. When I was 7 years old, I could hardly handle getting up for school everyday, let alone the responsibility of running the family business. As the tragedy of Jimi's death spread through the valley, winemakers and winery supporters came together to keep Brooks Winery alive. Teams of winemakers come together every year and volunteer their time and expertise in order to create each vintage. Along with a memorial fund in Pascel's name and family members running the winery, Brooks Winery has continued to create its legacy. 

As of 2006, Chris Williams came on at the Chief Winemaker, having worked with Jimi Brooks before at Willakenzie Estates. Chris is dedicated to helping Pascal continue Jimi's philosophy of winemaking. The 2006 vintage is also significant to Brooks Winery as their Ara Riesling was served at the White House for President Obama's first State Dinner.

The Brooks' Amycas white table wine is one of my favorites. It is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat. Fermented in stainless steel this wine is crisp and aromatic. Overall, there is a great balance and structure to the wine. Lots of minerality, floral, apricot, melons and lime. A great summer wine to pair with seafood, salads, dips and cheese.

Every time I drink Brooks' wines, I feel inspired by each bottle to live out my dreams and support those around me. Life is short, sometimes unexpectedly short. It is so important to do what you love. I continue to purchase Brooks' wines not only because I thoroughly enjoy them, but to help support Pascal in continuing his dad's dream and legacy which I hope becomes his own.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Farm to Fork: A Restaurant Review

The Dundee Hills are considered the heart of Oregon wine country. Located in the Willamette Valley these rolling hills offer a sanctuary to escape the everyday hustle and bustle. At the top of these scenic hills, you are surrounded by vineyards and masses of oak and fir trees. Standing on top of these hills is surreal. It is a peaceful and silent existence and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood seemingly watching over the precious valley fruit. The rolling hills resemble pictures I have seen of Burgundy but never experienced, I imagine it is a similar feeling. At the bottom of the hills, just off highway 99, there is a restaurant called Farm to Fork. Just over a year old, this restaurant has be getting some serious attention. Located inside The Inn at Red Hills, Farm to Fork, makes everything in house from the mayo to the pickles. The restaurant also sources everything from local producers within 200 miles of Dundee, with the fruit coming from the local De Lancellotti Vineyards and Farm. Executive Chef, Paul Bachand, creates seasonal menus to promote sustainability and freshness.

After a day of taking photographs in the valley, we stopped at Farm to Fork for an early dinner. With an open floor plan accommodating a cafe, wine bar and restaurant, we opted to sit closer to the wine, of course. The menus were presented and I have to say, I loved the layout. Each page represented a different course from salads, cheeses, meats and fish. With about 5 options per page, I was amazed with scrumptious choices. For the first course, we ordered the butter lettuce salad. The presentation was grand! Stacked tall with red onions and fresh parmesan cheese and just enough bleu cheese dressing, I was hooked and ready for more!

The next dish was a warm goat cheese tart drizzled with honey served with an arugula salad topped with beet chips. The tart was amazing! First of all, I love goat cheese, but the flaky, house-made crust stole the show! That isn't to say it dominated in flavor, but rather you could tell it was freshly made by the way it just melted off your tongue. It was a real treat and made me wonder why I ever settle for generic crust. The beet chips on top of the salad were also delicious! I wonder if I can't make those at home....

Next we had a Duck and Pork Rillettes which is very similar to meat pâté. Served with olive oil crostinis and a papaya salad. The Rillette was well made and creamy in texture. The crostinis were a nice crispy balance to the buttery pâté. Finally, (as if I still had room for more!) the halibut arrived with giant butter beans in a light butter sauce, topped with leeks cooked in lemon juice. The halibut was cooked to perfection, juicy and flaky. Every time I went to take a bite, the fish seem to slide right off my fork. The only bad thing to say about this dish was with the leek topping. There was so much lemon juice added that it became the only flavor you could taste. Being a lover of leeks, I was a little disappointed.

Now I'm sure you are wonder where is the wine? I'm not sure if it was the romantic rilling hills or the sunset but I fell in love. Throughout the meal, I was drinking and in awe of, the recently release 2008 Bergstrom Pinot Noir. Made locally by the same family who own De Lancelloti Vineyards, (which I mentioned above,) this pinot absolutely captivated me with all its subtleties and finesse. It was "my" style of pinot, full of dark cherries, raspberries, a hint of earthiness on the nose and layered with a touch of oak and lots of baking spices. This is the kind of wine I want to grow old with. Retails for $25. The winery also has single vineyard designated wines, I will be making a trip to the tasting room to try those!

Overall, the food and wine were amazing! I recommend stopping here for lunch or dinner during your next wine tasting trip in the Willamette Valley. I would also caution to go with patiences as the service has yet to be on par with the food and wine or pick up delectable picnic salads and sandwiches to go from their cafe.

Santé and Happy Dining!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Agate Ridge Wine Contest

Agate Ridge Winery located in the Rogue Valley, Oregon was established in 2001. They are currently holding a Change the World Wine Contest. Contestants can enter by writing a short essay about how they would change the world with 1 case of wine. The winner is determined by number of public votes. The winner will receive 2 cases of Agate Ridge wine, 1 to change the world with and 1 to celebrate changing the world.

Below is my entry you can also read it here on the official site. Be sure to vote for your favorite or enter the contest yourself...just be sure to share the winnings! ;) To vote for your favorite entry visit the official contest site.

Reinstall Hope to the Unemployed

With a mixed case of Agate Ridge wine and a mission to change the world, I would host an educational wine tasting event. This will not be your ordinary wine tasting. There will be multiple stations of wine and food, each featuring a fun ice-breaker game for guests to get to know each other and network. The food will be decadent and provided by local and sustainable restaurants. Who are the guests you ask? First, I would invite 20 people who have been hard hit by unemployment. Then, I would invite 20 top executives and HR directors who are currently hiring. Throughout the evening, employers and potential employees will learn about wine while getting to know each other. My goal is to not only reinstall hope to those who have been discourage looking for work but to give these individuals a fun and decadent evening to enjoy. My ultimate goal, by the end of the evening, is for each formally unemployed individual to be paired with their new employer. By providing a fun, informative food and wine experience, I hope to reinstall hope for the future and help to change the world just a little bit, for the better.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wine Review: 2008 RoxyAnn Syrah

Syrah is one of my favorite grape varieties. I always find myself getting lost in its complexity. Drinking Syrah is a seductive and memorizing process, it's like waiting for a rose to blossom. It can't be rushed, the temperature has to be just right and it needs time to come into its own before you can truly respect its beauty. As I popped the cork on a 2008 RoxyAnn Syrah, I knew I was in for a relaxing and enjoyable evening.

RoxyAnn winery is located in the Rogue Valley Oregon. Founded in 2002, the winery has made a commitment to producing high-quality and complex wines. RoxyAnn is also committed to sustainable agriculture and is a part of the LIVE Organization, (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology.) The vineyards are located on the Roxy Ann Peak. The combination of limestone/clay soils with ideal sun exposure, makes this vineyard ideal for growing varietals such as Syrah.

As I began to swirl this Syrah in my glass, I was memorized by the color, a weighty, deep intense purple. The nose was layered with blueberries, raspberries, honey, baking spices and concentrated plum. On the palate I was overwhelmed with blueberries...overwhelmed in the best possible way, blueberries are my favorite berry! I had a hard time getting passed the blueberry flavors at first but I knew to give it some time and the wine would open up just like a flower. After some time, I was still getting a lot of blueberry but it was now layered with cinnamon and coffee. It honestly was like drinking a blueberry coffeecake! I have never tasted a Syrah like this and could not get enough! It had an excellent, well balanced structure with a finish that lasted for hours and solid tannins. I think this wine could be aged for 5-10 years with ease. I would recommend this Syrah with pork chops and apple chutney. The chutney will balance and compliment the wine's fruit and spice characteristics while the weight and tannins will stand up to the meatiness. Be sure to save some wine for after the meal to watch it evolve and become dessert in itself! Retails for around $25.