01/09/07 – Oregon (part 1 of 3)

By Jesse on January 8, 2007


This week marks our triumphant return to a full-fledged, “full-figured” approach to wine tasting.  Last year we finished up California, and then you gluttons went off to your respective holiday locales and stuffed yourselves with bunt cake and sugar plums, or whatever it is the children are eating these days.  Hopefully you’ll have some excellent holiday wine stories to share on our first day back.  Mine isn’t that entertaining so it shouldn’t be hard to top.  It was 5 pm on New Years Eve and I was in Manhattan trying to meet up with Max.  He called me and told me he was with some friends in Brooklyn, so I got on the subway and headed over there.  As I was walking the eight blocks from the station to this apartment, I realized I should pick up something to bring, so I stopped into a liquor store for a bottle of wine.  It was a tiny place with the weirdest wine selection I’ve ever seen — almost entirely European, and generally very inexpensive.  There was a huge display in the front with a sign that said “buy any two, get one free,” and the wines contained therein were exclusively from Transylvania, the Czech Republic, and other former Eastern Bloc nations; in fact, so was a large proportion of the store’s whole selection.  I wound up going for a white from Rueda, Spain — one of the few things they had that was chilled.  And it wasn’t half bad!  Ok, there’s my holiday wine story… hope there are more interesting ones on Tuesday night.

Oregon is a difficult place to grow wine; the state has cold weather, a rainy climate, and a name that no one can figure out how to pronounce (is it or-a-GON or or-a-GINN?  No one knows for sure).  That said, it produces some really excellent bottles, and they’re allegedly getting better every year.  The state is perhaps best known for Pinot Noir, which we’ll get to next week.  This week, we start with whites.  As of the publication of my Bible in 2001, Chardonnay was the most widely planted white grape.  Now, according to this website, the most widely planted white is Pinot Gris — incidentally, the white grape that the Bible says is Oregon’s finest.  Besides the Chardonnay and the Pinot Gris, both of which can be excellent, also look for Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.

Oregon’s most important wine region is the Willamette (pronounced Will-AM-ette) Valley.  That’s where the state’s best Pinot Noir AND Pinot Gris is grown.  This week, we’ll do Willamette Valley whites, and next week, Willamette Valley reds.  The third week, we’ll finish up with whites and reds from Oregon’s remaining wine regions, which have much lower production and won’t be as easy to find as Willamette Valley.

We’ll be meeting at Theresa and Joe’s new place on the Miracle Mile.  They just moved in about a month ago… Don and I will regale you with stories of the big move, the marble-drilling guys, and the elevator from hell.  Theresa informs me that “there are a couple of boxes still around, but that’s ok – we’ll use them for seating!!”

Find a bottle of delicious white from Willamette Valley, chill it to an appropriate temperature, and we’ll see you at 9:00 on Tuesday night.