Musings by Leah Jorgensen

Archive for Pinot noir

R. Stuart’s Winter Supper with Aviary

Photo courtesy of Courtney Harris

In the heart of the Willamette Valley, winter usually promises more rain than snow, but, there’s still a longing for comfort food, gathering with good friends, the warm glow of candle light, and a sense of winding down in the appropriate hibernation style.  We’re cave dwelling.  And, we’re eating what’s in season, or what’s been saved from the previous bounty of summer and fall – pickled, canned, dried, however preserved.  Once the winter solstice has passed, the days begin to lengthen like a newborn colt stretching out its feeble legs.  I love midwinter.  And, I love any excuse to get cozy and enjoy a well made meal with other cave dwellers.

One of my favorite winter feasts is the R. Stuart & Co. Winter Supper series in McMinnville.  I attended one of the dinners in last year’s inaugural series featuring Chef Pascal Chureau of Allium Restaurant, and, on that magical night, big, billowing feather-like tufts of snow began to fall and illuminate under street lamps.  It changed the mood from delight to complete enchantment.  This little event, in my opinion, is the very best Oregon has to offer for winter culinary delights.  I was lucky enough to get a seat in the sold-out second year.

The visiting chef was Jasper Shen of the trio of artists who started Aviary Restaurant in NE Portland.  His partners, Sarah Pliner and Kat Whitehead, were not at the supper, but all three contributed to what was an amazing menu beautifully paired with a wonderful array of R. Stuart & Co. wines.

to start:  gougeres smoked artichokes with radishes and grapes served with NV Rose d’Or bubbly

amuse bouche:  fried pig snout with egg and mustard creme fraiche

first:  truffled egg toast, baby leeks and beets in barigoule with 2011 Big Fire Pinot Gris and 2009 Big Fire Pinot Noir

second:  four cup chickens, taro root, apricots, wood ear mushrooms with 2008 Ana Pinot Noir and 2007 Temperance Hill Vin Tardive

to end:  almond cake, black sesame, raspberries and toasted coconut ice cream with NV Klipsun Vineyard “UnPort”





Social Media ReTweet @ Raptor Ridge

From the time I began consulting in 2009, it had taken me awhile to figure out where I could bring the most value to my clients.  One of my best ideas has been my “Social Media ReTweets”, where I work with a winery client and a local restaurant to showcase the natural matching abilities of food and wine in a light, fun, casual setting.  I invite an intimate gathering of 8-10 local writers, who specialize in social media, on a culinary retreat, and while the food and wine pairings get served, they take photos and post Tweets and Facebook comments in real time.  And, they get to engage directly with the winery owners/winemaker alongside the restaurant chef.

My latest Social Media Retweet involved Raptor Ridge Winery in Newberg and The Bent Brick restaurant in Portland.  I worked closely with Raptor Ridge Proprietor, Annie Shull, along with Tom Champine, who works for the winery in distribution sales and market development.

The ReTweet started with a meet up at The Bent Brick (1639 NW Marshall Street, Portland), the second restaurant belonging to acclaimed Chef Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen.  Scott hired Executive Chef Will Preisch to lead the helm in the kitchen.  Creative snacks and small plates dominate the menu, with a couple of “roasts and braises” offered, and even an option to “eat the whole menu”, followed by a few smart desserts.

Tom and I greeted our media guests, joined by The Bent Brick’s GM, Anna Josephson, who gave us a grand tour of the restaurant and kitchen.  Neat facts – everything served at TBB is domestic, and all of the wine glass pours served come from kegs – in order to offer young, ready-to-drink wines (all local).  As far as the space is concerned, it’s a lovely modern dining room and bar with an open kitchen inside a 1920’s brick house, with an impressive upstairs private dining area, and the popular “Jenga Lounge”, a casual area centered around a fun  Jenga-like wood sculpture with log stools and built-in seating to hang out, sip on one of Adam Robinson’s glorious cocktails and nibble on some snacks.

Chefs prepping at The Bent Brick

We boarded a van and headed out to Raptor Ridge Winery (18700 SW Hillsboro Hwy., Newberg).  Transportation was provided by A Great Oregon Wine Tour.   Tom opened up the 2010 Pinot Gris and served it (he’s a sommelier, too!) while we drove through farm land on Hwy 219.

Upon arrival, the writers were greeted by Raptor Ridge Winery owners Scott and Annie Shull.  Raptor Ridge’s new winery was designed by Laurence Ferar & Associates Architecture, with a gorgeous balance between agriculture land and commercial utility.  The Shulls didn’t want a tasting room out of scale, with only one-third dedicated to consumer activity and the rest for production.

“The first thing people do when they get here is get out of their cars, take photos, then get to business with tasting,” said Annie.  The winery and surrounding vineyard offers a simple, elegant respite.  Glassed garage doors in the studio-like tasting room offer a spectacular view rolling hillsides with Ponzi’s winery in the distance and views of the Cascade’s peaks.

After a warm welcome, guests were seated with Scott and Annie at each end of the table.  Rather than do a formal food and wine pairing, Chef Scott Dolich came out and expressed his interest in great food and great wine, and how he’d prefer the group to experience that – simply.

“These are not formal pairings – everyone’s palate is different, and I’d rather the discussion be an interaction versus didacticism.” Dolich said.  Dolich’s food is always acid-friendly and Raptor Ridge wines are naturally great food wines – he added, “these wines beg to have an interaction with food.”

With some guidance, the 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve was poured alongside the 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve.  The two wines were tasted with two snacks – Mussels on the Half Shell with Tabasco Mignonette and Beet, Farro, Cream Cheese, Seeds Vinaigrette.

Scott Shull chimed in, “the wine changes for the better with good food.”

Round two included the 2009 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley and the 2010 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard with Country Pork Rilletes with Green Tomato Mustard and Quinoa and Kale Fritters with Carrot Cream.

Raptor Ridge is a small boutique winery with vineyard designate cuvees, distributed in twenty-six states and the Virgin Islands.  They have a wine club called the Raptor Ridge Flight Club, which includes four  shipments per year (once per quarter) of their award-winning wines at 15% off retail prices. Shipments are a range of pre-release wines, flights or cellar selections.  Members get 15% off bottles and 20% off case purchases, among other membership benefits.  The tasting room is open according to the following seasonal schedule:  mid January to mid March / Saturday-Sunday 11am to 4pm; mid March to mid December / Thursday-Monday 11am to 4pm; mid December to mid January / by appointment. Groups larger than 8 need an appointment – call 503.628.8463.

Also, Raptor Ridge announces it’s THIRD THURSDAY program.  On the third Thursday of each month, visitors are invited to come out to the winery to taste wines paired with bites prepared by a guest chef.  Attendees will take home the recipe and a bit of wine pairing wisdom.  Third Thursdays are from 5 to 8 p.m.

Scott Dolich, Annie & Scott Shull

The Making of “Me and My Big Fire”


One of my favorite things about consulting is that I get the distinct pleasure to work with some amazing wineries and wine industry people to collaborate on really smart, fun marketing campaigns.   My business tagline is “helping wine businesses tell their unique stories.”  I’m a writer, after all, and there’s nothing more gratifying than working with a client to help them successfully broadcast their stories through visual and written media, and come to see impactful results.

If I have learned anything about wine marketing and communications over the past couple of years is that, one, not only do new concepts like social media come on like a sudden and powerful storm, but, two, if you don’t pay attention, you’re going to fall quickly behind the times of what people are doing with those concepts.  You have to keep up.

Today, it’s no longer enough to have just a Facebook page for your business.  How you use your social media to engage and keep consumers interested is what will make your social media efforts hugely successful or just a waste of your time.

I have also learned that timing is everything. 

This fall, while I was working harvest, I happened to meet a kind-faced fellow who was stopping by wineries in the region to introduce himself and a brilliant high-tech concept he was developing.   He was working with scan code technology for mobile page marketing.  I took his card and immediately saw all of the possibilities in building smart marketing campaigns around this technology.

By the end of the year, I had a series of creative brainstorming meetings with Maria Stuart and Trish Rogers of R. Stuart & Co. , makers of the Big Fire wines.  They had all kind of great ideas and concepts that they wanted to cultivate, but, like many wineries, they didn’t have the time and resources to put these ideas into action.  I helped them whittle down their options to one great campaign concept – Me and My Big Fire.

Part of what makes Big Fire wines so special is the incredible community built around the shared enjoyment of these high-quality, accessible wines, and, also, the spirit behind the name.   Maria showed me photos that people had sent her or posted on the R. Stuart & Co. Facebook page to proudly show what they were doing with their Big Fire wine.  It was as if Big Fire had been personified into a best friend.  “Me and my Big Fire are going to a clam bake.”  “Me and my Big Fire just celebrated another birthday.”   And, Trish also shared her experience one night when she came home from work, tired after a long day, and sat back in her favorite cozy chair – she said, “it was just me and my Big Fire.”

The Me and My Big Fire campaign was born – a photo and video contest giving customers the forum to share, win prizes and encourage others to chime in.  I then called up that fellow with the scan codes and set up a meeting, and soon the Me and My Big Fire campaign evolved with the integration of a QR code that would launch to a video on a mobile site.

A video concept was needed to launch the campaign.  I came up with a visual of Big Fire at a bonfire over coffee.  From that, I thought of a bonfire on the Oregon coast – the perfect setting for the video.  We all know that humor is what drives video to go viral.  So, on my laptop, and under the influence of just enough caffeine, I pulled up the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, and our video concept was born.

Click above to view the ‘Chariots of Big Fire’ video

A lot of love and hard work went into the following weeks where, in a very short amount of time, we had an official script and a filmmaker signed on to make the video – Ben Garvey, of Ben Garvey Productions, a friend I met a couple of vintages ago when we both worked harvest at Anne Amie Vineyards.  We invited some very talented friends to join us in the coastal town of Seaside, Oregon on a Sunday in January, and, in near perfect weather conditions, we shot our video in just one day, thanks to Ben.

We had R. Stuart & Co.’s unique scan code printed on a whimsical sticker, which will first grace the upcoming release of Big Fire Pinot Gris, available in March, and later the Big Fire Pinot Noir, which will get bottled this spring and released in June. 

Customers can download free scan code reading applications on smartphones to scan the code on the bottle, which goes to a special mobile page with the Chariots of Big Fire video, along with links to the R. Stuart & Co. website and Facebook page, where they can send their mobile photos and videos to enter the contest.

The contest is not limited to mobile phone users.  Customers can access the rules and post their entries online via R. Stuart & Co.’s website,, and Facebook page,

The contest officially opens on Friday, February 18th, following the screening party of the Chariots of Big Fire video at the R. Stuart & Co. Wine Bar (McMinnville), and runs through December 31, 2011.

Winners will be chosen weekly and will receive a Me and My Big Fire prize along with a badge to post on their own Facebook page and one on their winning photo or video on the R. Stuart & Co. website and Facebook page.  It’s all about bragging rights!

For contest guidelines, rules and online entry forms, and to view the Chariots of Big Fire video, please visit

For more information on how to build a social media and mobile marketing campaign using video production and scan code technology, please contact me for a consultation.

Vertical 1.0

Miles and Jack are back…

If you haven’t heard they’re back, then you need to get up to speed.

First, there was Sideways the novel, which, in 2004, was turned into a critically acclaimed box office hit starring Paul Giamatti as the self-loathing, failed writer, Miles, who had a deep affection for Pinot Noir, and, ironically, an abhorrence for Merlot (ironic, in that the wine he covets in the film is a Cheval-Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend of – you’ve guessed it – Merlot).

In Sideways, Miles takes his best friend, Jack, portrayed in the film by Thomas Haden Church, on a two-man “bachelor party” road trip through California’s wine country in search of great Pinot Noir (well, at least for Miles), debauchery (especially for Jack), and a little golf and good food along the way.  All kinds of crazy happens.

The gruesome twosome are back in Rex Pickett’s much-anticipated follow-up novel, Vertical, taking Miles and Jack on another road trip adventure, this time with Miles’s mother on board, as well as her Filipina caretaker.  The novel opens at the World of Pinot Noir event in California’s Central Coast, and follows the foursome, as they visit one wine region after another, between the Central Coast and the Willamette Valley, culminating at the celebrated International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in McMinnville, Oregon.

“In Vertical – as I did in Sideways – as Miles, I wrote my heart on my sleeve and hung it all out for the world to see,” said Pickett.  “I think it’s deeper than the first book, though just as funny.  It is based on my life experience which has been anything but predictable.  Readers may experience that same unpredictability in Vertical.”

The burning question that’s undoubtedly on the minds of those in the Oregon wine industry is if Vertical will do for Willamette Valley wine country what Sideways did for California Pinot Noir country.  Certainly, all Pinot Noir producers benefitted from the success of the movie.  

Following Sideways‘ U.S. release in October 2004, according to various news outlets (including the Monterey County Herald), Merlot sales dropped 2% while Pinot noir sales increased 16% in the Western United States.   A similar trend occurred in British wine outlets.  Sales of Merlot dropped after the film’s release, possibly due to Miles’ disparaging remarks about the varietal in the film.  However, sales of Merlot in the United States remain more than double those of Pinot noir, the country’s second most popular wine.

As for how the success of the film related to Santa Barbara County, the backdrop of the novel and film, there was a Sideways wine map covering Miles and Jack’s tour.  The movie obviously boosted tourism in that wine region.

I just started reading my copy of Vertical.  In addition to being a freelance writer, a blogger, and a wine industry marketing-communications consultant, I am also a winemaking student, which means my reading time has been limited to Chemistry and Wine Clarification and Stabilization text books.  I plan to read the novel in segments and blog about it as I go along.  I’m not about to do a traditional review of the book.  I’m not that kind of writer.  I’ll try to come up with some clever way to relate the story – certainly with some Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in my glass.

Stay tuned!

View video interview with author Rex Pickett.

Pinot in the Pearl

The Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers promised to bring over 100 wines to Portland’s “First Thursday” at their inaugural Pinot in the Pearl wine event held at the tres elegant Venue Pearl (upstairs from 50 Plates, NW 13th and Flanders) on Thursday, May 6th.

Wine Country on Portland’s Doorstep
Participating wineries included: Adelsheim Vineyard, Alloro Vineyard, Anam Cara Cellars, Anne Amie Vineyards, ArborBrook Vineyards, Archery Summit, Artisanal Wine Cellars, Barking Frog Winery, Blakeslee Vineyard Estate, Carabella, Chehalem, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, deLancellotti Family Vineyards, Elk Cove Vineyards, Et Fille, Freja Cellars, Hawks View Cellars, J.K. Carriere Wines, K&M Wines, Lachini Vineyards, Laura Volkman Vineyards, Le Cadeau Vineyard, Longplay Wine, Raptor Ridge, Rex Hill, ROCO Winery, RR Wines, Terra Vina Wines, Trisaetum, Utopia and Vidon Vineyard.

Culinary partners included: 50 Plates, Aquariva, Gracie’s Restaurant, The Heathman, Phresh Organic Catering, Sweet Masterpiece Chocolates, The Painted Lady and The Sweetest Thing Cupcakes.  Other partners included:  A Nose for Wine Tours, Fanucchi Oils, Perfect Picnics, Volcanic Minerals Refresher and Whole Foods.

The wines were the main focus and draw on this beautiful First Thursday eve.  The event producer, Pravia Wines & Events, however, made the destination.  Upon taking an elevator up to the banquet hall of Venue Pearl, you arrived in a very sexy, posh space with white sheer curtains running along the entranceway, emanating a bit of hip Miami Beach.  The set up was simple and elegant and guests were dressed for the occasion in high fashion.  It was visually one of the most impressive wine events I have attended in Portland…ever.

Adding to the elegance was the exquisite music of local harpist Leigh Brown, who looked more like a Grecian goddess in her off the shoulder green dress. 

The flow was open, spacious and inviting, allowing the consumer to float casually from table to table, in order to comfortably sample the amazing showcase of Chehalem Mountains wines.  Kudos to the team who brought this swank, exciting event to the Pearl!

Canopy Wine Marketing Network

Canopy Wine Marketing Network is a group of eight wine industry sales and marketing experts serving the Pacific Northwest. 

“Canopy is the natural evolution for a group of friends—each a leader in her respective field—who meet regularly to focus on the rapidly changing world of marketing and communications trends, as well as opportunities and challenges,” said Amy Hall, the group’s initiator. “Over the past year, we successfully collaborated on multiple projects at differing levels and stages of development and now look forward to introducing our services to the industry on a more formal basis.” 

Canopy Wine Marketing Network (CWMN) consists of Claudia Bowers, Pravia Wines & Events; Amy Hall, Grow Creative; Carrie Higgins, Crush Creative Packaging; Dixie Huey, Trellis Wine Consulting; Andrea Johnson, Andrea Johnson Photography; Leah Jorgensen, Leah Jorgensen Consulting; Sheila Nicholas, Nicholas Communications; and Cara Pepper Day, Cara Pepper Day Consulting.

CWMN will be introduced at the Oregon Wine Symposium, Feb. 21–23, in Eugene.  They will be at Exhibitor Booth No. C9.

Read more about CWMN in the February issue of Oregon Wine Press.

For more information, please visit Canopy Wine Marketing Network.

H-ARRR-vest 2009

I moved to Oregon in September of 2004.  Hard to believe that was five years ago!  I was hired by Erath Vineyards and, although I took a job in sales and marketing, my intention was to get closer to the source to learn more about viticulture and/or production.  I wanted to eventually land in the realm of winemaking.  Five years later, I never really got into the winery or vineyard, as I had hoped.  Some of my employers allowed me to dapple in some fruit sorting or other light tasks of harvest work, but I never was able to fully experience what harvest was all about.

This year, since I had a more flexible schedule in consulting, I decided it was time to work crush.  In March, I had contacted my friend and colleague, Thomas Houseman, winemaker at Anne Amie Vineyards.  I met his winemaking team and signed on for harvest cellar work.

I started in early September with bottling some of the 2009 wines.  It was a great way to get familiar with the cellar and winemaking team.  By mid-month, I was helping with organizing and numbering new barrels.  By October, we were in production.

My tasks as a cellar worker ranged from sorting fruit; cleaning and sanitizing equipment and tanks (which I did a lot!); following various work orders; monitoring fermentations (and by this I mean sampling for pH, gathering Brix and temperature data); punch downs; barrel topping; and so on.

Harvest_work_2Sorting Muller Thurgau grapes..

The best part of harvest is working on a crew.  I would say it’s like being on a pirate ship.  A collegial pirate ship.  You work very long hours doing really hard work.  You plunder, and by plunder I mean you steal your crew mate’s galoshes and fill them up with water.  You walk the plank over a tank to do your punchdowns.  It’s exhausting and at times dangerous (you might slip on deck, which in fact, I did).  You are accountable for your work and your team relies on you to pull your weight. 

There is a romance about making wine.  Most people imagine bringing in baskets of pretty grapes and carefully placing the fruit in a barrel or bin for beautiful women to stomp the grapes with their delicate bare feet.  Okay, maybe not.  But, there truly is a romantic notion about making wine.  And, every person who has ever worked on a cellar crew knows that the reality of it is that you are cold, wet, dirty, physically beat and bruised, and tired.  It’s not romantic at all.  But, what it is – well, it’s something hard to describe.  You have to work a harvest to understand. 


Decked out in heavy-duty rain gear,
I’m connecting a hose to sanitize the
sorting line…

There is a Zen nature to doing harvest work, in the meditative repetition of tasks.  When I would hose down the sorting line or do my early morning rounds of collecting samples from tanks of Pinot noir, and even when I got to do punch downs, I felt a rhythm with nature and science, with space and time.  I was very content.  My “real life” seemed far and distant.  I had been transported to a place that clamored with the sounds of beeping forklifts, wine pump-overs and loud hip hop or new wave music.  I was fed well by an incredible chef who catered to our culinary needs.  I was made fun of, harassed and prodded in good fun – hence, being part of a pirate crew.  I dished out as much as I could.  But, mostly, I learned a great deal from the excellent people who challenged me to experience a real wine education.

This was my first harvest, my first crush, and it sure as hell won’t be my last.  Arrrr!