Musings by Leah Jorgensen

Archive for Willamette Valley

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”





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.

Tasting Groups & Supper Clubs

It seems like most of my winery friends (winemakers and sales/marketing managers) are in tasting groups. 

I first heard of a local tasting group last summer, when my friend, who’s an assistant winemaker at a very prominent winery in the Chehalem Mountains, told me about the tasting group he was in.  It consisted of select winemakers and assistant winemakers in the northern Willamette Valley, and they met monthly to review wines from different regions of the world, often by varietal.  And, it wasn’t open to just anybody.  

Not long after, I learned that my friend, who’s a local food and wine writer, was in a tasting group with a mix of wine enthusiasts and professionals in Portland. 

I wondered why I wasn’t invited to join a tasting group.  Was I being left out? 

It suddenly felt personal.  I had been in the wine industry for a decade and I wasn’t in a tasting group.  I worried that I needed to be in one, or, even better, perhaps I should start a women in wine tasting group.   

I learned that most of these tasting groups were formed with the intention of keeping the palate sharp, while main- taining an on-going dialog about tasted wines with respected peers.  This wasn’t your usual kind of wine club.  And, it wasn’t the kind that just anyone could sign up for by simply having a valid credit card to charge for regular shipments of select wines.  Rather, this was the kind of club in which you had to be invited to join, like a fraternity or sorority.

My women in wine tasting group would have to be exclusive, with invites going out to only the who’s who of women at wineries of the Willamette Valley.  That seemed to fit the desired bill.

Only, I never started that tasting group.  Nor have I been invited to join one.  And I am super fine with that.  Really.

For one, I lost my winery job back in December, so I haven’t really been networking with other winery folk like I used to.  I still socialize with many dear friends in the local winery industry.  But, now, it’s just on a social level.  While I’m not in a structured tasting group with any of my former peers, I have been invited to dine with a group of wonderful food and wine enthusiasts and professionals.  We have started, rather serendipitously, a supper club.

It all started back in January when a friend, and former winery industry professional, invited me and my farmer boyfriend to her place for a dinner party scheduled for mid-March.  She was preparing a few courses, all graciously gluten-free, including a savory crabcake with mango salad, winter vegetable soup, braised lamb, and then a bacon-apricot-honey cornbread served warm with a scoop of maple ice cream.  We were each assigned a wine to accompany a course.  I couldn’t wait for March! 

I was assigned the dessert course and headed over to my favorite wine shop in Clackamas County – Winestock, in historic, downtown Oregon City.  Owner, and new friend, Sarrah, helped me find a lovely Moscato D’Asti, with hints of honey, white peach and apricots, and a fun Brachetto d’Acqui, a red sparkling dessert wine with flavors of rose petals and strawberries.

The dinner party did not disappoint.  My friend decorated two lovely tables in shabby-chic fashion, with subtle candles that made the Riedel Oregon Pinot noir glasses glow.  Her menu was serious, ambitious, and delicious!

crabcake course

crabcake course

Enjoying Braised Lamb with Pinot

Enjoying Braised Lamb with Pinot

The best part was that the dinner party inspired another guest to host a follow-up dinner party up at the vineyard lodge where she works in Carlton.   And, hence, begun our supper club.   That dinner took place on May 3rd.  Stay tuned for my notes on that spectacular supper club evening.

I suppose you don’t need a formal club to enjoy great food and wine in your hometown.  But, it certainly makes for more fun.  It doesn’t have to be foodie exclusive.  But, if you do love food, you might want to have one night set aside, here and there, to share food and wine with those who are as passionate about it as you are.  It changes the mood, sets the tone for engaging conversation, and takes the dinner party experience to a whole new level.

Whether you are thinking about starting or joining a tasting group or supper club, keep in mind that you should be in a group with friends and colleagues who share the same level of desire to be in it, so that you can keep it going. 

I believe another couple has already agreed to host our next supper club in McMinnville.  My farmer and I are excited to host one this summer in the middle of our farm out here in Clackamas County.  It doesn’t hurt to add a little variety of scenery!