In August Chris and I finally took a vacation after four years of planning, building, buying and selling wine. We wanted to go to Sicily and Greece, but since we were going to be away for 10 days decided it was best to stay closer to home where we could easily get back to the store if need be. I mean, what if Eileen found a new rosé? So we decided to visit some of our producers in the U.S. Northwest: Portland, OR and Sonoma, CA. Our flight was uneventful. Although we did taxi to the runway, only to return to the gate and have the pilot tell us “Sorry folks, we need a mechanic to check something.” Half an hour later, we were on our way. Now normally after that first announcement I would have been at the door screaming to be let off the plane. (I’m sure Chris was waiting for my freak out any moment.) But with an early morning flight and little sleep, I just gave in to an old friend's belief... Better living through medication. Hello, Xanax!
Flying into Oregon is beautiful. The trees, the mountains and just the right amount of cloud cover made it look magical. Sadly you do see a lot of land affected by drought. If only we could have sent them our snow! Speaking of snow, when most people learned we were from Boston they all commented about our last snow farm finally melting. They then asked if there were any bodies found. My response: “Yes, bodies of water!”
We stayed in Downtown Portland because we wanted to be central to most of the restaurants and attractions. (Tip: Be prepared to see a lot of homelessness if you stay downtown. It was very sad, but we did see a lot of locals and social workers assisting, talking to them, trying to get them to shelters and handing out food. People are good!) One of our wine reps gave us a very cool list of places to check out and of course one of them was the Food Truck scene. Our hotel just so happened to be located a block away from an entire food truck BLOCK! (SW Adler Street between SW 9th Ave and 10th Ave.) Which is bad news if like me you think of food 24/7. So of course we made that our first stop after checking in. There had to be 60-70 food trucks lining the entire square block. How does one choose between Thai, Greek, Chinese, Polish, Italian, Cuban, BBQ, Tacos, Scandinavian? Just to name a few. We went with a basic mac and cheese truck called Mac & Trees, cuz I’m still a little street-food phobic and hadn't had my first cocktail. I ordered something that brought me back to my childhood: “The Retro Re-Do.” Mac n’cheese with hotdogs, topped with potato chips.
After hearing all the hype about Voodoo Donuts, we thought we’d check them out. And that’s all we did was check them out. The line was down the block and two deep. Really? It’s just donuts, people. After taking in the selection (from outside) and seeing what they’re all about we decided to skip the sugar fix and walk around the city. (I think a good business to open next door to them would be an insulin clinic.)
One of our favorite places we visited was Olympia Provisions, where we munched on the Spanish Board charcuterie and had a familiar bottle of wine: Vino di Anna from Sicily. We enjoyed the Chorizo Andalucia so much we had them ship some to our staff. (Tip: Ask if they ship with dry ice or ice pack.) As we were leaving, a waitress said she was glad that the last bottle of Vino di Anna went to people who really know wine, and that she was going to take it home if no one ordered it by the end of the week. Had we known we would have shared. Yeah right, sharing’s for 1st graders. Just kidding... we would have shared.
The next day was filled with winery visits in the Willamette Valley: Brooks Winery, August Cellars, Evening Land Estates, Owen Roe and Holloran Vineyard Wines.
- At Brooks we walked among their biodynamic Pommard vineyard and vegetable garden, but declined to see the compost pile when we learned that it’s churned with a backhoe.
- August Cellars taught us to be more punctual but we did get to see them rearranging the barrel room, preparing for harvest. I was also reminded how delicious their Riesling is.
- We ignored the signs for the Evening Land tasting room and drove around the vineyards. OK, we were lost. (Tip 3: GPS and cell service can be patchy.) Making our way back to their new tasting room, which is beautiful, we found lots of information about their properties and vines, with 30 year-old vine trunks on display.
- At Owen Roe we were given a behind the scenes tour of their barrel room and tasted a special blend they were working on.
- Our final stop was at Holloran Vineyard Wines, where we bonded with Eve Holloran and their new VP of Sales and Marketing, Aaron Coe, over NYC's John’s Pizza and the fact that it's my family's restaurant. So much for Social Wines, talk was all about John’s for a while. Aaron was very gracious and gave us a barrel sample of his own wine, a Sangiovese that should be bottled the beginning of next year. If we ask nicely we might be able to get a few cases of this wonderful Sangiovese. Fingers crossed!