Drink That! Willamette Valley Vineyards

August 15, 2013  Leave a comment

If you have found our blog, you must love good food, great wine and fun travel as much as we do. Brenda and I are lucky. Our jobs allow us to travel the world and expose us to a wide variety of culinary experiences. We would be honored to share them with you during our musings on Eat This, Drink That, GO!

Oregon Pinot Noir * Wine * Travel * Portland

Brenda Bassett and Jim Bernau, Williamette Valley Vineyards

If you are a regular listener to our radio show, HCA’s East Florida Eat This Drink That, Go!, you are familiar with our work. You may have noticed that we have not updated our website regularly (www.jimmycefalo.com or www.eatthisdrinkthatgo.com). This site is our answer to that problem.  Brenda and I will update our favorite food wine and travel suggestions on a regular basis and upload our shows – so if you don’t catch them on Saturday mornings – or you are not on Eastern Standard Time, you can tune in later.

Let me begin with our most recent trip to Portland, Oregon and the Willamette Valley. This is Pinot Country. The Valley makes some of the finest Pinot’s in the world. We knew we would find them, but we were not prepared for the rest of our discoveries: Great food and some of the most welcoming people in the world.

Oregon Pinot Noir * Wine * Travel * Portland

Jimmy Cefalo and Jim Bernau, Willamette Valley Vineyards

Let’s begin with the food.  Speak to chefs and they will suggest a full proof guide to wine pairings: what grows together, goes together. This was the advice given to us during Jimmy’s recent interview with famed chef and our friend, Mario Batali.  It played out well in Oregon. Fresh salmon is abundant in the Northwest and so are a wide variety of mushrooms. It just so happens that pinot noir pairs beautifully with both.

One of the best features of this area is the close proximity of wine country to the big city. Travelers can reach the Willamette Valley just 30 minutes after leaving the confines of Portland. For our first winery experience we traveled a little further afield, a 90-minute drive to Willamette Valley Vineyards in the town of Turner.

There, we met owner, Jim Bernau, who is celebrating his 30th year in the vineyard.  He is an extraordinary winemaker who actually began three decades ago by making wine at home with concord grapes.  My has he grown!  First a little about his operation.  Willamette Valley Vineyards is a publicly held company with 5,000 shareholders, all lovers of great wine.  And that is exactly what they get with Jim Bernau’s pinot gris.  Jim Bernau overseas more than 700 acres of grape.  We entered Willamette Valley Vineyards’ property along a winding road uphill past gorgeous vineyards to a stately winery.  We met Jim on the 2nd floor overlooking some of the most scenic property in Oregon.

The executive chef had prepared a meal made up of what else …. salmon.  We began with a varietal which is making grape in-roads in the Willamette Valley, Chardonnay.  This is an elegant wine derived from Dijon clone chardonnay.  It possessed hints of lemongrass and honeysuckle with a hint of brown sugar at the end of the palate.  Oregon is growing in its Chardonnay production and this wine showed why.

Then it was off to the pinot noirs – 5 in all.  We were hard pressed to choose our favorite.  It came down to two.  The estate vineyard 2011 pinot noir and the whole cluster pinot from the same year.  All right, twist our arms – we picked the 2011 whole cluster pinot.  Whole clusters of fruit are sprayed with yeast while gently being dropped into the tank.  The tanks are then heated to 85 degrees and sealed tightly.  The result is a fruit forward pinot with vibrant aromas of plum and cinnamon.  On the palate we experienced flavors of cranberry and raspberry with a hint of white pepper and smokey overtones.  This wine would pair beautifully with a barbeque or a wood fired pizza and yes, it brought out the best in the beautiful plate of salmon, couscous and salad.  The only thing that surpassed the wines was the hospitality of Jim and his staff.

Brenda and I highly recommend a trip to the Willamette Valley Vineyards and if you can’t get there pick up a bottle of their wine and enjoy the finest of Oregon in a glass.  On next week’s wine blog we will continue our tour of the Willamette Valley with Domain Drouhin, Archery summit and a surprise.  Until then – Drink That!