Category Archives: Local Wine

Take the Fall Wine Trail in the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is stunning at any time of year, and it hold some surprises for wine lovers this autumn. The fall Gorge Wine Adventure suggested by the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers highlights some newer, stunning tasting rooms and some of the oldest vines in the Hood River area.

Viento Wines - Rich Cushman
Viento Wines – Rich Cushman

You only have to take a slight detour off of I-84 to visit the Viento Wines tasting room just west of Hood River.  Winemaker Rich Cushman is a local and they’ve been making wine since 1986. Their new tasting room is situated with its back to the freeway and windows looking over old vines and a wooded glade. You can sit outside at a picnic table or sip inside, surrounded by art. I realized I had long been a fan of their Riesling.  Now tasting their Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Barbera and Bordeaux  I saw that the winemaker and I had similar preferences for enjoyable vino. They are open daily 12-5pm April through November  and on weekends December through March,  Sat & Sun 12-5pm.

Viento Wines
Viento Wines

It was enlightening that Viento packages its wines to serve at local Gorge restaurants and events. I looked forward to seeing it on menus.

The wine trail suggests you enjoy some mountain biking or hiking each day, and the Post Canyon Trailhead is nearby. But we had places to go and wines to drink. Our next stop was one that intrigued me because of their billboards I’ve spotted in Grand Ronde enticing people to keep on driving rather than permanently detouring in Dundee or Carlton. Cathedral Ridge Winery has as German-accented tasting room and a huge outdoors area built for picnicking.

Cathedral Ridge Winery
Cathedral Ridge Winery
Jan McCartan - Cathedral Ridge Winery
Jan McCartan – Cathedral Ridge Winery

They focus on big reds, but basically they love to seek out wine varieties like they were Pokemon, determined to collect them all and make them into wine. If you thought Oregon wine was all Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, you will swiftly discover there is much more. You can go hog wild here trying different varieties.  The Cathedral Ridge Winery is open daily from 11 am until 5 pm through April then till 6 pm until November.

Cathedral Ridge Winery
Cathedral Ridge Winery

We continued up Country Club Road to the actual Hood River Golf Course and Phelps Creek Vineyards nestled next to the greens. They are open daily from 11 am – 5 pm, all the better to raise a glass after a round of golf. Their winemaker, Alexandrine Roy visits from Burgundy to create their wines, especially a lovely Pinot Noir.

Phelps Creek Vineyards
Phelps Creek Vineyards

Back the short trip to the waterfront of Hood River, we had dinner at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar. The menu features creative wood-fired pizza or create your own from more familiar ingredients. I was pleased that their idea of pizza was more like my own – a pie covered with a variety of delicious ingredients. I am not a fan of ultra-authentic Neapolitan pies with three dabs of stuff and just a whole lot of slightly-burned thin crust. We had their signature Country Girl Cherry with cherries, house made chorizo sausage, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella and marinara. The portions and price is good. We also had the fried Brussels sprouts with brown sugar and maple marmalade and a salad. Naturally, it was accompanied by a local wine, with Viento available as well as others. But if you prefer some of the Gorge’s great brewers, you could have Full Sail and others.  Solstice is open daily from 11 am – 9 pm, so you can stop in for lunch or dinner or post-hike snacking and sipping.

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I walked the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon at the end of October and so I’d seen our lodging for the night, the lovely Hampton Inn Hood River. It’s right on the waterfront so I may well stay there next year. Downtown Hood River is an easy walk as well. The bed was gorgeous and the views were as well, of the Nichols Boat Basin. Naturally, they have coffee in the lobby and a continental breakfast included.

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All the better to fuel a hike in the morning before further exploration. For this day, we headed up Highway 35 on the east side of Mt. Hood, through the Hood River Valley. Our destination was the Tamanawas Falls Trail. Unfortunately, nature had conspired to close access to the falls with a rockslide until spring. Nonetheless, it was magical to be reacquainted with this trail that follows Cold Spring Creek. You need $5 cash to pay for the Recreation Pass to park at the trailhead.

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We stopped at a fruit stand on our way to Wy’East Vineyards. Through November they are open Saturday and Sunday 12 -5 pm. It was lovely to chat with the staff and taste the locally-sourced grapes. They have a large variety of seating on their deck as well as inside. I loved their Riesling and bought a couple of bottles. Once again, I was impressed by the quality of wine being produced in the Gorge.

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WyEast Vineyard View
WyEast Vineyards View

Our final winery was Mt. Hood Winery, which is open 11 am – 5 pm daily through November, when it closes until March. It’s located on a Century farm operated by the Bickford family, next to the Mt. Hood fruit canning operation. The lovely tasting room has soaring ceilings and seating on the wrap-around veranda so you can meditate on the wonder of nearby Mt. Hood. They were named 2016 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest and their 2014 Estate Pinot Noir won Best Oregon Wine at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition.

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The wines and the views were both stunning and this is a must-visit stop to make. We then got a special tour of the winemaking operation nearby and enjoyed barrel tastings of whites and reds. They are a center of winemaking for several wineries.

Barrel Tasting
Barrel Tasting

The tradition of farming and winemaking runs deep in the Gorge. This trip convinced me that the Gorge is a worthy wine destination, as much as my beloved Yamhill county destinations.

The Columbia Gorge Wine Trail Beckons You

If you need a little getaway from the Portland/Vancouver area or you are visiting and want to sample the best of the Northwest, a great choice is to follow the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association’s Spring Trail. Don’t worry, it’s a great itinerary throughout the year. I enjoyed the two-day, one night excursion as they lay out featuring wineries at the east end of the Gorge, which I hadn’t tried before.

Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge

Start off with a drive down the Columbia River Gorge, either on I-84 or Washington 14. Our first stop was a viewpoint on the Washington side across from Hood River, on our way to our first winery stop. I’ve almost always frequented the Oregon side, so this vista was a lovely change.

We visited AniChe Cellars at their rustic winery on the Washington side. They also have a tasting room in downtown Hood River, Oregon.  Owner and winemaker Rachael Horn showed us her ceramic amphora vessels used for some of the wine. Her wines are European-styled and food-oriented. The pairings are done with nibbles to complement them. I was sorely tempted to join their wine club to enjoy their food and wine events. The vista from the winery was magnificent. The winery tasting room is open noon-6pm Wed-Sunday while their Hood River tasting room is open 12 pm Thursday through Monday, closing at 6 pm except for Friday and Saturday when they close at 8 pm.

Aniche Cellars
Aniche Cellars
Aniche Cellars
Aniche Cellars

The wine trail suggests a walk or hike to Mosier Creek Falls and up to the Mosier Plateau. We went up the trail past the pioneer cemetery to view the falls.

Mosier Creek Falls
Mosier Creek Falls

Our next winery stop was Garnier Vineyards on the Oregon side, east of Hood River. They have over 300 acres of vineyards on the historic Mayerdale estate in a variety of microclimates.  This family-owned vineyard has a nice tasting room with views of the hillsides. Plus, if the cherries are on, you can enjoy them as well. They are open Saturday and Sunday, noon till 5 pm (ish) until October (closed October through mid-May).

Garnier Vineyards
Garnier Vineyards
Garnier Vineyards
Garnier Vineyards
Cherries
Cherries

We stopped at the Apple Valley Country Store in Hood River to sample the jams, mustards and other preserves.  I took home some mustard with sweet onion.

Apple Valley
Apple Valley Store
Apple Valley
Apple Valley Store

When you are planning your Columbia Gorge wine adventure, your first stop should be to make a reservation for dinner at Celilo Restaurant and Bar in Hood River. Chef Ben Stenn is passionate about local sourcing, sustainable practices, and honoring the ingredients. As a foodie, I was blown away by the quality of the dishes.  You can enjoy small plates or traditional entree-sized portions. I had the Pork Trio, with Payne Family Farm pork schnitzel, seared pork belly and house-made chorizo over purple cabbage and kale with mustard seeds and pork jus. Of course, you can have salmon. My fellow travel writer Elizabeth loved the wild mushroom bucatini. Celilo features Columbia Gorge wines by the glass.  After one visit, this will be my first choice for dining in the Gorge. In fact, I think I’ll plan to stay over after the Columbia Gorge Marathon this year simply to dine there! They are open for both lunch (11:30 – 3 pm) and dinner (5 pm – close).

Celilo Restaurant
Celilo Restaurant

We were hosted for a night at The Dalles Inn, located in the historic downtown area. I was impressed in walking around to see the architecture, coffee houses and even a brewery. The Dalles Inn has a nice breakfast room included in the price and features large, comfortable rooms.

The Dalles
The Dalles

Next, we drove the historic Columbia River Highway to Rowena Crest for the grand view. You can go for a hike here if you wish from the Tom McCall trailhead to McCall Point.

Rowena Viewpoint
Rowena Viewpoint

Our final winery stop was at Analemma, where owners Kris Fade and Steven Thompson use organic and integrative techniques to grow their grapes in the Mosier Valley. The tasting room was lovely, but we got a real treat of the Countryside Picnic. A picnic basket includes a bottle of still wine of your choosing, a carefully packaged charcuterie plate, sparkling water, and a few surprises. You are seated on a comfortable outdoor couch overlooking the valley, with binoculars to spot birds and wildlife. The cost is $65 per basket serving up to four guests, available Friday, Saturday and Sunday by reservation. They also do guided vineyard tours on Saturday and Sunday for $30 per person. The tasting room is open Friday-Sunday through October 31.

Analemma
Analemma
Analemma
Analemma

I encourage you to explore the wines of the eastern Columbia River Gorge. It’s a much more pleasant drive from the Portland area than the drive to Dundee or Carlton, much as I love the pinot noir in those areas.

As is standard in the travel industry, the writer was hosted for this itinerary.

Dinners in the Field Back for Fourth Year

The 2016 lineup for the Dinners in the Field series includes 25 events from spring through fall at vineyards, farms, ranches and barrel rooms in the greater Portland area and Willamette. The series is hosted by Chef Pascal Chureau of Field & Vine Events and Allium Bistro in West Linn, Oregon.

St. Josef's Estate Vineyards and Winery Field & Vine Event
St. Josef’s Estate Vineyards and Winery Field & Vine Event

The dinners are a chance to meet the farmers and vintners while having it transformed into a group feast. They are rain-or-shine events held under clear, starry skies or moved to tents or barns as needed. Tickets are $85 to $90 per person for a six- to seven-course meal and beverage pairing, with gratuity included. Only advance tickets are sold. Field & Vine Events Tickets

 New this year is a special Bastille Day celebration at WillaKenzie Estate in Yamhill, enjoying their top-rated pinot noirs and farmstead cheese from Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese. Diners can enjoy the hilltop views from Lange Estate Winery and cheese from Portland Creamery. And Tualatin’s Lee Farms joins with Methven Family Vineyards and Indio Spirits. In October there will be a late-harvest dinner at Douglas Farm paired with wines from Owen Roe. The Oct. 15th dinner will benefit Farmers Ending Hunger, with three farms and four wineries at the Sprout Factory event space in Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial Area. A live band, Boy and Bean, will perform during the evening’s event.
I joined in the June 11 dinner at St. Josef’s Estate Vineyards & Winery south of Canby, Oregon.  I had never visited this lovely family winery.
Lake at St. Josef's Estate Vineyards and Winery
Lake at St. Josef’s Estate Vineyards and Winery
The guests are seated at tables at the vineyard, and we had a perfect evening to enjoy outdoors. The tables are set in rustic elegance with menus, candles and silverware. Our vineyard hosts told us about their lovely venue and their family history of winemaking. The Lilli sparkling Riesling was so delightful I bought a couple of bottles.
Chef Pascal Chureau introduced the menu for the evening as we enjoyed a variety of wine and a tray of artisan cheese and charcuterie.
Field & Vine Events St. Josef's Estate
Field & Vine Events St. Josef’s Estate

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The dishes are served family-style and we enjoyed a local farm greens salad, seared Alaskan halibut, roasted marble potatoes, grilled broccolini, and braised wild boar. The dester was a lovely lemon cream tart. All featured local, seasonal products.
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“Dinners in the Field” 2016 Schedule

April 12: Southeast Wine Collective with Pitch Dark Chocolate, 2425 SE 35th Place, Portland, OR 97214

May 14: Kestrel Barn with Owen Roe, 990 SW Long Farm Road, West Linn, OR 97068

May 21: Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm & Vineyard with Portland Cider Company, 33814 S. Meridian Road, Woodburn, OR 97071

June 4: Alexeli Vineyards with Portland Creamery, 35803 Oregon 213, Molalla, OR 97038

June 11: St. Josef’s Estate Vineyards & Winery, 28836 S. Barlow Road, Canby, Oregon 97013

June 18: King’s Raven Winery, 11603 S. New Era Road, Oregon City, OR 97045

June 26: Pete’s Mountain Vineyard & Winery, 28101 SW Petes Mountain Road, West Linn, OR 97068

July 9: Stoller Family Estate with Chef Jaco Smith ofwill LeChon Restaurant, 16161 NE McDougall Road, Dayton, OR 97114

July 16: WillaKenzie Estate with Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese, 19143 NE Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR 97148

July 23: Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards with Portland Creamery, 18380 NE Buena Vista Drive, Dundee, OR 97115

July 30: Lee Farms with Methven Family Vineyards and Indio Spirits, 21975 SW 65th Avenue, Tualatin, OR 97062

August 6: Christopher Bridge Wines, 12770 S. Casto Road, Oregon City, OR 97045

August 13: Fiala Farms with Erath Winery, 21231 SW Johnson Road, West Linn, OR 97068

August 20th: Beckham Estate Vineyard, 30790 SW Heater Road, Sherwood, OR 97140

August 28th: Rare Plant Research and Villa Catalana Cellars, 11900 S. Criteser Road, Oregon City, OR 97045

September 3rd: Fir Point Farms with Ecliptic Brewery & Ribera Vineyards, 14601 Arndt Road, Aurora, OR 97002

September 10: Terra Vina Wines, 33750 SW Ladd Hill Road, Wilsonville, OR 97070

September 18: Alpacas at Marquam Hill Ranch with Alexeli Vineyards, 35835 Oregon 213, Molalla, OR 97038

September 24: Ardiri Winery & Vineyards, 35040 SW Unger Road, Cornelius, OR 97113

October 1: Douglas Farm with Owen Roe, 15330 NW Sauvie Island Road, Portland, OR 97231

October 15: The Urban Farm Dinner at Sprout Factory, 931 SE 6th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, Partner with Farmers Ending Hunger

October 22: Stoller Family Estate with Fresh & Wild, 16161 NE McDougall Road, Dayton, OR 97114

November 5: Rosse Posse Acres Elk Farm with Forest Edge Vineyard, 32690 S. Mathias Road, Molalla, OR 97038

December 3: Dobbes Family Estate, 240 SE 5th Street, Dundee, OR 97115

December 10: WillaKenzie Estate, 19143 NE Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR 97148

Tickets are required: Field & Vine Events Tickets

Disclaimer: as is common in travel writing, the author was hosted to attend the dinner.

Cooking with Chef Wendy at Bounty of Yamhill County

The Bounty of Yamhill County made it to the big leagues of food festivals this year. It had to live up to being ranked #2 nationwide by USA TODAY. But what’s not to love about local (but world-class) wine, chefs and farms?

I was invited to the Food + Wine Pairing class on Sunday, Aug. 30th, 2015 at Dobbes Family Estate. Chef Wendy Bennett led the interactive cooking class while the winery poured their excellent vintages.

Dobbes 2013 Grenache Blanc
Dobbes 2013 Grenache Blanc

The class got rolling at 10 am, which is not too early to enjoy the 2013 Dobbes Grenache Blanc. The class was set up in the cellar room amidst the wine barrels.

While we enjoyed snacks of Moroccan-spiced popcorn and peaches wrapped in proscuitto, Chef Wendy explained how we were going to cook our own Mediterranean-inspired lunch with the bounty from local farms. Ruh-roh! I guess I’d be the second Chef Wendy for the day. Luckily, I’d just be part of a team.

Moroccan-spiced popcorn and proscuitto wraps
Moroccan-spiced popcorn and proscuitto wraps

Chef Wendy’s popcorn secret is to pop it in duck fat, then add olive oil and spice mixture to season instead of butter.

Chef Wendy Bennett
Chef Wendy Bennett

I enjoyed the REAL Chef Wendy’s demonstration of how to grind the lamb, make the couscous, panzanella salad and chocolate budino. The recipes were elegant but easy enough for beginners. By the end of the demo I thought I could take the recipes and put together a great brunch for friends.  This made me look forward to taking a class at her Wine Country Cooking Studio in Dundee.

Cooking at Dobbes
Cooking at Dobbes

We split into three teams to get cooking. The ingredients were laid out for us and pre-measured. That didn’t stop us from making some mistakes, but in the end everything tasted fantastic. I avoided the knife-work and managed not to draw blood with the mandolin slicer.

Panzanella Salad
Panzanella Salad

The Panzanella-inspired salad with grilled bread, fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, summer greens, quick summer pickles and kalamata olive and caper salsa was super. It truly celebrated the tomato crop.  I somehow have avoided making my own pickles since we canned them when I was a kid. Now I’ll be brave to do a quick pickle.

Grilled Lamb Koftka with tzatziki sauce and couscous
Grilled Lamb Koftka with tzatziki sauce and couscous and Dobbes 2011 Pinot Noir

The lamb koftka were easy to prepare (if you have either ground lamb or a meat grinder). I loved the seasoning. I’m a big fan of couscous and I appreciated the cilantro and lemon juice seasoning.

The Dobbes 2011 Meyer Vineyard Pinot Noir is a good accompaniment to meat and a beautiful expression of our great local wine.

Dark chocolate budino
Dark chocolate budino

A dark chocolate budino is a decadent finish, especially on the heels of great red wine.

The cooking class was a blast and it whet my appetite for future classes with the real Chef Wendy. I took home great recipes that I’ll be able to use. I look forward to the August 26-28th, 2016 Bounty of Yamhill County, it will be worth the trip!

The culinary festival benefits Yamhill Enrichment Society (YES). This charity has a Books for Babies program to send home books with every baby born at McMinnville Hospital. Books in the home are the biggest predictor of success in school and life, and this is a cause everyone needs to support. They further sponsor programs in building equitable food systems, music enrichment and living history. It feels great to enjoy an event that has year-round benefits to the local community.

Taste Dundee Kicks Off Oregon Wine Month

May is Oregon Wine Month and 15 Dundee wineries and six local restaurants got together to showcase their food and drink on May 2. The Taste Dundee Block Party had perfect weather as everyone gathered in the parking lot of Chapter 24 Vineyards, just off Hwy 99W in Dundee (at the corner with the only stoplight in town).

Panther Creek Cellars
Panther Creek Cellars

The event was a great deal, $20 general admission and only $10 for people who belonged to a wine club of any of the participating wineries. The food was enough for a meal and you could taste over 30 wines. You could also take home wine with 15% off a half case and 20% off a full case.

It was fun to meet the winemakers, especially smaller producers we hadn’t yet visited. I was impressed with Aubichon Cellars 2012 Vista Hills Pinot Noir.  This is a second brand for Le Cadeau, another we hadn’t tasted before despite them producing since 2002.

Le Cadeau and Aubichon Cellars
Le Cadeau and Aubichon Cellars

As my husband was driving, I screened wines for him to sip so he would only taste the best. Luckily, we have the same taste in wine.  We only sampled reds, while most winemakers were also offering a white for tasting.

He agreed that Angela Estate‘s pinot noirs are excellent. They have a deep, complex flavor and should cellar well. I first tasted them at the Truffle Market Place this winter.

Angela Estate
Angela Estate

Likewise, the Panther Creek Cellars Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir is very pleasing.  I went straight to the Chapter 24 Vineyards Fire Pinot Noir. I prefer it over their Flood pinot.

Chapter 24 Vineyards
Chapter 24 Vineyards

It wasn’t all pinot noir, there were several vineyards pouring syrah and other varietals. I loved the Cathedral Ridge Bordheauxd Red, it would be a crowd-pleaser at any party.

Cathedral Ridge Wines
Cathedral Ridge Wines

The food bites were great and a nice introduction to where to eat when visiting Dundee.

Red Hills Market had a wood-fired oven truck and served up a killer Morel, spring onion and lardon mac and cheese.

Bert's Chuckwagon Pork Slider
Bert’s Chuckwagon Pork Slider

Bert’s Chuckwagon offered pork sliders that were delicious.

Tina’s had the first bite I grabbed, a tostada with bay shrimp and green salsa, blue a boccone dolce (meringue with passion fruit puree and strawberries).

Tina's
Tina’s

Red Hills Provincial Dining went elegant with a mushroom pate and pork.

Red Hills Provincial Dining
Red Hills Provincial Dining

Babica Hen Cafe had a great bite that I believe is their crispy chicken and dumpling bite with sweet pea sauce. They also had very tall sandwiches and great cookies.

Babica Hen Cafe Booth
Babica Hen Cafe Booth

Dundee Bistro served up bites bites that didn’t list ingredients but were excellent, plus a dish of olive oil and great bread for dipping.

Dundee Bistro Bite
Dundee Bistro Bite

The event is definitely worth enjoying in coming years. One drawback is that there were no tables or places to sit. That may serve to keep the crowd moving, but it makes it harder to juggle food, wine and cell phone/camera. Porta johns were provided and there was parking nearby in the neighborhood.


 

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La Bete Wine Maker Dinner Review

The third monthly wine maker dinner at Encore 310 featured La Bete Wines of McMinnville, Oregon. La Bete Wines doesn’t have its own vineyard. They purchase the fruit from growers (including Momtazi) and feature that grower on their label. They share their winemaking facility with Couer de Terre winery, which we visited last year.

I again went solo and ended up sharing a table with the wine maker and his wife, John Eliassen and Kay. The Portland Concierge Association also had several members in attendance, three of whom shared my table. As always, the bonhomie was evident, everyone in the room was an instant friend. Nothing like wine (or Oktoberfest beer) to make everyone friendly.

The first course was Pen Cove steamed mussels in a wine, herb, lemon broth, served with a 2007 Aligote, Nwhouse Vineyard, Yakima Valley. I hadn’t had Aligote before. It was a very pleasant white and it paired wonderfully with the mussels. Barterhouse says, “Fermented all in stainless drums to preserve freshness of fruit and clean acidity. Offering great fruit and minerality on the palate, it will round-out and become more full as it ages in the bottle. La Bete is the only Oregon producer of Aligote, and one of only three in the country!” I’ve also never had mussels except in Brussels (where it is hard to avoid them). These were fantastic.

The second course was a lobster BLT with 2007 Gamay Noir, Rebecca’s Vineyard. John had the story that the Duke of Burgundy outlawed Gamay Noir for being “disloyal” because he didn’t like it and preferred pinot noir. And so it became one of the chief grapes for Beaujolais, while Burgundy is from pinot noir. John thinks it is a good food wine, and I agree.

The third course was prosciutto wrapped asparagus salad with 2007 Pinot Noir, Stoller Vineyard. As you may have heard, 2007 was a difficult year in northern Oregon. But wine makers defend their vintages as being more Burgundian and less big-fruit. I thought all three of the 2007 pinots served could use more cellaring, but they were good.

The fourth course was braised leg of lamb with basmati rice, served with 2007 Pinot Noir, Croft Vineyard.

The fifth course was artisan cheeses with 2007 Pinot Noir, Momtazi Vineyard. This is the vineyard that produces one of our favorites, the Maysara wines. We aren’t big fans of the 2007 pinot from Momtazi. This was ok, needs cellaring.

But we also got a bonus wine, the 2006 St. Vincent Cuvee. Each year, La Bete takes the best grapes and produces a single barrel. They break it out on St. Vincent’s Day in January. St. Vincent is also the name of their departed golden retriever, part of a series of their departed pets. The dead dog barrel definitely was the best of the night, a truly wonderful wine. I’ll have to hope for good weather and see if we can make the trek to La Bete for the Fete de St. Vincent in 2010!

Dessert was a wonderful tuile basket of fresh berries in creme fraiche, with a sweet white wine.

The next Rafati’s Encore 310 wine dinner is Bethel Heights Vineyard, Ben Casteel, Wine Maker, Wednesday, June 24, 2009 ~ 6:30 pm. $80.00 per person, inclusive of gratuities