Willamette Valley Vineyards – Sustainably Farmed

Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Oregon is certified sustainable and supporter of LIVE: Low Input Viticuture and Enology, Inc. To be certified sustainable, a farm is scored on these objectives:

  • To see the vineyard as a whole system
  • To create and maintain a high level quality fruit production
  • To implement practices that reduce reliance on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers with the goal of protecting the farmer, the environment, and communities at large
  • To encourage responsible stewardship of the land, maintain natural fertility and ecosystem stability
  • To promote sustainable farming practices that maintain biological diversity in the whole farm

WVV also lauds itself as being the first to use cork that meets the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards for responsibly managed forestlands.

I’ve been watching Willamette Valley Vineyards since its founding in 1983. It had the model, unique for that time, of selling shares to the public. Several friends bought in. It gave a sense of ownership. The vineyard has also been a friend to walkers, hosting many a volksmarch event over the past 25 years. But the hill it is on is a killer one for climbing back up to the finish!

While WVV has some more expensive wines, we enjoy their basics for a nice quaff at a great price. The Tualatin Estate Semi-Sparkling Muscat “Frizzante” is always a crowd-pleaser. It is low alcohol and nice and sweet and fruity. We bought our first case when we went to a Thanksgiving weekend open house and were given a sample right from the vat. It was so good we wanted to drink the whole vat. We had a case of 2002 and 2004, so it was time to lay in a case of 2007. This is a wine that doesn’t need to cellar. This is the wine I serve to my walking buddies when we have a movie-watching get-together. Everybody enjoys it.

For another nice wine, we enjoy their Oregon Blossom blush wine. It’s perfect for a wine and cheese hour on the patio, or for serving with fish or pork. It’s fragrant, fruity, and slightly sweet. We bought a case to restock.

New Recipes – Pesto, Eggplant, Polenta

I knew that a big part of the fun of joining a CSA farm would be in finding ways to use the produce. Unlike buying the same old thing at the market, I’d be forced to drag out my cookbooks and go online to find ways to use the different produce.

Polenta: I love polenta at nice restaurants, so I bought some Bob’s Red Mill polenta grits a few months ago. After looking at recipes where I’d have to stir for 40 minutes, I found a slow cooker polenta recipe instead. Voila – I made my first polenta. I discovered that using all milk was probably a mistake, as it carmelized. I still liked the flavor, but I’d do it with just water next time.

Pesto: I had a couple bunches of basil from my CSA subscription, so I decided it was time to make my own pesto. I really need a miniature Cuisinart as the big one is a pain to get out and clean afterwards. But it was dead simple to toss in the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and cashews because I lacked other nuts. The result was as tasty as my favorite from the supermarket deli, for pennies rather than bucks. I have basil growing in a container, so this is something to keep making. My husband asked for it on pasta tomorrow night, and I have plenty left to use. We put a bit of pesto on the polenta for a nice condiment tonight.

Eggplant: I’ve never bought an eggplant, but I like them in Greek and Indian food. I got two small eggplants from my CSA this week. I roasted them on the grill as we cooked bratwurst, then skinned them, diced them, and cooked them with onions, tomatoes, my homegrown jalapeno and Indian spices as baigan bhurta. It turned out tasty and a bit spicier than I expected. My jalapenos haven’t been adding much heat before now.

We enjoyed a bottle of Cottonwood Winery ’06 Kira Skye Sauvignon Blanc with grilled pork loin, polenta and green beans. It was a lovely dinner. We bought the wine during the Dundee Hills Passport Weekend. The fruit iis from Yakima but the winery is in the Dundee, Oregon area. The wine was beautiful with the meal. Fruity, aromatic and just slightly sweet the way we like.

More tomatoes coming soon!

August Snack – Wild Blackberries

I’ve been making weekly cobblers with the blueberries and blackberries from my CSA farm, but you don’t have to look far for blackberries in this neck of the woods. I am fighting the good fight to keep them out of my backyard, and not organically. But there are neighbors who aren’t trying, and the wild blackberry brambles are now full of firm black fruit. I went out for a sunset walk this evening and took along a ziplock bag. I was headed for a big patch of blackberries along a Burton Road, but didn’t have to go that far. I found plenty of fruit along a path that will link a new neighborhood with Burton Road. I picked enough to add to the CSA fruit for my next cobbler.

Back at the apartments I rented in Cedar Hills and at Sylvan, we had huge banks of blackberries nearby and I would pick enough to make a large batch of jam. I don’t think I’ll get that enthusiastic this year. But I’ve always enjoyed walks in August and September that took us past blackberries for a warm jammy snack.

Beaverton Farmers Market

Beaverton Farmers Market is huge and getting huger. I stopped by on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago and could barely struggle out with all of my booty. Luckily I had remembered to bring an ice chest along to save my goodies from the summer heat while I went walking. Both Rogue Creamery and Willamette Valley Cheese Company had booths, so I stocked up on Smokey Blue and Farmstead Gouda. There were booths from farms in the Forest Grove and Cornelius area that are owned by cousins of mine (such as Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm). I bought potatoes, corn, lettuce, carrots, onions and cauliflower. I bought a couple of beef tenderloin steaks from Lonely Lane Farm, which produces naturally raised meat.

Beaverton Farmers Market opens at 8 am on Saturday, and I suggest being there bright and early if you want to park within a few blocks. They also operate on Wednesday late afternoon.

My First Tomato

I’ve been watching my three tomato plants as they have been doing their plant-thing. The Early Girl is being true to its name and produced the first ripe tomato. My plant has at least 20 tomatoes set and more blooms a-blooming. I took the advice of Marie at About Gardening and pruned back some of the tomato blooms in hopes of getting more ripe tomatoes.

First tomato on vine

My cherry tomato plant is also putting on lots of fruit and the first one is now yellow. I have a third plant, which I think it another large tomato, and it is only now beginning to show some tiny tomatoes.

Oddly enough, I’m not a fan of fresh tomatoes except in BLT sandwiches. In part, that is due to commercial tomatoes being tasteless bags of squish. Home-grown tomatoes are the only ones worth eating for taste. But even then, I believe they need the proximity of bacon and mayo. And so, I had my first BLT of the season:

BLT sandwich

Where is the L, you say? While I have some lovely heads of organic lettuce and my own lettuce growing outside, I actually don’t like lettuce on my BLT. It makes the B and T slide around too much. But if you say BT sandwich, folks don’t know that is. Really, it’s a BMT for me, as the mayo is an essential ingredient.

Review: The tomato was perfectly sized to make one sandwich. But the thick bacon overwhelmed the balance of the sandwich so I couldn’t really taste much of the tomato. I need to get some of the humane local bacon and see how that works.