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

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