I'm not a wine blogger per se. Wine bloggers have a single minded focus: Wine, of course. My voice here is this: Celebrating food, wine, life and love in Oregon wine country. Only about half of my content references wine, within the context of food and wine pairing that is representational of my mostly Oregon larder. That is why I was surprised and delighted to be invited to the Wine Bloggers Conference pre-conference "Petite Tour" through the Yamhill-Carlton AVA hosted by Solena Estates.
We were invited to a day of wining and dining at Solena, Soter Vineyards, and Anne Amie Vineyards with a focus on Oregon Pinot Noir.
After meeting up with a group of about 18 other bloggers, our transportation into the Yamhill-Carlton area was via Double Decker PDX, Portland's own party bus. Two cute boys, Kent and Brooks, freshly graduated from the U of O and apparently with some entrepreneurial moxie, treated us to Double Decker PDX's inaugural run. The launch party for their new bus transport/party business is next Thursday, July 1. Follow the link for details. A sweet ride, indeed.
Lynette Shaw, who runs Solena's Carlton tasting room and is involving social media into their marketing efforts, gets 99 Wine Spectator points for inviting us to this gig. Lynette made sure we were comfy and energized by these Voodoo Doughnuts. In case you haven't heard, Voodoo Doughnuts have a cult status here in the Pacific Northwest. Crazy as it sounds, people line up around the block for these grape-KoolAided, M & M'd and Fruit-Looped things. Realizing that escalating blood sugar wasn't a good set-up for my day of wine-tasting, it wasn't hard for me to say no this time. But I digress...
This beautiful welcome, glass after glass of Solena 2008 Pinot Gris, awaited the group. Clean, crisp, and a perfect refresher for our first hot day of the year.
Our tour of their vineyards and state-of-the-art wine making facilities included a good overview of the geology and soils of the area and why they produce Pinots that rival the best Burgundies. The tour culminated in an extraordinary barrel tasting of many (I didn't count... more than 6, less than 10?) Pinot Noirs from various of the Montalieu's Yamhill-Carlton vineyards. Breathtaking. Like meeting that many gorgeous super-models.
Our extraordinary hostess, Danielle Andrus Montalieu. Danielle shared the romantic story of her marriage to Laurant Montalieu, their deep wine industry backgrounds, and their root stock wedding registry. As a propertied bride-to-be myself, I find this charming.
Our group of bloggers, cameras and notepads at the ready, were then ushered into a fantabulous dining room with a gorgeously appointed I've-died-and-gone-to heaven banquet table. Here we were treated to a summery four-course wine-paired meal crafted by chef Matt Howard.
The first course was a shimmer of summer corn soup with potato, proscuitto and basil oil, paired with the neutrally oaked 2008 Solena ElvenGlade Vineyard Chardonnay.
The second course was plank-roasted wild Sockeye salmon atop an earthy fava bean puree with shaved fennel salad and a dab of rhubarb & nectarine compote. This was served with the 2007 Solena Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir. The structured and mushroomy forest-floor qualities of this wine provided my favorite pairing of the day.
Our gracious host, Laurent Montelieu, kindly answering many questions over lunch.
The third course was grilled Cascade natural flat iron steak with a Yukon Gold potato and leek crispy hashbrown and smoky heirloom cherry tomato relish paired with the 2008 Solena Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is a dish we will aim to recreate at home soon. Stay tuned.
I flip for dessert, so it's no surprise that I forgot to photograph our dessert course. I was too busy greedily nibbling at the rosemary and crunchy fleur do sel shortbread. The cookies were served with fresh Oregon strawberries and Bellweather Farms Carmody cheese. As lovely a dessert as I can remember having, served along with the lush 2008 Solena late Harvest Riesling.
Chef Matt Howard
There is so much more to tell about this day, but for now I want to give proper thanks to Lynette and the Montalieu's at Solena for a lovely experience. The Wine Bloggers Conference starts in Walla Walla tomorrow morning!!!