on the road again

Monday, January 18, 2010

For the next month, this blog will become a road journal, chronicling my trip through the Willamette valley, southern Oregon, Napa, Sonoma and points south. Much of this will be a running description of the wines, wineries, people, conversations, meals and events of interest along the way. Given the somewhat unpredictable and transient nature of the trip, I may not always be able to post up first thing in the morning. But I'll have fun trying. The last time I set out on a road trip (no planes!) of this magnitude, I drove completely around the country, Seattle to Houston to Nashville to New England to New York to Cleveland and back. That was a long time ago.

Setting out from Seattle yesterday morning, I headed to Portland with a good friend in tow.Drizzly, goopy, typically schmutzy January weather the whole way. Portland is just as soggy as Seattle. We checked in to our rooms at the casually hip Ace Hotel (sign in the elevator: "If you took the stairs, you'd be there already"), headed out for a beer and burger and Henry's, then drove to the Portland Wine Project – home of Boedecker Cellars and Grochau Wines.

Stewart Boedecker and Athena Pappas, the husband-and-wife owner/winemakers, greeted us warmly, toured us around, and shared the secrets of their trademark Stewart and Athena blends. (Basically, to paraphrase Paul Simon, he likes to sleep with the window open, she likes to sleep with the window closed – in a vinous sort of way…). So they blend and blend and blend until they each come up with the wine they like, and along the way they each learn to appreciate the other's wine.

We tasted the '06 Athena Pinot – spicy, generous, yet not over the top. And the about-to-be-released '07 Stewart Pinot. A fresh and juicy bowlful of cranberries and pie cherries. Both very well made and styled for cellaring. The winery, in an industrial warehouse district, just across the street from the Pyramid Brewery, ain't nothin' fancy. It reminded me a great deal of the South Seattle wineries, or the Woodinville warehouse district before it got so gussied up. A great place to visit if you want to chat with the owners, taste from tank and barrel, and get an up close view of what garagiste winemaking is really all about.

Tasting Room hours are 4 to 7 Fridays, 1 to 5 Saturday and Sunday. Call on weekdays and you'll probably get in. 503/288-7752.

Dinner was hosted by Bluehour, a Portland institution. Many restaurants (and wine bars) are closed on Sundays; this place was buzzing. The wine list offered a diverse group of international white wines; for reds there were a couple dozen Oregon pinots, and a thoughtful selection of wines from Washington, California, France, Italy and Spain. Peter Rosback (Sineann) joined us and we drank his 2007 pinot gris, 2004 Resonance pinot noir, and 2003 Baby Poux cabernet, while tasting through an assortment of small plates from the kitchen, highlighted by a lobster risotto and a lamb ragu with barbera sauce.

Back to the Ace for a decent night’s sleep. Note to self: next time, do not take Room 202. The garbage trucks live directly below.

Boedecker Cellars
Bluehour

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