One of the most obvious signs of fall's arrival for us is the leaves changing at the nursery across the street. Even when we are in the dead heat of summer, the tops of the trees will start to turn and we will know that autumn is creeping slowly around the corner. We are now in full swing of fall, and are graced with exceptional color from across the street.
This past weekend I had guests in town and we decided to go to my new favorite Portland restaurant, Ava Genes. They specialize in showing off fresh produce and even the pickiest person at our table was blown away by the food. One of our favorite dishes of the night was roasted heirloom tomatoes on a ricotta crostini, which made me excited to try it out at home with the tomatoes that our on the vine at my house.
After the few days of cooled down weather we had in the Valley, the sun has perked back up and I will be enjoying this outside on the deck with a chilled glass of Pinot Gris and some kebabs.
Tweet us @montinore to share how you are celebrating #winewednesday.
Heirloom Tomato Crostini
There is few things in life better than a thick slice of bread topped with olive oil and the in-season vegetables of the moment. Although the tomatoes I have growing are on the larger side, this also works wonderfully with cherry tomatoes and keeping them whole and roasted.
4 cups assorted tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Four ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread
1 fat garlic clove
¼ cup fresh ricotta
Freshly cracked black pepper
8 basil leaves
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
With a rack in the middle, preheat the oven to 250°F. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and salt. Spread out on a small baking sheet; the tomatoes should just fit on the baking sheet, without crowding. Roast for 2 hours.
Cool the tomatoes completely on the baking sheet, then transfer, along with the oil from the pan, into a bowl.
Preheat the broiler. Drizzle one side of the bread slices with olive oil. Toast, oil side up, until golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Rub the toasted side of the bread with the garlic.
Put the ricotta in a small bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of the ricotta on each toast. Lay 2 basil leaves on each one. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, if necessary. Mound the tomatoes on the toasts. Season with sea salt and lots of pepper. Drizzle each toast with about 1 teaspoon of the roasted tomato oil and serve.
For those of you who know that I am from England, you will not be surprised to learn that August and September are important to me. For these months herald the start of the new football (aka soccer) season in the UK and across Europe, and I sit up to take a keen interest in how the all the changes made during the summer recess will pan out during the opening games.
Will the new manager at Manchester United be able to keep all his stars together and continue developing up and coming youth at the club?
Who will be the first manager to be sacked for not implementing all the changes he promised with forthright precision?
Will the band of overseas starlets be able to overcome language and cultural barriers and settle down to form an effective and cohesive bond with some more experienced pros from the mother country?
I like these scenarios because I relate them to our own ‘Start of the Season’ here in wine country and there are more similarities than you might imagine.
The summer has been full of planning, formulation of ideas and nurturing creativity regarding the grapes which are steadily ripening on the vine. Supplies are being thought over and ordered and equipment is being repaired and tested, made ready for the big start.
The harvest team is being assembled with each person being assigned specific duties. This year at Montinore, we will have a team with great diversity and skill.
Co-winemakers ( Team managers ) Ben Thomas and I will be the architects of the style, flow and results of the game that is about to be played.Assistant winemaker and viticulturalist, Kevin Green will be the ‘creative midfielder’ converting thoughts into reality and keeping the team in shape.
Our stalwart defence will consist of the vastly experienced trio of Sergio Reyes, Alfredo Santiago and Manual Cabrera who will help process all the fantastic raw material, which has been so carefully nurtured for the last 5 months, into the juice and must that will create the wines we make.
In attack, we will be blessed by the youthful duo of Paolo Bertani, from Italy, and Laura Greenwald, from California, joining us for the season, both of whom will provide the cutting, incisive edge and dynamic energy that all good teams require to be successful.
And watching it all, down near the pitch side, with a wry smile on his seasoned face will be the Owner, Rudy Marchesi, supporting and cajoling his team to produce the very finest result possible.
Finally, like all great football teams we have our most wonderful supporters, our customers, who individually and collectively drink the fruits of our labors and give over hard earned cash to enjoy the sweet taste of success. And without you, there would be little point in continuing.
So, as we slide towards fall, pay a thought into all the ‘hard graft’ that goes into creating a trophy lifting team and raise a glass, or two or even three, to Vintage 2013 at Montinore and all the stunning wines we will be trying our hardest to produce for you.
We are exceedingly lucky in the Willamette Valley to have an abundance of crops that flourish with our climate and soils. And although it is tough to tear yourself away from the grape harvest right now, this is the perfect time to harvest hops and make fresh hop beers!
I planted my first hop plant (a Cascade) last year at my house in Portland and was amazed by how quickly it took to my yard, so this year we added a second plant (Columbus) in the same area.
We walked away in total with 3 large bowls filled to the brim and started making a batch of Fresh Hop American Pale Ale, with CaraPils and Victory specialty malts for added depth of flavor. Which should be ready to consume mid-October, so when we are heavily underway in the winery and will be in definite need of some beer.
1. @drwilley celebrated with our Rose and the Olympic National Park - the makings of any great day.
2. Our new barrels are here! And boy, they are pretty!
3. The lovely Wine Passionista, Tara O'Leary, included our Almost Dry Riesling in her collection of perfect barbaque wines.
4. The aftermath of pressing the first batch of grapes for verjus on Wednesday.
5. It cooled off in the Valley a bit this week, which made for some lovely wine tasting weather, as evidenced by @seanhill33's visit.
6. The Pinot Noir has changed color quite stunningly over the past week. Now we just need to make sure that the birds don't steal all the fruit!
Here is some links we clicked this week:
- Katherine Cole wrote a lovely piece on Ovum Wines for the Oregonian. Although they have a small production, they are really making every drop special; innovative teams like this make us thankful to be in Oregon.
- Football season is finally upon us, and while many people are busily working on their Fantasy Football team, I am happily working on my formula for the perfect tailgating and wine combo. Fotunately now is the best time to get input from others - here is a handy reference to start with.
- Wine Folly has a wonderful breakdown of the Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio characteristics.
This weekend we will:
Be at Clemente's in Astoria for a winemaker dinner with our Owner and Winegrower, Rudy. Should be a beautiful evening full of great food and plenty of wine.
It is easy to stick to tried-and-true wine and food pairings. Pinot Noir with pork, white wines with seafood, Sparkling wine and strawberries. But one of the most amazing things about wine is the ability to find different elements of flavor, just by changing what you have it with. An adventurous spirit is always helpful!
Early this summer we partnered with Masala Pop, a Portland-based organic popcorn company, who creates absolutely delicious Indian spiced popcorn. (It is seriously addicting!) And although it seemed a bit risky at first, we were blown away with how well our wine paired with the popcorn. Our favorite combos were:
Pinot Noir Rosé + Savory Masala - The Masala spices added a subtle pairing that really brought out the best of the fruit forward rosé, and the end spice was just the perfect kick to make the whole thing complete.
Reserve Pinot Noir + Tamarind Sesame with Papadums - The pepper is what really shines in this pairing; the tannins in the Reserve Pinot are able to work beautifully with the slightly tangy tamarind.
Now, go out and try some new and exciting pairings and see what works that you might not have initially tried!
We are constantly reminded by our winemakers that it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine.
Our office and winemaking crew is off today celebrating Labor Day and the semi-official close to the summer, which for us is the ramp up for harvest. We hope that you are able to spending the day out in the sun with a glass of wine, like us.
One of my favorite, brainless meals is a number of versions of this parchment wrapped beauty. I find that through out the summer I keep adding extra heat to what ever I am cooking as an excuse to pair it with the Almost Dry Riesling, which I have chilled and eagerly waiting for me when I get home tonight.
Tweet us @montinore to share how you are celebrating #winewednesday.
Ginger Baked Cod with Bok Choy and Mushrooms
This version of the always delicious combination of white fish + bok choy + ginger + soy sauce comes via eat life whole. It is amazingly rich in flavor, quick to make and since each parchment is an individual serving, it is easy to accomodate to picky eaters. I usually add a chopped serrano pepper to the whole thing to add a nice bit of heat.
1 4 oz piece of fish (flaky white fish work best - cod or halibut are great)
2 large bok choy stems and leaves
1/2 portobello mushroom
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted seasame oil
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of chili pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Take a large piece of parchment paper (about 20" long) and fold it in half. Using a pair of scissors, cut out a heart shape with the flat edge as the folded side.
Prepare the bok choy by cutting the leaves from the stem and thinly chopping the stem. Open the heart parchment pocket and layer the bok choy leaves first. Add the thinly chopped stems and sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle 1/2 the grated giner, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, and a small pinch of chili pepper flakes over the mushrooms.
Add the piece of fish and top with the remaining ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili pepper flakes. Top with cilantro and green onions.
Fold the top parchment paper flap over the stacked veggies and fish. From the top corner fold the edge over and crease with your fingernail. Continue to fold and crease all the way around until you have a sealed pocket. (Go here for a visual guide on how to properly wrap your parchment.)
Bake for 15 minutes on a rimmed cookie sheet (to chatch an juices). Once the pocket is done cooking, place on a plate and cut an "x" on the top to serve.
Years ago when I bought my house near the winery I was attracted to the site, the eastern exposure and views and proximity to our vineyards. The house was great and there were a lot of amenities including an old grape arbor that I wanted to re-work. It had collapsed but the old Concord and Niagara vines still clung to the remnants of the original arbor. Being the good son of an Italian that I am, I soon rebuilt and expanded the arbor to include more grape varieties and of course a long table where I could share meals with family and friends.
Tonight, years later, I was finishing the last bites of dinner and looking up at the grape clusters over my head. Each variety reflected the weather conditions of that short period of "bloom" aka, "fruit set" when the tiny grape flowers are pollinated and turn into individual grapes in mid to late June and has since evolved. If the weather is too rainy or windy or cloudy the flowers won't completely pollinate and the grapes clusters wont fill out with plump ripe grapes. If it is mostly sunny, not too hot and generally nice for us humans, the grapes are happy too and the fruit set will be maximized producing full plump clusters of round ripe grapes.
This year (2013) had mostly favorable conditions but there were short periods of storms and even hail in our area that interrupted fruit set in some varieties. On my arbor the early Concord and Niagara vines had incomplete set resulting in sparse clusters due to cool weather early in the bloom period. Likewise, some of my later blooming varieties suffered due to high winds and hail during bloom resulting in clusters with less than normal grape berries/cluster. Our Pinot Noir and Gris were lucky enough to bloom in a window of good weather favorable to the pollination of each flower on the cluster resulting in full clusters of plump round berries.
Observing this variation reminded me of why we all are making wine here in Oregon. The great wines of the world are made on the edge of their viticultural zones, especially the Pinot family. Contrary to folklore, the vines don't need to suffer, but they do need daily variations in temperature, the wider the better without being extreme. This only occurs on the edges of the viticultural zones for each variety. Oregon is that edge for Pinot, we are a cool region; in the summer our daily highs are in the 80s and night temps average in the 60s due to our Pacific coastal influence. Perfect! But... with this comes coastal storms at bloom and sometimes during harvest.
Isn't it a safer bet in a warmer climate? Yes, but we wouldn't find that perfect balance of daytime heat, nighttime cooling combined with exceptional soils anywhere else. We are not here for guaranteed returns on our investments. We are not here for a consistent predictable vintage. We are here because we have the potential for greatness. Not just good wines, wines that people pull out of their cellars for their birthday, anniversary, or just that day when it's time to celebrate life. These are the wines I want to make, this is what makes all the work and worry worth while.
Some years we fight with the birds and the weather to keep our grapes on the vine long enough to achieve that perfect ripeness. Some years we can't make enough to meet demand. All of these challenges impact our lives and our livelihoods but when we know people will savor, contemplate, and even cherish the wines we make, it makes all the risks and efforts worth while. We may be living on the edge but this is where the view is the best!
Finding an ideal pairing for wine can be seen as daunting, overly complex and tends to steer newer wine enthusiasts against being adventurous. We all at Montinore love food as much (some might say more) than the wine we dedicate our days and nights to, and strive to create wines that will be enjoyed with friends and family around the table, so here are some basic tips for pairings to start out with.
Wine Folly created this amazing infographic to take some of the hard decisions out of pairings - and as you can see, once you start out, you really have endless options to try out something new.