Monday, August 31, 2009

The Dundee Hills Wine Experience

I just happened upon this wine event by accident one day. I was immediately intrigued. It sounded like a fabulous event! I bought tickets almost immediately. I twisted a friend's arm to go with me.

My ticket cost me $50 and I was treated to an amazing night. The event was held at the Lawrence Gallery on the corner of Davis & 9th in NW Portland (the Pearl District). The gallery itself is large and fun. They have many fabulous pieces of art. It was fun to walk around.

There were about 20+ wineries from the Dundee Hills area (about 30-45 min from Portland). Each winery had at least 2 wines that they were sampling. We tasted many great wines that night. I've already told you about Sokol Blosser. They're one of my favorites! The others that I enjoyed were Archery Summit Winery, Argyle Winery, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Domaine Serene & White Rose Wineries. There were mostly Pinot Noirs being sampled. Occasionally you'd come across a white wine. Domaine Drouhin had an excellent Chardonnay that I loved. White Rose Wineries had a fabulous 2005 Pinot Noir (Dragon's Bluff) that they were sampling. It retails for about $85/bottle. It was definitely my favorite of the evening. They were also serving hors d'oeuvres. The crab cakes were yummy!! It was fun going around and chatting with all the wine makers.

There was a silent auction also. My friend bid on a lot of 2 magnum bottles of wine from White Roses. Each bottle was 1.5 L!! He ended up winning and insisted I take one home. No way I said, you keep them. My protests fell on deaf ears. I took a magnum bottle home! Just to compare. Here it is next to a normal sized bottle of wine! Looks like I'll be hosting a big party soon!!
Be sure to check out this event next year! It was well worth it and a great way to sample some of the best Oregon wines without leaving Portland!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wine Tasting: Sokol Blosser Winery & Erath Winery

My friends and I were on a wine tasting blitz. We were slowly doggy paddling our way through the vast information on wine. It's all a blur. We decided it would be fun to continue on our wine quest and learn more. We signed up for a winery tour at Sokol Blosser Winery. Sokol Blosser is known for it's amazing quality wines. I've tried their pinot gris and pinor noirs before and can speak very highly of them. They are located in Dundee, Oregon (a region in Oregon famous for it's pinot noirs).
We arrived at the tasting room and were greeted by the staff. The tour plus tasting was $15.
We started the tour by tasting 2 white wines. The first was a 2008 Pinot Gris. It was light and crisp. An excellent wine! Next, we tried their Evolution, Lucky Edition. This nice white wine is made up of 9 different grape varieties.
After that sampling, we started our wine tour. Sokol Blosser sits on 72 acres and is the 2nd oldest winery in Dundee (started in 1971). They practice sustainable and organic farming of their grapes. Our tour guide explained to us how each vine is hand picked and "dead headed". To concentrate flavors and product quality grapes (but low quantity), once fruits start to emerge, clusters are picked off to allow only 1 cluster to grow be branch. This ensures that energy is concentrated on these single clusters, producing excellent quantity wines. Everything is hand picked and trimmed.

Wine is stored in steel vats.

This is their underground wine cellar this is LEED certified. These oak barrels are handmade in France and each cost around $1,000. Wine is stored here to ferment.

Pinot noir sometimes goes through 3 or more barrel changes during the fermentation process. You can see this one is stained with wine. While in the wine cellar, we were treated to another tasting. This time we samples the 2007 Pinot Noir. It seemed fitting since we were surrounded by the oaky smell from the barrels. I loved this wine. It was elegant and rich. A definite must buy!

A view of some of the vineyards.

This is where wine is processed and stored. Here, we sampled another red wine, the Medetrina (5). This wine was a mixture of 3 grapes (Pinot Noir, Syrah & Zinfandel). It was a lovely red table wine.

They grow numerous grape varieties on site.

Upon returning to the wine tasting room, we were treated to 2 more tastes. The 2008 Early Muscat. This was a nice sweet wine with floral and lychee scents. The last was a 2007 White Riesling Dessert Wine. This one was made in the ice wine tradition, producing a very concentrated, sweet and rich liquor. It was very nice. Too sweet for drinking but nice for an after meal treat.

I was so impressed by the culture & practices of Sokol Blosser Wineries, that I signed up for their Cellar Club wine club. I had be looking around for a good wine club but hadn't decided on one yet. I loved all the wines we sampled that day. My favorites were the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. I did the Corkscrew Club which give me 5 bottles of wine twice a year. It also gives me access to special events at the winery and free wine tasting for family and friends. So if you wanna go, let me know! I also get 20% off wine purchases. I thought it was a great deal!

If you're ever in the Oregon wine country, I highly recommend a stop at Sokol Blosser. Be sure to call in advance to sign up for the tour. It is very educational and informative! They do a great job here and the wines speak for themselves!

ADDN: I had to also add that while on the tour, I had asked our lovely tourguide what her favorite years were for the pinot noir. She told me 2002 and 2005. I had to agree with the 2005. I had bought several bottles of pinot noir (not the Sokol Blosser) earlier on in my wine tasting experiences and have to say I had thought they were good wines. At the time, I really didn't know much about wine...just that I had enjoyed those bottles. Now looking back, maybe I do have good taste! ;0)

I mentioned that I joined Sokol Blosser's Cellar Club. What I failed to mention was that I also caved and bought a bottle of their 2005 Pinot Noir. I may just keep this bottle and open it on a very special occasion! I feel like such a hoarder! =0)
After that, we swung by Erath Winery since it was on the way home. I like Erath's pinot noirs also. Here's their wine tasting room.

They have a complimentary flight here. You get to sample 3 wines for free. They were the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc, 2007 Oregon Pinot Gris & the 2007 Oregon Pinot Noir. Again, my favorites were the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. While chatting with the gal pouring our flights, we discovered that Erath does not have their own vineyards. 100% of their grapes are outsourced but are grown in Oregon. Wow! I was in shock just because I knew Erath was a big producer. The gal told us they were international as well, selling in the China, Japan & Canadian markets. They also sold to many retail chains. I didn't buy anything here because I knew I could probably get a better deal at the supermarket and at Costco. Nice wines though!

Ahhh...what a great day to go wine tasting! Enjoy!

Sokol Blosser Winery
5000 Sokol Blosser Lane
Dundee, OR 97115
ph: (503) 864-2282, (800) 582-6668 (toll free)
Tasting Room Hours: 10am-4pm
Winery Tours: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays at 10am and another at 12pm

Erath Winery
9409 NE Worden Hill Road
Dundee, OR 97115
ph: 503-538-3318 or 800-539-9463 (toll free)
Tasting Room Hours: 10am-5pm daily

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Restaurant Rambling: Pudding on the Rice

I've blogged about Pudding on the Rice before. Yum! I think I've sub-conscienciously blocked it out of my head because it was so good. I haven't been there for a while, while I have been to this outdoor mall a few times recently. Well I happen to walk right by it the other week and thought....mmmmm rice pudding.
I'm a big fan of rice pudding and tapioca. Sign me up! This place is great! You THOUGHT you liked rice pudding. These guys LOVE rice pudding. They have it in a variety of different flavors. Don't worry if you can't decide, you can ask for a taste. But be careful...taste too many and it will only confuse you even more.
I was in that predicament (although I hadn't tasted yet). I was torn between the Bananarchy Cream Pie (Just like banana cream pie, only creamier and...banana-ier) or the Peanut Butterfuco (Creamy peanut butter and milk chocolate chunks..). I thought...hmmm, I love peanut butter but never tried it in rice pudding. I asked for a sample. "I'll take that," I immediately blurted out.

I can't begin to describe how yummy it was! I started gorging so fast I almost completely forgot to get a picture of it. You can't really tell how good it is from this shot but trust was damn good!

Pudding on the Rice
located in the Bridgeport Mall
Tualitin, Oregon

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's Bakin?: Zucchini Bread (and Blueberry Lemon Zucchini Bread)

As you probably know by now, my garden has been flooded with zucchini. This has caused me to be very inventive with my recipes. I gave a bunch of them to my friend who told me she made zucchini bread. Hmmm....I've heard of such a thing but have never tasted it. My knee jerk reaction is to say...Ewwww!! Zucchini??

But okay, I'm game for almost anything. Zucchini bread it is! I found this great recipe on It's a great site because people actually review the recipes. I tweaked the original based on various suggestions. For instance I used 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour, instead of 1 cup oil I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup apple sauce, I used less sugar and did 1/2 brown and 1/2 white and increased the amount of zucchini in the recipe. I also left out the nuts as most of my friends and family don't like them (and some are allergic). The end result was a delicious zucchini bread. BTW, it tastes nothing like zucchini. The zucchini just helps keep the bread wonderfully moist. You'd never know it was there. Note: Don't "drain" the zucchini (this is where all goodies are. Be sure to add the water that has drained off while it sits.

The recipe says it makes 2 large loaves. I elected to make the mini loaves and ended up with 7 with each batch (perfect for sharing!). I made the first batch plain but had some blueberries sitting around so decided to make a second batch with blueberries and grated lemon zest. The blueberry lemon version was a hit with the co-workers!
Zucchini Bread
Adapted from (submitted by: v monte)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. apple sauce, unsweetened
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. white sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. grated zucchini
**Blueberry Lemon version: zest of 1 lemon and 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries**

1) Grease and flour loaf pans (or spray with Pam). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2) Sift flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda & cinnamon together in a bowl.

3) Beat eggs, oil, applesauce and sugars together in a large bowl. Add the sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well. Stir in zucchini until well combined.
**If making the Blueberry Lemon version, this is where you'd add the lemon zest and mix well. Add the blueberries and gently fold into the batter**

4) Pour batter into loaf pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tested inserted in the center comes out clean. (For my mini loaves, it was 40 minutes). Cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove bread from pan and completely cool on wire racks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Cooking?: Lebanese Aubergine (Eggplant) Stew

Mmmm....I love eggplant. It has to rank up there in my top 5 favorite vegetables. In fact, it maybe in the top 3! I'm not talking about those huge globe eggplants either. Blech! I'm talking about the sweet, tender flesh of the Asian varieties. Among them, I am partial to the Japanese eggplants. They remind me of my childhood at Grandpa's house. Grandpa grew the best Japanese eggplant. My favorite way to eat them was charred on the grill. After they were nice and grilled, I'd add soy sauce and sometime a dash of vinegar. Yummo!

My 2 eggplant trees have been doing quite well this summer. They were late bloomers but now are in full swing! I had some grilled a few weeks ago. I also made a yummy spaghetti sauce with sauteed eggplant, zucchini and spinach. I've been searching for a recipe to use the rest that I have in the fridge and came across this recipe for a Lebanese eggplant stew. It sounded yummy so I decided to give it a whirl. I modified the recipe that I found online and in turn, that author had modified it from a recipe called Aubergine Moussaka from Nigella Lawson. I guess everyone has their own taste!
This dish is like a moussaka (Greek/Arabian) or like a ratatouille (Italian). The recipe I used called for pomegranate molasses, which I've never heard of. Apparently it can be found in Middle Eastern and North African kitchens. I was too pressed for time to hunt it down and I wasn't sure regular molasses would be worthwhile to purchase (I was afraid it would just sit in my pantry) so I substituted it for larger doses of honey. The recipe also called for allspice and cinnamon. I'm not a big fan of strong cinnamon flavor in savory food, so I only used 1/2 of what the recipe called for. It gave a great aroma and depth to the dish (while not overwhelming it!).
Lebanese Aubergine (Eggplant) Stew
Adapted from www.roaming (Caitlin)

6-7 small to medium sized Japanese eggplants, cut into lengthwise, then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced (I used a sweet onion & original recipe called for 2 onions-you're killing me, as I'm not a big fan)
5-6 cloves garlic, whole (peeled and crushed)
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
3 Tbsp. honey
1 (14.5 oz) can of stewed tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
200 ml water

1) In a large pot, heat about 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat and saute the eggplant for a few minutes or until they are golden brown. With a slotted spoon, remove them to a side dish lined with napkins (to soak up excess oil) and reserve.

2) Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and add onion and garlic. Saute while stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Once the onion is translucent and soft, add the chick peas. Cook for another 5 minutes. Return the cooked eggplant to the pot.

3) Add tomatoes & water. Add honey and stir well. Add salt, cinnamon, allspice & pepper and stir well. Bring stew to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover pot and simmer for about 45-60 minutes. Stir occasionally.

I served this dish as a main vegetarian dish over a bed of brown rice. It was yummy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gardening: Summer flowers and Vegetables

Here's the latest pics from the garden. Gotta love summer!

It's amazing what a little water and dead-heading does to flowers. Here's my cosmos just 1 day after getting a haircut. Ah...fresh blooms! So pretty!
Italian Sunflower (pretty and relatively petite)

Lobeila and Pansys
My strawberry plant is still making the occasional strawberry!
Dill blooms and rosemary
I thought my calla lilly was dead so I planted some hostas in it's place. Lo and behold, here's the calla lilly large and in charge! They're yellow callas. I had a gigantic bloom!
Tickseed & Bee balm
Pretty Spanish lavender and more bees!


Lemon cucumbers, Banana bell peppers & Japanese eggplant

Soon to be a grown up cucumber