It is time for true confessions, Oregon style. We have a tendency to be spoiled in the midst of our foodie utopia and wine sanctuary. All that is so readily available around us can be taken for granted. Daily we pass by restaurants and gourmet food shops that garner national acclaim for the food and wine they serve. Reminding ourselves to stop and smell the roses can be a brilliant lesson in appreciating what we have in our own backyard.
One of these lessons in appreciation transpired during a pre-IPNC dinner last July, a few days before the main International Pinot Noir Celebration festivities began. The dinner was hosted by Byron and Dana Dooley, and featured Byron's Luminous Hills and Seven of Hearts wines. Wines were paired with an eight course tasting menu at Noisette, a French restaurant in Northwest Portland. Noisette’s Chef Anthony Demes spent eight years at the helm of Couvron, a jewel in Portland’s restaurant scene, before its closing in 2003. He pursued other opportunities around the country, including his hometown of New York, before returning in 2010 to open Noisette. Demes’ modern French cuisine was a magnificent match with Byron’s elegant wines.
The first course featured the Seven of Hearts 2011 Pinot Gris paired with Oregon Line Caught Albacore Tuna. The fruity aromas on the nose were wonderfully expressive and intense, the palate a bit creamier than many Oregon Pinot Gris. Next up, was the Mahonia Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay served with Maine Day Boat Lobster. Non-Chardonnay drinkers were asking for more of this Chardonnay. Many will be watching the Seven of Hearts website next spring for the release of the 2011 Chardonnay, which will be sourced from Gran Moraine Vineyard. (The 2011 Pinots will be released next month.)
The rosé of the evening was the Luminous Hills Aura 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir. The Luminous Hills wines are all estate fruit from Yamhill-Carlton’s Luminous Hills Vineyard; the Seven of Hearts fruit is sourced from various other vineyards. Paired with an Oregon Spring Onion and Cauliflower Soup, the rosé held up well to the savory flavors. This versatile rosé was also sipped earlier in the evening by arriving guests, wonderfully crisp and light on its own.
The first of three Pinot Noirs (fourth, fifth and seventh courses) was the Seven of Hearts 2010 Armstrong Vineyard. Ancient Grain and Morel flavors and textures were ideal with the bolder structure of this Pinot. The Armstrong Vineyard is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. The soil in this AVA often produces more tannic Pinots, yet this wine is still easily approachable in its youth. The second Pinot Noir was the Luminous Hills 2010 Estate Pinot, coupled with a B.C. Diver Scallop and Braised Short Ribs. Byron describes this wine as “…the broadest and clearest expression yet of the big picture story that Luminous Hills has to say.” Finally, Luminous Hills 2010 Lux Pinot Noir accompanied by Moulard Duck Breast and Veal Sweetbread with Port Wine Sauce. Rich complex flavors, spice and berry came together perfectly.
The evening’s selections also included two sweet wines, courses six and eight. Seven of Hearts 2011 Ice Princess Viognier was interestingly, yet successfully presented with Moulard Duck Liver, Brioche, Hazelnut and Medjool Date Puree with Sauternes Sauce. Quite a mouthful to say, but a complex balance between the sweet and the rich savory flavors. The final course presented a Cherry and Chocolate Brioche Pudding served with Seven of Hearts Coupe’s Cuvee, 2011 Pinot Noir. Very port-like in flavor, the deep fruit flavors and smooth finish brought the incredible event to a close.
This was an occasion to be savored. During Byron’s initial words of welcome, he graciously thanked friends and supporters of the winery for being part of Dana's and his community. Throughout the evening, he moved from table to table, speaking with wine club members, friends and industry associates, mutual respect clearly expressed. An energetic round of applause was given for Chef Demes and the excellent staff at Noisette. That evening, nothing was taken for granted as we all stopped to smell the roses.