Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bite of Oregon 2010

Every year restaurants, breweries and wineries from around Oregon show off their wares at Riverfront Park in downtown Portland. In addition to food and drinks, there is entertainment, chef demonstrations and of course the Iron Chef Oregon competition. This year Rachel and Tim were off at a swim meet, so I decided to leave work early on Friday afternoon and head to the festival.

I made my usual first pass through the wine area, but noticed something strange. Unlike last year where all the wineries had their own booths and determined their own tasting fees, it looked like more than half of them were in common booths staffed with volunteers rather than winery staff. Those wineries in the common booths were also charging $2/taste. What's with that? Maybe a charity fundraiser? Don't know, but I wasn't interested in finding out. Half the fun of wine tasting is talking to the winemaker or at least someone who works for the winery. Bad idea. Because of this, I visited far fewer wineries than in past years. It also seemed to me that there was not as much high quality wine there either - more like Newport than the McMinnville festival. Fortunately Dyson Demara was there from Hillcrest and had some great new wines, and John Olson from Palotai was there, also with some great new wines. These are my 2 favorite southern Oregon wineries, and I always enjoy talking with Dyson and John. I also had a nice chat with Ray Walsh from Capitello who has some nice new Sauv Blancs from both Oregon and New Zealand. A few other favorites were there (David Hill) but I've tasted recently enough that I didn't taste at the Bite. My full tasting notes are at the end of this post.

In between wine tastings, I took in a little music (a rock band called Hello Morning), a chef demonstration (Pascal Sauton from Carafe Bistro in Portland), and the first round of Iron Chef Oregon (Franco Console vs. Gabriel Gil). The great thing about Friday afternoon at the Bite is that it's not very crowded, and I had no trouble getting good seating for any of the entertainment.

Of course I also had to eat while I was there! In addition to Oregon restaurants, there were several food trucks from Portland's exploding street food scene, and I tried 2 of them. I had incredible Korean BBQ tacos from Koi fusion, and a pretty good meatball Parmesan Slider from Garden State. I washed that down with a nice Red Ale from Hopworks Urban Brewery.

I had a good time as usual, and it was fun to chat with the winemakers, but this isn't a "knock your socks off" experience in terms of either the food or (most of) the wine. Will I be back next year? Of course, but I hope Rachel can come with me.

08 Chardonnay - Lightly oaked, crisp and fruty. Really very nice, but not quite enough acid.
08 Riesling - off dry, not enough acid.
08 Zinfandel - Tastes young and rough. Needs more time, not as fruity as a Zin should be.
09 Baco Noir - Young and a bit rough.
08 Cab Sauv - Nice, but nothing special.

09 New Zealand Sauv Blanc - very crisp and clean, but a bit too much bell pepper for my taste. Some nice tropical notes.
08 Oregon Sauv Blanc - Smooth mouth feel, luscious.
09 New Zealand Pinot Noir - Big, warm and complex. Like the best OR 06's
07 Oregon Pinot Noir - solid 2007, with complexity and good fruit.
09 Late Riesling - well balanced, not too sweet

09 Pinot Gris - nice and crisp, not as much depth of flavor as I'd like.
NV White Blend - OK, nothing special
06 "Pinot-Licious" Pinot Noir - sold as an everyday Pinot ($20) it was OK, fairly simple.
07 Syrah - Nice example of a WA Syrah - not over the top fruit bomb, no pepper
Late Harvest blend - OK, not great.

OK, too many good wines and I forgot to take detailed notes. Here's what I remember:
09 Bull's Blood - Lighter bodied red, good fruit and acid.
NV Dolcetto - blend of 07 and 08, this is a rounder more polished wine than the 07 alone. Just bottled, so it showed a shorter finish than I'd like, but this may come back with time. Good warm fruity mid-palate.
08 Arany Szarvas - Syrah-Cab blend. Easy drinking red.
07 Syrah - finally, a nice peppery Rhone-style Syrah! Very nice.
?? Attila - a bigger, bolder Bdx blend. Full and nice.

Again, too busy enjoying my discussion with Dyson to take detailed notes. Here's what I remember:
Up Under 15 - Syrah/Zin/Cab blend, good subtle fruit.
07 "Phenom" Cab Sauv - same vineyard as Massimo, good deep Cab with complexity.
06 "San Roc" Syrah- Very nice deep northern Rhone style (San Roc = Cornas backwards!).
?? White Pinot Noir - this is the first white Pinot that I liked. Fruity, good acid, no bitterness
Very nice Hungarian-style Rosé
08 "Bone Dry" Riesling - great clean dry Rielsing
Late Riesling - off-sweet well balanced wine.