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Visiting Oregon Wine Country

Black Walnut InnnWhat are the ideal pairings with Oregon Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir? These are some of the most versatile varietals anywhere and I discover some new possibilities for pairing them at a winemaker dinner hosted by the Black Walnut Inn outside of of Dundee, Oregon. The guests include Cliff and Allison Anderson of Anderson Family Winery, Jay McDonald of EIEIO, and Courtney Shields, director of hospitality for Soter Vineyards. All bring samples of their recent wares, making for the kind of informal, communal gathering that typifies Oregon wine country.
“Growing Pinot Noir attracts people who are passionate and crazy,” jokes Cliff Anderson. “We have a lot of camaraderie. No one is getting rich. We don’t aspire to owning Ferraris and helicopters—good wine is the goal.”
In the course of the supper, everyone tastes the different interpretations of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Each wine brings out a new dimension in the cuisine.
“There’s enough acidity in the wine to cut through the cream,” he said, sipping a glass of his Chardonnay with the Angel Hair Pasta with truffle cream sauce. “The richness of the dish brings out the fruit in the wine.”
The meal continues with pan-seared scallops, foie gras with cannellini beans, roasted Oregon salmon, rack of lamb with polenta, all the rich and wonderful bounty to the local region. Each wine pairs well with the wide variety of dishes, highlighting Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris’s versatility.
“We would be remiss to not acknowledge the setting and the company when we pair,” says Courtney Shields, gesturing to the other winemakers and the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley in the background. To accompany dessert, she uncorks a Soter Brut Rose sparkling wine, bursting with flavors of yeast and strawberries. Needless the say, it pairs perfectly with the local strawberries, an effervescent ending to a memorable meal.
What are your favorite pairings with Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris?
Nicholas O'Connell is a freelance writer and teaches a Travel, Food and Wine Writing class in Provence in May 2012. For more, check out his website

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