Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
24 Hours in the Willamette Valley

24 Hours in the Willamette Valley

A few weeks ago Jordan and I visited the Willamette Valley for the first time. Home to two-thirds of Oregon's wineries, and known especially for their Pinot Noir, the Willamette Valley is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and foodies alike! Our visit was a quick one, having only one full day for wine tasting in an area that could have occupied us for weeks!

There are eight Willamette Valley AVAs: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Van Duzer Cooridor, Willamette Valley and Yamhill Carlton. For our quick trip, we decided to focus on visiting wineries in one AVA so that we could spend more time tasting wine, and less time in the car!  If you don't know which AVA to focus on, is there one winery that's on your "must visit" list? Find out with AVA that winery is in, and there you go!

Most tasting rooms in the area open at 11 and close at 5/6. To maximize time, I recommend eating a big and protein-heavy breakfast, packing some cheese and crackers for if you get hungry later, and arrive at your first winery at exactly 11! 

For us, our must-visit winery is Stoller Family Estate, which is located in the Dundee Hills AVA. I talk more in-depth about our experience (and food and wine tour!) in the blog post here. We loved their wines at first sip, and ended up joining their wine club because we loved it all so much! If you find a winery where you enjoy every single wine they pour for you, you're soul mates. Join the wine club!

One thing I love about Stoller Family Estate is that they have wines across a large price range, and they are all exceptional. I opened up this 2016 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir for some friends the other night, and they were all so pleasantly surprised at the quality for the price point (this one is $30)!

While I'd happily enjoy any of their wines, my very favorite wines from Stoller Family Estate are from their Legacy Line: 2016 Helen's Pinot Noir and 2016 Nancy's Pinot Noir. At $75 a bottle, these wines for me are special occasion wines to open on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I think it's great to have wines in your collection that are easy to open on an average Wednesday, and some really special bottles that you look forward to opening all year, and when you do it's like Christmas morning level excitement!

Jordan and I usually gravitate toward red wines, but are beginning to appreciate whites more and more. Especially during the warm summer months ahead! I couldn't find the exact Chardonnay pictured below on their website, but I highly recommend this Chardonnay and this rosé for refreshing summer wine! And you know what that means? You'll just have to make a trip to visit Stoller Family Estate yourself to taste the rest!

The second tasting room on our itinerary was White Rose Estate. Their tasting room is so unique, and I told Jordan as we walked in that I felt like we were in a Game of Thrones tasting room! (Hold the plotting and revenge, please!).

We really enjoyed tasting these wines because they are all so incredibly unique. White Rose Estate is one of the few wineries that focuses on the Neo-Classical Objective. You can read more about what that means here. We found all of the wines to be complex and spicy in all the best ways. These are definitely wines I would enjoy with a meal, and their Pinot Noirs have enough structure to be paired with a variety of flavors.

I loved having the chance to visit their barrel room, which is build into the hillside with the tasting room directly above. The warm, ambient lighting and smell of wood barrels and earth is hypnotizing! And by the way, the landscape photo at the very start of this blog post was taken directly outside the White Rose Estate tasting room! Even on the misty day we visited, the views were beyond beautiful!

Our final stop of the day was Domaine Drouhin, just a hop, skip and a jump away from White Rose Estate. One of Domaine Drouhin's coolest features is their family history in winemaking, originally (and still!) making wine in Burgundy, France. They describe themselves as "French soul, Oregon soil" which felt very accurate!

Domaine Drouhin offers a French Soul, Oregon Soil: Tour and Comparative Tasting, during which you will have the chance to taste wines made of the same grapes, grown 7,500 apart in France and Oregon. We had the chance to taste a few of the wines back to back, and it was such a fun experience. When we come back to the area, we'll definitely sign up for that tour and tasting!

We really enjoyed all of the wines tasted at Domaine Drouhin, and I was especially blown away by their 2018 Edition Rosé! Lighter and spicier than most of the rosé wines I've tasted, I kept getting a subtle hint of anise that was so intriguing and made me want to keep coming back for more! We bought a bottle of the rosé to take home, and I can't wait to pop it open!

The Willamette Valley is such a beautiful, fun and delicious spot for wine tasting in the Pacific Northwest! We really appreciated that all of the wineries had a very friendly and collaborative feel, and were happy to recommend other wineries to visit in the area.

We now have a mile-long list of wineries to visit next time! If you've visited and have favorite wineries, be sure to comment below - I'd love to hear about them!
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Kirsten Bell
A Visit To Stoller Family Estate

A Visit To Stoller Family Estate

Last weekend Jordan and I had a chance to visit the ultimate wine region of Oregon - the Willamette Valley! Neither of us had ever taken a trip to this Pinot Noir destination, and it was well worth the trip. The wines were delicious, people were friendly and welcoming, and the area was absolutely beautiful!

Our main reason for making the trip down was to visit Stoller Family Estate. Upon arriving, we were greeted by families picnicking on the front slope, dogs playing, and a feeling that despite their amazing success, Stoller really is a family winery.

The property at Stoller Family Estate is so beautiful. Even if the wine wasn't as delicious as it is (it's really good, I'm getting there!), I'd be happy to just hang out on the 399 acres of grounds! They have three beautiful guest houses, and we were lucky enough to stay in one. We were able to take a sunset walk with views of the vineyard, sipping our wine. When we come back soon, we plan to stay at one of their houses again! We couldn't have asked for a better location or more comfortable space.

The highlight of our visit to Stoller was hands down the Gastronomic tasting & tour. If you're in the area, this is a must! Each wine was so thoughtfully and perfectly paired with the food, and all of the food was chosen based on what was locally in season so the flavors were bright and delicious. They hold this tasting for private parties, so you and your friends can enjoy this special event together! Jordan and I were raving about this tasting all weekend, and kept saying we can't wait to come back and do it again.

The menu for the Gastronomic Tasting & Tour is seasonally dependent, so it's always different! Their chef thinks of new delicious and creative dishes each time, so every experience is unique to you. I think that's so fun, and makes the experience even more special.

On our menu:

Pairing 1: First of the season compressed watermelon, husk cherries, basil and white balsamic. Paired with 2018 Willamette Valley Pinor Noir Rosé.

Pairing 2: English pea farro risotto. Paired with 2016 Reserve Chardonnay.

Pairing 3: Roasted diver scallop, sweet corn succotash, black eyed peas. Paired with 2016 Elsie's Chardonnay. 

Pairing 4: Pan roasted salmon. Summer squash, saffron butter sauce. Paired with 2016 Helen's Pinot Noir.  (This was my personal favorite of the wines! We're going to get a bottle to enjoy for Thanksgiving, and I can't wait!)

Pairing 5: Filet mignon with morel mushrooms, green beans and chimichurri. Paired with 2016 Nancy's Pinot Noir. 

Pairing 6: Lamb chop, rainbow carrots, pinot reduction. Paired with 2014 History Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thank you to Stoller Family Estate for hosting us, and providing this wonderful experience. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Kirsten Bell
Pop, Fizz, Clink! 5 Tips For Hosting A Sparkling Wine Party

Pop, Fizz, Clink! 5 Tips For Hosting A Sparkling Wine Party

Happy Friday, friends! Let's pop some corks, and kick off the weekend with a sparkling wine party! Who's in?? With spring finally in the air, a sparkling wine party just seems perfect, doesn't it? While you certainly don't need any special occasion to host a sparkling wine party, wouldn't this be a really fun way to celebrate Easter, or how about Mother's Day?? (I know this mama would be game!)

Today I'm outlining my top 5 tips for hosting a sparkling wine party. Because enjoying some bubbles and bites with friends is what life's all about, right?? Plus I'm sharing the #1 mistake I see people make when tasting a Champagne or sparkling wine. So grab a glass, and let's get started!

Gruet Sparkling Wines In This Post: 

Tip 1: Choose Good Sparkling Wine!

Ok this one might seem obvious, but have you ever stood in the wine aisle at the store, reading endless wine labels, trying to figure out which one is actually good? Because I sure have! That's why I was so excited to discover Gruet Winery. They offer a wide selection of delicious sparkling wines at really reasonable prices, which I love! 

I recommend for a sparkling wine party, selecting 3-5 different champagnes. For my party I chose the Gruet Brut Rose, Gruet Brut, Sauvage and Blanc de Blancs. This Gruet Demi Sec would also be a great addition! It's fun to have a variety, because when you taste sparkling wines back to back, you notice characteristics you may not have otherwise. Which brings me to my next tip!

Tip 2: Provide Tasting Notes

If you're like me and my friends, our first focus of getting together is always to have a good time! So you can take tasting notes as seriously as you like! But they're a fun way to encourage conversation about the wines, learn a little bit more about what you like, and also is a great way to remember what your favorites were so you can revisit them later! Without my notes, I'd be lost!

Some things you can think about when you're tasting sparkling wine:

  • How does it look? Is it clear or cloudy? Pale or golden? How big are the bubbles?
  • How does it smell? Remember, you don't need to swirl champagne before smelling it. Does anything come to mind? Apples? Lemons? Florals? 
  • How does it taste? The moment you've been waiting for! Does it taste similar to how it smelled? Different? Do any flavors come immediately to mind? Is it dry? Fruity? 
  • The #1 Sparkling Wine Tasting Mistake? Forgetting that you don't need to know a lot about wine to appreciate it! Just like any wine, the whole point is to enjoy it! 
Side note: I also personally like to print out the tasting notes provided on the winery website - that way after everyone has tasted the wine and had a chance to figure out tastes on their own, we can compare notes with the experts!

Tip 3: Set the Scene

You certainly don't need to host your party at the Ritz, but it's always fun to take a little extra time and put together a fun table for your friends. For my table, I took my inspiration from the pretty peonies and went with a blush and gold theme. Definitely nothing complicated, but it made sitting down to the table that just more fun!

On The Table: 

Champagne Flutes, Pink Napkins, Blush Plates, Glass Plates, Rose Paper Napkins, Champagne Paper Napkins, Gold Chargers, Pink taper holders are antique, but I love these too! Champagne bucket is sold out, but i also love this one!

Tip 4: Pick some food pairings! 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on just this topic, and you can find it here! You'll find easy and delicious food pairing for each of the sparkling wines mentioned here. When I'm hosting an event, I like to keep food prep as quick and easy as possible, so you'll notice that it takes fewer than 30 minutes to prepare all four recipes.

Tip 5: Have fun! 

Pop the bottles, pour the bubbly, and have a good time! It is, after all, a party! Cheers! 

Thank you to Gruet Winery for making amazing wines, and sponsoring this post.
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Kirsten Bell
Gruet Sips and Bites: Sparkling Wine and Food Pairings

Gruet Sips and Bites: Sparkling Wine and Food Pairings

What better way to kick off the weekend than with some delicious bubbly! I am so excited to share this post with you - it's one of my favorites I've written (and researched) to date! I mean who doesn't want to taste champagne all day! Someone had to do it.

Now let me just say: whether you spend every other week in Napa or are just dipping your toe into the wine world, this post is for you! This is for my wine-loving friends who are always wanting to try something new. Learn more. Explore palettes. Have fun. In my book, that's what wine is supposed to be all about! Are you with me? Then pull up a chair, pour some bubbly, and let's talk food and wine pairings!

Jordan and I have been on a major sparkling wine kick lately, and discovered Gruet Winery. They're located in New Mexico, and make sparkling wines using the Champagne method (or méthode Champenoise, which you can learn about here). Their founder was originally from France, and decided to plant an experimental vineyard in New Mexico in 1984. You can read more about the fascinating story here!

Their wines have become a favorite in our house. We love that the quality rivals some of the biggest players in the Champagne game, and yet they're not so expensive that we feel guilty popping a bottle on a Wednesday. It's all about that balance, right?

For the sparkling wine, we will focus on the Gruet Brut, Sauvage, Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé. When you're doing a food and wine tasting, I recommend a strategy that I learned on our recent trip to Bordeaux: taste the wine first and try to pick out any familiar flavors and/or tastes. (Ex: Maybe green apple? Maybe you're not sure which fruit, but you know it's tart.) Then taste the food. Then take another taste of the wine. It's fun to see how the flavors change with the food - how some characteristics might become more subtle, while others become more pronounced. 

For the food: I tried to keep the food pairings as simple as possible. If you want to recreate this sparkling wine and food tasting at home (which I hope you will!), the food will take you max 35 minutes to prepare all of it. And then, if you want to explore each wine further with fancier food options, please do!


Pairing 1: Brut with Fresh Bruschetta and Balsamic Glaze

Let's start with the Brut! This is a really traditional sparkling wine that's bright and citrusy, and I get some hints of nectarine or peach. I feel like this wine is really forgiving and would pair well with a variety of food. I loved the Brut with a fresh tomato bruschetta, drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Sometimes acid needs acid, and this wine pairs really with the acid in the tomatoes and balsamic.

To make the bruschetta: I made a really simple version with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, piled onto slices of fresh baguette and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. I didn't even bother toasting it, because I loved how light and fresh it was! 


Pairing 2: Sauvage with Truffled French Fries

The Sauvage sparkling wine is described as "bone dry", and that's an accurate description! This is a very dry sparkling wine, and I loved pairing this with a high fat food. The fat in the fries really helps to cut the acidity, and brings out more flavors in the wine. I think this would also be really great with a macaroni and cheese or buttery lobster!

To make the truffled french fries: Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with baking spray (I love this coconut oil spray). Cut a russet potato into thin (1/4 inch) slices, and then cut them again so you're left with long and thin "fries". Toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons white truffle oil, 2 teaspoons garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Bake on the lined baking sheet for 20 minutes, and then turn the fries over. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan cheese on top, and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.


Pairing 3: Blanc de Blancs with Smoked Salmon Bites

I love the bright lemon flavors in the Blanc de Blancs! I first tasted this wine with a lemon sorbet which was way too intense and overpowered the more subtle flavors in the wine. Oops! That's a great example of a "bad pairing" haha! So I slept on it, and in the morning I decided to try it with my salmon bites. This ended up being my favorite pairing! The crisp citrus taste of the wine is so complimentary to the freshness of the salmon.

When I was thinking about what food would pair best (in my opinion) with the Blanc de Blancs, I thought about what I most like to use lemon in, since that was the primary flavor I personally got from the wine. And I loooove a lemony salmon! So voila!

You can find my Smoked Salmon Bite recipe here!


Pairing Four: Brut Rosé with Fresh Strawberries

No recipe needed! This Brut Rosé is so versatile, and can be paired with sooooo many things! We enjoyed this with pork tenderloin for Jordan's birthday, and strawberry macarons! It was delicious with pretty much everything we ate with it, but I really loved it with the simplicity of fresh strawberries. Sometimes a really good wine pairing happens with you pair the wine with a contrasting flavor, and sometimes complimentary flavors. The strawberries really help to bring out red berry tastes, and show off this wines creaminess. 

Remember - 99% of the fun in wine pairings is experimenting and seeing what you like! Everyone's palette is different, and maybe you'll love the Brut Rosé paired with fried chicken! What matters most is that you love the wine you're drinking, and I know you'll love all of these Gruet sparklers! Cheers!
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Kirsten Bell