14 May 2010

Road Trip for a Winemaker's Dinner

As I am writing this I am driving south down I-5, well to be more accurate my husband is driving, in the heart of the Willamette Valley and am reminded again of the beauty to be found in the state of Oregon.  The sun is streaming in the windows, the sky is clear with a few puffy clouds and we are off to the lovely Steamboat Inn on the North Umpqua River.  One of my favorite places in Oregon and the home of many a great memory including an attempted float one August down Steamboat Creek which had too little water and in inner tubes that were losing air.  Got more than a few bruises that time!  If you are ever in need of a place to stay in the Roseburg area and are looking for some great food and a beautiful location I highly recommend the inn.  I have heard that there is some amazing fly fishing as well though I can’t attest to that personally.

This time we are heading down to do a winemaker’s dinner.  As I mentioned before dinners are one of my favorite things to do with customers.  I get a captive audience, food that has been designed to showcase my wines and in this case a beautiful location.   The chef is Dustin Clark from Wildwood Restaurant and Bar in Portland and I have worked with him in the past to excellent affect.  I still remember the blue cheese, caramelized onion and apple tarts that he made to go with my Chardonnay.  The combination was what you are always hoping for, while the tart and the wine were good in their own right when they came together both were amazing, all of the sudden there were flavors in both that I hadn’t noticed before and here it is at least three years later and I still remember.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what else I had to eat that night, that pairing was the one that shone.  So I’ll have to let you know next week what shines on Saturday.

Back at the winery spring feels as though it has finally arrived, okay it feels like that everywhere in the Valley including here in Eugene which we are now passing through.  We got over 70°F yesterday and the vines are growing like weeds.  Next thing you know we will have to start worrying about keeping the young vines and new plants around the winery watered.  We don’t irrigate the older vines, the technical term is dry farmed, but the survival rate in the young vines that are coming into their third leaf will be much higher if we keep them watered during the summer.  Otherwise the guys are just sprucing up the grounds for your enjoyment on Memorial weekend; May 29, 30 & 31.  A $10 entrance fee, half of that is going to our local food bank, includes a souvenir glass, free wine tasting and music all day.  This year the bands playing are Wild Hog in the Woods, Diamondback and The Rockhounds, for more information check out our website www.airliewinery.com

A few hours later and we are driving into the North Umpqua Valley.  It really is green this time of year and the trees are just leafing out and still that lovely delicate color of first spring growth.  This area has taken a huge hit economically in the last few years because much of the local industry is logging and timber for housing. 

I love the transition from the grass seed fields along I-5 in the Willamette to the rolling hills of cattle grazing as you enter the Umpqua Valley and then into the shaded serenity of highway 138 as it runs parallel to the N. Umpqua River.  We are off to go hiking and to have a wonderful weekend.  I hope you have a great weekend as well.

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