Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One for the Road: This Pat Green's Not from Texas

On a recent trip to Oregon, my wife Lindsay and I visited Patricia Green Cellars. The winery is located outside of Newberg and is tucked away off of a dirt road on a beautiful hillside. No sign marks the winery is there and they work off of appointments. When you get there you will be amazed by their tasting room and gift shop. Not really. They don't have one. But they do make kick ass Burgundian-style Pinot Noirs. 

I wasn't even sure we were at the right place until we walked into the cellar and saw the PGC logo on a box on the floor. Then this dog came charging at us at full speed barking like crazy, only stopping when he got right up to us, where he sat down and patiently waited for some lovin'.  We found out later that this Korgy-Border Collie is none other than Chompers the 'guard' dog. 

As we walked a little further into the facility we saw a guy dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans talking to a few people over a small wooden table covered in wine bottles and wine glasses.
He was friendly enough and greeted us warmly. We told him we had set up an appointment and that we had come all the way from Texas to taste all Patricia Green Cellars had to offer. He pointed to the rack of glasses and and started talking about the history of Patricia Green Cellars. 

It turns out that he is Jim Anderson, Patricia Green's partner of 14 years. They met while both working in wine sales for different companies and struck a lasting friendship. 

Now they make killer award-winning Pinot Noir and produce two Sauvignon Blancs. Their approach is truly Burgundian; on all 15 of their Pinot Noirs, the vineyards from which the grapes originate are more prominent on the labels than the PGC logo. They have several Pinot Noirs that are from estate grown vineyards that they own, while several Pinot Noirs come from vineyards that they oversee. 

They make some really amazing wine and Patricia and Jim are truly hands-on people. They work the fields, make the wine and run all facets of the business. 

After Jim let us try all of their current wines in production, he let us try some barrel samples using a wine thief. 

I was very surprised by the barrel samples. They were already quite drinkable, showing nice fruit and smooth, mouth-filling tannins. It was really interesting how each barrel sample from each vintage was a truly different tasting experience. 

Patricia and Jim explained to us that they use grapes from vineyards that are miles apart, which, in the Willamette Valley, means the grapes come from different micro climates and are grown in soil that varies depending upon location in the valley. While they use the exact same methods to make their different Pinots, they ultimately let the grapes' terroir speak for itself, resulting in Pinots that have their own unique identity. 

Case in point: they did a little experiment and made and a Pinot Noir using grapes from Sonoma, California. Interesting, right? Jim didn't tell us we were tasting the Sonoma Pinot Noir to see if we noticed. Both Lindsay and I mentioned that it was very different from the 13 or 14 other Pinot Noirs we had already tasted. Of course, once Jim let us in on the California secret, it made perfect sense. The Sonoma Pinot had a nose and finish that was reminiscent of tomato juice and rootbeer. I kid you not. 

Some Patricia Green Cellar wines that you must try are:

2007 Pinot Noir Notorious ($70)
This is a vivid red with powerful bouquet of berries and dark fruit, rose petals,vanilla and spices. Tasting the wine reveals raspberry and blackberry flavors that have hints of floral and cola. This is a well-structured wine with smooth tannins and lingering notes of berries and floral spice. It is extremly balanced and is the only wine that has been exposed to 100% new oak barrels.

2007 Pinot Noir Croft Vineyards ($30)
Bright red color with a nose that is a blend of cherry and red berries. The bouquet is also complemented with nice notes of licorice and violets. Tasting this fine Pinot you will notice cherry skin flavors, minerality and silky tannins.

2007 Pinot Noir Estate Vineyards ($36)
This is their second largest production wine with 1900 cases produced. It displays medium red color and has a nose that is earthy with hints of floral and cherry. This wine is a powerhouse, displaying dusty tannins with layers of spice and cherry skins.

Patricia Green Cellars
15225 NE North Valley Road
Newberg, Oregon 97132
*Be sure to check out their website – it's hilarious.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Wino Can Cook!: Mexican Snapper & Pinot Pairing

Living on the Gulf Coast, we have a lot of fresh fish at our disposal. One of the dudes I play golf with every Tuesday enjoys cooking as much as I do, and we often trade recipes while navigating our way around the course. My friend Frank Stone is also an avid fisherman and is always coming up with different ways to cook his catch. This recipe is one of Frank's.

This a great recipe because it is simple and takes no time to prepare and it tastes awesome. You could substitute snapper for almost any firm white fish, but snapper is probably best if you can get it. Freshness is the key. Buy the freshest product you can get if you are not able to catch it yourself.

This dish can be done on a grill outside or in the oven. I like the the oven method because of the simplicity. I will mention that if you plan on cooking indoors with the oven method remove the skin so all you have is a clean filet with no bones. Otherwise, keep the skin on the deboned filet and cook skin side down if you're going to use a grill.

Preheat your oven at 350 degrees and open a bottle of wine so it can begin to breathe. Feel free to have a glass while you cook too.

Take an oven-safe lasagna style dish or cake pan and coat the bottom with olive oil. Season both sides of the filet with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place filets in the dish, leaving space between the filets. Squeeze the juice out of a fresh lemon over the filets and spoon your choice of salsa over the filets. You can use homemade salsa or some from the jar. I prefer a medium heat salsa. Next sprinkle crushed corn tortilla chips over the filets. I usually have several bags around the house and crush the chips right in the bag. Cover the filets just enough to add a good crunch. Then sprinkle the filets with shredded cheese. I use pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese, but use whatever cheddar you want. The final step is to top the filets with jalapenos. You can use fresh sliced or pickled jalapenos. Slice them or chop them. The amount of peppers you use depends on how much heat you want.

Put pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch to see when the cheese is melting and beginning to brown a little. Remove the pan and let the fish rest for about 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula, gently lift the filets onto a serving dish or individual plates.

Serve the fish with a nice Mexican style rice or a saffron rice.

Snapper filets, deboned and skin removed (unless cooking on a grill)
Salt & pepper
Garlic powder
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Medium heat salsa (from a jar or freshly made)
Corn tortilla chips, crushed
Shredded cheddar cheese
Jalapenos (fresh or pickled)

I paired this fish with a King Estate Signature Pinot Noir ($27-$29).

Tasting Notes:
In the glass this pinot displays a beautiful ruby red color. It has aromas of raspberries, bing cherries and strawberries. There are subtle hints of floral and spices. At first taste you'll immediately notice bing cherries and ripe plums. It is a very typical Oregon pinot with its jammy qualities with spice and currant notes and layers of caramel and vanilla. This pinot, for the money, is a steal. It is soft and elegant; smooth tannins fill the mouth with a very long finish.