How To Summer in Wine Country and More from FEAST Portland
Idyllic Willamette Valley wine country imagery generously provided by our friends at Visit McMinnville
Feast Newsletter Volume One: Issue 3
Whether it’s the perfect view of Mount Hood as you cross the Morrison Bridge, the smell of June roses on a morning bike ride, or the fact that none of you could possibly count on all fingers the number of truly wonderful coffee options in inner Eastside Portland, when it comes to being human one thing is universally true–we tend to take great things for granted.
This is especially true these days when it comes to living in Portland. Even though we have been through a lot in the last couple of years, we still live in a truly wonderful place. We need to remember and celebrate this–without apology and without hesitation. We can always improve, and we should always strive to be better versions of ourselves. And while we’re doing that, let’s never undervalue the natural beauty and agricultural bounty that is our reality and inspiration every day. This is our common ground.
And this is the main reason why we’re sending out this newsletter every two weeks. It’s why we have some really fun round-ups on local culinary interests and treasures (from coffee shops to chocolate chip cookies) coming to your inbox throughout the summer. And we’re excited to begin to feature (and introduce) some familiar and exciting new voices in food writing, who will be telling their own stories on this very platform in the coming months.
Because we love where we live, and because the vast majority of Feast attendees (more than 70 percent) live here too, we believe it’s our duty to share reminders. And to those of you who don’t live here, please visit us sometime soon. Even though we’re not Feasting in person this year, you don’t need a food festival as an excuse to come eat our food and drink our wine.
On that note, Jordan takes us to wine country in this edition of the Feast newsletter, and our longtime friend and food writing pro Martha Holmberg has provided a recipe for strawberry season. There’s a lot to love in the Willamette Valley, and we could by no means include all of what inspires within any reasonable amount of column inches. But hopefully, this will get you started.
For the record, we’ve never ballooned our way through wine country, but we’ve added to the bucket list.
How to Drink Like a Pro in the Willamette Valley
For the most part, I love having the “I live in Portland” conversation with folks from other parts of the country. Our city fascinates and polarizes people; almost everyone has a Portland take, whether informed or not, and I think that in itself means something.
But in what I would say it is like 9 out of 10 conversations in food and beverage circles—let’s say 90% of the time—the conversation quite quickly turns to wine, and wine country. “Is it really as cool as it looks? Is it really just right there near the city?” Yes and yes. Oregon wine country truly is as cool as you think it is, and maybe even cooler. If anything, the possibility and promise of what it means to drink wine in the Willamette Valley has yet to be fully realized (to say nothing of the Gorge or Southern Oregon, both home to great wine scenes).
My journalism beat is in part focused on wine, which means it’s been my privilege to spend a lot of time over the last decade hanging around the Valley, visiting winery tasting rooms, walking around vineyards, and meeting winemakers. The wineries I like visiting most are reflective of me, and my own taste in wine. Wine is like art that way. Really, it’s just all about what you like and is wonderfully personal. Some of my favorites visits include the tasting room at J.K Carriere (underrated, seriously Burgundian), the chic and modern experience at Nicolas Jay (head-turningly good and coming on strong), the tasting room at Brick House, which feels rustic and charming in all the right ways, and the highly ambitious food and wine experience at Antica Terra.
But the number one piece of advice I’ve developed through all of this might seem strange at first. Please believe me, and heed my cry: after a long day of visiting wineries, you need a plan in place on where to go next. The answer should not be “Oh, we’ll figure it out”—because if you went to two, or three, or even four tasting rooms in a single afternoon, your ability to effectively “figure it out” may, and perhaps should, be somewhat diminished by all the delicious Oregon wine you have just finished experiencing. It’s far better to do some pre-planning, and so, with the caveat that you will of course be responsibly taking a Lyft or car hire to these destinations, here are some of my favorite places in the Willamette Valley’s to drink after you go wine tasting.
HiFi Wine Bar (McMinnville) — HiFi opened in the fall of 2021, and has quickly become your favorite winemaker’s favorite wine bar in the valley, owned by winemaker Evan Martin of Martin Woods. It’s chic and Euro-transportive inside, with a smart menu of snacks like crème fraiche and chips, Oregon bay shrimp gougeres, and Olympia Provisions pate. But the wine list is the major focus: Yes, you will find a picky selection of Oregon wines here in case you did not already get your fill (including wines by Martin Woods), but really it’s all about imports, with heavy-hitter winemaker heroes like Sylvain Pataille, Thierry Germain, and Domaine Vocoret appearing on the by the glass list, and stemware by Sophienwald. If a certain splash of Pinot or Chardonnay gave you big Burgundy vibes earlier in the day, test that impulse out by comparing it to the old-world stuff at HiFi.
The Allison Inn & Spa — The Allison made quite a splash when it opened in 2009, winking towards a sort of eco-luxury destination future of the Willamette Valley as a whole. And while the region has for the most part retained its crunchiness, the Allison remains on something of an island as far as Napa-style luxury resorts go. However, today the hotel feels more like part of the valley’s substrata, dug into the hillside as an institution and destination. Even if you’re not the kind of person to spring for a $500 vine shrub spa treatment, if you love wine (and why else are you here?), the wine collection at The Allison’s restaurant, Jory, is one of the most impressive in the entire state. It sprawls across decades and sub-regions across Oregon, with hundreds of bottles and select offerings dating back to the earliest days of Oregon wine (it also has a killer burger). If you’re looking for birth year wines, or just the opportunity to drink a bottle of Eyrie Vineyards from the 1980s, or Spanish wine from the aughts, this is the place to do it. You can drink from this massive list inside the hotel’s bar, or sit out on the back patio if the weather’s nice.
The Painted Lady (Newberg) — Inside a gorgeous Victorian home, The Painted Lady offers an ambitious and at times extraordinary multi-course approach to Oregon cuisine. It’s also home to one of the Valley’s very best wine lists, some 300 bottles dating back decades, featuring a murderer’s row of the state’s best winemakers, including Brick House, Eversham Wood, and Limited Addition. There are also, perhaps unexpectedly, some smart choices from California—Oregon drinkers are notoriously averse to ordering Cali wines, but they’re offering some killer stuff here, from genre-making winemakers like Ridge and Radio-Coteau.
Wolves & People (Newberg) — There’s nothing better after a long day of wine tasting than a nice, cold beer. Happily one of the state’s best breweries, it is located right in the heart of wine country. Since opening in 2016, this place has become an in-the-know favorite of visiting wine tasters, thirsty winemakers, beer geek pilgrims, and other assorted drinkers in search of a good time. You sit outside around barrel-top tables amongst the farmlands; you can bring your own food, bring your kids, and be as loud and happy as you want after a day of tasting; and you can drink beer. Many beers! From a surprisingly broad range of styles, everything from gentle 3% “table beer” spiked with Indian coriander to oak-fermented Grisette saisons characteristic of the “farmhouse beer” movement to amphora oak barrel beers co-fermented with wine grapes. There are beer bottles and cans available to go, which make for delightful travel gifts (if your suitcase isn’t already full of wine), and the beer garden vibe is really unimpeachable. Over the years this place has become not just my top recommendation after a day of visiting wineries, but a place I myself like to go for my own hedonistic purposes. It’s the best.
Happy drinking! Remember to call a Lyft.
Jordan Michelman @suitcasewine
The Painted Lady in Downtown Newberg
Here’s where we’re eating this week…
With the Willamette Valley in focus in this issue, we’d be remiss not to advise readers to check out Mac Market in McMinnville, an impressive kitchen and grocery store situation with kabocha squash battered ling cod, black sesame pound cake, and perfect picnic platters…just down the road in McMinnville there’s also The Diner for scratch-made biscuits and benedicts as well as the Crescent Cafe for benchmark breakfasts, perfect cinnamon rolls and our favorite club sandwich of this moment…and valley watchers are particularly excited for the forthcoming opening of ōkta from chef Matthew Lightner, launching this summer at the Tributary Hotel… Meanwhile back in Portland, the food scene around Concourse Coffee (part of the Deadstock Coffee family) has become increasingly essential—the shop is now serving its own house-baked toast with toppings like whipped halva butter, and the parking lot is home to two of the city’s best carts, Matta and Baon Kainan, making for a compelling all-in-one coffee and lunch scene…speaking of lunch, I enjoyed a stunner recently at Murata, which is quietly one of the best sushi bars in Portland and has been for decades…a recent reporting jag to San Francisco saw visits to the all-world sake list at Millay, inventive and original wine cocktails at Buddy, lovely modern lunch, pastries and cookies at Breadbelly, and memorable coffee at The Coffee Movement, among other enjoyments…rain rain go away, in the meantime meet me at the pub for a pint, there’s no better in Portland than The Horse Brass… all dispatches formatted for the curious and hungry, please report tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo By Martha Holmberg
Strawberries in Peppery Balsamic Vinaigrette With Fresh Mint
Recipe by Martha Holmberg
Any reference to any day trip through wine country in late spring and early summer cannot omit mention of strawberry season, which is finally upon us as roadside stands and pop-up summer farmers markets pepper the backroads and byways that crisscross the countryside. And speaking of pepper, our friend Martha Holmberg has provided us something delightful as we kick off our recipe section of the Feast newsletter.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon finely sliced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons canola oil
Make the vinaigrette: In a bowl that’s big enough to hold the strawberries, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and cardamom until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the mint leaves, and then whisk in the oil a few drops at a time until dressing is creamy and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Make the salad: Add the strawberries to the bowl of vinaigrette and toss gently. Let berries macerate at least 15 minutes before serving, but not more than 1 hour.
Note: Be sure to taste your fruit first and then adjust accordingly. Don’t dress this salad more than an hour ahead because the dressing will pull the juices from the berries, which can dilute the whole thing. You can make the vinaigrette