Sunday, April 27, 2008

Casting the First Stone

OR - Wine Judging for Dummies (this dummy anyway!)
Dandy doesn't particularly fancy waking up when it's still quite dark - but who does? He already knew something was up - afterall, there is a suitcase in the middle of the room -but yesterday morning came early for both of us. The drive to Portland was beautiful and the weather was really fabulous. The stretch of the Columbia River east of The Dalles looked like a parking lot (that was the picture I should have taken!) The boats were anchored up next to each other, 4 across and dozens deep - they say this is the best salmon run in ages!
The NW Wine Summit starts tomorroow noon at Timberline Lodge and the mountain loomed large - and has more snow than seems possible for nearly May Day! I have to admit that I was a bit nervous (or just apprehensive) about this event. I haven't done any wine judging for 14 years and while it's not that I think I've forgotten "how", wine judging has little (or nothing) to do with living, eating or drinking well.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last night, Vicki and I decided to head to Mingo for dinner. We went to the Beaverton 'on the round' location and it's almost like not being in Beaverton anymore (not my favorite, sorry - I can navigate nearly any city, but the Beav always confounds me!) The restaurant has a wonderfully intimate feel, and yet is feels open and 'al fresco' with the roll-up glass doors opening out onto the square.
The staff at Mingo is as gracious and lovely as the menu and the wine list, everything was simply delightful. The best little secret is that they offer half-glasses of wine which allows you to try different wines with each course. That is way too cool!
Cameron Giovanni (oh how I adore this perfect spring wine!) with a salad of ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella and shredded basil served with a crusty, chewy bread with extra virgin Olive Oil and sea salt - (don't even consider the other salads - this one is not to be missed!)
The Cascina Corte Dolcetto was excellent with the grilled polenta, wild mushrooms and parmesan. I immediately remembered Sandro (the spry little rabbit of a winemaker at Corte.) We tasted with him at 8 o'clock in the MORNING on the trip to Piedmont a year and a half ago. He was so charming and his wines are so loaded with fully developed fruit that they showed well- at a time when all good Italians should be considering their second espresso, their first pastry and the morning paper!
The di LenardoTOH! (tocai from the region near Venice) is always one of the prettiest wines on the table and was my immediate choice to go with the Risotto 'Special' (rock shrimp, ahi and prawns) which had this amazingly delicate and yet brilliant touch of lemon.
Yes we had dessert too - we shared a lemon tartlet with a glass of Prosecco - the softer, fruity (but not sweet) bubbly from Conegliano! Our entire meal was perfect and a great value! The restuarant has a reputation for being crowded, but wasn't on this particular Saturday evening. The portions are quite generous (we actually shared each course) and the half glasses of wine just tickled me pink!
And then it was Sunday.

Grab a cafe latte and yogurt, hit the road
and drive UP the mountain.
The forecast had been for rain all day but I drove through Boring, Damascus and into Government Camp with clear blue skies and up the incline to Timberline where the temperature in the parking lot was almost 60 degrees!
Got settled into my room (if you've never stayed at Timberline, make plans to do so.) There is nothing like it. There has been so much snow this year, 791 inches so far and 6 of those fell yesterday so there isn't any view from the second floor rooms (nothing but snow out the window!) but the lodge is full of hand-hewn logs, wrought iron hardware (no doorknobs here), handmade furnishings. Even the draperies are hand crafted!
But if I have to judge wine for 3 days, at least I'm in a setting that truly suits my sensibilities!
The first day got started with a bang- my panel tasted 77 wines in 5 hours - all Northwest - some very good and some that probably shouldn't have been bottled. I was right in my trepidations in that I don't taste wine 77 at a time anymore, several panels were having totally 'geeky' discussions about VA, TA and Brett (a funky yeast spore that inhabits wine barrels when winemakers aren't paying attention.) I'm taking notes about overall impressions, the balance and beauty, the body and the finish. I enjoyed discussing the wines with my panel but still feel like I'm speaking another language, and one that real people don't learn.
I know this is a great experience and I was really flattered to be invited but I'll be so happy to be home in my own little wine shop where we just buy and sell good wine - not wines that some judge somewhere thought was a gold medal winner on some sunny day at high altitude!
Tomorrow we'll judge over 150 wines - better brush my teeth and get some sleep. It's going to be a bruiser!


Andi (RrlScrapGal) said...

Dang.. and to think I was up at 4:30 am Sat. to make baked goods for the kids school (bake sale in Haines) and was working a garage sale with 18 degrees in the am! While you were in Heaven!

I do believe you need a personal porter, or apprentice on these trips...

(pick me, pick me!)...


BELLA Main Street Market said...

you can be my sherpa any time girlfriend! how about a couple of weeks in one of Italy's most beautiful cities this October????

Andi (RrlScrapGal) said...

So tempting! Let me work on that.. AKA market research, right???