It’s time again for the biggest annual wine event on the Central Oregon calendar.
Cork & Barrel, which last year raised more than $500,000 for the KIDS Center, according to the child-abuse intervention agency, will take place July 20 to 22. Most events take place at the Broken Top Club.
For starters, numerous regional wineries will pair with Oregon chefs at Thursday evening winemaker dinners. At 10below at the Oxford Hotel, chef Albert Hall will prepare dual meals paired with wines from Oregon’s Adelsheim and Willamette Valley Vineyards. At 5 Fusion and Sushi Bar, chef Joe Kim will team with Phelps Creek Vineyard of Hood River.
Walla Walla wines will be served at two dinners. At Sparrow Bakery in Northwest Crossing, chef O.J. Robinson of Portland’s Benson Hotel will offer a meal paired with wines from Caprio Cellars, Doubleback and Va Piano. And at the Victorian Café, chef John Eisenhart of Nel Centro, at Portland’s Hotel Modera, will prepare dinner complemented by wines from Gramercy Cellars and Woodward Canyon.
In all, 17 Pacific Northwest wineries are participating, including these not involved in wine dinners — Angela Estate, Archery Summit and L’Angolo Estate from the Willamette Valley; AniChe Cellars, Maryhill Winery and Memaloose/Idiot’s Grace from the Columbia Gorge; and Double Canyon, Dumas Station and Seven Hills from Walla Walla.
Friday and Saturday
The Friday night event, Sip of Cork & Barrel, will run from 5 to 7 p.m. on a tented green at Broken Top. A representative from each winery, typically the head winemaker or assistant, will pour two or three tastes of some of their most popular vintages. The wineries will be clustered by region and partnered with 10 local restaurants that will serve small plates, including two providing desserts.
Throughout the evening, guests will be encouraged to “text to give” to the KIDS Center. And they’ll be offered a chance to win tickets to the 2018 Cork & Barrel by answering a set of questions about wineries, restaurants and the nonprofit agency.
On Saturday, July 22, the Grand Cru gala will begin with a winemaker reception under the tent at 4:30 p.m. Appetizers from Chef Steve Helt of Zydeco and Bistro 28 will complement tastes from all 17 partner wineries. At 6:30 p.m., chef John Eisenhart of Nel Centro will begin serving his five-course dinner, highlighted by filets of fennel-roasted sturgeon.
Programming will include speakers from the KIDS Center, who will describe the agency’s work in providing medical exams, family support and therapy, and other functions. The nonprofit, which served 2,666 individuals in 2016, has a fundraising goal of $750,000 at this year’s event, much of which may be provided by its silent and live auctions. A large number of travel packages are among the items being offered. Tickets may still be available at corkandbarrel.org.
I’m looking forward to sampling wines, of course. While many of the vintages are well-known — especially those from the Willamette Valley and Walla Walla — others, in particular from the Columbia Gorge, are not.
AniChe Cellars is in rural Underwood, Washington, with a tasting room in Hood River. It specializes in quirky blends of cabernets, Italian reds and Rhône-style whites.
Memaloose/Idiot’s Grace, located right by the Klickitat River bridge in Lyle, produces wine from five organic estate vineyards. They include cabernet franc, syrah and grenache, along with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and dry riesling and gewürztraminer.
Maryhill is easily the best-known of more than 30 wineries in the Gorge, most of them between Hood River and Lyle, Washington. Maryhill overlooks the Columbia River from a bluff on its Washington side, just north of the Maryhill Museum of Art.
Its amphitheater hosts numerous fine summer concerts, and its selection of outstanding wines — about 20 varietals — makes it one of the Northwest’s leading producers.
Phelps Creek Vineyards of Hood River is the winery I find most intriguing. The winery planted its oldest pinot noir vines in 1990, later adding chardonnay and pinot gris. It’s rare to find a pinot noir producer in Oregon outside of the Willamette Valley, yet Phelps Creek devotes 25 of its 34 planted acres — on steep, south- and east-facing slopes — to this temperamental grape.
“We have the same heat profile as the (Willamette Valley’s) Dundee Hills,” said general manager Lynette Barss-Morus.
The 2014 Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir, 100 percent estate-grown and aged in French oak, is a bargain at $34. A warm, dry spring suggested an early harvest, but winemaker Alexandrine Roy, commuting from France, stretched the season to allow flavors to develop complexity with addition spice from the volcanic soils beneath Mount Hood.
The 2014 Cuvée Alexandrine Pinot Noir ($54) is a 96-point wine that showcases the talents of Roy, a four-generation Burgundian winemaker.
I look forward to tasting the Cuvée next Thursday at the Phelps Creek tasting dinner. Chef Kim will pair it with monkfish in a spicy tomato puree. Other pairings will include gewürztraminer with a trio of raw-fish pokes; sauvignon blanc with green papaya salad and Dungeness crab; merlot with a Wagyu beef tamale; and vin de glacé (ice wine) with peach cake.
If you’re unable to attend Cork & Barrel, you can still find Phelps Creek wines at the Bend Wine Cellar, 1444 NW College Way (bendwinecellar.com.)
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.