Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beer Drinkers: Mix it Up and Taste Wine Next Weekend!

Especially during the crazy long days of harvest, wine makers often say that the most important ingredient in good wine is...good beer!

Beer drinkers should return the favor, and take some time to check out our great wine region next weekend.

Readers of CT know that CT has a thing about beer imitating wine. We'll get to that in a minute...but sometimes wine by itself is a wonderful thing.

Along with Memorial Day weekend, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest wine events around here. Many wineries are open only on these two weekends.

Perhaps because it is big and mainstream, Willamette Valley Vineyards offers the most interesting development. Already, in collaboration with Travel Salem they have a tasting bar at Travel Salem. Thanksgiving weekend they will open the Wine Center in McMinnville. Though they do plenty of self-promotion at both, the core concept is to educate about Willamette Valley Wine generally and to promote the entire region - the rising tide floats all boats! According to an Oregonian article
Perhaps most inclusive of all, the center will offer tastings of not only Willamette Valley Vineyards' wines, but those of a rotating list of competitors, as well.

"We won't sell any wines here but our own," Murray said. "But we are happy to feature other wines, along with information about them and how to get there from here.

One of the "other" wines being served is a Bethel Heights Vineyard 2007 pinot noir. Marilyn Webb, a co-founder of the Salem-based winery, welcomed the opportunity.

"As far as we are aware, there isn't another facility like this anywhere in the Willamette Valley," she said.
These are interesting experiments that offer a beguiling mixture of self-promotion and disinterested industry-promotion, and they will be interesting to follow.

(If you've got money to burn, for those of you looking for something new in white tablecloth dining, the Oregonian reviews very favorably the big new wine-country restaurant Jory at the Allison Inn & Spa (warning: terrible website see comment thread for update). Though the jory soils of the red hills of Dundee have won the name-recognition game, there's plenty of the red, clayey jory soil in the south Salem hills. And, in fact, the Jory family were important early settlers, having arrived at the Rosedale area in 1848, and we remember them in Joryville Park and the Jory Cemetery.)

Anyway, so mix it up and get out and taste some wine! The Willamette Valley Wineries Association has the details!

Back to beer...CT fears that beer and brewing is overreaching towards an era of decadence and decline. ( wine country spas? oh, nevermind)

For a terrific example of this decadence in wine see the Rodenstock scandal. It shows the dark side: exclusivity, snobbery, rarity, and status leads to fraud and the "billionaire's vinegar." Over at the NY Times, last month Eric Asimov reported that the UK libel suit based on the book has just been settled.

The matter seemed relevant here last month in conversation over the Ft. George Brewer's Dinner at Venti's. At the Weekly Brew, Jared had posted a note about it about a month ago, and CT weighed in with an opinion: too fancy, too much beer-is-like-wine.

The next day, "Beer-sentric" posted a comment about a crazy Belgian dinner. It started like this:
Charcuturie Platter

homemade pork pate infused with Rochefort 8 soaked figs and pistachios, Chimay Red duck rillettes, easter egg radishes, De Ranke Père Noël poached bosc pears, dried apricot and Hanssens Oude Gueuze mustard and with local breads

Petrus Oude Bruin
Affligem Noel
And continued in the same vein for another eleven courses. Each course was precisely branded by a fancy beer name, even though the cooking heat and other ingredients usually conceals the exact nature of the beer's influence.

Nuts! - fussy and pretentious, CT thinks. Beer should never go down this path.

But in some ways it already has. Jared offers a note about fussy tasting notes, and uses Thurber's cartoon about "a naive domestic Burgundy." Another about creeping price points - which often act for exclusivity, snobbery, rarity, and status. And a third about stunt beers. Beervana also weighs in on beer prices. Beer as collectible and status-symbol is disheartening.

So if wine sometimes has an image problem, why go wine tasting? The best reason to go wine tasting is for comparison. Over at Beervana, the beer guys obviously haven't had enough bretty wine, and all of them, except for the wise Samurai Artist, seem to think that brett makes for yummy sour beer.

At Venti's Russian River Damnation is on tap, and it's a bretty beer. It tastes like 'ffing brettanomyces, not like beer! And it's not sour!

This is by design. Russian River has a specialty in funky beers. About the yeast they say:
Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) is feared by most brewers and winemakers alike. In fact, there are some local winemakers who will not set foot in our brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa due to our use of Brettanomyces....Brett is very invasive and if not handled properly can become out of control in a winery or brewery, but, if used properly with care, it can add rich aromas and flavors of earthiness, leather, smoke, barnyard, & our favorite descriptor-wet dog in a phone booth.
Does this sound positive? Sounds practically apocalyptic to me! Being able to court "wet dog" aromas and "out of control" yeasts certainly is decadent.

CT just can't get on board with the whole funky beer thing. Sure it tastes different - but does it taste good? And is the beer layered with a multitude of flavors and aromas or is it monolithic?

Beer geeks and wine geeks should cross-taste and learn more about conventions and balance in each other's gustatory domains. If you do like bretty beer, make sure to taste some bretty wine - understand what brett does to aroma and flavor in all fermented beverages, not merely in a single one.

So this is a long way of saying, if you like wine, make sure you drink some new beer next weekend, and if you like beer, go winetasting!


  1. and what about those of us who like both?? which way to go?
    by the way,I can't remember (and I'm too lazy to check right now) what did you think of the Ninkasi Dinner at la Cap?

  2. I didn't say much about the Ninkasi dinner.

    As for beer and's easy! Nothing tastes better than a frosty beer after a bunch of wine tasting! (Especially if you've paced yourself and spit at least some of the wine samples so you're not looped already.)

  3. Wow... what an awesome blog. Thank you so much for all the work and news! Thanks for the mention as well. Apologies about our site... In fact, if you want to comment more on what makes it a bit hard to navigate I would love the feedback! You can contact me in regards to that or anything.. I can help answer questions, etc. If nothing else, just the opportunity to send people your way during their Willamette Valley explorations! I met an Italian the other day that doesn't drink wine... just beer. I think that is a fine thing to do, and I just want to give our guests the best! Cheers, be well, and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Online Concierge
    The Allison Inn & Spa

  4. Holy trackbacks Batman, that's alot of links.

    I personally can't stomach most wines. I've ran across a rare few, but most make me want to dump them. I'll stick with my beer :)

    I think there's room in the beer market for some higher priced world class beers, but overall the trend towards the wine market style marketing is sad. Beer does not cost near as much to produce as wine and therefore is usually more accesable to people. By marking it up and increasing the snob appeal we make it less accesable to people.

    BTW beer and food pairings can be amazing, but they need to be marketed for what they are. They are an exhibition of culinary skill more so then the beer.

    Lastly did you try Damnation? That was one tastey Belgian Strong. I enjoyed that beer.

    Sours have their place, and I enjoy alot of them, but some brewers go over the top on it. A good sour should make you pucker, but there should be a balance of maltiness to it and a depth of flavors from the bacteria and wild yeasts involved. A good way to taste the funkiness itself is with a good Gueze. Sadly most sours just punch you in the face over and over without bringing more then flat basic flavors to the party. Portlanders especially seem to love these beers. Then again Portlanders drink Bridgeport IPA :)

  5. CT owes the Allison & Restaurant Jory and apology! CT made a rookie mistake and didn't check the website against other browsers. So it appears to be a browser issue more than a website design issue. Michael with the Allison has been swell about chasing down the problem. Mea Culpa! Thank you!

    About Damnation, CT has had it twice. Don't like it. To CT it tastes like old band-aids - like brett. Can't agree with you, Jared, on that one!

    Happily, most brewers aren't making bretty beers. And even Russian River makes great beer. I'd never had Pliny the Elder and on another occasion drank it. CT is no hophead, and usually doesn't like beers so hoppy. But Pliny was gorgeous, a lovely, lovely beer, worthy of every bit of praise CT has read.

  6. CT is starting to sound like Dr Wort with all the 3rd person stuff.

    We need to grab a beer. Or are you prefering your cloak of anonimity?