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.These are interesting experiments that offer a beguiling mixture of self-promotion and disinterested industry-promotion, and they will be interesting to follow.
"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.
(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 (
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. (wait...like 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 PlatterAnd 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.
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
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!