Monday, November 22, 2004

Pure and Agreeable

You would think that having lived here almost three years, I would have “done” Oregon’s Wine Country by now. I’ve been there a couple of times, but always under unsatisfactory circumstances. That is, I was driving, which for a lightweight boozer like myself means that after about three binky little samples of wine I have to call it quits or risk wrecking the car and its human cargo.

Yesterday, however, our friends TW and RS invited us on a Wine Country excursion. And RS, bless his heart, volunteered to drive. Not that I planned to get hammered, but I welcome any opportunity to relinquish responsibility and decision-making to others. I seldom get the chance to do that. It's so liberating.

I was totally in the mood for tootling around in Wine Country since we’d just seen the movie Sideways. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an indy film about this nebbishy English teacher wine snob and his horndog friend, a flabby has-been TV actor, who go on a road trip through California’s Wine Country a week before the horndog’s wedding. I highly recommend the movie, and I guarantee that you will never look at the dump bucket at a winery the same way again. See it!

In theory, I could have learned something while watching the movie, but I remain a very uninformed and unsophisticated wine drinker. TW and RS were swirling away, tossing off remarks about bouquet and flintiness, and asking intelligent-sounding questions. I just switched off my brain, nodded my head as if I were paying attention, and swigged down everything that wasn’t a syrupy dessert wine (gag!). That's not entirely true. After drinking (and dumping) about five samples of pinot noir, I had to admit that I just do not like them and I stopped accepting them. I wanted to like Oregon's famous pinot noirs, and I could have sworn that in the past I’ve had some excellent pinot noirs (pinots noir?--high school French rearing its head), but these tasted like they’d been condensed out of the stagnant air at a Les Schwab Tire Center. Most foul.

I had a fabulous time (and not because I was out getting a snootful--an ample alcohol-absorbing brunch prevented that). Since I wasn’t driving, I could fully enjoy the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley and the good company of friends without having to plot out where we were going or keep my eyes on the road. I can't overemphasize how nice and relaxing that was.

Surprisingly, there were very few other people at the wineries. At the Momokawa sake winery, for example, we were the only people there and the sake master (or whatever you call a person like that) encouraged us to try all nine of their sakes. (I limited myself to six.) I retained this fascinating bit of information: Sake is A-OK with Andrew Weil, M.D., who says he “can’t think of any other alcoholic beverage that seems so pure and agreeable.” Don’t you love it when a medical personage gives one permission (or what can easily be justified as permission) to indulge in vices like drinking wine or eating chocolate?

We stopped at three “regular” wineries, which were also fairly deserted except for a sinister brown El Camino that seemed to be shadowing us. Its occupants, I’m sorry to say, were somewhat plootered. One of them slurredly asked RS if he thought they had time to make it to the sake (18% alcohol) place. RS told them he didn’t think so and that he believed, in fact, that all the wineries in the Willamette Valley closed at 4:00 PM (a fib, but an admirable one and the sort of thing you’d expect of a person who was born in Canada). I have to say that I found the thought of these people and their El Camino being on the same narrow, winding backcountry roads as us rather disquieting and irresponsible.

None of us, I'm proud to say, overindulged. Nor did we get caught up in the spirit (ha!) of things and drop a couple of C-notes on wine. I bought a bottle of peach sake and a bottle of Chardonnay--a total cost of $18. And, rather miraculously, none of the wineries imposed a tasting fee. Do we know how to choose 'em or what?


Blogger Rusty said...

Which stretch of the wine country did you hit? The Dundee area? Never been out on a tasting myself, but my father-in-law used to be a wine guy at New Seasons and gives us advice whenever we need it. One that we love is Cameron Winery's "Cameroni Pinot Blanco" from Dundee. Very clean, not syrupy, nice and light. Goes well with alot of stuff.

Sounds like you had fun. Shoulda called the police on the El Camino, though...

9:28 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

We were a bit off the beaten track, around Forest Grove and Gaston. In addition to the sake place, we went to Montifiore (sp?), Kramer, and Elk Cove. You know, we totally should have called the cops on the El Camino. It didn't even occur to me somehow that little hamlets like that would have cops--and I'm sure they would have liked having something actual to do.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Betsy said...

OOooooh...I'd have muscled my way in on your trip had I known! The sake place sounds very cool.

I did wine country a few years ago (and yes, thankfully I was not the driver then.) I remember really liking Adelsheim (which isn't usually open and well off the beaten track).

And I'm with you on the pinot noirs. Give me something with a bit more substance, please...

7:23 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Betsy, The sake place is indeed very cool and not terribly far from PDX. If you go there, stay away from their plum sake, though, it tastes like Kool Aid.

11:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home