Were you one of the lucky ones in attendance at the Dundee Hills Wine Experience held at the Left Bank Annex recently? I understand the event was like walking through the history and future of the Dundee Hills, as 'the Founders, Legends and the Rising Stars of the Dundee Hills gathered in Portland.'
With more than 50 members - including wineries, vineyards and retailers - you can bet there was some serious pouring going on.
They have a saying that in Dundee, pinot noir is king. They also offer an exceptional selection of other cool-climate varietals like chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot blanc.
Dundee Hills is fast becoming a fine-wine destination reminiscent of Burgundy, France. No longer just a day trip from Portland, visitors are coming from around the world to view the stunning panorama of vineyards, sample the acclaimed wines and dine at some of the finest restaurants the Northwest has to offer.
Blessed with Jory soil - named Oregon's state soil earlier this spring - the Dundee Hills are seen as an island in the center of the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area. Dundee Hill's AVA is unique for its higher elevation, warmer nighttime temperatures, less low-elevation fog and frost and the soil.
Quality wine production began in the Dundee Hills more than 40 years ago, when pioneers such as David 'Papa Pinot' Lett of Eyrie, Dick Erath and the Sokol Blossers cleared south-facing slopes to plant many of Oregon's first vineyards. Despite the overwhelming consensus of the time that Oregon's climate could not support a quality wine industry, they forged a new frontier in cool climate viticulture, pooling resources and learning experiences as they produced their early wines.
Their faith in the Dundee Hills as a premium winegrowing region was confirmed in 1979 when Lett's 1975 pinot noir twice placed among the top three in a French-sponsored blind tasting of international burgundies. Other wineries took note, including top burgundy producer Maison Joseph Drouhin. When Drouhin embraced the Dundee Hills as the next frontier in burgundian varietals, his 1987 decision to purchase 225 acres and build a winery ricocheted around the wine world, squarely placing the Dundee Hills - and Oregon - on center stage for premium pinot noirs.
Some highlights from the Dundee Hills Wine Experience were:
n According to the Oregon Wine Board, wine does more to drive the Oregon economy than the Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Zoo, Portland Expo Center and the Portland Center for the Performing Arts combined and then tripled. Wine generated nearly $2.7 million in economic activity in Oregon in 2010, supported 13,518 jobs and provided more than $65.3 million in tax revenue to federal, state and local governments.
* For Vista Hills Winery, 2011 is its strongest year to date, due in part to outstanding '08 and '09 vintages.
* Stoller Vineyards saw an 80 percent growth in sales in 2010 and is seeing a similar trend in 2011. Winemaker Melissa Burr is the first local woman winemaker to be hired under the age of 30 and, as the designer for Stoller Vineyards, was the first woman to design the first LEED winery in the U.S.
* Dobbes Family Estate is about to release the second vintage and first commercial bottling in Oregon of 100 percent grenache blanc. Owner/winemaker Joe Dobbes has been making wine in the Willamette Valley for 27 years. In nine years, he has led his company to be the second largest winery in the state.
* Bella Vida Vineyard noted the second release of its reserve wine, 2008 Two Row Proprietor's Cuvee, on July 4, 2011, the ninth anniversary of the opening of the tasting room.
* Snooth.com named Lange Estate Winery of the Year in December 2010. Lange will be celebrating 25 years in 2012, and its sister label, Domaine Trouvere, just opened a new tasting room in downtown Dundee.
* Domino IV was one of three wineries featured by the New York Times ('Thinking inside the Box,' Aug. 1, 2011) for its high-end box wine, Love Lies Bleeding 2009.
So what does this tell us? If you want to do your best to help the Oregon economy, perhaps you should increase your consumption of Oregon wines. Start with the Dundee Hills pinots!
The recipe today is for salmon grilled on a plank - a wonderful Northwest traditiona for grilling fish. Accompanied by the Fennel, Corn and Blueberry Salsa and a pretty glass of Pinot Noir, you've got a meal you won't soon forgot!
Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!
How to Grill Salmon
on a Wood Plank
Grilling salmon on a wooden plank imparts a sweet, smoky, slightly charred flavor to the fish. The possibilities for flavor depend on the type of wood you use - alder, cedar or oak - and the sauce, marinade or rub you choose. This recipe from Diane Morgan explains the basics of grilling fish on a plank and gives a delicious flavor combination:
Herb-rubbed salmon on an alder plant.
Serves 6 to 8
1 untreated alder plant, about 15 by 7 x 3/8 inches
1 whole side of salmon (about 3 pounds) skin on and scaled, pin bones removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Rinse the plank and place it in a pan or sink filled with water. Soak the plank at least 30 minutes. (It can be submerged in water and left to soak all day, so plan ahead and soak the plank before you leave for work.)
Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium.
Rub the salmon with olive oil and sprinkle lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Scatter the thyme and rosemary leaves over the flesh, pressing them lightly so they adhere to the flesh. Set aside while the grill heats.
When ready to grill, place the soaked plank on the grill grate directly over the medium fire and cover. After a few minutes, the plant will begin to smoke and crackle. Turn the plank over, recover and 'toast' the other side for about 2 minutes. Uncover the grill, transfer the whole salmon fillet to the plank, and close the grill lid. Cook the salmon until it is almost opaque throughout but still very moist when tested with a knife tip, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125ºF to 130ºF, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
Keep a spray bottle with water nearby in case the plank gets too hot and ignites. Extinguish the flames and continue grilling the salmon, adjusting the heat level if necessary.
Using 2 long spatulas, transfer the salmon to a warmed platter. Use tongs, heatproof gloves or the spatulas to remove the plank from the heat and set aside either in a bucket of water or on a heatproof surface to cool.
Squeeze the lemon half over the salmon, cut into individual servings and serve immediately. Alternatively, for a more rustic presentation, leave the salmon on the plank and place the plank on a large heatproof platter and serve from the plank.
Cook's notes: Purchase untreated alder, cedar or oak planks from lumber yards or hardware stores and have them cut to size or cut them yourself. You can also buy precut planks from gourmet cook shops, at a premium price.
Planks can be reused if not too charred or cracked. Once a plank has cooled, brush it clean with a grill brush, set it upright to dry and then store it in a brown paper bag. Resoak it before reusing.
Fennel, Corn and Blueberry Salsa
2 cups corn kernels, cooked
½ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine
½ cup blueberries
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
12 small mushrooms
2 shallots, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 fennel stalk, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Sweat the shallot in a little oil; add the white wine and reduce until the liquid has completely evaporated then remove from the heat.
Add the corn, the pepper, fennel, garlic and the remaining olive oil, heat gently for a few minutes.
Remove the mushroom stems; slice the caps and sauté them in a separate skillet.
Combine all the ingredients, add the juice of one lemon; season to taste and keep warm.
Serve alongside the salmon.
Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions; she can be reached at 503-635-8811 ext. 101 or by email at bran