10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

Wine Press NorthwestDecember 20, 2012 

Christmastime is all about giving, and few folks are easier to shop for than wine lovers and golfers.

Our office receives a number of sweet opportunities to try out wine-related gift ideas. At least one of them will make its way under my tree.

So, here's some ink for a few of the items that came across our desk in time for this holiday issue.

1. Turning barrels into pens. Chad Schumacher lives in the Windy City of Chicago, and he's long had penchant for pens. He combines that fascination with skilled woodworking and a desire to use reclaimed wood for his Allegory Pens.

Last spring, he easily made his Kickstarter.com goal and ramped up production.

He makes them in several beautiful styles (starting at $68) and his medium includes centuries-old Douglas fir, redwood and olive, but he also wants to partner with wineries to create pens from retired oak barrels. Write down allegorypens.com.

2. Ice cubed. The master facilitator of Wine Press Northwest officially gives you permission to put ice cubes in your wine -- as long as they are reusable plastic ice cubes.

Hank Sauer and his wife, Nancy, now rely on the cubes in their home and at wine competitions.

When unexpected company drops in, a glass of wine can be chilled in less than five minutes.

At judgings, the frozen plastic ice cubes are used as needed during a repour of a white wine. Judges often are left blind regarding the cubes and report no detectable plastic scent. This chilling tool has saved our spitcrew valuable cold storage space.

Reusable Ice Cubes come in a variety of shapes and colors, and the Sauers got their set of 30 from Bed, Bath & Beyond for $3.99.

3. Transported to Hawaii via Westport. Kim Roberts, who owns Westport Winery with her husband, Blain, must find herself wistful sometimes having traded tropical Maui for Washington's coast.

Those moments must be fleeting because of the wine lover's paradise she's helped create near Aberdeen with the vineyard, gift shop, restaurant, bakery and nursery.

While visitors soon learn the story of the dive company that the Roberts once owned in Hawaii, few may know she won a statewide award as a columnist for small community newspapers in Washington. Kim blended both backgrounds to produce her first novel, Luna Sea: An Aloha Jones Mystery, which she released this month.

The paperback is available in the tasting room and e-books versions on Kindle and Nook.

Read it with a glass of Pineapple Express, made by her son, Dana.

4. Drinking local. Who would have thought that our friends to in the Great White North would be trading beer and liquor for wine?

A recent report by the Bank of Montreal shows that to be the case. Nearly 50 percent of the wine consumed in British Columbia is Canadian.

Nielsen grocery numbers reported earlier this year indicated the figure in Oregon is at 55 percent, with Washington at 36 percent.

In 1995, the average Canadian reached for beer 53 percent of the time, the hard stuff 29 percent and wine 18 percent.

Last year, the numbers came in at 45-25-30, which means wine has overtaken spirits.

5. Table of contents. Storey Publishing continues its trademarked Dishing Up series by hiring well-known Seattle cookbook author Jess Thomson to seek 150 recipes from Washington foodies.

Among those contributing recipes were aMaurice, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chinook, Gilbert Cellars, Desert Wind, Gramercy, Kerloo, JM Cellars and Charles Smith.

Her list of endorsements is impressive, including Seattle chef/restauratuers Tom Douglas and Maria Hines. Ethan Stowell, the state's latest James Beard Award winner, wrote the foreward. Lara Ferroni's photography achieved stunning reproduction in this book, that's remarkably priced at $19.95.

Roy Breiman helped take the lead among Pacific North-west chefs when it came to regional ingredients.

In fact, Wine Press Northwest twice has featured restaurants he's headed up -- The Salish Lodge and more recently the Copperleaf Restaurant & Bar at Cedarbrook Lodge.

He grew up in California, so the new hardcover book Wine Country Chef's Table ($24.95) he co-authored -- a part of Morris Publishing's series -- taps heavily into his roots with 100 mouthwatering recipes and photos filling its 224 pages.

Make no mistake. Breiman remains grounded in Washington, living in North Bend with his wife and serving on the board of the Puget Sound Regional Food Council.

6. Best winery with a view? This fall, Terry Richard of the Oregonian posted a new online poll asking readers which wineries in Oregon -- and a few along the Columbia River in Washington -- offered the most picturesque view.

In 2011, Willamette Valley Vineyard dominated the poll. This year, two Washington wineries are leading.

Cast a vote and see the results at blog.oregonlive.com/terryrichard.

7. Indian pairing. More than a decade ago, one of the top restaurants in terms of featuring Northwest wines was Plainfield's Mayur -- an Indian house in Portland.

Their flavorful dishes from made for remarkable wine experiences, too.

Recently, frozen-food retailer Tandoor Chef created a page on its website that provides advice.

Click on a type of wine, and it will bring up one of its products and vice versa. Syrah pairs with its Tandoor Chef's Chicken Tikka Masala.

Got a bottle of Chenin Blanc? Reach for Cilantro Pesto Naan Pizza.

Taste for yourself at tandoorchef.com/winepairing.php.

8. Chill it, kill it. When friends visit my hovel for dinner, they seem to assume I want them to bring a bottle of wine. It probably won't be as good as any of those I will be serving them, but it's the thought that counts.

Most of the time, guests bring a red, so temperature isn't a major issue. Last summer, I was introduced to the Hampton Monogram Ice Bucket and Chiller ($39.95), and I quickly warmed up to this stylish item because it reduces the risk of forgetting that I left a bottle of wine in the freezer.

This bucket has chilled three bottles of wine at once for me. I appreciate that its knob handles are screwed in, rather than relying on rivets. And it is made in India.

It would make a nice wedding gift, too. Custom order at PersonalizationMall.com.

9. Dripping with chocolate. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area, and its celebration as the state's oldest appellation begins Feb. 16-17 with the annual Red Wine & Chocolate weekend.

Wineries from Red Mountain to Yakima will stage exclusive opportunities for those who sign up for the Premier Pass. That gets you inside the ropes for private tours, library tastings, special pairings and discounts.

Cost is $30 before Feb. 11, $35 at the wineries. Go to wineyakimavalley.org.

10. Equinox in Eola-Amity Hills. Old Man Winter hasn't officially done his cold-calling yet, but many golfers already are looking forward to spring and longer days.

So block out the evening of March 24 for this fifth annual event at Zenith Vineyards in Salem.

Nearly 30 wineries in this AVA -- home to the likes of Amity Vineyards, Bethel Height, Cristom, St. Innocent and Witness Tree -- will join local chefs for food and wine as they welcome the change of seasons.

Cost is $40. Shoot for the stars and go climbing at eolaamityhills.com.

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