Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen, John Wayne, and Barry Fitzgerald in "The Quiet Man" (1952)
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Oregon Wine Country by Suzanne WrightNEW YORK CORNER: Irving Mill by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: What About the White Wines of the Rhône? by Brian Freedman
The Willamette Valley from Youngberg Inn, McMinnville, Oregon
Oregon Wine Country
Home to more than 200 wineries, the
In the past, I’ve had some pretty disappointing B&B experiences. So on this trip I stayed exclusively at a number of Unique Inns, a network on the West Coast that vets its owner-operated member properties. Each inn has a distinctive personality shaped by its owner and I decided to surrender myself to the innkeepers and let them guide me to experience the best of each place.
Southwest of the city, the fertile valleys are buffered by the
Rangy, gray-haired Cliff Anderson of Anderson Family Vineyards explains that he “dry farms,” meaning he doesn’t use irrigation but instead relies on rainfall to nurture the grapes. “We have a lot of spring, a lot of fall and not much summer or winter.” A boutique producer, Anderson sells his wine at several high-end
Breakfasts are a highlight of great B&Bs, and the Black Walnut's are exceptional. Chef/son Kris is a Cordon Bleu graduate, and his menu showcases the best local, seasonal ingredients. There’s fresh apple juice, powdered apple spice donuts, an omelet made with eggs from neighboring chickens,
Next, I visited the Argyle Winery, especially known for its sparkling wines, including the 1997 Extended Tirage that Wine Spectator rated #25 of 100 wines in 2007. I favor the Brut Rosé with its strawberry and spice notes. The wine pourer said the rosy hue has been likened to the “color of the eye of a partridge.” I take her at her word.
Dinner was at Tina’s (760 Hwy 99W, Dundee; 503-538-8880), one of the best restaurants in the area. Even if you can’t go with friends-in-the-know, be sure and ask for the “secret” wine list, with its prize selection of “odds and ends” bottles. For starters, rake the plump, juicy pan-fried Wilapa Bay oysters through the sorrel mayonnaise and enjoy the East-West interplay of the salmon spring rolls—perfect with a local pinot gris; just give a price range and the knowledgeable server will recommend a good one. Meats are stellar here, like the braised rabbit with greens, chanterelles and garlic mashed potatoes, tenderloin with cognac demi-glace, roasted rack of lamb from Su Dan Farms in nearby Canby, its meat glazed with a port garlic sauce, delicious when accompanied by a Beaux Frères pinot noir. A 3-course dinner runs about $45.
It was winter and it was wet and misty in
The old train depot serves as the rustic tasting room for Tyrus Evan wines, the warm weather varietals—syrah, claret, malbec—of legendary winemaker Ken Wright; Scott Paul Wines is across the street. Horseradish is the place for lunch; they’ll put together a Northwest cheese sampler with a proper baguette, and you can buy chocolate covered hazelnuts.
Wayne and Nicolette Bailey are the former Midwestern proprietors of Youngberg Inn (right; 10660 SW Youngberg Hill Road, McMinnville; 888- 657-8668; $170-290) in McMinnville. Surveying the panoramic view and the surrounding vineyards, Nicolette says, “We don’t feel like we own it, we just take care of it.” Single vintages,
It was foggy and the Wadensil Suite has a fireplace and cozy oak furnishings, so I donned a robe and stayed in for the night with a bottle of wine and a good book. It was like having breakfast in the clouds the following morning, as I enjoyed citrus salad, fresh baked muffins and a savory potato, herb and sausage French toast.
Downtown McMinnville is darling and has a clutch of independently owned shops. One features a t-shirt emblazoned with “ruralsexual;” another, called Honest Chocolates, sells pinot-infused truffles.
At the boutique Mes Amies on N.E. Third Street in McMinnville, owner Naomi Bruce steered me toward some lesser-visited wineries as I headed south. Bethel Heights Vineyard is a family-owned operation founded in 1977; owner Marilyn Webb tutored me on sustainably grown wines that carry the LIVE and "Salmon Safe" designations. When I asked her to expound on the subtle differences between adjoining blocks of grapes, she said, “It’s hard to know what is the hand of the winemaker and what is the terroir.” She believes that the varietals and the land result in “bigger, more extracted, more lush wines—an advantage to an American palate.” The lightly oaked estate grown 2004 chardonnay is a nice balance of acidity and round fruit and the just-bottled 2006 flat rock pinot noir is an appealing combination of raspberries and spice.
Webb called ahead to her neighbors at Cristom Vineyards, where winemaker Steve Doerner, who'd worked in
Built in 1892, the downtown Victorian estate has been restored by owner Myra Plant. After settling into the Eva Johnson room (above), with four-poster bed, gas fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, hardwood floors, I headed downstairs for dinner. I sampled the Oregon-made Cascade Mountain American gin (not bad, a change from wine), I tried the flavorful lobster saffron poached wild-caught salmon with barley and bean ragoût and a rich chocolate hazelnut and berry coulis. Earplugs had been placed on my pillow to drown out the train that roars past several times during the night.
Breakfast is another fine meal: blackberry scones with a crispy sugar crust, granola with cranberries, pecans and almonds, and herbed scrambled eggs tucked into crêpes covered in a mushroom sauce. Before I worked off the day’s first meal, it was time for the holiday tea, which features the Hanson Family Singers as Victorian-clad carolers, butternut squash soup, cucumber sandwiches, chicken hazelnut sandwiches, and various sweets.
Though there are wineries within striking distance—Sweet Cheeks, King Estate and Iris Hill—I’m suffering from wine fatigue, so I spend the afternoon browsing at Fifth Street Market and getting a massage at Pearl Day Spa, then check into the Excelsior Inn (754 E. 13th, Eugene; 800-321-6963). Owner Maurizio Paparo’s old-fashioned, onsite Tuscan Room (right) restaurant with its creaking floors; it serves prawns wrapped in prosciutto, lamb with roasted shallots and olives and mushroom risotto. His B&B was the first I’ve encountered with an elevator—though I need to walk off the calories on the stairs. Nothing exceeds like excess. Rooms go for $120-270.
by John Mariani
116 East 16th Street (off Irving Place)
The neighborhood around Irving Place is rich with New York history, not least the name itself, commemorating the affable American writer Washington Irving(left)
, who has a high school named after him here. Then there's Pete's Tavern, dating back to 1829, where legend has it that O. Henry wrote "The Gift of the Magi" in the second booth. The area architecture is remarkably varied--Stanford White did The Players and Vaux and Radford the National Arts Club, bothon Gramercy Park.
The restaurant called Irving Mill, which opened this winter, sits aptly within this quiet oasis of Manhattan, for it was once a 19th century stable and now has an interior that would not look out of place in an Irving story about the gregariousness of New York taverns. Rustic but also cosmopolitan, it has ceiling beams, soft lighting, pictures of farm animals, a Tap Room up front, huge displays of flowers, and banquettes whose fabric are imprinted with Irving's own handwriting. The decibel level is congenial, the servers are cordial (though they tend to spend a little too much time chatting among themselves), the reception warm, and John Schaefer's food delightfully American, with, of course, European touches of a kind Europeans brought to Manhattan in colonial times. Prices, with no main course over $28, are very pleasing indeed, as they soar everywhere else.
The winelist is commendable not so much for its comprehensiveness as for its appropriateness to Schaefer's cooking, with sturdy reds and a good dose of pinot noirs that complement so many dishes on the menu. There is also a judicious number of wines by the glass, from $9-$20.
Schaefer (below), formerly of nearby Gramercy Tavern, is not doing flourishes on his plates and is not experimenting on his guests. This is comfort food of a high order, beginning with a wonderful grilled quail with green tomato relish, Cheddar cheese grits and smoked paprika--each element in perfect balance. Another two quail on the plate and this would make a first-rate main course. Nantucket bay scallops (get them while they're around: it's been a poor season for bay scallops) came with a salad of baby fennel, blood orange and picholine olives, flavors that slightly compromised the natural, subtle sweetness of the seafood. Ricotta dumplings with rutabaga, Speck, and brown butter were simple and good.
Roasted monkfish certainly worked well with its wintry red cabbage, celeriac, bacon, and truffle vinaigrette, and a braised lamb shoulder was lusciously served with wild mushrooms, Savoy cabbage, butternut squash and orrechiette pasta. I like the way Schaefer spices his pink Muscovy duck breast, accompanying it with quinoa, Swiss chard and the spark of Meyer lemon. Pork belly seems to be on every menu in New York these days, and Schaefer's is as good as anyone's, with a decent streak o' lean and a light saltiness that tempers the fat. A good, juicy pork chop, nicely cooked, came with collard greens and cranberries, so you can begin to discern a definite seasonal style here, using salty bacon and the textures of greens to match the proteins on the plate. Come spring, we'll just have to see what happens.
Desserts follow the homey American line, with chocolate bread pudding with bourbon-roasted bananas and cinnamon crème anglaise; a warm apple and cranberry crisp with luscious buttermilk ice cream; and a rich caramel nut tart with delicious milk chocolate sauce and cream whipped with Cognac. There is also a selection of seven farmstead cheeses and several tea options.
Schaefer seems not to want to surprise his guests but to please them, much the way Geoffrey Zakarian does so admirably at Country and the way the long-gone Coach House (now Babbo) in Greenwich Village did so well for thirty years. It's not a bad way to think about the people who come to your restaurant and a good way to get them to come back again and again to see what the new season will bring.
Irving Mill is open for lunch and dinner daily. Prices for appetizers run $9 to $16; entrées, $25 to $28.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
What About the White Wines of the Rhône?
by Brian Freedman
Since the release of the 2005
But lost in all this clamor for world-class syrah, grenache, and mourvèdre are the Rhône’s white wines, which quietly, and without half the fanfare of their red counterparts, offer idiosyncratic and often downright delicious drinking.
Most people, though, tend to think of the
They are, however, worth seeking out. And just like their red counterparts, they are produced in a wide range of styles and at prices that will appeal to both collectors and casual drinkers alike.
In the north, the three permitted white grape varieties are viognier, marsanne, and roussanne, though the latter two are far more widespread. Viognier, the sole ingredient in the wines of Condrieu and Château-Grillet, is glycerin-rich, intensely aromatic, and one of the few varieties that will generally not improve with extended time in the cellar.
Marsanne and roussanne, on the other hand, find their way most notably into the whites of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph. They are an interesting pair: Marsanne provides the flesh to roussanne’s more acidic skeleton. And while marsanne’s stock has increased beyond its partner’s, they remain inextricably linked in the wines of the Northern Rhône.
Down in the Southern Rhône, mirroring the laws regarding its reds, more white grape varieties are permitted, including crisp grenache blanc, citric picpoul blanc, clairette with its tendency toward stone-fruit aromas, viognier, and bourboulenc.
The Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2005 ($11) is a simple, straightforward charmer with an aroma like seashells and a hint of soft lemon acidity. At cellar temperature its mineral austerity just begs for a bowl of clams to be paired with, though as it warms up, a pronounced dried-apricot character develops on the nose, making it delicious on its own.
Domaine de la Janasse, on the other hand, has fashioned a much rounder, richer Côtes du Rhône Blanc for its 2006 bottling ($20). Base-note aromas of mushroom and brown spice counterbalance the higher-toned apricot scent with aplomb.
Janasse’s 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($55) needs either a stint in the decanter or, even better, several years in the cellar. Right now it is a young wine and feels a bit disjointed. But the surprisingly tropical nose of coconut and fresh-cut pineapple is appealing, as are the almost haunting hints of toasted honey-whole-wheat bread. Its overall balance and the length of its stony finish promise several years of development in the bottle.
I was bowled over by the E. Guigal Saint-Joseph Blanc “Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph” 2005 ($47). It smelled like super ripe oranges, Marcona almonds, and cream, and had a flavor that reminded me of everything from roasted pineapple to orange blossom to almonds again. The fact that all of this was packed into a wine that retained a solid sense of structure was just amazing.
And in a similar vein but more austere was the Delas Hermitage Blanc “Marquise de la Tourette” 2004 ($54), whose almond-butter-and-cream aroma and palate-coating texture were attenuated by a backbone of damp-stone minerality. Though hard to resist right now, this is a white that should continue to improve for another several years in the cellar.
Despite the range of styles exhibited by these five wines, they do have one very important characteristic in common: A real sense of place. None of them, regardless of their richness or austerity, could have come from anywhere but the Rhône Valley. That’s not only a major source of their appeal, but also something to seek out in a world of increasingly globalized bottlings. Rhône whites may not be lining the shelves of retail shops right now, but the ones you can find are likely to reward your efforts in ways that few other white wines will.
Brian Freedman is food and wine editor of LifeStyle Magazine (www.lsmagonline.com), restaurant critic for AroundPhilly.com and AroundAC.com, director of wine education at the Wine School of Philadelphia and editorial director at ClassicWines.com.
TAGLINE OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
TAGLINE OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
"I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!"--Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."
WHITE TRASH WEDDING NO. 106
In Columbus, Ohio, three couples were married on Valentine's Day at a White Castle. The cake was made to look like a White Castle food tray with burgers, fries, and drink made from cake and frosting. The wedding was broadcast on a local radio station.
* Mandarin Oriental,
* This month in
*From March 10-14 Fourth Wall Restaurants (Quality Meats, Smith & Wollensky New York City, The Post House, Park Avenue Winter, and Maloney & Porcelli) celebrates National Wine Week in NYC, introducing Magnificent Monday, on March 10, with 5 wines from Moet & Chandon, Grgich Hills, Domaine Serene, and Miner Family poured by guest from the wineries; $15 with the cost of lunch. For the remainder of the week, 10 wines for $10 with lunch. Part of the proceeds donated to Friends of the High Line. Visit http://fourthwallrestaurants.com/wineweek
* On March 12 in NYC, Barbetta hosts Cinzia Travaglini to speak on 4 vintages of Gattinara Travaglini with paired with a multi-course Piemontese dinner at $150. Call 212-246 9171. www.Barbettarestaurant.com
* On March 16 in Portland, ME, Cinque Terre (www.cinqueterremaine.com) will usher in with its First Annual "Eco Appetito - Good Eating for a Good Earth" to benefit the "Food for Thought" program offered at Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco, Maine. The event will showcase local
* On March 17 in Lousiville, KY, Park Place on Main chef Jay Denham hosts an event of tastings of a diverse array of in-house cured meats and discussions led by meat experts, incl. Nancy Newsom from Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Ham , Allen Benton from Benton's Country Ham, and Prof. Greg Rentfrow of the U. of Kentucky. $100 pp. Call 502-515-0172; www.diningonmain.com.
*On March 18 the Chef Ricardo Cardona Hudson River Cafe in NYC will offer a 6-course Spanish wine dinner for $90 pp. Call 212-491-9111; www.hudsonrivercafe.com.
* From May 18-24 Jean-Louis Gerin of Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, CT, and Burgundy expert Etienne Touzot will host a tour of “The Very Best of Burgundy: A French Food and Wine Adventure,” incl. accommodations in Beaune at Hotel Le Cep, cooking demos with Jean-Louis, dining at La Bache farmhouse, tour of vineyards, dinner at Jacques Lameloise in Chagny, and much more. $5,500 pp; Call (800) 593-6350.
* On March 19 chef Todd Humphries of Martini House in St. Helena, CA, collaborates with Italian Family Estate Wine Importer Dalla Terra(tm) Winery Direct® for the annual "Wine Geeks and Mushroom Freaks," with wines from regions of Asti, Barbaresco, Sicily and Abruzzo. Exotic mushroom dishes will be served, along with commentary by Patrick Hamilton, Mycena News "Foragers' Report" columnist and
* On March 22 in Crested
* On March 22 in Yountville, CA, the 15th annual “Taste of Yountville,” will be celebrating Napa Valley’s mustard season, with 15 area restaurants, 20 local wineries and an array of mustard and olive oil producers on tap for tastings. The event is free; tasting ticket available on site for $1.00 each. Visit www.yountville.com.
* Le Titi de
*On March 24 in San Francisco, as part of its 25th Anniversary, Masa's will hold a tribute to 25 Years of Desserts benefiting Project Open Hand, with desserts, mignardises, and wine pairings selected by Master Sommelier Alan Murray. Call 415-989-7154. Visit www.masasrestaurant.com
* On March 24th, Cold Heaven Cellars' Morgan Clendenen, August West's Ed Kurtzman and Kirk Venge of Venge Vineyards, Macauley Vineyard and Igneous Cellars will present their wines paired with a 5-course dinner by Executive Chef Stephen Lewandowski at TriBeCa Grill. $175 pp. Call 212-941-3900. www.myriadrestaurantgroup.com
* On March 26 in Chicago, Café Matou's "4th Wednesday Wine Cellar Raid' will be held with Wine Director James Rahn pulling more than 25 wines from the cellar, for $17 per bottle with dinner by Chef Charlie Socher's seasonal French menu. Wines will range from Vin du Pays to Vin de Savoie. Call Café Matou at 773-384-8911. Visit www.cafematou.com.
* From March 27-30 the Pebble Beach Food & Wine will bring together 35 chefs and 200 world wineries for wine-pairing dinners, cooking demos, vertical tastings, a sommelier challenge with master sommeliers, and a rare-wine auction and dinner, at venues throughout the Pebble Beach Resorts. Culinary "dream teams" will create multi-course lunches and dinners, incl. chefs Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Alain Passard, David Kinch, and Claire Clark, pastry chef at The French Laundry. $165 for a single event pass to $12,400, based on double occupancy, for a3-night stay with the VIP ticket package. Call 1-866-907-FOOD or visit www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com.
FEATURE: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linking up
with two excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: HONOLULU ON THE CHEAP
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.