"What a horrible weekend to be on the coast" Nick commented on Saturday morning as we sat in the house in Newport, OR. Of course, he was playing the opposite game as it was, in fact, a gorgeous weekend on the coast. Drew and I went over to help Chris and Nick from Block 15 Brewing Company pour beer at the Rogue Memorial Brewers Festival, and as noted in my previous post I was quite interested to see how it compared to the wine festivals I had been to. Here are my observations.
First off, there was a strong sentiment of camaraderie among the brewers in the crowd (from about 20 microbreweries) which showed a lot of collective pride in the Oregon microbrew industry, much like the pride taken in the wine world in the context of geography. As I poured beer throughout the night and became better versed in beer vocabulary (try ABV, IBU, and hop profile), it reminded me a lot of the vernacular that comes with wine. It's easy for folks to feel like outsiders if they don't speak the language -- it's up to people like us as to welcome newcomers into the hobby. Our booth was immediately next to the gentlemen from Rogue Creamery. While first bonding over beer and Oregon Bleu, we quickly noted that their cheese is a perfect pairing with wine and in fact is carried at a number of wineries throughout the state. I plan on stopping by the creamery to visit David next time we are down in Southern Oregon.
Outside of the festival, we found some gems in the rough in terms of Oregon wine. As we wrapped up the evening on Friday, we realized that we hadn't had nearly enough to drink -- or really anything for that matter as we had been serving all night. I was very surprised to find an expansive wine selection at the Thriftway in Newport. In addition to a respectable local portfolio, they also had some high brow stuff you could drop nearly a grand on. The Block 15 house was in the Devil's Punchbowl area, in between Newport and Depoe Bay. On Saturday we visited the Flying Dutchman Winery, the only operating winery on the Oregon coast which just happens to be right in front of our house (good planning on someone's part). They salt air ferment a lot of their wine, and have some decent Pinot. I enjoy their blackberry and raspberry wine specifically to make some special desserts, for which I'll share the recipe at some point.
On our way back to Corvallis on Saturday, we stopped by the Rogue Distillery to check it out. There we found the chief distiller, as proud of his work as any head winemaker would be. He sampled some of the Rogue fare, and then honored us with a taste of his personally distilled stock of single malt whiskey. Unfortunately for us this whiskey will never see public distribution, but it was sure good. All in all, I greatly enjoyed my first beer festival experience, and found a clientele every bit as passionate and talented as that in the wine world. It was also a great way to escape the 100 degree heat of the Willamette Valley this weekend.
In other industry news, Willamette Valley Vineyards has just released it's 2006 Estate Pinot Noir. It has a bigger flavor profile than their previous vintage, and I enjoyed the taste. I'd let it age a while before cracking open a bottle if you pick some up. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is accepting comments on a proposal to establish the Snipes Mountain viticulture area. Covering 4145 acres in Yakima County, WA, this AVA would further allow winemakers in that area to better describe the origin of their wine. Finally, don't forget that Memorial Day in Wine Country is coming up. Next weekend. Make your plans!