You’ve got to order some carry-out

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INDY, MASS AVE. – The unfolding crisis of small restaurants, donut shops, and coffee joints is not really going to be felt until the unfolding Coronavirus crisis passes.

These businesses are the backbone of our economy just as much as Boeing, Apple, and GE. Such businesses are run by your neighbors, common town folk, and struggling entrepreneurs.

The enforced closing, now just a few days in effect, is going to be devastating if you don’t help. That’s right – you.

I grew up working in my Mom’s small restaurant in our small town. I watched her work 10-11-12 hour days for years. The business did well but no one got rich. Restaurants work on margins less than 10 percent and most often in the 3-5 percent range.

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Bru Burger’s hamburger and fries.

In other words, they can’t survive many bumps in the road. Those bumps are Hoosier-size potholes for at least the near future. But you can do something about it. I’m retired and work about 3-4 evenings a week. I’ve decided I’ll get out to a local restaurant every few days for lunch carry out. And, I’m going to write short reviews here.

There are lists of restaurants open for carry out on several websites, including the Indianapolis Star. Or you can take the old-fashioned approach and just call your favorite lunch spot.

I have been in the mood for a burger for weeks. So I called Bru Burger on Mass Ave and order a Burger and fries. It was ready when I arrived and they were all happy to see me. The young lady taking my money said Wednesday was their first day of carry-out only and business was good. At 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday), it had been slower but it also rained quite steady through the noon hour.

The burger and fries were awesome. I had eaten there a few times before. My only critique was the soft and tasty bun could have been toasted. Toasting the bun on carry out would really help for take home food. But it’s a noon time carry out I can heartily recommend.

One other point, restaurant workers are not that highly paid to start with and now business it down. Be sure to tip generously.

You’ll find burger joints, coffee shops, and  fine dining restaurants on most listings. Some are offering their full regular menus while many have special carry-out menus for these tough times.

I’ve seen posts on social media imploring readers to support small, locally-owned business in this crisis. Those post a reminder that these are the people who support Little League, the orchestra, and other local charities. You need them and now they need you.

I can’t say it any better.

Have patience with older wines

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What is old wine? Nearly 20 years of wine enthusiasm has led me to think there is no single answer. A decent base-level understanding of wine only leads to more questions.

Two bottles of recently consumed wine have me reflecting on somewhat older wines. I haven’t consumed much 1980s Bordeaux or Burgundy but I have learned some things with Napa Cab and Oregon Pinot Noir.

The real starting point for this discussion is the truth about wine consumers. I’ve worked about 20 hours a week for two years in retail wine sales. Our shop is in an affluent neighborhood with a nice mixture of young people as regular customers. The average price point ranges $15 to $25. Still, we sell a good amount of higher end wine, $60-$125 and up.

Customers occasionally do ask about aging a $20 bottle of wine. I try to politely explain those wines are not made for aging. Drink them. I advise they find a decent decanter and air those red wines out for an hour or so and it will  probably improve them a little. The truth is American consumers want to drink wines when purchased. Winemakers are largely making wines for immediate drinking.

I make a point to ask winemakers how long to hold wines before consumption. During a trip to Napa the consistent answer was 5 years – though some high-end Cabs can certainly be held much longer. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, winemakers say 4-5 years.

IMG_0346In my personal wine-drinking experience I’ve found those numbers to be pretty accurate. In the last month I have enjoyed a 2003 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Insignia is an iconic label, a wine that has always scored 90 points and higher. It’s always a stunningly gorgeous bottle of wine. The current released vintage, a 2016, sells for $300 a bottle and received a 96 point rating from Wine Enthusiast.

The second bottle was a 2012 WinderleaCrawford Beck Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The ’12 has always been hailed as a classic Oregon vintage. This wine can be found online for $50-$80.

image0These two slightly older wines performed the same. Both bottles were disorganized with an off-putting nose when opened. But, after an hour-and-a-half decant both started coming around. After another half hour in the glass both wines were coming into their own and showing as outstanding wine.

No one can tell you exactly when to open an older bottle. Pedigree and time in oak have an impact on how long you can age wine. The best advice is to experiment. Take a small taste when opening a bottle then “check in on it” while the wine opens up.

I’ve never tasted one of those 50-year-old Burgundys. Though I did have a 1991 Gevrey Chambertin this past winter that showed me potential for what aged wine can be.

Buy what you can afford, give the reds a decant, and decide for yourself what makes sense in aging your more pricey wines. If you really want to test aging, but a couple bottles – open one and wait another year or two and try the other. That will help determine your palate for aging.

 

 

 

Distillery rivaling Huber’s wine success

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The explosion of the craft cocktail in bars and specialty distillers, driven largely by millenials and women, is skyrocketing the growth of distilled spirits.

It’s happening in across the globe, the U.S., and in Indiana. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, whiskey and bourbon exports surpassed one billion dollars in 2015 and the three years prior.

Distilleries are certainly popular in the Hoosier state. Official statistics can be hard to track down but Indiana featured 25 distilleries as recently as last year. Kentucky, home of brown spirits, had 68 distilleries for an increase of 250 percent in the last decade.

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Ted Huber

Ted Huber, of Huber Orchard and Winery along with Starlight Distillery, was and continues to be one of the pioneers in the Indiana artisan distiller business. Huber, whose family has roots in Southern Indiana near New Albany, leads one of the state’s most successful wineries. Adding a distiller was a natural part of his ever-continuing growth. He started with fortified wines in 1998 and started distilling in 2001. Changes in Indiana law now has Indiana distilled spirits on shelves across the state but only a handful of wineries have made the leap.

The iconic winery, situated in the rolling hills near Starlight, In, produces approximately 60,000 cases of wine. Three years ago Huber said he’d like to grow the distillery to about 50,000 cases. But the two products are different. Any given year’s grape harvest will produce a wine to go on the market within one to three or four years. Spirits take longer from a few years to 10 or more.

The distillery’s signature product is Carl T. Bourbon. The whiskey is named after Ted Huber’s grandfather Carl. Ted is the sixth generation winemaker and now distiller on the family farm. The Carl T. represents a growth product. It sells for $34.99 on the distillery’s website.

Production-wise Huber is making almost 50,000 cases but not yet selling nearly that much. “What we produce in the distillery is mainly bourbon (corn whiskey),” Huber explained. “After the bourbon comes rye and malt whiskey. So those finished products are a blend of four to six year barrells. So with the age requirements there is still another three years before we have enough product in the pipeline to hit those kind of numbers (50k).”

Huber said he wants to develop Carl T. with blends of 6-7-8 year old whiskeys. During a walking tour of one of his giant aging facilities, he poured several examples of bourbons aged and blended in several different ways.

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Huber discusses aging his whiskies.

“We need that age,” he said. “We were patient with our brandies. When they first came out we sold only 10- to 20-percent before upping production. Even today with our brandy production, even though we’re going on 18 years, we will never sell the same amount that we make. We’re getting older and older barrels in our warehouse for blending. And we plan to do that for several more years with our whisky.”

Huber has been a major player in numerous national and international brandy competitions winning top awards and awards for best in specific categories. His whiskeys are beginning to be recognized by top spirits critics as well. One critic wrote that Huber’s bourbon was one of the top 10 in the nation not made in Kentucky that afficionados must sample.

The boom in female brown spirits fan is not lost on the veteran winemaker. He said it’s been the biggest surprise during the growth of his spirit sales.

“Our clientele who came here for an experience of wine and spirits had the women dominate with wine and the men the spirits,” Huber said. “That is long gone over the past four years. We have as many women, or more women, coming here to enjoy and taste the different bourbons or whiskeys. The women who absolutely know their whiskeys from a quality standpoint has blown my mind.”

As a result of that burgeoning interest from women, Huber adjusts some single barrel whiskey’s to full cask strength (110-120 percent alcohol) and unfiltered. “And when we have clients come here from all over the United States to pick out barrels they are looking for products they think women will like. They’re looking for a little more complexity, a little bit more fruit and less oak.”

Huber wines are distributed in five states while the spirits are sold in 12 states. The Huber product line includes several whiskies, straight and flavored brandies, infusions and ports, rum, gin, and vodka.

Trump’s tariffs hit wine sales

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How does President Trump’s 25 percent tariffs impact the average consumer? We saw it up close Wednesday at the small wine shop where I work part time in retirement.

We’re big fans of Beaujolais wines and sell quite a bit of the gamay-grape wines to our customer base. We’re constantly looking for new and exciting Beaujolais Cru. Yesterday the La Pierre Morgon Cuvee’ arrived for a tasting event.

Most Cru level Beaujolais cost around $20-$25 with the very best maybe hitting $30-$40. This wine can be found online for about $40. But when the wine arrived yesterday the per bottle cost including the tariff, plus our standard markup, drove the price to more than $60.

Frankly, that’s going to be a tough sell. Sure, we sell many wines costing more than $60. But no one expects to pay $60 for Beaujolais.

While not earth-shattering headline news, it’s a real world impact of how a tariff can drive prices in your household.

Maybe you’re not a wine drinker or buy only value wine and see this as much adieu about nothing. But the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) estimates the 25 percent tariffs will cost each American household approximately $2000 next year. And recently the President has threatened to increase the tax to 100 percent.

Laurent Drouhin, of the famed Burgundy house, said Tuesday his family is very leary of the tariffs and any increase to 100 percent. Drouhin has exported wines to the US for decades and have not followed popular trends of shifting their sales to China.

“If the 100 percent tariff goes into effect that’s going to big a big thing,” he said. “Maybe we have to pick up the phone.” The reference was to selling wine to China.

So the tariffs aren’t something effecting someone else. Eventually it will effect all of us.

Regardless of politics, the tariffs will impact all of us. Using tariffs to negotiate trade deals is like using a hammer to open a bottle of wine – pretty hard to swallow.

Visiting Brouilly’s dynamic duo

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COTE De’ BROUILLY, Beaujolais, France –  The NBA has Lebron and Steph while the NFL boasted dynamic duos like Peyton and Tom.

Leagues boast superstars but they don’t necessarily play on the same teams. Two of the Cote de Brouilly’s wine superstars are unequivocally Claude Geoffray and Nicole Chanrion.

The duo’s story is one of a lasting family legacy while the other is an endearing matriarch of the wine region.

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Claude talks about his wine aging philosophy

Geoffray recently retired as the fifth generation winemaker at Chateau Thivin high atop Mont Brouilly. He maintains the family business started in June 1877 by Zaccharie and Marguerite Geoffray. While Claude is ever-present around the winery, acting as ambassador and leading tastings of their Chardonnay and Gamay-based wines, the 6th generation, Claude’s son Claude Edwouard, will continue the tradition. The son’s education came from working side by side with his father and in the vineyards and wineries of Saint Emilion, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, and others.

Claude hosted our foursome in the Chateau’s family dining room with the house dog and cat snuggled in front of a roaring fireplace on a cold November Wednesday. He poured us his well-balanced and soft Chardonnay, made from grapes on a plot an hour south of the Chateau. And then we explored his signature Cote de Brouilly, an estate Cote de Brouilly, and the family signature bottle made from the best grapes each season the Cote de Brouilly Zaccharie.

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Pouring a 2003 vintage

One of the great things about Beaujolais Cru is the cost. The Cote de Brouilly sells in the US for $20-$25. The Zaccharie is in limited US release. At the winery, the Zaccharie sells for 29E, though we saw it at a local restaurant in Morgon for much more.

During our walk through the various portions of the cellars he picked up a dusty bottle of 2003 Cote de Brouilly and poured that for us as a grand finale. The wine was gorgeous, elegant and slays every thought that Beaujolais Cru is wine meant to be drunk when it’s young.

The Geoffray name has a long history and bright future. Claude told us he was off to Paris to present his wines while his son, stepdaughter and three grandchildren keep busy atop Mont Brouilly.

Down the windy roads up Mont Brouilly in a small village, unassumingly along the main highway is the production facility for Domaine Chanrion. As we pull into the parking lot a spry, white-haired woman walks briskly to meet us. No introductions are really necessary because our host is Nicole Chanrion the  matriarch of Brouilly.

Chanrion has guided her one-woman operation since the 1970s, leading the way for female winemakers. She has won the respect of her peers – male and female – heading the Brouilly winemakers association. In recent years, her son has joined the team.

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Nicole Chanrion

Her unbridled charm, wit and a twinkle of the eye is among her many charms. The large wooden casks where she ages her Cote de Brouilly are among her tools to make one signature bottle of great Beaujolais Cru.

She took glee in finding a 2010 Cru to pour for us and again prove these wines will age beautifully. But Chanrion is a global citizens not afraid to share her opinions on politics and politicians. She does it all with a wink and a nod but expresses concerns about the potential 25 percent tariffs which could hit French wines. The majority of Chanrion’s annual production is sold in the U.S.

After a few photos we said our goodbyes. She was clearly thrilled to have US visitors including one who helped sell her wines in the US. She giggled and gasped when told a photo of her and I would be displayed in the shop.

What an awesome day of great people and outstanding wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting great small wineries

BEAUNE, France – I traveled to Burgundy Sunday, my first trip back since a 2016 group I led, and day one has set a high bar.

After just one day, the lessons of Burgundy are that the food and people are every bit as enjoyable as the wine.

I’m traveling with three friends who are part of a Crawfordsville-Indianapolis group that gets together periodically to drink and talk about wine. A couple quick travel tips first.

The new Indy-Paris non-stop flight is awesome. It costs about $600 roundtrip and we had a newer plane, good food and good service. In 2016, I paid $1300 for the same trip. Many of us have become fans of vacation rentals. We found a 3-bedroom place in the heart of Beaune for about $150 a night. It’s a lovely old, historical building with just enough modern touches.

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Bernard and Melissa Rion

I have to admit, our two wine stops today were every bit as good or better than the visits three years ago. We stopped at two domaines with pretty small production. Sixth-generation winemaker Melissa Rion poured the wine of Domaine Rion in Vosnee-Romanee.

We did the winery and caves tour and then had a delightful tasting of Vosnee Romanee wines and a grand cru. Truffles are plentiful in Burgundy and we topped off our tasting with a 2003 Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot, truffle butter and a truffle terrine soaked in Cognac. It was pure Burgundy and a delightful taste sensation and pairing.

Domain Rion produces just 40,000 bottles or 3300 cases of wine. Tasting in Burgundy is different. There are very few tasting rooms where you can just walk in taste. BerAppointments are suggested. We paid 25 Euro for the tasting and it was well worth it. The variety of the wonderful Burgundian wines ranged in price from the teens for 100 Euro. The top Grand Cru wines are quite expensive but also scarce.

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Sophie Noellat

Our second stop was Domaine Michel Noellat also in Vosne Romanee. Noellat makes more wine, 70,000 bottles, but very little gets to the U.S. They have access to more grapes in the Vosnee Romanee and Gevry Chambertin region. Sophie Noellat, a sixth generation winemaker works with her father to produce the wines. They do not receive many visitors but will take appointments.

My three travel companions enjoyed the Noellat wines more than me. I found all but two more more acidic than I like – perhaps that’s old age and a penchant for acid reflux, but I just did not enjoy them as much as the Rion wines. We did not pay a tasting fee and all of us bought 1-3 bottles. Some of these small places will waive the fee with purchase and some do not.

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The little chocolate cake was amazing.

We set the dining bar incredibly high at La Petite Auberge. The 2016 travel group had lunch there and it was a memorable experience. We had the 22.5E lunch fix-priced menu which included an amuse bouche of three wonderful bites, a salad or soup, then all four of us had the slow-cooked veal in a mustard sauce. Incredibly tender and flavorful, it was a real culinary treat. Dessert was a decadant chocolate cake.

 

A glass of local Vosne-Romanee wine was included in the price. When you travel to Europe, the fixed price menu is often a culinary choice you can usually make with confidence.

Seldom would any traveler expect lunch to set such a high standard. We have reservations at three of Burgundy’s best restaurants this week.. We’ll see how it plays out.

We’re off to dinner shortly. I intend on giving a few Burgundy and travel  tips throughout the week. But oh what a start.

Wednesday: We’re making the 1.5 hour trip down to Beaujolais for the annual Beaujolais Festive and release of the annual Nouveau vintage..

Hoosiers Loving Dry Rose’

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Brian Borlick, in a nifty pink shirt and slacks, was in constant motion grabbing bottles, pouring pink wine, and talking deals.

Borlick is Premium Division Manager for Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) in Indianapolis. He is also known within the Indy wine world as RNDC’s Rose’ guy.

Indiana Rose’ sales climbed 99 percent as of February, ending a 12-month period. Staggering! National sales increased 64 percent over the same time period, according to Nielson statistics.

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Borlick

“I remember we had a tasting 13 years ago,” Borlick said at a recent event for industry insiders and buyers. “We had 18 wines and about four people showed up. The last two years we’ve had over 100 wines and more than 100 people came to taste.”

Borlick noted that supermarkets, small restaurants, and maybe even Hoosiers were slow to the pink wine love affair – but not anymore. “Even restaurants in small towns are pouring by the glass,” he said. “All supermarkets have at least a few Rose’ wines.”

Gooley, manager and wine buyer for three Indianapolis retail stores under the Vine & Table banner, believes acceptance of dry pink wine is a generational issue. “I think it’s the baby boomers getting over the fact they’re not sweet,” he said. “We grew up with white zinfandel and still a lot of people have the idea if it’s pink it’s sweet. I also think we have a millennial generation willing to trust us and when they come in and we say it’s dry they buy it. I think we’ve done a good job of convincing people that dry rose is the red wine drinkers’ white wine.”

Borlick was like most Americans a little more than a decade ago. He thought of Rose’ as a coyingly sweet pink wine. “Then I went to France for the first time in 1999 and was force fed some Rose,” he joked. “I was planning not to like it but loved it. The French drink it for lunch and dinner.”

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Gooley

Most alcohol distributors certainly have Rose’ in their portfolio but RNDC is one of, if not, the biggest in Indiana. The dry pink now appeals to consumers of all ages but is particularly driven by the younger millennial generation.

“People used to go into wine shops and see 10 roses now they see 50 – people see that and think they must get in on this,” Gooley said. “Most rose’ sells between $10-$25. That fits with the rest of the retail market that’s had a great increase in that price range.”

Wine wholesalers and retailers do worry about a pink over saturation. “Rose’ sales are going to continue to grow but maybe not the same as past years,” Borlick said. “Now, every winery and an uncle are making a Rose’.”

Gooley agreed with his distributor’s comments. “We’re now in a position where consumers are going to get some substandard roses and poor quality. They’re are going to find things in lower price points that are not going to last a year or year and a half in the bottle and then are going to think I don’t like Rose. But they spent $5 on it.”

The most popular Rose’ is the lighter color and lighter palate of Provence Rose, the redder and more palate dominating Rose’s of France’s Rhone Valley and Tavel retain traditional popularity

Many credit the growth to Rose’ rise to powerhouse labels like Chateau d’Esclans’ Whispering Angel, the world’s most popular Rose, which has released 3.2 million bottle vintages in recent years. One of the other celebrity-driven but nice drinking Rose’ wines is Chateau Miraval. Insiders know actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie invested $67 million in the estate in 2008. Both wines sell for $19.99 to mid-$20 range.

Too often specific wines can be hard to find. But most reputable wine shops or even liquor stores have a wide selection. Look for Rose’ of Pinot Noir from the West Coast, Oregon or California, and pink from Provence or Southern France.

 

10th Willamette wine visit

Talking Oregon wine with Winderlea owner Bill Sweat

The quality of Oregon wine blows me away on each visit. That’s not shocking news to anyone who’s been here before. But as the number as the number of Willamette Valley wineries grows toward 600 even the newbies are knocking out dynamic and delicious Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

This visit was arranged rather quickly with a friend and we kicked off with old friends Bill Sweat and Donna Morris at Winderlea Vineyards. We talked a good half hour about Chardonnay, style of Chardonnay and what’s new at the winery. Bill shared that Winderlea will join the growing list of wineries make a Sparkline wine or Brut next year.

Growers in the valley are two or three years into the boom of adding Rose’ of Pinot Noir to their winelists and it certainly appears bubbles will be next.

Winderlea produces vineyard designate wines as good, or better, as any you’ll find in the valley. The chardonnay is perfectly balanced with a hint of oak and perhaps the best you discover on any domestic wine trip.

Our next stop was the iconic Domaine Drouhin. The French outpost in Oregon delivers really great wine, a fantastic vineyard view and even an occasional taste of Burgundy. The iconic wooden roofed winery offers up elegant and stylish Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The entry level is $45 at the winery in Dundee Hills but the new Roserock property and label over wines with a slightly different flavor profile and slightly different taste.

Third stop was a recommendation from the Winderlea folks. We traveled to just the western part of the valley to Fairsing Vineyard high atop a hill just north of Yamhill and Carlton. The views were spectacular. The wines were spot on with a light Rose, lighter style chardonnay and rich Pinot. The 750 ft of elevation definitely provide characteristics of a cooler climate Chardonnay.

We capped off the night meeting a couple of younger friends for dinner. I had met the young couple working my part-time wine shop job in Broad Ripple. I’ve visited Carlton many times but never eaten at its longtime lilee French Restaurant, Cuvee.

The slightly electic spot was really dealicious. Baked mussels and a wonderful sauce with gruyere cheese was spot on. The fresh salmon with roasted vegetables balanced the meal.

Another day of wine tasting today (Friday) and a venture into McMinnville this evening. Tomorrow, it’s off to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.

Note: I’m using a new smaller mobile laptop and some things have changed for me in my blogging platform. I was a real struggle including one photo. I have more to add when I conquer that issue or get back home. I”m posting to social media as well.

Going to add restaurant reviews

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Looking from my table to the bar area of LouVino

Through the years I’ve posted restaurant thoughts (I hate to think of it as reviews) on this blog. Now that I’m retired and have time to take in some interesting lunch spots, I’m going to try to start posting more.

I still do some wine writing, but if you haven’t followed along, I retired the regular wine column last fall.

So part of the plan going forward is to add quickie reviews. Those reviews will include a couple of pics, some thoughts on the food, service and probably atmosphere.

I visited LouVino on Mass Ave today for lunch. I actually tried to visit a couple of weeks ago and was told rather brusquely that it was 1:50 p.m. and the kitchen closed for lunch at 2 p.m. I understand that but didn’t feel very welcomed to return.

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Fries in a jar and okay skirt steak.

But I did give it a try today and enjoyed the experience. It is a little pricey for lunch. I had the lunch special of sandwich, side and drink for $15. My skirt steak sandwich on brioche was pretty tasty. Onions, stilton mayo, and arugula livened the sandwich up a bit. The steak had a bit of  almost a burnt flavor after waitress suggested it would arrive medium rare. The flavor was pretty good though but skirt steak can be tough and this was a little too chewy.

The fries were crispy and plentiful and the two warm chocolate chip cookies, included, were very good.

And by the way, my server was great and responded promptly to a couple of simple requests.

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Three nice old world wines for $17

Of course, being a wine spot I skipped the cola. They offer a page of red and another of white wine flights with 2 oz. pours. The choices were really great. I paid $17 for a Spanish, French, and Italian wine. They were all good but most are available at local wine shops for $20 or less per bottle.

So with tax, I dropped $34 for lunch – not something I’m going to do very often.

The place is beautiful but quite empty at 1 p.m. The decor is modern and stylistic. There is clearly seating for a big lunch or dinner crowd.

I’d probably go back but at the price the food was more okay and wow. The wine flight a little pricey. Still, it’s nice to have a place where you can sample a wine flight, even if its a couple bucks overpriced.

Vineyards reflect climate change reality

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Steve Lutz in his Lenne tasting room last October

If you don’t believe in climate change, ask a farmer. Few farmers see the more immediate impact of warming temperatures than winemakers and vineyard managers across the country.

In normally cool-climate Oregon, the vineyards are warming. But just like the different terriors across the 150-mile long valley, the impact varies from vineyard to vineyard. But winemakers seem to agree something is happening.

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Fitzpatrick

“I don’t think it necessarily meaning warming for everyone at every time of the year,” said Alloro Vineyards winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick. “I think what we’re seeing is wide swings in the temperatures and weather during the ripening period, which is really an important period of time.

“So the last couple of years (2016-2017) were fairly warm and fairly early harvest in September. Then in 2018 things were a little bit more typical at harvest. We but had a really dry and really warm summer. We were lucky to get these really cool temperatures, 60s and 70s, through early September for harvesting.

The state’s legislature ordered a climate assessment that concluded with a 160-page document. The report says that even if emissions are reduced, average temperatures will rise 3 to 7 degrees by 2050. That number may or may not seem significant but the state’s leading crop, delicate and thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes, does not do well in intense heat.

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Bailey

“I typically talk about global change instead of global warming,” said Youngberg Hill Winery and Inn owner and winemaker Wayne Bailey. “I think what we’re seeing is a lot more extremes. There is extreme rain in the Midwest, extremes in terms of cold and warm and extremes in terms of hurricanes. It’s all over.

“More specifically to growing, over the last 4-5 years we’ve had consistent warmer temperatures. But I’ve been in agriculture all my life and know weather patterns to in 20-year cycles. I’m here to say in 5-6 years we’re still going to have warmer and cool years. I’m going to suggest there is going to be more extremes instead of less extreme weather events because of global warming.”

Steve Lutz, owner/winemaker at Lenne Estate, agreed its all about the timing of the state’s hotter spells. “We’ve been a really fortunate,” he said. “This year we had a huge cooldown at the end of August and beginning of September.  We had 10 days of no sugar movement in the vineyard at all. My take is we have to be very careful how much fruit we drop (which allows remaining fruit to ripen better).”

Lutz’s point is cutting grapes aggressively, followed by a warmer fall harvest season, could substantially reduce a winery’s ability to reach normal production levels. More heat means more sugar in the grapes which results in wines with a higher alcohol content while the industry is largely moving to lower alcohol wines.

One logical step might be the increased planting of varietals other than Pinot Noir. Tempranillo, gamay, syrah, and even some cabernet has been planted in recent years.

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Bellows

“Don (Hagge) is way ahead of the curve as usual and we’re already making estate tempranillo in the Chehalem Mountains AVA,” said Vidon winemaker David Bellows. Hagge owns the boutigue Vidon winery. “Other people are only going to plan more similar grapes. Tempranillo is a good illustration of how to cope because I can’t think of a more hot plains varietal. It’s ripened here three years in a row and ripened just fine this year.”

All of the winemaker agreed there will be years of bigger wines – Pinot or different varieties. Bellows said the 2018 crop went through higher temperatures than the 2017. “So the 2018 had more sugar than we would want so we worked on more extraction, move body to balance off the alcohol. Those are the kind of things you have to do. We’re going to make a bigger darker wine than last year. We hope more extraction will balance the alcohol.”

So will there be years where Oregon Pinot is closer to the mouth feel of Pinots from California? “There will be years,” Bailey agreed that is possible. “In 2012 and 2014 the wines were bigger, more robust, more red fruit. But consistently I think not for the foreseeable future. We’re not growing on the valley floor where it’s hottest.”

Fitzpatrick  takes a similar view. “To me a great Pinot is a balance between a warm year and much cooler year, concentration density and roundness, very cool delivers aromatic complexity and more expression. To me a great vintage is one where weather conditions are such you get both of those.”

All four winemakers agreed they’ve spent a career watching the weather. With temperatures rising, watching the thermometer is fine but more adjustments in  winemaking will be necessary as well.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature store first appeared in Madison Magazine – a niche publication of the Anderson Herald Bulletin. Contact these wineries through the links embedded to buy their wines.