There is a trend that we are seeing globally, towards wineries upping their culinary game to create food dishes on site to go with their wines. Of course, why wouldn’t they? Wine is better with food and food is better with wine.
We have written in the past about several wineries that have embraced this trend and are now turning out first class, innovative dishes created to pair with their wines. It is a twist on the more common way of choosing a wine to go with the dish.
What we are now seeing are winery-employed chefs tasting through a line-up of wines and then creating dishes specifically made to go with the wine. The first winery we visited that had a dedicated chef and food paired to their wines was St. Francis, in Sonoma County. We love their pairing and it is a must-stop for us every time we are in Sonoma.
Recently we attended a fabulous dinner at Jordan Wines (also Sonoma) where we dined in their winery, literally among the fermenters and the barrels, and enjoyed a bunch of delicious offerings specially created to go with their wines. Jordan has even arranged with a local producer to harvest a special caviar for them, which, to our utter astonishment, goes extremely well with red wine! A special lunch in the dining room of Chateau Pichon Baron is etched into our memories for the exquisite dishes prepared to compliment their wines and the grand opulence of their dining room.
A lunch at the restaurant adjoining the Waterkloof Winery in Stellenbosch showcased impeccable service in a gorgeous modern setting overlooking their vineyards and cuisine matched perfectly to their wines. Also in South Africa is the restaurant at Le Lude called L’Orangerie where we sampled some morsels to go with Le Lude’s incredible sparkling wines. In Australia it is pretty hard to beat the 10 courses served with the best of the d’Arenberg wines in their ultra-cool wine museum/restaurant called the Cube. Or the delicious small plates that accompany the tasting at The Lane in the Adelaide Hills.
Added to that line up of incredible food and wine pairings is the Provisions Tasting at Soter Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This 12-course feast is paired with 6 different Soter wines under the careful guidance of Trade Specialist Michelle Ross who gives background information and explanations as we enjoy the food and the wine. Soter’s tasting room sits atop the hillside that is the Mineral Springs Ranch, a gorgeous 240 acre oak savannah that has 40 acres under vine.
This is a stunning setting that has a beautiful view of not just their vineyards but a vista of most of the Willamette Valley. The beautiful barn-like structure that houses the tasting/dining room is warm and comfortable. Plenty of glass, as you would expect given the views, but also lots of stone and rich wood textures keep the interior cozy. The large river rock fireplace at one end keeps everyone warm.
Our food was prepared by Soter’s Chef, Alex Daley. Alex is a native of Memphis Tennessee and a graduate from Vermont’s prestigious New England Culinary Institute. He has cooked at numerous great restaurants in Spain, Italy, and across the United States. The source for most of the ingredients was right there on the surrounding, biodynamically farmed Mineral Springs Ranch. We have discussed how biodynamics makes great wine and here we observed firsthand how this debated agricultural practice also produces great food. Importantly, biodynamic farms are sustainable and great respect is paid to the ground and the crops animal life on it. Herbs and vegetables grown just feet from where we were sitting and cooked in the open kitchen behind us: it does not get much fresher than that!
Chef Daley dazzled us with dishes that showed terrific inventiveness. The spigarello (a leafy flower related to the broccoli plant) with tomato conserva (tomatoes and garlic slow roasted for six hours before we arrived) was nestled between olives and bottarga (salad with cured fish roe) and a crispy quinoa cracker was a wonderful medley of flavours that was the perfect accompaniment for Mineral Springs Brut Rosé . But for the olives, we did not know the rest of the ingredients even existed! The chicken liver toast with chanterelle, ground cherry and mustard was simplicity and elegance and worked exceptionally well with the purity of the flavours of Soter’s Pinot Noirs. We finished with four different dessert offerings that clearly showed Chef’s past as a pastry chef. Fresh local ingredients, innovatively combined to reflect and enhance that various qualities of the different Sparkling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in a gorgeous, relaxed setting over two and a half hours; life really does not get much better than that.
The Provisions Tasting is by appointment only. We suggest booking well in advance to avoid disappointment. US$100 per person for 12 courses paired with six wines. An outstanding way to enjoy Soter’s delicious wines and Chef Daley’s culinary genius.
2017 North Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir
Cranberry and watermelon notes infuse this delightfully refreshing rose. The acid is bright and accents the mineral notes. On the finish we pick up wet stone and slightly earthy tones which serve as a nice counterbalance to the berry notes.
Very Good+ (USD$28 at tasting room)
2014 Soter Mineral Springs Brut Rosé
A blend of 91% Pinot Noir and 9% Chardonnay, this wine is in our books among the top sparkling wines made in the new world. Beautiful strawberry fruit is the primary driver and gains added complexity from the hints of brioche. Medium body, this wine has a beautiful texture and a generous mouthfeel that takes definition and form from the lively acidity. Right in that place where it works equally well as an aperitif or with food.
Excellent (USD$65 at tasting room)
2015 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
North Valley is the winery’s “négociant” line where grapes are sourced from other top quality Oregon vineyards. The Reserve is made from selected barrels that reflect the best of the vintage. Medium red in colour with a medium/light body this shows primary fruit flavours of raspberry and dark cherry. Elegance rather than power is the focus here.
Very Good+ (USD$60 at tasting room)
2016 North Valley Chardonnay
In this vintage just 30% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation and only 10% of the barrels were new oak. Bright and refreshing, this mid-weight wine shows good texture and well-judged acidity. Pear flavours dominate and are joined by hints of bruised apple and slight citrus tones on the finish.
Very Good+/Excellent (USD$30 at tasting room-very good value for this quality level)
2016 Soter Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir
Coming from the estates bio-dynamically farmed vineyard, this wine is a show-stopper. Intense dark cherry flavours a carried on a medium + body. Accents of baking spices and hints of cracked pepper make for complexity that will only increase with a bit more time in the cellar. The mouthfeel is very seductive and the finish goes on and on. Very sophisticated.
Excellent+ (USD $75 at tasting room)
2015 Soter Mineral Springs White Label Pinot Noir
Black cherry flavours combine with spicy notes and forest scents to create good complexity. Perhaps a bit more restrained than the Mineral Springs Ranch, this has the structure and the fruit to go the long haul.
Excellent (USD$100 at tasting room)
10880 NE Mineral Springs Rd, Carlton, OR