Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Patricia Green Cellars

If you heard the following: “Anden, Balcombe, Bonshaw, Etzel, Windlea” would you be:

1. Saying: “Roger…Wilco, over and out” and preparing for the carpet bombing of an enemy target?
2. Calling for a linebacker blitz audible out of a 3-4 package and man-to-man coverage on the wide-outs?
3. At a new age baby shower helping to pick out names for a boy/girl?

Actually if you were around when I did repeat the above you would be grabbing bottles of single vineyard Pinot Noir wines produced by Patricia Green Cellars.

Patricia Green & Me +some signed Magnums

Patricia Green is a self taught winemaker who through pluck, tenacity and extreme passion has risen to the top echelon of premier Pinot Noir producers in the Willamette Valley. I had come across a great article about Patty and wanted to share it.

The following is an excerpt of an article written by: Christina Kelly, Avalon Editor/Writer
Everything about Patty Green defies appearance.
The 53-year-old winemaker didn't follow the usual path to wine country. In fact, her arrival followed a long history of working in non-traditional professions, including tree planting, sailboat crewing, work in construction and geophysical surveying. (Norm's note: I even heard tales of her having been a mocassin maker, a silver jewelry artisan and even having boasted of living in a cave in the SW at one time. None of this is verifiable and it may have been my overactive imagination and or too much of her wine that planted this in my memory).
At 5-feet tall, she doesn't look like a winemaker, although up close, her small frame contradicts a physical and inner strength often overshadowed by a beaming smile.
With nearly 17 years of winemaking experience, Green finally opened her own winery, Patricia Green Cellars, in the fall of 2000. This also didn't happen the way most transactions occur in the purchase of a winery. In fact, Oregon's wine industry almost lost Patty Green that year.
How it Began
In 1986, Green began working at Hillcrest Vineyards in Southern Oregon at the request of a friend. With an innate sense of how things work and a mechanical aptitude, Green performed a number of jobs at the winery. When the 1987 harvest came in, she made wine and in 1988, became the official winemaker.
She left Hillcrest in 1989 and took work in the construction industry. However, she continued to keep one foot in the wine industry, working the harvest for Adelsheim in 1990-91. For the following two years, Green made wine for La Garza Winery in Southern Oregon.
Torii Mor hired Green in 1993, where she worked for the next seven years. It was during this time that Green developed a loyal staff that stayed with her after she left Torii Mor. The parting was not easy.
Green was uncertain what she would do next. She didn't think it would be in the wine industry.
"I was ready to change my life," Green recalled. "I was burned out, fed up and tired with the wine business. I don't think people understand how hard this work can be."
Making wine for other people was sometimes frustrating, especially if winery owners and the winemaker didn't always see eye to eye.
Although Green was ready to leave the wine industry, it was not ready to let her go. She left Torii Mor in 2000 without knowing where the future would lead her. It was deja vue with Green - following instincts when the path before her was as clear as a desert sand storm.
In the past, Green always landed on her feet, happy to pursue another adventure in her life. This time, however, grape growers and winemakers urge her to stay in the industry and produce wine.
Vineyard owners told Green they wanted to sell their fruit to her. She explained she had nothing - no winery, no equipment, no staff. But Green promised to consider their offers if something fell into her lap.
"A short time later, I walked into Panther Creek Cellars and there were a number of (Willamette Valley) winemakers doing a tasting," Green recalled. "As I walked over to their table, they all applauded me.
"It was the spurring on from people in the wine industry that kept me here," she added. "I am very thankful to those people in the Oregon wine industry."
Winemaker Ken Wright said he doesn't believe Green would have left the industry.
"Her internal compass would have brought her back," Wright said. "She so obviously loves what she is doing and she wears that enjoyment. She loves it right down to her soul."
On March 1, 2000, about two weeks after she left the wine industry, Jim Anderson, who worked at Torii Mor with Green, and left at the same time, received a call from Tom and Wendy Kreutner, owners of Autumn Wind Vineyards. The couple offered to sell their winery. Green and Anderson had a friend who wanted to be a silent partner in an Oregon winery so all parties began discussions.
"By July 21, we closed the deal and looked forward to harvest," Green said. "It was pretty fateful alright."
The estate has 26 acres, although Green and Anderson farm 60 acres of property for grapes. Green lives at the estate with four cats - they take care of the house and farm just fine when their owner is on the road.
Were it not for the loyalty of her friends and employees - Anderson (her business partner and cellarmaster), Jose Garcia (her vineyard manager who worked with her at Torii Mor) several vineyard workers who have been with her for years and others who helped out when it was needed, Green said the winery would only be a dream, not a reality.
"I think when you go to a winery, there is a feeling about it, an ambience," Green said. "We are a cohesive bunch. We are a loyal group and I think it shows.
"I don't do all of this by myself - it's physically impossible to do it all. If you take care of the people around you, you will get rewarded."

Oregon (The Willamette Valley) has definitely been discovered in regard to the Pinot Noir we produce here. The industry has just barely transitioned into the second generation of most family wineries and vineyard owners and managers are still trying to figure out what grows where. The distinct soil types and different Pinot Noir clone varieties will keep this area playing hop scotch with their vineyards for more than my life time. Pinot Noir is a grape that reflects not only where it is grown but also the personality of the winemaker.

I tasted the 2007 lineup at Patricia Green Cellars on the pre-Thanksgiving release weekend. Patty poured 12 + wines and all had a distinct personality

Patty Green's wines have her personality. The wines are approachable young, but they have the ability to age and develop complexity over time. Earth, fruit, a bit of funk and a whole lot of fun is how I would describe these wines.

I swung over to Penner-Ash after a 2 hours stop at PGC. Lynn Penner-Ash is a classically trained winemaker and she and has a gorgeous winery within eye sight of PGC. Lynn makes roughly the same amount of wine as Patty (8,000 cases), but the styles are dramatically different. Lynn has a strong science background and an incredible palate. She has a much more cerebral approach to her wines vs. the intuitive approach that Patty projects. I urge anyone who thinks that all Pinot Noir tastes the same to do a side by side of these two great producers. Maybe I will even see some of you next year (the weekend before Thanksgiving).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Black Bean Chili with Avacado Relish

The weather is starting to turn a bit here in Portland, Oregon. For all the press we get about how much it rains here, this year has been unseasonably dry and temperate (global warming?).
It seems like as the weather turns cold I start to crave soups, braised dishes and chili.
As good as authentic Texas Chili is (meat only), I do like to play with this dish. Since I grew up in Idaho I came to know chili from what came in a can (with beans). My father was a manager for a family owned cannery and the company (American Fine Foods) canned chili, beef stew,pork & beans, corn, and a slew of beans (red, kidney, garbanzo, pinto,etc.). Growing up I even worked on the cannery floor one summer. The cannery had been in operation since the early 1900's and much of the equipment was antique. I remember pushing rolling carts filled with neat stacks of canned product into pressure cookers that were tall enough to stand in. The work environment was loud, hot, humid and physically demanding. While images of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" might come to mind, the people we worked with were a pretty happy bunch. Many of the line workers and foremen had worked for decades doing the same job. This is the kind of place where they would refer to someone as "the new guy" (this "guy" had actually been at the plant for 8 years).
The thing I remember though is on the days that we made chili we had USDA inspectors on the line to oversee the meat we were using and to watch the process. Imagine scaling up a chili recipe for a batch of 500 gallons. Forget teaspoons and ounces, we were adding jalapenos by the gallon and chili powder by the 50 lb. sack. As much chili as we made you would think that the last thing I would want to eat when I got home was chili, but I can vividly remember actually craving chili at the end of the day.
My chili recipe is a bit more exotic than the one I grew up on, but the taste still takes me back to my home and the summer I worked on the canning line.

Black Bean Chili

8 Chicken thighs -boned and skinned

Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 Tbsp. Cumin

2 Onions-chopped
8 Garlic Cloves-finely minced
2 Chipolte Peppers
1 Jalapeno-minced
1 Canned Tomatoes-28oz.
1 Cup Corn
3 Cans Black Beans
2 Cups Chicken Broth
Salt & Pepper

Cut the chicken into 1" pieces and then add to a Dutch Oven and sear until slightly browned, add the ingredients in the above order-add the seasoning to the meat before you add the garlic and onions. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.

Avacado Relish
1 Avacado-finely chopped
1 Handful cherry tomatoes-chopped
1/4 Red Onion-finely chopped
1 Handful Cilantro-finely chopped
1/2 Jalapeno-finely chopped
1 Lime-Juiced

Toss all the ingredients together in a small bowl. I like this to be a bit looser than my guacamole so I use less ripe avacados and then fold rather then mash the ingredients together.

Serve up the chili in a warmed bowl, top with the avacado relish and some grated cheddar cheese. With all the spice in this dish a wine would be overwhelmed. I served this with a Oatis Oatmeal Stout from Ninkasi Brewing
. The Stout was rich with a hint of bitterness from the hops and at 7.5% alcohol it more than held its own with my Black Bean Chili.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chianti Classico

I was invited to a wine tasting on Monday night and the wines we tasted that evening were 2004 and 2005 Chianti Classico wines. Chianti is a classic food wine and my only lament for the evening was that the wines were tasted in one sitting against each other and without food. These wines age well and you can see that the price for wine you can cellar for 10+ years is very affordable.
Click on the photo to see my detailed notes of the evening-Cheers!

Tasting Notes

Sausage, Beans & Escarole

It has been forever since my last post. It isn’t that I haven’t been eating and drinking (trust me), it is just that I haven’t been writing about it.
Tonight I am dusting off one of my standby recipes that has been in my permanent rotation for the past 20+ years. The dish I simply call “Sausage, Beans & Escarole” is Italian in origin. I used to have a faded clipping from Playboy Magazine (where this recipe came from….I read Playboy for the recipes, yeah thats it). The clipping is no more but the recipe has taken on a life of its own and even my son who despises any vegetable that is not Broccoli will actually ask for seconds.

Sausage, Beans & Escarole
2/3 lb. Italian Sausage (without casing)
5 Garlic Cloves-fine dice
1 Jalapeno Pepper-minced
1 Head of Escarole-very coarsely chopped
2 Cans Cannelli Beans
1/2 cup White Wine
3 cups Chicken Broth

In a Dutch oven sear the Italian sausage under it browns a bit and then add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and heat to a boil then add the roughly chopped Escarole, Beans, and Chicken Broth. Simmer the mixture with the lid of the Dutch Oven just barely cracked.

This is a great dish to make when you go skiing or have just spent a day outside in the cold. It is warm with a touch of spice and some garlic bread and a rustic red wine go well with this-Buon appetito

Italian Sausage, Cannelli Beans & Escarole