February 20, 2012

Dinner at Southpark

I had the opportunity a few nights ago to dine at Southpark restaurant in Portland. It's not the newest or flashiest restaurant in town but I love it just the same. I suppose I'm biased because they put my 2009 Vincent Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir on their list last year and did well with it. In truth this was a special place for me long before that, and not just for the crab cakes I seem to order on almost every visit.

This particular evening saw a collision between two of my worlds - my winery and my day job at a certain urban university in the heart of downtown Portland. This occasion was a visit from a new leader at the national organization that's affiliated with our faculty union, of which I'm treasurer. I thought it would be fiscally prudent to bring a bottle of one of my latest releases to share with dinner. Ok, I wanted everyone to try my wine, fine, I admit it. Happily, they loved it and, in all modesty, so did I. My 2010s are really rounding out and I couldn't be happier with them.

Of course, one bottle wasn't enough for the group, and I was asked to select another. Why not keep it in the family? So I ordered a bottle of the 2008 Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley. Astute readers will remember that this wine, the 2004 vintage, struck me at a dinner at Higgins several years back. I'd heard of this John Grochau character. We had mutual friends but I'd never met him. That wine led me to contact him, taste a number of his 2005s then in barrel and write about them on this site. I thought John was doing really interesting work with grapes from the Willamette Valley and beyond, and before I knew it I was helping with harvest. Then he moved into Portland to make wine in the city and I kept helping him, then launched my own label on his bond, then became partners with two other friends in Guild Winemakers. And through it all we became friends.

That's a long way of saying...now you know why I don't write about his wines here anymore. Until now. The server pulled the cork and decanted the '08 GC and it was rocking good from the start. Good enough to tell you why I shouldn't write about it but am anyway. John's been barrel aging his wines longer in recent years, not to give any woodiness to the wine (that happens quickly in barrel aging anyway), but to allow for more evolution in the wine before bottling, more curing to use my own words.

The results are really nice. I love the deep fruitiness of the '08s in general, with good structure and savory qualities perhaps because alcohols were more moderate in this year. This wine has all that, with a scent of Douglas fir like you might find morel hunting in the coastal hills (oh my god, it's almost morel season). Plus there's a lovely mix of fresh fruit, cured meats and other interesting qualities from a bit more barrel aging. Overall, there's lovely balance and depth, richness and restraint, and as I'd hoped, everyone at the table loved it.

There you have it. A lovely evening at Southpark that I had to write about. I hope you'll understand.

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