Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Gala and World Diabetes Month celebration promotes awareness and raises funds for vital diabetes clinical care programs and groundbreaking research initiatives at Joslin Diabetes Center. This fabulous black-tie event, established in 1999, benefits Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Fund, which supports the Center’s greatest needs in research, education and clinical care. Joslin Diabetes Center is pleased to recognize Team Joslin Boston Marathon Runners as 2013 High Hopes Gala Honorees for their outstanding passion and commitment to Joslin’s mission.

The evening will include a lively cocktail reception, exciting silent and live auction, a chance to win a trip for two to Super Bowl XLVIII, and live entertainment by one of the region’s top party bands, K2, who will be performing a mix of dance favorites from Sinatra to Black Eyed Peas.

An astounding 347 million people worldwide have diabetes and that number is increasing in alarming, epidemic proportions. Joslin is working toward a cure, and a world without diabetes and its complications.

When: Saturday, November 23, from 6p.m.–Midnight
Where:: The Westin Copley Place 10 Huntington Avenue, Boston

For information on the High Hopes Gala or to purchase tickets: Email: or call them at 617-309-2512

2) Taste of the Nation Boston, the annual tasting event hosted by Share Our Strength to benefit its No Kid Hungry campaign initiative, has created a "Food Fight" event series that pits two chefs against each other to battle it out for the best dish under the guidelines of a fun and creative theme leading up to the major event on April 29, 2014.

On Tuesday, November 12th, the second "Food Fight" will take place between Tremont 647 and Belly Wine Bar at Lincoln Tavern in South Boston. For $20, attendees can sample complimentary pizza and bites from Lincoln, each of the chefs' dishes (theme this event is New England fare), two sponsored cocktails courtesy of KEEL Vodka, and vote for the winning dish. Attendees will also receive special discount code to purchase Taste of the Nation Boston tickets.

In September, the inaugural "Food Fight" between Hungry Mother and West Bridge catered to a sold out crowd of over 75 who crowned the former's Chef Barry Maiden the winner by only a few votes. The “Food Fight” event series will continue through Spring 2014 and spotlight Myers + Chang vs. Lincoln Tavern (1/14, Southern Comfort Food) and Coppa vs. a yet to be determined opponent (3/11, Spice Trade Route: Africa to Europe). Lincoln has generously donated their event space and food to these four "Food Fights," and a portion of ticket proceeds directly benefit Taste of the Nation and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 12th, 7-9pm 
WHERE: Lincoln Tavern, 425 W Broadway, South Boston

About Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign: No child should grow up hungry in America, but one in five children struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals and teaches low-income families to cook healthy, affordable meals through Cooking Matters. This work is accomplished through the No Kid Hungry network, made up of private citizens, public officials, nonprofits, business leaders and others providing innovative hunger solutions in their communities.

3) The Beehive will be hosting its annual Thanksgiving Day dinner, featuring a traditional a la carte Thanksgiving menu on Thursday, November 28. The Beehive will host exquisite live jazz performances from Maxim Lubarsky, Jamie Stewardson and Tammy Scheffer all day long.


Parsnip Soup with Spicy Pumpkin Seed Pesto 11
Kale, White Bean & Sausage Soup 11
Roasted Beet Terrine, Fromage Blanc, Candied Walnuts 12
Tuna Tartare, Soy, Seaweed, Flying Fish Roe 17
Baby Back Spare Ribs 13
Foie Gras Terrine, Artichokes, Duck Confit, Armagnac Plums 14
Baked Crab Cake, Celery Root Slaw, Jalapeños Aioli 14
Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette 11
Simple Salad with Red Wine Dressing 10

Roast Organic Turkey 32 (Wild Mushroom & Truffle Stuffing, Country Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprout, Chestnut & Pea Salad, Fresh Cranberry Sauce, Herbed Gravy)
Roast New York Strip* 38 (Country Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprout, Chestnut & Pea Salad, Peppercorn Jus)
Lobster Braised Halibut* 36 (Root Vegetable Medley & Lobster Broth)
Wild Alaskan Salmon* 32 (Lentils, Glazed Carrots, Roasted Beets, Sesame-Carrot Sauce)
Grass Fed Rack of Lamb* 42 (Country Mashed Potatoes, Root Vegetable Medley, Mustard Shallot Sauce)
Spinach, Spaghetti Squash & Tomato Lasagna 27
Vegetarian Thanksgiving 27 (Wild Mushroom & Truffle Stuffing, Country Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprout & Pea Salad, Root Vegetable Medley, Glazed Carrots, Roasted Beets, Fresh Cranberry Sauce)

Kid’s Turkey Dinner 18
Pasta with Butter & Parmesan 10
Crispy Chicken Dinosaurs with Frites 10

Menu Subject to change

Hours of Operation on Thanksgiving Day, November 28: 11am-2am
Traditional Menu: 11am-12am. Leftovers menu: 10pm-12am.
Performers: 11am-2:30pm Maxim Lubarsky; 3pm-7:30pm Jamie Stewardson; 8pm-12am Tammy Scheffer

Cost: À la carte pricing for dinner, no cover charge for entry.
Reservations recommended by calling 617-423-0069 or visiting

4) The 2nd Annual Boston Taste of the NFL and Kick Hunger Challenge will take place on Wednesday, November 13, from 6pm-9pm at Davio’s Boston. Join TNFL Chef representing the New England Patriots and owner of Davio’s, Steve DiFillippo, along with special celebrity guests for an unforgettable night that will benefit The Greater Boston Food Bank. This special evening will feature wines from E&J Gallo Wineries, food tasting of signature Davio’s dishes such as the kobe meatballs and pesto gnocchi and each guest will receive DiFillippo’s new book, “It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business & in Life, the Davio’s Way,” his new fast-paced and story-driven memoir (retail $26.95).

The event will take place at The Atrium of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse located in Boston’s Back Bay Reservations are required for this event by visiting:

COST: $50 per person. Price includes entrance to the event, as well as a signed copy of It’s All About the Guest.

5) As the leaves have changed, so has the seasonally-driven menu at Kendall Square's restaurant, Belly. The new offerings include:

Arm + A Leg ($62 per person for groups of 4-12 people; 48-hours’ notice required) 
A Four-Course Whole Duck Feast: Courses include Salad Lyonnaise (tea-smoked duck bacon, frisee, hazelnut vin, poached duck egg), Blanquette of Duck Offal (buccatini, pecorino, sherry, mushrooms), Whole Roast Stuffed Duck (sourdough, apples, chestnuts, lentils + sautéed Brussels), Duck Fat Popover (ginger ice-cream, candied orange).

S’mores (Free on Halloween with food or beverage purchase; beginning November 1st S’mores are $4/ person)
Beginning on Halloween night, Belly takes to the patio to tend an open-top fireplace with a dual purpose: fighting low temperatures and treating guests to free s’mores! The home-style treats are made with house-made graham crackers + marshmallows, along with various chocolate options to meet diners’ chocolaty desires.

Fondue ($14 per person for groups of 2-6 people; 24 hours’ notice required)
Beginning on Friday, November 1, Belly says arrivederci to their Fried Chicken + Orange Wine and welcomes warm fondue back to the Square for fall. Fromage aficionados to the core, the Belly team looks for any excuse to dip, smear + dunk carbs, fruit + veggies into melty, gooey cheese (a decadent Alpine cheese combo of Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette, Emmentaler + Gruyere, at that!). Alpine wine pairings are available for purchase. Online reservations can be made here:

6) On Tuesday, Novermber 12, at 7pm, at  L’Espalier, Fromager and Mâitre d’ Louis Risoli collaborates with Pastry Chef & Apiarist Jared Bachelor and Wine Director & Sommelier Lauren Collins to bring you the latest Cheese Tuesday from L’Espalier. Jared Bachelor is not only the Head Pastry Chef of L’Espalier but is also a seasoned apiarist. With a vast knowledge on honey, Jared tends to primarily Italian honeybees in the backyard of his New Hampshire home.

Once a month, Louis Risoli hosts the wildly popular Cheese Tuesday at L’Espalier, providing easy commentary, while sommelier Lauren Collins describes the wine. Cheese Tuesday combines wine and cheese in a casual night featuring a three course dinner with paired wines, followed by a grand cheese tasting and musical entertainment. Louis Risoli concludes the evening with an original, cheese inspired sing-a-long to the tune of a pop culture song. One of his renditions being: Don’t Stop Bleu Cheesin’ to the tune of Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. “Cheese & Honey” will guide guests through a balancing act as Louis Risoli and Jared Bachelor demonstrate how different types of honey can enhance the mildest cheeses and even tame the wildest ones. Working side by side, Louis and Jared have collaborated to pair six combinations of local honeys and cheeses to entice even the most discerning guest. WHEN: Tuesday, November 12 7:00 p.m. WHERE: L’Espalier 775 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02199 (617) 262-3023

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Creative Doughnuts from jm Curley

Today is "Buy a Doughnut Day", another one of those food days with an obscure origin. Coincidentally, I had a donut article set to post so it is especially fitting today.

Forget Dunkin' Donuts, Honey Dew Donuts and other chain donut shops. They can't compete in the slightest with the small, independent donut shops that produce such fresh and compelling donuts. Just bite into a donut, and you should be able to determine whether it is from a big chain or a small, artisan shop. An excellent donut can be so satisfying.

After the recent Rib Fest, I made a stop at a donut pop-up, a one-day special event put on by the good people of jm Curley, including Chris Bauers, a chef, and Daren Swisher, a bartender. For the day, they took over Voltage Coffee, in Kendall Square, creating five different donuts ($3/each): Grapefruit, lemon, tarragon; Coconut palm sugar glazed; Apple cider bacon; Mai Tai; and Mexican hot chocolate. They even prepared some donut holes.

Above are the Coconut palm sugar glazed & Apple cider bacon donuts. I liked the texture of the donuts and the sugar glazed donuts had a pleasant sweet, and sticky, taste. They were even better after I warmed them up a bit. The bacon donuts were not as aesthetically pleasing, though they too had a nice flavor, apple and spice, though not all of the donuts had a similar amount of bacon. It might have been better if the glaze was more evenly spread, which would have allowed for a more uniform amount of bacon too. These too tasted even better after being warmed.

Above are the Mai Tai and Mexican hot chocolate donuts. (I didn't try the Grapefruit, lemon, tarragon.) I loved the addition of the little paper umbrellas to the Mai Tai donuts, and they might have actually been my favorite donut, with a nice tropical flavor and a lighter texture to the donut. The frosting was also more uniform. The Mexican chocolate donut was also quite good, with a rich, chocolaty taste enhanced by a touch of spice.

While I was at the popup, there was a long line waiting to get donuts and coffee. jm Curley ran a popular event, and they did a good job on the donuts. I suspect that the donuts will even get better at future events, which I hope they hold.

Support your local, independent donut shops, those creating the most flavorful and creative donuts.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Del Rio Vineyards: From Pears to Grapes, via the Loire

A journey from the Loire Valley to Southern Oregon....

After previously posting about the Ten Things You Should Know About Southern Oregon, I want to get into some specifics, to discuss some of the individual wineries I visited there on my media trip. Our first winery visit was to Del Rio Vineyards & Winery, one of the largest wineries of Southern Oregon, though they actually only produce about 20,000 cases, which wouldn't make them large by any means in many other regions. It is also a winery set within a historical area, one important to the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon.

The Del Rio tasting room occupies an old building which once was the Rock Point Stage Hotel, founded in 1865. In addition, one of the first telegraph stations in the region was also established here back in 1853. These are important historical matters, some of the first in the Rogue Valley. Much of the building has been restored to its original state and on the walls of the tasting room you can find numerous old photographs, depicting this historical period. Yet this is not the only historic building on the premises.

The winery itself is located inside the former Del Rio Orchard packing house. In 1907, the hotel and lands were sold and about 800 acres were transformed into fruit and nut orchards. Probably the most important fruit were pears, which saw a huge surge in the 1920s, the "pear boom." Though apples had been previously popular, nearly all of them were uprooted and replaced by pears, which then became the most popular fruit in the Rogue Valley. Pears are still important in the region, though not to the same degree as they once were almost a hundred years ago.

In 1997, the property was purchased by Lee and Margaret Traynham, who decided they wanted to plant vineyards so they removed all of the pear orchards to make way for the grapes. In 1999, they took on Rob Wallace as a partner, as he had plenty of prior farming experience, though mostly in California. Initially, they sold their grapes to other wineries but, in 2004, they constructed their own winery though still currently sell about 5% of their grapes, such as Sangiovese grapes to A to Z Wineworks.

They currently grow about 15 different grapes, from Pinot Noir to Viognier, from Malbec to Chardonnay. Under two labels, they produce around 20,000 cases annually, with roughly 70% under the Del Rio label. Their other label is Rock Point, and constitutes their less expensive, more value based wines. We did not taste any wines from that label but I am glad to see that they are producing some wines under $15, something I believe is needed more from Oregon.

At the gates of Del Rio Vineyards & Winery, you'll be initially greeted by Barry the Barrel Man, a jovial sort who drinks right out of the bottle. He is not a guard, merely a symbol of the joys of wine.

Jean-Michel Jussiaume, the wine maker at Del Rio, is from the Loire Valley in France and his family produces Muscadet, providing Jean-Michel with an early interest in wine. He first came to the U.S. in 2001 as a student but returned to France in 2002. Three years later, he returned to the U.S., spending some time working with Dr. Konstantin Frank winery in the Finger Lakes. In 2008, he began working for Del Rio Vineyards, bringing his youth, experience and passion to the Southern Oregon wine industry.

He believes that his greatest challenge is to maintain the quality of the wine, as well as its more artisan style, despite the winery's rapid expansion. For Jean-Michel, he finds it much easier to produce white wines as that is where he possesses more experience. During his time at Del Rio, he believes that the quality of his white wines has continued to increase, while the red wines have had their ups and down as he has grown in his knowledge and experience. Each year, he adapts to the grapes, especially because of the vintage variation in Oregon wines.

This year's harvest began 11 days earlier than last year as it was a warm year, with the grapes ripening earlier than before. The Viognier had already been picked prior to our arrival, which is unusual, though there were still plenty of other grapes on the vinse that they had yet to harvest. Over the years, they have moved toward machine harvesting and this will be the first harvest that is 100% machine harvested, which is unique as most Oregon vineyards are hand harvested. Jean-Michel believes that machine harvesting is easier and more efficient, allowing them to get their grapes from harvest to the fermenter in about fifteen minutes. The winery has future plans to plant more vines, though not any other varietals.

Terroir is important to Jean-Michel and he believes that the Rogue Valley is an excellent place for grape growing. However, he believes it is a challenge for all of Southern Oregon to find an identity, to determine which grapes grow best in the area. The Willamette has its Pinot Noir but Southern Oregon does not possess such a singular identity yet. Probably because of the fame of the Willamette, the market clamors for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but that does not mean those grapes are the best for the Southern Oregon region. Though the wineries of Southern Oregon are cooperative with each other, there is really no industry group which works together on larger community issues, such as trying to establish a more singular identity. Maybe that will change with time.

On the left is Rob Wallace, one of the owners, who stopped by briefly as Jean-Michel gave us a tour of the winery. There are about 400 barrels in their cellar, and that amount is growing, and not all of the barrels are oak. They use some acacia barrels, mainly for their Viognier, which is a newer practice in the U.S., though it has a longer history in Europe, especially for white wines. It helps to avoid oakiness in white wines, though providing some floral elements and a richer mouthfeel.

Besides barrels, Del Rio produces wine in kegs, primarily to sell to restaurants, which is popular in Oregon, and starting to grow in popularity elsewhere too. Restaurants, which can sell wine on tap, benefit in numerous ways, from saving on costs to minimizing oxidation issues. In Boston, I recently visited a new restaurant, Beat Hotel, which serves over 20 wines on tap, though Del Rio wines are not yet available in Massachusetts. Interestingly, Del Rio exports about 5000 cases to China, about 25% of their production.

I was most impressed with Del Rio's white wines, which generally showed a nice depth of flavor, plenty of complexity and which were simply delicious. The 2012 Chardonnay ($20) spends about 8 month on the lees and is 80% barrel aged, 10% new. It undergoes partial malolactic fermentation, has an alcohol content of 12.8% and only 916 cases were made. It is fresh, crisp and dry, with delightful fruit flavors of green apple and pear, and subtle mineral notes. The 2011 Viognier ($20) spends about 6 month on the lees, has an alcohol content of 12.6% and only 224 cases were made. From its alluring aromatic smell, this wine also presents as fresh, crisp and dry. Lemon and pear flavors accompany floral and herbal notes, ending very satisfyingly. The 2012 Pinot Gris ($16) spent about 9 months in neutral oak, under went 10% malolactic, has an alcohol content of 13.5% and only 1040 cases were made. Aromatic and fruity, there was a melange of flavors including pear, lychee and apple. It possessed a round mouth feel, with mineral notes and a pleasing finish. I would recommend all three of these wines.

Of their red wines, I had two favorites. The 2010 Pinot Noir ($28) was aged for 10 months in French oak, 25% new, has an alcohol content of 13.5% and 1180 cases were produced. It has a light red color with red fruits and a bit of spice on the nose. On the palate, there is a pleasing mix of juicy red and black fruits, with spicy notes, hints of herbs and a touch of earthiness. Nice complexity, a pleasing taste and a lengthy, satisfying finish. The 2011 Syrah ($35) was aged for 13 months in French and American oak, 10% new, has an alcohol content of 13.9% and 579 cases were produced. This is a wine that screams out for lamb or beef. It is dark and intense, with concentrated black fruit flavors, peppery spice,and touches of herb. The tannins are moderate, there is nice acidity, and it possesses a lingering finish. A complex and appealing wine, this is worth the price.

I catch a glimpse into the future of Southern Oregon wine at Del Rio. I see youth and passion, a willingness to experiment. I see a concern for terroir, a concern for the identity of the region. And I tasted delicious wines, especially their whites, showing that all of Oregon is not just about Pinot Noir. Kudos and best wishes to Jean-Michel.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rant: You're Gay? No Tip For You.

Imagine this: You're a server and provide excellent service to a couple that dines at the restaurant. You would rightfully expect a tip, compensation for the good work that you did. However, that couple refuses to leave you a gratuity and it has nothing to do with the service. It is because they believe you are gay. What?? Who the hell would do something as stupid and bigoted as that?

Sadly, this actually happened recently at a Carrabba's Italian Grill in Kansas. An alleged Christian couple left their server a nasty and bigoted note instead of a tip. Interestingly, they initially stated the the service had been excellent. So they really had no valid reason not to leave a gratuity. The note allegedly stated: "That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD" as well as "“We hope you will see the tip your fag choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly." WTF??

First, how the hell did you know he was gay? Or did you merely speculate? It sounds like you believe in stereotypes and make assumptions based on those prejudices. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Second, it was ok for a gay server to wait on you and tend to your needs, but it wasn't ok for you to compensate him for his excellent service? How hypocritical of you. How would you like to work for someone but when you went to collect payment, they told you they couldn't, in good conscience, give money to bigots? I doubt you would be happy, and would fight to get paid. You even admitted his service was excellent so you had no valid reason not to tip.

Third, where is your Christian love? All I see here is Christian hate. I know you do not represent all, or even the majority of Christians. I am absolutely confident that Jesus would have tipped his server, whether he was gay or not. Jesus would not have discriminated against his server. You might disagree with me, but you won't convince me that I am wrong.

Fourth, unfortunately, you are not the only bigots out there to stiff a server. For example, others have stiffed servers for the color of their skin. All of you hateful people need to stay home and eat there, and don't bother to patronize restaurants. Your money is not needed. Your hate is not needed. Your prejudice and bigotry is not needed. Stay home!

Fifth, servers work very hard and they rely on tips. If they provide good service, then they deserve to receive a commensurate gratuity. It doesn't matter the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, the earring in their nose, or whatever other inconsequential matter is involved. Did they do their job properly? That is all that matters.

Sixth, your note actually had the opposite effect than intended. Because of so many good and loving people, your server garnered many of generous tips from customers who oppose your brand of hate. That server has become even more popular because of your detestable actions. And if you ever dare to return to that restaurant, I bet your hate won't be tolerated.

Stop the hate and bigotry to servers. Stop the hate and bigotry to everyone. Just stop it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Authors, Alcohol & Accolades: Volume 9

"Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read."
--Francis Bacon

I have returned with another volume in my fun series: Authors, Alcohol & Accolades. Please check Volume 1 for links to all of the prior installments. Each installment showcases some of my favorite authors, and I have returned to highlight more, and to delve into their drinks of choice. I have found this to provide a fascinating glimpse into the life of the writers I enjoy and hope you like the interviews as well. This edition will also be a little different as I will be providing some updates on past guests of this series

You can look forward to further volumes in this series too, and any authors who are interested in participating in future volumes can contact me.

Brian McClellan (Twitter: @BrianTMcClellan)
Brian has written one of my fantasy novels of 2013, Promise of Blood, the first book in the Powder Mage trilogy. He envisions a fantasy world where gunpowder fits into its own unique form of magic, making for a cool idea. This fits into the subgenre of "flintlock fantasy." The book has intriguing characters (including a Master Chef), and the intricate plot ranges from a military coup to ancient legends coming to life. It is fast paced, thought provoking and just a damn good read. Brian has also penned to two short stories set in the same universe, The Girl of Hrusch Avenue and Hope's End, and both are worthy additions. The next novel in the series, The Crimson Campaign, is due out in February 2014 but we can likely expect more short stories whole we wait. This is a must read for all fantasy lovers and receives my highest recommendation.

Brian's Preferences: "I've never really been a drinker. Partly by upbringing, partly by personal taste, alcohol just hasn't ever appealed much to me. I do, however, have a weakness for pop. The very best is a strong ginger ale, like Fever Tree. I like it to have a bit of a kick—to feel some burn in my sinuses and the back of my throat. Apple Beer is another pop with a bit of a punch, but you can't find it readily in the eastern US. A good Italian soda is pretty easy to get your hands on, though, as most of the Italian restaurants serve it (and Cleveland has a lot of Italian restaurants). Since most of my friends do drink, I'll often find myself at a pub or bar and unfortunately most of those don't bother with anything cool and non-alcoholic. My best bet in those cases is a specialty root beer which, depending on the brand, can taste just as good as anything else."

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
--Ray Bradbury

Updates On Prior Authors: Since the first installment of this series back in December 2011, many of the previous participating authors have published additional books and novels. I have read and enjoyed a number of these new books so wanted to update my readers about what these authors have been doing since their prior contribution to this series. In this Update, I'll mention four authors from prior installments of this series and in future installments, I will update other authors too.

Brett Talley (from Volume 1): Brett impressed me with his first Lovecraftian novel, That Which Should Not Be, and has since crafted a science fiction horror novel, The Void, which deals with dreams and space travel. It too touches upon Lovecraftian themes and will be sure to disturb you, in the best way possible. Most recently, he contributed to Limbus, Inc., a shared world anthology about a mysterious company offering jobs specifically fit to each person. Those jobs are never quite what they seem at first, which sets up the conflict. The stories range in genre and each will intrigue and entertain readers.

Mark Lawrence (from Volume 2): I lauded the debut in Prince of Thorns, and Mark has now completed the trilogy with King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns. The tale of Jorg is gritty and dark, with wicked humor and intriguing twists. The new volumes live up to the promise of the first, and provide a fitting, and bloody, end to the tale. This is not a trilogy for everyone, but those who enjoy a bit of a darker fantasy will be well rewarded. A highly recommended trilogy. And we can look forward to more books in the Broken Empire setting, with the Prince of Fools, due out in June 2014. I can't wait to see where Mark takes the story this time.

Brad Beaulieu (from Volume 2): I also raved about Brad's debut fantasy novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, the first book in the The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. He too has finished his trilogy with The Straits of Galahesh and The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. This is a fantasy world that is rich in detail and tends toward a more leisurely read to enjoy the language and complex story. Yet it doesn't lack for action either. Take your time with this trilogy and be richly rewarded. Brad also has published a book of 17 short stories, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten, which showcases his versatility and includes two stories set in his trilogy's universe. He is working on a new trilogy, unrelated to The Lays, and is sounds like it could be another winner.

Shawn Kupfer (from Volume 5): After his debut of 47 Echo, a fast-paced and exciting military science-fiction novel concerning a future war against China and North Korea, Shawn has followed up with two sequels, Supercritical and the recently released Fear & Anger. In part, it is like a futuristic version of The Dirty Dozen. The two new books are excellent additions to the series, ramping up the action, the stakes and getting deeper into the characters. I previously won one of the author's contests, getting a character named after me in his latest book, Fear & Anger, so that is cool. There is more to come in this series and if you enjoy military SF, then you should definitely check out this series.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1) Restaurateurs in Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Seacoast are preparing for their next Restaurant Week. Sponsored by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, this fall’s celebration will take place Thursday, November 7 – Saturday, November 16 and will feature close to 50 restaurants located in Portsmouth and the Seacoast.

Settled in the 1600s, Portsmouth and surrounding towns make up a vibrant, New England coastal destination with unique locally owned shops and restaurants, and world-class arts and culture. The restaurant scene provides every kind of cuisine imaginable – much locally sourced - at establishments ranging from chef-owned restaurants to local breweries.

Whether you’re a local resident or a traveler, you can find what you are looking for in Portsmouth and the Seacoast, said Valerie Rochon, Tourism Manager for the Chamber. “Want to shop our independent stores or rich gallery scene before dinner? Take in dinner and a show? Stay the night in one of our charming hotels? Portsmouth and the Seacoast have it all. And, if you are new, Restaurant Week is a great way to introduce yourself to this charming, culinary destination.”

Participating restaurants offer special three course prix fixe menus at $16.95 for lunch or $29.95 for dinner. Based on prior years, some restaurants also offer additional specials, including wine/cocktails, to accompany the prix fixe menu. I really like the Portsmouth area, and its culinary scene is definitely up and coming. And one of my favorite spots is Moxy, for tapas.

2) The Local Craft Brewfest, Sustainable Business Network’s major fundraising event for the Boston Local Food Festival, is now scheduled for Friday, November 22, from 6-9:30pm at the John J. Moakley Courthouse in Fort Point. The SBN Local Craft Brewfest is a celebration of local craft brews and is a major fundraiser for the free Annual Boston Local Food Festival. Hundreds of supporters and dozens ofvendors, including brewers, cideries, meaderies, distilled spirits and local food producers are involved in this event.

This is a critical fundraiser supporting our local food program,” said Laury Hammel, SBN’s Executive Director. “Many of our vendors have already committed to joining us for the new date—they support our mission and want us to have a successful fundraiser. We are a small non-profit trying to build a sustainable economy and we are hopeful that the food community will continue to support us by attending the event.”

The theme for this year’s Brewfest is Eat Local. Drink Local. Be Local. SBN’s Local Craft Brewfest features 50+ craft beer tastings plus 20+ tastings from local distilleries, including Battle Road Brewing, Watch City Brewing, Peak Organic, Moonlight Meadery, Bully Boy Distilleries, Turkey Shore Distilleries, Bantam Cider as well as local bites from the coolest local food producers in town such as Q’s Nuts, Taza Chocolate, 7Ate9, Vermont Smoke and Cure and much more.

Tickets for the Local Craft Brewfest can be purchased at

3) On Tuesday, November 12, at 6:30pm, Legal Harborside will host a wine dinner with Stemmler Wines. In the heart of California’s Sonoma wine country, Stemmler’s vineyards are critically acclaimed for their wines, natural winegrowing techniques and distinctive appeal. Legal Harborside will team up with Wine Grower, Anne Moller-Racke, to host a four-plus course dinner featuring signature cuisine paired with Stemmler’s selections from their vine.

The menu will be presented as follows on Legal Harborside’s scenic second level overlooking the Boston Harbor:

Bay Scallop Skewer, Pancetta, Fuji Apple, Smoked Maple Syrup
Oyster Stew, Vermouth, Fennel
Lobster en Croûte Feuille de Brick, Thai Basil, Curry Essence
Stemmler “Estate” Chardonnay, Carneros, 2009
Aponata Stuffed Squid (Smoked Tomato, Bottarga, Moroccan Dried Olives)
Stemmler “Estate” Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2011
Lightly Smoked Pork Belly (Moxie Luxardo Cherry Gastrique, Braised Tuscan Kale)
Stemmler “Nugent Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2009
Duo of Veal (Slow-roasted Veal Loin, Porcini Dusted Sweet Breads, Turnip, Fig)
Donum “Estate Grown” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2010
Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche (5-spice Pumpkin Bread, Pecan Brittle, Pomegranate Molasses)
Donum “Estate Grown” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2007

Cost: $135 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)
Reservation required by calling 617-530-9470

4) Taberna de Haro, an excellent Spanish restaurant in Brookline with the largest & best Spanish wine list in the area, is hosting several upcoming wine seminars. Each themed seminar presents an assortment of wines, paired with tasty tapas. The wine seminars cost $55 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations and prepayment required.

October 30: Expressions of Tempranillo
Collaborating with the Wine Press, this seminar will answer the question: "What is tempranillo really all about?" Five different Tempranillo wines will be presented, including the LZ 2012 Rioja; Gazur 2011 Ribera del Duero; Dehesa Gago 2011 Toro; Terruños de Castilla 2012 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Leon; and the Vilosell 2011 Costers del Segre.

November 6: Quintessential Examples of Sherry
Five perfect sherries to show the incredible range that the genre has. You'll start with bone-dry mananilla and end with perfectly sweet oloroso, visiting fino, amontillado, and dry oloroso along the way.

November 13: Focus on Finos & Manzanillas - en rama and pasada 
Rare, dry sherries brand new to our shores. En rama refers to sherries barely filtered so they are as pure as possible; and pasada refers to sherries, in this case manzanilla, whose flor has been allowed to die gradually over several years, so the wine is exposed to ever-increasing amounts of oxygen, which lend it the depth and complexity of evolution.

You can reserve a spot for these classes online.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

East Cambridge Rib Fest 2013: The Winners

"It's a simple question Doctor, would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?"
--Will Ferrell

There is something primal about eating ribs, hearkening back to our ancient ancestors. You grab the rib with your hands so that there is no distance between you and your food, as occurs when you use utensils. You gnaw the meat off the bone, like any carnivorous animal would. And the sauces that usually cover the ribs sticks to your hands and face, often reminiscent of blood. This past Sunday, I participated in such a savage ritual, on the streets of Cambridge, amidst a horde of other carnivorous diners. The glories of charred flesh.

Once again, the East Cambridge Business Association (ECBA) presented their annual “Smoke ThisRib Fest 2013, pitting the chefs and pit masters of eighteen restaurants and establishments against each other in a culinary showdown on Cambridge Street to determine who made the Best Ribs. There were actually three levels of judging for this event. First, there were three more professional judges, including Dan Souza, senior editor of Cooks Illustrated Magazine, Nookie Postal, chef/owner of Commonwealth Restaurant, and Tyler Sundet, of Hungry Mother and State Park. Second, there were three local bloggers, including Erica of In and Around Town, Fiona of A Boston Food Diary and myself. This was my second year judging the event, and it was just as fun as last year. Finally, the the public had an opportunity to vote for their favorites too.

This year, eighteen restaurants and establishments participated, three less than last year, including: Abigail’s, Area 4, ARTBAR, Atwood’s Tavern, Bambara, Champions, CRLS Culinary, East Coast Grill, East Side Bar & Grille, The Filamonica Santa Antonio Center, Lord Hobo, New Deal Fish Market, Ole, Portugalia, Puritan & Co., Redbones, Trina’s Starlight Lounge, and Tupelo. Though there were a few less restaurants this year, there were still plenty of ribs, as well as other dishes, and more table space so you could sit and savor your ribs. It is important to mention that ribs were not the only items available, and that a number of restaurants sell other items too, from oysters to corn bread. If you leave this event hungry, then you have a problem (or are a vegetarian).

Fortunately, the weather on Sunday was excellent, sunny but with a pleasant fall crispness in the air. It brought out plenty of attendees, and several of the restaurants had long lines to obtain their ribs. With music, games, and cooking demonstrations, there was much else to do besides gorge on ribs. There were a few beer vendors, though no wine booths, which I think was an omission they need to fix next year. Not everyone likes beer and there are plenty of hearty red wines which would pair well with the meaty ribs. There is Sake too which would go well with ribs, but I wouldn't expect the Rib Fest to have a Sake booth too (though it would really excite me.)

There is such a diversity in the realm of ribs. Beef, pork, lamb, goat, and more. Rib styles such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Carolina, Texas and more. Though the definitions can be a bit vague, you can generally separate the styles into two basic schools: wet and dry, dependent on whether the ribs are slathered in a sauce or prepared with a dry rub. The nature of the sauce varies, whether thick, thin, sweet, spicy or a combination of sweet & spicy. In addition, the cut, size of the ribs and which bones are removed makes a difference. We cannot forget Asian style ribs either though, and I mean more than the ordinary spare ribs you find at basic Chinese restaurants. Tea smoked, five spice, Thai style and so much more. The eighteen restaurants at the Rib Fest offered up plenty of diversity, though they obviously couldn't include every type and style that exists.

An important issue that struck me during my tastings was that not all ribs are created equal. When a restaurant is cooking a large stack of ribs, some of those ribs are going to be naturally better than others. Maybe a more tender cut of meat, a better cooked section of rib, an area with just the right amount of sauce or rub. Conversely, there are going to be worse ribs, with fatty or tougher meat, which are over or under cooked, or with not enough or too much sauce/rub. Good chefs will try to minimize these differences, but they cannot be eliminated. The result is that not all judges are going to have the same quality of rib from the same restaurant. That contribute to differences in voting results, and I think it played at least a partial role in my own decision of my top three favorites.

The professional judges selected Bambara as the First Place winner of the Rib Fest (which won last year as well. They also awarded Second Place to East Side Bar & Grill, and Third Place to the Tupelo. The public had some different choices, awarding First Place to East Side Bar & Grill, Second Place to Tupelo and Third Place to ArtBar. Last year, the professional judges and the public did not choose any of the same winners but this year they shared two of the same picks, though in different positions.

My own choices for the Top Three Ribs are most in line with the public voting, matching two of their choices, though not the positions. Before announcing those choices, I want to congratulate all of the entrants for their rib dishes. Judging was not easy because there were plenty of ribs which I enjoyed, each with their own unique attributes. It is a real pleasure to get to judge and sample so many excellent examples of ribs.

Third Place is awarded to Tupelo for their St. Louis Ribs with Tupelo's Secret Sauce. I am a fan of their restaurant (loving those fried grits) and I enjoyed their ribs much more this year than I did last year. The rib meat was tender and flavorful, and the sauce was complex and intriguing, with a nice balance of tastes. Third place was tough to decide as there were a few other close contenders, including AbigailsLord Hoboand Portugalia.

Second Place is awarded to ARTBAR for their Baby Back Ribs with Apple Cider BBQ Sauce. Last year they went more nontraditional with their Spiced Lemon Confit Marinade Baby Back Ribs, but this year went were traditional. When I picked up my rib, the meat slid right off the bone even before biting into it. The meat was incredibly tender, with a superb and complex sauce, both sweet and savory, that was rich in complementary flavors. This is the type of rib that thrills your palate and which makes you immediately reach out for more. And I was very torn over whether this rib should take first or second place. A very,very close decision. ARTBAR also gets kudos for the extra items they served, including a tasty pulled pork, corn bread and apple cider donut holes. All of them were delicious, especially the donut holes!

Drum roll, please.....

First Place is awarded to Champions Sports Bar! This is their second year as my top favorite, and their ribs are essentially the same as last year. This is what I wrote last year and it stands again to represent my feelings. "These ribs had a Kansas City dry rub, were cooked over apple, hickory and cherry woods, and had a glaze that included apples and brown sugar. The moist, tender meat slid off the bone and the taste impressed with its complexity and melange of compelling flavors, both sweet and spicy. The sauce accented the ribs without overwhelming it. This was another clear "wow" dish and I was tempted to remain at their table and devour several more of these ribs. Kudos for such amazing ribs!" When you create such a compelling rib, there isn't much reason to change your recipe.

I must also give a special Honorable Mention to Puritan & Co. for their Moxie Glazed Lamb Ribs, one of the most unique offerings at the Rib Fest. These ribs seemed to be a bit fatty, due to the nature of lamb, and the meat was a bit tougher than many of the other ribs, but they packed in some delightful and earthy flavors, with a mild but compelling glaze. I am a fan of lamb so these ribs appealed to me, and I think lamb ribs have lots of potential and I would like to see more of them at future Rib Fests.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ten Things You Should Know About Southern Oregon (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

5) Southern Oregon lacks a singular grape/wine identity.
The Willamette Valley is best known for Pinot Noir but Southern Oregon is still seeking what will be their signature grape or wine. They currently grow at least 70-80 different grapes and the region's climate and soils allow them to grow nearly any grape that exists. About 70% of the grapes they grow are red, with some of their top planted grapes including Pinot Noir (about 20%), Syrah (about 11%), Merlot (about 11%), Pinot Gris (about 10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).

Two of the more exciting grapes making their mark in this region are Viognier and Tempranillo, which a couple winemakers told me should be the signature grapes of Southern Oregon. However, those two grapes currently constitute only 3% and 4% of plantings, respectively, so they still have a long ways to come before becoming signature grapes. Plantings of different grapes continue, and currently Rhone grapes are starting to become more popular. One problem is that though the wine makers often chat and cooperate on an individual level, there really isn't a large, industry based group which would meet to discuss regional issues, such as what might best be a signature grape.  

6) Southern Oregon has numerous microclimates.
Though Southern Oregon is generally considered a warm-climate region, it possesses about 70 microclimates, and includes cool-climate areas. It occupies a similar latitude as sections of northern Spain, including parts of Ribera del Duero and Rioja, which probably is a reason why Tempranillo does so well here. The region also has four distinct viticultural zones, including Northern Umpqua Valley, Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley and Illinois Valley. Much of the region has large diurnal to nocturnal temperature changes, which is good for certain grapes. Those grapes don't metabolize acid as quickly, as the cold temperatures help to shut down that process. Vintage variation is also significant in this region, and an important factor that winemakers must address each year. It is something that consumers need to realize as well, that vintage will play a far greater role in Southern Oregon than it usually does in California.

7) Greg Jones is one of Southern Oregon's most valuable assets.
Greg Jones, a professor and climatologist at Southern Oregon University, has been a valuable asset to the wineries of Southern Oregon. In 2009, he was listed as one of Decanter's most influential wine persons and that honor is well deserved. He has consulted all around the world, including a terroir assessment of the Douro in Portugal. In Oregon, he helped to create the Southern Oregon AVA and conducted extensive grower surveys from 1998-2001. Then, in 2003, he established a presence at 29 Southern Oregon wineries to monitor climate, phenology, yield, fruit sampling, and much more. These surveys and studies have greatly benefited the region, providing much valuable information for the wineries, allowing them to better understand their terroir. His invaluable assistance has been instrumental in the growth of the Southern Oregon wine industry. His family is also involved in the region, owning the Abacela Winery. More wine regions need someone as passionate, dedicated and intelligent as Greg Jones.

8) Southern Oregon has plenty of sustainable vineyards.
Oregon has a long history of sustainable agriculture and is even the center for Demeter USA, the Biodynamic certification organization. About 47% of Oregon's vineyards are certified sustainable, and that number is growing, which you can also compare to the only 12% of California vineyards. Supporting Oregon wineries is thus good for the environment too. About 5% of Oregon wineries are certified Biodynamic, though only one winery in Southern Oregon, Cowhorn Vineyards, is so certified. It seems likely that other Southern Oregon wineries will eventually move to Biodynamic as it is a growing, albeit slowly, trend in Oregon. A concern for the environment extends to most, if not all, of the wineries in Southern Oregon.

9) Wine tourism in Southern Oregon needs assistance.
One obstacle to making Southern Oregon wines more popular is that wine tourism is not fully supported by the region. The primary problem lies with restrictive laws which severely limit what wineries can construct on their property. As these wineries and vineyards are considered by law to be farmland, it is extremely difficult for them to add a restaurant or inn to their property. These laws probably hurt the region far more than they help, by limiting wine tourism which would bring more income to the area. Look at most wine region destinations around the world, and restaurants and hotels/inns at the wineries contribute to their popularity. It can even be a safety issue, where tourists who taste wines at several wineries, and could possibly be intoxicated, would be able to dine at a restaurant, or get a room at the winery rather than drive elsewhere to seek them.

10) Southern Oregon needs more wines under $15.
In general, Oregon wineries focus on producing higher end wines, costing $20 and over. As such, a significant number of consumers find Oregon wines to be too expensive for every day consumption. For Southern Oregon, which currently lacks the fame or singular identity of the Willamette Valley, it thus becomes much harder to penetrate the market. Fortunately, at least a few producers in the Southern Oregon region are starting to address that issue by producing wines that cost less than $15, catering to maybe the largest consumer market. For example, the Valley View Rogue Red, pictured above, is a red blend that sells for around $10 a bottle. Hopefully, we shall see more value priced wines from Southern Oregon, as well as the rest of Oregon too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ten Things You Should Know About Southern Oregon (Part 1)

The "3 Ps" of Oregon are Portland, Precipitation & Pinot Noir.

Greg Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University, made the above statement, stating it was a common belief in Oregon. Pinot Noir and Oregon is such a famous combination, a singular identity that is known across the world, elevating the Willamette Valley to being the most recognizable American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Oregon. With over 300 wineries and 610 vineyards, accounting for nearly 75% of Oregon's wine production, the Willamette Valley seems to get almost all of the attention and publicity.

Most consumers probably couldn't identify another Oregon AVA besides Willamette. They might not even realize that there is Oregon wine made outside of the Willamette. However, consumers should learn about the other Oregon's AVAs, especially Southern Oregon, which has much to offer outside of the realm of Pinot Noir.

Recently, I traveled to Oregon, as part of a journalist trip sponsored by the Oregon Wine Board, and was accompanied by two other wine writers, Erin Guenther and Michael Cervin. From Medford to Portland, we visited both Southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley, tasting plenty of wine, meeting numerous wine makers, and enjoying the bounty of local cuisine. It was harvest time at most of the wineries, one of the earliest harvests in years, so it was a great time to visit, to see the wineries in operation. It was also an extremely busy time for the wineries, and my gratitude goes out to all of those who took some of their precious time to meet with us. Though I knew the Southern AVA existed before I journeyed there, my experience with the wines from this region was very limited so I was eager to learn more about this area and to sample the wines they produce.

The Southern Oregon AVA has five sub-AVAs, including Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, Red Hill Douglas County, Applegate Valley and Elkton. Though Southern Oregon is generally a warm-climate region, it possesses about 70 microclimates, and includes cool-climate areas. The region has over 65 wineries and 230 vineyards, and its history with wine extends back over 150 years. In fact, Southern Oregon is the locale of several vinous firsts for Oregon, including the first grape vineyards, the first Pinot Noir plantings, and the first commercial winery. Willamette Valley may be more famous, but the importance of Southern Oregon to the wine industry should not be forgotten.

Around 1847, Henderson Luelling, a horticulturist from Indiana (who also spent ten years in Iowa), moved to the Rogue Valley in Oregon and planted the first grapes, as well as numerous other fruits. When he initially departed for the Oregon Territory, he took with him around 700 fruit trees and berry bushes, hoping to eventually plant them in the Oregon soil. That was quite a large burden to transport across half the country and he ended up losing about half of them on route. However, he had enough trees and plants left to successfully plant a number of orchards, including apples, cherries and pears. As there were few other orchards in Oregon at that time, Luelling eventually became wealthy due to his plantings. It is also interesting to know that Luelling's brother, Seth, developed the Bing Cherry.

Luelling and his son-in-law, William Meek, planted the Isabella grape in Oregon, an American hybrid grape that may have been developed in South Carolina in 1816, though there is some disagreement over its actual origin. It is alleged that Leulling and Meek won a medal for one of their Isabella wines at the California State Fair in 1859. That might be the first Oregon wine to win a medal at any wine competition, and it might not have been until 1904 that another Oregon wine would win a competition medal.

In the 1850s, Peter Britt, a Swiss immigrant and photographer, came to the Oregon Territory because of gold fever. Though his primary income was through photography, he tried his hand at mining as well. A man of eclectic interests, he also was intrigued by horticulture and took time to plant orchards, such as pears and peaches, and eventually even grapes. He planted his own vineyards in the Rogue Valley, also eventually establishing, in 1873, the first commercial winery, the Valley View Vineyard, in Jacksonville.

In 1859, Oregon became an official state and took a census the next year, noting that annual wine production was approximately 2,600 gallons, or roughly 1000 cases, though that probably includes both fruit and grape wines. About twenty years later, Peter Britt alone would be producing 1000-3000 gallons of wine, which he sold locally for only 50 cents a gallon. Britt is also responsible for planting over 200 types of grapes, both vinifera and labrusca, in the Rogue Valley, experimenting with their suitability to the region. He might have even been the first person to plant Pinot Noir in Oregon.

Unfortunately, in 1916, Oregon instituted Prohibition, four years prior to the federal ban, and it would last until 1933. In essence, it destroyed the burgeoning wine industry and it would take nearly thirty years after the lifting of Prohibition before the industry started to rebound. In the late 1950s, Richard Sommer, a UC Davis graduate and often referred to as the "Father of Oregon wine," established the HillCrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley. In 1961, he planted the first documented Pinot Noir vines in Oregon, releasing his first Pinot Noir wine in 1967. The first Pinot Noir vines wouldn't be planted in the Willamette Valley until 1965. Sommer planted other grapes too, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Zinfandel. This would herald the start of the modern wine industry in Oregon.

However, the main interest for vineyards and wine production seemed to now center in the Willamette Valley, forged by pioneers such as David Lett, Charles Coury, and Dick Erath, who planted their vineyards in the 1960s. During the 1970s, new vineyards were established in the Rogue Valley though growth was relatively slow. By 1987, there were only 5 wineries and 38 vineyards in the Southern Oregon region though by 2009, there were over 40 wineries, with 113 vineyards.

In 1984, the Umpqua Valley was the first region in Southern Oregon to be declared an AVA. This was the same year that the Willamette Valley was declared an AVA. The Rogue Valley would become an AVA in 1991, though both the Umpqua and Rogue would be subsumed in 2004 under the larger Southern Oregon AVA. The newest sub-AVA in Southern Oregon is Elkton, which was declared in 2013.

My understanding of Southern Oregon has been expanded and enhanced through my visit to this region. At this time, I want to present a list of Ten Things You Should Know About Southern Oregon, to give you a foundation of some important items so that you can better understand this largely under-appreciated region and its wines. I would also recommend that if you travel to Oregon that you should take some time to visit Southern Oregon, and don't just spend all your time in the Willamette Valley.

1) Southern Oregon is breathtaking.
Upon my arrival in Medford, Oregon, and throughout my time in Southern Oregon, I was struck by its natural beauty, the landscape largely dominated by mountains and forests. Majestic mountains, thrusting high into the clouds, and lush wooded areas that seemed to extend to the horizon. It invokes a sense of serenity and wonder, inflaming a passion for nature. And as we drove through the area, we saw plenty of animals being raised, including horses, cows, sheep, goats, llamas and emus. There are also many wild animals in the region, including bears, mountain lions, deer, turkeys and more. We onlu saw some turkeys. You'll feel a real connection to nature in Southern Oregon and that alone makes a visit to this region worthwhile.

2) The Southern Oregon wine industry is still relatively young.
Despite its lengthy history, with several vinous firsts, the modern wine industry in Southern Oregon is still relatively young, especially when compared to the Willamette Valley. There is only a small number of wineries, though some of the wines they are producing are excellent. Talking to a number of wine makers, it seems clear that many are still trying to work out which grapes work best, what type of wines to create, and more. It is a time of experimentation, discovery and learning. There is much potential here and continued growth is probably a given. They have only scratched the surface with their vineyards, and up to another 250,000 acres could possibly be planted. I love the excitement and passion of new wine regions, and I foresee Southern Oregon gaining much respect in the near future.

3) Southern Oregon wineries are small operations.
The 40+ wineries in this region are generally small, many producing less than 5000 cases and those few wineries producing around 20,000 cases feel that they are large, though most others outside the region wouldn't. Because of their small size, it can be difficult to find their wines outside of Oregon. As they lack the cachet of Willamette Valley, these wines are much more of a handsell, and require a large investment of time and effort for marketing and sales by the winery, especially outside of Oregon. Not all wineries can afford that time and effort, so they concentrate their efforts just within the state. In time, if these wineries grow larger, then maybe it would be worthwhile for more of them to market to areas outside off Oregon. So if you want to experience their wines, you generally need to visit the region.

4) There are plenty of passionate wine people in Southern Oregon.
I met such a diversity of people involved in the wine industry Southern Oregon, from enthusiastic young people to older people who also possessed great enthusiasm. A number of them were transplants, from other states or even countries, who sought out Oregon for their wine careers. Others were starting second careers, having retired from a range of other occupations, and a number of them had never worked in wine before. What brought them all to Southern Oregon was a passion for wine. They certainly weren't there to make a fortune, and they generally seemed satisfied to make an adequate living from their wineries. There is a lack of pretension in this region, and there is also a sense of collaboration between the wineries, that they are friends rather than competitors. It is a real pleasure to meet and chat with these fine people.

To Be Continued...