Friday, November 29, 2013

Assorted Southern Oregon Wines & Black Bear Diner

During my Oregon trip, there wasn't enough time to visit all of the wineries in Southern Oregon, but some of the wineries sent representatives or their wines to the wineries we did visit, so we got some exposure to other wines. I wanted to highlight some of those wines, as well as a cool diner where I ate a couple times.

During our visit to Abacela Vineyards, Patrick Spangler (pictured on the left) of Spangler Vineyards joined us for the tour and lunch. Pat purchased the vineyard and winery in 2004, and has about 9 acres of grapes, purchasing many grapes too from select sites. He has far more interest in wine making than wine growing, and has some water issues with his estate. He makes primarily red wines, about 3000 cases a year, and only sells direct. I enjoyed his wines, and they paired well with our paella lunch.

The 2012 Spangler Viognier ($21) was intriguing and aromatic, with a hint of sweetness and lush tropical fruit flavors and a touch of smoke. A complex and delicious wine and strongly recommended at this price. The 2010 Spangler Grenache ($32) had nice red and black fruit flavors, a spicy backbone and moderate tannins. A smooth, easy drinking wine with sufficient complexity to intrigue the drinker. The 2009 Spangler Cabernet Franc ($25) was compelling, rich and intense with silky black fruit and cherry flavors. Another wine I strongly recommend.

Cliff Creek Cellars is family owned, with about 70 acres of vineyards, the first having been planted in 2000. The 2012 Cliff Creek Cellars MRV ($22) is a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, and tantalized my palate with interesting floral, peach, and apple tastes. The wine was crisp, clean and nicely balanced. Enjoyable on its own or would be excellent with food too. Only 400 cases were produced.

Irvine Vineyards is another example of a second career for the winery owners. Coming from a background of real estate development and investment, they originally purchased an 80 acre estate, not initially thinking of growing grapes. However, the wine bug caught them and they realized their land was fortuitously perfect for a vineyard. I tasted their 2009 Irvine Vineyards Pinot Noir ($45) and it was impressive, reminding me of some Carneros Pinots. A nice melange of cherry, raspberry, and spicy notes, with a hint of earthiness, especially on the nose. Silky smooth, a lengthy finish, and good acidity. Pinot can be very different in Southern Oregon from the Willamette.

Jaxon Vineyards was founded in 2007, transforming an old pear orchard into vineyards. The 2011 Jaxon Grenache ($36) is 100% Grenache, only 45 cases were produced and this was the first release of this wine. It was an elegant, balanced wine with delicious ripe plum, black cherry and hints of blueberries. Moderate tannins, a spicy backbone and a long, satisfying and complex finish. Simply delicious.

When I first arrived in Oregon, I checked into my hotel in Medford and was hungry for lunch after the long flight from Boston. Across the parking lot from the hotel was the Black Bear Diner, and I decided to eat there, though I knew nothing about it. I would later learn that the first diner was founded in 1995 and now there are over 60 locations in eight states, the majority in California. There are none on the East Coast, but based on my experiences I certainly would like to see them here.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you can get breakfast all day. The menu is extensive, with plenty of comfort food, and prices are reasonable, especially when you consider the quantity of food you receive. It is a bit kistchy with all of the bear decorations, but you come here for the food not the decor. And the food was tasty and fresh, hearty and ample. After a delicious lunch, I returned the next morning for breakfast.

For lunch, I had a Double Cheeseburger with French fries, and it seemed like hand-made patties, which were juicy and flavorful. The roll was simple, but fresh, and didn't detract from the burger. The fries were crisp with a fluffy interior. It hit the spot.

They make their own pies, which are displayed in a glass counter at the front of the restaurant. They made an enticing display when you enter the restaurant.

I wanted to taste the Coconut Cream Pie, and rather than serve you a slice, you get a whole pie. It is smaller than a standard pie, but still quite substantial and it is nearly a meal in of itself. I enjoyed its rich coconut flavor with the homemade whipped cream atop it. I couldn't finish it so they boxed it up for me and I took it back to my hotel room. I'll suspect their other pies are just as tasty.

To start a full day of wine tasting, I wanted a hearty breakfast and went with the Chicken Fried Steak, which comes with two eggs, hash browns and a biscuit. Everything seemed to have been made from scratch and the steak was tender, with a rich, flavorful gravy. Even the biscuit was top notch. I was well ready to face my day, touring wineries.

If you are traveling on the West Coast, and want some good comfort food, check out a Black Bear Diner.

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

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