Patricia Green Cellars - $19.99 - Patricia "Patty" Green was a trailblazer in the early days of the Oregon wine movement. She arrived on the scene 20 years after David Lett planted the first vitis vinifera vines in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley in 1966. Cool climate grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc were planted along with Pinot Noir, but it was Pinot that was destined to become Oregon's claim to fame.
In 1979, The Eyrie Vineyard 1975 South Block Pinot Noir finished first at the Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad, and Oregon Pinot Noir became fixed in the wine world's consciousness. In the early 80s, the wine scene unfolded rapidly, vineyards sprouting up everywhere, highly-regarded California winemakers streaming in for cheap land to coax the finest expressions out of the difficult Pinot grape. Patricia Green got her start in wine in 1986 at Hillcrest Winery, where she went from grape picker to winemaker in the span of one year. She worked as winemaker at Hillcrest for three years, then moved on to Adelsheim, where she dove further down the Pinot Noir rabbit hole. In 1993 she was brought on to Torii Moore winery, where she met her friend and future business partner, Jim Anderson. Together they started Patricia Green Cellars in 2000, on 52 acres in the Ribbon Ridge appellation. Their philosophy, as stated on their site, is thus: "At a larger level the philosophy of the winery is fairly simple: Do what needs to be done. There are certain approaches and techniques that will obviously be applied, however the intensity of those actions is fluid. That fluid nature would extend to nearly every aspect of the winemaking. Ultimately things are done as simply as is possible. The 14th century friar William of Ockham stated that 'one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.' This is the physics theory known as Occam's Razor. It applies to winemaking though, too."
Patricia Green died last year, in November of 2017, at 62. She was an intensely warm, kind, and private woman, described by Anderson as "honest, emotional, and forthright...someone [you] could talk to." Her legacy lives on in the form of her nuanced, expressive wines. This one is not one of her beloved Pinots, but instead a racy Sauvignon Blanc, a rare find in the Willamette Valley, where Chardonnay and Pinot Gris dominate the white plantings. This Sauvignon Blanc stands out among its French and Kiwi cousins for its incredibly bright, green quality -- green like Key Lime pie and cucumbers, not green bell pepper (New Zealand) or cut grass and graphite (France.) There are hints of melon and other tropical fruits -- pineapple? starfruit? But mostly, that refreshing greeness that's perfect for a warm, humid spring night. Try it with Thai food, or a spicy Sichuan cucumber salad.
SMASHED ASIAN CUCUMBER SALAD - Woks of Life blog (highly recommend this blog for Asian recipes -- a gem!)
2 long, preferably seedless cucumbers (about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons chili oil (optional – click the link and scroll down for a recipe)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
a small handful of chopped cilantro
Wash the cucumbers and pat them dry with a clean towel. Make the salad dressing by combining the salt, sugar, sesame oil, light soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Set aside.
On a cutting board, lay a large knife flat against the cucumber, and smash it lightly with your other hand. The cucumber should crack open and smash into four sections.
Repeat along its full length. Once the whole cucumber is completely open (usually into 4 long sectional pieces), cut it at a 45-degree angle into bite-sized pieces.
In a large bowl, mix the cut cucumber with the prepared dressing, garlic and chili oil (or cooked plain oil), and toss it well. Serve, garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro.*
*For Sichuan flair, I like to add crushed and toasted Sichuan peppercorns. Tingly, numbing, delicious!
2. Bergevin Lane Linen Red Blend - $13.99 - For this wine we travel north of Oregon, to Washington's Columbia Valley. This AVA (American Viticultural Area) takes up a third of the entire state, making it Washington's largest wine region. Almost all of Washinton's wine production is centered here. Not surprisingly, the Columbia Valley contains many smaller AVAs, such as Walla Walla, Yakima, and Red Mountain, to name some of the best known. Bergevin Lane was started by Annette Bergevin in 2002. She currently manages the property with the help of a winemaker and tasting room manager. They make a number of wines under the Bergevin Lane label, ranging from fresh and elegant Viognier in the $20 range to $50 Cabernets and Syrahs capable of ageing for years. The Linen range of wines is their more affordable $13-$15 range, with fresh whites and drinkable reds meant to drink right away. Annette's family has roots in Walla Walla and it was her father's passion for wine and proclivity for introducing her to old wines in her youth that got her hooked.
Washington is known for producing powerful, structured Syrahs, as well as reds from Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Unlike in Bordeaux, these grapes are often bottled as single varietal wines, though blends are common too. This wine from Bergevin Lane winery takes the concept of a Bordeaux blend and flips it, showcasing Malbec and Petit Verdot as major players instead of the supporting role they usually play in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot round it out, with a little Cabernet Franc, and then, the Washington signature, a dash of Syrah. This wine perfectly shows the strength of Washington reds, even inexpensive ones: they possess New World fruit and Old World structure in perfect harmony. Typically a little less overtly fruity than California wines, they still possess a brightness that is a little fresher and less earthy than European reds. Linen Red Blend is full of chewy, juicy fruit, with a bit of tannic structure and complexity from neutral oak ageing. Acidity is carefully balanced to make a refreshing, food-friendly wine. Try it with barbecued chicken, cheeseburgers, or veggie skewers. Aubrey Stout