The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2016

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34  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2016 OVER THE TABLE I n my tenure as Deputy Editor of THE TASTING PANEL Magazine, I've visited wine producing regions around the world, yet somehow managed to avoid Oregon wine country. That was rectified this past February. But first, I'd like to say a few words of thanks in the lead off of this, my final "Over the Table" column. In January, I accepted the role of Editor-in-Chief for, though I will continue to contribute to these pages. I'm grateful to Meridith May for all her support, to Andy Blue and David Gadd, and to the rest of the staff for all they do. In the past, I've used this column to write about outliers and hidden gems in wine, so it seemed only fitting that I dive deep once more into an eccentric wine-fuelled adventure. In early January, Taken Wine Co. co-founder Josh Phelps called me up. "Listen, Cristaldi," he boomed through the phone, "you're gonna eat dirt with me in Willamette Valley—and you're gonna like it." I was reluctant—the last time I went along on a Phelpsian wine journey, it ended with an epic Uber ride and bottles of amaro passed around the backseat. But, his winemaker introductions have never disappointed, and the prospect of a dirt-themed dinner seemed so supremely wine geekish, that I agreed to go. A month later, we were standing in the newly constructed winery on the grounds of the Keeler Estate Vineyard in Amity, Oregon with Nicholas Keeler, owner and Winemaker, Authentique Wines. With a pipet in hand, Keeler led us through a prodigal barrel tasting, while revving us up for the "Eat Dirt" dinner, a collaboration with performance artist Betsy Hinze. The next evening, Hinze, touting an airy ruby red dress—she looked like a glass of Beaujolais fluttering around the room—assuaged our fears. We would not, in fact, be eating dirt. More relieved than disappointed, what ensued was a multi-course meal of food creatively disguised to look and taste like the elements of "terroir." A "Seafloor" course revealed scallops dusted with juniper, served over elderflower cream, which accentuated the mineral and texture of Authentique 2012 Keeler Estate Vineyard Chardonnay. An interactive "Loess" course of root vegetables wrapped in leaves and pine branches, cemented in clay and baked, were edible once guests wielded a hammer to smash them open. The Authentique 2011 Keeler Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir offered striking similarities and flavors of earth, pine and clay along with ample body and smashingly good acidity. Later, we dug through mounds of graham cracker and a concoction of other ingredients, piled high to resemble actual dirt, to find chocolate and hazelnut truffles, which were paired with the Hombre 2012 "La Picadurda de Abeja" Pinot Noir by Authentique. It was a risky, geeky, enlightening affair; but the wine industry is a breeding ground for creativity, and I encourage you to seek and indulge in all its classic, and imaginative, glory. More info at: TERROIR BY THE SPOONFUL IN WILLAMETTE VALLEY WITH AUTHENTIQUE WINE CELLARS story and photos by Jonathan Cristaldi Left to right: Betsy Hinze, performance artist; Nicholas Keeler, Winemaker, Authentique; Barrett Corrigan, Cakebread Cellars; Craig Keeler, owner and Vineyard Manager, Keeler Estate Vineyard; and Josh Phelps, co-founder, Taken Wine Co. We tasted numerous "reserve" barrel samples of Pinot Noir— primarily Wädenswil, Clone 115, Pommard 05 and 04—all aging in Allary oak. Many will make it to the final blend of Authentique 2014 Keeler Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, while the remaining will go into a new wine called "The Corridor," a name that refers to the winds blowing across the Van Duzer Corridor. All of Keeler's wines fall under the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Drink Wine, Eat Dirt

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