Food and Wine Journal: My Dinner with Alison

WP_20140604_20_08_09_Pro-001It was great catching up with Alison Sokol Blosser at Redd Wood in Yountville the other week. This is a “breather” year for the iconic winery having gone through big changes in recent years: the transition of leadership to next generation siblings Alex and Alison in 2008, the formalization of Alex as head winemaker in 2012 and a transformation in Oregon oeno-tourism with their modern new tasting room completed in 2013. While question marks hover around succession at some family wineries along the Pacific Coast, with Sokol Blosser, there’s no question about their commitment to the future with these investments, their sustainable practices and the careful planning. But when you speak to Alison, with her genuine warmth and personal approach, it never comes off as a “business”, it’s truly their lives, and one they want to share.

Oregon’s signature white grape is…

WP_20140604_19_24_07_Pro-001…not Chardonnay but Pinot Gris by a wide margin. I love Oregon Pinot Gris and it’s the white they should hang their hat on. It’s not light and crisp like the Pinot Grigios from Northern Italy and rarely in the off-dry style one might find in Alsace. Sokol Blosser makes their 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($19) in a dry, fruit-driven style using all stainless steel with lees stirring to give it a beautiful richness. It was peachy with a bit of spice and grapefruit pith, with just the right body. A perfect food wine I didn’t want to put down. It paired beautifully with the sweet and succulent shrimp pasta with spring vegetables.

Oregon Pinot Noir Pioneers

Alison’s parents were back-to-landers who planted their first vines in 1971 when there really wasn’t an Oregon Wine Country. But they chose their terroir well in what is now the Dundee Hills sub-appellation of Willamette Valley, home to other founding winegrowers such as Eyrie and Erath. Pinot Noir flourishes here in the unique Jory soils, a red clay-loam of volcanic origin.

WP_20140604_19_27_26_Pro-001We had the 2011 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($38) with the perfectly prepared salmon and Israeli couscous. The vintage was the coolest vintage in their 43-year history and they harvested the last grapes on November 1. Now this is really a unique vintage and wine for Oregon. It was very fresh, light-bodied with red cherry and currant fruit with a bit of that blood orange I get sometimes from cool climate Pinot. If you seek out lower alcohol Pinot Noir, or are curious about cool vintage Oregon Pinot, you might be interested in trying this naturally 12.5% alcohol Dundee Hills wine. This 2011 vintage Pinot is a perfect food wine and in fact, shows well with food. The rich, well-seasoned salmon brought out the delicate fruit in the wine. It’s also one of those exceptional vintages where the wines are very drinkable from the perspective of not being filling, and not overly competing with the food.

Sokol Blosser Wines You Can Drink Everyday

WP_20140604_19_25_13_ProI drink everday wines, every day, and I loved the clean, pure berry fruit in the charming Evolution Red ($15) which was just perfect with the tender meatballs. Their Evolution red and white wines are blends of several grape varieties crafted year to year with fine balance.

Experience Oregon-style food and wine pairingPhoto courtesy Andrea Johnson Photography

Photo courtesy Andrea Johnson Photography

One would assume that Willamette Valley has Napa Valley style hospitality programs given the region’s fame and its proximity to Portland, but not really. With their new tasting room, Alison said they’re better able to offer more bespoke experiences for their guests including food and wine pairings in a shiny new professional kitchen that spills out onto an inviting patio.

Sokol Blosser Winery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. 5000 Sokol Blosser Ln, Dayton