Swafford on Wine: The next best thing to drinking great wine


The next best thing to drinking great wine is sharing it with someone who knows, understands and appreciates good wine. 

Less than two weeks apart, Christina and I drank two bottles of one of the best Oregon Pinot noirs of the last decade: Beaux Freres 2014 Beaux Freres Vineyard. Our friend C. J. poured us the first bottle at his house, where he was offering rest and relief to mutual friends who had to temporarily evacuate their Otis home when the Echo Mountain Complex fire came close. He said he was waiting for the right people and the moment to open this bottle. We all were able to forget — for a moment — the angry realities of fire, COVID-19 and social unrest as we concentrated on this marvelous example of balanced fruit and acidity, a Pinot that brought forth velvet-textured flavors of black cherry on the palate. 

And little more than a week later, he brought a second bottle of the same 2014 (an outstanding vintage year for Oregon Pinot noir) when the three of us had Christina’s gumbo dinner while watching the Newport Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert, virtually sent by Zoom to our dining room.

I remember the first time I found myself in the position of bringing pleasure to someone by sharing a wine about which they were passionate. It was years ago after my son’s little league team won their championship. The shortstop’s father invited the team and their parents home to celebrate: the ballplayers with ice cream and cookies, the parents with vodka and tonics. 

The kids were in the backyard, and I sat at the wet bar in the family room watching our host mixing the drinks. Over his shoulder I noticed a bottle on a shelf and said, “I see you have a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet.” He paused and then, slowly putting down the vodka, asked, “Do you know about wine?” My reply: “I know that Chassagne-Montrachet is the French village responsible for some of the finest Chardonnay made in the region of Burgundy.” 

He then led me to a door I thought opened onto the patio, but I found myself stepping into a 10-foot high redwood wine tank that had been attached to the house to serve as a temperature-controlled, thousand-bottle wine storage room. When we returned to his bar, I enjoyed watching him, as he enjoyed watching me, share this great wine with him while the other parents made do with vodka.

Celebrate the return to dining out

We need to get out. Restaurant owners need us to get out. Zach’s Bistro showed us how to navigate the new rules when we recently celebrated Christina’s birthday. Limited numbers of reservations were taken. Tables had been removed to make extra space between diners. We wore our masks, as did our waitress, Maria, when the order was taken. Zach was masked when he came from the kitchen to check on us after dinner. 

But all went well, and we discovered a terrific 2016 Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot noir that I can easily recommend. It was smooth, no rough edges, full of dark berry flavors and the right wine for my Swedish wife’s birthday.

The founder of this Yamhill County winery was John Bergström, who was born and grew up in the country just north of where Christina was born in Gothenburg, Sweden. He, a medical doctor in Eugene for many years, and his wife attended a wine dinner years ago in our Champagne Patio Restaurant, and I applauded the early success of his winemaker-son Josh’s Pinots that were attracting national attention for their high quality. 

I later took a bottle on a trip back to Sweden and called wine writer Tomas Grenz of the Gothenburg Post to set up a tasting of the first Oregon-Sweden Pinot noir. He thought it was a great idea but explained I had reached him on his cellphone in a winery in Italy. I left the bottle with a nephew of Christina’s, who saw to it that the tasting took place when he returned. You can now order it in many fine restaurants in Sweden when you go.

And the fine-wine-and-dining destination restaurant that was a fixture for over 30 years on Highway 101 just north of Siletz Bay before being razed this year has been reincarnated as The Bay House at Salishan. Owner Steve Wilson is featuring fixed-price, multi-course tasting menus with the very large wine list that we became familiar with over the years. The former large dining room at Salishan, with its high, vaulted ceiling and ample space between tables, affords good and safe dining in a setting that looks out on wooded landscaping and Siletz Bay beyond.

Cheers!

Joseph Swafford
[email protected]

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