Minnesota Deer Hunting and Oregon Pinot noir
Panther Creek - "How 'bout one of those?"
By Robyn Lillehei
Friend of Avalon Wine
"Mark, we are coming to Minnesota for deer season. What do you want for your birthday?"
"I haven't tried one of those Pinots everybody's talkin' about. How 'bout one of those?"
Mark is the Little Brother - the guy who makes the Big Calls for the rustic family resort. He never asks anything of me and provides a lot. I was so happy to share something special. So I reached into the cabinet for the Panther Creek Pinot Noir (2006 Anniversary Winemaker's Cuvee). When we arrived in the Twin Cities, the TSA inspection flyer was in THAT suitcase - not any of the others! Who wouldn't want a closer look at an Oregon Pinot?
Deer Opener creates traffic jams beginning at noon the Friday before the first legal morning to crawl at dawn with a rifle. Clusters of orange clad men stop at the legendary Clearwater Travel Plaza sandwich shop for provisions and to buy other necessities.
While waiting for my wild berry fritter to be bagged, I asked, "Who are you trying to get to forgive you?"
One of two large, whiskered, pot-bellied outdoorsmen looked down at me sheepishly. "It's his wife's birthday and he's with me for deer huntin' again - just like every year."
I peered at the card dangling between the other's large fingers and laughed, "Good luck with that - she's a Scorpio like me, and you know you won't get off easy!"
Our Northern drive continued, slowed only by the obligatory stop at Morey's in Motley for smoked fish and frozen walleye fillets. Highway traffic thinned - until a view of the parking lot at L&M Fleet Supply in Park Rapids made me realize the trucks stopped here! Their store racks offered acres of orange fleece, rifle sights, ammo and tarps. This Mississippi Headwaters town was on a venison mission.
Seventy two hours later, we opened the Panther Creek. The rhythm of pre-dawn sausage and eggs fortified against 3 days in deer stands buffeted by prairie winds and rain. But we tired of the necessity for heavy winter fare of pork and potatoes, chicken enchiladas and homemade pizza. Fresh asparagus in garlic, shredded fistfuls of romaine with cabbage and carrot shards helped sub-divide our leftovers.
One sip of Panther Creek and Mark urged, "Get that smoked pheasant, will you?" His big brother also broke out the Lake Trout and offered both on a cutting board. It circulated the lodge table for smiles and comments about the perfect match of wine and smoky fare. The grape prowled our tongues.
"You can taste those sun - tannins!" I reflected on summer at Bad Medicine Lake, their lifelong home.
"It's so smooth and bright." More thoughts of sunbeams and water - and of eyes glistening near the forest edge. We commented on liquids known from other travels - and how slyly this one crouched. The wine was gone with the finality of heavy boots exiting through the lodge front door. Warm glows headed towards the cabins.
At six the next morning, it was 17 degrees - cold sunshine and still, at last. Chorusing coyotes called
across the meadow, warning that no injured animal will stray far. One loner faced our Richard, and then
vanished. Mother Nature held her deer ones close for this clear day of hunting. Today we return to our
jobs with plans to stand at the grocery meat counter. Panther Creek lurks, waiting to join us again.