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Oregon wine – St Innocent’s Gourmet Winemaker

Remembering Oregon Winemaker Mark Vlossak’s Winery Feasts

St. Innocent Winery‘s Mark Vlossak is a wine maker and amateur chef whose annual winery open houses in the 1990′s hold a fond place in my heart. Located in a suburban office park near Salem, Oregon, Mark turned his cement block warehouse into a joyful, fat bellied party once a year.

Mark would start cooking weeks before the event, recruiting everyone from cellar rat to customer to help with elaborate preparations.

Driving up to the warehouse on the day of the open house, something in the front of the huilding roasting on a spit (usually lamb) would smell so delicious I would rush from my car to stand in line. The side dishes were a pantheon of great home style cooking.  This was before the time of elaborate culinary “platings” – it was family style, a buffet with everyone attacking the platters as soon as they hit the sideboard.

Of course, the wines were as good as the food. He had everything from St Innocent  open, his Oregon Pinot noir and Chardonnay plus most of the people were winemakers or involved in the wine trade, and they brought wine. This was before the days of everyone having a tasting room. Open House events were often small, close knit affairs.

Mark, Food, and Wine

And how does Mark’s love of food relate to his wine making?

Mark learned to love wine as it paired with food, and so it follows that the St. Innocent wines are designed to complement food flavors.

He says: “The flavor profiles were embedded in my brain – my food & wine neurons,” Vlossak said. “For me, that means the wines have more acidity. I like acidity in wines. It really stands up to meals. It also allows me to meet the goal of age ability because wines with more acidity tend to age more elegantly.”

These days, Mark is in the big time. His new facility sits on green, rolling hills surrounded by his Zenith Vineyard, and the winery itself is an event space that draws crowds from all over the world. The in-house chef makes gourmet meals served in a beautiful dining room and a huge ballroom with views of the vineyards.

But I’d give a lot to be able to go back to one of his office park – patch of grass – do it your self  – warehouse winery open houses. Fond memories (sigh.)

Here are several of Mark’s most popular recipes. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Grilled Salmon

2 halves of a salmon fillet, boned

4 T olive oil

3 T lemon juice

1 T Balsamic vinegar

1 T Tamari sauce

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

salt & pepper

Select dark pink salmon fillets and rinse them in running water. Pat dry. Salt and pepper to taste.

Rub the crushed garlic into the flesh side of the salmon.

In a shallow dish mix the marinade ingredients.

About one hour before cooking, place the salmon in the marinade flesh side down.

Preheat the gas grill. Turn down to medium heat.

Place a doubled layer of foil under the fillets and grill skin side down until the thickest part of the salmon just flakes. Do not overcook.

© Mark Vlossak

(the image  at right above of salmon on sticks getting ready to roasted is from the International Pinot nori Celebration. It’s another spectacular way to cook salmon.)

Beans Provence

1# white beans (organic small ones are best)

2 qt. vegetable or chicken stock

2 diced carrots

2 diced stalks of celery

1 onion stuck with 4 cloves

few cloves of garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c. Finely chopped parsley

Pour about a gallon of boiling water over the beans and let sit a least an hour.

Sauté the carrots and celery in olive oil until softened.

Drain the beans.

Add the stock, beans, garlic and onion.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 hours until the beans soften and just begin to mush.

Add parsley and pan drippings from roasted lamb.

Serve with roasted lamb and Pinot noir.

© Mark Vlossak

Herbed Leg of Lamb

one 5-8# leg of lamb, trimmed

1 t. ea. ginger, thyme, sage, marjoram, and rosemary

1 t. ea. salt and pepper

1 T. soy sauce

1 T. olive oil

20 cloves of garlic

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the herbs, spices, soy, and oil into a paste.

Cut small slits in the lamb and insert the garlic.

Rub the herb paste thoroughly over and into the meat.

Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan.

Brown for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 325 and roast uncovered for 16 minutes per pound for medium (160 degrees on a meat thermometer). Let stand 20 minutes before carving.

Serve with pan gravy, a white bean casserole, a tossed green salad, and your favorite Pinot noir.

© Mark Vlossak


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