I travel a lot for work or pleasure. And I have to confess that I almost always bring a bottle or two of Oregon Pinot Noir to wherever I travel. I kind of think of it as my travel insurance for I simply cannot live without Oregon Pinot Noir! I get very disappointed if the wine list at the local restaurant does not carry Oregon wines under the "Pinot Noir"section. Food and wine are such an important part of my travel!
I recently attended a work conference in Boston. As I was packing, my husband asked me, "What are you going to take this time?" (He knows me so well!) I went down to my basement and found a "2009 Crowley Pinot Noir Willamette Valley." It had been almost a year since I tasted their wine at pre-IPNC dinner pairing at Wildwood Restaurant. I had a flashback of the fine experience with Crowley’s wine – how well it went with the food and I recall being impressed. Crowley’s wine was definitely made to go with food. So, I grabbed a bottle and packed it well in my suitcase.
I arrived at my hotel in downtown Boston in the evening. Did I bring Portland weather? It was cold, foggy and wet – definitely not the type of weather that would encourage you to go out and be adventurous! Not knowing where to go for dinner by myself and also being tired, I decided to order room service. In a way, I wryly welcomed this as I thought a glass of fine Oregon Pinot Noir would be the perfect treat after a long day of traveling in dumpy weather!
I opened the menu. "Hmmm…. What should I order?" I called room service and asked them for some recommendations. I ordered exactly as they suggested – New England style clam chowder and chicken and orange vinaigrette with feta cheese salad and pita bread… An interesting combination, to say the least… I wasn’t sure if this combination would complement my Pinot Noir; nevertheless, I asked room service to send me a burgundy wine glass with my order. Twenty minutes later, the food arrived. Huh? I was disappointed to find one of those very ordinary generic red wine glasses staring at me, but that did not stop me from opening up the bottle. The room service man kindly unscrewed the bottle for me.
I poured the wine in the glass. Nice dark ruby color. Then I swirled and sniffed as I always do. Yeah, it had a nice Oregon Pinot Noir nose with a backbone full of that grassy tone. But the fruity notes of red berries and cherries were more dominant. At first sniff, I thought the wine was a little tight or closed still as I was actually hunting for the nose. So, I gave it few minutes to open up and had my first sip. I felt like I was eating the very first season of sour cherries, strawberries and raspberries. Ahhh, a hint of early summer! My IPNC pre-dinner memory came back.
I decided to start with my New England clam chowder. I had a sip. It was still hot and delicious- more delicious than I expected from hotel room service. It was very rich, creamy, thick and loaded with clams. Then I had a sip of wine. That was a "Wow" moment. I never thought the clam chowder would go with Oregon Pinot Noir. But the wine’s acid cut the richness of clam chowder so well that I could savor the flavor of this rich soup very well. This was my new wine-pairing discovery!
Then, I moved onto my salad – very refreshing on my palate after the clam chowder. Since, the pita bread that accompanied it was baked in oil, I decided to make a salad sandwich with it. The balance of the bread’s oiliness and the citrus flavor of the salad with a hint of feta were delicious in my mouth. Then, came the true test; would this go with Pinot Noir? I sipped.
OMG, what a symphony! The rich tartness of the salad went hand-in-hand with the tart berry flavored Pinot Noir. My night, after all, ended up with a very satisfying culinary experience in my cozy hotel room. And, best of all, I was perfectly relaxed in my P.J.s..
Of course, I could not finish the bottle by myself, so I pumped out the gas (I brought the pump and topper from home) hoping to have another comfy night like this in few days if not the next day.
That opportunity did not present itself; so, five days later, I arrived in Portland and decided to finish the bottle. I heated up a frozen mushroom pizza from Trader Joe’s and put sprinkles of arugula on top to spice it up – a classic Pinot Noir pairing in my dictionary. Yeah, the nose has diminished quite a bit, but the essence was still there. The aroma was still packed with red berries. The bonus this time is that it did not take a long time to open up and mellowed out to be smooth in my palate. The richness of cheese and spicy arugula was a nice contrast. Then, the mushrooms really pulled the flavor together. Had a sip of Crowley Pinot Noir. Aaaahhhh, what a joy! I was amazed with the flexibility of this wine. And who ever thought the wine would last this long and withstand the traveling shock! Amazing – Simply amazing. I have no hesitation to experiment more cuisine with this wine this summer.