WUI (Writing under the influence)

Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
On a warm autumn day in 1986, while enjoying beer with my college buddies,
I decided to join my new homeland.

I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
Liberalism, political-correctness, multiculturalism and moral equivalence
are destroying it.

This old house Grovenet Wal*Mart Visiting Poland American wine better than French.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Memorial weekend wine tasting

I started drinking wine many years ago as a student in Poland. But I could only afford Bulgarian, Rumanian and Hungarian red wine. I had a friend with whom we would meet every weekend to roast a chicken on my East-German made electrical rotisserie, watch movies and enjoy a bottle or two of some Egri Bikaver.

So when I moved to Italy, I was well primed to undergo further "culturing" and learned quickly to appreciate very good wines. I owe it mostly to my Italian in-laws who over the years introduced me to some very good labels and vintages.

Memorial weekend wine tasting is a tradition in Oregon. This is the second time in five years that I was convinced to go. In both cases, my father-in-law was here so it was easier to be convinced. We went to the nearby Montinore Estate the first time. It was an utter disappointment. Wine, mostly Pinot Noir, was very expensive and not really overwhelming. In other words, bad value. A bottle of decent Pinot Noir goes for at least $20 and can easily reach $30 and more.

So this time, we decided to go farther from home in search of something better. We went to Eola Hills. First to Eola Hills Winery and then to Witness Tree Vineyard. The result? My overall opinion about Oregon wines from Willamette Valley has not changed. They are overpriced and can't compete with wines from California, not to mention, Italy. Unless, of course, Pinot Noir is your thing. It's not mine. I simply don't get this wine.

The trip itself, however, was a lot of fun. First, the views in Villamette Valley complement nicely other typical Oregon landscapes: beaches, mountains and the prairie. But for me, views of Oregon vineyards remind me of the country where I lived for a short while, visited many times and, more importantly, where I met my wife.

I worked many different jobs in Italy, from a day laborer to dish washer to fruit picker. I also worked in some vineyards near Rome pruning plants. So views like these bring many memories. They remind me of hard work I did once in Italy for about $15 a day. But they also remind me of the cheap wine we drunk after we finished the work.

Another fun part of the trip was the fact that we could taste wine directly from barrels. Some of it was almost ready to be bottled, some of it was still fermenting.

A nice touch were platters with cheeses, crackers and nuts. But we opted for some serious BBQ. If the wine doesn't satisfy, a good BBQ always will. We had a full rack of spare ribs.

Wine could be tasted between 1pm and 5pm for $5 per person. So after a short break for some lunch we were back at the cellar.

I did find some decent wine for a reasonable price to take home: 2000 Coyote Cabernet Sauvignon. After the Montinore fiasco, I would probably never have bought it had I not tasted it first. But this wine is just OK for $8.50 per bottle I paid for it, presumably paying less at the source. For comparison, the 1999 Nerello del Bastardo I buy at Trader Joe's goes for almost $2 less and is much better.

Italian wine still offers much better value.

When we got home, I checked the news. And, as expected and as I hoped, the French soundly rejected the EU Constitution. I don't care much for France but I was happy for Poland for there is still a chance for freedom.

I do not buy French products. And I don't think I miss much. I do think, for example, that Ferrari Spumante can easily compete with Moet & Chandon or Dom Perignon. But tomorrow, at Veronika's God-parents' BBQ party, we will be drinking this (in addition to some good home-brewed beer Veronika's God-father is very proud of):

To France!


It tasted so much better considering what we were celebrating.

The beer is gone, there is still some wine left.

Don't judge all Oregon wine by the Willamette Valley. Yes, it's our largest growing region, but I'm of the opinion that the wines from the Umpqua and Rogue appellations are much better. Mind you, you're still out of luck if you're not a fan of Pinot Noir, but I love the stuff, so I'm much better off. Having said that, may I recommend a couple of Southern Oregon wineries who produce excellent wines other than Pinot? Both are near Roseburg. The first, Girardet, is my favorite. Phillipe came here from Switzerland. He prides himself on his Marechal Fich. The other winery is Abacella, which started by specializing in Spanish varietals, including their signature Tempranillo, but I prefer their Cab Franc.
Thanks for suggestions. If I'm ever in the area I will get some of that wine. Also, I didn't mention it in my post but there were some decent whites I tasted on my trip. Also, as I said in my post, the Coyote wasn't bad, just too expensive.
I just noticed my misspelling of Foch (Fich? Yikes, sorry about that). And yeah, there are some overpriced Oregon wines out there. There are also some really good ones that are surprisingly cheap. You're still at a disadvantage if you don't like Pinot Noir, since that's what the majority of it is, but if you look, there are others to be had.

I recently had to eat crow after making the comment that Oregon wineries shouldn't even bother trying to make a Chardonnay or Cab Sauv., since California did it so well and since Oregon does other wines better, then tried the latest vintage released by King Estates. It was damn good, and was something like 8 or 10 for a bottle.

And as an aside, buying dirctly at the winery doesn't always guarantee you a better price up here. Fred Meyer, a local store chain, has good prices on wines and carries a big selection of local wines.
While the cost of a wine is relative to the drinker, it doesn't negate what may be a terrific wine. It's necessary to understand this about Oregon wines and their prices.

If you don't like Pinot Noir doesn't your review of Oregon Pinot Noir then become biased?

Perhaps your review should be better titled "I look for value priced wines, and only drink the cheap ones."
I like beer. This general statement doesn't say much however because there are many beers I don't like, there are many I don't care much for and there are many I almost could kill for. Does this mean that my negative opinions of Amstel Light, which happens to be rather pricey, indicate that I only drink cheap beer? Hardly.

I do think that Pinot Noir is overrated. If I wanted to spend $20 on a bottle of wine, I would never buy Pinot Noir. I would still spend the money; I would just buy something else.

Every time I go to a steak house, I buy a bottle of good red wine. Since I often pay $30 for a fillet Mignon, I order wine in the same range. I admit that $30 in a restaurant doesn't buy much these days but I would never spend it on a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Lastly, I meant for my post to be a warning to people who taste Pinot Noir and think that if they don't like it there must be something wrong with them given how expensive that wine is. I think that the price can sometimes be artificially raised to convince consumers that the stuff they buy is really special. I prefer to trust my palate.
Wow. I spend $8.74 on a bottle of Girardet's 2001 Petit Cuvee, or $14.95 or so for his Barrel Select, and get an excellent wine. I guess my pocketbook's a bit shallower than some, but I feel like I get good value for my money. My in-laws bought a much pricier vintage from Girardet, and were disappointed. That's another side to what Spyderman was saying -- for any given wine drinker on any given budget, you'll find wines that are both over- and under- priced compared to the enjoyment you get from them.

Phillipe Girardet gave me the best advice I've ever received when I visited his tasting room for the first time after I started drinking wine. I was quite apologetic about my taste, since like most young wine drinkers it was cheaper and sweeter than what I like now. I made the comment that the wine I'd tried and liked wasn't the best wine, and phillipe smiled and said, "You know, Brian, the best wine is the one you like!"
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