My father-in-law is something of a connoisseur of the cocktail and a budding wine geek, so I pondered on the beverages that would accompany our end-of-summer feast, and settled in with Oregonian spirits and Spanish wine.
Oregon, and specifically Portland, is a hotbed for artisanal distilling these days, and we are blessed with any number of exceptional producers.
Two of the best are House Spirits and New Deal Distillery, conveniently located close to each other in Portland's near eastside, in the area now called Distillery Row PDX.
NOTE: If you visit the website DistilleryRowPDX you'll get all the information you need for a fascinating tour and tasting of these distilleries and more. It's a great short outing to see artisanal distilling up close and very personal, and to meet the people that are driving it. And they are open on weekends!
Aviation Gin, from House Spirits Distillery, has become one of my favorites, and I always have a bottle on hand in my home bar. Not as heavy and bombastic as some gins, yet not in any way deficient in aroma and flavor, Aviation has a superb balance of aromas from its botanicals for a clean, crisp, fresh profile; the juniper is there, and evident, but it doesn't dominate the other flavors, allowing the herbal, floral, citrus, and yes, a little bit of spice, to come through. For casual sipping its just fine; but it makes a great cocktail gin too, as it is very flexible and adaptable. For a summery-light gin and tonic, it's perfect; so that's what I made with it. I'm also a lover of lime, so I deviated a bit in my g & t by muddling up the lime slice thoroughly, adding rocks, a sizable pour of Aviation, and a bit of tonic. Then another lime slice for garnishment (and for squeezing in about halfway through the drink---like I said, I'm a lime lover.)
New Deal Vodka. Add a little Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth, rocks, two pimiento stuffed olives (three for my wife) on the fancy bejeweled cocktail sticks we got from New Orleans---and there you have it, a simple and classic light cocktail.
New Deal Vodka is exceptionally clean, crisp, medium-bodied, and makes a flavorful cocktail---which is exactly what we look for in our house and home bar. And more importantly, it got the father-in-law seal of approval. (Helps to have fresh vermouth available too; one of the greatest cocktail faux pas is stale vermouth, so that should be avoided at all costs. Even if it requires pouring out a partial bottle; yes, it's that important.)
The wine? I knew that the one wine everyone could agree on would be Sauvignon Blanc. I also wanted something a little different. So I compromised with a Garciarevalo Casamaro Rueda 2009. Perfect! My sister-in-law, one of the Sauvignon Blanc lovers, took one sip and nodded enthusiastically with the comment, "This is great. Sauvignon Blanc, but it has a nice lively taste."
I explained she was right...but not right. That the center of Spain produces some white wines that are often understandably mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc, but are instead from the Verdejo grape---in this case mixed in with 10% Viura, another local grape in the Rueda region.
I'd heard about the Garciarevallo Casamaro, but had never tasted it, so when I saw it on a local shelf--and noticed the 12% alcohol statement, hubba hubba---and the modest price of just over $10, I snatched it up.
Crisp and fruity, relatively low alcohol, and made from free-run juice with no oak treatment, the Casamaro pleased everyone.
It stood up easily to the high acid meal, handled the herbal lavishness of the basil pesto, had no trouble with the grilled sweet shrimp, and nestled right up to the roasted garlic we used in lieu of butter for our bread.
The Casamaro is a good little wine, pleasant for summer-sipping or with a meal, crisp and fruity, and in that accessible price zone (An important factor with folks who like wine but can't bring themselves to spend more than modest amounts for it. And there's more call for that modesty now than ever before if the wine trends are to be kept in the positive direction.)
Going back to the local bounty theme for dessert, we kept it simple: fresh-baked brownies and heaping mounds of tasty Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Simple and tasty; that's all we needed to finish off a lovely meal with family.