Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Incredible Magical Interconnectivity of Wine

It was just a glass of wine.

Nothing  more than that.  Just a glass of wine on a list in a nice little bistro on a rainy evening in Portland, Oregon.  

That’s all.

But as some people know, wine can be magic.  And that rainy night in Portland a magical moment was created.

The place was Allium Bistro, a delightful restaurant in West Linn, the quiet and unassuming little southern suburb of Portland, Oregon, owned by Chef Pascal Chureau, a quiet and unassuming young man who happens to be one heck of a good chef.  You can think of Allium Bistro as a local-purveyor-supplied-with-a-French-Italian-twist kind of place, if you need definitions and niches to put it in…but most of the faithful clientele just think of it as a really great neighborhood restaurant.

The evening was a casual get-together of four friends, all wine aficionados.  Nothing special, really; a night out with good food and good wine.

Things began auspiciously when we stepped out of the cold rain and into the cozy warmth and friendliness of Allium, and they looked even better when we settled in to a booth and perused the menu and wine list---good, hearty, wholesome dishes, the kind you’d find in lovely little neighborhood bistros all over France; coupled with a wine list that was both worldly and locally tuned in to support and enhance the food being served.

Don't think about it: just
order the fries.
Another nice touch was the chalkboard carefully listing all the local purveyors that supplied the viands for the evening---Chef Chureau is manic about locally-sourcing the finest ingredients he can---so not only did we know what we were eating, we knew where it was coming from.

Le G
While we perused the menu, we nibbled on hot-to-the-fingers pommes frites lightly dusted with sea salt, and if there’s a better appetizer anywhere than that, I can’t think of what it would be.

Then my wife and I looked up and at each other at the same moment.  We had simultaneously noted that the wine list mentioned a Chateau Guiraud Blanc 2009.  Or to put it properly,
Le G de Chateau Guiraud.

(Pay attention here: the magical moment is coming!)

When in Bordeaux last fall we had traveled to Sauternes to and had a delightful lunch in the village at.  On a blissfully warm day in November under a cloudless sky, we were seated beside a window looking out over the golden slopes of vineyards leading up to the crest of the hill, where sat Chateau Guiraud in quiet glory.  To complete this idyllic scene, the wine I had selected for our lunch was….the Chateau Guiraud Blanc Sec 2009, the dry white made by this Sauternes producer.

The lunch was exquisite; the wine even more so.  As my wife said at the time, “This is the kind of Sauvignon Blanc that reminds you of everything you could possibly like about Sauvignon Blanc.”  And so it was:  lemon and grapefruit citrus; nervy and aromatic and herbal and fresh; crisp and lively and mouth-watering; a wine that perfumed the air and livened up the mouth and accentuated the flavors of the foods, snapping everything into a sharp, bright focus, just as the sun on the vineyards was doing outside our window.

And months later, here we were in a bistro in West Linn, Oregon, magically reliving all those golden memories and creating brand new ones.  We babbled so much about the wine our two friends made it unanimous and we sat around happily sipping and noshing.

Eventually, the pommes frites ran out and we ordered more substantial fare---rich and meaty boeuf bourguignon studded with carrots and foraged mushrooms and pearl onions on pappardelle pasta; seafood paella; and a magnificent pork chop---more like a lombata di maiale to me---on a bed of cannellini beans.  

A stunning Pinot Noir
For that we popped open a bottle brought by our friend Claudia, a big bruiser of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the WillaKenzie Estate Terres Basses Pinot Noir 2008 (available only at the winery, so you’ll have to give them a call if you want some, and you probably do.)  

Both the beef and the porkchop needed something substantial in wine to match, and the WillaKenzie did the job handsomely.  It was tightly packed with fruit on a big frame, bold and muscular and acidic and sour-cherry tart.  The foraged mushrooms and the Pinot had a little magic thing going on too.  Made a great combination of earthy to earthy.

During the main course, we had to sneak back to the Chateau Guiraud to pair with the Brussels sprouts—Chef Chureau is renowned for his Brussels sprouts, although he says they’re very simple. He sautés the halved sprouts cut side down until they begin to caramelize and crisp a bit, then dishes them up in a heavy ceramic bowl.  They may well be the best preparation of Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had; and, of course, the magic combination of the Chateau Guiraud was the perfect pairing too.

All in all, a great evening of fun, food, friends, and a little wine magic West Linn, Oregon, courtesy of Chateau Guiraud, WillaKenzie and Allium Bistro.

And a P.S. to Portlanders:  if you're looking for the best meal deal in town...and I mean hands down the best...check out Allium Bistro's "Neighborhood Dinners".  They are family style dinners where you'll be astonished at both how much and how good the food is, with wine included, for only $38 per person (grautity extra).  But be forewarned: these dinners sell out really fast.  Good news is, they have them frequently.


  1. Great post Hoke! I really enjoy your blog!

  2. Why, thank you. I appreciate the comment. HH