As if we don’t have enough gimmicks on the wine market, now comes two “developments” to provide something new to plague us.
First is Palcohol, a freeze-dried drink in a bag that may soon hit the corner grocery near you. The packets will come in cocktail flavors, such as cosmopolitan and margarita. Just add water and you have a potent drink. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen.
Experts fear the packets will be abused. They argue that kids will sneak them into stadiums and drop into their water bottles. All true, but there is also the matter of denigrating the classic cocktail. It’s more than about the alcohol. It’s the special mix, the flavor and even the art of making a drink.
The second gimmick we fund is wine in a can — a paint can. A Lithuanian ad agency came up with the idea for this fall’s release of Beaujolais nouveau. We guess they have to resort to such things to get people to buy nouveau, but a paint can?
States that are embracing the locavore movement should take a good look at Oregon. During a recent visit to the Willamette Valley and Portland, Tom witnessed a partnership between farmer and provider that has become second nature. It is no longer a movement, but a natural process that requires little marketing.
Most local restaurants in wine country and inside Portland serve nothing but meat raised on local farms, cheese produced at local creameries and mushrooms and nuts grown just a few miles down the road. As one diner said, “People frown on a restaurant that doesn’t do it.”
We don’t see that too often in our hometown’s restaurants. Maybe our state doesn’t have the 38,000 farms Oregon has or the cottage industry that caters to restaurants and retailers. Or maybe it’s just a pain in the neck to deal with yet another vendor with a product that may be better — but also more costly.
It’s not a pain in the neck in Oregon.
At Briar Rose Creamery in Dundee, Sarah Marcus and two assistants make award-winning cheese and some of the best chocolate chevre truffles you’ll ever taste. The same day we visited her creamery, we dined at the exclusive Joe Palmer restaurant — probably the best restaurant in Dundee — where her cheese was served alongside locally-raised beef and hand-picked mushrooms. Joe Palmer doesn’t do this out of obligation, but because the local products are superior to commercial versions and because the local population supports the cause.
After a career in radio and then at the Nature Conservancy, she pursued her passion to make cheese. After stints at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco and Ticklemore Cheese in Devon, England, and Goat Lady Dairy in North Carolina, she opened Briar Crest Creamery in 2010.
Every week Marcus drives over a mountain pass to pick up sweet goat milk from a farmer in Tillamook who takes great care of his goats and feeds the herd alfalfa, minerals and a special blend of grains. You can taste the difference in Marcus’ fresh chevre and aged cheese.
In Dayton, the Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge produces a highly regarded extra-virgin olive oil from Spanish, Greek and Italian varietals grown on 17 acres in the Dundee hills. Its state-of-the-art pressing facility at Red Ridge is a popular destination because of its beautiful setting and the Durant Vineyards wine that joins the property.
If you are planning a trip to the Willamette Valley, it is worth your while to stop at the local producers of products other than wine.
• Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column for Maryland newspapers for 20 years and have traveled to the West Coast and Europe to meet countless wine luminaries.