Wine Country

Over the weekend I got to escape the city and spend a mini-break in wine country with friends!

Michael stayed home with the baby and after the gym on Saturday I drove down to McMinnville for my cousin Anna’s bachelorette party weekend. The group had gone down Friday night for a show, and then stayed in the house we rented for the weekend. A few of Anna’s friends from the Peace Corp flew out from DC to celebrate with her! That was so awesome!

I got to the house a little after noon and they were all at the first winery only about 3 miles or so from the house we rented. I got in the house and did some decorating to surprise Anna later that night.

The house was so darling inside! I don’t know how old it was but it was clearly an old farmhouse and it had three bedrooms upstairs, with a large bathroom, and one bedroom and bathroom downstairs. It was decorated in a traditional way.

There were lots of cute built-in cabinets and drawers in the walls and there was even a working laundry chute!

The house was so cute.

Then I met up with them at their second winery stop. They weren’t a fan of of that winery so we all moved on to the next one: Brooks.

The tasting room was PACKED! But somehow we managed to snag a private back room. The girl helping us, I think her name was Allison, was super awesome and very generous and nice. It was cool that she let us use the private room. It had a huge, long table, it was quieter and private and we were able to eat our sandwiches, fruit, chips and cookies for lunch while we tasted the wines at Brooks.

Several of us split tastings. I shared the Pomona Flight (3 reds, 3 whites) with Erin. I loved the Pinot Blanc and ended up buying a bottle to bring home. There was an awesome wall behind us made of corks!

After our tasting and lunch we decided to buy a few bottles to drink there. Another big group was supposedly going to show up (and they had reserved the big room we were using) so Allison moved us outside and hooked us up with a bunch of blankets and turned on the heat lamps and we hung out outside with a bottle of Pinot Noir and a Rose to share amongst the group.

I had a glass of the rose, which I didn’t love but it was okay. It had a sparkling wine quality to it.

We hung out and enjoyed our wine and talked and celebrated!

It was starting to get a little late and we wanted to make one more stop before calling it a day.

The last winery of the day was Keeler.

I was really glad we were able to hire Anna’s sister to be our driver for the day! It meant no stress and everyone could just enjoy themselves. I’m also kind of glad I missed out on the first two wineries they went to because honestly I’m a lightweight and two tastings is enough for me. LOL

The group had some buy one tasting get one free cards for Keeler that they had picked up somewhere so we were lucky that we didn’t have to really pay for tasting fees or share tastings at the last place.  The wines were pretty good. I didn’t love them but I liked two of them a lot–I ended up buying a bottle of the Chardonnay (which is weird for me because I’m not usually a Chardonnay fan, but they did theirs in steel instead of oak and I tend to enjoy that flavor most) and Anna bought a bottle of the Pinot Noir Reserve, which was outstanding!

After the afternoon of wine tasting we went back to the house for the night. Anna loved the surprise decorations! 😀 We had dinner–homemade soup, bread and salad. Everything was so tasty!

Shawna made a delicious salad dressing that I’m going to make because it was so good:


After dinner we all got comfortable and then settled in for a few hours of card games, some chocolate cake for dessert and then bed! In the morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast together and then packed everything up.

I was home by lunch time to snuggle my baby, then off to the pool for me! It was a weekend of indulging but it was fun and I don’t do that often so it was a fun little splurge.

It was so much fun! I got away, made some new friends, got to try some new wines and see a part of Oregon I haven’t really explored much. In two short weeks Anna will be saying “I Do”!


Four Course Meal – Part Two

Here is the continuation of Michael’s 36th Birthday Four Course Meal. Part One can be read here. It feels like an Academy Award speech! First, Happy Birthday Michael! Second, thank you Andy for your help!

It was important to me to try some new recipes and also be able to time everything right. I really appreciate all the help my brother gave me planning this meal.


Third Course

Pasta with Broccolini, Pickled Goat Horn Peppers and Goat Cheese

Pasta with Broccolini, Pickled Goat Horn Peppers and Goat Cheese
1 lb dried short pasta
1 bunch of broccolini
1 lemon’s zest
2 Tbs pickled goat horn peppers, (and a little of their oil)
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Parmesan for garnish

Do you know how hard it was to track down “Pickled Goat Horn Peppers?” I was at a loss–Googling it, asking every foodie I know for a suggestion on what it was and where to find it–to no avail. Then I asked my friend Star. She asked HER friend who happens to be a chef at Gino’s in Sellwood. He knew exactly what it was and where to find it: New Seasons! I stopped by it and after much searching I found the Pickled Goat Horn Peppers! Score!

The pasta dish was really simple and luckily I timed everything correctly. I blanched the broccolini and once the pasta was cooked I mixed in all the ingredients. The ham was heating in the oven and it was almost ready as well. I started making the Madeira Sauce. I’d never used a shallot before so that was a new experience for me.


Ham with Madeira Sauce

from my Brother Andy

1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbls.)
1 cup Madeira
1 Tbls. minced fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbls. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbls. Dijon mustard
1 Tbls. juice from 1 lemon
(Go easy on the lemon juice, it is really easy to over lemon things.)
3 Tbls. unsalted butter, softened
Salt and ground black pepper

Set skillet over medium-low heat; add shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 1 minute. Add Madeira; increase heat to high. Simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, whisk in parsley, thyme, mustard, lemon juice, and butter until butter has melted and sauce is slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Andy’s Wine Suggestion: Burgundy/Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, A young Zinfandel.

Lisa’s Wine Purchase: Rascal Pinot Noir (Oregon)

The third course (the main course) was perfect. Everything was delicious and flavorful. I was so happy they had turned out after the fail of a soup.

The Madeira sauce went perfectly with the ham. The shallots and mustard were mild but complimented the ham very well. The pasta dish was good. The Goat Horn Peppers were a spicy surprise in the dish that was unexpected but amusing. I didn’t get enough goat cheese (note: pay attention to recipes when buying ingredients!) but the pasta wasn’t lacking anything as a result.

The Pinot Noir was a lucky buy too. It was mild for a Pinot Noir and did not overpower any of the flavors in the main dish. I was so happy I had selected the right wine.

I will definitely be making this pasta and ham dish again!

Michael loved the dish too, so that made me happy. I redeemed myself after the soup! He opened some more presents and we chatted and laughed over our wine. I had one glass of the Pinot.


Fourth Course

Cheese and toasted walnuts.

Cheese: Colston Bassett Stilton, Pyrenees Green Peppercorn, and Cana de Oveja.

Andy’s Wine Suggestion: Port (specifically Otima Tawny Port 10 year or Fonseca)

Lisa’s Wine Purchase: Penfold’s Club Tawny Port

Michael was surprised about the “dessert” course. There was no chocolate! I thought this was a different thing for us to experience and he enjoyed it as the last course. He loves cheese.

The Stilton was powerful. I thought that one would be Michael’s favorite because he likes blue cheese so much but he said he preferred it on salads. The other two cheeses I bought were a major hit though. The smooth, creamy textures and the mild flavors were outstanding. The toasted walnuts were a great combination with the cheese.

I’m not a fan of dessert wines as a general rule. The Port was STRONG. Not only was 18% alcohol it was decadently sweet. Holy Moly. But surprisingly the Port went really well with the nutty and cheesy flavors! I had half a serving of the Port wine because it was just so strong. And it all hit me at the end of the meal. Check back later for the “outtakes.” Haha!

QUESTION: Have you ever attempted something complicated and involved like this? Would you?