Put simply, the Superfriends Tasting at Aria Gin’s new Portland tasting room was a joy. These weren’t just industry people. They were industry people who had known and worked with each other for years, in many different capacities. It wasn’t lost on me how many had kids about the same age, who play together on a regular basis, who swirl milk in their glasses like adults do wine, and who have already learned the art of selling wine:
“If you don’t buy a bottle of Riesling, I won’t get a birthday present this year,” giggled the curly haired Grape Princess.
Actually, this was my birthday, and Love and Squallor’s curly haired Grape Princess learned her high pressure sales tactic from Jai.
Not that Love and Squalor needs help to sell their Rieslings—they’re fantastic. I first met Matt Berson when he tasted the staff on them at The Heathman, and have kept track of him since. The 2011 Antsy Pants Pinot Noir stood out to me, though, because after all this time, I’d still never tried a Love and Squalor red. Great stuff. Good times, and more to come as we tasted wines from Brooks, Westrey, Walter Scott, Goodfellow Family Cellars, Angela Estate, and more—as well as a gin cocktail from Aria.
The cocktail was one of the highlights, for two reasons: 1) it was damn good, especially because, 2) I don’t like gin at all. Our friends the Boedeckers were there and as gin enthusiasts, gave it an exuberant five stars and two thumbs up. Bunk Sandwiches had pulled one of their trucks up to the loading dock and offered a selection of bites, including their famous Pork Belly Cubano. Pork belly is another thing I generally avoided, until today. Bunk may have made a believer of me.
Bellies full of pork, we moved on to Brooks, who blew us away with their Rieslings like they always do. Still, for all that went before, I’d never tasted their Estate Riesling next to the Sweet P. The wines are from the same vineyard, all farmed the same way. The only difference is that fermentation is arrested on the Sweet P, so it remains sweet. Phenomenal quality, an eye opening comparison, immensely different from each other, hard to pick one over the other—and why would you want to?
After that, I got three great Chardonnays in a row from Goodfellow Family Cellars, Walter Scott and Westrey. Goodfellow’s Durant Vineyard Chardonnay was a winner because it’s Durant Vineyard fruit—I’m predisposed to like it, anyway, and they didn’t let me down. Walter Scott didn’t either, with a stoniness I like a lot, melons, and a touch of toast. David Autrey poured his 2014 Westrey Dundee Hills Chardonnay, wrote tasting notes about “pears, apples and toast—” and then we started talking about records.
While I frantically scribbled notes about the 2012 Oracle Pinot Noir (13 year old Dijon clone vines...ripe fruit…raspberries…black fruits…currants? Good as always.*), David mentioned his preference for King Crimson on vinyl and I began to see a Vine+Vinyl on the horizon after he poured his 2012 Cuvée 20… Just in case anyone might care, I noted it commemorates Westrey’s 20th vintage and David’s 25th year of winemaking—while he waxed poetic about King Crimson and gave me crucial information about the best available pressing of In the Court of the Crimson King (even after sampling wine and gin, they were my most legible notes of the day). With that valuable nugget, my birthday was all but complete. We bid our farewells, Jai bought a bottle of Aria’s spectacular gin and we sauntered out looking for Happy Hour. After a weekend of tasting some of the best, I was ready to dive into a new Vine+Vinyl…
*My tasting notes look more like 13 D—jN Rp_- F RAZ blk f--- c—t g— alw--- and do most days. By contrast, the penmanship on the King Crimson notes is impeccable.