Monday, May 31, 2010


We've dined at Sybaris in Albany a number of times since late 2007 and have always enjoyed the experience. Our most recent visit was this last Friday, May 28.

Located at 442 1st Avenue NW, it’s easily reached from Corvallis via Highway 20 (cross the bridge, turn right, down three blocks on the left). The décor is semi-formal, and the dining room features a wood burning fireplace (we were lucky and got a table adjacent to it). Although the dining area is acoustically live (brick walls, painted concrete floor), the low density of tables limits the number of patrons and this, combined with a high ceiling covered with acoustic tiles, keeps the volume down to a pleasant level, making it a good choice for a romantic outing. The ceiling is painted black, and small embedded spotlights are arranged to match well-known constellations.

The wine list has grown considerably over the last several years, and now lists 15 whites and 37 reds, many of which are moderately priced selections. Oregon wineries are well represented, and the 2006 Territorial Pinot Gris ($21) caught my eye. Having had the 2008 version on several occasions lately this provided an opportunity to confirm my belief that the 2008, though good, is not as good as the 2006, so we ordered a bottle. The good news is that I was right; the bad news is that I know of no place where one can still buy the 2006.

Bread arrived right away, served with butter actually soft enough to spread (thus avoiding one of the most common restaurant sins). There wasn’t enough for the amount of bread served, so we had to request more.

Entrées are changed monthly and are generally reasonably priced (only one exceeded twenty five dollars).

For starters, I ordered the queso fundido and Kathy the cream of asparagus soup with dungeness crab (each was $8). These arrived after about 7-8 minutes. Kathy's soup was excellent and artfully presented, with a mound of crab at the center and the soup poured in from a small teapot by our server. The tortilla chips that came with my order were warm and crisp and obviously freshly fried. I asked about this and was told that these came from a Salem supplier, delivered to the restaurant uncooked and fried there prior to serving. Unfortunately the queso fundido had been overcooked, the cheese having separated out into hard, inedible globs immersed in oil, and I had to send it back.

This was an interesting contrast to the queso fundido at Loca Luna, which uses several varieties of cheese and includes bits of chorizo sausage but which is served with chips fresh only from the bag. In an ideal world one could get Loca Luna queso fundido served with the Sybaris chips. Oh well.

Although we skipped salad on this occasion we've been pleased with the salads on previous visits.

For our main courses, Kathy ordered the pulled smoked duck on asparagus fried barley and I the asparagus-dungeness crab ravioli with a sauté of crab and asparagus. These arrived after 20 minutes. Kathy's duck was served warm, was very flavorful, and was a generous helping (being the entire duck). Wanting to save room for dessert we requested a box for what she didn't finish (unfortunately we experienced a senior moment at departure and left it behind). Likewise my ravioli dish was served adequately warm but was a little bland, so I accepted our server's offer of fresh ground pepper. The raviolis themselves were mostly flat pasta with a tiny pocket of crabmeat, and I ended up cutting them into strips and treating them like noodles. Fortunately there was a generous pile of crabmeat at the center of the dish, mixed with fresh asparagus and topped with crisp, tasty strands of fried carrots.

Being in a chocolate mood, for dessert we ordered the hazelnut chocolate cake and the chocolate lava cake, the latter served with a small dish of salted gelato. Both cakes were excellent (the former being a classic example of death-by-chocolate) but the gelato was way too salty.

Service was good, though not as attentive as it might have been. There were two servers for about ten occupied tables, several of which had parties of four.

Our bill came to $79. They left off the queso fundido (which they needed to do) and the lava cake (which they did not need to do, because it was fine without the accompaniment of the salty gelato).

All in all, it was another enjoyable visit to one of our favorite restaurants, and as usual we told ourselves that we should get over there more often. Albany may be ten miles from Corvallis, but we remind ourselves that in Tallahassee it was ten miles to the other side of town.

Sybaris web site.

Friday, May 28, 2010

High Pass Winery

We first visited High Pass Winery in the late spring of 2009. Their wines impressed us, particularly the whites and the 2008 Rosé of Pinot Noir (one of the two best we’ve ever had) and we left with a mixed case, including four bottles of the Rosé. I should have bought more, because it was all sold by the time I returned in August.

High Pass is the creation of Dieter Boehm, who escaped from East Germany in the early 1980s and found his way to Oregon. He started his vineyard in 1985 and spent ten years selling grapes to other area wineries before his own winery became operational in 1995.

In addition to the typical varieties found in most Oregon vineyards, Boehm has planted a couple of unusual German grapes, Huxelrebe and Scheurebe. Both were created by German viticulturalist Georg Scheu in the early 20th century. Huxelrebe is a crossing of Chasselas and Muscat, while Scheurebe is a crossing of Riesling and a now unknown wild grape.

Our most recent visit was on May 22, 2010. Eight wines were available for tasting, poured by a friendly, personable hostess named Carolyn. We were keen to try the 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($10), so she poured this one first. It had aromas of melon and strawberry and good acid balance, but was not quite as fruity as the previous year’s vintage. Despite this, it’s the best 2009 Oregon/Washington Rosé I’ve sampled to date, the others being the Territorial, Syncline and Evesham Wood, and sweetens the deal by costing less than any of these ($13, $15.95 and $13.50 respectively).

Next was the 2008 Riesling ($12). A crisp, balanced wine, it has a typical Riesling nose of flowers, honey and a hint of diesel fuel. This last shows up in a lot of Rieslings (the 2008 Territorial has it as well), and is not considered a flaw by many Riesling fans (from the Wikipedia article on Riesling: “While an integral part of the aroma profile of mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers, it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it…”). I will admit that it’s something to which I’ve never been able to embrace, but that’s just me.

The 2008 Pinot Gris ($13) features peach and apple aromas and a tangy presence on the palate. The 2008 Scheurebe ($14) has a Riesling like nose, adding a bit of melon and subtracting the diesel fuel, and is likewise a crisp, refreshing wine.

We next sampled a trio of Pinot Noir bottlings. The 2006 Zauberberg Vineyard ($30; Boehm’s own vineyard) is a big wine with a black cherry nose, medium-full body, good acid balance and peppery tannins on the finish. The 2005 Walnut Ridge ($19) had a nose of red cherry and red licorice and a polished mouth feel. The 2003 Walnut Ridge ($15) was similar, with a somewhat more intense nose and richer body. Both are good choices for current drinking and are outstanding values.

Last but not least was the 2003 Late Harvest Scheurebe ($20 for a 375ml bottle). Made in the style of a German beerenauslese, this sweet, rich dessert wine is redolent with aromas and flavors of honey, currant and grapefruit (no longer available is the equally interesting 2003 Late Harvest Huxelrebe).

Not available last weekend was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, a new varietal for High Pass. This will be introduced Memorial Day weekend, and we’re hoping to find time to go down and try it.

The winery’s web site offers directions for reaching it, but coming from Corvallis I think it's better to choose Territorial Highway (rather than 99W) at the fork in Monroe. Continue south for several miles, then right (West) on High Pass Road. After several miles take note of Lavell Road forking to the right, but stay on High Pass. After another mile Lavell rejoins High Pass and immediately off that junction (like, a dozen yards), on Lavell, is the entrance to the winery (the Google map at the winery web site places the winery several hundred yards up Lavell, which is incorrect).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ca' del Baio Wine Tasting

Ca' del Baio is a family-owned winery in the Piedmont region of Italy. The winery was started by Luigi Grasso around 1950, and last Wednesday (May 19th) two of Luigi's great-granddaughters, Paola and Valentina, were right here in River City pouring some of their latest releases. The tasting was held at Luc, and chef Ian Hutchings prepared small appetizer plates to complement the wines. Four Barbarescos and one Barbera were offered.

First up was the 2007 Barbera d'Alba "Paolina" (currently at Avalon for $14.95). Aromas of red cherry and blackberry are coupled with a rich mouthfeel, brisk acidity and a peppery minerality. Soft tannins make this one a good choice for current drinking, and it would work well with pizza, pasta with red sauce, and grilled beef or pork ribs.

The next four wines were all Barbarescos. Like Barolo, these are made from the Nebbiolo grape, traditionally the basis for Italy's best wines. The first to be poured was the 2006 Pianrosa (suggested retail $30), a blend from several different vineyards. This offered aromas of red cherry and red licorice, was smooth with a medium body and surprisingly soft tannins, and would be another good choice for current drinking.

The next three were all vineyard bottlings, the first being the 2006 Valgrande ($33.95 at Avalon). Mild fruit aromas were mingled with spicy oak, and it seemed a bit dry on the palate, with medium tannins. Much better was the 2006 Marcarini ($36.95). A polished nose of black cherry with hints of chocolate is followed by a rich, smooth palate presence. The tannins are not overly aggressive, but still firm enough to need a few years to soften. We decided to buy two of these to tuck away in the cellar for a few years.

We also liked the 2006 Asili (also $36.95). This was similar to the Marcarini except for being a little more acidic. It also seemed to open a little quicker, and I think a bottle decanted and allowed to breath for 30-45 minutes would make for acceptable current drinking, which would not be the case with the Marcarini.

All in all, a nice set of wines, though a step behind last year's offerings (the 2005 Asili was awesome). Only space considerations prevented the purchase of a couple of the Barberas and a couple of the Asili, and if these are still available in a month or so (after we've managed to knock off some of our current stock), I'm sure we'll be buying some of the Barbera.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Luc, Corvallis' newest restaurant, opened last evening (a "soft" opening; the Grand Opening will be Wednesday, May 26th, probably with a revised menu). The creation of Ian Johnson, chef Ian Hutchings (formerly of the late-and-lamented Strega) and sommelier Adrienne Marler (formerly of Avalon), it's located in downtown Corvallis at 134 SW Fourth Street (phone 541-753-4171). They are open from Wednesday through Sunday, from 4:30pm to 9:00pm. The cuisine is American/Northwest.

Our party of six arrived at 6:30. The decor is restrained, the walls being painted a muted shade of blue. There is seating for about 40 customers. The tables normally accommodate four, but can be combined for larger parties like ours. The ceiling is acoustic tile, which under normal circumstances would help keep things quiet.

The wine list is, at present, quite short. There are four whites, all available by the glass, and five reds, three of which are available by the glass. I noted with interest that one of the reds was the 2007 Quinto de Espirito Santo "Tinto", which was one of my recommendations in Wine Picks for May. The wines are all priced at $30 or less per bottle, except for a Chateauneuf-du-pape at $50. The selection of reds, though limited, covers a range of styles, from a Beaujolais to the rich, dense Espirito Santo. A couple of dessert wines are offered as well. Three beers are listed; a weiss bock from Germany, a golden ale from a Colorado craft brewer, and Miller High Life. At this time Luc offers no distilled spirits.

Two salads, one soup and five appetizers appeared on last night's menu, ranging from $6 to $13. One of our party ordered the Asparagus soup with truffle oil. I sampled a bit of this and liked it, the asparagus tasting both mild and fresh. Kathy ordered the Duck plate, which includes a tartare and a confit, with rye mustard. The tartare was good, but she found the confit a bit too salty. The mustard was very strong, and any more than a small dab would overpower the taste of the duck. I ordered the seared ono (the original - that is, Hawaiian - name for wahoo) which was lightly seared at the edges but otherwise rare. It was very good, not too fishy, and the quantity was just right as well. I also sampled the seared lamb sirloin, which was flavorful but a little chewy.

Only three entrées were offered, these being Black cod ($14), braised pork shoulder ($16) and beef tenderloin ($19). One of our party ordered the cod, with the rest going for the pork or beef.

Our entrées arrived after about 20-25 minutes. I sampled the cod, which was fresh, clean and succulent. My pork was flavorful and tender and was just moist enough (it was also served hot, which I appreciated). Kathy's tenderloin, served medium rare, was also very good and was extremely tender.

Two desserts were offered, a cinnamon crème brûlée and a butter vanilla pound cake with chocolate drizzle. I ordered the former and Kathy the latter. The crème brûlée was good, with nice flavors and not over-sugared, but was a little overcooked, particularly on one side, and not as creamy was we like. In all fairness, I should say that we were spoiled by the crème brûlée at Clusters and Hops back in Tallahassee, where chef Kent Steele is an absolute master of this dish. That served at Luc is as good as any we've had in Corvallis and better than most. The pound cake, unfortunately, was too dry for Kathy, and it would have been better served warmer. The quantity of cake was generous, but the chocolate drizzle was not. "Less cake, more sauce," was Kathy's comment.

Around 8:30 a steady beat began to emanate from the floor. Luc is located above the La Bamba Underground Nightclub. This establishment is open from Wednesday through Saturday, and though it doesn't open until 9:00pm, apparently the band starts to warm up earlier than that. The owners of Luc are aware of the problem and their web site advises, "OK, so come early before the music starts."

Another option is to dine at Luc on Sunday. The restaurant is open that day; the nightclub is not.

Luc is off to a good start, needing only to offer a couple more entrées and desserts (and a little more attention to the latter). The service and food are excellent, and Corvallis can always use another good restaurant, particularly one that makes an effort to keep its prices reasonable.

Luc web site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Summertime Brews

Warm days are coming (I keep telling myself that), and we all need to be prepared. You don’t want to end a day of strenuous outdoor activity with the unhappy discovery that all you have in your refrigerator is chocolate porter. You want something light and refreshing, but with enough going on that you know you’re drinking real beer (don’t go into the light beer! Stay away from the light beer!)

Already waiting for you in the beer aisle are two very good summertime brews. The first, Sierra Nevada “Summerfest”, is a Pilsner-style lager. Gold-yellow in color, it tickles your nose with lemon, spicy hops and a hint of fresh-cut hay. On the palate it’s crisp, and you get lightly sweet malt, with the hops kicking in at the finish.
Somewhat darker in color and fuller in body is Deschutes “Twilight”, but it’s still lighter in both color and character than most pale ales. Like the “Summerfest” it’s got citrus and herbal elements in the nose, but more orange than lemon and more grass than hay (and maybe a little pine in there too). On the palate, the hops are more forward than with the Sierra Nevada, and the malt is similarly sweet with just a hint of toast.

The two brewers have taken different paths to achieve the goal of producing a light, refreshing beer for warm summer days, with the Sierra Nevada being a lager (bottom fermented) and the Deschutes being an ale (top fermented). Which is better is a subjective matter (checking I see that they get almost identical scores, 3.69 for the Twilight and 3.64 for the Summerfest). If you want to keep your dollars in Oregon, go for the Twilight, but speaking for myself I think I favor the Sierra Nevada, which, with its snappy aromas and crisp character, seems the more refreshing beer.

Now, if summer would only arrive…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewery

This is the first of a series of reviews of Corvallis brewpubs. I'm going to do these in "historical" order, starting with the Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewery, which has been around since 1987.

There are, at present, four brewpubs in Corvallis, which is double the number that were operating in 2007 when we arrived here. Even two was kind of amazing to us, coming from Tallahassee, a city with five times the population of Corvallis but no brewpubs (there had been a few in the past, but none survived). In addition to OWD-OTB, there was McMenamins on Monroe, followed by Block 15 in 2008 and Flat Tail Brewing in 2010. At least in terms of beer production, Block 15 had surpassed the first two by the end of 2009, with its production for that year being 924.5 barrels, versus 816.25 for McMenamins and 534.54 for Oregon Trail.

Old World Deli is located at 341 SW 2nd Street. The interior is a strange mix of kitsch, funk and industrial chic. After entering, you pass between walls fashioned to resemble the fronts of German village structures, with the apparent intent being to create the impression that you're in an outdoor beergarten. It doesn't work, but you get the feeling they know that and don't really care. After passing through the mini burgh, the area opens up into the deli itself, with a seating area to the left and the ordering area to the right. The entire interior is festooned with artwork from mostly local artists, as well as with historical displays.

Service is essentially non-existent. You order and pay at the counter, and take your beverage to your table. They bring out your food order, but when you've finished, it's expected that you bus your table.

We were meeting a number of friends, two of whom had been there on several previous occasions. "The sandwiches are good," we were told, "but don't order the lasagna." I ordered the Reuben, with Swiss cheese on rye, and Kathy ordered the French Dip Roast Beef. Two others in our party also ordered sandwiches, these being a pastrami on rye and the "Mediterranean" on sourdough. Kathy and I also ordered a pasta salad.

The sandwiches were all good. The bread (delivered every day from a local Franz bakery) was good, and the sandwich contents fresh and tasty. The amount of meat on the Reuben and the French Dip was adequate, but only just. The "Mediterranean" is a real stack of meat and cheese and not recommended for the small of mouth. The pasta salad, on the other hand, was not acceptable, the pasta being dry and doughy.

The Oregon Trail Brewery web site describes seven beers, but only five were on tap that evening. They don't offer a "sampler" array (as does Block 15 and Flat Tail) so it was necessary to order five 10 ounce glasses. The first one I tried, the WIT wheat beer, had a light citrusy nose (mostly lemon) and was not at all hoppy. Not being a big fan of wheat beer, it was difficult for me to assess, but it seemed as good as most I've had. The next one I sampled was the Beaver Tail ale. Again, this had a very light nose, was not very hoppy, and seemed to have a flatness to it at mid-palate. It was okay but was, as they say, nothing to write home about. The IPA also had a citrusy nose, and though having an interesting amount of hops, was less hoppy than the average IPA. Competent, but not exceptional. The Brown Ale flirts with being a stout, with chocolate on the nose, and hints of coffee mingled with the hops. Last, but not least, was the Ginseng Porter. We weren't sure we'd like this, but the ginseng touch is very light, adding a spicy presence to the hops and light chocolate notes. A very nice beer, and the only standout of the bunch.

For dessert we had to try the "World's Best Brownie". This proved to be very good, hitting the sweet spot between too cakelike and too chewy. Covered with a layer of mini chocolate chips, it went well with the bit of Brown Ale and Ginseng Porter we'd held back. I wouldn't say it's the best brownie I've ever had but I think it's in the Top Ten.

So there you have it: funky decor, serve yourself, good sandwiches, competent beer and excellent brownies. Hardly a place to be avoided, I expect I'll have lunch there now and again, ordering the Mediterranean on sourdough, a pint of Ginseng Porter and one of those tasty brownies.

Old World Deli - Oregon Trail Brewing web site.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guide to Rum

Just in time for summer, the Corvallis Epicurean's Guide to Rum is now online. Ever wonder how Myers gets so dark, or why 10 Cane doesn't seem to work well with Coke? Well, wonder no more - just click and read!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Small World Wine Tasting

On Monday, May 2nd, I attended a wine tasting sponsored by Small World Wine Company. Small World’s goal is to promote and distribute wines produced here in the central/southern Willamette Valley, and all but three of the wineries represented at the tasting were from our area. The company is owned and managed by Matt and Tabitha Compton of Spindrift Cellars along with her father, Norm Galvin.

Nearly 50 wines were available for tasting, and it took me close to three hours to try them all. For those of you who’ve never attended a tasting like this, be advised that you need to make use of the spit buckets or you’ll not be leaving on your feet. Most of those in attendance were local retailers and restauranteurs.

Spindrift’s own offerings included the NV White, a Pinot Gris/Chardonnay blend that offered pear, apple, apricot and pineapple notes, low acidity and a smooth presence on the palate (probable retail price around $13). The 2009 Pinot Blanc (probably about $15) had a subtle nose of lemon and herbs, and, again, was very smooth. The 2009 Pinot Gris ($14) was similar, perhaps more generically fruity. Reds included the 2008 Pinot Noir, which has aromas of strawberry and raspberry and though being a bit tart on the palate, is a good value at the suggested retail of $20. The 2007 Syrah, produced from fruit sourced from Seven Hills Vineyard (Walla Walla district of the Columbia Valley, Oregon side), is reminiscent of a northern Rhone, having a floral, fruity nose and red cherry flavors (my first thought upon tasting it was this is a Syrah for Pinot Noir lovers). Suggested retail is $32.

I next visited the table manned by John Jarboe, winemaker at Territorial Vineyards. John was offering both wines from Territorial as well as several under his own label, Opine. The Territorial whites included the 2008 Pinot Gris ($15) which has been out for a while (I know we’ve already gone through a bottle or two). In addition to the typical pear and apple aromas that one gets with most Oregon Pinot Gris, there’s a bit of apricot as well. It’s a bit tangy on the palate, a characteristic that the winery’s web site describes as “a bright natural acidity”. Also offered was the 2006 Riesling ($15) which had a classic Riesling nose (floral and fruity) with that hint of diesel fuel that many Rieslings (both German and American) often have. From the warm 2006 vintage, it’s 2% residual sugar and thus a little sweet, and would be a refreshing sipper on a warm summer afternoon. Moving toward the red end of the spectrum took me next to the 2009 Rose of Pinot Noir ($13). Aromas and flavors of strawberry and watermelon are accompanied by a surprisingly brisk acidity. Not as fruity as our all-time-favorite RoPN (the 2006 Benton Lane), but still a nice wine. The reds were a pair of Pinot Noir bottlings. The first, the 2008 “Stone’s Throw” ($30), has a rich aroma of black cherry with hints of raspberry. On the palate it’s not as rich as the nose would lead you to expect, but is smooth, medium bodied and has just a little tannin on the finish (might benefit from another year of bottle age). The 2006 “Capital T Reserve” ($39) offers aromas of red and black cherry, and on the palate is well blanced, rich and chewy, with a hint of licorice.

John had three wines under his Opine label. The 2009 Viognier (I’m guessing around $20) has apricot and apple aromas and was a bit more acidic than I'm used to in a Viognier. His reds consisted of two Syrahs; the first being a non-vintage bottling ($25-30?). This had a spicy nose, with a trace of cocoa, was nicely balanced, with a slightly metallic mineral element upfront and some tannin on the finish. The other was the 2005 Chukar Ridge Vineyard ($30-35?), a similar wine but perhaps a little less tannic.

The next table offered wines from several wineries. Apolloni Vineyards, from Forest Grove (west of Portland) offered three. I first tried the 2009 Pinot Blanc (estimated retail $15), a medium-bodied wine with a distinct nose of pear and flowers. The 2005 Reserve Pinot Noir (estimated $40) was outstanding, with wonderful aromas of raspberry, blackberry and strawberry and a very refined presence on the palate. Their third offering was a dessert wine, the 2007 “Dolce Vino” Viognier, ($22?), which featured a signature Viognier nose of apricot and pear. It was not particularly complex, but was smooth and sweet, though not as sweet as one might expect from the “ice wine” designation. Also at this table were two selections from Spencer Creek Cellars near Eugene. The 2006 Pinot Gris (probably about $21) was a good example of the type, adding a peach element to the usual pear and apple, and was medium in both body and acidity. The 2005 Pinot Noir ($27?) was excellent, with red and black cherry and raspberry, good balance and soft tannins. The third winery at this table was another out-of-area one, Shea Wine Cellars. Their 2007 Chardonnay (perhaps $35) was excellent, offering an immediately recognizable varietal nose with honeysuckle and pear notes, a bit of Burgundy minerality and a touch of oak (15% is aged in new oak). The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir ($40-45) was characterized more by black fruits (blackberry and black cherry) than by red ones, and though this is not my favorite style of PN (I like lots of strawberry and raspberry), it was unquestionably a well-crafted wine and one of the best examples I’ve had from the difficult 2007 vintage.

Two wineries were at the next table, the first being 720 Wine Cellars (Philomath). The 2007 Pinot Gris ($17) had a light pear nose and seemed a little acidic. It also did not seem particularly fruity, but in all honesty by this time I was starting to suffer from PGF (Pinot Gris Fatigue). The three Pinot Noir bottlings were more interesting, the first being the 2006 Willamette Valley ($25). This had a rather subtle nose of strawberry and raspberry and a light-to-medium body. The 2005 Croft Vineyard ($35) was more intense, adding cherry to the raspberry and strawberry, and featured an earthy minerality on the palate. The 2006 Croft Vineyard (also estimated at $35) was similar, but with a lighter nose and a bit more acidity. Also at this table was another out-of-area winery, Remy Wines of McMinnville. Their first offering was a 2007 Syrah ($27) using fruit sourced from Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Though a pleasing wine, I would characterize the aromas and flavors as “generic dark fruit”, as it took some effort to pick out elements of plum, blackberry and black cherry. More interesting was the non-vintage “Three Wives” blend (probably around $18), made from 34% Barbera, 38% Lagrein and 28% Syrah. The first two are northern Italian varietals, with the Barbera being from Washington vineyards and the other two from Oregon. The Syrah dominates the nose with its distinctive peppery black cherry character, and this smooth, medium-bodied wine finishes with soft, muted tannins.

Shuffling my way to the last table, I met Dai Crisp, manager of Temperance Hill Vineyard (fruit from which finds its way into numerous quality Oregon wines) and owner of Lumos Wines (headquartered in Philomath but the winery itself is in McMinnville). He had two 2009 Pinot Gris, one from Rudolfo Vineyard and one from Temperance Hill (estimated retail about $18 and $21 respectively). Again, these were typical Willamette PGs, with pear/apple and medium body and acidity (I think the Temperance Hill was the slightly more acidic of the two). The 2009 Temperance Hill Gewürztraminer ($20?) was a welcome antidote for my now-advanced state of PGF, with its spicy, citrusy nose and crisp acidity. Jerry Larson of Wineopolis joined me at the Lumos station, and trying the Gewürz expressed the opinion that it would “really come together” in about six months. Crisp’s two Pinot Noir bottlings were the 2007 Five Blocks ($26) which offered strawberry and raspberry aromas, adding red cherry to these when it reaches the palate, and the 2006 Temperance Hill ($32), the nose of which is dominated by red cherry. A big, rich, tannic Pinot Noir, it’s one for the cellar.

Last but definitely not least was Mystic Wines near Salem. Producing exclusively reds, the house style is one of smooth, polished refinement. The 2006 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir ($24) has that strawberry/raspberry nose I so love, and excellent balance. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28; McDuffe vineyard near The Dalles) is very nice, but seems to lack the signature cassis and bell pepper elements that one normally associates with CS. The 2007 Syrah ($22, also from Columbia Valley) features peppery black cherry and is a bit tannic (give it two years). The 2005 Zinfandel ($20, from Hillside Vineyard on the Oregon side of The Dalles) is an intriguing example of its type, with more of a raspberry character (as opposed to the blackberry of a typical California Zin) and soft, well-integrated tannins making it a great choice for current drinking. Finally, their 2006 Barbera (around $28) definitely got my attention. Kathy and I have long been fans of Italian Barbera (we went through an entire case of the 1998 Brero). We’ve tried a number of domestic examples but never found any that particularly impressed. The Mystic bottling seems more in the Italian style, with red cherry and blackberry and a slightly acidic character that should make it a good dinner wine.

Overall, the quality of the wines was good; nonetheless, there were a number of standouts, all of which I plan to purchase when I get the chance. These achieved this status for a number of reasons, these being Quality/Price Ratio (Spindrift 2009 Pinot Blanc, 2009 Pinot Gris and 2008 Pinot Noir, Territorial 2008 Pinot Gris, 2006 Riesling and 2009 Rose of Pinot Noir, the Remy NV “Three Wives”, and the Mystic 2006 Pinot Noir, 2005 Zinfandel and 2007 Syrah), an unusual and/or distinctive example of type (Spindrift 2007 Syrah, the Remy “Three Wives” again, and the Mystic 2006 Barbera and, again, 2005 Zinfandel) or simply an excellent example of type (the Apolloni 2005 Pinot Noir, the Spencer Creek 2005 Pinot Noir, the Shea 2007 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir, and the Lumos 2009 Gewürztraminer).

Small World Wines is definitely offering a good portfolio of wineries, and I'm hoping they'll add more good ones in the months and years to come.