Did everyone have a nice Memorial Day last weekend? The long weekend always denotes the unofficial start to summer, and in the education profession, the difference in students is tangible once they are aware that the long weekend signifies summer is right around the corner. Even this year, having not been in the classroom, I, too, am more than excited for the summertime. It will be our last summer in the area, and I have my Oregon Bucket List growing daily.
In the meantime, as I look outside at the beautiful, sunny, warm day, I can’t help but reflect on some of my favorite things we’ve experienced in this area thus far. The biggest one has to be the wineries.
Having not an ounce of the pretention NorCal wineries can be rumored to have, the Southern Oregon wineries are some of the best kept secrets of the wine world. Literally, seriously, and truthfully, I’ve had some of the most amazing wines out of barrels and libraries in Oregon, and more importantly, have met even more amazing people in the process. The Friday of Memorial Day weekend was a perfect example.
Rob and I decided to go to two wineries last Friday: King Estate (a very well-known Oregon winery), and TeSóAria, an up-and-coming phenom. We took our time tasting, enjoying the views, the conversation, and of course the wine. Also unlike the Napa strip (which I say with love – Louis Martini is on that strip and still, to this day, Lot 1 Cabernet is hard to beat), the Southern Oregon wineries are physically far apart from one another. Kind of a blessing really, as it forces the legal limits and saves the wallet from purchasing cases of what-was-the-name-of-that-grape-again? slurred through wine stained lips. So as we make the hour and a half trek over to TeSóAria, we knew we were pushing the 5:00 closing pour.
But then, with a smile and a hug for me and a firm handshake for Rob, John Olson greeted us with exuberance, quickly introducing us to the other couple visiting that day. One of my favorite songs of all time, REM’s “Nightswimming” was crooning in the background, softening the edges of an already comfortable surrounding. After catching up, chatting about the new wines, and falling in love with Molly the Jack Russell Terrier, Rob and I realized we had stayed way past our patron welcome; 5:00 had come and gone as quickly as that last amazing taste of the new year’s Bulls Blood. Stating that we realized we had kept him from his evening, John’s rebuttal was generous and hospitable – to the barrel room we went. Rob almost skipped (oh I know you can picture it).
John had an unnamed bottle of a red blend – an experiment of sorts – unlike anything I’ve experienced in wine. It could only be compared to when Robert Plant partnered with Alison Krauss for a duet album: big and bold, but subtle and complex. Complimentary enough to pair with a steak (which we did), nonetheless multifaceted enough to stand alone (which it did). While I won’t give away his blend varietals or percentages, I will say that the man is plain genius.
The night proceeded to unfold with private cellar tastings, and the six of us (by this time Joy, John’s wife had joined in on the fun – it would’ve be hard not to as we all, at that point, were standing in her kitchen) helped prep, cook, and enjoy dinner together. We told stories, exchanged laughs, and marveled at how strange it was that all six of us knew Arizona’s Javelina Leap. The view from the backyard patio, overlooking sun-kissed estate vines dewing from the evening Oregon mist, was in a word, magical.
We drove home happy, full, thankful, and blessed to have shared an evening with such simply wonderful people.
Like John’s wine, this memory should stand alone, unmuddled by my own soupçon. So rather than give a huge life-changing feast of a recipe, I’ll leave a small taste, a simple indulgence. We ate this the day after our dinner with the winemaker. The simple flavors really stand out in this dish; the lemon, and olive oil are like a quiet old married couple, content in love. Savor the humility of the meal, enjoy with good wine, and create lifelong memories with fantastic friends, and family.
Herbed Pasta Salad (serves 6-8)
- ½ lb (CHECK THE BOX) mini bowtie pasta
- 2 tbsp chopped basil
- 1 tsp chopped mint
- ½ tsp chopped thyme
- ¼ tsp chopped rosemary
- 3-4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon (you may want more juice when tasting)
In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente (still has a pleasant chew to it).
Meanwhile, mix the herbs in the bottom of a large bowl, and add the lemon zest and juice (really get in there with the juice. Use a fork to prick the pulp if need be). When the pasta is done, drain well. Still warm, add the pasta to the herbs and quickly start drizzling the olive oil over the pasta. Quickly mix well until everything is incorporated. Season with s&p, and taste for more lemon.
I like to garnish the pasta with paper-thin slices of lemon and whole basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.