Portland Wine Blog

Tasting Tip: Wine Glass Selection

Many of us have a favorite wine. Some of us even have a favorite wine glass. Whether it’s a souvenir from a local winery, a prized crystal flute, or a chipped wine glass with sentimental value, your go-to wine glass could be all wrong for enjoying your favorite varietal wine.

Wine glasses come in different shapes, bowl sizes, and heights, each designed to accentuate various wine characteristics. For example, shorter, smaller bowls tend to bring out the acidity of sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. The tall, distinctively tapered design of shiraz wine glasses directs wine toward the center of the tongue, allowing you to enjoy a lovely balance of fruit, tannin, and acidity.

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Why Age Beer?

This is a guest post by Jeff Alworth, writer, blogger and Portland beer enthusiast.

Beer is a liquid in flux. The four (or sometimes more) ingredients combine to make scores of flavor and aroma compounds in a beer, and they are constantly interacting with one another. Just after beer’s birth, when a few yeast cells are still floating around and munching the last tasty molecules of sugar, those compounds need a bit of time to ripen before the beer is perfect. Unfortunately, they don’t stop. In sciencey terms, this is because, to turn to Belgian researcher Bart Vanderhaegen’s dense academicese, “the constituents of freshly bottled beer are not in chemical equilibrium; … thermodynamically, a bottle of beer is a closed system and will thus strive to reach a status of minimal energy and maximal entropy.” In other words, beer is unstable, and it will begin changing the minute it’s bottled.

​Within days and certainly weeks, the lively molecules of flavor that animate fresh beer start interacting with oxygen and the clean lines collapse. The process is something like stewing—the flavors blend together and become dull and muddy. That’s why breweries spend zillions of dollars to try to deliver beer to customers’ hands as soon as possible and why, in almost every case, it’s best to drink beer as soon as possible.

​But not every case: there are a few important exceptions in which beers need extra time to ripen in the bottle—imperial stout, doppelbock, barley wines, and old ales. The tradition of aging these beers is centuries old, though, and aged stouts and barley wines were rare birds indeed—squirreled away in the cellars of a few connoisseurs. With the rise of craft brewing, though, the number of beers that require aging have multiplied. Most breweries release at least one of these types of beers—they don’t all have recognizable style names anymore—and they are often greeted with anticipation by fans who buy each year’s “vintage.” These beers are usually strong and dark, often flavored with chocolate, coffee, spices, or other unexpected ingredients. In a trend less than a decade old, breweries regularly maintain large barrel rooms filled with cast-off whiskey and wine casks so they can infuse their seasonal specialties with the hints of pinot or bourbon.

​For the beers that compose this special category, the rules are turned on their head. When they’re released, these beers send up plumes of alcohol as strong as wasabi and have chalky bitter bodies or lacerating hoppy finishes. Those same chemical processes that ruin standard beer help tame these strong, green beers over the course of months or years of cellaring. These beers need time to come into focus, and once they do, one is startled by how smooth and elegant they become.

​For the beers that take to aging, time becomes one of the ingredients. (Some breweries, like Bend’s Deschutes, even have a “best after” date—usually a year after release.) When the flavor elements come into harmony, a cellared beer is unlike anything else in the world. They’re not pub beers; rather, they’re more akin to a cordial of brandy or two fingers of Islay malt. These are the most rare of beers, the kind you reserve for special occasions. Yet for as little as ten dollars a bottle, you can start stocking a cellar that will reward you, just a year or two down the line, with something sumptuous and decadent.

In the following short series of posts, we’ll explain which beers to age (and which not to age); what happens when a beer is aging; how long to age a beer; and aging beer made with wild yeast.


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About the Author

Jeff Alworth is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of The Beer Tasting Toolkit (2012) and The Beer Bible (forthcoming). You can find him writing about beer and cider at his blog, Beervana.

Drink in Oregon’s Wine History

This is a guest post by Tamara Belgard, passionate wine enthusiast and Oregon educator.

For what appears to be a relative newcomer on the world’s wine scene, Oregon’s wine roots actually go much deeper than one might think. History tells us that grapes were planted and wine was produced in the Willamette and Applegate Valleys as early as the mid 1800’s. By the late 1800’s, wine production was growing around the state and grapes were planted in Forest Grove on the site now known as David Hill Winery.

In 1919 however, Prohibition brought the Oregon wine industry to a stand still and it wouldn’t resume again until the 1930’s, when Ron Honeyman and John Wood started making brandies, cordials and liquors at Honeywood Winery, the state’s oldest continuously operating winery. Honeywood (which was then called Columbia Distilleries) officially opened the day after Prohibition ended in 1933.

Then, in the 1960’s, Oregon’s modern era of wine production seemed to explode like a shaken bottle of champagne. Starting with Richard Sommer at Hillcrest Vineyard in Southern Oregon in 1961, a new wave of pioneers settled around the state taking a chance in what they hoped would become the world’s next best wine region.

This new wave started to swell in 1965 when David Lett of The Eryie Vineyards near Corvallis planted the first cuttings of Pinot Noir. After much research, Lett was convinced that Oregon’s Willamette Valley shared a similar climate with Burgundy, France and that Oregon could produce better Burgundian-style wines than California.

In the next few years, Dick Erath would arrive on the Willamette Valley wine scene, Dick and Nancy Ponzi would plant their first 20-acre vineyard in Beaverton and Jim and Loie Maresh would begin planting the now-famous Maresh Vineyard. Pinot Fever thick in the air, the Vuylsteke family of Oak Knoll began wine production, Susan Sokol Blosser and Bill Blosser purchased a prune orchard in Dundee and planted it to vinifera, the Adelsheims in Newberg began production, as did Pat and Joe Campbell of Elk Cove. The growth in the burgeoning wine industry was not just taking place in the Willamette Valley. Vineyard sites in Southern Oregon were popping up as well, at Valley View, Troon and Umpqua Valley Estates.

In 1975, The Eyrie Vineyards produced a Pinot Noir that would go on to win 2nd place, beating out many prominent French wines, at a famous Paris wine competition in 1979. The resulting international recognition would put the spotlight on the state and put it on the map as a producer of world-class wines. Less than 10 years later, French winemaker Robert Drouhin would acknowledge the success of Oregon’s production by building a new winery in the Red Hills of Dundee (near the site of the vineyard whose grapes produced the winning wine).

The number of wineries across the state has now grown to over 500, making it the third largest wine producer in the country. Domestic and international accolades also continue to mount. In 2012, Wine Spectator Magazine honored Oregon by declaring it the “Home of American Pinot Noir.”

As the modern Oregon wine industry enters it’s 50-year mark, second generation winemakers are taking the helm and are slowly steering the industry in new directions. Experimentation with different varieties, new production and growing techniques and even new packaging trends are creating buzz and excitement. As Oregon continues to evolve and develop into the full potential early wine pioneers first envisioned, the success must be somewhat intoxicating. The consumers are the real benefactors though. Each time we sniff, swirl and savor a delicious glass of Oregon wine, remember all the years of risk, hard work and dedication that went into that glass.


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About the Author

Tamara Belgard is a marketing communications pro by day specializing in graphic design, writing and social media. By night, she sips and writes about wine, taking pleasure in sharing Oregon’s best kept secrets. Connect and get more from Tamara on Twitter.