I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the event I attended on Sunday, March 14, 2010. However, I’m no stranger to McMinnville, Oregon, and am well aware of its importance in our state’s wine and culinary history.
The sheer numbers of exhibitors were a welcome sight but a bit overwhelming. Especially heartening to see were the many newer and smaller purveyors of food and wine.
It was here in the 1960s and ’70s that David Lett, founder of Eyrie Vineyards, put Oregon firmly on the wine map of the world. Everyone told him that it was too cold and wet in Oregon for pinot noir grapes, known for their difficulty to grow and turn into wine. This is also the grape of the famous French Red Burgundies. History has proven David right and his naysayers wrong.
Other winemakers followed in David’s shoes and were wise to do so. On the culinary side, Nick Pierano opened Nick’s Italian Cafe in the heart of downtown McMinnville in 1977 and became known as the restauranteur of the Yamhill County winemakers. Twenty years and many vineyards later, Jack Czarnecki and his wife bought the Joel Palmer House in nearby Dayton and began serving up haute cuisine featuring their foraged wild mushrooms and Oregon truffles.
Twenty-three years ago, in 1987, The International Pinot Noir Celebration brought together “international pinot noir producers, esteemed journalists, pinot noir devotees, northwest chefs, and foodies for a weekend of tasting, dining, learning, and celebrating together.” Each year approximately 700 register to attend.
Charming little McMinnville is now a big bright star on the international food and wine map and growing brighter all the time. I wonder how many people know that Sip! is a fundraiser for McMinnville’s St. James Parish School. I didn’t! What a wonderful way to benefit education. Adding to the festive atmosphere was the aviation museum setting, with historic and unusual aircraft hovering around.
Promoters estimated that more than 400 volunteers from St. James, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and from the community at large assisted with “everything from set-up to check-in to clean-up.” Close to 5,000 paid to get in, and about 7,000 attended, including volunteers, vendors and other free admissions.
One of the first exhibits that caught my attention and captured my inquisitiveness was the McMinnville Downtown Association, hosted by Ginger Williams, the association’s Promotions Coordinator and Office Manager. This is one of the best portals to accessing all that McMinnville has to offer, and Ginger proved to be helpful and knowledgeable. (Hint – she’s a good hostess.)
Another organization representing multiple vendors was the Oregon Wine Press, whose tagline is “Who, What, When, Where of Wine Country in Oregon.” This publication has been serving the Oregon wine industry since 1984 and is published monthly. Included are articles about food and wine as well as advertising related to the wine industry.
The cover of the issue I took with me showed two products of an emerging industry, essential oils. The bottles held Oregon White Truffle Oil, made and bottled by Jack Czarnecki of The Joel Palmer House in Dayton, and an extra-virgin olive oil called Olio Nuovo from the Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge Farms located in the Red Hills between Lafayette and Dundee, off Highway 99.
You can subscribe to the Oregon Wine Press for $20 per year, and it can also be found at most of the state’s tasting rooms.
While driving from Salem to McMinnville, just before I entered Amity, Oregon, I passed Blue Raeven Farmstand, a business I’d not seen before. Later that morning I met Ron Lewis, owner of the Blue Raeven Farmstand, in his booth at Sip. He was offering samples of their Oregon Berry Pies. Anybody’s grandmother would be proud to serve these pies. You can find his store at 20650 S. Hwy. 99W, Amity. Besides the bakery pies you will find fruit, gift baskets, local cheeses and other food items.
One of the wineries of interest to me was Arcane Cellars, located in West Salem near the historic Wheatland Ferry. They offer ten varietals of wines that are grown on the estate as well as sourced from other terroirs in Oregon. The name “Arcane” fascinated me, as well as the superb graphics for their products.
Arcane Cellars is a lovely place to relax on the banks of the Willamette and enjoy a leisurely lunch along with some of their wine. You can also purchase locally made gourmet foods and crafts.
Coastal Mist Fine Chocolates and Desserts may have traveled the farthest to participate in the Sip! weekend, and we’re all the better for that. Located in the Southern Oregon coastal town of Bandon, about 90 miles from the California border, Coastal Mist has been making exquisite chocolates and confections since 2007. Kevin and Tara Shaw apprenticed in the art of chocolate-making in Belgium before opening their business. One taste of “The Other Side of the Cacao” convinced me that a road trip to Bandon for a closer look at Coastal Mist is in the near future.
Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn is a premier place to call home on your visit to McMinnville and Yamhill County. It’s located on 50 acres atop a mountain, with commanding views of the surrounding valleys, the Coastal Range, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood. Guests can explore the estate’s 20 acres of organically grown pinot noir and pinot gris vineyards. They are located within 20 minutes of more than 80 premier Oregon wineries. The Inn’s awards and accolades come from Wine Spectator Magazine, Sunset Magazine and Travel Northwest. Travel Smart, N.Y. called them “One of the nation’s 24 best B&Bs” and they received a 3½ kiss rating from Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest.
Salem, Oregon was proclaimed “Cherry Capitol of the United States” in 1916. Cherry orchards flourished everywhere and they still do. The transit system is appropriately called “Cherriots”.
Cherry Country is located across the Willamette River from Salem in Rickreal, Oregon, and they take this luscious pitted fruit most seriously. Forgive me, but they may well be the cherry on the top of the cherry industry in Oregon. Like Coastal Mist, a visit and an in-depth look at Cherry Country looms in the upcoming weeks. Cherry Country is owned and operated by Mike, Marsh and Celeste Shadbolt.
Their accolades are many and include words of praise and recipes in The Oregonian, a recipe published in Real Simple Magazine and a video feature called “Road Tasted with the Neelys” on the Food Network.
Overall, more than 160 exhibitors attended Sip!, and I wish I could have included them all here. For a more in-depth look at who was there, visit http://www.macwfc.org/.
Vic was on urgent business with the trout at Detroit Lake this day and so I asked the lovely Victoria Linton, friend, professional colleague and McMinnville resident, to join me. In addition to being a charming companion, Victoria generously assisted in gathering print material and asking great questions from her viewpoint. Thanks Victoria.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities