Beyond brews: McMenamins has history in wine, too

| April 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

The vineyard at Edgefield Winery. / Courtesy of McMenamins

Edgefield and McMenamins are names most Oregonians associate with beer and pub-style food.

But wine?

Yes, they do make wine.

In fact, pretty good wine.

When you think of Oregon wine, pinot noir comes to mind.

But there is a burgeoning syrah scene in the Northwest, and one of its most enthusiastic fans is McMenamins Pubs and Historic Hotels co-founder Mike McMenamin, the force behind McMenamins’ wine program.

Since 1992, McMenamins has been making Rhone-style wines including grenache and viognier. But Mike’s passion is syrah, so much so that under his guidance, McMenamins has been presenting an annual Celebration of Syrah, which took place this weekend, at the famous Edgefield resort, as it has for a dozen years now.

Built in 1911 as the county poor farm just outside of Portland, brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin, known for establishing one of Oregon’s first-ever brewpubs, initially transformed the property into McMenamins Edgefield Winery. They planted 3 acres of pinot gris fruit onsite in 1990 and began scouting regional vineyards to source additional grapes. Today, Edgefield Winery produces 20 different white, rosé, dessert and sparkling wines and supplies 350 tons of wine — in kegs and bottles — to the 57 McMenamins pubs throughout Oregon and Washington. The winery also produces 25,000 gallons of hard apple cider each year; seasonal hard ciders are popular staples on their pub beverage menus.

Edgefield Winery specializes in Rhône-style wines such as viognier and syrah made using fruit from warm-weather areas, primarily the Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon, as well as their Edgefield-grown grapes. They have longtime partnerships with 15 vineyards, sourcing grapes from Del Rio Vineyards, The Pines Vineyard, Chukar Ride Vineyard, Alder Ridge Vineyard and Lonesome Spring Ranch, among others. They also contract with five Willamette Valley growers providing fruit for our pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris wines.

McMenamins also crafts brandy and port. The Edgefield Longshot Estate Syrah Brandy uses syrah grapes harvested from Edgefield’s 2-acre vineyard. It’s double-distilled and then barrel aged for one year in a syrah barrel and another year in a syrah port barrel.

“Our extensive variety of wines and range of price points sets Edgefield Winery apart,” said winemaker Davis Palmer, who works alongside Director of Winery and Distillery Operations Clark McCool. “We showcase the unique expression and varietal character from each grape, while exploring the interplay between varietals in larger blends such as our flagship Black Rabbit Red, Cuvée de l’Abri Rouge and White Rabbit.”

I recently was able to taste the 2011 Black Rabbit Red as well as the 2011 Cuvée de L’Abri Rouge.

The 2011 Black Rabbit is a Bordeaux-inspired blend made from 56 percent Oregon and 44 percent Washington grapes. It’s a blend of 44 percent merlot, 19 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent syrah, 5 percent grenache, 5 percent zinfandel, 4 percent petite verdot, 3 percent tempranillo and 2 percent pinot noir.

It’s a very smooth, drinkable red table wine for any occasion. You don’t necessarily need to pair it with food, but this is a wonderful wine to pair with burgers, steaks and pretty much anything from the grill. It would even go well with pizza. This wine has dark berry aroma with a hint of clove, full fruit flavors of dark cherry, current and a trace of chocolate with a hint of pepper and velvety tannins.

The 2011 Cuvée de L’Abri Rouge is a tribute to southern Rhône blends with 66 percent syrah, 24 percent grenache and 10 percent touriga nacional. It has a deep ruby color, aromas of ripe raspberry and a hint of vanilla and saddle leather, bold red berry flavors and a note of spice, medium tannins and a smooth finish with good acidity. A wonderful pairing for this wine would be roast rack of lamb or lamb chops.

Black Rabbit retails for around $17, and Cuvée De L’Abri Rouge for $22.

If you enjoy Bordeaux reds or Rhône reds, give these wonderful wines a try.

— Vic

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Category: Wine/Wineries

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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