Fave 5 Highlights of 2017

What an eventful year!

Here’s my Fave 5 highlights of 2017, in chronological order: 

1. Meadowood Wine Writers Symposium 2017
Winning a Fellowship to the Meadowood Professional Wine Writer’s Symposium 2017 (WWS17) set the tone for 2017, and introduced me to a slew of savvy industry professionals, Napa Valley winemakers, and top-notch wines.

So when the Wine Country wildfires hit later this year, it was personal.

Personal fave: Meeting up with WWS17 alum Marie Oskarsson – noted Swedish author, sommelier, and  journalist – while in Gothenburg working on a pending international feature I’m doing on Swedish sommeliers.

2. International Pinot Noir Celebration 2017

A media pass to the 31st Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration featuring “The French Adventurers: Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon” felt more like winning the Burgundian lottery.

Kicking things off at the The Grand Seminar included commentary by – and wines from – these French luminaries:

  • Véronique Boss-Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Roserock Drouhin Oregon and Maison Joseph Drouhin.
  • Jacques Lardière of Résonance and Maison Louis Jadot.
  • Dominique Lafon of Lingua Franca and Domaine des Comtes Lafon.
  • Jean-Nicolas Méo of Domaine Nicolas-Jay and Domaine Méo-Camuzet.
  • Alexandrine Roy of  Phelps Creek Vineyards and Domaine Marc Roy.

I also scored a berth at University of Pinot “Meteorology 325: The Impact of Vintage in Burgundy” Besides tasting more fabulous wine, we received a master class on Burgundy, terroir, and vintage from host Allen Meadows.

Panelists included Chisa Bize of Domaine Simon Bize et Fils, Mathilde Grivot of Domaine Jean Grivot, and Étienne de Montille of D. de Montille, who shared their personal harvest notes, including a particularly riveting account of the cataclysmic 2016 harvest.

Aside from seminars and tastings, off-campus ‘field trips’ rounded out an over-packed itinerary, including a tour of Chapter 24 Vineyards Witness Tree Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills AVA with winemaker Felipe Ramirez, a private tasting at Bells Up Winery in Chehalem Mountains AVA with Dave and Sara Specter, a sidebar with John Grochau of Grochau Cellars, and dinner with Jeff Knapp and Kitri McGuire of Visit McMinnville.

Personal fave: Profiling winemakers from emerging pinot noir regions, including New Zealand’s Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock  and Duncan Forsyth of Mount Edward for Palate Press,  and South Africa’s Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck Wines for BKWine Magazine.

3. Women in Wine

“Ataxaria: ‘a state of serenity or calm.” 

What happens when a group of talented ‘women of wine’ retreat to California’s Lake County in late September? “Ataxaria: Yoga & Meditation for Women,” brainchild of  USA Today’s Lauren Mowery, proved the right combination of ‘reset’ and ‘restore’ over a long weekend of yoga, hiking, local wine tasting and farm-to-table fare, plus a lot of laughter.

Personal fave: Sirsee seminar with Amy Bess Cook, founder of Women-owned Wineries of Sonoma County. Wine Sistahs in the house!

Bonus:  Check out her recent interview in Grape Collective here.

 

4. Bubbles!

Ok – so I’m still not sure how I ended up falling down the rabbit hole of the Champagne Master Level designation I earned in November, but I can verify that I did drink more champagne over the course of the rigorous program than most people drink in a lifetime. In the process, I developed a new appreciation for Champagne’s complex history, geology, production techniques, and the art of assemblage.

I also admit that, despite an unbreakable bond with Burgundy, I do consider Champagne the ‘flip side’ of Burgundy – same cépages (pinot noir, chardonnay), but different textures, and terroir. Well worth the effort.

Personal fave: Reviewing Champagne expert and author Caroline Henry’s new book Terroir Champagne  – an invaluable study guide for any student of bubbles.

5. Hospices de Beaune

The view from the cramped press room overlooking the Hospices de Beaune wine auction never gets old. Ever. Nor do the official tastings,  luncheon, and press conference prior to sounding the auction gavel.

During three days covering the 157th Hospices de Beaune wine auction,  I rushed between obligatory press tastings and events to conduct a one-on-one interview with Domaine Hospices de Beaune managing director Ludivine Griveau for the February 2018 issue of basil + salt magazine, sneak a peak inside the Burgundian cellars of Oregon vignerons Véronique Drouhin-Boss of Maison Joseph Drouhin, Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Comte Louis-Michel Liger-Belair of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, and Matthieu Gille of Domaine Gille for the February 2018 issue of Oregon Wine Press, and attended an exclusiveinvitation-only preview of  Three Days of Glory at Beaune’s Les Ateliers du Cinéma, a film about Burgundy by Oregon wine importer Scott Wright and filmmaker David Baker.

Bonus: You can get the inside scoop Three Days of Glory in the March 2018 issue of Oregon Wine Press prior to the international  Newport Beach Film Festival premier in April 2018.

Personal fave: Getting lost in Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits under softly setting afternoon sunlight. Though we  missed our Roi Gevrey-Chambertin tasting and dinner, the magnificent views brought much solace.

So grateful you’ve been here to share 2017 with me…looking forward to more adventures in 2018!

Have your own 2017 fave event or wine? Please do share in the comment section below!

Cheers, and Best Wishes in 2018!

Copyrighted 2017-2018. binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

Foodable TV | Video Correspondent @binNotes Takes an Enchanted Ferry Ride to @WillowsInn on Lummi Island

Foodable TV | Video Correspondent @binNotes Takes an Enchanted Ferry Ride to @WillowsInn on Lummi Island

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Dear Readers:
I wanted to share my recent video interview as host on Foodable TV’s SideDish with culinary phenom Chef Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn on Lummi Island.

Enjoy!

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

@Foodable #SideDish: How the Menu at Willows Inn Reflects Lummi Island

@Foodable #SideDish: How the Menu at Willows Inn Reflects Lummi Island

Dear Readers:

I wanted to share with you my latest gig as ‘video correspondent’ for Foodable SideDish  –  featuring Chef Blaine Wetzel of  Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Enjoy!

Chef Blaine Wetzel in the Willows Inn on Lummi Island sustainable garden.
Chef Blaine Wetzel in the Willows Inn on Lummi Island sustainable garden.

FULL EPISODE HERE: 

http://www.foodabletv.com/blog/2016/7/27/how-the-menu-at-willows-inn-reflects-lummi-island

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is an experience unlike any other, calm and peaceful, separated from a busy bustling life, and so special that guests have to take a ferry ride in order to take a seat at the restaurant. What makes this restaurant even more unique? The ingredients are foraged, and if they’re not found in the forests surrounding the concept, they are grown in a private culinary farm (where no produce is sold — all of it goes to the restaurant), or caught in the sea in which the island lives. The Willows Inn is a truly sustainable work of art.

In this episode of “On Foodable Side Dish,” Foodable video correspondent L.M. Archer takes us to the Pacific Northwest to sit down with the head chef at Willows Inn, Blaine Wetzel. Wetzel, a native of Washington, was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine in 2012 and won the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year award in 2015. It’s safe to say he knows his stuff.

“I’d say the menu is always a pretty accurate description of that moment in time and in nature on the island,” Wetzel said, reflecting that it’s not so much seasonality that determines their dishes but just the day-to-day weather.

Was it stormy one day and the local fisherman couldn’t net anything at sea? Was it too cold to search the forest for mushrooms? The menu is a snapshot of the connection Willows Inn has with its environment at that exact time and place.” – Foodable SideDish | How the Foraged Menu at Willows Inn Reflects Lummi Island

Watch the entire episode here.

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Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Slouching Towards Lummi Island | Part 4 | Finding

Slouching Towards Lummi Island | Part 4 | Finding

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Slouching Towards Lummi Island

Part 4 of 4: Finding

Your moment of Lummi Island zen.

Life on an island has its own rhythms. Rhythms tied to the tides, the seasons, the people.

People return to Willows Inn on Lummi Island like salmon return to a favored spawning ground – because it’s part of their DNA. Some families return annually, generation after generation, seeking this place to gather, to reflect, to renew.

Chef Blaine gets this. He gets the power of the past, the respect for the present, and the magic of recurring seasons.

His award-winning tasting menus reflect this.

Today’s concoctions include thumbnail sized native oysters from a local sustainable fishery glistening in a delicate juice of farm-fresh watercress, those grilled dandelion stems in shimmering carmelized squid, verdant, just-picked crispy mustard leaves and wild herbs, and some snappy savory shrimp toast, plus those foraged roadside Angelica fronds for dessert. Correct – carmelized Angelica, garnished with pumpkin seeds – for dessert.

So simple – in an evil genius sort of way. Clearly, the Willows Inn at Lummi Island tasting menus require time, attentiveness, and utter devotion to sustainability.

The reward?

 A new way of trying things. Of seeing things. Of tasting things.

People arrive at Willows Inn on Lummi Island because they can. Some stay because they must.  Most leave transformed, rough edges of ‘off-island’ life polished smooth, like a shore-worn pebble.

I know I did. Such is the quiet power of this place.

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Part 1: Leaving

Part 2: Arriving

Part 3: Foraging

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Thank you:

Reid Johnson, Chef Blaine Wetzel & Team – The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

Michael & Ellen | project pc

Carlos & Nathan | SideDish

Copyrighted 2016 by L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

Slouching Towards Lummi Island |Part 3 | Foraging

Slouching Towards Lummi Island |Part 3 | Foraging

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Slouching Towards Lummi Island

Part 3 of 4: Foraging

Your moment of Lummi Island zen.

The first thing you notice about The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is the quietude. No blaring music. No snappy kitchen prep banter. No rattle and crash of cookware.

The kitchen runs with the calm abiding of a zen meditation center.

The second thing you notice about The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is Chef Blaine Wetzel’s youth.

  Barely thirty, he looks much younger. In five meteoric years since helming The Willows Inn on Lummi Island,  Chef Blaine has garnered the prestigious 2014 James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award,  the James Beard Foundation 2015 Best Chef Northwest award, and earned rave reviews from the New York Times.

Yet for all his achievements, Chef Blaine Wetzel remains gracefully understated, like his food, a true renaissance Millennial infused with an endearing combination of irreverence and old soul.

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We begin with a stilted Q & A that eventually wraps with sighs of relief on both sides of the camera and microphones; none of us like scripts. Freed from the false constraints of irrelevant questions,  the chef invites us to hop in his truck and head to the Inn’s nearby secret garden, where the good stuff begins.

Here, behind unprepossessing wooden gate, Chef Blaine gleefully peeks into raised beds like a young child discovering Christmas presents, sharing snippets of seasonal herbs and mustard greens for the tasting.

Satiated by the bio-dynamic bounty, we head back to the kitchen for food prep. Pulling up the gravel drive, we meet a slight, man-bunned kitchener eagerly bearing a spray of freshly foraged roadside Angelica leaves. Nearby, a designated wood-fire griller roasts dandelion stems.

We pied-piper Chef Blaine inside, past a scrum of devoted staff deveining shrimp, to the front kitchen nearest the dining room. Here, an intense staffer silently scans a black light wand over a steel bin of crab meat, searching for shells. Two equally studious staffers meticulously monitor the slow toasting of birch branches in the brick oven.

Despite the number of kitchen staff working in tight proximity to one another, the space resembles a church instead of a kitchen. A sacred place pledged in homage to the seasons, reverence manifest in the intricate tasting menus under composition.

And then, with effortless legerdemain, preparation moves seamlessly into presentation. To be continued… 

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Part 1 of 4: Leaving 

Part 2 of 4: Arriving 

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Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved. 

 

Slouching Towards Lummi Island | Part 2 | Arriving

Slouching Towards Lummi Island | Part 2 | Arriving

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Slouching Towards Lummi Island

lummiferry

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The silvered skein of rain folds up as the ferry nears, replaced by a diffuse bolt of pale lemon keening across the bloated skyscape. Seagulls moil and screech above the patiently lapping shores. Dockside, I find the camera man Michael and his wife/assistant Ellen waiting for me by their silver truck. We’ll ride the ferry to Willows Inn on Lummi Island together.

Michael sported a cannabis-embroidered hat, rumpled look, and a calm borne of struggle polished fine. Soon, I discover his passion for cannabis oil equals my passion for pinot noir, though his passion derives from medical need, mine simply for hedonistic pleasure.

The ten minute ferry ride slides by in relative silence, until the ferry thunks its arrival against the dock. We’re here.

As we roll off the ferry onto the narrow island road, the tang of salt island air unleashes an unexpected wash of childhood sense memories, memories most Pacific Northwest natives carry on a cellular level.

Memories of  summer days spent collecting sea-smoothed oyster shells from seaweed- strewn shores, of skipping stones into freezing, frothing brine, of scavenging for driftwood to fuel beachside bonfires later that night.

Of nights filled with salty, popping flames, the sizzle of grilling salmon and oysters, the hiss of steaming mussels and clams, and the warmth of wine-infused laughter as lulling as a bedtime story.

Another rush of island air hits me, and I regain my bearings. It’s gonna be a good day.

To be continued…

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Part 1 of 4: Leaving

 

 

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Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Slouching Towards Lummi Island |Part 1| Leaving

Slouching Towards Lummi Island |Part 1| Leaving

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™ 

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Slouching Towards Lummi Island

Part 1 of 4: Leaving

A writer’s job is to listen. To observe. To remain apart from the story.

That said, I recently travelled to Lummi Island to film a video episode for a food network.

Let’s just say that comfort zones may have been violated in the course of the project.

Mine. This is my story.

And your moment of Lummi Island zen.

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Another typical day in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re a native, you know the drill.

A day when rain washes down in curtains, not drops.

When the highest setting on your windshield wipers prove useless against the torrential downpour tormenting you.

A day when you pray that the car that just backwashed you won’t hydroplane into you.

That kind of day.

Definitely not a day to be out and about in a SmartCar.

But I have work to do.

And the universe has a diabolical sense of humor sometimes.

To be continued…

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Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.