Travel, Etc. --> A to Z and Roadside Attractions
Spring Break A Visit to Oregon, Part IV
Oregon A to Z and Roadside Attractions
You might think of Archery Summit as the Silver Oak of Oregon, doing only one thing, but doing it well. Very, very well. In fact, so well that last year we managed to get only 4 six packs of their single vineyard Pinot Noir. They actually sell a large proportion of their production to their 10,000 member wine club, and then allocate what is left to the states... so you can imagine how much Indiana gets. And, they have such tight control over their distribution that the tasting room manager could actually tell us what wines our store had purchased last year. I had not put them on our itinerary for that reason. But, since we drove by on our way to Domaine Drouin, why not stop and taste some wine!
The winery looks a lot more like Napa than Oregon... think "to make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one." The winery, ageing caves and tasting room are done on a grand scale, comparable to any of the palaces that line the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley.
They only make five wines - a cuvee that sells for about $45 and four vineyard designates that sell for $85 to $150. The truth is since we can sell all that we get, I had never tasted an Archery Summit Pinot! We tasted through the portfolio and it was certainly worth the stop, because at least now we know what we're missing. In fact, after the first two wines, Linda pointedly asked me how come I never bring the really good stuff home!
If you're in Oregon, it's worth a stop... besides, it may be the only way you will ever get to taste the wines. Also, they do tours by appointment each day and I am told the winery and caves are more than worth a look.
Archery Summit Winery
18599 N.E. Archery summit Rd.
Dayton, OR 97114
A to Z Wine Works & Rex Hill
A to Z Wineworks is not exactly a household name, especially not here in Indiana, where it was just introduced last year. However, they are the largest wine makers in Oregon, and until last February, they didn't own a winery! At 100,000 cases, they are not exactly Gallo, but in a state where the average winery only produces 10,000 cases, that's big.
And, if you know anything about the wine business in Oregon you know that the words "value" and "Oregon" are mutually exclusive. At least I can't ever remember using both of them in the same sentence. However, A to Z seems to represent a break with Oregon tradition. Producing white wines that sell for $13 to $15 and (gasp!) Pinot Noir for well under $20... their motto is "aristocratic wines at democratic prices."
Founded in 2002 by Bill Hatcher, who helped launch and managed Domaine Drouhin until 2001, he was joined by former winemaker from Chehalem, Cheryl Francis, and the founding winemaker from Archery Summit, Sam Tannahill. Those are pretty impressive credentials!
A to Z are operating as a negociant, purchasing finished wine and blending and bottling it in rented facilities. They are also making and bottling wine at the Rex Hill Winery in Newberg, Oregon. Last February, they purchased the 80,000 case capacity Rex Hill Winery when its owner retired. Along with it came 100 acres of Rex Hill vineyards and a company called Oregon Grape Management that cares for the over 500 acres of vineyards.
They will maintain the Rex Hill brand and their single vineyard wines, but move the A to Z winemaking and blending operations to the facility. Plans are already underway to expand the winery and add more tanks and bottling lines to handle their projected growth. So, there is hope for affordable Oregon wine. We review their Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay later in this issue, but the 2005 Pinot Noir is already sold out... proving that these folks must have a pretty good idea.
Not Many wineries in Oregon need blending tanks this big!
Visit A to Z at: A to Z Wine Works.
The Evergreen Aviation Museum
On the 1 to 10 scale of roadside attractions, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville is about a 9.5. Remember Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose...the wooden transport plane with a 320 foot wingspan he designed during World War Two. It only flew once...(the one Leonardo DiCaprio flew in "The Aviator" doesn't count.) Now guess where it wound up?
Yup... McMinnville, Oregon...along with hundreds of other historic airplanes, space capsules and rockets in the 121,000 square foot Evergreen Aviation Museum. I've been to the Smithsonian and the Dayton Air Museum and this one is right up there with them. And, with a centerpiece like the Spruce Goose, it may be more impressive than either one. An army, or I should say an air force of volunteers, spent seven years restoring the plane to original condition. And, the volunteers are still around...mostly retired air force. Got a question? They have the answers and they will tell you about the exhibits for as long as you want to listen.
This museum certainly doesn't seem to lack for funding. Their new IMAX theater was scheduled to open the weekend after we were there. And, across the parking lot, another identical museum building is under construction to house exhibits related to space flight. The centerpiece will be one of the 3 soon-to-be retired Space Shuttles... the Smithsonian gets one, Dayton gets one and the third goes to...you guessed it..McMinnville!
Evergreen Aviation Museum
500 Northeast Capt. Michael King Smith Way
Where we found a little bit of Italy our first night in McMinnville, we found a true slice of France on the second night. Here is a great story... French chef Jean Jacques Chatelard and his American wife, Deborah, are living and working in Manhattan. Friends invite them to Oregon...they come, they visit the restaurants, they drink the wine, they fall in love with the place. They go back to New York, sell their apartment and come back. They buy a very large, very gracious old home on Main Street in McMinnville, one with enough room for home for them upstairs and outfit the ground floor as a restaurant. And, property values, surprisingly, being a little lower in rural Oregon than Manhattan, Deborah made it sound like they had a little money left over.
The Bistro itself is charming, complete with a tiny wine bar and some great outdoor seating. The food here is the star... featuring simple but very authentic French Bistro fare, all exceptionally reasonably priced. Featuring homemade pates and rillettes, mussels three different ways, escargot en croute, onion soup, bouillabaisse with homemade aioli, duck confit, coq au vin and steak frites... it's all there and more. And, between the four of us, we made a valiant effort to try it all. By the time we finished, I was certain that I was back in Aix in Provence. It was that good!
Now, I have to admit I love Bistro fare! If I were given the choice between the French Laundry and a good French Bistro, I would probably go for the onion soup, mussels Pernod and pommes frites...so, I may a be a little prejudiced.
Better yet, the wine list is also very good and very reasonable. We began with a Stoller Chardonnay, not available in Indiana yet, but worth looking for ($39, we had bought a bottle at the winery for $22). And, the Archery Summit Pinot Noir Cuvee was an amazing value at only $59... $45 at the winery!! Great food, great wine and by the end of dinner, Tom was trying to convince Deborah that property values were low enough in Zionsville that they could certainly afford to open a second restaurant. Didn't work...
729 NE Third Street
McMinnville, OR 97128
Okay..say you actually do make it to McMinnville and you're going be tasting wine all day.. trust me, you will need a big breakfast. And the Wildwood Cafe is just the place to find it.. just follow the locals. It's a little funky, but the food is great and the service is fast and friendly. We ate there three mornings in a row and it hit the spot every day. Eggs, thick bacon, applewood sausages, great biscuits, pancakes... they do it all, very well. My favorite was the the Michelbook Omelet with bacon, cheese, onions and mushrooms topped with sliced avocado, served with cottage fried spuds, house-baked toast and homemade jam. And chances are, the vinyl chairs will probably bring back a fond memory from your childhood!
319 Baker Street
McMinnville, OR 97128
May 23, 2007