Explore Hidden Oregon

October 1, 2009

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden

The climate and well-draining soil of this new vineyard (the first grapes were planted in 2005) bear a likeness to France’s famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Translation: expect to sample some really excellent vino here, especially Rhone varietals like the 2007 syrah, which swirls with hints of black cherry and cassis. The Spiral 36, a white table wine with rich oak and apple flavors, could be Southern Oregon’s answer to the Willamette Valley’s pinot noir, but for less than $20.

– Brian Barker, Bart Blasengame, Kasey Cordell, and Rachel Ritchie

Report from Fortune Women’s Conference

September 22, 2009

I recently returned from pouring at Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women Conference. It was, of course, an honor to be asked to pour our wine for these very accomplished women.  As you can imagine, my day started with lots of excitement to see and meet such a prestigious crowd. That part was great!  But then came the trepidation. That’s me on the left with Susan Ungaro, executive director of The James Beard Foundation.

I have never seen such HUGE cameras and lights and so many waves of reporters! After about 10 minutes of that, I was severely intimidated. Not so intimidated that I didn’t consider asking Warren Buffet for some support, but you get my point. Anyway, after some adjustment on my part, dinner began and the night got off to a great start.

I was pouring our 2006 Syrah, and it was being paired with a marvelous barbecued beef prepared by Jar Restaurant. At first, most folks were interested to see the new, unheard-of label, and were curious to try. But as the night went on, the curiosity turned to a buzz and finally to a roar of applause for Cowhorn.

Instead of returning to me asking for another glass, women were asking for an entire bottle or two for their table! Once the wine was gone, I was invited to sit with a table of execs from IBM. Their appreciation of the wine was sincere, but more importantly, their jokes were RIOTIOUS!  It has been some time since I sat with a table of business people and laughed liked that. It was a wonderful hour of laughs, crème caramel and Cowhorn Syrah.

– Barbara Steele

Fortune pairs Cowhorn 2006 Syrah

September 14, 2009

The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit features the most prominent women leaders in business, philanthropy, government, education, and the arts. The premiere gathering of its kind, the Summit is by invitation only and features a unique format: no speeches, all lively panel discussions, on-stage interviews, and interactive breakout sessions.

Their theme for 2009 is Betting on the Future. Speakers ranging from Arianna Huffington to Condeleeza Rice will share ideas about the key challenges—technological, geopolitical, and social—that are reshaping our organizations and our world. The program is built around five pillars: Leadership, Innovation, Finance and the Economy, Global Connections, and The Common Good.

On September 15, the Summit is hosting a special dinner in partnership with the James Beard Foundation featuring six female chefs. Each chef will be paired with a biodynamic winery with a woman owner or prinicipal. We are thrilled that Cowhorn’s 2006 Syrah will be paired with a course prepared by Jar’s Chef Suzanne Tracht and share the table with so many other great wines.

Here’s the menu…

Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Butter Restaurant
Grilled, Marinated Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes, Herb Pesto, and Crisp Basmati Rice
Cooper Mountain Vineyards, 2007 Pinot Gris Reserve, Willamette Valley

Anne Burrell, Food Network
Grilled Corn and Roasted Cherry Tomato Farrotto
Montinore Estate, 2007 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

Holly Smith, Cafe Juanita
Pork Cicoli Fritto with Fried Organic Egg, Frisée, Green Beans, and Fried Pickled Nectarine
Maysara Winery, 2008 Roseena Oregon Rosa, Yamhill Valley

Cindy Pawlcyn, Go Fish
Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut, Sweet and Crispy Garlic Chips
Robert Sinsky Vineyards, 2008 Abraxas, Sonoma Scintilla Vineyard, Vin de Terroir

Suzanne Tracht, Jar Restaurant
Grilled Rib–Eye with Creamy Horseradish and Long-Cooked Green Beans
Cowhorn Vineyard, 2006 Syrah, Applegate Valley

Emily Luchetti, Waterbar Restaurant
Raspberry Brown Butter Crepes with Vanilla Ice Cream
Ceago Vinegarden, 2007 Late Harvest Semillion, Lake County
Petit  Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Gooey Cakes
Ceago Vinegarden, 2005 Soul of Syrah Dessert Wine, Lake County

Report from James Beard House

September 7, 2009

Yup – it was fun to go to New York City to pour wine at the Beard House on August 27th! Nothing could have prepared me for the charm of the building. The James Beard House is, or actually was, James Beard’s house. Each floor of the old brownstone in the West Village has been converted into a dining room. The rooms comfortably accommodate several tables of four and six, and the walls are lined with memorabilia. The windows look out onto the wisteria-lined courtyard. Charming!

Members come to the house to experience the cuisine of fabulous restaurants from around the country. No doubt – Oregon shined brightly! Chef John Newman and his crew from Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach, plus Jeff Trenary, the farmer from Kingfisher Farm, who grew the spectacular produce, served a feast that was at once enticing and enchanting, but also satisfying and enriching. It was an honor to pour Cowhorn’s 2006 Syrah and 2008 Spiral 36 with the food which had been so beautifully grown, prepared and presented. When I have food like that (food that is alive and that dances in your mouth), I feel so happy!

– Barbara Steele

James Beard pours Cowhorn

August 26, 2009

If you’d have told us back when we were removing rocks from our blocks that The James Beard Foundation would be pouring Cowhorn wines in New York City this year, we would probably have thought that you had enjoyed one too many glasses of grappa.

But as this is written, Barbara is in New York City to give some of the Big Apple’s most discerning foodies a taste of some of Southern Oregon’s only certified Biodynamic™ wine.

On Thursday, August 27, The James Beard Foundation is hosting an Oregon Summer Dinner with Chef John Newman of Newmans at 988 in Cannon Beach, Oregon. With the 2006 opening of Newmans at 988 on Oregon’s North Coast, CIA grad and Stephanie Inn alum John Newman established himself as one of the Pacific Northwest’s culinary stars. He’ll be plating up tastes of his state’s seasonal bounty at this innovative late-summer dinner.

Here’s what’s on the menu…

Hors d’Oeuvre
Spicy Albacore Tuna with Watermelon
Crispy Broccoli Rabe
Wild Mushroom Polenta
Tomatoes with Blue Cheese and Basil
Charred Kingfisher Farms Little Gem Romaine with Organic Vegetables
Ecosse Brut NV

Dinner
Nehalem Bay Dungeness Crabcake Salad with Preserved Lemon and Honey Dressing

38 Central hosts Cowhorn dinner

August 25, 2009

38 Central is hosting the second in its series of dinners featuring fine wine and fresh food from Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden. This time, David Graham will serve a flight of three Cowhorn wines—Viognier, Spiral 36 and Syrah—along with a 4-course meal.

Here’s the menu…

Lobster & Prawn “Corn Dogs”
Slipper lobster tails & Tiger Prawns hand dipped in a polenta batter ground from Cowhorn grown Corn
Try the Cowhorn Viognier (ohh, or even the Spiral 36!) with this dish to enhance the sweet flavors of Prawn and Lobster

Crab, Corn & Potato Salad
Fresh crab, Pan Roasted Cowhorn Corn and Poached New Potatoes tossed with a lemon/dill dressing
Here the subtle and floral notes of Spiral 36 seem to show off the nutty/sweet character of the corn and crab.

Watermelon Sorbet

Marinated Skirt Steak
w/Spicy Watermelon Salad; Corn & Haricots Vert
This screams out for the wonderful structure of Cowhorn Syrah – a match made in Heaven!

–OR–

Butter Poached Scallops
w/Sweet Corn Succotash & Watermelon Coulis
This dish works wonders with both the whites we offer from Cowhorn, tho even the Syrah can be a partner with Scallops, the soft structure and elegant finish adds depth to this dish as well.

Raspberry Chiffon w/Lemon Tuiles
Save a touch of your Cowhorn Syrah for this, the fresh raspberry and sweet tuiles bring out the fruit character of this wine and allow you to savor the night as you chat with Bill & Barb!

Wine and food on the farm

August 4, 2009

A new wave of winemakers are adding food crops and animals into the mix

Modern-day photos of wine country depict swaths of green vines rolling over hillsides in perfect, corduroylike rows.

But as bucolic as these images might appear to us, they would look alien to a visitor from centuries past. That’s because, once upon a time, farms were multipurpose operations, with grapes planted alongside vegetable patches and animal pens. Winemaking was just one of the many tasks that fell to the subsistence farmer.

Today, a new wave of local vintners is trying to re-create the Old World way of vine tending, for practical as well as sentimental reasons.

With their meat, eggs and produce, these winegrowers can glean additional revenue from their property without relying solely on the fickle wine market.

In addition, those who use horses to plow their land say that it saves them the money and fuel that would have been spent behind the wheel of a tractor. Polyculture farming, they maintain, enriches their land without harming the environment.

Finally, according to these back-to-the-land winegrowers, biodiversity protects their grapevines. Just as you’re bound to come home with the sniffles if you sit on an airplane with 150 other people, a vast tract planted with a single crop is a sitting duck waiting to be attacked by viruses and bugs. By introducing other crops to their vineyards, these farmers are adding buffers against pests and disease.

But practical factors aside, there’s also the basic truth that wine and food taste best together.

Here’s a look at three Oregon winemakers who embrace this Old World ethic.

A new old way of farming
Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, Jacksonville

Mid-September through late October, most folks in the winemaking trade are busy harvesting grapes, then sorting, crushing and fermenting them. It’s backbreaking, round-the-clock work. Thank goodness it only happens once a year.

Unless you’re Barbara and Bill Steele (pictured left, in his winery) at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in Jacksonville, in which case harvest comes around four or five times a year. Because in addition to growing grapes and making wine, the Steeles farm asparagus, artichokes, corn, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and cherries and other tree fruits. Oh, and coming next: black Perigord truffles.

Despite the fact that Oregon has a tradition of fruit orchards turned wineries (including Roxy Ann Winery/ Hillcrest Orchard in nearby Medford) — “99 percent of the people who come to the tasting room have no idea that a vineyard can produce food,” Barbara Steele marvels.
But local restaurant chefs know better. Cowhorn Vineyard often teams up with 38 Central, a fine-dining restaurant in Medford, for pairing dinners that match Cowhorn produce with Cowhorn wine.

In addition, New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro in Talent serves Cowhorn’s renowned purple and green asparagus alongside its wine and has a line on next summer’s crop of artichokes. And the Ashland Food Co-Op and Ashland Shop’n Kart grocery stores sell the southern Oregon vineyard’s vegetables.

» Full article

– Katherine Cole

Cowhorn Vineyard Releases Spiral 36

June 30, 2009

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden today announced the release of its groundbreaking white wine blend, “Spiral 36.” The wine takes its name from the shape of the winery’s logo and the estate vineyard blocks (3 and 6) that produced the winegrapes. Spiral 36 is Cowhorn’s first release from the 2008 vintage, and the first of a series of new releases in 2009.

Spiral 36 represents Southern Oregon’s first wine to rival great “Cal-Rhône” white blends from California – and from the Rhône River wine region itself. While most such blends are based on the popular Viognier grape, Spiral 36 is almost equally balanced between Viognier (35%), Roussanne (35%) and Marsanne (30%).

“We vinified the three grapes separately, and each wine had great character on its own,” recalls Cowhorn co-founder Barbara Steele. “Then one day it hit us — if we could get all that flavor and personality into one wine it would be amazing. Once we started blending trials, we knew we had to do it.”

Spiral 36 stands out for more than its blend. The vineyard that produced it is certified for both organic and Biodynamic® viticulture, ensuring that the flavors on the vine were true to nature. The grapes were also fermented in native yeast directly from the vineyard, rather than with cultured commercial yeasts (many of which are designed to add or amplify particular flavors). This natural approach further maintained the authenticity of the fruit flavors and textures that went into a mix of neutral (75%) and new (25%) French oak barrels for the winter.

This result is a succulent blend that gives off soft scents of Golden Delicious apple, guava and mango. These fruits burst with freshness on the palate, lifted up by a vibrant foundation of baked pear and caramelized golden sugar flavors. This complex combination creates a more serious drinking experience than most whites – even though the wine did not go through malolactic fermentation and has refreshingly moderate alcohol.

When Rhône grapes became popular in California in the 1990s, the wineries leading the trend found that the grapes of the region have a natural affinity for blending. Even though American wine-drinkers have been taught for two generations to select single-variety wines, the best of the new Cal-Rhône blends caught on. Leading proponents including Bonny Doon, Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Eberle, Joseph Phelps, and Tablas Creek established successful white blends along with their red Rhône blends. Now Spiral 36 takes its place beside them – even as it stands out with its Biodynamic origins in Oregon.

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden produced 416 cases of Spiral 36, which is offered at a suggested retail price of $18.00.

– John Darling

Art of the Label

May 1, 2009

No limit to creative applications in Oregon wine label design

With the number of Oregon wineries poised to surpass 400, what goes on the bottle is proving to be even more diverse—if not more delightful—than what goes in it.

Given the independent spirit of winery owners, that hardly comes as a surprise. But what they have come up with for their label designs and the process they went through to arrive at them, has so many different variations it would take a book to describe them all.

Marketers will tell you one of the most important purposes of a wine label should be shelf presence, to attract a potential buyer’s attention by making it stand out from competitors. But if that were its only purpose, large type and bold colors would do the job.

The message conveyed by a wine label goes well beyond that single goal. For Oregon wines, in particular, the label makes a statement—often a very personal one—about the people who have committed their lives to the product inside.

Here are a few of our favorites. They represent a broad range of artistic styles and graphic techniques, which indicates the almost limitless possibilities that can be explored when seeking to establish a unique identity.

Among the following examples selected by the OWP, you will find everything from portraits to period photography, abstract art to bold typography, vineyard scenes to birds and animals, line sketches to crests and monograms.

Breaking the designs down into specific groupings proved to be a useful approach. There are so many themes and variations on themes, defining and including examples of each one would have been impractical.

Instead, by utilizing a range of basic categories, we have sought to give readers a look at labels we feel exemplify each category as well as some insight into how they came about.

It should also be mentioned that some labels employ parts of more than one category, such as artwork depicting a person, a photograph of a person, or artwork of people in a series. The dominant element dictated which group it best fit into.

Perhaps the most important thing about this sampling of creative endeavors is that they are distinctly individualistic expressions of an industry noted for its intense individuality. They state, in no uncertain terms, “label me Oregon.”

Modern art takes on many forms. That one of them might be the semi-abstraction of a cowhorn is unusual though certainly not unimaginable. Ever heard of the biodynamic tea preparation created by composting in a buried cowhorn?

Cowhorn owners Bill and Barbara Steele wanted to have their label symbolize the winery’s commitment to biodynamics. When that desire met modern art’s uncluttered dynamics, the concept came together seamlessly.

The spare, simple elegance of this label attracts curiosity and therefore commands attention. What more could you ask in the way of both image and shelf presence?

– Karl Klooster

Thanksgiving wines to chat about

November 18, 2008

2007 Cowhorn Applegate Valley Marsanne Roussanne ($19): A winner with the “I-just-want-something-light-and-dry” crowd, this silky white blend is a blend of two grapes (originally hailing from France’s northern Rhone) that were farmed biodynamically in southern Oregon. With turkey, it shows complementary notes of herbs, lemons and minerals. With stuffing, unusual components of hay and quince come to the forefront, finishing with spicy ginger and white pepper. Find it at Bales Thriftway Marketplaces; Cork on Northeast Alberta Street and Northwest Lovejoy Street; Fred Meyer Burlingame; Market of Choice stores; QFC Mount Tabor and Sellwood; and Quinn’s Prime and Vine.

– Kate Leeper