The pinot grape is the focus of the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and thus the feature of the Willamette Valley Vineyards recent wine dinner hosted by Greg Norman’s Australian Grille in North Myrtle Beach, SC. The Pinot Noir is a black skinned fruit, typically associated with the Burgundy region of France, and grown in the cool climates of California’s Sonoma Valley and Oregon which is at the same latitude and with similar climate as Burgundy. The Pinot Gris, a white wine made from the gray-skinned fruit, is sometimes referred to as the child of Pinot Noir. It’s the same as the popular Pinot Grigio if Italian.
The Willamette Valley Vineyard produces 60 wines, all from the valley’s locally grown fruit, and all are Oregon certified sustainable wines. Jim Bernau, a sixth generation Oregonian, began with the winery in 1983 and in 2011 was awarded the first-ever recognition as Hero of Salmon for the implementation of the high-impact Salmon Safe Sip Save campaign. The vineyard has been a pioneer in moving the Oregon vineyard industry toward greater ecological sustainability in helping to restore the salmon watersheds so that native salmon can spawn and thrive.
The first lesson delivered by Mandi Silver, the vineyard’s eastern regional sales manager, was the pronunciation which is Will-am’ette with the emphasis on the am syllable to rhyme with damit.
The dinner opened with Chef Jeff Edwards‘ samplings of fried artichoke hearts with a spicy dip, pulled duck on flat bread and crab in buttery crust.
The appetizer course was perfectly paired with the chilled Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling 2009 which is a semi-sweet medium bodied German-style wine.
Guests were seated for the second course of Crepe of Forest Mushrooms a La Normande which was paired with chilled Pinot Gris 2009.
The third course was Salmon with Marionberry Glaze served with Willamette Valley Vineyards Cluster Pinot Noir 2010. This versatile light fruity wine was described as “liquid fruit salad in a glass.” The marionberry, a hybrid blackberry grown only in Oregon and named for Marion County in the Willamette Valley, was hand delivered directly from its source as another distinctive highlight of this dinner.
Venison Meatloaf with Winter Squash Puree and Celery Root Au Jus was paired with the Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008. This rich and refined wine scored 90 points in the Wine and Spirits February 2011 issue, and the winery was named the magazine’s 2011 Winery of the Year as well as the Wine Press Northwest Oregon Winery of the Year.
The Estate Pinot Noir 2008 was the elegant pairing with the Herbed Elk Medallion with Strawberry Fig. This lively spicy wine was selected from the few remaining cases of a small production.
Finally, dessert of Curried Mango, Pineapple Upside Down Cake with served with Willamette Valley Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2007, an explosively sweet and intense chilled wine from the limited production of only 58 cases.
Six courses including such features as duck, crab, salmon, venison and elk, each with unique presentation, added up to more than your mother’s meatloaf dinner.
Greg Norman’s Australian Grille is frequently recognized among the best fine dining establishments in the Myrtle Beach area and received the Wine Spectator magazine Award of Excellence in 2011. The restaurant is celebrating its twelfth anniversary with a continuing series of monthly wine dinners and additional tasting events. Whether a connoisseur of fine wines or a novice sipper, meat and potato lovers and persnickety diners alike can easily select a favorite wine or an exotic entrée created by the award-winning culinary staff.