Wine loving, foodie philanthropists in Portland have a perfect opportunity, thanks to the Classic Wines Auction, to make a difference while exploring Portland’s considerable offering of world class cuisine and wines from the premiere winemakers in the region. Classic Wines Auction is celebrating their 35th anniversary, and the Winemaker Dinners Series is a popular event that takes place three times a year. They’ve raised over $46 million over the years to benefit eleven different local non-profit organizations.
Winemaker Dinner with Noble Rot and Syncline Winery
The Winemaker Dinner I attended provided an evening in the company of eighteen Portland wine and food aficionados at the super chic yet comfortable award-winning Noble Rot. Guests enjoyed a very special wine pairing collaboration between Portland’s Noble Rot chef Leather Storrs and winemaker James Mantone of Lyle, Washington’s Syncline Winery.
Upon entering the intimate candlelit banquet room, guests were offered a glass of Brut bubbly and some herb ricotta puffs and had a chance to mingle a bit before the main event and to enjoy the stunning view of the nighttime Portland skyline. Many of the diners are repeat and even regular attendees of the Classic Wines Auction (CWA) Winemaker Dinners series and of the Annual Classic Wines Auction. Several of them had stories to share of other winemaker dinners they had attended in the past and told me that they try to attend at least one or two a year.
Non-Profits Gratefully Benefit
Jennifer and Gil Klemann are one of the couples who are frequent patrons, and in fact Jennifer has been involved as a Classic Wines Auction volunteer and has served on the Winemaker Dinner Committee. She says that one of the things she loves about this series is the relationships she has forged at the event. Jennifer enjoys the intimate time with the winemakers. She appreciates the chance to chat with them over a meal and learn from the winemakers about what makes each wine special to them.
Our hostess for the evening was Susan Sundberg, from the Clark County YWCA, one of the five local non-profits that the proceeds will benefit, and she spoke about the different services and programs offered there, giving a personal touch to the philanthropic element of the event. Syncline winemaker James Mantone and his wife Poppie Mantone, General Manager of Syncline Winery, sat at the table with us to enjoy the meal prepared by Noble Rot chef Leather Storrs.
A Fundraiser Dinner That Was as Educational as it Was Delicious
At the beginning of the dinner and at various points throughout, both James and Leather would get up to explain what we were about to taste, what the inspirations behind the dishes and the pairings were, and detailed information about the grapes and the production of the wines. The meal was as educational as it was delicious.
Guests learned about the old world wine-making processes employed by Syncline, and the growing conditions required by the various grapes. I appreciated learning about what I think is my new favorite wine, the 2016 Mourvèdre. The Mourvèdre grapes originated in Spain and are not easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest. James explained that the grapes are grown on Red Mountain in the Tri-Cities, Yakima Valley area, one of the hottest place in the state. Mourvèdre is a very full-bodied red wine best served with meats or with richly flavored foods, and Leather paired it with a braised and grilled lamb shoulder, slow-roasted carrots, and a ragout of potatoes and wild mushrooms.
More Dinner Highlights
Other highlights of the meal were a shrimp bisque with Meyer lemon quinoa and crispy shallots, and the fried chicken with a white root puree and caper and olive sauce.
The spectacular vegetarian dish specially prepared for a couple of the guests must be mentioned despite the fact that it wasn’t part of the main planned menu. Here’s how Leather describes it: “It was developed by our Sous Chef, Trey Jackson. It consists of a lion’s mane mushroom, brined, smoked and roasted. The other mushroom is a king Oyster that is hollowed out and filled with potato and celery root purée. A slow roasted carrot sitting on garlicky pea shoots rounds out the plate. The sauce is an attempt at vegan beef jus. With lots of caramelized vegetables, mushroom stems, red wine and nutritional yeast. A vegan steak plate is the aim!”
The wines were all stellar, but especially the 2016 Carignan-Grenache, the afore-mentioned Mourvèdre, and the 2016 Syrah, both rich reds.
Classic Wines Auction: Offering One of a Kind Culinary Experience
If enjoying outstanding dinners at premier restaurants, while also learning about the cuisine and wine and making a difference in your community sounds right up your alley, you’re in luck. The next series of CWA Winemaker Dinners is in April, and if the Noble Rot/Syncline Winery dinner is typical, you’ll love this one-of-a-kind culinary experience.
- Classic Wines Auction, https://www.classicwinesauction.com/
- WineMakerDinners, https://www.winemakersdinnerspdx.com/
- Noble Rot, noblerotpdx.com/
- Syncline Winery, https://www.synclinewine.com
- On our site: Let the Wines Come to You at Local Wine Events
-All photos by Julie Pacheco-Toye.