It’s a warm summer evening at the home of Ransom Wine Co. and Distillery’s Tad and Mary Seestedt and guests gather on the back porch to enjoy a cocktail and an expansive view of the Willamette Valley. Chef John Taboada is in the kitchen assembling a menu of tapas for the 16 guests gathered for a meal that will explore Burgundian and Iberian cuisines and wine varietals. Tonight’s dinner is one of the “Pre-IPNC dinners” that kick-off the 28th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), held in McMinnville, Oregon.
A Pre-IPNC Dinner
IPNC, the three day Pinot noir wine event, is widely regarded as one of the best wine festivals out there. This years’ event features 73 Pinot noir wine producers, 60 guest chefs and 825 registered attendees, plus approximately 550 people attending the Sunday Passport to Pinot event. It’s a weekend of tasting some of the finest Pinot noirs, seminars, fabulous food, and the opportunity to learn from and just have fun with wine makers and wine connoisseurs from all over the world.
Chef John Taboada is co-owner (with wife and partner Giovanna Parolari) of three Portland restaurants, each with their own cuisines and personalities, each exemplifying the best of the city’s eateries. Taboada introduces the meal by sharing how much Seestedt and Ransom have done for Oregon wines and spirits. “His Pinots are great and he’s been doing this since 1999. He’s helped shape Oregon’s recognition for great wines. But this guy really also started making spirits here [in 1997] long before everyone else was and what’s happened there is really exciting. And while our Pinots are great, we’re also seeing people starting to grow other varietals here, and again, Ransom is one of those vineyards doing that—and it’s really exciting.” Taboada created his menu to showcase some of the varietals that Ransom is working with from regions of France, Spain and Portugal.
The evening celebrates the 10th anniversary of their doing dinners together, and Seestedt shared his admiration of what Taboada has done for Portland cuisine. He agrees that he’s excited about what’s ahead for Ransom and for Oregon. “We’re still just getting started here.” He says that expanding what can be done in the spirits world and making wine from varietals newer to the region is a wonderful development for Ransom and other Willamette Valley and Oregon producers.
Taboada and his crew put out an assortment of tapas to get us started. There’s papadoo pepper with cheese, tuna with pickles and onions, pickled shrimp and quail eggs with cumin salt (oh, that salt on the roof of the mouth!) There are mushrooms in garlic and parsley, boquerones (white anchovies) with peppers and olives, smoked trout with fava beans (my personal favorite, if I had to choose). Also, chorizo cooked in Ransom’s Vino Tinto, and marinated leg of lamb with watercress.
The tapas are served with Chrysanthemums, a cocktail Art, Ransom’s brand mixologist, created that includes Ransom’s Dry Vermouth, Benedictine, absinthe, and orange bitters. Perfection.
Once we’re seated for dinner, the casual setting and communal seating elicits some great conversations about wine, food, and travel. By the end of the evening, talk is about family, work and personal joys as well. Good food, drink and welcoming hosts will do that.
Our first course is octopus with potatoes and Spanish paprika, paired with Ransom’s 2015 Albariño. Albariño’s popularity is increasing in the area. Ransom’s has a wonderful low acidity, great florals, and a crispness that brought out the flavors of this most tender octopus dish.
In the States, eggs are most often a breakfast food, but you’ll find them as a late supper or tapas dish in Spain and other spots on Western Europe. Here, Taboada soft scrambles the eggs with salt cod and the results are a savory delight. If you’re eating them for breakfast, you don’t often consider pairing eggs with wine. Try them with Ransom’s 2012 Machine Breaker ‘Innocents’ Pinot noir or their 2015 Tinto Cão. The latter was a surprise given the high flavor concentration. I loved the spice and bite of this varietal (it’s often used in ports)—and it will be my first choice next time the opportunity arises.
With the eggs, we enjoy two salads; maché and roasted red pepper, and arugula with watermelon and grated ricotta. Both salads were ever so lightly dressed, really allowing the vegetables to speak for themselves.
The third course arrives: platters of beef strip loin with beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes and basil. Exquisite flavors. Re-think any view you may have that Pinot noir doesn’t hold up to red meat. Ransom’s 2012 ‘Cattrall Vineyard’ Pinot Noir was a wonderful accompaniment to this course, as was their 2014 ‘Rogue Valley’ Tempranillo.
Dessert, a honey torte with grilled figs and aged manchego cheese, arrives with Ransom’s Sweet Vermouth, 2014 Reisling ‘Raisins’, and/ or their Gewürztraminer Grappa. Each complimented the honey-sweet of the torte and fig and the slight piquancy of the cheese.
IPNC dinners are a great start to the festival and Ransom’s dinner was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Oregon wine, spirits and cuisine. Do visit Ransom’s McMinnville tasting room and one of John Taboada’s three Portland restaurants.
The 2017 International Pinot Noir celebration will be held July 28-30, 2017.
- Ransom Wine Co. and Distillery, https://www.ransomspirits.com/
- John Taboada and Giovanna Parolari’s three Portland venues, Navarre, https://www.navarreportland.com/, Luce, https://www.luceportland.com/, and Angel Face, https://www.angelfaceportland.com/
- International Pinot Noir Celebration, https://www.ipnc.org/
-All photos by Nancy Zaffaro.