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Overcoming Adversity: A Conversation with Susan Teppola

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with our owner, Susan Teppola, to discuss the history of our winery and her role in shaping the past and future of our farm over the last 4 decades. In 2006, Laurel Ridge lost both its original estate vineyard, and its founder, David. Either one of these tragedies on their own would have been enough to cause irreparable damage. No one – including David, before his passing – expected Laurel Ridge to continue on.

Susan’s decision to keep the farm that she and David had invested their lives in flew in the face of conventional wisdom. This decision tells the story of incredible love, sacrifice, and overcoming adversity despite all the odds…and that is where my interview with her begins.

Q:

2006 was the year that we lost both the original vineyard, and David, correct? 

In 2006, we lost both our original estate vineyard, as well as my husband. Well, the phylloxera and David’s passing were two totally separate tragedies. They culminated in the same year, but they were totally separate. 

Q:

Can we start with the phylloxera? When did that begin?

We were diagnosed with phylloxera in the mid-1990’s. We were the 7th vineyard in Oregon to be recognized by the Department of Agriculture in Oregon State University as being stricken with phylloxera. 

I remember when David told me – he called me at work, and I think I almost fell out of my chair. I was just stunned, and heartbroken, really, because we had nurtured those vines from infancy – some of them were replanted twice, in 1980 and 1981. We hand watered those vines through the very, very hot summer of 1981 – I literally had a watering can. In case you were wondering, 40 acres of grapes was a lot to water by hand. 

It was just terrible. The vineyard was really only 13 or 14 years old when it was diagnosed, so only a third of the way through its lifetime. It’s like having a kid in your 30’s get cancer – they’re only a third of the way through, and there they are. 

Q:

What was David’s approach to the phylloxera? 

Well, David really had two approaches – at first he thought, if it dies, that’s okay, because it’s one or two degrees off a true south axis. But he transitioned out of that pretty quickly. David began researching, and there are things that you can do to the vineyard to help it limp along. The path he chose was initially tried in Australia. Essentially, phylloxera strangles the plant and interferes with its ability to bring water up from the root. By fertilizing and supporting the plant in certain ways, you can lengthen its lifetime despite the phylloxera. Essentially, you’re delaying it’s death That worked for a while – you could still see concentric circles of phylloxera killing the vines, but some of the others looked incredibly healthy. The last harvest was 2006, which was far longer than most people would have thought our vineyard would have survived. 

Q:

What was that final harvest like, in 2006?

It was tiny – it was a little bit of Pinot Noir which was only one of four different varietals we were growing. There was so little of it that we bought a clear shower curtain, put the de-stemmer over the barrel, and used the shower curtain to contain the grapes. We only ended up with one barrel of 2006 Estate Pinot Noir and it was fermented in the same barrel that it was aged in. I honestly can’t remember when we released it. So ultimately, the vineyard died the same year David died. But David managed the vineyard for more than 10 years after it was originally diagnosed, so they were really two separate struggles. 

Q:

Shifting our attention to the other tragedy…can you tell me about when David got sick?

David got sick just after we moved to the farm in 2000. He was initially diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, but that was inaccurate. He had adenocarcinoma that settled in his colon. He did chemotherapy and surgeries for some time, from 2001 to 2003, then he was healthy from 2003 to 2005. His cancer returned with a vengeance in March of 2005. There was more chemotherapy, and more surgery, but he passed on January 7, 2006.

Q:

Was David making wine during this time period? 

Yes, David had made wine in the fall of 2005. Although our estate yield had dropped dramatically, he still had chosen to purchase grapes from his usual growers.

Q:

What did David want you to do with the farm? Had you two discussed what you were going to do with the vineyard in the event that he passed? 

I knew that he was very concerned about the viability of both the vineyard and winery when he got his terminal diagnosis. I remember he said to me in the hospital, “Now this may be too hard for you…but I need you to bulk off all of the 2005 vintage – sell it all. I’ve already got one sale organized for you (David had sold some barreled Pinot Noir to Willamette Valley Vineyards). Then, sell the rest of the inventory – labeled bottles and all. And then, sell the equipment. And then when that has been sold off, you’ll sell the farm. 

And, I said, “Okay, David, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Q:

Well, we both know that isn’t what you did – here we are 15 years later. Did you ever have any intention of selling the farm?

No. Never. From the moment he said, ‘it’s going to be too hard for you,’ and told me to sell the farm, I resolved that I was not going to be doing that. I would not do that. 

The night before he passed away, David gave me the keys to the winery, and he said it’s just too late for me to show you how to do exactly everything, but here they are.

Q:

What did you do immediately after he passed? 

I honestly can’t remember the first thing I did. I had the keys, but I just sat at his desk for a long time. I finally thought, well, you probably have to answer the phone. And I’m pretty sure that you have to pick up the mail. And I just went from there. 

Q:

Did you have wines in barrel and fermenting? 

Oh yes, but we had no winemaker. So there were a few custom clients that were in the building, and they helped me – but those early days are such a blur. I can just hardly remember. I worked primarily with consulting winemakers who were utilizing our facility until I got my feet under me. 

Q:

What did that period of time from 2006 to 2015 look like? How did your relationship with the vineyard change over those 9 years?

Well, in the very beginning I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t think more than 15 minutes ahead. I literally started with, “Maybe I could make it through the next 15 minutes.” And then I’d think, ‘Well maybe we could make it through the next day, and then maybe we could make it through the weekend. All that really changed was that the window of time in which I was hopeful we could make it lengthened, and just kept lengthening.”

The good thing was, I had always worked in the tasting room on the weekends, so I knew how to do that. After David’s death, the out pouring of love was unbelievable. We had people who were friends of David’s who filled in and came every weekend for 2 years, to either help us with the facility or help us with sales. These friends didn’t accept any money – maybe a bottle of wine, but really they wouldn’t take anything. 

Then we moved on to having part timers. We had a huge sign up sheet, and people would sign up to work this Saturday, or this weekend, etc. Pretty soon our roster was full of people who would like to work once a month or twice a month. It was mostly people who had full time jobs and wanted to do something extra on the sides. We never had help during the day, except during the summer. Sometimes if it got really busy, I used to add help during the weekdays. There was a bell that would ring, and one of the guys in the back would come out to help customers.

Q:

So you really didn’t have a consistent staff? Were you working in the tasting room everyday? 

Yes. I always tried to get home from my other job (with the State of Oregon) as soon as possible so that I could relieve the production guys, because they had to work the tasting room as well as the cellar until I got there. As soon as I got home, I’d work the tasting room. 

Q:

It sounds like during the beginning of this time period, you were just trying to survive. 

Absolutely. But as time went on, while we were trying to survive, we decided we should really help others do the same thing. I just figured, they’re struggling, I’m struggling, we’re all just struggling. I figured we may as well just struggle together. I took on a social service agency function – this is something that we still do to this day. We’ve been the first job for a lot of teenagers, and for a lot of kids who needed it. I’m very proud of that.

Their parents have probably told them the same rules, but who listens to their parents? It’s important for kids to go to a job where their employer re-enforces what their parents have told them – that it’s important to have an employer who tells them the same things. Get up on time, get dressed, go to work and be there on time and ready to work. 

This all started with a kid named Kyle, who was a Yamhill-Carlton High School student. I think he was a Junior. I came home one day from my other job in a little bit of a rush. It must have been 3:30 or 4:00, after school.

I walked in and there was this – well, know how teenagers – especially boys – tend to walk hunched over? They just don’t stand up straight. And he had all the blemishes that showed his adolescence, he was shy as could be. So there was this teenager, and he starts telling me his story his mother had been taken to jail, he had a little sister who was much younger, and they were being cared for by an aunt. Dad wasn’t in the picture. 

He told me this whole story and then said, “Is there something you can do for me?” And so I said, “Yeah, if you come back on Saturday, I’ll give you a job.” And sure enough, there he was on Saturday. 

One of the guests in the tasting room overheard the conversation  said, the way you handled that was just incredible.  And I said, “Well, we can’t do hand-outs, but we can do hand-up’s.” But I don’t think Kyle was looking for a hand out, the way he said it. He shared his story, and just asked what I could do for him. So I did what I could.

Q:

How did Kyle hear about the winery?

No idea. I don’t know. I still don’t. I also didn’t have a job for him, to tell you the truth. I thought he might just mow my lawn. But it ended up, I walked out to the boys out back and I said, “We have a new crew member!” And they said, “Well what are we supposed to do with him?” And I said, “I don’t know, but here he is!” And it was great. It ended up being one of the best, most productive business decisions, for both of us.

Q:

So there were quite a few years you were on your own, mostly – working full time as a Judge, and then working the tasting room in the evenings and weekends. What changed that made you decide to double down and complete such a large replanting in 2015? 

Well in 2015 – by that time – Kira (Susan’s eldest daughter) had expressed an interest in coming back to the business. We just decided to double down. David and I never expected our kids to come back to the business. But obviously it would be there from them if they did that. And really, the only way to do that is to be an estate winery once more. The winery was bankable at that point. We had a really great relationship with the agricultural development of Bank of the West. They gave us a loan to plant 16 acres of vineyard – and I managed to squeeze 24 acres out of the loan, I made every penny squeal as our banker pointed out.

Q:

What are your plans for the future of the vineyard? Will you be doing more replanting?

Oh yes. We have a patch of Pinot Noir that we need to fill out. But after that, the next thing I’d like to do is plant Sauvignon Blanc, along with some other small blocks of white wines – Pinot Blanc for sure. From there, we need to add some more reds to our estate, but I’m not sure what that would look like. 

The interesting part about being in the wine industry right now is that we do have climate change – so you really have to look at the science of it. It’s more than a question of what you want to plan, but what will succeed with global warming. There’s no sense in planting things that aren’t likely to succeed. So when we think about the future and what we may plant next, we have to think about varietals will be best for our soil, aspect, and elevation over the next 30 years. It’s not just a matter anymore of what you like – it’s a matter of what will work. But it’s very exciting, nonetheless.

Re-Introducing… Laurel Ridge’s Tawny Port!

Every holiday season needs a little extra sparkle – especially this year, which has presented a unique set of challenges. Here at the vineyard, we thought we would help make your holiday season bright with a very special re-introduction…our Tawny Port.

Port is a wine that our vineyard has historic reputation for producing, and may be one of our most anticipated releases within the last decade. Our founder David Teppola began crafting Ports in 1998. He began with a Ruby Port, followed by a Tawny Port released in 1999. David had his own special, proprietary process that he utilized. Crafting a Tawny Port is a delicate balancing act requiring the wine’s elements of acid, alcohol, and sugar to be in perfect measure. Knowing this, he felt very strongly that crafting a Port that would meet his standards for character and quality required exacting attention to detail and the highest caliber product every step of the way. David’s process reflected this commitment to excellence, from the brix (or sugar) content of the original fruit being used, to the quality of the still Pinot Noir he sent to be distilled into brandy, to his choice of Clear Creek Distillery to produce our brandy

David continued to make Port, ultimately winning two gold medals at the Astoria Seafood and Wine Festival in 2004 with a Cabernet Franc Ruby Port which was one of our most popular to date. That vintage was followed by another enormously popular Cabernet Sauvignon Port in 2008.

This year’s release of Tawny Port is half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Cabernet Franc, combining the two incredibly followed 2004 and 2008 vintages into one beautifully crafted Port. The barrels at the time of this bottling had been aged for 14 to 16 years.

Our Tawny Port is immediately eye catching, with a beautiful, shimmering copper color. The warm, enveloping aroma surrounds you with brown sugar, vanilla, and hazelnut, making us think of creme brûlée. Each sip of the port brings warming and nostalgic flavors such as caramelized figs, gingerbread, and peanut brittle, balanced with the slightest musky notes of tobacco leaf. This will be the perfect wine to end a holiday meal, and add some cheer as loved ones open gifts.

With a wine as decadent and scrumptious as this, you won’t have to look too hard to find the perfect accompaniment. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, look no farther than lavish pairings such as chocolate, almond or walnut cakes, gingerbread or pecan pie. If your palate tends more towards a savory profile, then craft your holiday charcuterie plate up to feature rich, sumptuous cheeses such as Stilton, Gouda, or Bleu.

Contact the tasting room today to purchase our Tawny Port!

 

Sage & Walnut Pesto Pasta, with Acorn Squash

Recommended Wine Pairing: Laurel Ridge 2017 Chardonnay

Here in Oregon wine country, harvest season is a “round the clock” sort of affair. Fruit is arriving by the ton at all hours of the day and night, from all over the Willamette Valley and sometimes from as far away as Southern Oregon. A full night’s sleep is a luxury, and moment of rest are not guaranteed! When life is this busy, having delicious, filling meals is an absolute must – and let me tell you, “harvest meals” are a real thing here in the wine industry!

Meal prepping – or at least having a plan – is integral to these happy (but chaotic!) times, and is a chance to show our gratitude to our hardworking harvest crew. Our requirements for a Harvest meal is that they should be hearty, warm, seasonal, and absolutely delicious. This warm, cozy pasta has got all the components. It’s the time of dinner that invites you to sit down and relish every bite, whether you have 2 minutes, or 20. Best of all – you don’t have to be harvesting to enjoy it! It’s a great recipe for sharing, or to treat yourself to a little bit of magic on a weeknight.

There are more steps to this recipe than some we’ve posted – we recommend giving yourself a full 30 minutes to prepare this. If you’re feeling intimidated by the diced squash in this recipe, make sure to check out our instructions at the bottom for how to peel and cut a squash (I promise it isn’t nearly as hard as it looks!). Acorn squash is one of those items whose “bark” is far worse than its bite. But we promise – it is surprisingly easy to work with, and your hard work will be handsomely repaid with this delicious meal.


Ingredients:

1 acorn squash, cubed 

2 tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste

Cracked black pepper, to taste 

1 cup sage leaves

3 cups fresh basil 

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (we love a sharp Parmesan Reggiano) 

8 ounces sliced pancetta, crisped

Kosher salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste 

1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta 


Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

2.Toss cubed acorn squash in olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until squash is fork tender. 

3.Meanwhile, in food processor, combine basil and sage by pulsing. Once roughly chopped, add walnuts to basil and sage and run food processor continuously until well combined, then add garlic, parmesan, salt and pepper. Set pesto mixture aside. 

4.Cook your pasta until al dente, according to instruction. While cooking pasta, lightly crisp pancetta in a steel pan over medium-high heat until the edges brown.

5.In bowl, combine pasta with 1/4 cup pasta water, pesto mixture, and stir until well combined. 

6.Top with roasted acorn squash, pancetta, and parmesan.



On cutting the acorn squash…

First, cut your squash in half. Using a sharp knife, begin by pushing the tip of your blade down into the middle of the squash one to two inches, and then gently apply downwards pressure – like a lever. This way you can maintain an even cut, and you do not have to worry about any slippage. Once you have cut all the way through, spin the squash and cut from the other side! Now that you’ve halved the squash, scoop out all the pulp, guts, and seeds. Next, microwave the squash (the whole thing!) for 2-3 minutes. This increases the permeability of the skin, so that it can be more easily removed. Once you remove the squash from the microwave, give it a second to cool – then using a sharp blade (always!), gently cut away the skin. From here, you’re golden – dice away!

But as always, there are a couple of options! On nights that I don’t feel like doing a ton of cooking, the pre-cubed squash packages at Trader Joe’s are cost effective, and a total lifesaver.

Caramelized Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza

Suggested wine pairing: Laurel Ridge 2019 Estate Pinot Gris, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Willamette Valley 

appetizer, food and wine, wine pairingThis recipe was born out of sheer necessity. What I had planned for this particular Thursday evening was a delicious salad, featuring caramelized pears and gorgonzola. But what my heart desired was pizza. Slippery slope though this may be (because really, when don’t I want pizza?), I went ahead and mashed the two together.

Now, we are no strangers to unique food pairings here at Laurel Ridge, but this once seemed a little out there. I didn’t necessarily have high hopes. Pears? On pizza? Let me tell you, that first bite eroded any questions I had remaining. Delightfully sweet with the caramelized fruit, yet salty with the gorgonzola, yet crunchy with the walnuts…? I could go on. I would strongly advise crisping your pizza crust and embracing the crunch, which gives this pizza an additional flatbread like deliciousness. Plus, with vegetables (arugula) and fruit (caramelized pear)…this pizza is basically health food, right?! 

Best of all, it pairs perfectly with our 2019 Estate Pinot Gris. Playing off the sweet honeysuckle and sweet orchard apple notes in the Gris, it makes for a match made in heaven.


 

Ingredients:

1 pizza crust, pre-made or par baked

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

2 pears, sliced finely

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 diced diced red onion

1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola

1/3 cup mozzarella 

1/3 cup walnuts

1 cup fresh arugula, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (optional: tossed in 2 tbsp olive oil and the juice of one half lemon, salt and pepper to taste)


Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

2.Combining butter and 1 tbsp of oil in the pan over high heat, add pear slices and stir until coated well. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes.

3.Add sugar to pears, tossing to coat and cooking for one minute further. Remove from heat. 

4.Brush oil over pizza crust. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over crust. 

5.Arrange pears in one even layer over the pizza crust.

6.Sprinkle onion, then gorgonzola, then walnuts evenly over pizza. 

7.Cook at 425 for 10 to 12 minutes, or until gorgonzola is melted and edges begin to turn brown.

8.Slice pizza, and top with fresh arugula as garnish.

And just like that, you’ve got an entirely unique (and entirely delicious) dinner! Creativity is the spice of life – so if you decide to make this recipe the own, more power to you! The possibilities are endless! And don’t forget – tag us in any recipes that you try at home! We love to see how you enjoy our wines at home.

View of grapevines with a winery and countryside in the distance.

Where is Carlton, Oregon and what is it all about?

Sign of Laurel Ridge Winery

The adorable wine town of Carlton is in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country and, although (perhaps) surrounded by more famous Oregon wine country towns like namely Dundee and McMinnville, Carlton has an identity all its own. As I love to tell people, it is a one blinking stop-light town with enough wineries, tasting rooms, and restaurants to keep you busy for days. Continue reading

I like it, but what do I Pinot?

Hello everyone! My name is Aaron Andrews. I’m from North Eastern Washington, and I am the new summer intern at Laurel Ridge Winery. I could tell you that I got the job at Laurel Ridge for any number of reasons: my charming smile, my sparkling personality, my Christlike humility (lol). The reality, however, is that I got the job because of a sarcastic answer I wrote on a resume. I was filling out an application for an internship program located in Newberg Oregon, my girlfriend’s hometown. I was hungry at the time. No, I don’t mean hungry as in ambitious,  I mean hungry like “I want a sandwich.” In my haste, I wrote a snarky answer to the last question in the application: “What is your dream job?” My answer: “Food critic.”

Two weeks later I got a call from the internship coordinator. “It says here,” she told me, “that you want to be a food critic. With that in mind, would you be interested in interning at a winery this summer?” I laughed to myself for a second: “Food critic?” I thought, “What was I thinking?” But up

on further consideration I decided to take the job, and here I am now, pouring wine behind a bar in the coolest little boutique winery in all of Oregon Wine country.

I’ve had to learn a lot about wine in the last couple of weeks. It’s my job to take people through the flights, explaining each wine as I pour. At times, I feel as if I’m speaking about things of which I know not. But here’s a cool thing that I’ve come to realize about wine: it’s  kind of like music.

I’m a musician; I’ve been playing the drums since I was ten years old. Jazz is my favorite. As a musician I’ve learned that increasing my knowledge of music and music theory deepens my appreciation of a good tune. The more I study the rudimentary rhythms of jazz, the more I can appreciate great drummers like Art Blakey or Buddy Rich. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to know anything about music theory or jazz drums in order to be blown away by one of Art Blakey’s solos. You just listen and let your jaw drop. It’s the same with wine. The more time you spend getting to know wine and the more discerning your palate becomes, the better you will become at identifying individual parts of the symphonic whole of a glass of Laurel Ridge Pinot for instance—but you don’t need to know a single thing about grapes, wine, or wine making in order to recognize the essential beauty of a glass of wine. It’s not a thing that requires any thought. You just taste it.

Wine and music seem to me to be a couple of the great areas of common ground in human existence. They are the kinds of

things that you can share with anyone, no matter who they are or how much they know about the subject. You can always reach out to your fellow man with a song or a glass of wine and say “Here! Listen! Taste! Try!”

With that in mind, here are a couple of recommendations from my experience thus far:

Try an Oregon Pinot Noir alongside pork loin seasoned with a rosemary rub. The fruit and acidity in the Pinot plays well with the mellow, earthy spice.

Enjoy your meal while listening to the song “Invitation” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, it’s perfect for quiet evenings on the patio.

Find yourself a hot patio and drink chilled Pinot Gris while listening to Gershwin’s “Summertime.”

If you’re in the area this summer, stop by Laurel Ridge and sample some of the good stuff. I sure love it, and I bet you will too!

Linda’s Food and Wine Pairings: Post 1, Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Shredded Duck, and Beef Shish Kabobs

If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting our Tasting Room while our Wine Club Manager, Linda, is pouring, you’ve known the thrill of hearing her food and wine pairings. Linda truly is a master of designing meals around her wine, and is the ultimate perfectionist when it comes to the pairing food and wine. So for 2017, we’re giving Linda the floor with her recipes, which pair perfectly with our Wine Club Releases this year. In this episode, we’ll cover bacon-wrapped scallops with Pinot Gris, shredded duck to serve with Oregon Pinot Noir, and beef shish kabobs to serve with our Oregon Zinfandel.

Up first is our 2016 Pinot Gris served with bacon-wrapped scallops and wild rice pilaf. For the bacon-wrapped scallops, we prefer this recipe served alongside your favorite wild rice. Why does Pinot Gris do so well with this meal? The acidity of the wine will stand up to the fat of the bacon and flavors and the protein density of the seafood and pork combination. The citrus-driven notes of the Gris will also stand up well to the hearty flavors of the bacon, scallops, and earthy wild rice without completely ruining the beautiful flavors of the wine.

 
Next is our 2015 Barrel Select Oregon Pinot Noir to serve with shredded duck on a crostini with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction. For the shredded duck, follow this recipe; once duck is cooked add a final step of shredding at the end. Make sure your bites are big enough to fit on your crostini but not so shredded that you have to make haystacks on your bread. Next spread your crostini with a thin layer of goat cheese and your balsamic reduction. Why does this pairing work? Gamey meats always pair well with earth-driven wines like Oregon Pinot Noir. Goat cheese has strong earthy elements as well, and paired with the deep, rich notes of your balsamic reduction, the soil and fruit notes of your Pinot Noir will really shine.
 
And lastly, our 2012 Zinfandel. Serve with marinated beef shish kabobs and grilled polenta (keep reading for Linda’s custom beef marinade!). This pairing works because Zinfandel really brings out smokey elements of charbroiled meat. The big fruity notes of the Zin can stand up to accents of smoke imparted on the beef and vegetables from being grilled. Oh, and make sure you include mushrooms in your shish kabobs.

Want a tip on making the perfect grilled shish kabobs? Don’t stack like the photo above (yes, we know, we wish it were warm enough to photograph our method, but unfortunately the Laurel Ridge grill won’t be out for a few more months). Instead, skewer all of your meat in the middle, and place all the vegetables on the ends of your kabobs. This will help you concentrate the higher temperatures on the meat without burning your vegetables, and will help you even the heat on the veggies so they’re cooked well without overdoing it on the meat. Makes sense, huh?
Here’s what you need for your marinade:
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dry cooking sherry
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (make sure you have the powder, not fresh, not crystallized)
Marinade instructions:
Sauté onions in olive oil on medium heat until onions are clear. Reduce heat and add in your soy sauce or balsamic vinegar, and your 1/2 cup dry cooking sherry. Let that simmer for 5 minutes, then pull it off the heat and add 1/2 t ground ginger. Place it in a freezer bag with your cubed up beef and let marinade for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight. And the cheaper your cut fo meat, the more tender this marinade will make it. This isn’t necessarily something you want to marinade your ribeye or NY strip; it’s better to marinade a chuck roast or London broil.
And there you have it! Three perfect meals to pair with your wines. Cheers!

A Guide To Our Red Blends

Oregon, as you may or may not know, is home to many wine-growing regions that are actually quite different from one another. We of course have the Willamette Valley AVA, where your Oregon Pinot Noir hails from, but we also have the Southern Oregon AVA, the Columbia Valley AVA, and the Snake River AVA, all producing award-winning grapes and wines year after year.

While the Willamette Valley has surely made a name for itself as a cool-climate, Pinot-producing region, the Columbia Valley, Southern Oregon, and Snake River AVAs produce quite a number of warm-weather grape varieties like Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more. These warm-weather varieties thrive where the summers are longer, warmer and drier. Despite the fact that Laurel Ridge is situated in the heart of Willamette Valley “Pinot Country,” we hold a special place in our hearts for these warmer varieties.

337a8935-2Our philosophy has always been to highlight the best that Oregon has to offer which has led to our tradition of producing red blends. Now, you might be of the ilk that hears the words “red blend” and cringes a little bit. And I don’t blame you. Red blend has become an umbrella term for a lot of terrible red wines (can I even call them that?) you’d find on the bottom shelf of the grocery store aisles. But blend doesn’t have to mean that. Red blend is also an umbrella term for a lot of well-rounded, unique, and delicious red wines.

The beauty of a red blend is that you can highlight the best characteristics of each grape you use in your wine. Take the black fruits, plum, and raisin notes from a Zinfandel, the blueberry and fresh fruit characteristics from Syrah, and the ripe red fruits from a Merlot, blend them well and you have some pretty spectacular wine.

For our 2014 current red blends available, both have been aged 18 months in French Oak and the results are soft, elegant, and approachable while offering a serious amount of spunk. Interested in getting to know them a bit more? Read on…

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Our 2014 Oregon Roan is a Syrah-Based blend, lower acid and tannins than Pinot Noir, but bigger rounder richer mouthfeel. The Roan is juicy and succulent, and is the perfect wine to stand up to the meal of the same like a lamb ragout. This vintage is 60% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the Columbia Valley AVA. It is soft, big, fruity, and well-balanced with smoky, spicy, and leathery notes.

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2014 David’s Tableau Vivant is big, bigger, biggest. This red wine blend has Cabernet Sauvignon from McDuffee Vineyard and Merlot from Reed Ranch Vineyard, both from the Columbia Valley AVA. This wine is about as big as it gets for “big, bold reds” and is not for the faint of heart. This wine isn’t for strictly Pinot people and we understand that, but for the red wine lover looking for something unique, different, and exclusively Oregon, this is the wine for them; this is Oregon’s answer to anything Napa Valley can provide.

These red blends aren’t just spectacular, but they’re exceptional in highlighting the best of Oregon (that’s not Pinot Noir). We hope you love them as much as we do!

Interested in learning more? Read Our Guide to Oregon Pinot Noir to delve into the world of Pinot.

Top 5 Places to Stay in Oregon Wine Country

With a wealth of options for your next trip to Oregon Wine Country, it can be difficult to decide what quaint Oregon town you’ll choose and what type of accommodation you’re looking for. Hotel in McMinnville? Bed and breakfast in Carlton? Vacation rental via VRBO or Airbnb near Dundee or Newberg?

If you’re not sure where to start for your next stay in Willamette Valley Wine Country, take a peek at our recommendations below. These are places we recommend to our friends and family, and have received rave reviews from our tasting room guests from out of town

1. Carlton Inn, Carlton, Oregon

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Image c/o Carlton Inn

Offering only 4 guest rooms in the heart of Carlton, Oregon, the Carlton Inn is the perfect romantic getaway in the heart of Oregon Wine Country. The Inn is an adult destination and offers the perfect balance of country charm with luxury accommodations and gourmet breakfast complete with produce and eggs from the Inn’s own gardens!

2. The Vintages Trailer Resort in Dayton, Oregon

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Image c/o The Vintages Trailer Resort

Yep, you heard that right. Vintage + Trailer + Resort in Oregon Wine Country is about as unique as it gets. The Vintages offers 18 adorably renovated trailers with the perfect combination of vintage flair with modern luxury. The Vintages is the perfect choice for travelers of all ages and groups of all sizes looking for something less traditional than a hotel or bed & breakfast experience.

3. Chehalem Ridge Bed and Breakfast, Newberg, Oregon

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Image c/o Chehalem Ridge

Nestled into the side of Chehalem Mountain just outside of Newberg, Oregon, Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast offers comfortable rooms with amazing views. Four of their five rooms have private balconies offering stunning views of the beautiful Willamette Valley countryside, and even better views of the large winery estates wrapping the hills across the valley. Chehalem Ridge is an excellent choice for those looking to absorb the beauty of Oregon Wine Country from the privacy of their own suite.

4. Brookside Inn in Dundee, Oregon

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Image c/o Brookside Inn

Located on a 21 acre property in the Willamette Valley countryside, Brookside Inn offers much more than just lodging. Guests are truly able to relax, unplug and unwind with a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir in hand while taking in the surrounding creek, pond, waterfall and meadows surrounding the Inn- an especially wonderful treat after a day wine tasting in Oregon Wine Country! Brookside Inn is an ideal bed and breakfast for guests looking for a vacation replete with tranquility and restoration.

5. Le Puy, Newberg, Oregon

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Image c/o Le Puy

Completed in 2010, Le Puy Inn, located in between Newberg, Carlton, and Yamhill Oregon offers eight expansive guest rooms in a home custom-built to highlight the best of Oregon Wine Country views with the comfort and excellence of modern, spa-like rooms. And they’re sure to help their guests enjoy wine country to their fullest- making sure each room is stocked with wine glasses and bottle openers at all times!


We hope you book with one of these fabulous choices on your next visit to Oregon Wine Country. Be sure to stop by our tasting room during your visit and let us know how your stay is going!
Looking for more? See our post Top 5 Things To Do In Oregon Wine Country for ideas on activities and sights beyond wine tasting.

Are You Drinking Sparkling Wine All Wrong?

It is pretty fitting that our first grape delivery of the 2016 Harvest was a batch of Chardonnay grapes destined for Blanc de Blancs-style sparkling wine as. (Pssst, did you see that announcement on our Instagram last week?) A little known fact of Laurel Ridge is that our founder, David Teppola was the first to produce a sparkling wine in Oregon, way back in 1986. In fact, it was one of the very first wines that Laurel Ridge produced at all! David believed in the romance of making and enjoying sparkling wine and it is a legacy we hope to continue for many years to come.

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Sparkling wine truly is a wine of celebration. Whether an intimate picnic with your significant other or the toast at a retirement party or wedding, it is difficult to imagine a celebration without sparkling wine (and we already know why wineries like us call it “sparkling wine” and not champagne). But did you know you might be drinking your sparkling wine entirely wrong?

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It’s quite common to see these saucer style sparkling wine glasses at parties and events, especially historically, but, unfortunately, it is one of the worst designs of a glass to enjoy champagne. It is rumored that this glass style was designed after Marie Antoinette’s bosom but we aren’t entirely sure if that is true or not. Either way it does make for an interesting story!

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What exactly makes the wide-brimmed glass a poor choice for our favorite sparkling beverage? Well, the fact that it sparkles, of course! The answer is in the nickname. Sparkling wine, affectionately referred to as “bubbly” needs a taller glass to preserve the bubbles. The greater the mouth of the glass, the faster the bubbles will escape to the surface, and nobody wants to drink flat sparkling wine. Unlike a glass of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, not only is the nose of the wine an important aspect of drinking sparkling wine, but the bubbles themselves. It is the distinct character of the bubbles floating to the surface that deliver the joy and excitement to the lips of the imbiber.

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In addition to the bubbles, though, is the importance of enjoying the nose. The unique characteristic of the aroma of the wine, delivered by the bubbles intermittently floating to the surface of the wine via little tiny imperfections on the inside of the glass that completes the  experience. Without the nose, you may as well be drinking a glass of tonic water. Sparkling wine is wine after all, it simply turns into sparkling wine after a second fermentation process.  

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With a wide brimmed glass, your experience is more in favor of the nose, but you risk your drink going flat before you can say “salut!” But with a tall, slender champagne flute, you’re bubble-heavy without enjoying any of the nose (although you do suffer from that awkward moment with each sip where your nose taps the rim of your glass). So what is one to do in order to enjoy the true richesse of the sparkling wine experience?

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Drink from a glass that has the best of both worlds, of course! Tried and true wine glass titans like Riedel and Spiegelau both offer sparkling wine glasses that are both tall and slender but have a slight tulip or bubble towards the middle of the glass, with a slightly wider mouth (Riedel Vitis Champagne glass is pictured above). This allows the nose to come through at the appropriate location in the glass for the drinker’s enjoyment, while preserving the bubbles enough that you’re not drinking wine as flat as a bad joke. Makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?

While we love the history and brilliance of the story behind the saucer-style glass, as well as the nod to deco glassware, the impracticality of these glass styles just doesn’t seem to trump the reason for the glass in the first place- to enjoy a brilliant glass of sparkling wine. After all, what is the purpose of drinking wine if not to enjoy it?

Salut, everyone!

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Looking for more? You can visit our Tasting Room, located in the heart of Willamette Valley Wine Country, daily from 11:00am-5:00pm where you can taste the legacy of Laurel Ridge Sparkling Wine for yourself. We hope to see you soon!

note: this post contains affiliate links

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