Category Archives: Wine & Holidays

An Expert’s Guide: Tips and Tricks for Your Best At Home Pie

Are you baking pies this holiday season? Feeling intimidated? Don’t worry – here at Laurel Ridge Winery, we have you covered, from the best wine pairings for any pie, to creating the best ever from scratch pie.

One of our culinary consultants, and the chef behind our wine club release parties, Kevin Bechtel, just so happens to be a “pie champion” (literally). He has over 35 years of experience in the food and restaurant industry. An award winning chef, he is a former Board Member, Board President, and Chair of the International Corporate Chefs Association, as well as a Board Member, Board President, and Chair of the Oregon Restaurant Association. His awards include the prestigious Menu Master’s Award in 2011, and the IFMA Culinary Innovation Award in 2012. Over the course of his career, he has been awarded over 60 medals at the National Pie Championships.

Now to me of course, Kevin is better known as my dad. Over the years, a pattern has emerged…every Thanksgiving Eve, Kevin’s phone blows up with every food question imaginable. But the most requested topic of help is always the pie. Because really – is it even Thanksgiving without SOME sort of pie?! From pumpkin pies that just won’t set, to pecan pies that bake too quickly, to burned apple pie crusts…Kevin has heard it all. I asked my dad to share some of his best tips and troubleshooting for pies.

Pick the right dish, and bake accordingly:

Did you know that the color of your pan will affect how your pie bakes? Set yourself up for success by selecting the best pan.

Shiny pans, dark pans, and glass pans all cook differently. When baking a pie in a glass or ceramic pie pan, Kevin recommends baking at 25 degrees under the recommended temperature – so if your recipe calls for baking your pie at 350 degrees, he would recommend 325. Additionally, dark metal pans (or shiny pans) will cook the pie more quickly and produce a browner crust.

And don’t forget – always keep your pie dishes in the refrigerator until the last possible moment!

Creating the perfect pie crust is all about temperature. Why is it so important that everything is cold, you ask? “All of your ingredients should be cold – you can even put the flour in the fridge, as well,” Kevin explains. “The warmer your ingredients are, the stronger the gluten link will be, resulting in a tougher crust.”

  • Keep the butter ice cold. Kevin swears by this.  “I cut mine into chunks, and then put it into the refrigerator until I am ready to get it cooled back down. If it’s just going to be for a couple minutes, I’ll even pop it in the freezer.”
  • Make a pitcher of ice water…then pour out the amount of water you need. Or, he explains you can even substitute up to half of your ice water with ice cold Vodka. “It doesn’t create glutens when you knead the dough, the alcohol burns off, and it’s flavorless, so no one is the wiser. Sometimes it can help ensure a very cold crust when kneading.”
  • A reminder – keep your pie pans in the fridge until you are ready to use them! He means it. Seriously.

Make sure your crust is well ventilated. Aside from being beautiful, Kevin explains that one of the appeals of a lattice crust it releases steam, resulting in a flaky, decadent crust. “If you’re trying to make a double vented pie, you have to make sure your slits are large enough to properly release steam.” Kevin recommends vents that are 2.5 to 3 inches in length. He also says this can be viewed as an opportunity to get creative. “Not everything has to be a complicated lattice. Think of fun decorating ideas like using cookie cutters to make holes, or using cookie cutters to make apples and leaves.” One of the additional benefits of these creative crusts? Better ventilation!

Trust the process – be patient when baking. Kevin says that one of the biggest mistakes novice bakers make is simply a lack of patience.

  • Always let your pie cool completely. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pumpkin, custard based, pecan, or fruit pie – all pies should be allowed to cool completely, for at least an hour. Kevin explains that this helps the pie “set” and allows for continued ventilation of the hot filling- which helps ensure a moist, flaky crust!
  • Your pie might jiggle. That’s okay. Pumpkin pies are notorious for the “jiggle”, but any custard based pie is prone to this. Kevin says you have got to remember that pies continue baking once they are removed from the oven – that’s why we must allow them to completely cool first, before enjoying! “A pumpkin or custard pie might seem too jiggly, but as soon as the pie cools, it will have fully set.
  • Bake your crust on the lower rack. Heat rises – so a pie that is baked on the upper racks will brown too quickly. Check on your pie at 10 to 15 minute intervals – if the pie is beginning to brown too quickly, you can always tear off a piece of foil to cover it. Just remove the foil for your last 5 minutes of baking to make sure you get that perfect, toasty brown crust!

Remember to tag us on social media so we can see your pies! And if you have any further questions for Kevin, drop us a comment or a message! We’ll reach out to get your question answered!

Now stay tuned…if you want your lattice to look great and confidently know how find the perfect wine pairing for any pie, be sure to watch for my next blog post on decorating and serving the perfect pie!

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!


Summer Wine Jam Recipe Series

Summer Harvest Wine Jam Recipe Series

We know that here in Oregon wine country we can be a bit biased, but we’re absolutely convinced that the Willamette Valley has some of the best family farms and orchards for summer produce. We are swimming in an abundance of u-pick berry farms, roadside fruit stands, and a myriad of farm-to-consumer operations out here that give us access to the best produce around. 

A store bought raspberry is a delicious treat – but a freshly grown raspberry bursts with flavor in your mouth and screams,  “Send help, I can’t stop eating these.” Each summer, we turn to canning to work through the inevitable surplus of fresh fruit & berries we’ll have. (Side note: this might be making you jealous but don’t forget, it rains here…a lot). Back to the jams; enhancing jam with wine is a real game changer. Let’s just say, your peanut butter and jelly sandwich will never be the same. 

This summer, we’re sharing some of our favorite jam recipes that we’ve tested & perfected with a splash of the perfect wine to pair with the fruit. But before we get to the first recipe (Strawberry Jam with Pinot noir!) we want to give a couple notes on the canning process, and how we’ve written our recipes for you.

  • We tend to create our jams without any added pectin. This is just our preference. If you’re more comfortable adding pectin, go for it! 
  • These recipes will be lower in sugar! This allows the flavors of the fruit to shine along with the contrasting flavors of the wine. If you would like to add more sugar, you can safely add up to an additional ½ cup of sugar. We recommend increasing the amount of sugar by a Tablespoon at a time so you don’t go overboard.
  • The total amount of wine used has will depend on how long you’re going cooking the fruit! If you intend to cook your wine jam ‘low and slow’ (which yields a deeper, saucier flavor), add an extra 15 minutes on medium-low heat for each additional ⅓ cup of wine. 
  • All of these jams are fantastic when water bath-sealed, however, they will also be just as delicious when stored in the fridge if you’re going to use it up within about a month.
  • Your jam can be considered ‘set’ when you can put a dollop on a chilled plate, tilt the plate, and the jam moves slowly down the plate (instead of being runny or liquidy).  Remember – it takes 24 to 48 hours for pectin to set completely, so your final result will always be significantly firmer. 

With that, let’s get to jammin’!

Coming up in this series:

Oregon Wine Country Wedding Photo Collage

An Oregon Wine Country Wedding – Jeff & Maija at Laurel Ridge

Hi friends! Maija here being sappy as possible, because today is my wedding anniversary!

Many Laurel Ridge regulars know that my husband Jeff and I got married at the winery – which, to me, means I got married on the farm where I grew up. It was such a lovely day filled with warmth, tenderness, joy, and a lot of food & wine. In reminiscing, I couldn’t resist sharing just a few photos of our special day. Now please excuse me while I go grab a box of tissues.

Oregon Wine Country Wedding Photo Collage I was not the stereotypical girl portrayed in popular culture who always envisioned her wedding day. In fact, when it came time to planning the wedding, Susan and Kira actually planned and executed a lot of the details. And I have to say it was the best wedding gift I could ever have received.

Rose of Pinot noir

While I could never choose a favorite part of my wedding (hello! Marrying my husband was obviously the highlight!) I was absolutely obsessed with my cheese spread. The food was actually one of the only components of our wedding that Jeff and I cared about. When it came time to plan our cocktail reception, we knew we wanted guests to arrive and be offered a glass of our delicious Rosé of Pinot noir.

Cheese Board Photo Collage

We also couldn’t stop dreaming about an epic cheese board to pair with our happy hour wine selections – Rosé and our Pinot noir Cuvée. We knew both of these wines would be easy, crowd-pleasing selections to offer guests and would definitely pair well with a spread of cheeses, nuts, crackers, bread, fruit and more. It took me about ten minutes to figure out where my bridesmaids had disappeared to once I saw the cheese board had arrived. It was such a treat to enjoy and something we hope our guests loved as much as we did!

Up next – I’ll share some Oregon Wine Country wedding inspiration with our menu and how we paired our Pacific Northwest-inspired wedding menu with our delicious Willamette Valley wines. Stay tuned!



I know many had to delay or cancel their dream wedding plans due to Covid-19. I empathize so much with having to navigate such a stressful, costly endeavor. I share this post with levity, I hope it brings you inspiration and joy. Cheers!

Alp Blossom Cheese.

How to Build an Epic Charcuterie for Your Summer 2020 Picnic

Cheese and charcuterie platter on a picnic table.

Charcuterie boards are a way of life for us here in Oregon wine country. An epic charcuterie board is easy to do, but it does require a bit of planning. Don’t sweat it, though. By following these simple guidelines, you’ll become a pro in no-time. Continue reading

What to Wear Wine Tasting in Oregon

Hello Friends!  This post is brought to you by Maija and Kira, two girls born and raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. In fact, we were both raised in Carlton, on the vineyard where the Laurel Ridge winery and tasting room are today. Fun fact!

We often hear that wine tasting can be intimidating for newcomers and we totally get it! Wine has so many rules! We are going to break down our recommendations, but before we help you dress for your wine tasting adventure, let’s get on the same page when talking about Oregon weather. Continue reading

Do’s & Don’ts of Cooking With Wine

Cooking with wine is a fun way to add some new flavors to your recipe or to try something new. For me, it’s the easiest + fastest way to add instant flavor without having to spend hours in the kitchen. As long as you follow these general recommendations, you’ll have a fabulous meal!

Continue reading