Nora’s Table in Hood River, Oregon was a charming setting for a tasting of wines from the Columbia Gorge region. Chef Kathy Watson served the pictured crispy pork belly with a refreshing apple and fennel salad with honey walnuts and salted caramel. Not only is Nora’s Table notable for the food, but also for having the only wine list comprised solely of Columbia Gorge wines.
Nicole Backus, head of the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association, kicked off our lunch by sharing five questions/comments from visitors she hears the most:
1) “We had no idea your wines were good here.”
2) “Where do your grapes come from?”
3) “Your vineyards must be so young.”
4) “You’re the best kept secret in the Pacific Northwest.”
5) “Everyone is so nice here.”
The funny thing about #2 is how much of the grapes are sourced locally. As Rich Cushman of Viento Wines said, “My driving [for grapes] stops about 30 miles east of here.” And concerning #3, the grapes from The Pines Zinfandel are from vines planted in 1890.
Two standout wines from lunch were a duo from Phelps Creek Vineyards. The 2010 Estate Reserve Chardonnay had a perfect amount of oak; nicely creamy. A Pinot Noir, the 2009 Cuvée Alexandrine, was bright with fruit and just plain fun to drink.
The only thing better than the food and wine was hanging out with the many winemakers from the Columbia Gorge region who joined us for this occasion. They truly seem to enjoy each other’s company. The camaraderie in the room was palpable, and came not just from a generous amount of wine, but from genuine sentiment. And I’ll happily drink to that.
Full disclosure: I am on a trip sponsored by the Oregon Wine Board.