Oct 8, 2013

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Fall Harvest Dinner at Red Ridge Farms

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Red Ridge Farms nursery, gift shop and guest suite

More incredible than I could have ever imagined, Red Ridge Farms is simply breathtaking.  Within this Dayton, Oregon, family-owned farm, a nursery with beautiful plants and pots surround a gift shop filled with delicious exotic flavored gourmet salts and olive-oils that are some of the best I’ve ever had.  Above the gift shop, with access via a spiral staircase, a beautifully decorated guest suite offers unobstructed views of Mt. Hood, the surrounding rolling hill vineyards, and thousands of olive trees.  It’s an olive grove, an olive mill, a lavender farm, a vineyard, a winery, a tasting room, an events center and an inn, with both a guest suite and a cottage for accommodations – there’s nothing quite like it in Oregon.

My friend Jennifer and I were invited by the lovely ladies at Trellis Growth Partners to attend the annual Fall Harvest Dinner at Red Ridge Farms.  Because we live about two hours away from Dayton, we were also invited to stay in the guest suite above the Red Ridge Farms gift shop.  Arriving shortly before the Harvest Dinner began, we checked into our room and quickly took in the breathtaking views that were graced by a gorgeous cerulean blue sky above the Willamette Valley.  With walls of windows and architecturally gorgeous wood ceilings, the suite has a balcony on the front overlooking the nursery, and one on the back overlooking the farm and vineyards.  There’s a kitchen, dining area, living room and bedroom with a bathroom – the ultimate place for a unique and cozy wine country get away.

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The Guest Suite at Red Ridge Farms

Red Ridge Farms is home to Durant Vineyards, established in 1973 by the Durant family – one of Oregon’s pioneering families of the wine industry. With a focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, the Durant’s have been supplying top-notch fruit to many of Oregon’s premiere wineries for forty years.  In 2003, they began crafting their own small-lot vineyard-designate wines under the Durant label, and I was able to sample their stellar wines during the Fall Harvest Dinner.

As mentioned above, a feature of Red Ridge Farms is their olive grove, olive mill (Oregon Olive Mill), and their spectacular Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO).  Completed in 2008, the Oregon Olive Mill sits on the lower floor of the events center, looking out over a portion of their 13,000 olive trees that are planted on over 17 acres of land in the beautiful Dundee Hills.  The on-site olive tree varietals include Arbequina, Leccino, Mission, Pendolino, Koroneiki, and Picual; in addition to, other varieties they are currently experimenting with.

Prepared by renowned chef and James Beard Award Winner, Vitaly Paley (of Portland’s highly acclaimed Paley’s Place Bistro and Bar) and Executive Chef Patrick McKee, the Fall Harvest Dinner was wine and olive oil-centric; each dish was created using EVOOs from the Oregon Olive Mill and was meticulously paired with a Durant Vineyards wine.  The food for our Hors d ‘Oeuvres and four course dinner were sourced from local, sustainable farms and seasoned not only with the olive oils, but with hand-harvested gourmet sea salts from Jacobsen Salt Co. out of Netarts Bay, Oregon – wholly focusing this incredible feast on Oregon products.

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Clams Casino

Hors d ‘Oeuvres were handed out on the patio next to the olive mill, offering guests a gorgeous view of the olive grove, rolling hill vineyards and snow peaked Mt. Hood.  Pairing perfectly with the 2012 Durant Vineyards  Pinot Gris, a rotating selection of three bite-sized, palate pleasing goodies included Grilled Flatbreads with House Mozzarella and Herbed White Bean Purée, Chilled Melon Soup with Crispy Speck and savory Clams Casino. Sticking with the olive oil theme, the Grilled Flatbread was made using the Arbequina EVOO, the Chilled Melon Soup featured the Tuscan EVOO, and the Clams Casino featured the Koroneiki EVOO.  The flavors of each of the three Hors d ‘Oeuvres were heavenly, especially when paired with the tropical, citrusy notes on the refreshing Pinot Gris, which is from some of the older vines on the property.

After a tour and explanation from Paul Durant on how the Olive Mill works to press olives and create the succulent olive oils we had just experienced in the appetizers, we headed upstairs to the gorgeous dining room and a table set with reflections of the bounties of fall.  Long and thin, with an entire wall of windows and doors that access a large deck, the far end of the room is graced with a fireplace (lit to enhance the ambiance), and there’s a full gourmet kitchen open to the dining room so chefs can work their magic while the guests look-on.

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Fall Harvest Dinner at Red Ridge Farms

With name tags at each of the place settings, Jennifer and I found our seats and took a look at what was about to come our way, prepared by Chef Vitaly Paley:

First Course

Creamy Corn Bisque with Bacon and Dungeness Crab Salad featuring Oregon Olive Mill Tuscan EVOO.  Wine pairing: 2011 Durant Vineyards Raven Chardonnay

Second Course

Confit of Game Hen, Smoky Tomato Jam, Shaved Mushroom and Late Summer Squash Salad with Green Goddess Dressing featuring Oregon Olive Mill Arbequina EVOO.  Wine pairing: 2011 Durant Vineyards Ava Lucia Pinot Noir

Third Course

Barrel Stave Roasted Dry-Aged Ribeye topped with Red Wine (Oregon) Blue Cheese Butter, Charred Leeks and Potatoes, Chantrelle (Oregon) Mushrooms.  Wine pairing: 2011 Durant Vineyards Bishop Pinot Noir

Dessert

Spiced Gingerbread with Koroneiki Estate Olive Oil Roasted Fruits and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Incredibly scrumptious in every sense of the word, each of the wines, along with the distinct flavors of the olive oils and divine foods, paired absolutely perfectly with the savory seasonings (including the outstanding Jacobsen Salts) in the dishes. .  Everything was balanced to perfection, nothing overpowered anything else and all melded together beautifully.  It was pure food-and-wine bliss.

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Confit of Game Hen, Smoky Tomato Jam, Shaved Mushroom and Late Summer Squash Salad

Sitting across from Paul Durant during dinner had its benefits.  I learned that Durant has six different winemakers, with a goal of pairing each winemaker to a particular vineyard depending on their winemaking styles.  This is how they “unlock the potential of each vineyard,” according to Paul.  The four wines that we enjoyed during the Fall Harvest Dinner (including the Pinot Gris served with the hors d ‘oeuvres), were produced by two well known Willamette Valley winemakers: Jesse Lange of Lange Estate (2012 Pinot Gris and 2011 Ava Lucia Pinot Noir) and Isabelle Dutarte of DePonte Cellars (2011 Raven Chardonnay and 2011 Bishop Pinot Noir).

I was so excited that we were focusing on wine from the exceptionally cooler vintage of 2011 (aside from the 2012 Pinot Gris).  Recently, the 2011 Oregon Pinot Noirs (and Chardonnays) are showing beautifully.  They’re the ultimate classic cooler vintage wines with great complexity, gorgeous acidity and concentrated fruit flavors – I am absolutely loving them.

2011 Durant Vineyards Raven Chardonnay:  This is so completely my kind of Chardonnay.  Stainless steel fermented, less the use of a single new oak barrel – it’s crisp, refreshing, has a solid acidic backbone and is simply dreamy on the palate.  Nicely tart, yet creamy at the same time (love it!), aromas and flavors of lemon-lime, pineapple and sweet stone fruit are highlighted by tantalizing spice.  The finish is clean and focused, revealing the true characteristics of the Chardonnay varietal.

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Spiced Gingerbread with Koroneiki Estate Olive Oil Roasted autumn Fruits and Toasted P:umpkin Seeds = heavenly

2011 Durant Vineyards Ava Lucia Pinot Noir:  I loved the earthy, mushroomy essences that were highlighted by dark cherry and cranberry aromas – this is a great example of why I love Oregon Pinot Noir.  My favorite was the intense white pepper finish – lengthy, spicy, luscious.

2011  Durant Vineyards Bishop Pinot Noir:  Rounder, silkier and more lush than the Ava Lucia, the Bishop was fruit forward and less mushroomy and earthy.  Fine grained tannins and soft, elegant acidity round out the fruit characteristics to give it perfect balance.  Another example of why I have an affinity to Oregon Pinot.  The Bishop was just as delicious as the Ava Lucia, but offered totally different qualities.  Winemaking styles, vineyard sites and vintage most definitely define every Pinot Noir – no two are ever alike.

After dinner, Jennifer and I purchased a couple bottles of wine and walked along the lit path to our gorgeous guest suite.  We turned on some music, popped the corks on some stellar Durant Vineyards wine and stayed up way too late enjoying a beautiful, starry skied night.

The next morning, we spent some time exploring the gift shop and the surrounding nursery.  We sampled the Oregon Olive Mill olive oils along with some outstanding vinegars; such as, Passion Fruit, Fig and Orange Champagne.  And the Jacobsen Salts…oh my.  I have never had a sweet tooth, but I am most certainly a lover of salty things -Vintage Merlot Salt, Espresso Brava Salt, Vermont Maple Syrup Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan and Vanilla Bean Flake Salt were just  a few of the exquisite and ambrosial salts in the gift shop.  It’s a salt lovers dream come true.

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Amazing hand harvested salts in the gift shop at Red Ridge Farms

Visit Red Ridge Farms and the Durant Vineyards tasting room at 5510 NE Breyman Orchards Rd. Dayton, OR 97114

For more pictures of our visit to Red Ridge Farms, follow me over to Eugene Daily News for the Local Lunch Gals: Red Ridge Farms Photo Essay.

*Special thanks to the Durant Family for the gracious hospitality and to Janel and Dixie at Trellis Growth Partners