Not An Ordinary Birthday Celebration

I had a fun excursion yesterday with two of my sons and their friends. I got to attend my first ever winery tour and wine tasting, courtesy of my son Kris' girlfriend who was treating the group for a birthday gift for Kris.

Oregon has a prestigious wine country in the Willamette Valley, half way between here and the Pacific Ocean. Attention was drawn to it and the celebrated Pinor Noir grapes by the movie Sideways a few years back.

My meager wine collection has improved in quality and quantity ever since Kris started working at one of Portland's most revered restaurants. His interest in fine wine was piqued there and with his employment connections he has been able to get into Oregon wineries for the VIP tours. This time I got to go along because it was his birthday and, well,  I had a little to do with that!

At our first stop, the Andrew Rich winery, we were treated to a tasting by the owner and wine maker himself. He presented his best products.

We also got a brief tour of the production facilities.

Since the harvest this year was very late, as we experienced here with the garden and the orchard harvests, there was still some wine production happening in the warehouse.

It was great to get a peek at the wine in it's early stages.

Normally by December they are wrapping things up in this area. It still remains to be seen if the long cool summer will produce some good wines or not.

Our second winery stop was just next door at the Cana's Feast winery. This was a vineyard with a distinctly Italian style both in the winery's appearance and decor and in the types of wines they produce. It would be lovely to return to this area in the sunny summer for the full Italian effect but this time our visit was on a foggy, cold December day.

In their Cucina we were able to have some delicious antipasti with our libation.

The one bottle that really stood out at this tasting was their experimental vermouth. A rich, spicy wine with a lot of depth of flavor, this aperitif was my only purchase of the day. There are so many cocktail possibilities with this that it will be perfect for holiday celebrations.

At this point I felt we had had a good day and was ready to retire. But we had one more stop on the schedule and it was well worth the time.

At the Soter Vineyards,as soon as we stepped out of the car we were greeted by the sommelier with a glass of their famous bubbly Rose. Impressive!

This tasting was a true VIP experience. We got to try their finest wines in a lush setting.

Though we couldn't view the vast vineyards from the many tall windows, the roaring fire on this foggy day lent its own cozy ambiance.

I had made my son a birthday cheesecake which we broke out and shared by the fire with a few more glasses of the Rose.

We could have easily called it quits and been completely satiated- fat, sassy and happy- but no....there was more!

Dinner! At another prestigious Portland restaurant, clarklewis, a sister restaurant to the one that employs my son.

I've read about and wanted to eat at this restaurant since long before any of my dinner companions had ever tasted their first glass of wine. Since they were babies in other words. Well, not quite. But a long, long time!

So we gilded the lily of our day with some amazing food like Oregon black cod with Italian white beans, manila clams, pork belly, brussels sprouts and truffle oil...

And Garganelli, a pasta dyed with squid ink, served with chanterelle mushrooms, autumn squash, spinach and parmesan.

Are you swooning yet? I was...

Too stuffed to eat another bite, no one ordered dessert but the restaurant got word of the birthday and sent out a final treat- an apple crostata and rice pudding. We'd been digging into each other's plates all evening so sharing dessert was the perfect finish.

It was a special treat to spend this birthday of surprises with my son.

The memories of all the sleepless nights he has caused me are starting to fade...