Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Just So You Know....

From my last post, some of you may have gathered that I'm a bit of what I call a regionalist. That is to say, I try to give preference to Oregon wineries and food producers in my cooking and eating. It also means that when I visit other places, I try to sample the local offerings there. When in Rome, and all that.

In the past few years, Oregon has started to develop a culture of good food and wine. The 45th Parallel runs through Oregon, placing us at roughly the same latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy. Oregon is only the 5th largest wine producing state in the US, and there are indivisual wineries in California that outproduce our entire state, but what we lack in volume we make up for in quality. Our dominant grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but you'll find many different varietals here. We have the strictest wine labelling laws in the country. One of theones I find most interesting and admirable is the ban on using foreign regional wine names -- you'll never see an Oregon Bordeaux or Burgundy or Champagne. Oregon wines are named either for their varietal, their color (Girardet's Grand Rouge is a highly drinkable blended table red -- not memorable, but agreeable), or any other fanciful naming convention the weinery desires, but NOT for somewhere outside of Oregon. If it's labelled a varietal, such as Pinot Noir, the rules are stricter. A varietal label must include the appelation (growing region within Oregon) from which it comes, and except in the case of Cabernet Sauvignon, must contain at least 90% of the stated varietal.

Along with the wine, we make excellent beers, and our mild climate and fertile soild makes this an ideal place to grow produce, fruits, and berries, and we have recently become renowned for our (non-hallucinogenic) mushrooms. Rogue Creamery, in Southern Oregon, has over the past few years won several international competitions for Best Blue Cheese in the world.

I recently watched an episode of $40 Dollars a Day in which Rachel visited Salem, our capital. While I was pleased with the comparisons she made between Oregon and Tuscany, Napa Valley, California, has adopted for itself the name "America's Tuscany", and perhaps rightly so. I'd actually compare us more to, say, Provence, or even more like Alsace. The lifestyle here is more laid back, there's a mix of old west rural and hippy which, while politically causes me frustration at times, makes for a friendly, relaxed, warm attitude. The old "Welcome to Oregon, now leave" reputation we cultivated for years has faded, and was a front to begin with -- Oregonians are actually quite hospitable.

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