Go Blackberry Picking in Willamette Valley

Stop whatever you’re doing, and head over to gorgeous Willamette Valley. August is berry-picking time, and this 150-mile stretch of Oregon is popping with flavor.

Willamette Valley Wines | Rainstorm Pinot Noir

While Willamette Valley wines are world-renowned and vineyards dot the landscape, the area also boasts acres of farms. These growers and producers help fuel Oregon’s appetite for hyper-local foods. If you are in the mood for blackberries bursting with sweet juice with the slightest hint of sass, go to the nearest U-Pick location (find one here!).

Sure, you can buy berries at farmers’ markets, but there’s just something about picking your own. You get to select the plumpest, blackest berries on the bush and start imagining all the wonderful preserves, desserts, and dishes you will enjoy as the result of your harvest.

Try a spinach, feta, and blackberry salad with a balsamic dressing or whip up a to-die-for blackberry and pinot noir steak sauce. You’ll need:

  • ½ cup Rainstorm Pinot Noir
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ⅔ cup beef stock
  • ¼ cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 tbsp blackberry preserves
  • 1 tbsp butter, cold
  • 2 steaks
  • Fresh rosemary

Sear two steaks with a sprig of rosemary. While those are resting on a plate tented with tinfoil, make up the sauce. Using the same pan, cook shallots and thyme on medium heat until soft (about 2 minutes). Add the wine, and turn the heat up. Scrape browned bits from the steaks — wonderful flavor!

Reduce the wine by half, which takes about 3 minutes. Add the beef stock, berries, and berry preserves. Mash the whole berries with the back of your spoon. Simmer until the sauce coats the back of your spoon. Remove from heat and add the cold butter. Salt and pepper as desired. Drizzle the sauce over your steak and enjoy.

The possibilities are endless — and delicious. Of course, the berries may be too irresistible to make it all the way home! In that case, get your fruity fix from your favorite Willamette Valley wines.

Crater Lake: The Deepest Lake in the US

As you relax with a perfectly chilled glass of Oregon Pinot Gris, you can thank the region’s dramatic, varied, and exciting landscape for the crisp, clean flavors. From snowy mountain peaks and rugged forests to fog-swept ridges and cool, rich valleys, Oregon has a lot to offer — including the deepest lake in the US. Dive in to Crater Lake.Oregon Pinot | Rainstorm

 

1 of the 7 Wonders of Oregon

Crater Lake was formed when the volcanic Mount Mazama erupted. The violence of the fiery explosion caused the mountain to collapse. The resulting “crater” is filled with the deepest, clearest, bluest water you’ll ever see.

The dramatic setting does the remarkable body of water justice: 2000 foot cliffs surround the 1943-foot deep Crater Lake, and hundreds of acres of glacier-carved terrain treat visitors to exceptional adventures. Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, camping, boating, and picnicking are favorite activities. What could be better than enjoying the stunning views with a picnic basket full of cheeses, charcuterie, and your favorite Pacific Northwest wines?

Want to plan a visit? July through mid-September are prime months; the weather is mild, and you’re not likely to get rained out of your excursions. Even in warm months, though, make sure to bring layers and a warm jacket. The weather can be moody!

In the winter months, many roads are closed, though the park remains open. If you want a taste of delicious peace and quiet, try snowshoeing or skiing. Again, be prepared with cold weather gear, and make sure you tell people where you’re going and when you plan to return.

Once you set eyes on the fathomless depths of Crater Lake, you’ll see why it is one of the seven wonders of Oregon. While you’re planning your visit, enjoy the eighth wonder: some vibrant Oregon Pinot Gris, Noir, or Rose.

Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches and Oregon Rosé

Some people search for the perfect wine to complement their food. We love to find the right food for our wine! The flowery, fruity notes of Oregon Rosé offer a pleasant flavor that instantly refreshes on those hot summer nights (or cold winter nights! It’s adaptable.) This triple-decker backed Italian cheese sandwich is an ideal accompaniment for a comfort-food indulgence any time of year.

Willamette Valley Wines | Oregon Rosé

Ingredients

8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. thyme leaves

2 loaves bread (Italian, Pullman, etc.), ends discarded and sliced into 24 ½ inch thick pieces

1 pound sliced provolone

1 pound coarsely shredded Fontina

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Gently toss the sliced tomatoes with half of the olive oil and salt and pepper, then arrange cut side up on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 1.5 hours, then sprinkle with thyme and bake for an additional 30 minutes until very tender.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 375. Brush 16 slices of bread with the remaining olive oil and arrange 8 of them oiled-side down on a baking sheet. Top with provolone and 8 slices of plain, unbrushed bread. Top the plain bread with the Fontina, reserving some of the cheese for later. Add the tomatoes on top of the Fontina, then top with the other 8 slices of oiled bread, oiled side up.
  3. Bake the sandwiches for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.
  4. Turn on the broiler. Toss the remaining Fontina with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle onto the sandwiches. Broil for approximately one minute, or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

These sandwiches are good all by themselves, or you can serve them with crisp, tangy pickles and crunchy potato chips, or a green salad. Willamette Valley wines, with fruity and floral aromas, complement the rich cheese and sweet tomato flavors to round out the meal.

Fennel Garlic Pork Roast and Pinot Noir

You’ll definitely want to put this on the menu soon. The Mediterranean-inspired dish is delicious, versatile, and the bold flavors of fennel and garlic pair perfectly with a fine Oregon Pinot. Plan ahead, though, as it needs to brine overnight and then absorb the flavors of the rub for a couple of hours after brining.

Oregon Pinot | Rainstorm Wines

 

Brine Ingredients

¼ cup honey

2 tbsp black peppercorns

15 or so fresh bay leaves, or 5 dried

10 sprigs of fresh thyme

10 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

2 heads garlic, halved horizontally

1 cup kosher salt

3 quarts cold water

4 lb. boneless pork loin

 

Rub ingredients

2 tbsp chopped fennel seeds

1 tsp crushed red pepper

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp lemon zest

Pinch of salt

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp canola oil

 

Steps

  1. Make the brine by combining the honey, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, garlic and salt with 1 quart of water in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the salt, and then bring the mixture to a boil. Pour into a bowl and let cool. Add the remaining 2 quarts of water, add the pork loin, and refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours.
  2. Pull out your food processor or go old school with a mortar and pestle. Combine fennel seeds, red pepper, garlic, lemon zest and salt. Form a paste. Add the olive oil, stirring to combine. Rub half of the paste onto the lean side of the pork and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the canola oil. When hot, add the pork, fat side down, searing for about 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer the pork to a baking pan with a rack, placing it fat side up. Slather on the remaining rub and roast for about 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 140 to 145 degrees.  

Serve this tender and flavorful pork roast with some roasted or mashed potatoes, fresh green salad and crusty rolls. For a wine pairing, the earthy and complex flavor profile of a Rainstorm Pinot Noir is a perfect accompaniment.

Smallest Park in the World: Portland, OR

What do you think of when you hear the word “park”? Do you picture acres and acres of greenery? Maybe some benches and fountains, or playground equipment for the kids? Enjoying a picnic with some fine Oregon wine perhaps?

Smallest Park| Oregon Wine | Rainstorm

How about 452 square inches of land, complete with a tree and some ground cover? For reference, that’s roughly the size of a large manhole cover. And that’s exactly how big Portland’s Mill Ends Park — aka the smallest park in the world  — is.

Mill Ends came about almost by accident. The site, located across from legendary columnist Dick Fagan’s office, was originally intended to house a light pole.  As Fagan told it, he looked out the window one day and saw a leprechaun.

Ah, the luck of the Irish!

The newspaperman ran outside to catch the elusive sprite, and when he did, he was granted one wish. Fagan wished for a park of his own. But since he failed to specify the size, the leprechaun gifted him the 452 square inch hole in the ground. Fagan accepted this and planted the park’s first flowers. Two years later, on St. Patrick’s Day 1948, the site was dedicated as a park and became known as the “only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland.”

Today, the small park with the big reputation remains a local treasure among Portlanders. Mill Ends is located in the median of SW Naito Parkway, so it’s not exactly the most relaxing park to hang out in, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from popping by to take a picture or leave a memento. A swimming pool for butterflies has been added, complete with a diving board, and annual events, such as a St. Patrick’s Day celebration recognizing the park’s leprechaun colony, are popular draws.

If you’re ever in Portland, take the time to stop by Mill Ends. You can take a picture of this infamous Portland gem, or even have a mini picnic with a bottle of Rainstorm Pinot Gris. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the resident leprechauns.

Portland, OR Artist Spotlight: with Flora Bowley

Rainstorm Wines loves local flavor. And no one is spicier or hotter than Flora Bowley.

 

Oregon Pinot | Rainstorm Wines

Flora Bowley is a name with which many Portlanders are familiar. Even though this local artist is relatively new to our fair Oregon city, she’s already made a name for herself as a creative, passionate leader who has made it her mission to share her knowledge with others.

But who is Flora? Just one of the most respected and sought-after painters in the PNW — and beyond. She’s a fixture in the Portland art community, regularly painting in workshop sessions, collaborations with other artists, and independently for gallery exhibitions. She also teaches an online class called “Do What You Love”; a fitting name for a class taught by a woman who lives according to that philosophy exactly.

It’s that philosophy that has gotten Flora to where she is today. She’s spent her life doing what she loves, whether it was taking a break from college to go snowboarding or working as a massage therapist or putting students through their paces — and poses — as a yoga instructor.

She’s lived in tents and on the beach, roaming around wherever she felt a calling. In 2005, that calling was New Orleans, where she felt compelled to help after Hurricane Katrina. Flora hitched a ride to the Big Easy and opened a soup kitchen soon after arriving. For five months, she worked in the disaster zone, helping others and sharing her light and positivity.

After leaving New Orleans, Flora came to Portland and quickly embedded herself in the city’s thriving and diverse community of artists. Her work has been widely acclaimed, and the busy artist has still found the time to write a book, curate large art shows, participate in gallery exhibitions, teach courses around the globe, and paint for purely for pleasure.

Flora is one-of-a-kind. Her passion for creativity shines through in everything she does, whether it’s one of her colorful paintings or a community-driven effort to help others. She believes that every person has valuable contribution to share with the world, and she works tirelessly to help others tap into their inner creativity and find their own happiness.

For that, we at Rainstorm wines commend her, and we raise a glass of Oregon Pinot to Flora!

What Makes Willamette Valley Wines So Great?

Willamette Valley has proven to be the “next frontier” for winemakers. Sales are up, investors are buying hefty acreage, and the buzz is spreading internationally (in fact, international wine sales in Willamette Valley increased by 50% in 2014 alone). Several key factors are influencing the growth and popularity of Willamette Valley wines.

Willamette Valley Wines| Rainstorm Wines

Willamette Valley’s reputation for excellence is helped by the proximity to Portland Oregon’s foodie culture. Forty-five minutes from Portland is the home of Rainstorm wines. This popular winery welcomes tourists who travel from Portland for a day trip to the country to explore, and taste! Locals are also taking advantage of the amazing wines in their backyard. Portland’s cultural focus on local, fresh foods creates a blossoming market for equally local, fresh Willamette Valley Wines.  

Another important factor to the popularity of these versatile wines is the land which nurtures the vineyards. The cost of land is relatively cheap compared to surrounding areas. Investors are buying land there, and more competition has created better wines. 

Willamette Valley’s pinot noir production is to its advantage, as well. The obsession with pinot noir over the past few years has proven it is a fad here to stay, and Oregon’s signature wine is the classic pinot noir. In fact, 70% of Oregon’s Willamette Valley winery production went to pinot noir.

Another key factor: Willamette Valley vineyards get outstanding hospitality ratings. Investors are catching on to the area, but for now, more well-known local favorites such as Rainstorm are smaller and more unique than many other vineyards around the country. As a result, these vineyards are extremely welcoming. They are run by locals who are passionate about creating beautiful wines in this beautiful country.

Come and see  for yourself why Rainstorm wines and other varieties from the area are so popular. One sip is all the proof you need.

The Rise of Rosé

Rosé is coming into its own. While this may be surprising to some beverage consumers, it makes perfect sense to sales analysts. And it looks like the trend is here to stay. Total orders climbed over 300% from 2015 to 2016 and continue to grow. There’s no doubt about it: “pink” is gaining popularity, especially among trendy young drinkers — and anyone who loves the appeal of crisp, clean, elegant wine.

Oregon Rosé | Rainstorm Wines

The upward rise of  is, in large part, attributable to a surprising source: greater numbers of male consumers. Rosé is usually touted as a woman’s drink, perhaps due to its color or because it is stereotyped as being overly sweet. Popular Rosés, though, can actually be quite dry. It is shedding its image as a “girly” wine and making inroads with serious wine lovers. And with bros.

Rose for Bros

So popular is this pink drink that a trendy portmanteau has emerged: Brosé. You know – rose for bros. A few brands have even created Rosés by that name. What’s the draw? Oregon Rosé options are unique; Willamette Valley wines are carefully crafted, and the blends of grapes used can lend the pink wines a structure more typical of reds. For many men, and for other wine drinkers, this puts Rosé into a class by itself and boosts its appeal — especially when the temperature creeps up.

Rainstorm Rosé is a forerunner in this class of crisper, drier Rosés. With an acidic finish and aromas of rose petals, strawberry, and pomegranate seeds, it is perfectly paired with salads full of freshly-picked greens and herbs, grilled chicken, and warm evenings on the patio. Summer months produce the highest Rosé sales, which makes sense– it’s the season for vacations, celebrations, impromptu gatherings, and picnics. Rosés are certainly indicative of rest and relaxation.

If you’ve been hesitant to try Rainstorm Rosé because it’s too sweet, too clingy, or too pink, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you pour a chilled glass of the best Oregon Rosé. It will quickly become a summer staple.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (March-May)

After exhausting your family’s list of winter activities, the spring offers a welcome change. The fresh air invigorates your senses, and nature comes alive! A perfect way to celebrate this time of the year is by checking out the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest near Mt. Hood in Oregon and learning about Rainstorm Wines.

Willamette Valley Wines | Rainstorm Wines

What can you expect?

This festival is just about 45 minutes from Portland. While the tulips might be the most beautiful part, this festival is by no means only about flowers! People from across the country flock to this festival between March and May to check out the hay rides, wine tastings, and even duck races. Hot air balloon rides are a spectacular way to overlook the tulips! There are also zip lines, bungee jumps, and rock walls for the adventurous members of your family.

Visitors can enjoy local food carts and savor local Willamette Valley wines while they peruse the 40 expansive acres of dazzling tulips. On weekends there is a craft market, pony rides, and a meet-and-greet with Tulip the Cow, the Wooden Shoe Farm’s friendly mascot!

For 21+ family members, a Wine Wagon Farm Tour is a great way to enjoy the Tulip Fest. Enjoy locally-produced Rainstorm wines — made just 45 minutes away from the Wooden Shoe Farm — which have been garnering worldwide attention. The best part? You even get a sippy cup to go, so that you can keep the fun going even after the Wine Wagon Tour. Have a picnic in the beautiful Wooden Shoe vineyards, support local agriculture, and have fun doing it. The whole family, even Fido, can enjoy this festival, since admission hovers around just $20 for a family of five.

Oregon is filled with adventure and beautiful scenic routes at every turn. The Wooden Shoe Tulip festival is definitely in our books for one of the happiest places on Earth and you’ll see why if you ever go!

 

Treehouse Paradise – The Perfect Getaway with Oregon Wines

Can we all just agree that hotels are sort of boring? All the rooms look the same, there’s the same tired continental breakfast, and at least half of the guests are stuck with a view of rooftop AC units or something similarly awful.

Pinot Rose Wine | Oregon Wines

Okay, okay…not ALL hotels are like this. Even so, there are a lot more lodging options out there that you can consider. Vertical Horizons Treehouse Paradise In Cave Junction, Oregon is one of them, and it’s definitely not your average place to stay. Nestled amongst the redwoods near the Oregon-California border, Vertical Horizons is a resort unlike any other you’ve ever been to. The “rooms” are actually individual tree-houses, situated high above the ground among the leaves and branches. Each treehouse is beautifully furnished and equipped, and the 360 degree views of the surrounding forest are phenomenal.

If you find yourself in this part of Oregon, booking a couple nights at Vertical Horizons is a must-do. Not only is the resort wholly unique, there’s tons to do on-site and in the local area. In addition to outdoor activities like tree climbing, hiking, volleyball and horseshoes, there are several local vineyards serving fine Oregon wines. You can sample a brisk chardonnay or a smooth pinot rose wine at one, and then head to another to taste their vintages. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon?

After a full day of activities, your own private treehouse is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Sit on the deck – or inside where it’s cozy and warm if you visit in the winter –  with a chilled glass of pinot rose wine and gaze at the tranquil beauty of the forest around you. Then, pat yourself on the back for choosing a truly extraordinary place to stay instead of the standard hotel option!