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.

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.

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.

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!

 

5 Best Places in the World to do Wine Tastings

Planning a vacation to visit one of the world’s greatest wine regions isn’t just for wine aficionados. With a backdrop of stunning scenery and an array of local activities, even the casual wine drinker will enjoy a trip to these gorgeous destinations.

Willamette Valley Wines | Rainstorm Wines

  1. Willamette Valley, Oregon. Willamette Valley wines are among the most vibrant and dynamic in the country, and in the world. The valley produces the grapes from which we make our very own Rainstorm wines. Further, the area covers more than 5,200 square miles, so you can find tastings all over this part of the Pacific Northwest. Prepare to be amazed by the incredible landscape while you’re here, too; forests, mountains, valleys, and rivers converge to create truly breathtaking scenery.  
  2. Sonoma County, California. Sonoma County is just an hour south of San Francisco, and its diverse landscape that includes redwoods and rugged coastline makes it one of the most beautiful places in California wine country. Cool climate wines, such as chardonnays and pinot noirs, are a focal point in Sonoma, but vintners in the area are serving up all varietals and vintages in their tasting rooms. There is something for everyone.
  3. Burgundy, France. The Burgundy region of France is known worldwide as one of the wine industry’s leading producers. The vintages created here feature nuanced flavor profiles that make the trek more than worth it. Make sure you have a reservation before visiting a vineyard, though. Most wineries in Burgundy don’t allow drop-ins, so plan your trip in advance.
  4. La Rioja, Spain. The La Rioja region of northern Spain boasts more than 500 wineries, each pouring fine wines distinctive of the area. The region is known for its full-bodied reds, and robust grapevines and centuries-old winemaking techniques have produced world-class wines. La Rioja is also home to the luxurious Marques de Riscal, the famed vineyard hotel.
  5. Barossa Valley, Australia. Australia’s Barossa Valley, located an hour from Adelaide on the continent’s southern side, is known for its flavorful shiraz wines and rieslings. You’ll feel right at home, welcomed by the open and friendly attitudes of the locals. Visit the country’s oldest, family-run winery of Yalumba, or any of the other many vineyards that offer tastings, tours, and fabulous on-site food.

Wine-centric vacations really are for everyone. The list above showcases just a few of the world’s finest wine regions. Start local with a tasting of Willamette Valley wines; you don’t need to travel across the globe for fabulous wines. But you can!

Oregon Truffle Festival

Are you ready to be seduced?

If so, the Oregon Truffle Festival will scintillate your senses and whet your appetite… for the region’s most delicious treats. No, not Willamette Valley wines – though, we encourage you to imbibe and enjoy the fine Northwestern varieties during the festival. We’re talking about truffles. Oregon is an epicenter for the rare, exquisite treats.

Willamette valley wines and truffle festival in Oregon.

Oregon’s climate is ideal for the growing of delectable truffles and boasts four native species. The area has a growing reputation for locally produced foods and world-class vineyards, including Rainstorm wines. The truffle is an exceedingly special addition to our regional plate. Given their rarity, they can cost as much as $800 per pound – rivaling their French black counterparts.

The annual Oregon Truffle Festival, held in January – when we sorely need a break from dreary winter weather – features several wonderful events. They include educational evenings where you can learn about truffles and taste incomparable samples, tours through truffle and wine country, a Fresh Truffle Marketplace, and sumptuous meal opportunities you do not want to miss.

Events sell out year after year, so be sure to secure yours today. When you visit the Fresh Truffle Marketplace, you will see a cornucopia of Oregon truffles, regional wines, and fresh artisan foods. Take in a truffle cooking demo so you can learn how to prepare these glorious treats at home. It’s best to learn how to store and cook with them from the experts. From creating truffled butter or oil to having it shaved over eggs, scallops, risotto, or pasta, you will make the most of each precious morsel.

You can also learn which of your favorite Rainstorm wines to pair with your truffle creations. A pasta with truffle oil and pinot noir, for example, will be a meal you, and your guests, will never forget.

If you are in the area, look into the Oregon Truffle Festival. It is well worth the price of admission. Purchase tickets here: http://www.oregontrufflefestival.com/tickets/

Best Wine Bars in Portland, Oregon

Willamette Valley wines are among the finest in the country; the Northwestern region is home to more than 500 wineries and is renowned for its elegant, complex, and subtle Pinot Noir. As a review in Wine Enthusiast emphasized, the Valley’s “soil and climate give the wines muscle, depth and – at times – super powers.” And, when you know where all of Portland’s best wine bars are, you, too, have superpowers that will amaze – and delight – your friends.

Rainstorm Wines lists the best wine bars in Portland, Oregon.

Our top picks:

Pour Wine Bar and Bistro

If you’re thinking wine bar = pretentious and pricey, Pour is a refreshing answer. Incredibly reasonable (and we mean incredibly, especially during “Poor Hour”), this establishment features an array of gorgeous regional wines paired with simply, and simply delicious, local food. They’re committed to small vineyards, growers, and producers. Wonderful experiences will be had at Pour.

ENSO Urban Winery

With open, lounge-style seating, ENSO is a perfect place to bring friends. It features a wide range of price points, meaning everyone can indulge. If you are a member, you can bring up to four people for a complimentary tasting with each visit. You can also enjoy a free glass of wine on your birthday and $5 dollar delivery in the Portland area. Not a member? It’s still a great wine bar with an urban warehouse industrial yet comfortable vibe going on. Hip and trendy without trying: perfect.

Southeast Wine Collective

This is a bit  more conventional than ENSO or Pour, and that can be exactly what your palate is craving. SE Wine features a cozy atmosphere, select Willamette Valley wines, a barrel room, and production floor. This is the place to go if you want to nibble from “small plates” – or if you want to make a night of it with a multi-course menu expertly paired with local wines.

Portland, Oregon is a wine-lover’s dream. It has a mix of trendy, affordable, high-end, conventional, contemporary, and off-beat wine bars. As wonderful,, spend a night in at your own wine bar. With complex, aromatic, flavorful Rainstorm wines and a great meal, you can transform any evening into a cozy, inviting event.