A Recipe that Shines with Sparkling Wine
by Barbara Barrielle
“Every year, there are a series of wine dinners at popular restaurants around Portland, all in support of the Classic Wines Auction to raise money for a series of children’s charities, raising over $50 million since its inception in 1982.
While the pricey gala draws the most money, the dinners leading up to the big night are considered a highlight for those who adore the wines of the Willamette Valley, and the restaurants that prepare the meals that showcase them.
This was the last trip I took before the nation went on lockdown and the dinner at Noble Rot Restaurant featuring the sparkling wines of Argyle Winery, in Dundee, Oregon. So, it was worth the 15-hour Amtrak train ride from Sacramento, although it was a long ride leaving at midnight and arriving around 3 p.m. The cost was about $85 for a business-class seat, and the scenery absolutely stunning as the train made its way among the Cascade Mountains in the early morning.
Next time, I would splurge and reserve a sleeper, but I was on a bit of a budget and wanted to check out train travel as an alternative to plane and car rides. I liked it, although your mind must be able to slow down and enjoy the pace. I wrote, I read, I gawked at the passing views, and waiting at the end of the journey was one of the most phenomenal wine dinners I have ever experienced — and there have been hundreds.
Argyle Winery was founded in 1987 by Rollin Soles with the intent to make sparkling wines from cool climate grapes. All of their wines are estate grown and made from hand-picked, cold-pressed grapes. They are vintage dated and bottle fermented from proprietary yeasts and aged at least three years on the yeast and ‘disgorged on demand’ for freshness. Argyle makes a range of sparkling and still wines including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
For the dinner at Noble Rot, winemaker Nate Klostermann and the folks at Argyle Winery did not skimp. We tried a full range of wines.
Noble Rot served inventive dishes like appetizers of mini-Reuben sandwiches, a seafood dish Dungeness crab ravioli with pioppini mushrooms, a Moroccan lamb dish and the surprise finale of Basque Burnt Cheesecake, a surprisingly simple dessert full of flavors and dimension primarily because it is intentionally burnt on top.
Paired with the Basque Burnt Cheesecake was the 2008 Argyle Winery Extended Tirage Brut, which spent more than 10 years on lees for a creaminess that matches its still bright acidity. This wine is continually the highest-rated sparkling wine outside of Champagne in publications like Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate.
Noble Rot Chef Gregory Smith sums it up in saying, ‘For the Argyle Winery dinner I wanted to keep the age-old acid-versus-fat idea that is the basis for a complete palate-involved experience. Champagne is particular. I felt it important that the food be gentle but also full flavored, I mean, people want to eat right? To take that further things like cheese, smoked meats, bright pickled vegetables, and cooked fruit would all let the wine shine but would also bring the “sum is greater than the parts” thought present.’
‘Then the Basque ‘Burnt’ Cheesecake came up as a proposed sweet at the end of the meal. For me, this may have been the coolest pairing. The way the caramel notes of burnt sugar sparred with the bubbles was eyebrow raising and the quince was the perfect sour sweet punch to reset the palate for another go round.’
Stunning wines and views from Noble Rot’s 6th floor perch over Portland made my last big dinner before the COVID-19 crisis so memorable that eight weeks later, the memories are still fresh. Now to pop open a bottle of Argyle and get to making the cheesecake below.”