Golden Oak: Wine Beer Fusion Lange Winery Rogue Brewery Willamette Week ProAm 2016

Go to Willamette Week’s Fourth Annual Beer Pro/Am Saturday, October 15th in Portland, Oregon (tickets: here).  Why?  To witness my wife crushing the competition with her revolutionary Belgian Golden Strong Ale, “Golden Oak”.


Casual readers of Wayward Wine might realize my wife brews beer.  She did begin with wine.  When we both survived the WSET Advanced Exam, we decided to visit Europe’s great wine, beer, and spirit regions.  Betwixt those seven months and thirteen countries, Belgium happened.

So we drank 45 belgian bottles in 8 days…for research.  Like lightbulb, she realized beer could be as complex and age-worthy as any wine.

Upon moving back stateside and settling in Oregon, she took up home brewing and beer judging.  Soon, her beer awards and judging rank grew.  She started contributing reviews to Beer Connoisseur Magazine.  We even made a Saison with our butternut squash and fresh hops (read here).



Another Willamette Weekly Pro/Am was on the horizon. This beer competition pitted beers made by amateur home-brewers who collaborated with professionals. The trick is to stand out.

Tracy had ruminated on fusing beer and wine in new ways.  Some local brewers aged their beers in Bourbon or Pinot Noir barrels or turned to cheaper staves and chips.  However, most examples tasted brash, tannic, winey, boozy, or simply failed and were relabeled as sours.  Few risked fermenting in barrel for fear of infection.

One day I brought a special Pinot Gris from work.  It was Lange Estate Winery‘s Reserve Pinot Gris 2013.  We love Lange: a family-run, estate winery in Dundee Hills, Oregon.  Lange was the first to oak barrel ferment and age Pinot Gris in the New World.  Oaking melded mild layers of blanched almond and marzipan to Gris’ lemon, white flower and green pear delicacy.

Inspired, we drove to a local grocery and bought whatever Belgian beers that might mirror Lange’s subtlety.  At home we started blending them.  Piraat and Gris tasted terrible.  But the clean, dry, lightly fruity Belgian Golden Strong Ale by Duvel harmonized with the Pinot Gris.  Like Lange, Duvel invented the Golden Strong style.

Now what?


Well, we reached out to Winemaker Jesse Lange for a barrel.  They had Pinot Noir barrels.  But too many other brewers had already repurposed red wine barrels. A pink Ale would look wrong.  The flavors would not sync.  But one day, Jesse found a Pinot Gris barrel ready for retirement.

We drove to Dundee with the help of Dylan and his girlfriend’s Xterra.  After miles climbing gravel roads, we saw Lange’s entrance.  Then a deer, fattened on pilfered grapes, stopped us.


It let us pass, as if sent by Diana, forest goddess, as omen of divine approval for our chosen path (or because it got hungry). We pulled up to Lange:


Once inside, Emily greeted us and Jesse came down and took us to the chosen one.


This barrel began as a tree in the Vosges Forest, France: barrel source of Alsace (aptly where Pinot Gris shines). Tonneliere (cooper) Doreau built it and gave it a medium toast.  New, it probably cost $1,000.  It has seen 12 seasons of Pinot Gris ferment and age at Lange.  2015 was its last hurrah. Then on June 13th Jesse emptied and sulfured it.


Tracy discussed her plans.  She asked how to purge the sulfur.  Boiling water should work.  Jesse asked about blending some wine to finish the beer.  But Tracy wanted to see what the barrel will add first.  We could stay all day, but the brewery calls us onward.

The barrel fits! Time to get it to Portland.



With slightly less finesse than Jesse, Tracy trundled the barrel into the brewhouse.


Tracy had requested to brew with Rogue Brewery’s pro Danny Conners at the Green Dragon in Portland.  Danny had created countless experimental beers for Rogue involving various fruits, herbs, and other additions.  He especially had experience barrel-aging beer with Rogue’s whiskey barrels.

Since the barrel was massive, two batches needed to be brewed on the one barrel pilot system.  She wanted the Pinot Gris to show, so she kept her Belgian Golden Strong Ale recipe simple with pale malt and traditional ingredients.

They started at 8:30am.


To keep the beer fresh and flavorful through barrel aging, they added four pounds of Saaz and Hallertau hops: quite a lot.


That long tube (above) transferred the finished wort (sugary beer-to-be) via the silver pump and chill plate to the barrel hiding behind the Solo Cups (below).


The beer was shifted to barrel after a mere eight hours of work: not shabby for 220 liters.


With yeast added, the slow fermentation began.  So the barrel won’t explode, the bucket (below) provided a CO2 blow off:


I snuck in a few weeks later to check on the ferment:

Early on it reeked of eggs. Worry ensued. But recently, the ale has smelled cleaner, with light Pinot Gris aromas, a golden hue, and subtle, well-integrated flavors of malt, fruity esters, and clean white wine.


Soon, Tracy will rack her beer into kegs, carbonate it, and bring it with Danny to pour at the Willamette Week Pro/Am.  If all goes well, her “Golden Oak” Belgian Golden Strong Ale will add a small part to Lange and Rogue’s local lore, becoming the first Northwest Golden Strong fermented and aged in a Pinot Gris barrel (probably).

Make history.  Help Tracy win.  Go to Willamette Week’s Fourth Annual Beer Pro/Am Saturday, October 15th in Portland, Oregon (tickets: here).  Drink, be merry, and vote for her “Golden Oak”.

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The 2016 Salmon Bake at IPNC 2016 Pinot Noir Wine Festival Oregon

After rising and falling to the siren song of Pinot Noir for two packed days at IPNC 2016, it all comes to this: The Salmon Bake.

This grand open air feast will set you back $225. That sounds like a lot for dinner. But brace yourself, this is no ordinary meal.

Two lines sprawl from the entrance like tentacles on Linfield College’s campus. I get into one, blink, and already people stand behind me. Each carries bottles, bags of bottles, even coolers brimming to show off the Joneses.

The sun bakes away our casual conversation. Then, like a shot, the hay bale “gates” open, and the mostly middle-aged bolt and bobble to claim their table beneath the oaks.

By the time me and my compatriots grab our table the campus is full. Our black-dressed server turns out to be from my account, Cooper’s Hall. She promptly heads to the massive truck to retrieve bottle after bottle of Pinot.


Ironically, she brings 4 in a row that we already sell.


Ah well! We drink and wait for the food line to cool down. I take in my surroundings:

Finally, food I get in line and witness the event’s namesake: the Salmon Bake apocolypse

In addition to the aforementioned fish, tables line with choices. Here’s a slideshow:

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One plate is not enough, but I build my Pinot friendly platter regardless:


Elegant, no, but delicious, especially for over a thousand diners, yes.

After seconds and a few glasses of Burgundy, I pretend to have room for dessert.

Oh, and do not forget pie:

Full beyond physiological reason, I decide on a beer break curtesy of Heater Allen (which is left to any and all to self pour):


Refreshed with Pilsner, I shift into fancy Pinot scavenger mode. Last year, I angered many a table sneaking off with their prized Burgundy (at least that’s what I’m told).


So tempting!

But 2016 will be different. I wait for people to leave tables for dead and then help them finish off their magnums and rare gems.

Hours pass. Light fades. My sentences slur.


Clearly sober. Nice rosé though.

Somehow, I make it back to my room.

Woken by sun bleaching through broken dorm blinds, I shower, dress and head straight for one last hit of Nossa Familia’s free espresso bar.

I could stick around for the Prosecco brunch littered with food vendors. But my liver and soul is pickled with Pinot Noir. Time to go home.

Thank you IPNC for another fantastic weekend of all things Pinot Noir.

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Saturday Pinot Noir Alfresco Tastings at IPNC 2016 Oregon Wine Fest

My IPNC weekend of Pinot Noir is winding to a close. Linfield College’s grassy campus in McMinnville, Oregon has absorbed countless gallons of spilt and spit Pinot.

After an afternoon exploring Champagne barrels at Claude Giraud’s seminar, I trundle off to IPNC’s alfresco rosé tasting. Vendors from Oregon and beyond try to keep their delicate pink wines cold. Charles Audoin pours the tidiest, driest, mineral, and most pale pinky of the bunch. It hails from Marsannay in Burgundy.


Leave it to Burgundy to get a Pinot Noir rosé right. Wish we saw more of these, but the French drink most of it.

Aside from the Pinot popsicles, a highlight included a beer break in the form of local favorite Heater Allen:


Their Dunkleweisen is delightful relief from this endless Pinot purgatory parade.

Just when I could use a nap, another Pinot Noir alfresco tasting opens in the fraternity quad. I hydrate myself and ready my liver for another power tasting.

Yesterday’s alfresco fest focused on 2013 Pinot. Today, we try 2014. Tables line and cluster throughout the quad.


I love the chunky, tannic, meaty and flinty Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru En Rue de Chaux by Bertrand Ambroise.

For silk, Halliday’s Coldstream Hills Hazeldene vineyard, Yarra Valley Australia 2015 is uncomplicated, smooth, brightened cherry, clove, and vanilla ease.


Another gem was Flowers’ palest of pale Pinot Noir rosé from Sonoma. It simply pleased me to no end with its easy, dry, but strawberried profile.


For the sake of something interesting, I enjoyed Foris’s Pinot Noir from Cedar Ranch, in the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon.


Not much Pinot can handle the heat of Southern Oregon. But this comes with more coastal influence being further West. A green, peppery element gives character to tart black cherry fruit and tobacco. Not shabby.

After trying a slew of other Pinots the world over (Panther Creek showed class), I meet up with coworker compatriots and trundle into line for IPNC’s coup de grace, The Salmon Bake. I hope to post this Thursday, stayed tuned.


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Henri Giraud IPNC Champagne and Barrels Seminar

After IPNC’s casual Saturday lunch with endless Pinot poured under Linfield College’s ancient oaks, I toddle across campus for a class. Yes, about Pinot Noir.

My highlight at last year’s IPNC was trying Claud Giraud’s barrel-fermented Champagnes. By chance he came back to do: University of Pinot: Environmental Studies 370, painfully titled “The Man Who Whispers to the Oaks of the Forest”

So, this oak-whisperer, what’s the fuss? Well, most Champagne has forgone oak barrels for the clean modernity of stainless tanks and temperature control. Not Giraud.

Since the 1970s, they have turned back to primary, alcoholic fermentation in barrels. He likes them for the additional flavors they impart and the continuous fermenting vortex the barrel shape provides (think lees contact).


Today, Claud takes us deep into the Argonne Forest (with the help of a translator).  The Argonne is Champagne’s go to forest. Protected by a rain-shield, Argonne has poor soil, which slows tree growth, creating tightly-grained barrels. Every major wine region in France has a forest. The state controls all of them.

Claud has set up a tree-tracking system to follow the growth, soil pH, weather…basically the terroir of each tree before he requests a barrel be made of it. He works with three tonnelliers and three coopers (one stolen from Romanée-Conte, he gloats).

Before us sit two still wines. Each come from the same 2015 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The rub lays in how they were fermented. Barrel v Barrel:


First, from the hot, dry, sedimentary South of Argonne, Chatrices’ barrel-fermented wine.

APPEARANCE: a clear pale hay with raspberry highlights. AROMAS: medium intense strawberry, nutmeg, lime, vanilla icing, graphite. PALATE: Dry, tart, light in body with FLAVORS that etch enamel with green, saline citric acidity.

Ok. Chatrices is zingy. How about La Controlerie?

La Controlerie sits mid-forest and gets more rain. AROMAS and FLAVORS flow with marzipan, toast, caramel, white pear, even plum. Controlerie is as dry as Chatrices but seems softer, readier.

Claude has us blend them, which, well, increases complexity and is a better sum of its parts (great job me). Just imagine how they would meld after secondary, bottle fermentation.

Here’s Claude Giraud extemporizing…

To prove his point, Claude has us try his best bubbles: Argonne 2002 Champagne:


This Argonne comes from his fruit in Ay. He views that Ay makes wines chalky, pointed, citric, pear and violets, briney, earthy, meaty, tailing with acidity.

75% Pinot Noir. 25% Chardonnay. 2002 was a good vintage but warm. It was fermented in barrels like today’s, but secondary in-bottle fermentation lasts 10 years. Dosage caps it with a low 8 grams per liter of sugar (beet sugar, since Champagne can’t grow cane sugar and colonialism is a no go these days).


The APPEARANCE looks a medium gold with vigorous but fine fizz. AROMAS smell of pronounced golden delicious apple, baked pear, marzipan, and lime rind. The PALATE is dry, with high acidity, medium alcohol and body, and a whiff of woody tannin. FLAVORS are bold with anise, pear, apple skin, a mild, pleasant pithy bitterness pervades. 2002 Arbonne is outstanding (5 of 5) Champagne. It demands your attention and probably a bit of food to tame tannins and the complex flavors.

Questions go another hour into finite details. My French is terrible but Claude manages them well. What a fantastic, narrow, but important part of winemaking lost to Champagne. Hell, most still winemakers do not think twice about each individual tree. Henri Giraud is brilliant stuff.

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IPNC Saturday Lunch

After two hours plus and fourteen glass on Australian Pinot (IPNC’s Grand Seminar), we break for lunch on the lawn.

Unlike 95F Friday, today is a pleasant 75F in the shade.  We sit with Dag Sundby, owner of biodynamic Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley. He’s brought some of his 2013 Pinot Noir.

Our sommelier Aaron swings by with bottles of interesting Chardonnay and Riesling and of course more Pinot Noir. We try a few lean, difficult ’07 Willamette Valley Pinots, bidding time until, magically, plates arrive.

Stone fruit salad sneaks in savory smoked scallops tucked beneath basil leaves. Very nice with this weather.


After playing pairings with the bottles on our table, a flaky seared Oregon albacore standing tall on green beans, salty olives and capers, heirloom tomatoes, and abutting a sliced organic egg bathed in herb dressing arrives.


How they plate these for 400 people, challenges the limits of mental logistics.

Lastly, well, you can take a guess:


At first most think it a joke. It turns out to be a tamale but with savory dark chocolate and hibiscus. Maybe the thinking was it would pair with Pinot. It does. However, visually, it leaves much to be desired and questions one’s definition of desert.

All in all, nitpicking is meaningless. This is a fabulous, creative lunch. On to afternoon University of Pinot.


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