With the anticipation of shoulder surgery looming large and Neal’s mother’s rapidly declining health, a full weekend of wine, food and friends is just what the doctor ordered.
Along with our dear friends Mark and Deborah, we planned a special Valentine’s weekend that just kept getting better and better each time we talked about it. It started with the announcement of a Valentine’s Dinner at Salem’s Barrel and Keg, with wine provided by our dear friend Kate Taylor from One Love Cellars. We quickly realized that the 50-mile drive home from Salem after a wonderful, wine filled dinner might not be a great idea, so we booked a hotel room nearby. With that plan in place, we decided that we could dedicate Sunday to wine tasting in the area. Enter Kate! She suggested that we start the following day with brunch and some new-to-us wineries.
Dinner was really lovely! Barrel and Keg is primarily a bottle shop featuring a thorough array of beers, wines, ciders and mead. There is a tasting bar and food provided by the owners’ food truck out back. This night, two wonderful chefs, Crystal’s Catering, who are friends of Kate’s, provided what can only be described as a truly memorable dinner. We started off with fresh baked bread with butter and jam made by Kate’s mom. It went so well with Big Heart Bubbles, One Love’s bubbly made in the methode champenoise style. This wine is a limited production product and worth the wait. Kate tells a wonderful story about how she decided to try to make bubbly for the first time…with a Soda Stream. It made quite a mess but led to this beautifully vibrant bubbly treat!
The estate grown Albarino that accompanied the Caesar Salad with cajun shrimp is one of our favorite wines right now. Grown in the One Love vineyard, this wine is a treat for your tastebuds with botanical aromas and tropical notes notes on the palate. The large, well seasoned shrimp were cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of “snap.”
The small taste before the main course might have been our favorite, dates stuffed with bleu cheese and a walnut and drizzled with honey. This was served with white Pinot Noir. This is not usually my favorite wine and without the accompanying food, I stick by that, but once we combined the food and wine, all bets were off. This was an amazing combination, one that I will replicate every chance I get. Even Deborah, who is not a “stinky cheese” fan had to admit that this was a great pairing.
Finally, the main course…a pinwheeled flank steak stuffed with roasted garlic, carmelized onions, spinach, mushrooms and artisan cheese served along side rosemary potatoes and green bean bundles wrapped in bacon. Nuf said! This was paired with a special surprise, a directly from the barrel tasting of 2017 Heart Throb red blend. Kate intended to serve her 2016 Heart Throb but discovered she did not have enough, lucky for us. The 2017, a blend of 50% Cab Franc, 33% Malbec, 16% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot, while still a bit young, promises to be a very special wine. The meal ended with a dark chocolate mousse parfait paired with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Not much more you can say about that combination, perfection!
We were were all so happy we had chosen to Uber to the dinner, driving home after this special meal would have been a big mistake. I’m sure our driver thought we were very strange old folks based on our conversation. After dinner and a quick giggly visit to the local Walgreen’s for antacids and Peeps, we headed back to the hotel to finish off a bottle of Merlot I brought with us. You never want to waste an open bottle of wine!