Drinking Now: 2012 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a white wine varietal, originally from the Burgundy region of eastern France, like Pinot Noir, and is actually now grown all over the world from England to New Zealand to Oregon.

Chardonnay, perhaps one of the most enjoyed yet snubbed varietals to date. It is now coming back with vengeance due to the efforts of the Oregon Wine industry. Chardonnay is quickly becoming the other wine varietal that Willamette Valley is becoming known for.

The Chardonnay grape itself tends be quite neutral but can be heavily influenced by terroir and oak. It can be vinified in various styles, from crisp and lean mineral wines of Chablis, France to the New World style with oak, butter and hints of tropical flavors.

2012 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay

2012 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Tasting Notes: 

Today, I am enjoying a 2012 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Chardonnay on a hot summer day in Portland, Oregon.  I held onto this Chardonnay because I knew it would evolve beautifully with time.

Color: Pale hay color

Nose: Citrus, pineapple, apricot, touch of butter, and green apple

Palate: Lemon lime, mineral, vanilla, green apple with a nice long finish. Medium plus acidity.

Overall: Classically styled yet modern Chardonnay with the right amount of acidity, touch of butter and diverse palate (it is sourced from great regions of the Willamette Valley from Yamhill- Carlton to Chehalem Mountain AVAs). It has the minerality of Chehalem, yet the body you would expect from Yamhill- Carlton.



Appellation: Willamette Valley

Vintage: 2012

Aging: 15 months in French Oak barrels, 28% new, 100% Malolactic Fermentation.

Vineyards: Carabella, Gran Moraine, Willakia

Bottled: February 2014

Pairing: With the light touch of butter, this would pair wonderfully with a cold shrimp cocktail and crab legs. A perfect summer lunch wine.

Price: $40

Cases produced: 300

A Thirst for Cider: Oregon Cider Week

What was once old is new again. This holds true not just for fashion but also for cider. The US has now experienced a cultural resurgence of cider and is developing quite a thirst for it.

Once Colonial America’s drink of choice, the U.S. is quickly returning back to its roots for inspiration. According to federal data, draft cider sales rose 700 percent between 2011 and 2012; in 2012, U.S. cider sales topped $90 million.  Why?  First, thanks to the interest and subsequent growth of craft beer, the craft cider industry has grown as well. Furthermore, the interest in and demand for something new and different, and perhaps healthier, has created the perfect opportunity for cider.

Data also suggest that the average cider drinker is 20-35 years old. A number of these younger drinkers, particularly in the Northwest, are looking for something authentic, original, and different from the mass-produced sub-par cider and beer. Given all of this data, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for a craft revolution.

The resurgence of interest in cider has been very notable in Oregon.  On June 20, Oregon kicked off its third annual Oregon Cider Week with Cider Summit Portland, featuring over 140 ciders from 37 producers, from 6 states and 7 countries. This event will continue on to Seattle, Chicago, and Berkeley. Portland showed its support by coming in droves: 3,000 to 4,000 visitors over two days, to be exact. It was a well-attended event with a lot of people enjoying the sun, the music, and the cider being poured by artisan cider houses.  The rest of the week featured events throughout the state including a number of tap takeovers, happy hours, tastings, and dinners.



I had the honor of attending the Cider Feast Dinner at St. Honoré Boulangerie off SE Division Street in Portland. Hosted by St. Honoré Boulangerie, Chef Dominique Geulin, and Kevin Zielinski, E.Z. Orchards’ owner and cider maker, this five-course French-style dinner showcased ciders from Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  Virtue Cider, Reverend Nat’s Cidery, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and E.Z. Orchards.

Cider Feast Dinner

Cider Feast Dinner

The pairings dinner featured a beautiful Goat Cheese and Rainer Cherry tartalette, a mixed green salad tossed with Finnriver Black Currant Cider vinaigrette, a plate of country pâté and chicken liver mousse paired with a E.Z. Orchards cider mustard, and a gorgeous Alsatian-meets-Northwest tarte flambé. This feast was all finished off with a very interesting Cider and Saffron Sabayon.


For me, it was a beautifully-paired dinner by Chef Geulin, and I will make sure to return during St. Honoré Boulangerie’s happy hour for more cider-based cocktails soon. What is unique about St. Honoré Boulangerie is that they create not only beautiful breads and quiches but also wood-fired pizzas. I was happy to taste some of my favorite cider producers, from E.Z. Orchards to Finnriver to Reverend Nat’s, all paired in this great cider dinner. I look forward to seeing the other great events Portland has to offer.

Stay tuned!



A Cider for Everyone

In a previous article, I wrote about the history of cider, my experiences in Spain, and now those in Oregon. I had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Cider Association Rite of Spring event in Portland, where I tasted ciders that would work for pretty much any palate, from those who aren’t so sure about trying cider, to the wine lovers among us, to the beginner cider drinkers.

Whether you are drinking cider simply because it is a gluten-free alternative to beer or perhaps you simply love the taste of apples, there is a cider out there for everyone. Here is my list:


For the “Not so sure about cider” people: You know who you are; you are generally a craft beer drinker, and you may sip wine from time to time, but…cider? Yes, cider…it is quite tasty, has hops, and is well worth a try.

For Saison Lovers:  Rev. Nat’s Hard Cider Hallelujah Hopricot starts with classic American apples such as a Belgian wit(white)-style cider which is then steeped with coriander, bitter orange peel, and paradise grains, and subsequently fermented with a French saison ale yeast. Lastly, it is topped off with pure apricot juice and finished with Oregon-grown Cascade and Amarillo hops. The coriander lingers with a back sweetness of ginger and a slight hoppiness at the end. It is a very interesting hopped cider that I would highly recommend finding. They also have a phenomenal Tepache which is made from pineapple and can be blended with a Lager. If you’ve been in Germany, just think Bananaweizen but with Pineapple and Lager. In fact, it is so new that they are doing their release party this Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) at their Portland Taproom.

For Beer Lovers:  McMenamin’sEdgefield Dry Hopped Hard Cider is a fermented dry cider with the addition of three different types of hops at different times. Initially they use Cascade hops after the primary fermentation, then prior to bottling finish it with Chinook and Nugget hops. This cider has a nice crisp citrus finish to it; it isn’t overly hoppy and has more aromatics than bitterness.

Sea Cider

 For Wine Lovers: Cider is a relatively new thing to you, or perhaps you’ve had a number of sweeter hard ciders and had initially written them off. I am happy to say, there are a number of great French- and Spanish-style ciders out there for your refined palates.

If you like a little barnyard, just a subtle amount: Try 2009 Ez Orchards Cidre. This cider (or cidre in French) is among my very favorite of ciders.  It is complex and has multiple layers to it due to its extensively long, cold, and wild fermentation process. It is unfiltered, and final fermentation takes place in the bottle, giving it a natural fizziness similar to champagne. It is not for the faint of heart but for those true European wine lovers.

If you like champagne: Try Alpenfire Ember, which also uses wild yeast.  However, champagne yeast is added at the end to create a French-style cider with about 2 to 3% residual sugar to balance out the acid.

Another one worth trying: Make sure to try Finnegan Dry Cider, which is fermented completely dry and has a nice balance of acid and fruit. Finnegan’s is also doing a Spanish-style Sidra type of dinner at event on May 4th at Pix Pâtisserie in Portland.


For the Newbie Cider Drinkers: Beer isn’t quite your thing; you might not like the bloating.  You kind-of like wine, but wine is a bit dry for you? You tend to prefer the sweeter things in life. If this is you, then perhaps you’d enjoy the following great ciders.

Love Apple Pie?   I have the perfect cider for you, full of spice and all things nice.  Try Carlton Cyderworks Auld Lang Spice, which has about 14 grams of sugar and literally could be a liquid dessert. It tastes just like apple pie. If anything, I love their tongue-in-cheek labels like Carry Nation.  If you like the apple pie, you’ll also like their Duke Apple Blueberry, which not quite as sweet, and with a hint of blueberries at end.

Land of Flowers and Honey:  At Finnriver Farm and Cidery, you can literally taste the land in the ciders they make. This certified organic cidery makes two very tasty ciders, the Honey Meadow cider, which is infused with botanicals like lemon balm, chamomile and honey; and their Sparkling Black Currant cider, which reminded me of when I used to pick currants off our family bushes and eat their tart sweetness.

There you have it, a cider for all palates!  If you are in California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, or Washington on June 20-29, make sure to join all of these great Northwest cideries to celebrate Oregon Cider Week in your area. To kick off Cider Week in Oregon, join the Northwest Cider Association for the Portland Cider Summit NW at the Fields Neighborhood Park in the Pearl District on Saturday, June 21-22, 2014.


Enjoy all these faces of cider!