The other night I had the opportunity to attend a Raptor Ridge Wine dinner at Lakewood Country Club. Usually I am totally psyched for William Koval’s five-star food and the chance to sit down for an intimate discussion with a great winemaker, but I have to admit, I was beyond wiped after an especially trying week with the paying gig and doing single mom duty because my husband was out of town. A casual night hanging out in pajamas with my daughter was sounding better and better …
But blog duty called and I got dressed and ready. My sentiments immediately changed after being handed my first glass of Raptor Ridge 08 Pinot Noir and talking to the delightful Annie Shull, one of the winery co-owners. Annie’s husband, Scott, serves as the winemaker and Annie is responsible for all other operational aspects of the Chehalem Mountain-based winery. Raptor Ridge is named after the many birds of prey that live on the property — red-tailed Hawks, kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks and owls – that share the winery’s 27-acre estate. The vineyard is named “Tuscowallame,” the indigenous word for “place where the owls dwell.” In fact, each bottle features a feather from a particular bird. The winery gives a percentage of proceeds to the Raptor Rescue Foundation and to a program that helps to provide medical and dental care to vineyard workers.
Surprisingly, Annie’s love affair with wine didn’t begin until she met her husband and he introduced her to more subtle French wines vs. the big fruit bombs that she had been drinking. After they moved from California to Oregon due to a promotion for her successful job in technology, Scott started to take correspondent classes at UC Davis and collaborate with the other Oregon vintners. After her husband received enough outside kudos for the home wines that he was blending, he decided to give commercialization a try in 1995 — a decision that Annie describes as “a hobby that went awry.”
We started our first course with the Raptor Ridge 09 Pinot Gris paired with Chilled Alaskan King Crab, Roasted Lemon and Pear Salad. The wine’s pear, lemon and floral notes paired perfectly with the seafood goodness brought to our table. I wanted this course to never end.
The second course was a Braised Milk Fed Porcelet, Anson Farms Polenta, Goat Cheese and Fresh Fig for the other attendees, but due to my pork allergy, I got a revised version. The short rib substitute paired perfectly with the 07 Raptor Ridge Reserve Pinot, Willamette Valley, which had big cherry and cranberry flavors with a silky texture.
The third course was the Raptor Ridge Shea Vineyard 07 Pinot Noir paired with a Colorado Lamb Chop; a Dried Cherry, Zucchini Shallot Bread; Acorn, Crushed Spinach and topped with Mint Pinot Sauce. This was a juicy wine with notes of earthiness pairing perfectly with the lamb.
The finale was a Crème Brule, Almond Cake and Honey Ice Cream paired with the 05 Raptor Ridge Blanchefleur, Pinot Blanc from the Willamette Valley. I’ve been really good on the diet plan lately, but ended up polishing off half of this before I realized what I had done. Just sublime. The presentation for the birthday of my friend Susan, who was in attendance, was a special touch.
The success of Raptor Ridge is a story of hard work, collaboration between Oregon winemakers and a focus on excellence from the vineyard to bottle. I am so happy that these wines have made it to Texas (hats off to Pioneer Wines) so you can try them.