We are on a wine and dine experience through the Northwest – Portland, Willamette, Walla Walla, and a stay over in the Kennewick, Washington with Gary’s sister in-law, Marge. Marge went with us on our fun filled day in Walla Walla…more on that to come…which led to a nice relaxing night in of cooking. Marge had a little surprise for Gary that she and I were in on, but Gary had no idea so cooking in was the ideal option for the evening.
After a day of wine tasting we didn’t want to do too much, so a simple dinner was planned – cheese plate, big salad, summer pasta and really great wine. As we head to the local Fred Meyer store (like a Kroger, but with flat screen 50 inch TVs…)
Much to my delight we walk in and find some great local favorite cheeses – Rogue River Smokey Blue Cheese, Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and an excellent Parmesan perfect for both a cheese plate and for topping the summer pasta. Freddie’s also had a solid selection of farm fresh ingredients, fresh pasta and artisan rosemary bread. I am a happy girl.
We grab our goods and head back to Marge’s and put our meal on the table in 45 minutes flat. Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing on the chopped veggie, sundried tomato and Washington greens salad; fresh linguine pasta with zucchini, yellow squash, onion, tomato with basil and Parm pasta; our cheese plate with Washington apples and dried apricots all paired with a few of the wines we had picked up along the trip – to start, Adelsheim’s Willamette Valley Chardonnay and King Estate’s NxNW Red Blend.
We had spent the morning a few days earlier with David Adelsheim, one of the true founders of Willamette Valley wine and just a wonderful and inspiring man, tasting through his current releases and some of the individual vineyard select options available now. Though Oregon Chardonnay is still not fully understood, I think Adelsheim has it perfected by playing to both sides of the Chardonnay question – oaked or unoaked; yes to malo-lactic fermentation or no. The Caitlin Reserve will give you the oaked profile that many want in a Chardonnay (very Gary in style) and the Willamette Chardonnay is a lighter, cleaner Chardonnay with an excellent balance of minerality and fruit. The Willamette Valley Chard was great with the creamy blue cheese salad – surprisingly I was able to make a pretty low fat creamy dressing (yea) that was really rich. The acidity and crispness in the wine cut through some of the richness and paired really nicely with the local-local salad.
In 20 minutes Gary had the pasta prepped with all his ingredients prepped and layer after layer sautéing in a big skillet. The pasta was dropped, sauce finished, all mixed and sprinkled with cheese….dinner is served.
The NxNW is a succulent blend of predominantly Cab with just about every other red Bordeaux grape grown in Washington, though sold by King Estate in Oregon. Not overly complex but a good bang for the buck Cab blend for about $25 a bottle, and paired beautifully with the succulent pasta dish.
We enjoy our dinner while telling stories about Gary and Marge when they were younger and Gary’s relationship with his brother and Marge. Gary’s brother passed away not long after he and Marge were married due to encephalitis from a mosquito bite he got while serving in the Navy on his third tour during the Vietnam war. With the military being in his blood Gary’s brother, Tom, felt it was his duty to serve his country. He and Marge had only been married a short time, but the bond was strong. After Tom’s death and a series of occurrences, Marge lost touch with Gary’s family, just reconnecting with Gary in the past few years. (A lapse of maybe 40 years.) To listen to the two of them you would think they had remained in close touch all those years. The beauty of family sometimes shines brighter than time.
Marge had a special surprise for Gary for “dessert.” I help her clear the plates and offer a few words of encouragement, and grab another bottle of wine – a Columbia Valley red perfect to end the evening with – and my flip camera and settle back in my seat. After a few moments Marge presents Gary with Tom’s military flag that covered his coffin when he returned from Vietnam. With tears flowing Marge explains this is one of the main reasons that she searched for Gary to reconnect with him after so many years; Tom’s flag should be with Gary.
I give Gary the last of it and announce without thinking “Well, there’s another dead soldier.”
CAN I BE MORE INAPPROPRIATE!!!!
Mortified I try to explain that this is a common phrase noted when you finish a bottle….oh lord…..I am just so wrong sometimes….of course, it is actually a funny end to a very special evening of great food, beautiful wine and loving conversation reminiscing and creating new memories.
Love you Marge.