Willamette Valley – Maysara with a Brick House Guest Appearance

Willamette Valley Wines Sub-AVA Tour
McMinnville is our next sub-AVA on our virtual tour through Willamette Valley. Today we’re exploring McMinnville through biodynamic grower, Maysara. We’ll also touch on biodynamics at both Maysara and Brick House Vineyard.

(click on any of the maps to see full size in a slide show)

McMinnville AVA
From Willamette Valley Wine website:

“Encompassing the land above 200 feet and below 1,000 feet in elevation on the east and southeast slopes of these foothills of the Coast Range mountains, the soils of the McMinnville AVA are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays and a base of uplifting basalt.

The soils are uniquely shallow for winegrowing. The planted slopes sit in the protecting weather shadow of the Coast Range mountains, and rainfall is lower than on sites to the east. The primarily east- and south-facing sites take advantage of the drying winds from the Van Duzer Corridor. Approximately 600 acres are currently planted here.”

As previous posts have shown, these sub-AVA’s often separate themselves from the greater Willamette Valley by elevation first. The lower elevations have more fertile soils, higher frost risk and the soil makeup is different.  The vineyard locations on the eastern slopes mean lower rainfall. Finally, we see our first reference to the Van Duzer Corridor. This is a gap in the coastal range mountains to the south and west which brings in cool air during hot summer afternoons. Convenient air conditioning!

Wine Geek Side Note: If you’d like to understand a bit about how an AVA is created, I found the following fascinating excerpt from the Federal Register application for the McMinnville AVA.

Maysara and Brick House are both Demeter certified biodynamic growers

Biodynamics in Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley is host to winegrowers who are long committed to sustainability, with a variety of certifications in use. One of the most strict is Biodynamics, certified by Demeter USA. Biodynamics is a holistic approach with the farm as a biodiverse self-sustaining operation as a goal. Viticulture conforms first to organic standards (no synthetic chemicals), then additional biodynamic preparations are used to enhance the compost and to treat the plants. While much print is spent on the unusual aspects of biodynamics (manure filled cowhorns, operations scheduled according to moon phases), the actual required operations are entirely practical and anyone standing in a biodynamic vineyard can appreciate the great level of diversity with more insects, birds and plants surrounding the vines.

Disclosure: wines for this post were provided as samples. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are mine.

Maysara Winery
Moe and Flora Momtazi bought nearly 500 acres of abandoned farmland back in 1997 with the intent to start a vineyard and winery. From the very beginning they were committed to an approach using no synthetic chemicals – the classic “harder but worth it”. By 2005 they had fully committed to biodynamic farming and achieved Demeter certification for their vineyard. Following the biodiversity principles outlined in Biodynamics, only about half the land is planted to vines with the other half dedicated to natural vegetation. The biodynamic approach continues in the winery with both primary and secondary fermentations carried out by native yeasts. No acidification or chaptalization is done.

Maysara “Cyrus” Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard 2014

Maysara “Cyrus” Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 (sample, $36 SRP or online here) 13.5% abv
Eye: Clear, pale ruby in color
Nose: Clean, medium intensity aromas of violets, ripe red fruit: raspberry, strawberry, red cherry with a bit of blueberry as well. Also, aromas of cinnamon, coconut and subtle notes of charred wood, leather and earth. Overall, the ripe sweet fruit dominates the aromas.
Mouth: Dry, with medium plus intensity flavors which follow the nose closely: ripe strawberry, red cherry, cinnamon, coconut leather and earth. Acidity is medium with medium minus fine grain tanninns. Alcohol is medium, body is medium with creamy texture, and the finish is medium plus in length. The wine finishes on its fruit.
Observations: This wine is drinking beautifully now, and it has both the intensity and structure to age as well.

Brick House Winery in Ribbon Ridge AVA
I wrote about Brick House previously, including a bit of information on the Ribbon Ridge AVA. That post is located here. As Brick House is also certified Biodynamic by Demeter, it seemed natural to add them here.

Brick House “Cascadia” Chardonnay Ribbon Ridge AVA 2016

Brick House Cascadia Chardonnay Ribbon Ridge AVA 2016 (sample, $40 SRP or online here)
Eye: Clear, pale lemon color
Nose: Clean, with medium intensity aromas of white blossom out in a garden, lemon, lemon peel, subtle herbs mint and dried thyme. Wet stones, hay, with just traces of almond. The wine showed a bit of reduction immediately on opening (struck match), but it disappeared after the bottle was open for a few minutes.
Mouth: Dry with medium intensity flavors which followed the nose: lemon, lemon peel, dried herbs, wet stones and hay. The wine had high acidity, medium alcohol with medium body and a lean texture. The finish was medium plus.
Observations: This Chardonnay showed it was from a cool climate with a lean, elegant set of aromas, flavor and texture. It still shows as fresh and lively and could age longer.

Biodynamic Willamette Valley with Seared Scallops and Sweet Corn Risotto
I never hesitate to enjoy Pinot Noir with shellfish since I find the seafood so umami filled, a light bodied red wine will pair nicely.  Of course, white wine is also a good choice and I like to try both when possible.

Our meal today was seared scallops on a bed of sweet corn risotto, served with grilled vegetables. We love local sweet corn in the summer, and we look for a variety of ways to prepare it. This was simply raw corn cut off the cob and added to the risotto late in the preparation so it would cook just enough. We added some basil from the garden to provide a little herbal punch.

The better pairing for this meal boils down to your mood as you sit down to dinner. Both wines paired beautifully with the meal, each emphasizing different aspects of the elements on the plate.

Seared scallops with sweet corn risotto

Basic Risotto

This is my basic risotto recipe. Risotto is a Friday night staple at our house, we love a relaxing but elegant dish to finish a busy week. This risotto can be taken in many different directions, so use it as a guide.

  • Risotto is a simple dish, so one of the keys to success is to use the highest quality ingredients possible.  The stock is key, if you don’t make your own, use the highest quality stock you can find.
  • Use Carnaroli or Arborio rice, hopefully from the Po Valley (in the Piedmont)
  • Ratio: 1 ounce (weight) of raw rice to 1/2 cup of liquid

Ingredients (for 6 servings, or 4 servings plus leftovers for Risotto Fritto!)

  • 8 oz. Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

at the finish

  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano (use the real thing!) cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbs. butter to finish (if desired)

1. Start by bringing the stock up to a simmer, just under boiling.

2. Melt the butter in a pot large enough to hold your finished risotto, add the onions and cook until they are translucent, just a few minutes.  Add the rice and continue cooking until the rice becomes slightly glossy and translucent.  It will still be white in its center.  This will only take 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the white wine and stir.  Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a gentle boil. Wait until the liquid is absorbed.

4. After the liquid is absorbed, add a ladle of stock to the rice and stir.  You don’t need to stir constantly.  Some good advice: stir every time you take a sip of wine!  In my past risotto’s I have stirred constantly.  Matt says it’s not necessary, and now I agree.

5. Continue to add stock, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding another ladle.  All the stock will be absorbed in about 20-30 minutes, but you’ll want to judge by tasting the nearly finished rice.

6. Fold in spring peas and sliced basil, heat through for just a minute or two

7. Add the shredded cheese, mix in, then add the butter if desired. Serve!

One Response to “Willamette Valley – Maysara with a Brick House Guest Appearance”
  1. When we visited WV in ’19, Maysara and the winery next door (Kelley Fox) were recommended to us. We opted for Kelley Fox. We had a great time and we really enjoyed the wines. Maysara next time for sure! Loving the look and sound of your dishes, especially that sweet corn risotto!

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