As we drove along Territorial Road in Oregon’s Lorane Valley below the King Estate, I could tell right away that things had changed. A gigantic hayfield was still banking the boundary, but beyond that, last year’s young vineyards had filled out, and more vineyards were visible on the north slope. Our last visit to King Estate gave us the impression of a winery fit for royalty. This time we got the sense of entering a castle village – a thousand acre, Tilth-certified, organic Camelot.
Once situated in the tasting room with our guide, Quentin Ransone, we put a good dent in the wine list before our friends from Eugene – Carolyn, Jody and Bob – joined us for more tasting and dinner in the King Restaurant.
King is famous for its organically grown pinot gris and pinot noir, bottled as estate/sourced Signature and estate-grown Domaine labels.
Acrobat and Next offer drink now, affordable pinot gris, pinot noir and riesling grown responsibly in Oregon and Washington. The NxNW (North by Northwest) labels feature terroir-driven syrah and cabernet sauvignon sourced from the Willamette Valley, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla. All of the wines rocked and we took home a healthy array, including the delicious 2008 Three Bees Pinot Gris, a small lot made from a single vineyard near the estate’s bee hive, and the elegant 2008 Next Pinot Noir.
I found myself agreeing with the most of the descriptions on the tasting menu, so I’ll just go with them here.
While the sun sank to the west around 8pm, it cast a beautiful glow on the Eastern hills just as we were seated on the patio and draped with plush blankets. The view was so vivid, it looked like a mural.
Using local and estate grown ingredients, Chef Michael Landsberg has put together an excellent menu that is both rustic and sophisticated, and features inventive meaty and vegetarian items.
Quentin had recommended the crab cakes and pork chops, so we went for both. The crab cakes were the most pillowy I’d ever tasted, with not a hint of oiliness, and were served with an intriguing sauce of fennel, pickled melon, and roasted garlic.
The 2009 Signature Pinot Gris with its 3% tang of gewürtztraminer beautifully complimented the cakes and our entrees.
Carolyn and Bob had the Seared Halibut with sugar snap peas, fennel confit, corn, fingerling potatoes, lemon-basil nage. The halibut was perfectly flaky and the pea/corn sauce was inspired. Bill loved his Roasted Smoked Chicken with caramelized parsnips and carrots, local mushrooms, asparagus, sherry chicken jus. Tender, earthy, and savory. Jody’s vegetarian Cannelloni was stuffed with local mushrooms, Fern’s Edge goat cheese, smoked tomato vinaigrette and roasted vegetables, and was literally mouth watering. The tender, juicy Smoked Sweet Briar Farms Pork Chop came topped with roasted peaches and ringed with spicy pioppini mushrooms and a polenta that was creamy as mashed potatoes.
The whole meal went beautifully with the 2008 Signature Pinot Noir, which we finished while sitting back and watching the stars glow.
(See more pics of our dinner and the estate.)
Meats served in the restaurant get aged and smoked in the King charcuterie, which is next to the bakery, across from the greenhouses, down the hill near the Vineyard Pavilion. Our entrees had been a little late, owing to the pork dish, and we joked that someone had to run out and kill the pig. The next morning, we realized they probably ran down to the charcuterie to slice a fresh chop.
We met up with head gardener, Jessie Russell, who presented us with a bowl of plump raspberries to nibble as she showed us what’s growing on.
Seasonally, she oversees production of apples, pears, plums, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, leeks, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radish, salad greens, shallots, squash, Swiss chard, basil, bay leaf, chives, fennel, lavender, lemon verbena, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, as well as flowers such as; daffodils, dahlias, Echinacea, gladiolas, gypsophilia, iris, lilies, peonies, snapdragons, sunflowers and zinnias.
All of that is either cooked into the lunch and dinner menu, made into jams or lotions for sale in the tasting room, or is outright donated to local communities.
King Estate has greenhouses I would die to have. Complete with high-power lights, industrial fans, overhead irrigation and hot water tubes beneath the beds, these greenhouse are used for raising organic grape vines, vegetables and fruits, even in the cool winter months. Jessie said the lights suck so much power they are rarely used.
But that may change after the next project is completed; solar panels planted on the other side of the estate, down among the wetlands. The panels should provide for most, if not all of King’s Estates power needs. It gives me a buzz just thinking about it.
And I didn’t even mention the basketball court-sized compost piles.
The King Estate Restaurant is open daily from 11am to 9pm, with the tasting room pouring until 8:30 pm. How many wineries are open that late, anywhere?
Just say you’re riding with the King.