highlands wineHighlands Bar and Grill uncorks some lovely new wines. 

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

I have my favorite seat at the bar of Highlands Bar and Grill. If I shared it here, I might never find it open again. But the bartenders know. And they know that I arrive early in order to snag it.  Today as I slip into my seat at the bar—which opens before the restaurant—there is a staff wine tasting of Grassroots wines beginning in the dining room. Highlands’ Beverage Director, Matt Gilpin and the bar staff invite me to come over and taste with them. So I jump off my stool at the chance to be part of this behind the scenes event.

After being introduced to the restaurant staff, I settle in among them. And Grassroots’ Jon Thomas brings forth wines from his bag with “Farms Not Factories” embroidered on it, and proceeds to tell the story of each wine and its heritage. Three wine stories unfold as we sip the wines: Muscadet Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie 2014, Grüner Veltliner Nigl Freiheit 2013, and Evening Land “Seven Springs Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills 2013, each telling its own unique story.

Together we discover, much like the character Uncle Henry Skinner taught young Max in A Good Year, “This sublime nectar is quite simply incapable of lying. Picked too early, picked too late, it matters not. The wine will always whisper into your mouth with complete, unabashed honesty every time you take a sip.” Our first wine story is from the Loire. Melon de Bourgogne grape, (AKA Muscadet), was originally brought to this French region from Burgundy, where it thrived, and became a favorite pairing for the region’s salty oysters and seafood. Today Michel and Nathalie Delhommeau’s farm of 28 hectares is planted primarily on gabbro rock, which was formed from molten lava. From a single parcel of these old vines, Muscadet Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie 2014 ($8 by glass) boasts a stony minerality and subtle notes of pineapple and mango. Our second story comes from Austria, in perhaps its best vintage since 1997. Here father Joseph and son Martin Nigl began making wines two decades ago. Their Grüner Veltliner Nigl Freiheit 2013 ($9 by glass) is fragrant and refined with notes of apple and honeydew melon, and wet stone. And the best glass of the tasting is saved for last. Seven Springs Vineyards’ history dates to 1982, when Oregon wine industry pioneer Al MacDonald planted the first vines. Today co-winemakers Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr combine their vast experience and expertise to make Evening Land “Seven Springs Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills 2013 ($120 by bottle). Pale cherry in color, this gorgeous wine offers notes of raspberry and roses, with velvety tannins, lovely minerality and a lingering acidity. 

 Published, B-Metro magazine, May 2016

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