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Seducing the Palate

Story by Kerry Newberry/Photos by Andrea Johnson

What is sexy? Miami, Rome or Paris? Leather, lace or leopard wear? Figs, yes. French accents, I think so. And what about a ripe, juicy mango? There’s the tango, a five o’clock shadow, the provocative paintings of Pablo Picasso and the iconic Marilyn Monroe white-dress-lifting pose over a hot air vent. Moonlit skinny-dipping, riding a Vespa in Argentina, the Manolo Blahnik Thakoon lace-up patent heel, Kama Sutra, Sean Connery and, of course, lingerie.

The come-hither lingerie monarch, Victoria’s Secret, compiled an annual “What is Sexy?” List in 2006 and the tradition continues. Last year’s slinky list included celebs, such as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as the sexiest athlete, actress Kate Bosworth for sexiest lips and Matthew McConaughey for the sexiest beach body.

Sometimes, less is more sensual. It’s the mystery, the thrill, the desire that titillates. Whatever sexy is, it is often on the table in February, along with romance. We are leaving the romance to you, but offering you a taste of risqué. If you think caviar and Dom Pérignon is steamy, think again. We asked some of the state’s hottest sommeliers and wine buyers to create OWP’s version of “What is Sexy?” for Oregon wine. The following is their version of sultry with a bite divine.

Jeff Groh - Heathman Restaurant & Bar, Portland 


This may be the only time in my life anyone quotes me on what is sexy, so I hope I get it right. What makes the following selections “sexy” is the combination of food, wine and, in some cases, circumstance. Food first is how I think of pairings. Let’s start with Oregon lamb grilled over grapevines, seasoned with chimichurri sauce and served with 2002 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir. The wine is not readily available, and the grapevines are hard to come by except in pruning season (which is happening now) but together created and consumed in a place of beauty, this would be very sexy.

For a white wine, sip in late spring when the Oregon Coast sees its lowest tides of the year. Venture off the headland near Otter Rock [Lincoln County] where you can hand-harvest sea urchin. Crack it open and spread on a slice of buttered, dark rye/pumpernickel bread with a little crème fraîche and pair with the 2000 Argyle Knudsen Vineyard Sparkling Wine. Put on a parka, a heavy sweater, a couple of hats, waterproof boots and have a bonfire on the beach. Keep the food high so the sand doesn’t get in, and this is Oregon coast perfection. Small disclaimer: Seafood this fresh still moves, even after you scoop out its urchin-ness.

Jacqueline Carey - Celilo Restaurant, Hood River


For my “sexy sips,” I paired two Columbia Gorge wines that we feature on our wine list at Celilo Restaurant and Bar with two of our winter menu offerings. First, I picked the 2007 Cor Cellars Sauvignon Blanc from Milbrandt Vineyard. Winemaker Luke Bradford named his winery “Cor,” after the Latin word for “heart,” and normally that would seem like reason alone to make it onto this list! However, once you pair Cor’s citrus, sage and lemongrass notes with Celilo’s own skillet-roasted Totten Inlet mussels with fresh fennel, garlic, red chili flakes and fennel pollen, you’ll see why I selected this sexy sip pairing!

Next, I chose the 2006 Wy’East Vineyard Syrah paired with our chocolate mousse cake. Dick and Christie Reed’s Wy’East Vineyard overlooks Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, one of the most romantic views in the Hood River Valley. Peter Rosback—of Sineann fame—made this wine, and as expected, it is big, smooth and silky. It has sweet blackberry notes, with just the perfect balance of spiciness. One sip of this Syrah with a thin layer of brownie, chilled bittersweet chocolate mousse and house-made ice cream makes this the perfect romantic coupling. Red wine and chocolate, that’s a sexy way to spend any day!

Andy PhillipsWinchester Inn, Ashland


For a red, I like the 2005 Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill Pinot Noir for its silky pretty fruit that deepens and shows immense depth, creating a beautiful and sexy complex glass of wine. Get a little wild, as in Oregon wild Yellowfeet and Hedgehog mushroom and beet tart with sugar pumpkin sauce to ground the sexy Pinot Noir fruit.

The very sexy bubbles in the 1998 Argyle Extended Tirage Willamette
Valley Sparkling Wine have both delicate texture and elegant complexity from patient extended lees contact. Try a glass with Oregon Dungeness crab cakes with pineapple gelée, cilantro chimichurri and jicama slaw to spice up your evening wherever you are.

Michael GarofolaTabla Mediterranean Bistro, Portland


Sex appeal’s definition varies from each one of us, as does one’s taste in wine. For me, sex appeal has more to do with the subtleties of an unspoken confidence and charm, and has nothing to do with a show-stopping gregariousness and larger-than-life attitude. With wine, I can draw a parallel in that I often choose wines that offer me many things, that are not simply one or two-dimensional. I want something that sometimes defies explanation, but with all certainty, demands reverence and thought. That is sexy to me.

First wine is the 2006 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity AVA; this is a concentrated, well-built Oregon Pinot Noir. But don’t be fooled; it is not over-extracted nor aggressively oaked. It is balanced. The nose and initial taste suggests red and black fruits and then it folds into a palate of leather, dirt and black olives. The weight of this wine is dense without being heavy, and while there’s some grip from the tannins, the acid on the finish cleanses the palate, refreshes it, and prepares it for the next bite of duck confit.

For a white wine, I chose the 2007 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Chehalem Mountains AVA. This late harvest Gewürztraminer is a perfect close to any fine meal. It is wonderfully floral without being too rose petal-y like many Gewürztraminers (both New and Old World). It has a clean, honeyed nose with notes of Golden Delicious apples. It’s sweet, but never cloying or unctuous. Rather, the most endearing quality of this wine is how it finishes with this pleasant burst of acid. It pairs perfectly with a Comté or Muenster cheese.

Randy GoodmanBar Avignon, Portland


Smooth, slippery and delicious, that’s the 2006 Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling. This has been my go-to white for the winter season. It is the perfect match for chef Chad Brown’s Dungeness crab salad with blood orange, fennel and clementine vinaigrette at Bar Avignon. The wine shows upfront aromas and flavors of citrus and honey. On the palate, a touch of lime is offset with a mineral quality and some old-vine character. It’s especially sexy at a candlelit table for two.

Bubbles and pink—two of the sexiest things one can imagine—combine in one glass with the 2004 Soter Vineyards Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine. It is refreshing and complex with flavors of honey, brioche, strawberries, yeast and a mineral note on the finish. Great natural acidity and low dosage make this a wonderful food wine. For a food pairing, think decadence: foie gras, perhaps, or Kookoolan Farms chicken liver mousse, or even salt cod brandade on crostini. This wine is pretty perfect just by itself, too.

Book a night at Timberline Lodge. Arrange for a blizzard—after you’ve arrived. Pack a fancy picnic: charcuterie and cheese, some nice bread and two bottles of Soter Brut Rosé. Watch the bubbles rise in the glass, watch the snow pile up outside. Call in sick for work tomorrow. Take the second bottle up to Silcox Hut for another picnic. How romantic; how Oregon.

Chris BerryThe Dundee Bistro, Dundee


The first wine I thought for “sexy” is the 2000 Argyle Blanc de Blancs. This wine immediately makes me think of my favorite Grower Champagnes. The nose combines toasty, yeasty aromas of apple and peach with a nice mineral note. It has a nice bright mousse and comes across with toast and spice, vanilla, and a little white pepper on the finish.

The principle “opposites attract” can also apply to food and wine. With this in mind, I would pair this beautiful, terroir-driven sparkling wine with a white truffle flan topped with sweet onions caramelized in Port and thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The earthiness of the truffles should bring out the mineral notes in the wine, and sharp cheese will highlight the creamy richness of the wine.

My pick for a red is the 2006 Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir. This unctuous, lush Pinot reminds me of big powerful Burgundies from Gevrey-Chambertin. The nose comes out with aromas of grilled meat, black fruit, spice and the inside of a cigar box. The palate is lush and densely structured, with flavors of kir, plum, black cherry, chocolate, exotic spices and a long decadent finish. The wine just tastes luxurious.

For this wine, only a rich, opulent dish will suffice. I would pair it with beef tenderloin medallions over a bed of whipped Gorgonzola mashed potatoes topped with a syrupy pancetta demi-glaze. Asparagus and a stack of crisp fried leeks complete this dish. The tenderloin will pair nicely with the gamey, meaty flavors and aromas in the wine and the pancetta demi will show the intense structure and length of the wine. Also, bacon is the new chocolate. Anything this decadent and rich is by definition, sexy.

Erica Landon Ten 01, Portland


Fresh, firm asparagus—a lesser-known aphrodisiac—topped with shaved Oregon truffle vinaigrette will get your blood flowing a bit faster. The earthy, musky truffles always pique my senses. More importantly, the asparagus makes great finger food that you can feed to your favorite person. This finger-feeding paired with my favorite sexy seductress, 2007 Patricia Green Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, will guarantee a great evening.

When you name a wine “Nipple Hill,” it promises to arouse some naughty thoughts…and the Duke Family’s 2006 Pinot Noir does just that. This silky, voluptuous red will excite anyone’s interest and, matched with a romantic dinner of cassoulet with Viande sausages and duck confit, will surely make anyone’s heart flutter.

Ron LybeckThe Brickhouse, Redmond


After a day of hunting mushrooms near Crater Lake, a glass of 2005 Zerba Cellars Syrah relaxes and warms my wife and me like the campfire at our feet. The full fruit, intelligently restrained, prepares us for a second glass with our fresh chanterelle stew. The cold air, the warm fire, the earthiness all around us—on our plates and in our glasses—are copacetic. Enjoying a good wine is undeniably sensual. Enjoying a wine that perfectly suits its context is wine at its sexiest for me.

When wine stars in the sensuality of a perfect summer evening, that, too, is sexy. In Central Oregon, we can have hot summer days that cool into the ’60s at dusk. When soft, dry high-desert breezes accompany the cooling, it’s perfect backyard living. Add to it the bracing minerality and soft, distinct summer fruit of a lightly chilled 2007 Adelsheim Auxerois, and your bliss is complete. 

Kerry Newberry is a Pinot-sipping, vineyard-hopping wine and food writer. She resides in Portland.

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