Higgins Restaurant | Andy Zalman [Portland]
Address: 1239 S.W. Broadway
Portland, OR 97205
Since Higgins Restaurant began in 1994, Andy Zalman has been a part of it. Although his title is “wine steward,” he is much more than that. He’s a respected “sommelier,” “mentor,” “wine buyer,” and every night he works, he is a consummate “waiter” at the Portland culinary icon. As the recipient of a 2016 Oregon Wine A-List Award — and 2015 Wine Steward of the Year — Zalman has graciously agreed to answer the following questions:
What makes Oregon wine unique?
Oregon wine is unique due to the history, natural geography and people that make up its wine and community. My theory is that because of our quality of life “atmosphere,” the Oregon wine community plays its hand with intense dedication, a desire to be self-aware and constantly improve quality yet steward the environment in such a way that the state becomes a beacon of quality determined to improve and evolve.
Oregon is also unique in that we are so specifically identified with one vinifera: Pinot Noir. In the “New World” wine community, this is rather unique. While those in-the-know love our Rieslings and our Chardonnays, I think that we are viewed as being specifically related to Pinot Noir, as compared to Napa Valley, Walla Walla, etc.
What do your customers generally know about Oregon wines?
I’m generally speaking with business customers who are having business dinners, or having casual get-togethers with business acquaintances. Many customers are aware of our reputation for quality wines, especially Pinot Noir, but many are not. This can be problematic, primarily because while many customers like the “idea” of Pinot Noir, they might not be aware of the basic vinifera differences between grapes in winemaking, in turn wanting their Pinot Noir to have the weight and sweetness of a Zinfandel, for example. They might have recently read a national published article on, say, Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley, but do not know that oak is generally used more sparingly in Oregon. My customers don’t know that we make less than 1 percent of wine production in the USA. There is, however, a willingness to try the local brands, for which I am grateful!
Name the last bottles that super-impressed your palate.
Brick House 2011 “Cascadia” Chardonnay was a multilayered, complex white wine with a creamy texture, beautiful integration of oak, exciting acidity and a long, rich finish.
Ponzi 2007 Riesling was a find, a “close-out” on a wholesalers’ list. Intense fossil-fuel nose, reminiscent of Alsatian Riesling, laser-tuned acidity, lychee nut, cashew and rose petal bouquet. A stunning Riesling from a cool vintage.
Colene Clemens 2012 “Adriane” Pinot Noir. A Pinot from a great vintage, this dense, balanced wine has aromas of sandalwood, black cherry, cola and great balance of oak, acid and fruit. Impressive winery!
What is your most memorable food and Oregon wine pairing that you have ever tasted?
Magret and confit of duck with a cranberry-ginger compote served with magnum of 1993 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir.