Grilled Oregon
Rabbit with Gamay Noir Sauce, Candied Corn Ricotta, Open Ravioli and Grilled Plum Potato Salad ##Photo by Timothy Keller
Blueberry Souffle with Gamay Noir Chocolate Sauce ##Photo by Timothy Keller
Gamay Noir winemaker Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wines outside Newberg. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Gamay on the Menu

Light-bodied red a super supper star

By Barbara Barrielle

Gamay Noir, or Gamay, from the Beaujolais region and the Loire Valley in France, although often overlooked compared to other reds in Oregon, is fast making inroads, and consumers are responding to its easy appeal.

Lighter-bodied and approachable, Gamay is often made by carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration, a technique that softens the acidity of the fruit, but it’s also made with traditional fermentation — the bright acidity can be tempered in a number of ways, including lower yields and malolactic fermentation. Typical flavor expressions feature bright raspberries and strawberries, with floral notes of lilac and violets on the nose.

When people discuss “Gamay” in the Willamette Valley, winemaker Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wines immediately comes to mind. The “OG,” or Original Gamay, has been growing the grapes near Newberg since 1992. Tunnell explains what drew him to Pinot Noir’s cousin in the first place: “In a previous career, I lived for several years in Paris. I found out that Beaujolais was a perfect destination for a three-day drive in the French countryside.

“I was drawn back numerous times because there was something about Beaujolais that reminded me of growing up in the Willamette Valley. The hills were covered with Douglas firs … and the wine was like the people: honest and delicious. When I moved back and discovered cuttings in a friend’s nursery, I jumped at the chance to buy a few acres. Brick House Vineyard now has five acres planted to four clones of Gamay Noir.”

Mark Björnson and his wife, Pattie, own Björnson Vineyard, from which they sell most of their grapes to wineries such as Grochau Cellars, Failla Wines and Vincent Wines. Although the Salem winery makes a mere 75 cases of the variety, the couple says demand for Gamay fruit remains strong and will expand as new plantings become established.

The Björnsons discovered Gamay while taking wine classes at Chemeketa Community College; it appeared no one harvested the variety in the school’s vineyard. So, they picked enough for one barrel, and it turned out well. Instantly, Mark and Pattie were in the Gamay business with the planting of their first two acres in 2012.

Mark envisions a bright future for Gamay in the Willamette Valley. “It produces much more tonnage per acre than Pinot Noir; thus, you can make a lower-priced fun wine. Consumer demand is good, and many winemakers want to produce Gamay.”

At Portland’s Division Wine Company, co-founders/winemakers Thomas Monroe and Kate Norris fell hard for Gamay while attending school in Beaujolais. When they started their Oregon winemaking careers, they found Willamette Valley growing conditions ideal for Gamay. Furthermore, its modest production cost meant it could be marketed at a lower price. Additionally, as owners of Oui! Wine Bar and Restaurant, they truly appreciate the wine’s culinary compatibility.

“Gamay is an excellent food wine and pairs with a great range of foods given its natural acidity, medium weight and lower-tannin profile,” says Norris. “We recommend many more rustic dishes, like roasted chicken and vegetables, pork-based stews and dishes sometimes referred to as countryside French food.”

“When we first started making Gamay, it was somewhat of a ‘hand-sell’ but wasn’t as challenging as some wines because the price point for Gamay is attractive — especially when compared to Pinot Noir from Oregon,” continues Norris. “We started with 75 cases of one Gamay; now, we make six all-Gamay wines that equate to 2,700 cases of our total production of 7,000.”

Winemaker Thomas Houseman of Anne Amie Vineyards in Carlton produces 350 cases of Gamay and plans on more. He loves Gamay with food, suggesting “cedar plank salmon, shrimp and grits and moules (or steak) frites.”

When asked about the variety’s marketability, he responds, “Hey, I make Müller-Thurgau! You want to talk about a hand-sell? Gamay is not as easy as selling Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris, but it isn’t hard to say, it is well-priced and delicious.

“There is more and more interest in it every time I go out in the marketplace” Houseman continues. “Most somms know the grape and are excited to try the wine. It just takes the right person to find a place for it on their list – or on their shelves. I think the most important part is explaining how all Gamay is not Nouveau Beaujolais.”

Ian Burrows of Aerea Vintners, based in Newberg, has been fascinated by the “sheer pleasure and accessibility of dry red wines made with Gamay Noir,” since first visiting the cellars of Beaujolais in 2006. “I struggle to believe there is a more versatile grape, and, in my opinion, it is not better than Pinot Noir (which is undeniably very versatile) but equally fascinating.”

Burrows predicts interest in Gamay will grow and plans to increase production from 150 cases to 500 over the next five years. “With the consumer requesting delicious wines that offer terrific value and are pleasant to drink in the short- to mid-term, we believe Gamay will continue to grow as a planted varietal in the Willamette Valley, and the category will grow commercially over the next 10 years.”

Not only well-priced and food-friendly, Gamay ages well, too. Burrows recently tasted a 2004 Willamette Valley Gamay Noir retailing for only $15; it showed no signs of premature aging or oxidation and drank as well as you may expect a Pinot Noir to drink at that age.

Burrows believes in the variety so much, he’s committed his entire production to Gamay-based wines. The variety probably won’t achieve the stardom of Oregon Pinot, but its future is bright nonetheless.


Recipes by Timothy Keller, Harry & David Corporate Executive Chef

Grilled Oregon Rabbit with Gamay Noir Sauce, Candied Corn Ricotta, Open Ravioli and Grilled Plum Potato Salad

Yields 4 servings


1 whole rabbit

1 cup canola oil

16 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon whole coriander seed

1 teaspoon whole fennel seed

1 teaspoon whole peppercorn

6 whole star anise

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, julienned

* rind peels from 1 orange, no pith

1½ tablespoons kosher salt


Butcher rabbit by separating out loins, back shoulders and legs; set aside rib cage for stock. Combine rest of ingredients in bowl, add rabbit meat and marinate for one day. After marinating, remove loins from marinade and set aside. Transfer marinade, including shoulders and legs, to small sauce pot. Add any additional canola oil to cover and simmer slowly for 1½ hours.


1 rabbit rib cage

* salt and pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 leek cut in half, cleaned and lightly oiled

1 ear corn, cut in 1-inch rounds

¼ pound oyster mushrooms

4 sprigs Italian parsley

1 gallon cold water

2 cups Gamay Noir (I recommend  2018 Brick House Gamay Noir)


Cover rib cage in salt and pepper and grill until charred; then add tomato paste to top and sides of rib cage and thoroughly bake on grill. Grill leek, corn and mushrooms. Transfer grilled rib cage, grilled vegetables, plus parsley to a medium-sized pot filled with 1 gallon of water. Simmer until only 3 cups liquid remain. Then add wine. Cook an additional 10 to 20 minutes, until 3 cups remain again. Strain and reserve warm.

Candied Corn Ricotta

2½ cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 ear yellow corn

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon finely cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon unsalted butter

½ teaspoon red wine vinegar

* salt and pepper


Remove kernels from corn cob. Excluding butter and vinegar, place other ingredients in single layer across sauté pan. Cook on high and stir to keep from over-caramelizing. Once corn is candied, add butter and vinegar. Immediately pour onto nonstick surface. Dehydrate for future use or use within the next few hours. Just before serving, gently fold candied corn into ricotta.

Lemon Pasta

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup semolina flour

3 whole eggs

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest


Mix flours together. Mix liquid ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly for 10 minutes and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Once dough has rested, run though pasta sheeter (or roll out with a rolling pin). Cut sheet into 3- by 6-inch pieces. Brush pieces with oil, season with salt and pepper and place on grill until crisp and golden brown. In this preparation, we are having fun with summer and the grilled pasta. This is a delicious pasta recipe and can certainly be used in the usual method of boiling water. In fact, we did it both ways the same day.

Plum Potato Salad

4 red plums

8 small purple potatoes

6 small red potatoes

6 small white potatoes

8 shishito peppers

12 parsley sprigs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

* salt and pepper


Starting with cold water, cover potatoes and simmer until toothpick or knife easily passes through. Chill, slice in rounds and reserve. Slice plums. Place all ingredients in bowl, season, toss and grill just before being served. I served these neatly arranged and somewhat layered on top of each other, rather than the traditional mixed version.

Final Plating

Start your plating procedure by arranging grilled plums, potatoes and other daily inspirations. Check all components for salt and pepper adjustments, most importantly salt. Sauté rabbit loins skin-side down until dark brown and crispy, then transfer to grill. Grill rabbit confit (shoulders and legs) and loin on high heat. A beautiful char is desired, but be careful not to let rabbit dry out. This process needs to be hot and fast. Meanwhile, gently warm ricotta mixture. When components are hot, warm and or ready, place one ounce of ricotta cheese near the bottom edge of grilled pasta sheets. Repeat for an additional 2 to 3 layers. Place a ½ ounce of cheese directly on the plate and adhere the stacked open ravioli upright to the cheese. Add 3 ounces of rabbit sauce; slice rabbit loin and place on sauce and confit legs near, as well. We found a splash of arugula pesto help broaden the herbaceous pairing qualities of the dish. Enjoy!

Blueberry Soufflé

Yields 8 servings

Soufflé base

5 ounces granulated sugar

1.2 ounces cornstarch

1.75 ounces bread flour

1.75 ounces softened butter

1 pint whole milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

7 egg yolks

8 egg whites

Blueberry compote

1 pound fresh or frozen blueberries

3 ounces granulated sugar


Soufflé batter base: Combine 1/3 of the sugar with cornstarch. Set aside. Mix flour and butter to form paste. Heat milk to scalding point in heavy saucepan; add butter-flour mixture to milk and whisk to combine. Quickly mix in 1/3 of the egg yolks. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook mixture until it thickens, about a minute. Remove from heat but constantly stir for 10 to 15 seconds to ensure a smooth cream. Add remaining egg yolks, vanilla and sugar-cornstarch mixture; cover and set aside. (It will keep one day if refrigerated).

Blueberry compote: Place blueberries and 3 ounces sugar into sauce pot and reduce by 1/2 over low heat, forming a thick pulp.

Assembly: Prepare eight 6-ounce soufflé dishes by greasing insides with melted butter, then coat with granulated sugar. Add blueberry pulp to soufflé batter base. About 30 minutes prior to soufflés being served, whip egg whites and remaining sugar to stiff peaks. Fold into soufflé base. Fill dishes to the top with soufflé mixture. Bake immediately at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Sift powdered sugar over top and serve with Gamay Noir Chocolate Sauce.

Gamay Noir Chocolate Sauce

2 cups Gamay Noir (I recommend 2015 Division Gamay Noir)

8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream


Place wine in sauce pot; reduce by half; set aside. Place chopped chocolate in small stainless steel bowl. Place cream in another sauce pot; bring to a boil. Immediately pour over chocolate; mix until smooth. Mix in Gamay wine. Serve warm.




Web Design and Web Development by Buildable