Travel > Red Wine, Dig that Girl!

Red Wine, Dig that Girl!

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: June 29, 2011

That line was from a song I remember growing up. “Growing up” means it was probably late 60’s to early 70’s. “Remember” means the words might convey the sense of the song, if not the exact lyrics. Whether it is relevant to this piece is yet to be determined. But I like a good mystery. And I’m not a huge fan accuracy as far as details go. This may work.

So the title song seemed somewhat appropriate to my recent trip to Oregon, which is at one level what this piece is about. Meaning this is a travel piece. Meaning that much of the mystery is solved and this will be much easier to file once it is done.

Ok, Oregon then. I’ve been there before. Couple times on wine runs and this is a wine run plus a food run. I Google the name of a Thai restaurant that I recalled from a prior visit. I head off to the spot and en route pass a cool neighborhood. Cool meaning it reminds me of where I live, kind of mixed use urban with an odd assortment of shops kind of way. Next to a working garage is a garage converted to a diner, much like the Linkery in North Park.

I stop and decide to grab a coffee in this two block long island of business in a local hood. I see an Italian bakery that sells espresso. I pop in and the barista…ah the barista! Bernie Taupin had already writtenthe definitive line about these eyes. The best I could come up with was that they were “Liquid pools of, um, liquidness.” (yes, I have officially given up as a writer, thanks for asking.)

But I was en route ultimately to Red Wine and spent a moment digging that girl. I was off. After getting amped up on espresso, I took a photo of a car in front of the working garage.

It was mostly orange on the roof and since orange was the complimentary color of blue, I was on to something here, I could feel it.

Moved on down the way and found the restaurant that I googled. Tsunami Thai. Huh, thought I, This uh, was NOT the place. Maybe they had multiple stores. Or not. Turns out I found the place I was looking for a few hours later. Typhoon! Typhoon, Tsunami…Tomato, tomahto. Point is, if I’d a been good with details I’d have missed my meeting with the orange car and the blue eyed barista.

Later I made it to the Portland Art Museum. They were having an old car show that didn’t interest me, but it was part of the admission. I asked if my military ID got me a discount. Free vice $15. That was a pretty good discount. I’d later see the sign that said it was free to active duty. But you know, details.

Turned out the car show was excellent. Mostly spiff cars from the 1930’s. Not my era at all, but it was a sharp look into the history of technology. Looking at the best solutions engineers came up with then they weren’t exactly sure how to solve a problem. These were fast, stylish cars, but they also had some really freaky design choices. I think the best was the car that had a spare tire on each side and the rear view mirrors were strapped on to the top of the spare. Not the long term answer we have today, but there was an engineer who got the idea of multitasking and put it to good use. Even though I rot at details, the details on the cars were the heart of the story. The rest of the museum was a fun trip, but it is Portland. This is not the center of the art world. This is a small pool and so what they had paintings by the masters, they were the more forgettable ones. At its best , this museum shines when it goes sideways and presents local artists or does something off the wall like the car show. The standing collection is not really the show stopper here.

And no trip to Portland is complete without the brain dead, half dead former speed freaks and mental patients that roam the city. On the last trip it was the schizo who was off her meds screaming repeatedly “The Negro is no friend to the Jew!” Sadly, she was not there for a reprise performance. But there was a nutter in the park outside the Museum who was having a lively discussion with a couple police officers. The officers were telling him to exit the park to the left, he was having trouble with left and right after an altercation I presume. One officer was wondering aloud about whether this guy respected the officer. The nutter assured him ‘I respect you officer, its that crazy fucker William that I have no respect for…” as he tottered off looking to find William with the officer in hot pursuit on foot. I didn’t stay around to see how that turned out as well, there is bound to be another nutter round the next corner.

Ultimately, I left the city and found my way to some wine. I’d hit a number of my old favorites, but I was able to get into a place that eluded me before. Chehalam. They opened a tasting room in downtown Newberg. Used to be you could never get into the winery itself across from Rex Hill. This was great. Guy pouring was roughly my age. They did a great job with their whites, that surprised me. Typically, whites suck on the West Coast. My theory on that is that the winemakers are trying to make whites as big and bold and complex as reds. And they fall on their faces in the process with an end product that is an overly processed woody syrup. So yes, I was impressed. So impressed, I joined their club. And at the end he had a “surprise”. It was a sext I think, their version of the German wine sekt. A bubbly! Very drinkable and oh yes, it got me thinking…

“Still wine, dig that girl?”

Ok, that was closer, red wasn’t right. Actually, how this song jumped to mind has to do with my brother. I sent him a note saying that shortly after my trip to the northwest, I’d head back east to share my wonderful with that coast. As we were going back and forth on that idea a part of this song popped into my head “How could a long haired hippie freak like me be the star of a Hollywood movie?” Of course that isn’t exactly the line as well, details again, but you get the idea about the improbability of the situations. The long haired hippie being a movie star and me gracing the east coast with my wonderfulness. Sometimes my students say I’m disorganized and it is hard to follow my lectures, mostly I think because they operate in Cartesian coordinates (X,Y) while I operate in Polar Coordinates (r, theta). If you are tracking this far, you are polar my brother.

And while we are going around in circles, I got spun up on the recent vintages in the Willamette Valley. 07 was a cool year and 09 warm. 08 was cold and they had to drop half the fruit to get the required intensity. I really liked the 07’s, by and large was not a huge fan of the 09’s. But oddly enough the 08 cuvee at Archery Summit was great. I usually hate that wine, but due to the small harvest they ended up down selling some better grapes in that wine to meet their numbers…or because they just couldn’t get $100 a bottle for that fruit. They said the former, but pretty sure it was the latter. Either way, I bought some 08 Cuvee. Then also picked up some wine at the Four Graces (couple 07 magnums that were intensely funky) and a few bottles from Torii Mor. All in all, a good trip to top up my depleted supplies of Pinot. But I did spend a pretty good amount of money. Hrmm.

“Steal the wine, dig that girl?”

I think I’m getting closer. But still not right. In fact far enough away that googling it isn’t helping me yet. Hrmm. I should probably mention also that the weather was absolutely perfect. The first three days were sunny with temps in the low 70’s. Great beach weather in Newport, great wine weather in the Valley and great walking around weather in Portland. I tell people that sunshine and warmth follow me all the days of my life. You’ll find I only say this when I happen to be in a place where the weather is perfect and everyone else is looking for an explanation. I’m just here to help. Of course when things get foul, I simply avoid the outside altogether, because I know the local area needs the rain and if I were to step outside, well there goes the ecosystem. Just saying.

Spent most of the time in Portland in The Pearl District. Once again this is the part of town that most reminds me of home. Lots of great eateries and good brew houses. And it’s only a few blocks south (ok probably north, its toward the river in any case) of the Art Museum and Portland State. In fact, I should maybe mention the parking in Portland. It is a pay for parking system that is somewhat byzantine. There are 60, 90 and 180 minute zones. You pay for all of them, but need to cycle back to your car on those intervals. Parking is a 1.60 an hour at present. Parking here is not the combat sport you see in San Fran where people will snipe any spot that moves. Here it is more of a dalliance. An intellectual exercise for hipsters who drive. You do tend to plan your activities around the street parking if that is what you do. Or you just pop into an all day lot and pay 6-10 bucks for the day. In either case, you are never stressed to find a spot, it’s more a question of how much you want to pay and how much walking back and forth you want to do.

Oh yeah, the hipsters. I’m not sure what they are, but I read about them a lot. Hipster hangouts abound in the city. I’m pretty sure I’d not pass muster as such a creature, but given that I don’t know the definition, I can’t be definitive on that. But clearly they are there in number’s sufficient to create a subculture that locals use to differentiate.

So back to the Pearl. As usual, had a great time here. I never have a bad time in Portland and this trip was no exception. Found a tavern on the border between the Pearl and China Town and hit that three times during the week. They only had 8 craft ales on tap, but they were all excellent. And they had a kitchen that rocked. I’d mention the name, but I’ll leave a little something to the reader. Its around 5th or 6th street, close to Couch or Crouch street. It’s not that I forgot, really.

Should mention the Alder Street food carts. A very Portland sort of idea that fits the “keep Portland weird” refrigerator magnets they sell at the airport. While the rest of America is on the food truck craze, Portland has food carts. Rather than driving the trucks round the city, they have about 50 carts (RV trailers, mostly) there are situated in the heart of the Pearl distract. As you would expect, 50 vendors with short menus of small plates. I had three Korean tacos. Yup, Bulgogiin a taco. It was excellent. Only thing I’d suggest is that you ask for extra cilantro as that really makes the dish and they were sparingly dishing it out. Cilantro is cheap, so I think that would be an easy fix. Anyway, this area is a worth a stop for anyone passing through. The lunch crowd is brisk with business people and the local homeless crowd and the odd busker. It’s the cross section you expect.

Also made it to two brew houses. Went to Rogue first, that is on the other end of the Pearl. Hrmm. I’d been to their brewery in Newport years before and that was good fun. But this outlet, hrmm. It didn’t fit Portland. In the same sense that I wouldn’t fit in with hipsters, I suppose. It was old, ragged and the menu didn’t seem to do anything. They had Kobe beef burgers on the menu, and I’d just read an Anthony Bourdain article declaring Kobe Beef burgers one of the dumbest ideas of the last 10 years. I got the sense that Rogue was about 5 years past their expiration date. I did get a Belgian Trippel here but it was overfilled and spilled on the table. Hrmmm.

“Spill the wine, dig that girl?”

The real gem was the Deschutes Brew House. They were brewing on the premises. The place was clean, sharp and crisp. I’d say hip if I knew what that was. Got a taster of 6 ales. Three were classics I knew from bottles (Deschutes is my go to bottle at Navy Bases in strange lands, like Hawaii) and three science projects that were only for sale at that location. One, the Chainbreaker IPA truly was a revelation. IPA’s are typically bitter, the more bitter the better. This went in another direction…yes the bitters were there, but lots of floral notes and really the one word that stuck in my head was “pretty”. It was the most elegant IPA I’d run into. The other two science experiments were interesting. One was the Rapture stout that seemed to carve grooves in the outside of my tongue and tasted mainly of tar. The other was even odder, a different IPA that evoked the work “octopus” when I sipped that. But hey, they were all science projects and you just have to fasten your seatbelt and see where they go. In the end, I’d say Deschutesis certainly on my list for future trips along with the Tavern that shall not be named. In the end, great time as always in Portland.

And I found the video of the song that didn’t exactly pop into my head, but sort of glanced off it like an errant surf board.

“Spill the Wine, Take that Pearl”

I have no idea what means or why it’s relevant. But Eric Burden seemed pretty sure it was sound advice.

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