The days are hot, and the nights are brisk. The wasps in the trees are nesting like crazy, and the squirrels are running around my yard picking up this year’s crop of walnuts. It’s Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that it is Roundup time again.
In just a few short days the town of Pendleton will become a haven for cowboys, cowgirls, and those who want to play like they are. The usual drink of choice is whiskey, beer, or soda. But, for those wanting something a little more “high-faluten” there are a couple of good wine choices that offer a lot of fun, and are only available in the Pendleton area.
A few years ago, I was approached to produce a label for a “Happy Canyon Wine”. With the help of the Happy Canyon directors, Maryl Featherstone of Graybeal Distributing, and Tom Huggins the Founder of Eola Hills Winery, we were able to come up with a couple of wines that are fun, refreshing, and provide great souvenirs to take back home and enjoy with friends later. My contribution was the actual label for the wine, which I had a great time creating.
Eola Hills winery, located in Rickreall, Oregon is a 100,000 case winery that produces about 50,000 cases for their own label and the rest under contracts with other wineries. Huggins, who has family in Pendleton, was very happy to work with the directors and Graybeal to come up with a couple of wines that would be very drinkable and fun for just about anyone. Their choices were a Merlot for the red wine, and a Pinot Gris for the white wine.
The Eola Pinot Gris is one of Eola Hill’s flagship varietals, winning several top scores in contests throughout the United States. Fresh Bartlett Pears come to mind when you first inhale the delicious aroma. At first taste, it is light, refreshing, and a little fruity with a light finish. The thing a lot of people enjoy is the spritzy finish caused by just the right amount of sugar and acid when the wine hits the front of the tongue.
The Eola Pinot Gris is great with fish or poultry. It works well with buttery dishes as well, like twice baked potatoes or cream sauces. I especially like it with a nice creamy seafood fettuccini.
The Eola Hills Merlot is produced mostly from Columbia Valley grapes, which tend to yield bright cherry and plum on the nose and flavors of the wine. The Merlot is not a big bold red. It is really more of a soft, drinkable wine that most people will find a good fit with anything from burgers, steak, or even just sitting on the patio as the sun goes down.
You can pick up Happy Canyon wine throughout Umatilla County and annually there are displays at Dave’s, Great Pacific, and Albertson’s downtown. If you want to try a glass before you buy the whole bottle just ask at one of the many restaurants in town. Most offer them as special glass pours throughout these next few weeks.
Enjoy, be safe, and Let ‘er Buck!