Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finding the Mother Lode In Baker Oregon

Bella's in downtown Baker City
Last week, while traveling to Boise to hang out with family I stopped in a little place that I’ve promised to stop at for many years. I’ve promised Beverly at Bella’s in Baker a visit many times since first meeting her at Graybeal back in 2007. It was definitely time to make a stop.

Bella’s market in downtown Baker, just a few short paces down Main Street from the famous Geyser Grand Hotel, and nestled among several little boutique stores, is a regular oasis in Eastern Oregon for wine.

My memory of Baker was back in the 1970s when my dad helped to pave all the highways around that area. Our family spent several summers in Baker, Sumpter, and Austin Junction during my formative years. The memory that serves me, was that Baker wasn’t what you’d call “wine friendly”. It was more of a whiskey and beer kind of town.

What I found to be most interesting was that Bella’s is very wine friendly, and the town of Baker, which encircles it seems to be much more wine friendly as well. Bicyclists in their tight little spandex shorts sped down mainstreet, and there were several great pieces of art hanging in stores around. Bellas clearly reminded me of a cute little european market with wines, meats, cheeses, and espresso.

As I sipped on my San Pellegrino Aranciata, I wandered through Bella’s, including the substantial wine shop. I was amazed at the depth of selection in the shop. Far better than I have here in many of the shops in the Tri Cities, and many more labels and varietals than I’ve found anywhere else in Eastern Oregon.
One bottle that I happened on was a 2011 Rose’ by Mother Lode Cellars. It was placed among some pretty upscale Bandols that I was also eyeing. The bottle tells the story about the Mother Lode Mine, located just outside of Baker near the Cook Family Homestead. The mine, which produced 8,000 oz. of gold, and 4 million pounds of copper is now long closed.
Travis Cook, graduated with a degree in Horticulture from Oregon State University and returned to Baker with the intent of starting a winery at the Homestead. It only made sense that the wine be named after the mine. (Afterall, the name Cook’s had already been taken.)
I was talking about the wines with one of the staff, Cody, at Bella’s. She suggested that I try the Mother Lode Wine. Little did I know until later in the conversation that her name is Cook, and the wine-maker is her brother. Tricky having an inside salesperson hiding in the ultimate wine shop for the area!

Mother Lode makes a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley grapes, a Vineyard Reserve Red that uses grapes from the family’s nearby Keating Vineyard, and a Rose’ which I mentioned, that is a blend of Riesling grapes and Counoise which are also grown at the Keating Vineyard.
I purchased the Rose’ because I knew it was going to be a hot one and I wanted a good porch wine. The 2011 is very low in residual sugar, with most of the flavor being from the fruit itself. A nice Malolactic creaminess leads back to the blueberry and black licorice flavors and nose. A very nice bottle. I’m looking forward to going back through Baker to pick up a bottle of the red blend next time through!


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