Eat and Drink Guide Fall 2017

Breaking the Mold

Chalino Gets Inventive with Mexican

Döner Kebab Forever

Spitz Specializes in the Turkish Granddaddy of Street Food

Ray, Rain or Shine

Jenn Louis Proves Celebrity-Chef Status with New Israeli Restaurant

Jackrabbit Hops Over the Top

SF Celeb Chef Shows You Can Take Decadence Too Far

There’s a Lot of Thai to Be Thankful For

Farmhouse Thai, Paadee’s Issan Nights, and Pok Pok NW

East European Wines on the Rise

Obscure Wines That Might Just Blow Your Mind

The Jell-O Shot Mega List

The Best Bars for Gettin' Jiggly with It

The Cocktail Explorer’s Club

Local Drinks (and Drinkeries) You Have to Try

Digesting Feast

A Recap of Portland’s Most Popular Food Festival

Interview with the Foodie

Where Gary Okazaki—AKA Gary the Foodie—Sees Portland’s Culinary Scene Going

Brunch Outside the Box

Breaking Out of the Breakfast Rut

Soul Food, Redefined

Salimatu Amabebe’s Nigerian Pop-ups Are Spicing Up Portland’s Vegan Food Scene

A Beginner’s Guide to Portland Beer

What to Drink, and Where to Drink It.

There’s much contemplation in wine circles about the next hot wine region (Is it Cyprus? Morocco? Uruguay? My back yard?) At times, though, it seems like a search for novelty and a display of one-upmanship. (“Yeah, I was just in Mordor. Amazing microclimates.”) I’m not particularly interested in the next place to be anointed by a New York sommelier, but it is fun to poke around lesser-known regions. The unfamiliarity brings attention to what you’re drinking and there’s the possibility of a surprise in every sip.

“But I’m not a wine nerd,” you say, “so what’s in it for me?” Well, these regions often offer value simply because they’re relatively obscure: Italian reds are an easy sell, but with a Georgian you have to start with the fact you’re talking about the country in Caucasia and not the fourth state to ratify the US Constitution.

There are also unique varieties and styles to explore—I’m not known for my intemperate statements, but I’d stretch to say some of these could just blow your mind. It makes for a fun way to get out of a wine rut—after all, traveling is supposed to broaden the mind, and in this case, you can globetrot sitting on your porch.

One region (well, half a continent, really) is Eastern Europe. I should probably focus on a single country, but there are so many good wines from the area that it’s useful to be on alert for anything from Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey, and the aforementioned Georgia.

Though immensely diverse, these countries share commonalities: A long history of wine production (some would argue the longest history, as various regions here vie for the title of birthplace of viticulture); the last few decades have also seen the transformation of their wine industries, either through restructuring after shedding state control (the countries of the former USSR and Yugoslavia), or through the benefit of EU funding—sometimes both.

Many are rediscovering neglected traditions of winemaking (Georgian wines made in qvevri—egg-shaped amphora buried in the ground—are increasingly fashionable) and are carefully reviving indigenous grape varieties. The quality has improved dramatically, with smaller producers deserving much of the credit.

We’re lucky in Portland to have independent importers and distributors who make the effort to get hold of this stuff (seriously, try finding anything like our range of available wine in a city of similar size). There’s no clear way to navigate the complexity of places and grapes, so enlist the help of your local wine store.

Six to Try

The producer is listed first, the grape or style second.

Chamlija, Papaskarasi 2014, Turkey
From Thrace in eastern Turkey, this is made from the rare indigenous red grape Papaskarasi. Bright acid, jammy but expressive, it’s the perfect Pinot substitute. $22 from Division Wines, 3564 SE Division

Piliota, Plavina 2014, Croatia
The reds from Croatia’s Dalmatian coast are often big and hearty—this is a lighter and earthier alternative, tasting of chocolate and dark berries, and would work slightly chilled as a refreshing summer sipper. $16 from Liner & Elsen, 2222 NW Quimby

Zlatan Otok, Cuvée 2015, Croatia
A blend of native white Croatian grapes, this one is for the more adventurous: Intense and punchy, with full aromas, it’s bright yet dense and full of minerality. $20 from 1856, 1465 NE Prescott

Bagrationi, Classic Brut NV, Georgia
Great value Georgian sparkler made from three local grapes. Fresh with bright citrus, there’s a hint of the type of biscuit notes found in Champagne. Perfect to take the edge off hot days. $12 from P’s & Q’s, 1301 NE Dekum

Fekete, Juhfark 2012, Hungary
Made from Juhfark grapes that are only grown on the slopes of Somló Mountain in western Hungary, this is full of character. Rich, with a creamy mouth texture, it’s a bit like a dry Riesling without the high acid and citrus. $24 from Thelonious, 516 NW 9th

Zajc, Cviek 2016, Slovenia
A little off-the-wall, this looks red but it’s more of a rosé, made from a field blend of five red and four white grapes (Cviek is the style). Low alcohol, high acid with lots of raspberry and tart cherry flavor, it cries out for a yacht and a party. $16 from 1856, 1465 NE Prescott