January 2, 2010
In Astoria, OR, there is a one man operation called Shallon Winery which I try to go to once every six months or so. It is run by Paul van der Veldt, a sort of kookie man who is up there in years but entertaining if you like wine and take your time. It drives him batty over how people are in such a rush these days, and attempting to rush him only makes him grumpy.
He will start you off with a tour of his facility. The main workshop has a mural, including one of Fort George. He will be impressed if you visit Fort George a few blocks up the hill before the tour. Also, take note of his label, the shallon plant. Again, he will be impressed if you know what it is.
After the brief tour, he will proceed with the tastings of whatever wine he has in stock. He does have one grape table wine, but he shies away from making grape wines since there are so many available coming out of the Willamette Valley that he figures he doesn’t need to add more to the market. It is this philosophy that grape wine is so easy to buy while good fruit wine is not that I’ve adapted.
Next is his dry blackberry wine made from Evergreen Blackberries. He will go on a bit about how difficult it is to find these berries due to little old ladies who picked them are dying, and kids just don’t want to do that kind of labor. Honestly, the Pacific Northwest grows Himalayan Blackberries as weeds, so it is a little bit rare to come across Evergreens.
Then comes his apple wine, followed by his peach. I tend to walk out with a bottle of both, though he will say that he is never quite sure about the peach being stable, so it should be refrigerated. I pulled out a bottle of that the other day, and it had lees in it, proving what he was saying.
He also has a cranberry whey wine, and touts the health benefits of adding whey to the wine. It is a pity that ag research centers do not have his recipe. This wine is not milky colored at all, and it is another bottle we take home. He recommends adding a little bit of 7-up to it for the bubbles, which is also excellent. I’ve never eaten it with turkey, which I imagine it would be good with, but to do so would probably mean I would have to share, and I would rather horde his wines.
Only once in all my times there has he had his lemon meringue wine, dedicated to his mother.
After tasting all those wines, he takes away your little glass and then gives you a tiny ice cream cone so that you can sample his chocolate orange wine. He’ll talk a bit about how the recipe originally had four truffles, but then he had to change to six. How the only paper worthy of labeling the bottle cost $1,000 for the labeler. He will recite stories about how indestructible this wine is though the years, and warns you not to refrigerate it, which I did. It causes the chocolate to solidify, so he suggests boiling the bottle, which I did, and the wine was saved. He also will proceed to wrap the bottle up in tissue, string, and foil, and then tell you he is selling it to you at the price of the truffles only, and that he views this wine as the pinnacle of his career, and that he can never beat this wine. It is sad because he is so old that it worries me that this defeatist attitude will not get him out of bed one day.
I’ll admit, we only have one bottle of the chocolate wine in our house compared to the others. The others are drinkers, and the chocolate wine isn’t so much. He does have a list of 25 suggested ways to consume the chocolate wine, such as on ice cream and, um, other methods.
Anyway, go check it out. He is there almost any afternoon, including major holidays. If there is a note on the door saying to call him, do it. The wine world will not know how much will be lost from the tip of Oregon when he is gone.