The greatest proof of success, as superstar Cordialista Caitlin Moore noted, is that people remained at table for upwards of 6 hours. (Caitlin qualifies for the superstar rating because she stayed even longer, helping us break down until well into the wee hours.)
April 25 was (as everyone knows) Portuguese Freedom Day. We celebrated with fantastic Portuguese wines selected by our consultant Mimi Martin of the Wine & Spirit Archive. We also feted Ludwig Wittgenstein’s birthday (the 26th), with phenomenal wines provided by Portland’s German and Austrian wine importer Ewald Moseler, who went so far as to donate a pair of stunning Beerenauslese dessert wines.
Thanks especially to Paul Middendorf, director of Portland’s Gallery Homeland, and Administrative Director Caitlin Moore (also of PDX Contemporary Art gallery, for generously making the space available to us — and for joining us in the revelry along with the charming and mysterious Meg.
Composer and lusophile John Berendzen put in a 16-hour day as our Man Friday and served as our would-be Rude Portuguese Waiter for the evening. We’re especially thankful for John’s participation since in June he’ll be heading first to New York to study with La Monte Young, then to Brazil to get himself into unknown trouble.
Freelance writer Claire Sykes demonstrated that the pan is mightier than the sword, baking exquisite carrot and German chocolate cakes as our guest pâtissière for the evening.
The unstoppable Carole Zoom, photographer, artist and activist, and her husband Brett Campbell, freelance writer on music and other arts, had to take the bus that evening as they had loaned us their van, without which we would simply have perished in a logistical black hole.
Writer, poet, performer and man-about-everything David Abel also loaned us a vehicle, but above all he contributed to the ambient cultural infrastructure. Besides adding to our Portuguese and Austrian soundtrack for the evening, David provided us with the video projector from which we rear-projected a 2-hour loop we’d shot of ourselves going around Portland to farmers’ markets and such, procuring the very ingredients of the evening’s repast.
Carlton Cellars owner-winemakers Robin Russell and Dave Grooters threw a welcome left hook to our Austro-Portuguese wine list with a few bottles of their brand new 2007 Agate Beach Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé, which proved very popular. It couldn’t have hurt that the bottles sported hot-off-the-press labels by your humble hosts, in our professional Helsinqi hats.
But the real heavy lifting was done by all our other guests: Stoller Vineyards‘ own Mich Nelson and her s.o. Matt Stein, whose startup Northwest WindWorks rebuilds and resurrects decommissioned wind turbines; illustrious and elusive artist-writer duo Nita & Lindsay Hill; wine aficionado Bob Martin, who divides his time between Chiang Mai and Portland; and la más encantadora Maria Gonzalez and her muy fluxus hombre Mark Owens. All did yeoman service in the department of eating, drinking, and being merry — the alpha and the omega of The Cordial.
Menu & Wine List
We began at 7:00 with sliced speck and coppa and some excellent cheeses from Pastaworks: an earthy Idiazabál, a ludicrous Délice de Bourgogne, and a runny-ripe Alsacian munster géromé (not to be confused with monstrous American muenster). With these we offered a downright frizzante Aliança Vinho Verde 2007 which made a big, cheerful splash even among Those Who Think They Don’t Like White Wines.
At table, we started with a red currant-dressed salad paired with an Austrian summer party staple, Thomas Leithner Grüner Veltliner NV in the rock-me-Amadeus 1-liter crown caps. Great with one of those bouncy Schubert tunes from the first part of Die schöne Müllerin.
We got serious when Anna (& John) brought out the thyme-garnished crème de maitake/shiitake soup. It was the pairing of the day, with a magnificent Portuguese white, the Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 2004, a brilliant find by Mimi Martin. Nutty, honeycomby, charry, rich and long, it seemed to have been made with that very soup in mind
Cooking the main course — chicken in marsala with black cherries on spring greens, with a compote of rhubarb from our garden — Anna blew the room’s single circuit several times, having fired up all burners. We moved some burners to another room, went entirely to candlelight, did a little song and dance, and it all turned out beautifully.
Shifting red, we started out lighter with a couple of Austrians: the Peter Schandl Pinot Noir 2005 (the utter antithesis of a giant Oregon Pinot like Dave & Robin’s Roads End) and the slightly structurier Peter Schandl Blaufränkisch 2005 (a notable hit with Mich, who was happy that most of the rest of the table just watched that more obscure grape from a distance).
For our Portuguese red, Mimi had steered us back to the same quinta for the phenomenal Quinta dos Roques Reserva Dão 2000. This is a Portuguese gentlemen’s club wine, all leather, cigar, and well-worn escudos. Dave Grooters called it enormous, and everyone else just drank and oohed and ahed. I found Mark Owens off by himself just savoring it in silence. We had been worried this big Dão might trounce the chicken (Mimi having offhand suggested it be paired with wild boar) but in fact the two played well together. It’s a gentlemen’s club, after all, not a fútbol club.
Nearing the finish line, we brought out Claire’s gorgeous cakes, which we didn’t have the presence of mind to photograph, and a motley assortment of mismatched dessert wine glasses. The dilemma of how to pair our cakes and sweet wines was, in the end, ignored. We just cut into the cake, and started pouring.
First on the list was Ewald Moseler’s magnificent Cordial-launch gift, the Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Käferberg Beerenauslese 2004. (Ewald would have joined us in a toast, but he was in Deutschland.) A bit of a hush took the table when this honey-gold wine came out.
Finally — because we don’t believe in doing things halfway, or even three-halves-way — we let the Portuguese have the last word with the Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10-Year Tawny. Made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Francesa grapes from their self-described “experimental,” vertically-planted Quinta da Ervamoira vineyard, this is a very fine, spicy tawny. Even after the Beerenauslese and far too much of too deliriously decadent cakes (don’t try this at home), it gave us something to think about.
And that — in debriefings with our intrepid inaugural Cordialistas — has been the refrain: something to think about. People are using words like “resonating,” “reverberating,” “ripple effect,” and just “unforgettable” to describe the evening. “Magical,” too.
We’re proud to have set the stage, but this is one of those whole-greater-than-sum stories. An enormous, reverberating dankshen & obrigado to everyone who joined us and set the bar magnificently high for all the Cordials to come.