Many hands make for lighter work

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: BARB RANDALL - Kramer Vineyards is producing sparkling wines such as this 2010 Brut Methode Traditionnelle.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been known to squander my wine budget by buying quantity rather than quality.

I’ve tasted the error of my ways.

My aha moment happened at Kramer Vineyards. I had been invited to attend Oenocamp, an event that provides a sneak peek into the process of the traditional method Champenoise — the method used to produce the Kramer Vineyards Brut. About two dozen of us met in the early morning chill at the vineyard, where we were to assist second-generation winemaker Kim Kramer and her crew in harvesting grapes.

Barb Randall learned that harvesting grapes is  hard work.

Harvesting grapes is backbreaking work. It can be dangerous — the clippers are sharp, and more than one of us required bandaging by Ken Kramer, Kim’s father and founder of the vineyard. But before the grapes can be harvested there is much labor-intensive preparation that must be done. Leaves must be trimmed back from the fruit to keep mildew from forming on the fruit. There is constantly the threat of birds taking more than their share of a crop. Then there is the constant testing for just the right sugar content to produce the correct percentage of alcohol. And when it is time to harvest, it’s a mad dash to get the grapes in and begin processing as soon as possible. About 6,500 pounds of grapes were picked that morning.

Kim encouraged us to sample the grapes. We ate pinot noir, pinot gris, Muller-Thurgau and others. Each tasted intense and unique — you wished for a sip of the wine it produced to see if you could recognize the original flavor.

Kim is really excited about the sparkling wines she is producing. She opened a bottle of the 2010 with a sabre, and we toasted the 2013 harvest and then loaded the press with fruit. She said 2,000 tons of grapes would make roughly 244 cases of wine.

One of Oregon’s early wineries, Kramer Vineyards is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and its 25th harvest. Founded by Ken and Trudy Kramer, the 20-acre vineyard produces reds, roses, whites and sparkling wines. You can learn more at or by going to the tasting room at the vineyard in Gaston or the new tasting room at 258 Kutch St. in Carlton.

A second winery I visited this month was Red Ridge Farm. It had been a couple of years since I visited, and so when the invitation came to attend the 40th anniversary of family farming celebration I jumped at the opportunity. Founded by Ken and Penny Durant, and now run by son Paul Durant, the farm is home to Durant Vineyards and Oregon Olive Mill. The first 3 acres of the now 60-acre vineyard were planted with grapes in 1973. The farm provided grapes exclusively for other wineries until 2003, when it bottled for the first time under the Durant Vineyards label. In 2005 the farm planted 2,000 olive trees. Olives were first milled in their Oregon Olive Mill in 2008, and that same year they planted 10,000 more olive trees.

The olive oils are truly amazing in flavor. Libby Clow, who studied at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Parma, Italy, is on staff and helps with educational programs on products produced by Red Ridge Farms.

Music, art, cooking classes and other events are offered at Red Ridge Farms. Learn more at Red Ridge Farms is located at 5510 NE Breyman Orchards Road, Dayton.

I was humbled by my grape-harvesting experience, or maybe I was awed. At any rate, I left Kramer Vineyards with a deep respect for all the hands that touch the grapes before they become a lovely wine — wine that tastes a world apart from the supermarket specials I had been drinking. I think I would rather drink high-quality Oregon wines, even if that means drinking less wine. Visit a tasting room soon and enjoy what Oregon has to offer.

The recipe shared today would be delicious paired with an Oregon wine of your choice. Word has it that the chanterells are up in wild abandon this fall. Don’t miss out!

Bon appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Fontina and Rosemary

Makes six 8-inch pizzas

7 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (about 6 cups)

2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelle and stemmed shiitake), cut into bite-size pieces

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 medium)

2 cups dry white wine

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Pizza dough, purchased or homemade

Cornmeal (for dusting)

Garlic oil

3 cups grated fontina cheese (about 10 ounces)

Melt 3 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter with 1 teaspoon olive oil in another heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and shallot. Sauté 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes. Add rosemary; season with salt and pepper.

Position rack in bottom third of oven. Place heavy 17-by-11-inch baking sheet on rack (invert if rimmed). Preheat oven to 500 F at least 30 minutes before baking. Roll out 2 dough disks on lightly floured surface to 8-inch rounds, allowing dough to rest a few minutes if it springs back. Sprinkle another baking sheet (invert if rimmed) with cornmeal. Transfer 1 dough round to second baking sheet. Lightly brush dough with garlic oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Scatter 2 1/2 tablespoons onions over cheese. Scatter 1/2 cup mushrooms over onions. Sprinkle with salt.

Position baking sheet with pizza at far edge of 1 side of hot baking sheet. Tilt sheet and pull back slowly, allowing pizza to slide onto hot sheet. Repeat with second dough disk, garlic oil, cheese, onions, mushrooms and salt, and slide second pizza onto second half of hot baking sheet. Bake pizzas 6 minutes. Rotate pizzas half a turn. Bake until crust is deep brown, about 6 minutes longer. Using large spatula, carefully transfer pizzas to cutting board. Let rest 1 minute. Slice into wedges and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

(Adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2004)

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext.100, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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