Let the good times pour
Summer is an ideal time to connect with friends, bask in warm weather and sip finely crafted drinks.
And the upcoming Estacada Uncorked event will allow attendees to do just that as they enjoy all that downtown Broadway Street has to offer.
The wine, food and microbrew event will feature vendors serving an eclectic collection of locally made alcoholic drinks, ranging from sweet dessert wines to crisp ciders and beers. The event, organized by the Downtown Estacada Commission, is scheduled 3-8 p.m. Saturday, June 30. Activities for children will also be featured. Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased at www.estacadauncorked.com.
Along with great flavors, many of the drinks at Estacada Uncorked have interesting stories behind them — ranging from cider inspired by another country's traditions to wine crafted in environmentally friendly ways.
Ron Webb and Jan Wallinder started Forest Edge Vineyard in the 1980s. In the beginning, their efforts were focused on selling grapes to other wineries and home-based wine makers, but in 2011 the pair began selling their own wines and opened a tasting room on the 45-acre property in Beavercreek.
Sustainability is a key element of operations at Forest Edge Vineyard — from the early stages of growing grapes to the finals steps of bottling the wine.
"All along the way, it drives how we make decisions," Wallinder said.
The farm has an irrigation system that catches rain water and then distributes it to the plants. Additionally, grape pressings and stems leftover from the winemaking process act as mulch in the vineyard, and recycled paper and glass are used to bottle the products.
At Forest Edge Vineyard, permaculture - or an agricultural system that strives to utilize patterns that are present in natural ecosystems - is another important part of the process.
"It's working with what happens naturally rather than in opposition to it," Wallinder said, noting that they leave many native weeds in place to retain beneficial insects. "Every year at harvest when we decide what to make, we listen to what the grapes tell us. It's always a little different."
Webb and Wallinder pride themselves on a close relationship to the land on which they work.
"The emphasis is that we're farmers," Wallinder said. "It's important to us to be both farmers and winemakers."
Grapes are harvested for wine in September. Once they are picked, grapes for white wines and Chardonnays have the skins and stems removed prior to being pressed. They are juiced and put in a barrel, where yeast is added to begin the fermenting process. Grapes for certain sweet wines are frozen and then pressed to create a concentrated flavor without needing to add sugar.
When grapes for red wines are picked, the stems are removed and the fruit is crushed, pressed and fermented with the skins on.
The fermenting process takes anywhere from weeks to several months. After that, the wines are barrel aged for several years.
Typically, four barrels are mixed together for bottling.
For Wallinder, the most interesting part of the winemaking process is seeing how the finished product turns out.
"Every barrel has a little uniqueness," she said. "It's the magic of what goes on in the barrel."
At Estacada Uncorked, Forest Edge Vineyard will serve Chardonnay, Forest Mist - a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Forest Blend - a mix of Pinot and Leon Millot grapes, and Sucre Chardonnay — a dessert wine.
Wallinder said it's too difficult to pick a favorite of the wines they make.
"They're just like children. You like them all," she said.
Stone Circle Cider is based in Estacada but takes inspiration for its products from somewhere further away.
Daniel Lawrence and his brother-in-law John Hamblin are creating cider in the English tradition. Hamblin grew up near Stonehenge where cider was very popular, which was part of the inspiration for the cidery's name.
Several years ago, Lawrence spent five months in England studying their ways of crafting cider.
"It was a great experience to be able to meet and work with some of the best cider makers in the world," he said. "I really learned a lot from them."
He noted that there are many differences between English and American cider, likening them to Eastern and Western medicine.
"They both produce good results, but Eastern medicine is more wholistic," he said. "Here, it's very scientific, and there it's a craft. Things are done via taste. (My mentors in England) didn't approach it scientifically, but they made the best cider I've ever had. I had to let go of my roots and what I thought I understood."
English cider is typically made with cider apples. As opposed to apples that are typically eaten, these apples are characterized by dry and bitter qualities.
"It's similar to how wine can be made with table grapes, but it's not going to be a great wine," Lawrence said, explaining the benefits of using cider apples. "Cider apples add depth and character."
Lawrence noted that cider apples used to be prevalent in the United States as well but waned during the prohibition era of the 1920s.
"There was no purpose for cider apples" since their purpose was solely for alcohol, Lawrence continued. "A ton of cider apple varieties were lost when (prohibition) happened."
In terms of the finished product, English cider is typically lower in acidity than cider found in the U.S.
"It's smooth and easy to drink. You can taste the apple more," Lawrence said.
At Stone Circle Cider, the product is made once a year. Apples are turned into a pulp from which the juice is extracted. It is then fermented and aged for several months to allow the flavor to blossom.
"Letting it sit gives the cider apples the ability to get a more mellow, smooth flavor. It gives the acidity longer to mellow out," Lawrence said.
At Estacada Uncorked, Stone Circle Circle will offer dry apple cider, semi-dry apple cider, sweet apple cider, sour cherry cider and lavender tarragon cider.
Lawrence is looking forward to connecting with others at Estacada Uncorked.
"We're excited to put our product in front of hometown people, talk about what we do and share our experience," he said.
Other vendors serving drinks at Estacada Uncorked will include:
Alder Tree Vineyard
Clackamas River Growlers
Cathedral Ridge Winery
Thomas & Sons Distillery
Bent Shovel Brewing
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Estacada Uncorked
WHEN: 3-8 p.m. Saturday, June 30
WHERE: Broadway Street in downtown Estacada
Admission: Tickets are $15 and include samples, live music and a commemorative wine glass.
MORE: For more information, visit www.estacadauncorked.com.