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West Linn reader Judy Snyder gave Barb Randall a tip to try Atticus Vineyard wines. Randall did, and she thinks you all should too. Read on:

STAFF PHOTO: BARB RANDALL - Barb Randall visited Winemaker Ximena Orrego for a private tour and tasting of Atticus Vineyard wines, at the urging of West Linn reader Judy Snyder.

Over the past decade that I've written Lifting the Fork I have shared information about new food products, food celebrations and wineries which I believe would bring you pleasure.

And sometimes readers have returned the favor, sharing with me something they are enjoying. Today I give a shout out to West Linn reader Judy Snyder who at the end of December sent me an email encouraging me to visit Atticus Vineyard in Yamhill.

"What makes their story unique is the culture and heritage of the owners," Judy wrote. "Ximena Orrego is the winemaker. She is Peruvian but has lived in Venezuela, British Columbia and ultimately Miami, Florida, where she met her husband Guy Insley. Guy is British. He was born in Hong Kong, raised in France and educated in Scotland. They are charming and their wines are fabulous," Judy said.

That was all I needed. I emailed Ximena and we arranged for me to visit the vineyard. It is an easy drive through the wine country to the Yamhill area, with a great view of the valley spreading out to the south.

SUBMITTED PHOTOS: CWKPHOTOGRAPHY - Judy Snyder of West Linn found Guy Insley and Ximena Orrego to be charming and their wines are fabulous. This shot was taken in their Atticus Vineyard in Yamhill.

Ximena said she and Guy came to the Willamette Valley for a wine tasting vacation. Growing up in France, it has been Guy's dream to live in a vineyard when he retires, so they set aside one day of the vacation to visit with a realtor and look at property. "We just wanted to look at what was available," she said. "But we ended up spending three days looking at property and made an offer before we left."

The couple purchased 50 acres in Yamhill County and planted their first vines, all pinot noir clones in 2005. They built a house on the property and moved into it in 2007, with a new baby and a three-year-old son.

To hone her winemaking skills Ximena took courses at Chemeketa Community College and then interned under winemaker Scott Shull at Raptor Ridge Winery. She produced the first Atticus Vineyard wines in 2008, and made the first Atticus Vineyard wines from estate grown fruit in 2010.

"Our brand name is a tribute to Atticus Finch from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and everything he stands for," said Ximena said. "Even before we purchased our property in 2004 we knew that would be our name."

At this time Atticus Vineyard is producing strictly pinot noir; the vineyard is planted with Pommard, Dijon 667 and 777 clones. Ximena is contemplating expanding the vineyard to include a white wine varietal soon, but in the meantime we can enjoy the pinot noirs which are indeed lovely.

Ximena Orrego makes pinot noir under three Atticus Vineyard lables. This is the premium lable, XO.

Available now are the Atticus 2015 Pinot Noir Yamhill Carlton, Atticus 2014 Pinot Noir Atticus Vineyard, 2013 and 2012 Pinot Noir Atticus Vineyard. They can best be described as "powerful and elegant" and "rich and lucious."

Wine critics Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator gave the Atticus 2012 Pinot Noir 91 points, saying "Polished and expressive, on a light, lithe frame, offering ripe cherry

and spice flavors, plus hints of mint and mineral as the finish lingers gently. Drink now through 2022."

Atticus Vineyards Yamhill Carlton lable is the everyday pinot noir Ximena Orrego creates.

Thanks, Judy for sharing Atticus Vineyard with me. I am delighted to discover Ximena's wines. And I agree with Harvey: Drink Atticus Vineyards wines now.

You can have your own tasting experience at Atticus Vineyard by contacting Ximena through the website, atticuswine.com, or calling 503-662-3485.

Wizer's Fine Wines in Lake Oswego carries some Atticus Vineyard wines, so you could have a bottle tonight. I think it would pair beautifully with a great steak so I've included that as the recipe today.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Skirt Steak with Shallots and Sauteed Watercress

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons plus

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 large shallots, sliced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Kosher salt and black

pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1½ pounds skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and thinly sliced

2 bunches watercress, thick stems removed (about 6 cups)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the thyme sprigs. Add the vinegar and butter and stir until melted. Transfer to a small bowl.

Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over medium heat. Season the steak with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a second large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the watercress and cook, tossing until tender, 2 to 4 minutes more. Serve the steak with the watercress mixture and top with the shallots.

Recipe courtesy of Real

Simple

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.. She is the author of "Willamette Valley Wineries," a pictorial history of the Willamette Valley wine industry. Learn more at barbarasmithrandall.me. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.

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