I’m a wine club member of TeSóAria. I fell in love with their wines several years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that we decided to be members and stop pretending we weren’t buying wines every time we saw TeSóAria at various wine festivals, and we have visited their tasting room in the Umpqua Valle. y, in Roseburg, a couple times. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for an event or a trip to Roseburg to try them out.
In December 2013 TeSoAria opened a Portland Tasting Room at North Williams corridor, at the intersection with North Shaver. The room is full of light, with 3 sliding garage walls- I can’t wait for when the weather gets better!
With the opening of the Portland Tasting room, John Olson and family are also pursuing a vision of expanding the experience of his already deep, delicious wines by pairing them with food, courtesy of collaboration with Chef Max. For instance, recently, I attended a brunch in which he paired wine with breakfast-y foods- 3 courses for $25. Oh yeah? I’m in.
I mean, it’s educational right? Self-improvement? I’ve never thought to match wines with brunch before, I usually stick with mimosas and bloody marys. But I am ready to learn. Teach me!
Before I begin the recap of the TeSóAria Wine Brunch, let me address the name of the winery and a little bit of background.
When I first was introduced to winemaker John Olson and his wines, it was under the name Palotai, which was the original name of the winery when John and his family (wife Joy and 3 children) purchased it in 2008. Palotai comes from the original wine owner Gabor Palotai, who defected from Hungary and ran the winery with an Old World European philosophy, specifically carrying on traditions of Hungarian wines.
I believe a year later, the winery was rechristened TeSóAria, which is a combination of the words Terra (soil), Sol (son), and Aria (air and music). I remember this because there used to be a lovely little tale on their website (which is now being redone- I hope they put the story back on their site in their About Us section) in which you might visit the winery and see their beautiful vines in the sunshine and hear music- guitar playing and gentle singing from their son Johnny, who has performed at many of the wine club events.
TeSoAria still carries on some of the traditions of Palotai, most notably continuing the usage of Hungarian oak barrels. There is also an annual release of a wine called Bulls Blood, a robust, full bodied red blend that is different every year, and yet every year is like a punch in the face when you compare it with the more subtle, sometimes meek reds from other wineries. It just explodes with flavors and complexity.
I honestly don’t know how John and his staff manage to produce the amount and variety of award winning wines that they do. Despite when I last checked they only list a handful of wines on the website, I know when I attended their wine pick up party there were more than a dozen options, and definitely a dozen varietals that he is utilizing. Various blends are crafted with more grapes types like Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and more. Below are a few examples of what he might be offering- not always all at the same time, but as I said, there are probably a dozen options at his tasting room at any one time.
- Vermentino – a white, clean and crisp Italian grape
- Bella Bianca – a white grape blend
- Bella Rosa – a rose
- Gruner Veltliner
- Pinot Noir
- Dolcetto – deep berry red Italian grape
- Zinfandel- which are surprisingly zesty
- Primitivo- an Italian cousin of Zin
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Durif – an earthy red European grape also known as Petit Syrah
The blends from TeSóAria really set this winery apart because of the unique flavor profiles that are approachable enough to drink now but also can be cellared and hoarded. Every time I bring one of their wines to a gathering I get upset that I get one glass worth from the wine bottle potluck table and on return the bottle is already empty. And I get a little mad that every quarter there are new wines that I want to drink right now and keep for next year, and the year after that, and on… Each wine is its own enticing character. Many of these wines are also award-winning, medaled wines, showcased below:
A sweet and savory duo of fresh buttermilk biscuits -the first with house prepared honey butter and blackberry dolcetto preserve and the second with thick country style gravy. These were paired with the 2013 Riesling and also the Bulls Blood.
I was in love with the flavors of this Riesling, which balanced the line between sweetness and acidity, had a bright fresh young citrus just ripening, but round buttery end note. The blackberry dolcetto preserve did the same thing- it wasn’t too sweet because the dolcetto gave it a bit of a savory grounding.
I thought a bit of the honey buttered biscuit with the Riesling was just the right amount of light sweetness, like a smile but of sunshine that you can eat. Meanwhile, the Bulls Blood red wine with the finger licking gravy and pancetta had every single one of these boards coming back to the kitchen completely wiped clean, no joke.
Thai style breakfast – Duck confit (still juicy and warm from resting in the duck fat, mmm) and crispy shallots atop sticky rice with a rich butternut curry sauce topped with a fried quail egg. Paired with a 2013 Viognier (single vineyard sourced from Cooper Ridge Vineyards) and Durif.
This was my favorite course and favorite pairing- this could have easily competed with the dishes at Feast Portland High Comfort Event that I blogged about with the dishes from the likes of Tom Douglas or Stephanie Izard or Jenn Louis. I’m a big fan of the Tesoaria Durif, which has an earthy barnyard solid foundation.
Fresh doughnuts dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with a foie gras pastry cream to dip (or spoon directly into mouth…). This was paired with a Late Harvest Riesling and then the 2012 Pinot Noir.
I was eating and scraping the last of that foie gras pastry cream. My table disagreed on which pairing of the wine went better with the dish. The Riesling emphasized and complimented the doughnut and cream, while the red cut the fattiness of the pastry cream. There is no wrong answer, only the need to have a larger serving of that cream.
Although this was a special event, the TeSóAria Tasting Room is open everyday, with a menu of great wines that includes from bottles or from live barrels. You can order a flight that include 3 wines and 3 tapas paired together. Wines by the glass or bottle enjoyed at the tasting room are accompanied by complimentary tapas bites. You can also order tapas a la carte, you can see the current menu here. Chef Max says he hopes to change up the tapas every month, and I’ll have to visit next month and do an “ordinary visit” of wine and food here.
Below, you can see I purchased some of the Baco Noir he had just brought in and bottled/autographed for me: you can get regular size (750mL) or Magnum/1.5L or Double Magnum/3L. As you can see, the Magnum is equivalent to 2 bottles (and the Double Magnum to 4 bottles), but with a price discount from buying them individually, so perfect to break out for a party. Honestly, being able to pull out a large bottle like a Magnum just is so jet-setter, like you live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Or at least can pretend to.