In a state that boasts more trees than people, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to over 300 wineries, many of them famous as producers of world-class pinot noir. Known among vintners as the “heartbreak grape,” pinot can, in difficult years, produce astringent wines. But in great years, it can produce wines of such beauty that, as Miles (Paul Giamatti’s character) from Sideways puts it: “It’s a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavours, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.”
A bustling stop in the heart of Oregon’s wine country is Red Hills Market—a market, a deli, a neighbourhood place to gather, that has a little bit of everything: wine, cheese, nuts, jams, all locally made, and a whole lot of heart. Proprietor Jody Kropf had the idea of opening an eatery for years, and after a trip he and his wife Michelle took to Italy (dining at plenty of trattorias) the idea became reality. Red Hills Market delivers a taste of local goodness with a wide selection of cheeses, charcuterie, craft beer, and wine. The place is crowded almost all the time and for good reason. The menu is, unsurprisingly, Italian inspired with sandwiches including salami served with provolone, baby arugula, whole grain mustard and olive oil; another of oven-roasted veggies, baby spinach, and Briar Rose chèvre; wood-fired pizzas; salads; and bites—roasted local filberts with bacon and rosemary. Suffice it to say, Red Hills Market is the ideal lunch spot in a wine-tasting day.