I remember co-owner Gray Hartley telling me years ago that a guy came in, ordered a glass of wine and then a bottle and his world turned upside-down. The man was Rex Picket, author of the book Sideways. I sat with Frank Ostini, Gray's partner, who told me he knew something was up when director Alexander Payne walked in.
Diane and Ken Wilson own the Wilson Artisan Wineries as well as the Grape Leaf Inn. There are eight wineries all totaled and I visited three of them, starting with Matrix Winery. Formerly Rabbit Ridge Winery, the Wilsons purchased the property in 2007.
You can hardly visit the Willamette Valley without visiting some of its famed wineries and that's exactly what I did. Starting at Montinore Estate, one of the state's largest biodynamic/organic wine producers, we visited the stunning tasting room and then stepped into the vineyards for a visit with winemakers Ben Thomas and Stephen Webber.
When your guests are paying $275 a head, he's aware you'd better deliver. The kitchen employs 30 chefs, all of whom have undergone extensive training. He hopes his guests leave excited and with fond memories, something they can relate to and even laugh about. Before we left, he prepared a salad for me to photograph. Alas, before I could dig my fork in, the plate was whisked away.
Saturday morning I'll land at Rome's Fiumicino airport, where I will meet up with a group of fellow bloggers as we eat and drink our way through Orvieto, Montefalco and Torgiano before finally arriving in Perugia in the heart of Umbria.