Posts Categorized: Partners

Brett Stenson Artist Spotlight: Behind the Design of Our New Cans

 


My process usually starts with some sort of trip or some sort of experience first, like, how do I develop a strong emotional connection to something I’m going to start drawing or carving? So it starts with coming up with what am I emotionally connected to? And then from there, I start sketching stuff, come up with the composition, come up with the idea.

Brett Stenson Artist Spotlight

Brett Stenson Artist Spotlight

If you go out and draw something that is laying in a stream, you’re going to see a composition that nature made, you didn’t make it up sitting at your computer, like you had to be subjected to it and look at it and accept it for how beautiful or weird or not that beautiful it looks and turn it into something that it is really interesting and cool on paper because if you do it cool, somebody is going to enjoy it so you don’t have to overthink it very much.

Brett Stenson Artist Feature

The idea behind the cans was based on having your own perspective when you’re standing in a river and being able to look down and see fish swimming in rocks and plants. So it almost puts you in a place of, oh, I’ve stood here before or I’ve been in this place before. I think what was cool about designing something that you had to spin and look at was that I wanted it to feel almost like an infinite continuous loop of a river, kind of like passing by as you spin it.

Brett Stenson Artist Feature

I feel like Union Wine and Underwood has such a great reach that they can show a lot more people in an unexpected way, you know, you think you drink it and you’re like, yeah, it’s wine, but it’s also made of water. If it’s not good water, it’s not going to be good wine. So you have to have great water. That makes great grapes. That makes great wine. Making artwork or making design work for people that are going out there and protecting trails, protecting forests, is my way of helping by making things that raise awareness for that stuff because I don’t necessarily have the knowledge or energy to go out and like, know how to protect a river or make it more fertile for fish to live in because that’s what biologists are for. So my design work is like my way of connecting to the things I care about.

Brett Stenson Artist Feature

Chefs at Home Series: Taco Tuesday with Jason French & Viola

Chef, consultant (and all-around great dude) Jason French has been a bastion of the Portland restaurant world for nearly twenty years. He ran the kitchen at Paley’s Place and helped open Clark Lewis before heading out on his own to open Ned Ludd and then Elder Hall. Thirteen years later, he can still be found where he is most comfortable…in his kitchen.

When Jason cooks at home, he often employs the help of his daughter Viola. Nearly thirteen herself, she has definitely followed in her father’s footsteps, honing her own kitchen skills. We asked Jason if we could hang out and get a (literal) taste of what kind of cooking he and his daughter collaborate on. He immediately suggested Taco Tuesday, a great way to spice up an otherwise bland day.

Jason chose to make Roasted Chicken, Squash, and Tomatillo Tacos with Refried Beans and Viola’s signature Guacamole.

For the tacos:
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup whole tomatillos, husked
1 medium summer squash, trimmed and cubed (seasonally, acorn or butternut squash may be substituted)
1 C chicken stock
1 T cumin seed, ground
2 T chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Peel the husks from your tomatillos.

Cut your squash into large chunks.

Cut the chicken thighs in half, place all the ingredients into a large bowl, and season well.

Separate out in a single layer of a sheet pan and put into the oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked and the squash is golden brown.

Cut up the chicken and half of the squash. Put into a heavy-bottomed pot.

Put the roasted tomatillos, remaining squash, and the chicken stock into a large blender. Pulse until chunky and add to the pot.

Keep warm on the stove while you prepare the rest of the food.

While her dad is taking care of all that, Viola is in charge of the guacamole.

For the Guacamole:
1 large ripe avocado
1 T fresh lime juice
2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop all the flesh into a bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasoning as needed.

And of course, get the chefs final approval…

Set the guacamole aside and make the refried beans. In a pinch, there is no shame in using canned refried beans, but if you have the time, and an extra set of hands to help, homemade is always best.

For the Refried Beans:
1 T olive oil or lard + 3 T more for frying
1 small onion, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 T fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 C cooked pinto, black or red kidney beans, drained
1 C chicken stock
Salt and pepper

To make the beans, heat 1 T of oil and slowly cook the onions and garlic until just starting to color. Add the beans, oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the chicken stock. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, add the remaining oil until hot, add the beans and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans achieve the desired consistency, continually scraping all the “crusty goodness” off the bottom as it cooks. Adjust seasoning and set aside.

Once everything is ready, finish up your Fixins.

Fixins:
(Feel free to add/subtract whatever makes you happy)
corn tortillas, hard or soft, served warm with dinner
fresh limes, quartered
grated cheddar or Mexican style cheeses like Cotija
scallions, thinly sliced
French radishes, thinly sliced
pickled jalapenos, canned are supreme
fresh cilantro leaves

Finally, heat your tortillas over an open flame (or on an electric burner) and keep warm.

With perfect timing, Jason’s girlfriend Carrie happened to come home just as the last tortillas were being cooked. A bottle of Underwood Pinot Gris was opened and the French Family dinner was a complete success.

We want to thank Jason and his family for sharing their Taco Tuesday with us. If you are somehow unacquainted with Jason’s work, you can check out his restaurant, Ned Ludd, and his event space Elder Hall. In his spare time, Jason also works as a personal coach and consultant.

Finally, from everyone here in the Union Family, we hope you are staying safe. And please get out there and VOTE!

Photography and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
Recipes by Jason French. (@jasonffrench)
Guacamole by Viola.

Plan B Birthday Celebration: Getting Creative with Plans in 2020

2020 has been a strange year for birthdays, weddings, and graduations. We’ve all had to adapt and get extra creative with how we celebrate. It’s been challenging just figuring out what a party can look like during a global pandemic. Can we throw one while still socially distancing? How many friends and family can safely gather?

40th birthdays feel like a pretty big deal. It’s a day I’ve gently held in the back of my mind for years. My original plan to throw a big party for myself and two of my best friends (whose birthdays coincide with mine) quickly went out the door when I realized how serious and long-lasting the pandemic was going to be. So I tucked away my disappointment and decided to take off in my van and drive from Oregon to Colorado instead. There, I met up with my dear friend, Abi, who’s 29th birthday happens to fall on the day after mine.

We determined that a backpacking trip into the mountains was the perfect solution to our birthday woes. Since we both love spending time outdoors, it seemed like the most fitting way to celebrate. In order to make our backcountry adventure even more special, we packed in 2 cans of Underwood Bubbles and a vegan chocolate cake. Always worth the extra weight.

Once we landed on doing the beautiful Missouri Lakes trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness, we loaded up and drove the three hours to the trailhead where we camped overnight in our vehicles.

To beat the crowds, we aimed for an alpine start the next morning. Our hiking entourage consisted of me and my dog, Huxley, and Abi and her two dogs, Kodi and Kuma; each of us carrying our own fully loaded backpack into the wilderness.

Abi and I chose a relatively easy trail for this particular overnighter because we both wanted the trip to feel fun and easy. So the 4 miles in with 1500 ft of elevation gain was mostly a breeze, and by the time we reached the lake and our destination for the night, we still had plenty of energy to explore the area.

So we set up our tents and dropped our Union Wine cans in the creek to chill for later. We grabbed our cameras, quickly tied on our raincoats, and headed up the trail to explore a wildflower-covered ridgeline. There were some dark clouds preemptively accumulating in the distance, and Colorado is known for its summer afternoon thunderstorms, so we knew our time to explore was limited.

We wound our way past some smaller lakes, the shores dotted with eager fishermen. We heard the recognizable whistle of marmots and the chirps of pika echoing from the fields of talus, teasing our dog companions into a frenzy. But patches of snow covered the steep hillside, creating small playgrounds for our rambunctious dogs, where they slid and chased each other, bearing their teeth and digging them deep into the snowbank.

Mountain peaks popped into view as we zig-zagged our way up the trail another 1000 ft., finally topping out over the ridge. The views on the other side made the extra effort well worth it and we paused to snack and take it all in. However, it wasn’t long before we heard thunderclap and immediately started the trek back down to camp, quickening our steps as we walked. Back lakeside, Abi and I eagerly pulled our wine out of the creek just as heavy drops started to fall, each of us retreating to our respective tents to hide away from the thunderstorm.

The hours passed inside our tents, dogs snuggling up close, trembling lightly from the sounds of the storm. We each made dinner while cheers-ing one other from afar. It wasn’t exactly the “party atmosphere” I had hoped it would be, but we made the absolute most of the moment, knowing it would pass.

When the rain finally subsided, night was already beginning to fall. As darkness descended upon us, we excitedly emerged from our tents ready to make up for lost time. I cracked open the bubbles and sliced deeply into the chocolate cake. We cheerfully sang the “happy birthday song” to each other, guzzled our crisp and refreshing beverages, indulged in giant bites of chewy cake, and danced and talked until we could no longer see one another through the black. Finally giving in, we tucked ourselves in for the night, tired and satisfied.

The next morning as the sun lit up the peaks, we brewed ourselves some coffee and finished off the rest of the chocolate cake, a perfect breakfast to fuel the hike out. We hung around just long enough to enjoy the morning views and soak in the mountain air before slowly packing up and retreating back to civilization.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned from this wild and unpredictable year include the ability to embrace flexibility and a willingness to adjust. Even though I had to seriously alter my birthday expectations (along with so much more) many times over, it still magically came together. And guess what? It ended up being one of my most memorable birthdays ever. Remember to always strive for adaptability, because sometimes plan B, C or even D might be better than plan A could have ever been.

Words and Photography by Brooke Weeber.

A Van Build-Out with Brooke Weeber

Brooke Weeber Van Build

In January of 2020, I embarked on a project bigger than anything I could’ve imagined; a van build-out. And, as I started to design the layout of my new 2019 Ford Transit van and glanced at the ever-growing to-do list, I realized what a mammoth of a project this was. I might’ve bitten off more than I could chew.

You see, in my life up until that point, I’d largely avoided building projects. Table saws and drill bits just weren’t a part of my vocabulary. Even when I owned a house for 5 years in a SE Portland neighborhood, I delegated responsibilities and shied away from trying complicated things myself. My initial instinct was to hire experts who could get the job done correctly and efficiently, having little faith in myself to do so. However, once I realized how much experts charge for a van build-out, I had to change my tune. I discovered that my only logical option was to buckle down and attempt the job myself.

Brooke Weeber Van Build

Brooke Weeber Van Build

So, I downloaded ebooks, perused blogs, watched youtube tutorials, and talked to friends with experience. I jotted down notes, made lists, and started gathering supplies. After weeks of heavy research, I started in on the most logical first step, the flooring, aka the easiest part of a van build. But easy doesn’t mean free from mistakes. I learned very early on in this process that I would make one blunder after another, but that I couldn’t let them deter me from pressing forward. So when I realized I had unknowingly installed the cedar ceiling incorrectly, causing it to split and break, I tried my best to take it in stride, knowing full well that I would need to rip it out and replace the cedar planks with something more durable.

I’m not trying to insinuate that I breezed through the van build process with confidence and determination. I had many tearful moments curled up alone inside the echoey chamber of the unfinished van. I desperately sought out information online to solve, what seemed like, the countless issues I was running into. I made phone calls, sent emails, and met up with folks to solve problems that were blocking my progress. I got extremely frustrated and overwhelmed by wiring diagrams and electrical instructions laid out before me in a language my brain wasn’t built to understand. I lumbered through this process feeling like a toddler just learning to walk, gazing around for affirmations to build confidence and keep me motivated. But, at every turn there was a new skill to learn, whether it was hooking up a plumbing system, wiring light dimmers, cutting giant holes in the van for a fan and a window, or connecting my auxiliary batteries to the alternator so they would charge while I drive. It was a heap of new information and I was overloaded with decision fatigue.

Brooke Weeber Van Build

Brooke Weeber Van Build

Author and public speaker, Brené Brown, describes these kinds of experiences as FFTs (effing first times). She continues by saying “When we have no relevant experience or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear of these firsts can be overwhelming. Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage is how we get braver.” Not only does it make us braver, but each mountain successfully climbed undeniably builds up confidence and strength that we may not have previously possessed. Going into this van build was a real experiment in self-actualization. What I believed I wasn’t skilled enough to do at the beginning of the build was something that I miraculously achieved with grit, determination, and the help and guidance of others.

Brooke Weeber Van Build

Underwood Wine Van Build

Brooke Weeber Van Build

I truly couldn’t have completed this project without my father’s assistance building the bed and cabinetry. His years of woodworking experience were imperative in the completion of my van build and he was the perfect person to bounce all my build ideas off of. Without him, the countless van builders who had showered the internet with helpful tips, and the support and cheerleading of my community, I’m not sure I could have made it through this behemoth. I owe so much to every single person who believed in me. And even though they can’t all take a ride with me in my new home on wheels, they will always be there with me in spirit.

Brooke Weeber Van Build

Resources:

Far Our Ride
Gnomad Home
Explorist Life

Words and Photography by Brooke Weeber.

When It Comes To Valentine’s

Union Wine Co Galantines When it comes to Valentine’s Day, we could probably argue that most men don’t even think about the holiday until the month of February hits, and for a lot of men, not until the week of Feb. 14th! But, for some reason, in our society, it is an important holiday to a lot of us women. We don’t necessarily know why, but we know we don’t want it to slip by without something special happening to or for us. It could be because we have someone special in our lives and we want to celebrate that, or, it could just be that we see pink and red hearts everywhere this month and we just don’t want to miss out!

Union Wine Co Galentines Day

Union Wine Co Galentines Day

So, we decided to pull together some of our besties and celebrate each other for Galentines Day! Our girlfriends are so important to our everyday lives—they support us when we are feeling down or struggling with something, they are happy for us when things are going well, and they are always up for a fun get-together with a little wine, sweets and catching up.

Union Wine Co Galentine's Day

In our opinion, the holidays of any type are meant to be spent with loved ones. Any excuse to get together with the people in our lives who mean the most to us is what we feel is important. Gather around a table, sharing a meal and company.

Union Wine Co Salt and Straw

Cheers to great friendships! Happy Galentines Day!