Safely Reconnecting with Co-workers: Tacos, Tequila and Radlers in the Driveway

As I’m sure many people out there can relate to, working from home, although a novelty at first, has definitely got its down sides. The biggest of which is missing the camaraderie, conversations and socialization found in a typical office setting. For instance, my wife Meredith works for CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate service company. CBRE’s main Downtown Portland office closed back in March with no real plan of reopening any time soon.

Luckily, everyone was able to work from home, but for an office of folks used to weekly meet-ups, trivia nights and happy hours, those plans very suddenly evaporated. Now that people are feeling more comfortable getting together in small groups
(and of course respecting the rules of social distancing), Meredith thought it would be fun to “get the old gang back together”, as they say, and have a driveway gathering to reconnect. I was tasked with coming up with a signature cocktail to serve and some appropriate local cuisine. So without further ado, I present…

The Tequila Sunrise Radler

(This will make one drink. Multiply out for the amount of people you are entertaining.)

2 oz Reposado Tequilla (I like Lunazul.)
4 oz Orange Juice
1/4 oz Grenadine
1 can of Underwood Riesling Radler

I found it easiest and safest to measure and mix the tequila and OJ in a separate pitcher before beginning. As the always dapper and talented Michael is demonstrating, line up your glasses—we found 16 oz Mason Jars best for this—fill with ice and add your tequila and OJ mix to just under halfway up the glass.

Then, in true Tequila Sunrise fashion, gently add 1/4 oz of grenadine to each glass, thus creating the sunrise effect.

Distribute your drinks and at this point have each party member come up and grab their own can of the Reisling Radler.

Then, have each person top off their cocktail with the Radler, and continue to do so as they consume their cocktail, adding a little Radler each time there is room in the glass.

I thought that tacos would go great with this drink and since we have an amazing locally owned taqueria at the end of our street, it was a great opportunity to support a local business and also offer something that could be easily and safely self-served by each person.

If you are in the Burnside/82nd Ave area, definitely stop into Taqueria Santa Cruz for some amazing tacos or burritos. (I highly recommend the chorizo and if you are feeling adventurous, the lenqua.)

To keep everything “hands-free”, all chips were individually bowled up, the sauces were separated and tongs were used to serve the tacos.

And it never hurts to have a little hand sanitizer at the ready for anyone who feels the need.

And once the cocktails are in hand and the tacos are plated, its time to relax and catch up.

No carne asada for the puppers…

And with these beautiful summer evenings, what better and safer way to get home than on your bicycle?

So, there you have a solid groundwork for a full evening of entertainment to reconnect with whomever in your life you have been missing. All we ask is that you stay safe and responsible and of course keep those
#pinkiesdown.

Photography, Recipe & Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Summer Gardening: Reaping the Fruits of your Labor

Admittedly, the last few summers in Portland have been hit or miss, weather-wise, for getting the most yield from your home gardens. But with the spate of hot days, we have been having, everything is falling nicely into line for maximum yields from all of your late summer vegetable and herb plants.

That being the case, we figured we’d share two recipes: one a new take on an old classic and the other one an unexpected mélange that will hopefully appear on your summer tables for years to come.

Before we dive into each dish, I’d like to present a little background on the veggies and herbs I used for each dish. Every year we grow cucumbers and we have tried myriad attempts at sturdy and attractive trellising. This year I do believe we found a winner.  It was my wife’s idea (she is definitely head gardener on our property.) She thought it would be an interesting idea to take a few of her old bicycle wheels and attach them to 2×4’s to create a not only sturdy but very original trellis system. And as you can see, it worked great.

We also grow several types of basil, but to be honest I like the flavor and soft leaf texture of the simple sweet basil. This will actually be used in both dishes, but more on that to come.

So for one of the dishes, I decided to combine our cucumbers and fresh basil with fresh peaches (’cause ya gotta eat as many peaches as you can while you can!). There are many great peach growers to be found at the local farmer’s markets all over town. For this recipe, I used Kiyokawa Family Orchard peaches. Although at first, this may seem an unlikely flavor profile, it’s a surprisingly simple but absolutely delicious and refreshing side dish. The secret is in the red wine vinegar and lemon juice, which really sharpen up all the flavors.

Peach, Cucumber and Basil Salad

1 cucumber
3 ripe peaches
1 bunch fresh basil
2 T red wine vinegar
Juice from half a lemon
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cracked black pepper

Peel strips off of the cucumber skin (if desired) and then cut longways. Gently scoop out seeds and cut into 1/4 inch half-moon shapes. Cut peaches into bite-sized pieces. Place both into a bowl and add the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Mix gently and spread evenly on a plate. Evenly distribute the fresh basil over the top and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. This dish can be kept in the fridge for up to half an hour before serving. Much like revenge, this is a dish best served cold.

Our second dish is a slightly different take on a summer classic, the Caprese salad. Most people are familiar with this, but for the uninitiated, a Caprese salad at its core is fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. We decided to take the 3 main ingredients and put a slight spin on each.

I am a die-hard cherry tomato fan, and we try different varieties every year. I like my cherry tomatoes round and red, so this year we chose two varieties that fit those qualifications but were actually quite different. First, we planted a slightly larger variety called Siletz:

We decided to pair those with a very small but “bursting with flavor” variety called Candyland Red Currants. (I have to say these are some of the most delicious cherry tomatoes we have ever grown.) Both plants came locally from Lil’ Starts Nursery.

So that was the first variation, cherry tomatoes instead of full-sized heirlooms. Next, instead of a regular firm cow’s milk mozzarella, I chose a burrata style water buffalo milk mozzarella from Calabro Dairy. This is one of my absolute favorite cheeses and locally in Portland can most often be found at Cheese Bar but I’m sure for folks outside the area, your local cheese shop will carry something comparable.

If you’ve never had burrata style mozzarella, I highly recommend trying it. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, but inside contains stracciatella (literally “small shreds”) and cream.

Finally, instead of fresh basil, I chose to make a basil & hazelnut pesto. My wife recently brought home fresh hazelnuts (Dorris variety), a new product being grown by Baird Family Orchard and they are hands down, no lyin’, the best hazelnuts (and easiest peeling) I have ever had.

Basil & Hazelnut Pesto

2 small cloves peeled garlic
1/3 C roasted and peeled hazelnuts
1 heaping tablespoon parmesan cheese
2-3 large bunches fresh basil
Roughly 2/3 C extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the garlic and hazelnuts in a large food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add in the parmesan cheese and basil and pulse several times. Slowly drizzle in the oil until just covering the basil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remember that the parmesan cheese is pretty salty so taste the pesto before salting it. The final result should have a somewhat coarse texture.

To finish the dish, place a ball of the mozzarella cheese in the center of the plate, surround with cherry tomatoes and drizzle liberally with pesto. A small squeeze of lemon over the whole dish never hurts.

Crack open a few cans of Underwood Bubbles and you are set to feast!

As always, from everyone here at the Union family, we hope you are staying cool and safe this summer.

Keep those #pinkiesdown!

********

Photography, Recipes & Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Outside the Winery w/ Winemaker, Cheney Vidrine

First things first. Keep your distance, wash your hands, and wear your mask. Please and thanks. That being said, for those who love the outdoors, (like most of us here at UWCo), there are still plenty of ways to get outside and recreate responsibly. Join us as we follow one of our winemakers, Cheney Vidrine, to do just that. We explore the activities that many Oregonians know and love. From going vert at Smith Rock, to cooling off in the rapids of the Deschutes River. Then, letting gravity take us home, mountain biking from Timberline Lodge to Government Camp. Get ready, it’s going to be a wild ride.

6:30 am. Saturday morning. Terrebonne, OR. The parking lot at the trailhead of Smith Rock State Park looks something like an REI yard sale. Climbers slowly unloading all kinds of devices for ascending the 30 million-year-old volcanic Tuff formations. Counting each glimmering piece of gear with precise selection. Through the morning light, a familiar face (after he removes his mask) makes an appearance. Our very own Cheney Vidrine. As he makes his way past the cars greeting folks left and right, I wave a hand. We exchange greetings and go over the plan for the next few days. Listing off activities such as river rafting and downhill mountain biking as calmly as someone would explain a walk through a park. It is obvious Cheney is in his element.

Back home, Cheney is one of our talented winemakers overseeing the daily ins and outs that are required to create our delicious wines. Here in the central Oregon outback, Cheney is one of the many outdoor enthusiasts. What better place to take all that enthusiasm than to the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing, Smith Rock? We walked down the trail and crossed over the Crooked River Bridge. Just a hop, skip, and a jump, and we were at our first stop; The Morning Glory Wall. As I watched with a confused look on my face at the knot tying and climbing doodad organizing, I asked Cheney how he got into climbing. He said “Climbing was 2007. I was trying to get into whitewater rafting, but couldn’t afford it. My grad school roommate took me climbing. I was hooked. It was my only sport for a decade.”

As I watched Cheney and his rock scaling comrades go up and down the old lava wall, I was mesmerized. It was a beautiful way to start the morning. As the sun snuck over the edge of the peaks, the temperatures slowly but surely began to creep up. Luckily, we had a few (low alcohol) Riesling Radler’s and Strawberry Coolers to bring the internal temps down. The temps climbed higher and faster than anyone rigged up, so we decided it was time to pack up and head to the water.

An hour and 20-minute drive took us to the town of Maupin, Oregon. It was time to inflate the rafts, dish out the life vests, and sink the drag bag (the best way to keep those wine cans cold). We met up with some more of Cheney’s outdoor rec squad. After introductions were made and vessels were chosen, we launched. The cold Deschutes waters have never felt better than on this hot July day. After making sure my life jacket would probably keep me afloat, I figured it was time to ask Raft Captain Cheney some more adventure life questions. “So, when did you get this raft?” I asked, as I dangled one leg over the side and attempted my smoothest paddle. Cheney looked up, smiled, and said “I started rafting/whitewater kayaking in 2018. That’s when I essentially won the lottery: The Grand Canyon permit lottery.” For those that are unfamiliar, this is an incredibly lucky permit to draw. Cheney definitely has some good sportsman’s karma. With an even bigger smile and chuckle, he continues. “I didn’t think I would pick up a permit for years. I immediately bought a boat and forced my river friends to show me their ways.” We continued down the winding river with the sun to our backs and Cheney having us paddle “right side forward” or “left side back.” Everything was warm, calm, and serene. That all quickly changed once we hit some large rapids and a few folks, (including myself), went flying out of the raft. Laughing and swimming back to the yellow point of safety, we continued on our way. I looked back at the end of the boat just in time to catch a can of wine tossed over from our fearless captain. Not a bad way to cool down. After some hours of floating, paddling, bailing, and boat trading, we made it to the end of our river trip. We aired down the rafts and piled into Cheney and his girlfriend’s Anaïs’ Sprinter to take us back to our vehicles. It was time to make camp, and more importantly, make dinner.

Day two. After a beautiful night spent under the Milky Way with Cheney and Co., we packed the rigs to head to our third adventure. Mountain biking down Mt. Hood. We took the back road through Tygh Valley and headed to Timberline Lodge. Once there, we found some parking for all the adventure mobiles. Cheney and Anaïs have a sprinter that they travel to all their adventures in, but it’s more like an REI on wheels. Complete with a kitchen, sink, and mini garage under the sleeping quarters. While assembling his mountain bike and dawning more protection gear than I saw in the last Batman flick, I hovered nearby. My curiosity must have been written on my face. Cheney leans over and says “Mountain Biking started in 2017. After years of many of my friends nagging me to buy a bike. I fought it because I didn’t want to climb less or hurt myself. I’m glad I finally gave in. It is the best!” It was time get off this mountain. Sophie, their trusty dog, joined in for the mountain run. We raced down the road to meet up with the two-wheeled human batteries at the halfway point. There were a few fun jumps that were hit with significant speed. There’s a saying in the mountain biking community; “the slower you go, the more likely it is you’ll crash.” Apparently, that is the truth because they were flying.

After all that adventure, the squad met up at the Government Camp Dairy Queen for some cold treats. It was a weekend for the books to say the least. Gravity was tested in a number of different forms. We flowed with and fell into some of the most beautiful waters the state has to offer. Whether you’re cracking cans under the Milky Way or sipping cold wine coolers from a raft, Oregon is one hell of a state. Remember to stay safe out there. Abide by the rules and respect your fellow humans. We’re all in this together. Let’s try to see as much beauty as we can. Until next time.

#pinkiesdown

Photo credit: Austin White @austingwhite  austinwhitephotography.com

A Perfect Summer Cocktail: The Fruity Sparkling Frozé

Well, It took long enough, but it seems that Portland has finally hit its full summertime stride. With temperatures topping off in the 90s for days, we thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to a simple and delicious frozen cocktail that is not only a cinch to make but employs two fruits that are currently in season right now, peaches and watermelon. 

Fruity Frozé

By combining the sweetness of local peaches and watermelon with our Underwood Rosé Bubbles, you get a refreshing cocktail with a perfect balance of flavors. Add in some ice and just a little vodka and you have a slushy, fruity, bubbly glass of refreshment! Let us introduce you to:
 
The Fruity Frozé
5 oz Underwood Rosé Bubbles
2 oz Vodka (we recommend Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
1 C fresh seedless watermelon
1 Large Peach (pit removed)
1 1/2 C Ice
 
2 more oz of Rosé Bubbles to add to the finished cocktail
 
Fruity Frozé Ingredients
The first step is to set up your blender and chill two glasses. Next, you want to split your peach, remove the pit and chop it into smaller chunks. Then cut and peel your watermelon, measuring out 1 C of fruit.  If you happen to get one of those pesky “seedless” watermelons that still have seeds, remove them before proceeding. Put the fruit into your blender.
 
Fruity Frozé Ingredients
Next, measure your Rosé Bubbles and Vodka and add it to the blender. Feed free to use the vodka you may have at home, but we recommend our good friends from Austin Texas, Tito’s. If you’ve never tried their vodka, its pretty great and goes well in any cocktail. Add the liquid as well as the ice to the blender.
 
Underwood Rosé Bubbles
Blend on a medium to high setting until all the ice is crushed and blended well with the fruit.
 
Fruity Frozé
Carefully pour the Frozé into two glasses, leaving a little room. Top off each drink with an ounce of the Rosé Bubbles for an added effervescence that will last for the whole cocktail. Just make sure to drink it before it melts!
 
Fruity Frozé
We hope you and your loved ones enjoy this cocktail as much as we do. From everyone here at the Union family, we hope you are staying cool on these hot days and still staying safe when entertaining. 
 
Please remember to social distance when being social and keep those #pinkiesdown. Happy Summer!
 
 
*********
 
Photography, Text, and Cocktail by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)

Safety and Self Expression: Making your very own Mask

 Joanna
Here at Union the safety and security of our employees is our utmost concern. Although our production facility is operating more or less uninterrupted to make sure everyone out there has access to our wines, there are real and dedicated people showing up and working every day making that happen. We have to make sure these fine and friendly folks overseeing the process stay safe and remain healthy.
 
As COVID safety becomes an excepted part of our daily lives, people have begun to use the necessity of wearing a mask as a personal expression of their style and interests. We support that 100%, which is why when our Enologist (don’t worry, an explanation will be provided forthwith) came to us and said she was making stylish and comfortable homemade masks, we asked if she wouldn’t mind sewing a few for her fellow employees who might need a little joie de vivre in their facial covering.  
 
She was more than happy to contribute.
 
Joanna
Please meet our Enologist (and mask maker,) Joanna Engel. For the uninitiated, an enologist is basically a wine scientist. Most of her days are spent testing the acidity, sulfur, sugar levels, and overall taste of each wine throughout the fermentation process. Joanna first worked with Union as an intern back in 2018 but has traveled the world from California to New Zealand working wine harvests. Since then, she has happily settled in Oregon and taken up a full-time position at Union, not only as the Enologist but as their Safety Supervisor as well, which in these trying times really requires some forethought and strategy. Currently, Joanna is working on how to safely execute Union’s grape harvest, which is coming up very soon.
 
On top of all this responsibility, she somehow found the time to sew about 40 new masks for her fellow employees!
 
So, without further ado, let’s talk about… 
 
Mask Pattern
 You can find the full pattern for free HERE. Joanna is a self-taught seamstress and she found this pattern when searching around the internet. The reason she liked it was because unlike the cloth masks that cover your entire lower face, these are sculpted to just cover the necessary parts, while still providing full protection. Joanna advises that if you get to a point in the pattern that is causing confusion, just look it up on YouTube, where there are hundreds of helpful videos.
 
The other great aspect of this pattern is an inside pocket to add an extra filter if you feel you need it. Just google ‘Carbon Mask Filter’ to find many options. Once you have sewn the mask, Joanna recommends a simple standard elastic, secured with crimping beads. She leaves the elastic a little long and the beads uncrimped, allowing the wearer to custom fit the length of the elastic to their face and then crimp the beads themselves.
 
Crimp the beads
Now that you’ve got the skinny on how you can do this yourself, let’s take a quick look at the Union packaging facility, and all of these beautiful masks not only in use but modeled expertly by our staff.
 
First up, Alexandra Scharpnick. Her official title is Customer Experience and Hospitality Specialist. Since there hasn’t been as much socializing lately, Alexandra has stepped up to the role of overseeing shipping. She’s also the unofficial “mama bear” of the packaging facility, making sure everyone is safe and has snacks to keep up their energy.
 
Alexandra
Alexandra
Next up is Meredith McGough, head Production Winemaker. Meredith oversees the packaging facility and keeps all the many moving parts running smoothly.
 
Meredith
Meredith
Chris Miller oversees all the maintenance at the packaging facility. He wears many hats, and now he’s got a double scoop mask to match.
 
Chris
Chris
And finally, we have our Warehouse Support Specialist, Jenna Morris. A more recent hire, Jenna has quickly ingratiated herself as a full-fledged member of the Union family.
 
Jenna
Jenna
So in conclusion, we just want to say thanks again to Joanna:  Enologist, Safety Specialist, and mask-maker extraordinaire. She truly represents the heart and soul of the Union Family…and we’re definitely not kitten around.
 
Joanna
Photography and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
 
Masks by Joanna Engel.  @jo_will_run_for_wine