Marco Chamber hosts Glory of the Grape

Fundraiser features wines of the Pacific Northwest

Carole Mosbaugh samples a Malbec. Islanders gathered Sunday evening at CJ's on the Bay for 'Glory of the Grape,' a wine tasting and fundraiser for the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Carole Mosbaugh samples a Malbec. Islanders gathered Sunday evening at CJ's on the Bay for "Glory of the Grape," a wine tasting and fundraiser for the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— Can you say “Willamette?” The Willamette Valley was the source for wines featured at the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual “Glory of the Grape” wine tasting, held Sunday evening at CJ’s on the Bay. For those who fumbled the pronunciation, a premier wine producing area in the interior of Oregon, Chef Laura Owen of CJ’s offered a handy pronunciation guide:

“It’s Willamette, dammit,” she rhymed, putting the accent on the second syllable where it belonged. While saying the name of the valley proved challenging, drinking the fruits of its vineyards was no problem at all for the scores of amateur wine tasters who showed up for the event.

Twelve wines, all from Oregon or neighboring Washington state, were featured, with more than half having “pinot” at the front of their names, along with three “proprietor’s bonus selections.” There were pinot noirs, pinot gris (or grigio, same grape and same wine), and one pinot blanc, from the Willa Kenzie Estate, a delightful cool wine for summer.

Each wine station featured a food selection, chosen by Chef Laura and her team to complement the beverages.

“The hardest thing in this is picking the wines. They brought us these great wines,” she said, speaking of the wine purveyors who supplied the wines and the sommeliers to pour and explain them. “I knew I had to bring the menu up to the quality of the wines we were serving. I put a lot of effort into matching the food and the wines.”

Apart from anything else, said Owen, when planning for such a large group, people’s tastes are all over the map. “With a hundred people or more attending, you have to have variety, and something for everybody.”

At station one, the pinot blanc and two pinot gris wines were paired with baked shrimp in phyllo, crab croquettes, and “chef’s ultimate deviled eggs,” which packed a little kick. Station four, with a malbec, a cabernet sauvignon, and a Bordeaux blend, offered steak skewers, pork tips with cranberry glaze, and Gorgonzola and date tart. Stations two and three were pretty tasty, as well.

While the focus was on the pleasures of the table, a minimal amount of business, in the form of an auction of donated packages, was conducted by Chamber Executive Director Sandi Reidemann, assisted by Chris Quinton with his best auctioneer jargon. Items including a two-night stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach resort in Fort Lauderdale, which came complete with beach ball and flip flops, a “staycation” at the Marco Hilton, and the “Golden Ticket,” giving admission to a year’s worth of chamber events were sold to the highest bidder — which means the person who offered the most money, and does not necessarily reflect the number of wines they sampled.

If reading about the undeniable “glory of the grape,” and pairing the appropriate foods with a given wine, inspire you to rush out to CJ’s on the Bay, give it a day. The restaurant closed after Sunday evening for its annual “spring cleaning,” and will reopen Wednesday afternoon in time for happy hour.

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