With a "Wall of Wine," a pop-up country store selling local artisan goods, and a beautiful array of farm-to-table dishes from local chefs and purveyors, the Bounty of the County was a wine country event not to be missed. The county in question was Oregon’s beautiful Yamhill County, in the Dundee Hills made famous by their dazzling pinot noirs and top-shelf restaurants. Now in its third year, this event is a celebration not only of wine country but of the farmers and restaurants that flourish there.
Each of 22 chefs was paired with one (or two) of 18 farms, growing everything from mushrooms or olives to grass-fed beef and every imaginable shade of green. Tomatoes and padron peppers were at the height of their seasons — and thus on full display from a number of chefs — but the sheer diversity of the dishes cannot be understated. Succulent goat, duck rillettes, chicken mortadella, a salumeria’s worth of pork, and perfectly seared scallops all had their moment, as did a cornucopia of late-summer vegetables and fruits. With dishes by award-winning restaurants like the Painted Lady, JORY, and the Joel Palmer House, the results were amazing, and proved that local chefs cook local produce best.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Yamhill Enrichment Society, whose mission is defined by president Susan Sokol Blosser as supporting projects in "education and the arts; food and agriculture; and history and community." This year also marked the first in which the charitable event was "zero waste," an environmental effort coordinated by the Chemeketa Community College’s Yamhill Valley students.
Also new this year was the addition of afternoon VIP tours, which allowed participants to see first-hand how the evening’s food and wine was grown. Bergström Wines opened its biodynamic vineyard for tours led by the winemaker himself, and the Oregon Olive Mill offered a unique olive-tasting with the pioneering owners of the groves. Riedel also did a comparative glass tasting using four wines from Stoller Vineyards, proving that size (and shape) does matter. Next year, organizers are considering further expansion, with more VIP tours, classes, and hotel packages in the works.
Wine was, of course, a central part of the evening, as the dinner took place just steps away from the grapes of Sokol Blosser’s vineyard. Servers circulated with bottles from a dozen wineries, offering pours from Yamhill County’s bountiful vineyards, like Adelsheim, Archery Summit, Domaine Drouhin, Penner-Ash, and Soter. Oregon’s most famous varietal, pinot noir, even found its way into clever miniature cupcakes, along with its rarer cousin müller-thurgau. And although wine was the star of the show, the featured brewery in attendance, Heater Allen, offered up delicious glasses of local beer.
Mike Paine, of Gaining Ground Farm, has been participating in Bounty of the County since its first year, and also serves on the board of the Yamhill Enrichment Society. "These menus truly reflect a turn-on-a-dime seasonality that’s so special in our county," he said. The relationship between wineries, restaurants, and farms is symbiotic at its core. "The restaurants are because of the wine," Paine said. "And that allows the farms to thrive." Even now, new farms are sprouting up and taking part in community events like Bounty of the County. It’s the first year for Holly Nettles of Green Rising Farm, who moved to Oregon from Florida and has since immersed herself in half a dozen community movements.
"I see the same movement of farmers now that I and my cohort experienced in the '70s: young, urban professionals moving out of the city to return to the land," Sokol Blosser said. Other culinary pioneers confirmed how the wineries have served as a model for new industries. "The olive oil industry in Oregon is what wine was 50 years ago," said Oregon Olive Mill owner Ken Durant, who brought the first and only commercial olive mill to the state eight years ago. Yamhill County has certainly benefited from this resurgence of local, organic farming, which together with bountiful vineyards and a vibrant restaurant scene make the Dundee Hills more than just a wine destination: they make it a community.