by the BELLA crew •
Bill Wayne, owner of the Abbey Ridge Vineyard and cyclist was in Baker City on a group ride and he stopped by last month and spent the afternoon of his ‘rest day’ with me. It was a wonderful visit and we caught up on all the high notes of the past 25 years (since I left the Red Hills of Dundee and moved east!)
Things took an even sweeter turn 2 weeks later. Allen Holstein stopped in on his way back home from parts further east. Allen, owner of Holstein Vineyard, father of Jackson (Purple Hands Winery) and a fellow chocolate lover walked into BELLA at the same time that Bill came through on his second group ride. They were relocated here for a deju vu tour after the fires in CA forced a change in the ride plan.
So, here were are… two of my favorite grape growers, friends from my sommelier and grape stomping days… here where I planted myself in eastern Oregon on my own wine adventure. These boys are literally pilgrims in the Oregon grape story (not the only ones, but definitely my favorites!) and it was really a thrill to have them both here at BELLA Main Street Market. It was also a reminder about how much friendships shape our lives. We became friends when we were just pups and the wine business was barely a business. We are all still doing what we love, but differently. I was inspired by them back then and even more so now!
by the BELLA crew •
Twenty-something years ago, I decided to become an independent retailer leaving behind the multi-starred, multi-storied corporate food and wine industry to do my own thing, my own way, with my own few pennies.
I learned a lot in the corporate world and hopefully, learned well enough to do nearly everything completely differently! Standing here at this point, 28 years after opening my first BELLA and 21 years after opening the better version in Baker City, I was thinking about what Independence Day means to me.
I find myself thinking about the opportunities I’ve had to ‘do it my way’. While there are small businesses everywhere around the world, I believe that being an American woman has been an major factor in being able to build my dream and make it grow.
It’s a hard time for rational, hard working dreamers these days.
All the dreamers.
I’m am embarrassed and horrified by the actions of an administration that seems oblivious to what America is. I am proud of the work done during the decades of my life to make life better for Americans. I was equally shocked to realize how much more is needed or more truthfully, how much ground we’ve lost.
I wonder what was gained in the conversation of our society from the time of Walter Cronkite & 3 networks to the current option to find ‘entertainment’ vacuums posing as news reports. Civility, respect and discussion have faltered to a completely skewed twist on what “Freedom of Speech” means.
Or what truth means.
For today, I just want to say how thankful I am for the freedom, education and opportunities I’ve had. I am proud of the jobs I’ve created, the two wonderful stores that are valued elements in two communities and for the opportunities I’ve had to serve my as well and the chance to mentor and support others.
My hope is that as we celebrate Independence Day this coming week, others will contemplate the importance of keeping America truly American, and that new leaders will find the courage, passion, and support to step up and help.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln.
by the BELLA crew •
by the BELLA crew •
by the BELLA crew •
by the BELLA crew •
We look forward to seeing you next weekend –
by the BELLA crew •
Tripoz Macon Charnay ‘Clos des Tournons 2015 $ 15.95 reviewed by Lynn Weems
My love for French whites is no secret. The last wine truck was especially difficult because we received so many new French wines! I chose the Tripoz as it was slightly ‘out of my box’ (not Sauvignon Blanc!) The nose was lovely with a hint of citrus and honeysuckle. I love how clean French Chardonnay can be, the Macon was bright on the palette and has a bit of minerality and kiss of fragrant meyer lemon.A simple Caesar salad for dinner was a great pairing.
Vincent Siret-Courtaud QUINCY 2013 $19.95 reviewed by Lynn Weems
Favorite region, favorite grape! This wine is crisp, refreshing and supremely bright. A lovely expression of Sauvignon Blanc from this region. Ripe, creamy melon notes with a little green grape-yness and a finishing note of minerals and wet stone. The wine is richer than you expect from Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to old vines and the climate of Quincy. I served the wine with the Cablanca Goat Gouda and the richness of the wine was fabulous with the creamy, well balanced flavors of the cheese but the best pairing was definitely with halibut steaks, rice pilaf and grilled asparagus.
Wild Hibiscus Flowers in syrup $ 11.95 reviewed by Cody Cook
Love these!! Beautiful in a ‘bubble bath’ of Prosecco, adds both color and floral sweetness at the end, making a nice treat. Great texture, a bit crunchy almost like a pickle. I also stuffed the blossoms with a mild creamy blue cheese – the salty sweet combination was a match made in heaven! Great to add to any cheese board.
Lilliano Chianti Classico 2013 $21.95 reviewed by Kasie Cook
The name says it all. It seems to be typical of the region but executed to perfection with vibrant cherry and floral notes.Was amazing with the Spaghetti I made with Sexton Ranches Ground Lamb. Almost wish I had a deck to enjoy this wine properly. Location, location, location!!!
Santa Guilietta Corsican Red $13.95 reviewed by Harrison Pierce
At first, I must admit with the wine being 60% Grenache and Syrah that I was expecting a bigger (bolder?) body to open across my palate. But the more I delved into the wine, as well as studied up on what I could find about Corsica, my appreciation grew by leaps and bounds. The sun-dried red berries and the faintest of warmth from the grenache with just the right amount of Corsican earth made for a combination that has determined that Corsica makes some great summer, hot weather sipping wines, no matter of how red, white or pink the wine happens to be.
Rose City Pepperheads Marionberry Pepper Jelly $ 7.96 reviewed by Brenna Miller
Where has pepper jelly been all my life? In my mind, I always equated sweet and spice with sweet and savory but after tasting this I realized they are not the same at all. It was as sweet and juicy as any jam but with a little extra fire added! I tried it with brie and crackers, ham and cream cheese, cheddar sandwich…. the possibilities are endless!
Pares Balta Cava $ 15.95 reviewed by Brenna Miller
What’s better than a good bubbly? Very little. I love the tasty, bread crusty kind of aroma that comes wafting out when you pop the cork! I don’t want to over use the word “rich” but, I mean, it’s just a good word to describe these things! I tasted pears when I tried it which was a pleasant, if subtle, change from the more common ‘notes of apple’. It had a surprisingly soft finish as well for how crisp it was.
My First Tagine (with Khobz bread, Nero d’Avola and Copper Belt Pinot noir) (details still to come from Cody Cook)
by the BELLA crew •
The day after the Total Eclipse August 22, 2017
I’m really tired today and my voice is raw but I wanted to share my thoughts about the weekend as I know there will be discussions about the planning and information shared in preparation for the event.
My primary concerns coming into the event were 1) to make sure the local community knew well in advance to prepare themselves for potential crowds at grocery stores and gas stations and to get eclipse glasses and 2) that as a region, we were well enough prepared so that visitors had a really memorable experience in Baker County and would consider visiting us again.
I am a planner and I never like to be caught short or to not meet our customer expectations. I brought in thousands of dollars of beer, wine and foods (like gourmet frozen vegan, GF, and steak burritos and ice cream bars and pre-sliced charcuterie packs) that we don’t normally carry because I wanted to be able to offer alternatives if grocery stores or restaurants ran short.
I ordered an extra 50 # of coffee beans, cases of milk and 1000 additional coffee cups and lids. We were prepared for whatever came our way.
I was nervous on Friday and Saturday. I was disappointed because we were so prepared and excited and overstaffed but we knew they were still coming. I figured that locals and travelers alike had heard all of the news around the northwest about potential crowds and traffic jams and had seen video of Redmond, OR and had decided to get their camps together or check into their lodging and stay put.
I was also thrilled that the weather forecast kept looking perfect and that the people who did come into the store wanted information about things to see and do. They ALL commented on the lack of traffic and the news they’d heard from Vancouver, BC, Colorado, San Diego, Portugal, Germany, France and Kentucky. Everyone who came into the store commented on what they’d been hearing for weeks, not from our area, or even Oregon but from their home towns and national news. I’ve never heard so many people make Y2K jokes – not even after Y2K. I think it must be the nature of the way ‘news’ works these days – everything gets hyped up to such an extreme measure. I am quite sure we all agree on some level about that.
My family and house guests joined the crowd at Lefty’s that night for the Channel Cats, pizza and good drinks. The place was packed, both floors, and I got to dance with my crew and my brother and Brian Vegter who came in after finishing up the We Like Em Short Film Festival. He was on Cloud 9 about the turnout of the event and is always a blast to dance with – that was just another bonus for my weekend.
Sunday, my panic got a little more real. I let one employee go home early but kept 3 on staff. We got busy-ish after 11 (which is normal for any given Sunday here) and then were slammed by 2 o’clock. Slammed in the best possible sense of the word. Tons of people. Families, travelers from everywhere (huge amounts from Seattle Sound and BC) and they shopped, tasted wine, talked about waiting in line to get treats at Sweet Wife Baking and asked for things to do and see. Sales were good, a better than average Sunday but not spectacular. We stayed open until 7pm with lots of very happy people in and out of the store.
I met with my staff and we talked about the fact that it was good that we’d been well prepared and that our visitors were so incredibly interesting and gracious. Our goal of having a weekend that would help fill the economic hole that the hard winter created was shattered but we were happy doing what we do well and really enjoying it.
Our visitors commented about how incredibly friendly and welcoming everything had been as they’d arrived. It was awesome. At 6 pm, a crazily famous winemaker called from Seattle and asked about the weather. I invited him to join my already busting at the seams house and he arrived shortly after midnight. It was a lovely surprise, and following a stressful couple of days, I thought his visit would be a grand distraction and that it would ease the stress of the staff (after all, he really is famous and they all love his wines).
Monday- wow. We opened 2 hours early at 6 am and the first customer, from Arizona, snuck out of his motel to come down and purchase a set of cookware for his anniversary gift. They’d been in the day before and the pans had caught her eye. We wrapped it up and loaded the gigantic box into his car and wished him a happy anniversary. We met so many people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and one couple on their honeymoon. It was a fabulously busy morning. One family rushed in at 9:30 (as we were preparing to close until 11) looking for something vegan for breakfast…. thank goodness I brought in those vegan burritos!
The winemaker, my staff and I went up on the roof. We raised glasses of champagne and watched in amazement. Everyone will remember this day. It was phenomenal on so many levels and so much more so than any of us had anticipated. I still get goosebumps. I expect that will last for a while.
We reopened the store, got the winemaker on the road to Walla Walla and spent the rest of the day reveling in the joy every person who came into the store shared with us. An entire day where people were smiling. Not sure when that might happen again. It lasted all day long, until 7 pm when we finally thanked the last customer and locked up the store.
At one point I turned around and saw a woman who was a good friend and neighbor of mine in Portland in the mid-80’s. She owns a restaurant and as we are both self employed, we usually only see each other at rare trade events. She’d been in Halfway for the eclipse and hit a pothole outside of Richland and broke the ball joint in her car. Not a good event ever, but she was thrilled to find a tow truck to bring her into Baker City as well as a great mechanic (shout out to Dusty and Precision Import!) who assured her he could get the part Tuesday morning and have her back on the road in 24 hours. As it was Monday, she was also able to get a room at the Knights Inn!
She joined my family (from Seattle) for dinner at El Erradero (which was busier than I have ever seen it) and we all recounted our eclipse stories. Tuesday morning, she came in for coffee and though we still had good traffic in the store, the staff was handling it and my friend and I headed to The Lone Pine. The wait for tables and food was longer than I’ve ever seen there but the staff was smiling and gracious and the food was, as always, delicious and impressive. My restaurateur friend kept glancing around and joked that it’s hard to be in such a busy place and not jump up and help. I was so impressed at the way they handled the waiting crowd and at the calm ‘Baker City way’ they maintained with each table.
Looking back while still this close, I can say that I’m glad I over prepared. I’m even happier that the people who came to Baker County seemed to have a truly magical time here. Not only with a once in a lifetime eclipse that was blessed with perfect weather but that the amenities and businesses and attractions of our county enchanted them. Many will visit us again. That in itself seems like the greatest success.
It is difficult to plan for something that will only happen once. My comment to people on Monday afternoon was that the Total Eclipse was my new favorite Baker event and that I wanted to do it again. The people were so interesting that chose to come to our county. As busy as I was with work, I was able to participate in some of the extra entertainment scheduled for the weekend and visit 3 restaurants. My house guests visited even more as I was NOT the hostess that I like to be and didn’t cook a thing the entire weekend! Yes, I was a bit disappointed that BELLA didn’t do Christmas season numbers in August but we made new friends, some of them journalists (it will always thrill me when I meet a journalist who is amazed and loving everything about Baker County!) and I know we’ll see many of them here again.
I’m proud that as a community we were prepared for potential issues and that no gigantic problems arose and no tragedy rocked our towns. There were a few incidents, but with the number of travelers on the roads we can all feel very fortunate about the outcome. I will always remember this as one of the happiest days I have ever seen in Baker City.
I hope you will as well.