This summer, Pronghorn is hosting wine dinners that highlight nearby vintners and others with strong connections to Central Oregon. These events take place in Chanterelle, Pronghorn's rustic fine dining restaurant that specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine. The setting is spectacular, featuring a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, unbeatable views of the Cascades and an extensive wine list. And for those who don't know, Pronghorn is now open to the public, thanks to its new 48-suite lodge that opened last summer.
As guests trickled in on a recent Friday night, the Pronghorn staff greeted members and welcomed first timers for a meal and wine from the Grieve Family Winery, located just outside of Napa. I was immediately impressed by the staff's level of service and attentiveness. Cocktail hour began with flutes of Domaine Carneros sparkling wine as foie gras mini tacos were passed around. While the wine was a perfect start - crisp, clean with the slightest bit of sweetness - the foie gras was too rich for this preparation. Thankfully, the sparkling wine, which was selected based on the winemaker's request, made up for the passed appetizer. The winemaker, David Grieve, introduced himself as we all took our seats for dinner.
For a guy who claims he doesn't know much about wine, Grieve makes one hell of a sauvignon blanc. And don't call it beginner's luck, either. True to form, the savvy businessman wet his palate before diving into the wine world. It wasn't long after Grieve and his wife Kathleen purchased a home on a vineyard that the couple began to explore the grapes in their own backyard. David Grieve didn't want to do sauvignon blanc by the book - he wanted to try something new. After purchasing the vineyard, the Grieves experimented with steam-bent stave barrels, less oak and lots of stainless steel. Dozens of barrels later, the Grieve family bottled their first white, a 2008 Grieve Sauvignon Blanc - earning 90 points from wine connoisseur and publisher Robert Parker, who, rumor has it, doesn't even like sauvignon blanc.
Baked clams with olives and roasted peppers were paired with the 2009 Grieve Sauvignon Blanc for our first course. The wine was pleasant and clean, less sweet than I expected based on the peach/honey nose. The next course and wine pairing arrived promptly. The expertly seared salmon with simply spiced couscous and dried fruit chutney made up my favorite course of the evening. The fish was flaky, moist and cooked just right. And then there was the Double Eagle merlot, an aptly named wine, given the expansive golf course outside the window. The bottle exudes individuality with a label cut from thick leather that adds a substantial, masculine quality. Inside the bottle is a big, chewy, juicy red - an ideal steak wine.
Instead of pork shoulder, I opted for the chicken prepared with avocado salsa over braised greens. Once again, the meat was cooked perfectly. The chicken breast was thinly sliced and simply prepared, allowing the salsa and greens to provide added flavor and texture. Paired with not one, but two Double Eagles - the 2007 and the 2009 vintages - Grieve asked guests to choose their favorite. The 2007 had a mineral, tannic quality, whereas I found the 2009 to be more full-bodied and complimentary to the meal.
The final course was a salad of arugula, goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette served with the award-winning 2008 Grieve Sauvignon Blanc. The salad was a tasty finish to the meal, although I would've liked to see a little more variety - possibly a piece of fruit or a nut to add flavor and texture to the greens. As for the wine, it was well balanced with a nice fruit nose, and a clean, citrus finish.
Pronghorn chose an excellent winemaker as part of their wine dinner series. Grieve and his wife are members of Pronghorn and making this visit allowed them to blend business and pleasure, sharing their passion for winemaking with members, guests and friends. The wine dinner opened my eyes to all that Pronghorn has to offer, only a few miles from Bend. Locals and visitors to the area can take advantage of Pronghorn's many dining and music events and amenities, including the award-winning Jack Nicklaus golf course and Chanterelle, the fine dining restaurant.