The Pregnant Palate: Birthday Dinner

When you’re pregnant on your birthday, you have to focus on a dinner with super delicious food rather than super delicious wine. I suppose you could do super delicious wine, but for me there would be lots of jealousy involved so I request focusing on food. That said, my birthday dinner at small, foodie place in Northeast Portland had both amazing food and some super interesting and yummy wines.

DOC is the restaurant, an Italian place that has about 7 tables and an open kitchen. The menu is small but diverse and everything looked amazing. We opted for the tasting menu – 5 courses, they pick the dishes and each of you get something different so you can share. We were really able to taste a multitude of things.

My husband also opted for the wine pairing for the menu, which is a great way to taste some new things when he does not want to try and drink a bottle on his own. Plus I got to have little sips of most of them. Here are some very cool discoveries we made:

Provenza Spumante Brut “Sebastian” Metodo Charmat – To this day the word “spumante” on a label makes me step back a bit as I am reminded of the cheap Spumante d’Asti given to me in college. But the term “spumante” refers to the amount and size of the bubbles in wine, not to the quality of the wine itself. This particular wine hails from Lombardy and is made in the charmat or tank method, which differs from the traditional Champagne method because the bubbles are obtained by the addition of carbon dioxide into a pressurized tank rather than allowing a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It’s much less expensive than the traditional method, and the character of the wine is more fruit-driven, producing less secondary yeast characteristics. But the style can be delicious, as this wine proves. The palate was full of bright apple, crisp acidity and and a very balanced feel. Good match with oysters (I was told).

The second wine that stood out was a Kerner from Alto Adige – don’t have the producer’s name as the server, who was fantastic, described and poured the wine but we had little time to study the label. Kerner is an interesting grape, found in Germany, Austria and northern Italy. It is a crossing between Riesling and Trollinger, a slightly obscure red variety known to the region. Like Riesling, the wine was aromatic, with stone fruit flavors, crisp acidity and a touch of floral. I loved the texture of this wine as it was more medium-bodied and really lingering. Big fan – want to find more. it was also great with our beet salad and brussel sprouts (those dishes sound boring, but they were phenomenal the way DOC prepared them).

Next up was Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Rusticum, a wine made with white grapes, but fermented in the style of red – using longer skin contact and some oxidation. So rather than being white, it’s a more gold-almost-orange color. The nose is nutty, but with some honey, orange peel and white flowers. The palate has more fruit, though it still retains that nutty characteristic. It’s a very different sort of wine, almost like Sherry, but still retaining white wine characteristics. With the right food (for us, white truffle risotto and a chanterelle mushroom and pasta dish) this wine works. It’s not necessarily my normal style, though. But I love the story – you may have heard of monks making wine, right? Well this wine is made at a convent by nuns. The vineyard is located just north of Rome and the grapes are organically grown.

For our meat course we enjoyed a Nero d’Avola, which to be honest, we never got the name and was not our favorite. Granted, my palate is not in tune to red wines and my husband, as he stated, is still trying to figure out if he likes Nero d’Avola.

So I’ll move onto the last wine, a Moscato d’Asti. I missed the producer, but there are few Moscato d’Astis that I do not like, particularly now – I call it the pregnancy wine as many bottles have only 5% alcohol so a few sips is enjoyable and affects you very little, particularly at the end of the meal. What I particularly liked about this wine was the preparation. Tableside, our server first peeled a piece of grapefruit rind into our glass. He then added elderflower syrup, followed by the Moscato d’Asti. Such a great cocktail! He even made me one with sparkling water over the d’Asti. A great dessert on its own as well.

So that was the birthday dinner for the pregnant wino. In 9 weeks (probably a bit more) I’ll be back to tasting and drinking and will certainly seek out some more gems like these!

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