For a wine-enthusiast, it was a lucky break to find our first location was Oregon USA.
Oregon's food culture is simple: sustainable, local, seasonal, with a dash of Pacific Northwest game, and Asian fusion influences.
As for the wine, the area is gaining a great reputation for quality Pinot Noir. And while the wine's are not exactly priced for midweek, nor available in a giant supermarket near you, it is getting easier to get hold of them.
With an "Oregon-inspired" backdrop of music by Pink Martini, Elliot Smith, the Decemberists and Josh Garrells, we started with a little discussion of what we had found out about the area from our online studies, and were surprised to find that recreational cannabis use has been legalised. We decided not to try to bring this element of Oregon life into our living room. Instead, we started with a Pinot Gris, sourced at £13 from Marks and Spencer.
Boasting "Willamette Valley Grown" on the label, the grapes must have been vinified elsewhere. Willamette is one of several AVA (American Viticultural Areas - a similar regulatory system to Europe's protected designations of origin, like DOC), in Oregon. You might also look for Umpqua Valley, Walla Walla (which sounded more Australian to me), Rogue Valley or Columbia Gorge. There are several others, but, Willamette is the one I've seen most of in the UK.
Powerful enough to stand up to the robust flavours of the dish, the wine was a success. I will certainly be buying it again.
In a world where the decent independent wine merchants are disappearing from our high streets as fast at the butcher and the grocer, Marks and Spencer do seem to be offering something a little different from most of the supermarkets. With a decent selection from less commercial regions, they make finding something a bit different, just a little easier for those of us who don't have a fantastic wine shop nearby. Not everyone wants to stock up in bulk on-line.
At 14.2%, and with a very full body and richer, darker colour than many French or New World Pinots, I was hopeful that it would pass the test. I have noted that Mr Purple Teeth likes a full body (lucky for me, eh?!).
Produced organically, from a blend of lots vinified separately from 6 single vineyard sites, this has all the Oregon tick-boxes covered.
Like the Pinot Gris, this had a powerful nose, with the bouquet leaping from the glass at the first pour. Wild strawberry and an almost Rioja-like vanilla from American oak were very pronounced.
Following through, a great sensory mouth-feel from fine-grained, smooth tannins, juicy acidity and that full body, at last, a Pinot Noir that had the potential for Mr Purple Teeth to enjoy it. How would it pair with the dish I had planned?
So, continuing the fusion theme, I opted for a hint of sweetness with a Teriyaki sauce with sesame. While this is hardly "Fat Duck" level creativity, for someone who claims not to cook, I was quite impressed with this.
The sweetness was great with the iron-rich game and greens, and the umami from the soy played nicely with the wine. It was a gamble that paid off. The greens too, played their part, and didn't clash.
(I also enjoyed the wine with a strong cheddar the night after our "day-trip to Oregon").
While it won't replace Gevrey-Chambertin as Mr Purple Teeth's Pinot of choice, he enjoyed it. He also said that this was the best venison he'd had in a long time - including from several very good restaurants. While it may have been the Pinots talking, I'm taking that.
Oregon wine country is well established for oenotourism, and while not as well known as Napa or Sonoma, I hope that I'll one day be able to visit it for real. We finished off the evening by getting a further insight into Oregon culture with an episode of Portlandia (see below). £30 for wine might seem a lot for a Wednesday night, but compared with a couple of substandard glasses down the local, or a transatlantic flight, I think we got a bargain.
I'd love to hear about any Oregon wines you've tried, or indeed, if you've already visited. We are also open to suggestion for food, wine and culture for our next "virtual date" location. The latitude and longitude picked found us somewhere just off Argentina's Patagonia. Suggestions welcome...