Grits & Gris, pirate banter, and things that were saved from "lost & found..."

June 22nd, 2014, 11pm

I always enjoy meeting up with Matthew Rorick, the poetic brainchild behind Forlorn Hope. He and Hardy of Dirty&Rowdy came to PDX where I caught up to them at Storyteller Wines, run by the brilliant wine writer Michael Alberty.

Last time we met was in New Orleans, when I finally and thoroughly convinced Rorick that the gorgeous Verdelho he makes as “Que Saudade” also is the exact same grape as grows on the slopes of the Sil River deep in Galicia, where it goes by the name of Godello. Whether in Portugal or Galicia, or in a wayward vineyard Rorick discovered in Cali, or on the island of Madeira, this grape under whichever alias gives fat, luscious flavors that age like a wise queen in fables we wish were true today. A wine of profundity is invariably the result of using Godello/Verdelho.

This trip we talked about the crazy journey this Trousseau Gris took. Already an oddball grape little known, but feigning to be from the mineral driven lineage of Riesling, although really it’s an orphan in the wine world, wandering like a ghost or like Diogenes for the truth this grape seeks to show.

While there are a few, a very few California winemakers who feature Trousseau Gris (and for the life of me, I can only recall having one from Wind Gap, but this isn’t the point to compare tastes), of note about this “Rare Creature” in the “crazy cat lady” lost & found litter of wines that are made by Forlorn Hope, this one tells a poignant tale. The other Cali wineries who feature Trousseau Gris all use the same clone rootstock, but Matthew Rorick knew of an overgrown, abandoned vineyard that had old vine immigrant Trousseau Gris hangin’ on. So Rorick took cuttings of these vines, and took them over to a planter he works with frequently in Suisun County, just down the road apiece from Napa Valley. His Trousseau Gris saved the genetic material of those old vines from the trashcan, as that abandoned vineyard has been plowed under & lost to the dust particles of History.

In honor of the survivor experience of Rorick’s old vine Trousseau Gris, it only seems proper that he gave it the name “Trou Grit.” He extended the skin contact about a week, if I recall, and this little heft of maceration adds a golden cloud of lingering energy to the wine that stays on the back end of the palate, blooming like a long summer day leaving a longer finish than the clean, grassy, mineral flavor of “Trou Grit” begins with. It’s a versatile wine, and it could be a great second bottle to reach for during an epic, lazy brunch, as that phat lingering finish works well with hollandaise, bacon, French toast, summer fruits, and a wine as interesting as the conversation among good friends.

I must say that for me, as a lifetime Southerner up here in Oregon, this “Trou Grit” has so far been the best grits I’ve had so far. I’ve begun to joke that the Bob’s Red Mill “yellow grits” sold up here (the business in nearby in the PDX suburb of Oregon City, which I’ve glimpsed once) and made into a balefully healthy thick substance are truly worthy of the nickname “The Porridge of Northern Aggression” because they ain’t grits by any stretch of the imagination. I think the hiking, yoga, healthy eating Portland cooks thus far whose grits I’ve had have a sad aversion to butter in theirs, and they also make ‘em so thick that even polenta would say “that ain’t me, nah nah nah, that ain’t me you’re looking for, babe” and duck for cover. But somewhere, besides my own, maybe there are grits good as groceries, not as spackle, and I simply haven’t found them…yet. Pray that’s so…

It’s hard being so far from home when faced with “The Porridge of Northern Aggression” or missing soft-shell crabs, but there are compensations.

Hanging out with very talented winemakers in Oregon is a marvelous compensation #1. Two is my silly, studious nieces who urged me to look up ladybugs today, finding that these lovely beetles who are the poster children for organic farming come in 5,000 species and sometimes come with orange shells and black tiger stripes up in the Pacific NW. I can’t hardly wait to see these ladybugs IRL in a local vineyard someday. #3 is knowing that my behind-the-scenes knowledge is having an impact with vignerons, and that once I can get my knives flashing and a kitchen rolling, that the highly educated palates of PDX are in for a funky showtime.

In the meantime, here’s an elusive wine to hunt down, if not this year, then fo’ sho’ be on the lookout for “Trou Grit” in future vintages now that Rorick has a stash of old vines giving you some excellent reasons plan how to make killer grits for that awesome brunch when you can reach for a bottle of Forlorn Hope wines happily.

Adrian, Anne Marie and Shu said thanks.

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Chris DeBarr

Chef who believes in eating the world to save it. Wine & language & sharp knives are the tools of my métier. At heart, I'm a warm & fuzzy Dadaist.

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