Friday, May 10, 2019

Biodynamic Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Noir from Johan Vineyards Plus Surf ‘n’ Turf Dinner #WinePW

by Pinny Tam
Pinot Noir is near and dear to my heart as it was my first love in wines around seven years ago. Also, in the same year, I went to my first Wine Blogger Conference 2012 which was hosted in Portland, Oregon and showcased mostly Willamette Valley producers and wines. Without knowing anyone in the WBC#2012, all the Pinots poured in the conference kept me company for a day or two and made me friendly enough to make new friends for the rest of the trip. During that trip, I heard about biodynamic and organic farming, but didn’t pay too much attention as my focus was on the appreciation of the Pinots and mingling. Jade Helm of Tasting Pour recently sent out a #WinePW blog invite on biodynamic wines of Willamette Valley, which not only brought back some fond memory of the fantastic Pinots I tasted in Willamette Valley, but also opens a bigger-picture discussion - biodynamics and sustainability that wine lovers should really pay attention. 
Photo Credit:

Nevertheless, biodynamic farming is more than a new process of doing the old-school farming. It’s inherently a philosophy that vineyards need to buy in spiritually and actionably in order to be successful in it. Let’s see how Johan Vineyards does biodynamic farming in Wilamette Valley – their own way.

Johan Vineyards resides on 85 acres of gently sloping estate vineyards in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Adjacent to the Van Duzer corridor, their vineyards are influenced by the daily temperature changes, contrasted between afternoon ocean breezes and cool evening temperatures - favorable to ripen the Burgundian grape varieties. The combined effects of the marine influence as well as the marine sedimentary soils craft the unique terroir of Johan Vineyards. 
Photo Credit: Johan Vineyards
While the terroir is “nature”, the vineyard management practices are “nurture” – to optimize the potential of the grapes. Johan's vineyard management is well-structured and methodical (click the Block number and "Back to the Map" to learn about what varieties are grown in the Block), breaking down into multiple blocks that feature 13 different varieties, with 10 clones of Pinot Noir and seven of Chardonnay, multiple rootstocks, across varying aspects and soil types. Overlaying the well-designed blocks are the biodynamic farming methods and accents of permaculture design that are implemented with discipline and an eye for sustainability, leading to Johan’s attainment of Demeter Certified biodynamic® and Stellar Certified Organic. Their biodynamic farming focuses on the entire farm as one living organism, which mimics the natural microbiological ecology of the soil. Healthy soil that is also cultivated through the assimilation of its own natural nutrients over time becomes the healthy base for more disease-resistant vines to grow. In short, the winning formula is: (good terroir + good farming practice) x (healthy soil + healthy vines + healthy grapes) + skillful but no overmanipulative winemaking techniques = good wines!

I’m delighted to receive the 2016 Grüner Veltliner and 2015 Pinot Noir "Estate" as samples from Johan Vineyards via @wvwine. These wines are very different from the Austrian Grüner Veltliner and California Pinot Noir I recently tasted. In my Instagram post, I have used five words to describe each of these wines. 
Grüner: rich, exotic, textured, earthy, medium-finish
Pinot: refined oak, medium-bodied, nuanced, herbaceous, long-finish

Johan Vineyards from Willamette Valley Oregon (US) practice Demeter Biodynamic, contributing to the impressive 47% of the Oregon vineyards that deploy BioD. Johan’s wines reflect their terroir and the focus they put into sustainable farming. Healthy soil yields healthy vines, bolstering a continuous cycle of quality grape harvests. 2016 Grüner Veltliner: rich, exotic, textured, earthy, medium finish 2015 Pinot Noir “Estate”: refined oak, medium-bodied, nuanced, herbaceous, long finish 🥢Recommended pairings: 🦐🦑seafood medley; 🐔curry ground chicken in phyllo dough puff; 🐷Chinese BBQ baby back ribs • • #chinesefoodandwinepairings #chinesefoodandwinepairing #johanvineyards #oreganwines #willamettevalleyvineyards #willamettevalley #wine #winelover #winelovers🍷 #winelover🍷 #biodynamicwine #stellarorganicwinery #biodynamicwines #biodynamicfarming #grünerveltliner #pinotnoir #pouringwine

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This 2016 Grüner Veltliner is rich and has nice chews to it and its acidity lingers and replays after each sip. It also has an unusually high ABV of 13.60% which is not typically seen in Grüner (for example, typically at 11.5% in Austrian Grüner). The grapes came entirely from their own estate and were crushed and destemmed before pressing. The richness of the wine is probably attributed to the knowledge in styling the wine with different type of oaks - barrel fermented with native yeasts in two 500-liter French oak puncheons and one 225-liter barrique, and aged sur lie for 10 months.

While the Grüner has a big and great personality, the 2015 Pinot Noir “Estate” is reminiscent of a well-grounded person who has a strong track record of delivering good work and won’t disappoint! The goal behind the estate bottling is to make a wine that is representative of the entire farm. The grapes selection process is as rigorous as a college admission process that emphasizes on diversity, representation in all aspects, but also quality. Johan picked small parcels of grapes from every combination of rootstock/scion, slope, soil profile, and vine age throughout the property. They keep all lots separate through vinification and aging to evaluate and learn how each parcel performs over the different vintages, and then bring them together for a harmonious blend in the bottle. This Pinot is the most representative of the growing year and is the most accurate representation of Johan’s true terroir. For the 2015 Pinot Noir, it was made from all ten clones of Pinot Noir grown in their estate vineyards. The grapes were fermented using native yeasts. The wine was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% of which were new.

While the wines may not complete me, they certainly inspire me to cook dishes that I usually don’t do at home. In light of the rich Grüner and the delicacy of the Pinot, I've devised three dishes, Surf ‘n’ Turf style, that can pair well with each of the wines and embrace its characters.
The “Bird Nest’ is a Cantonese banquet dish. It is an intimidating dish to make specifically the “nest” part. I used a food processor to julienne a taro (a root vegetable that resembles the taste of potato but it’s starchier). I laid the julienned taro to cover a larger strainer and pressed it with another one down to the hot oil for a deep-fry. Well, the first trial was not a success as the shredded taro was stuck to the strainer and didn’t come out as a nest. It certain tasted good as taro fries though. I then used a smaller strainer and finally it came out like a smaller nest for baby birds. Atop the nest, I sautéed scallop, shrimp and latticed squid with vegetables like snap peas, carrots, bamboo shoots, baby corn and straw mushrooms. The “Bird Nest” works well with both wines as the Grüner complements the seafood while the Pinot cuts out the grease of the fried taro.

The Curry Ground Turkey and Onion in Phyllo Dough Puff is a relatively simple dish. It doesn’t take too long to make but gets the best presentation on the plate. The Grüner enhances the exotic curry flavor of the turkey fillings, while the Pinot tames the buttery richness of the phyllo dough. See how it is made: 

Curry Ground Turkey and Onion in Phyllo Dough 
  • 10 sheets of Phyllo dough 
  • Panko bread crumb
  • ½ pound ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon of Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1 egg
  • Melted butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Pan fry the ground turkey and julienned onion with curry powder, Hoisin sauce and salt. Sprinkle the chopped parsley at the very end and dashes of lemon juice.
  • Cool the cooked turkey down completely before applying it into the phyllo dough.
  • Turn the oven on to 350 degree. Or follow the instructions on the package.
  • Roll out the phyllo dough carefully and lay two sheets of the dough on a clean surface. Apply melted butter on the dough - 2 sheets at a time, lightly sprinkle Panko bread crumb evenly onto the dough, and repeat four more times. Using 8 to 10 sheets in total is about right.
  • Arrange the ground chicken onto the long side of the retangular dough and fold it carefully until it meets the other end.
  • Egg-wash the dough and put it in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
  • Cut stuffed phyllo dough in servable size and enjoy.

The last dish that I prepared for the wines is Chinese baby back ribs. I marinated the ribs in soya sauce, rice vinegar and Hoisin sauce and roasted the ribs at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I reduced the marinating sauce in a sauce pan for basting purpose and to a dipping sauce. The baby back ribs are fall-off-the-bone and finger-licking good, which also pairs really well with the Grüner. The sweet Hoisin taste mingles with the exotic smell of the wine and the acidity of the white makes the ribs less heavy. The Pinot has enough complexity, which interacts amazingly with the soya sauce and rice vinegar baked into the mild BBQ ribs.

A memorable pairing indeed…a surf ‘n’ turf dinner and two different wines that are very different and yet converge to complement the dishes. Thanks to Johan Vineyards and thanks to Willamette Valley!

Disclosure: The wines in this post are samples. All opinions are my own.

Check out our fellow bloggers' posts on their biodynamic Willamette Valley wines and food pairings!


  1. What wonderful pairings. I was very pleased with Johan vineyards when I showcased them last month.

  2. OMG that little Bird's Nest thingy? That looks so elegant and divine. These recipes rock. And I'm glad you could scratch your WV PN itch plus try a grape most don't associate with Oregon.

  3. Thanks so much for coordinating the wine - without it nothing would happen. The last time I had the Bird Nest was in a wedding banquet. The Grüner is very amazing in its own right!

  4. I am sure that you have now made wonderful friends throught the WBC. The people in the wine world are so amazing, aren't they?! The “Bird Nest’ looks amazing!

    1. Thanks. Wine people are awesome. Indeed...I made a few really good friends in WBC.

  5. WOW! Those dishes both are stunners! Really amazing. And it sounds like they both made for delicious pairings.

    1. Thank you Nicole. I really went over-board (cooking) this time. But I haven't tasted Willamette Valley wines for a while so got so excited and motivated!

  6. What a line-up! Each one of your dishes looks like it came from a restaurant and sounds like a really nice partner with the wines. Your description of the Gruner-Veltliner has me wanting to taste it for myself. Yum!

    1. Thank you. I'm not improvising at all about this Gruner-Veltliner. It's rich, exotic and a lot of texture. I don't usually like whites but this one is a game-changer to me.

  7. Your bird's nest is beautiful, and I can't believe you even made your own taro basket! I like the pairing with Gruner because I feel like that wine is forgotten about. I am going to try it with seafood next time!

    1. Thank you. The taro basket is not easy. I totally agree the Gruner has been forgotten, but has a comeback brought by the really active Austrian Wines (board). However, their Gruners are just so different!

  8. The bird's nest is stunning! Love the pairing idea too!

    1. Thank you Payal. It was a trial and error and eventually works out.

  9. The Bird Nest with seafood and vegetables paired with the Grüner-Veltliner looks amazing! I have had Austrian Grüner-Veltliners but have yet to try an Oregon one - time to track down the Johan GV. Great post!

  10. Thanks. This is my first Oregon Grüner Veltliner too - a really tasty one!

  11. Love these pairings Pinny! Haven't had an OR Gruner, but I've had plenty of Oregon Pinot since I was there last weekend LOL. Thanks for sharing the Johan wines and pairings!

    1. Thank you Martin. This is my first OR Gruner and I'm loving it. Enjoy the Pinots and your stay in OR!

  12. What FUN pairings, Pinny! I will definitely keep an eye out for the Johan wines. I think Wendy focused on them recently, too. Cheers.

    1. Highly recommended! The Estate Pinot is great but the Gruner is really out of this world!

  13. What a beautiful display and like the balance of the surf n turf with both wines.