Astronomical Biodynamic Brooks: 3 Wines from the 2017 Total Eclipse

camping under the moonlight near Lake Tahoe 

As we gaze at the moon, whether it is waxing or waning, full or new, descending over the ocean, ascending over a hillside, or passing through the trees, the moon makes memories with us. But one of the most spectacular events in the sky occurs during the daytime when the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking it, and the sun’s atmosphere can be seen should you be so lucky to find yourself in the right place at the right time. Once considered fearsome, now these events are understood, celebrated, and commemorated.

Brooks Winery is located just south of McMinnville and north of Salem

Where were you on August 21 2017, when a total eclipse enveloped a swath of northern Oregon in a rare astral event that spanned a narrow 70 mile wide strip across the United States?

The total eclipse drew people from all over the world to these regions to experience totality– those brief moments when the sun is is blocked by the moon and the sun’s corona shines like a halo.

For astronomy buffs, few events eclipse a solar eclipse (pun intended!) I have friends who are eclipse chasers, friends who have traveled halfway around the world to see one or more. They say there is nothing like it.

One of those people fascinated by the stars? Jimi Brooks, founder of Brooks Winery in Oregon.

He loved the constellations and the mythological stories behind them, naming wines after them like Rastaban, the Dragon’s Eye (read more here about Rastaban the legend as well as a vertical of the wines!).

Eclipse Pinot Noir

Jimi had an ouroboros tattoo, and the ouroboros is featured on winery materials including labels. As I wrote here, “the Ouroboros depicts a snake or dragon (as in the case of Brooks) which in the act of swallowing its own tail symbolizes wholeness, infinity, the completion of a cycle, and the transmigration of the soul. According to Jung, the Ouroboros dramatizes the integration and assimilation of the opposite, of the shadow.” 

If you think about it, an eclipse does a similar act: the shadow of the earth eats the sun. Many cultures around the world use a similar metaphor, for example the Chinese saw a dragon eating the sun. During an eclipse, the most worshipped of all deities in the world the elephant headed god Lord Ganesh walks the earth, doing what he does best, bringing blessings by helping us to remove obstacles, bringing what’s blocked into the light. (He’s also the Patron Saint of Artists and writers… he broke off his tusk to write Upanishads — how’s that for dealing with writer’s block?)

 

You may already know the story of passionate and charismatic Jimi Brooks who started this winery in 1998 with a sincere commitment to sustainability, and a leadership in that arena that continues to this day as a B Corp producing Demeter certified biodynamic wines. Biodynamic wines also embrace the sun, the moon, the stars and being a part of the cycle of life.

And you may know what happened in 2004, on the eve of harvest: Jimi died unexpectedly of an aortic aneurism and a dozen Oregon legends stepped forward to make sure the grapes he had contracted for were picked, processed, and made into wine (as told in the 2014 award-winning documentary American Wine Story). Jimi’s eight year old son Pascal became the youngest winery owner around, and his sister Janie Heuck took on management which she continues to do today. The winery is still owned by Pascal who, following his graduation from UC Santa Cruz (my alma mater!), moved to France. (Read Pascal’s lovely award winning essay here about Brook’s Winery’s deep rooted commitment to sustainability.)

However, you may not know that Brooks held a very special event during the eclipse where some wine club members “glamped” overnight on site, and more joined them to experience the eclipse that day. 

You also may not know they chose very special blocks to make a pair of wines, one riesling and one Pinot Noir, called “Totality.” 

Drink a wine that celebrates totality! Or go for the Totality Twins for $120!

Simple summer menu to showcase Brooks wines from 2017

SIMPLE SUMMER HARVEST MENU

I wanted round foods to reflect the round moon and the round sun, hence the tart with the rounds of tomato and eggplant. Oysters too are round as are the figs and hazelnuts in the salad. And the sausage puffs too remind me of the sun and its golden atmosphere!

  • Raw Oysters
  • Brie, Pate, La Brea Bread Take and Bake Rolls, Oregon Toasted Hazelnuts 
  • Proscuitto wrapped grilled figs on spring greens with goat cheese, prosciutto, hazel nuts and a date cayenne balsamic reduction glaze drizzled over it  (you don’t need more of a recipe!)   
  • Tomato and Eggplant Herbed Brie Tart (recipe below)
  • Sausage Puff Pastry Rolls 

BROOKS BIODYNAMIC WINES 

  • 2017 Brooks Estate “Eclipse” Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR
  • 2017 Brooks Estate “Eclipse” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR
  • 2017 Brooks Estate “Rastaban” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR

Of the 2017 vintage, they say, “A wet, cool spring delayed flowering until late June, which set the stage for a later harvest than the previous three vintages. Hot, dry conditions prevailed through the summer, yielding heat spikes in August. With a larger than normal fruit set, the grapes enjoyed long hang time leading up to harvest. Conditions cooled and brought in scattered rains with the harvest, which began at Brooks on the 28th of September and ran through November 1st, almost returning to normal average harvest dates in the Willamette Valley. The wines from the vintage show fresh fruit flavors and lively acidity. In all, it will be remembered as a classic vintage in Oregon!”

“Totality” riesling from Brooks commemorates the 2017 total eclipse in Oregon

2017 Brooks Estate “Eclipse” Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR
ABV 12.5%
SRP $45
Only 200 cases!

This is my desert island wine. If I am stranded, this is the bottle I want at my side. Especially if there’s oysters to eat there!

Color: Golden, daffodil, almost amber, very gold. 

Aromas: Petrol, alpine meadow, daisy, fennel, tangerine, apricot. 

Palate: Juicy, mouthwatering acidity, tangerine, apricot kernel, fantastic complexity. The finish lingers on for a very long time. Sue and I were in agreement that this is a great wine. With food on the palate, a lovely pine resin becomes evident. 

Pairing: With the oyster, we had a hard time describing the experience because it was so absolutely amazing. The creamy oyster richness is a tango with the acidity in the wine. The exchange and drama between the two is such a beautiful experience. The entire experience with the salad and the wine was perfect. Spot on with the procuitto fig salad. Loved the salty proscuitto, hazelnuts and goat cheese in the salad. What really set the wine off was the date cayenne reduction that Sue drizzled over the salad. Reislings love hot and spicy foods and this is no exception. The tomato tart did not do very well with this wine because of the mustard on the tart. Without the mustard, it would have worked with the wine.  

This is a fantastic food wine for richer fuller flavors. 

We also sampled this wine with a calamari Ceasar salad sandwiches: what an awesome pairing! Also a ham sandwich with greens and dried figs went well. The greens had a dijon dressing and the wine would have paired better with a different vinaigrette.  

Note: Brooks “Ara” Riesling was part of the Wine Media Conference earlier this month; read about it here.

Totality Pinot Noir

2017 Brooks Estate “Eclipse” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR
ABV 13.8%
SRP $65
only 100 cases! 

Hand sorted, 100% destemmed, aged for 18 months in French oak.

Color: Very translucent, cranberry, pink rim.

Aromas: Carnation, cranberry, raspberry, Dr. Pepper, cherry cola, forest floor, eucalyptus. 

Palate: Tart cranberry, raspberry, mulberry, tart and tangy, bright fruit, eucalyptus, menthol, rhubarb, bright and alive, refreshing, great on its own but very nice with food. 

Pairing: Pinot and pate every time is just a right on pairing. The spices and the liver loves the wine and the wine loves the liver and spices in the pate; they are both elevated by each other. The toasted hazelnuts and the wine were so nice together. Sue thought a spinach salad with cranberry and hazelnuts would work well with the wine. Fabulous with the herbed brie and pate. I did not care for the cheese on its own, but was fantastic with the pate and wine together. What a great wine with the salad. It loves the roasted figs, salty procuitto, roasted hazelnuts, the fig cayenne reduction that Sue threw over the salad was absolutely amazing with the wine. The sweet, the spice, the heat, the salt, the toast, so amazing with the wine. 

2017 Brooks Estate “Rastaban” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, OR
ABV 13.5%
SRP $65
600 cases 
sample for my review 

Color: Translucent, pale rhubarb, mauve rim. 

Aromas: Carnation, rose petal, potpourri, raspberry, violet, after food and after it has been opened for a while, menthol, minty anise, forest floor

Palate: Tart fresh ripe raspberry, fresh mulberry, the oak is nicely integrated, clean herbal finish, violet, 

Pairing: Great with the pate. Fantastic with the toasted hazelnuts. The herbed brie paired with the pate and wine all together is amazing. The wine loves the herbs in the creamy brie bringing out so much juicy fruit in the wine. If Sue had to rewrite the recipe for the tomato tart she would have left out the dijon mustard. In her opinion this may have gone nicely with a good brew, it did not do so well with the wines. Not only the wines of the evening, this is just not a friendly wine recipe. The salad and the wine on the other had is a completely different story loving the fig, proscuitto, goat cheese, and ante cayenne drizzle. Great with our sausage puffs; the fennel sets off the wine so nicely.

Note: Brooks shared this wine at the Wine Media Conference; read more here.

 

Tomato and Eggplant Herbed Brie Tart

Ingredients

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 8 ounces puff pastry (or 1 sheet of a 17.3-ounce package), preferably all-butter
  • 3 (about 12 ounces) medium fresh tomatoes cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 very small eggplant (about the size of the tomato), cut into 1/4-inch think rounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 ounces Brie, sliced 1/4 inch thick (we used half herb d’Affinois) 
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • NOTE: the original recipe calls for Dijon mustard and capers; Sue cut back on the mustard but if you’re pairing it with pinot that’s a pass and so we deleted it from the recipe. 


Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F, with a rack in center.
  • Place sliced tomatoes and eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with salt and pepper and olive oil and roast slowly for 20 minute in a 350 degree oven. 
  • In the meantime on a lightly floured sheet of parchment, roll pastry out to a 9 1/2-by-11 1/2-inch rectangle (1/8 inch thick). OR make into 4 individual tarts. 
  • Score edges of pastry, creating a 1/2-inch border, then top with cheese, roasted tomatoes, roasted eggplant, and thyme.
  • Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Here’s how to visit Brooks yoruself and how to check out one of their many virtual ways to experience their wines from the comfort of your home!

Plus here’s Season 2 of “Beyond Brooks”–  a monthly collaboration bringing together artisans and the winery, selections designed to intrigue, to inspire, and to make an impact.

Happy moon gazing! Cheers!

camping in the moonlight near a vineyard in Lodi

 

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