Dundee Hills Sommelier Series: Springtime Brunch

(Looking for more of our Dundee Hills Sommelier Series? Go here).

Mike Duffy remembers the moment he fell in love with wine and the aromas, stories and tasting notes that unfolded in front of him. Early in his time working in some of New York City’s leading restaurants, Mike opened a bottle of Northern Rhône Syrah with flavors reminiscent of black pepper and smoked meat. The aromas were so stunning, he had to pause and remind himself, “It’s just grapes!” This experience led him on a journey through Sommelier certification and across the globe, eventually landing him in Oregon’s Dundee Hills as a Private Client Host at Alexana Estate.

Rooted in his Italian heritage and childhood memories of dinner at his grandma’s house, Mike developed a love for food and hospitality. He remembers watching his grandma prepare every part of the meal and serve everyone else until every detail was perfect. Mike watched, took note, and now approaches hospitality with the same generous spirit today. He is dedicated to creating unforgettable moments through wine.

Now immersed in the picturesque Dundee Hills of Oregon, Mike finds himself drawn to the collaborative spirit and rich history of the region. “The Dundee Hills is in a golden age,” he says. “This community is so collaborative. No one considers themselves the best winery; instead we’re working together and cheering for each other.” It’s a legacy Mike is eager to contribute to as he continues discovering and sharing the stories of the extraordinary people making wine in the Dundee Hills.

Mike’s Wine and Food Pairing Philosophy:

Mike says that when it comes to pairing wine with food, there are two distinct approaches. You can forge a symbiotic relationship where the wine and food harmonize seamlessly, blurring the lines between them. Or, you can use the wine as a supplementary seasoning, enhancing the flavors of the dish to new heights.

Here are a few curated brunch-focused wine and food pairings that showcase the versatility and delightful interplay between wine and cuisine –– right in time for springtime and Mother’s Day brunch planning!

Avocado Toast from Red Hills Market

Featuring charred rustic bread, toasted pepitas, Durant olive oil, radish, fresh herbs, lemon zest

Start your brunch with a bright and crisp white wine, and be sure to look for an option that holds a luscious texture to match the richness of this dish. He recommends a Pinot Gris aged with the lees, the spent yeast, which creates the bready, nutty flavor profile. A Chardonnay partially aged in oak will create a creamy mouthfeel to complement the weight of the avocado.

Wine Characteristics– A medium to full bodied wine with oak aging or lees contact, and some savory elements like a nutty or bready aroma.

  • 2022 Alexana ‘Terroir Series’ Pinot Gris: With 4 months of lees aging, this wine has a slightly toasty finish which perfectly melds with the bread base of the dish. The pepitas accentuate the savory and nutty elements of wine, while the creaminess of the avocado plays against the austere nature of this delicious and bright pinot gris.
  • 2022 Domaine Drouhin ‘Arthur’ Chardonnay: Aged partly in new French oak barrels, the creaminess of this wine mingles with the luscious texture of the avocado. Matching weight with weight is an integral rule when pairing wine with food, this symbiotic pairing brings out the best in both elements.

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict at The Dundee Bistro

Featuring smoked salmon, English muffin, poached eggs, brown butter sherry hollandaise, capers, crispy smashed fingerling potatoes, confit tomato salad

Rosé and salmon are a match made in heaven, but this dish has complex flavors that could easily overpower a lighter wine. Look for a rosé with a few hours of skin contact that was also fermented in a neutral oak. Alternatively, sparkling wine is always a brilliant pairing with dishes that contain a myriad of flavors, as this one does. 

Wine Characteristics– Pink with pink! A rosé wine, either sparkling or still that is complex but not heavy, floral notes, bright acidity, and a fresh fruit quality.

  • 2023 Alexana Rosé of Pinot Noir: Grown at the estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills, this Rosé of Pinot Noir spent 2-3 hours on the skins and was fermented and aged in Neutral Oak. This Rosé boasts a remarkable depth of flavor, robust enough to complement the richness of the dish while imparting high-tone floral nuances. Additionally, its fresh fruitiness provides a delightful contrast to the savory elements of the meal, resulting in a harmonious and satisfying culinary experience.
  • 2019 Argyle ‘Estate Reserve’ Brut Rose: A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, this classic champagne style rosé spends 3 years en Tirage, creating a soft sparkle and lifting the opulent and complex dish with fresh acidity. Sparkling wine is always a go-to when pairing a dish with a multitude of complex flavors.

Doc’s Heart Healthy Shakshuka (Recipe)

Featuring fire roasted tomatoes & peppers, rye bread, with baked eggs and topped with feta cheese

Yes! Red wine can have a moment to shine at brunch! While Pinot Noir isn’t often on the menu at brunch, tomato-centric dishes give you the opportunity to pour the lifesource of the Dundee Hills at your table. The spicy, flavorful punch of tomato in this dish calls for a light bodied Pinot Noir. Look for options fermented in concrete that offer some minerality, or those with earthy and fruit-forward flavors that emerge with clarity, creating a perfect contrast to the high acid of the tomato.

Wine Characteristics– A young, light bodied Pinot Noir with structure, earthiness, preferably from a warm vintage.

  • 2021 Alexana ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir: This tomato forward dish shines alongside a delicious light bodied Pinot Noir like this gem cultivated in the Dundee Hills. A blend of 11 clones of Pinot Noir grown in 18 different soil types, this rustic dish perfectly frames the complex flavors of red fruit and earth that burst through on the palate.
  • 2022 White Walnut ‘Estate Worden Hill Road’ Pinot Noir: This low intervention Pinot Noir sourced from 24-year-old vines was fermented in concrete tanks, allowing for a pure expression of the fruit and rocky soils it originates from. The warmth of the 2022 vintage is showcased here with a ripe berry dominant palate, contrasting the high acid of the fire roasted tomatoes, with the minerality perfectly balancing the overall experience.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

Featuring thick-sliced French toast style cinnamon rolls topped with cream cheese icing, rum butter sauce drizzle, finished with a simple berry compote and whipped cream

Mike believes wine should always be as sweet or sweeter than the dish you’re pairing it to, so a sweet wine is essential to cap off brunch alongside this thick and buttery French toast. A late harvest Riesling offers a honey sweetness with complimenting acidity to refresh your palate. A Port offers a luxurious sweetness and the combination of rum into the partially fermented grapes offers a beautiful pairing to the rum butter sauce in this dish.

Wine Characteristics– An older dessert wine with a fair amount of residual sugar, mouthwatering acidity, and a red berry dominant flavor or bright citrus notes.

  • 2014 Alexana Late Harvest Riesling: This late harvest Riesling, sourced from Lonesome Spring Ranch in the Colombia Gorge is alluringly viscous, with a complex honeyed sweetness, mirroring the confectionary nature of the dish. While the acid plays a complimentary role, refreshing the palate, and keeping the experience agile and pleasant.
  • 2017 Torii Mor Syrah Port: This Syrah based Port style wine, coming from the Rouge Valley is a wonderful accompaniment to this dessert-like brunch option. The berry compote works alongside the Port to create a solid foundation, uplifting the rich flavors of the icing and rum butter sauce.

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