On any Tuesday night this summer, Syndi Henry Beavers and friends will settle on their blankets in front of the Stewart Park Band Shell and prepare to enjoy one of the musical acts appearing at Roseburg’s Music On The Half Shell series.

When the party starts, everyone knows what their friend, the tasting room manager from Henry Estate Winery in Umpqua, will pull first from her picnic basket. It doesn’t matter who’s making the music, Henry Estate’s Muller-Thurgau will be center stage on the Beavers blanket.

For a summer red, she recommends the 2006 Henry Estate Pinot Noir. It offers flavors of cherries and black pepper, with lightly toasty overtones from the aging in mostly neutral oak barrels.
“It’s just a great summer wine,” she says. “It’s delicate with a refreshing touch of sweetness and effervescence.” Expect aromas of apple blossom and peach and citrus and melon flavors from Henry’s 2007 Muller. And its relatively low alcohol content of 10 percent allows for an encore. “You can have a glass or two without food and be fine,” she says. To complement the Muller, Beavers recommends a light appetizer, such as prosciutto-wrapped melon or another seasonal fruit and cheese.

She believes the pinot is a great red for white-wine drinkers who are thinking of going over to the dark side. “It’s a light red wine and very approachable,” she says. The pinot pairs well with beef, lamb, duck, cheeses and most fish, especially salmon.

Notes from Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards

Ask Steve Reustle (owner, along with wife Gloria, of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, in Roseburg) to name his favorite summer wine and his eyes light up as he recalls his introduction to Gruner Veltliner. A long-time wine collector, Reustle had never heard of Gruner until stopping in an Austrian restaurant during a motorcycle tour of Europe.

“I asked the waiter for his finest bottle of white wine under $100, and he brought out this mystery wine; I thought they were trying to pull one over on me,” he says. Still, Reustle took a sip. “It was sublime.”

Reustle researched the wine and learned there wasn’t a single American winery producing it. His became the first, setting the bar high for the only two that have followed to date. The Reustle Gruner Veltliner has already received the rare Vina Cum Laude award from the world’s wine critics.

The wine appeals to both white and red drinkers and has subtle aromas of pineapple, peach and apricot and flavors of cut apple, white pepper and lemon zest.

Gruner is considered the most food-friendly wine, Reustle says. “And Reustle’s 2008 sauvignon blanc is another outstanding summer wine option. Aged in stainless steel barrels, it’s crisp and refreshing with flavors of grapefruit and gooseberries. It’s an excellent accompaniment to oysters, clams, crab and just about any shellfish.”

Henry Estate Winery and Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards are just two of approximately 20 wineries that occupy Oregon’s oldest commercial wine-growing region, the Umpqua Valley. Henry Estate is located at 687 Hubbard Creek Road in Umpqua and Reustle at 960 Cal Henry Road in Roseburg. More information about Umpqua Valley wineries can be found at www.umpquavalleywineries.org.

Image: Henry Estate Winery by Syndi Beavers