James John Cafe

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Oops! Didn’t realize it has been so long since I last posted. I pretty much took some time off to do Mama things (cards, cookies, and cadeaux) and actually got them all done for once, with very minimal duress–a very interesting result from stepping a moment (or in this case, a month) away from the wine biz/start-up/swimming-against-the-current fray. Hmmm.

Anyway, while 2011 is still only yesterday, I’d like to leave you all with a month-by-month visual of the sights and colors of the The Grande Dalles and our Uncultivated Life (note the yellow boat serving as wade pool in front of our Campeau) out in the wilds of the wine world.


January: We released our wines at the rustically swank James John Cafe in North Portland. Chef Owners Suzanne Bozarth and Aaron Solley would accompany us to New York in March, to the James Beard House.

February: It’s a quiet time out on the hill, but still much for little vineyard gnomes to discover.

March: “Columbia Valley Terroir” unveils itself at the James Beard House in NYC: featuring our wines and sumptuous regional Northwest Solley and Bozart fare.


April: A slow start, but the land starts to warm and the greening of the hill begins.

May: Guerilla roadside Wine Stand at the Old Garage during Memorial Day Weekend in the Hood (Hood River). Best line of the weekend asked by someone who drove in, got out, and then quickly left after asking: “Is this legal?”


June: Wine in hand, an evening walk out on the land. Sam! Get out of Dave’s wheat!

July: Fire season. Thankfully this was not on our property, but still causing much damage to someone else’s across the way. Reminded us of the 2009 range fire that headed straight toward us, stopping three rows in our vineyard. As the story goes, the Old Coot was the only person who went in our vineyard to fight it. Still need to thank him.


August: Wasco County Fair! Aptly themed, “Barn in the USA.” For the second year we sponsored a Demolition Derby car. Yeah! Hot day out there in South County in that fairground valley. Whew!

September: Still warm out on the land. In this picture, because we didn’t quite make it to our Deschutes River swim spot, the little boat had to do.


October: Harvest. We made it. And we made it into Google Earth’s One World Many Stories campaign. The only wine story IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY to do so.

November: A seasonal quiet begins its descent, along with some early snow.

December: While the last hues of Fall in the Columbia Gorge peep through the mist, our wines are beginning to shine in New York City, and at some Michelin-starred restaurants to boot! Where exactly, you ask? Annisa on Barrow Street. Blue Hill NYC on Washington Place. Dovetail on West 77th Street. Henry’s on Broadway. Penn Wine and Spirits at Penn Station. First & Vine on First Ave. Yippy skippy!

As thankful as I am for our accomplishments in 2011, there are still many miles to go before we can sleep. Many miles. So, while I look forward to 2012 and all the exciting things we have planned, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year and from time-t0-time, to step off the beaten path, for it is what often makes all the difference.

~ stephanie


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Went to a James John Cafe fundraiser dinner last week for our upcoming joint The Grande Dalles – James John Cafe James Beard Foundation dinner, and weren’t we overwhelmed by the outpouring of support — not just for James John, but from the people I spoke to attending the event, their enthusiasm and well wishes for ALL of us just about brought tears to my eyes. Ever since we planted the vineyard, the reception we’ve received has been chilly, putting it nicely: felt like the local wine community was rolling their eyes at us newcomers who had our own ideas about how to do things; the local farming community was not happy to have a vineyard in their midst; even felt like many in our family couldn’t grasp the enormity of our undertaking; and we couldn’t find a soul interested in investing a plug nickel — well, OK, except one, and that didn’t pan out. Bottom line,  it felt like the only people intent on, or, should I say, who cared about our success was us, and wasn’t it the loneliest feeling in the world, especially out on that hilltop. Until that evening at the James John. And wasn’t it refreshing.

A friend of ours in NY, Dave S., reminded us when we were lamenting some “influentials” who declined our invite to our wine opening some weeks ago, that we ought to focus on those who would attend instead. Bullseye. I got it. Quit griping and embrace the people who DO care. I don’t know how that will change the tone of my blog, I know I have been at many times a big old whiney arse, and I at times cannot help myself when I point out the hilarity that abounds. But with these community blessings out there — one couple even told us they would open a bottle of our wine the time of the NYC event, and think of us, and send good thoughts in real time — it really lifts the heart and soul.

Soon we’re off to NYC, with the blessings of many in the St. Johns Community. And THAT’s a great feeling. Thank you.

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At least that’s what we’d like to think it was, The Grande Dalles’ Inaugural Release Party at the James John Cafe. People came, people stayed, no-one tasted our wines and then nervously hustled out, and no-one was spitting, except Scott, who had been “tasting” all afternoon/eve.

First on our tasting list was Leroy’s Finest, our riesling; which many people first declined, imagining it to be sweet, until we told them it was bone-dry. And weren’t they pleasantly surprised by it! Many imagined how Leroy’s Finest would do with oysters and seafood (excellent, of course -just ask David Rosengarten!). Moving along to our reds, there were camps that preferred one over the other, but we expected that. Both have their own qualities and flavours, Home Place maybe more robust, Gampo not so much, but critic/journalist feedback reinforced the wines’ integrity: structured, well-made, fine wines. And with the food that evening: roasted pig and some good home fixins to go with it, everyone seemed to be rather happy.

A big THANK YOU goes out to Joe and Lana: Joe was our pourer, and Lana, his wife, got rounded up for the “Welcome” table. And of course a big THANK YOU to everyone else, for making the event a lively time, and for all the kind words and sales (!). Your support is absolutely priceless.

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At the James John Cafe, 8527 North Lombard Street Portland, OR 97203 – (503) 285-4930. If you’d like to swing by, please do — tell us at the door who you are and la voila. Or if you can’t make it, at least sign up for The Grande Dalles news and updates, so you’ll have more than a few hours’ heads up; we sent out this invite to that crowd weeks ago. Either way, tonight or another time, we’d love to see you.

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Ok, granted we’re not there yet, we have yet to get on the airplane and have our Columbia Valley Terroir event, but we are officially on their March 2011 lineup, and that’s pretty darn good. How did we do it, you ask? With only our  inaugural wines, and even more so as an unknown from a state that only really touts its pinot noir? BECAUSE WE’RE ON TO SOMETHING. And the James Beard Foundation recognized that when we visited them last Spring and invited us to pour at a dinner.

So, we went out and found suitable partners who share the same ideals–it’s not about the show, but what gets shown in the wines, or in their case, the food–and will create the dishes to highlight our wines, and our wines their dishes. It was rather serendipitous, I only asking if our neighborhood’s James John Cafe rented out their space, so captivated was I by its high, tin ceilings and quirky decor, out here where we live in what feels like the outpost of St. Johns in North Portland, Oregon. But after talking to them during our wine tasting, I stepped out and asked if they might be interested in joining us at The James Beard House. And there you go. Of course their training and expertise helped with selling them in to the James Beard House, these two gems of chefs, Suzanne Bozarth and Aaron Solley; each has worked directly with James Beard Foundation Award Winning Chefs.

I know it’s a slow process, getting The Grande Dalles’ wine out and about. And its difficulty becomes compounded by all the surprising number of people who don’t value the new and different, so god bless New York. If you, dear reader, happen to know of any individuals who don’t follow the herd, send them our way, please. Or at least to The James Beard House in New York on March 3.

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