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Living Where Art Lives; Chef & Somm’s Oregon Odyssey

“The notion of absolute truth is one of the worst enemies of art.” Chef Liebman reminds me often. As a sommelier who was trained in a very traditional, classical way, I was taught to bring to the table the traditional, scientifically “correct” food and wine pairings.

Working with a chef who puts art first, I experience living where art lives, in that slim margin of possibility that there may exist another reality, another right answer, an unexpected option outside of the “correct”, obvious, or scientific answer, but that may be as great as—though different from—the original thought. “The absolute truth belongs to science not to art;” he insists “art is about the experience, the journey, the question, the discussion, and the unexpected.”

Chef Eyal Liebman walking through the vineyards of Phelps Creek

One accepted bit of wine and food pairing ‘truth’ is, “what grows together, goes together.” We wanted to test that – among other theories – so we went to Oregon to stretch our creative muscles and question some closely held ‘truths’.

We always want to make people think, encourage them to explore, broaden their culinary horizons beyond the slogans; to look beyond the absolute truth, and conventional thinking. In particular, we wanted to see what happens when an Israeli-born, Canadian chef creates a menu in Oregon, using local ingredients, then pairs it with both Canadian and Oregon wines? How well will the old grows-together-goes-together theory stand up…or will it come crashing down? And what affects the outcome more; the chef’s style or the local ingredients?

Phelps Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir Plot

We arrived in Hood River, Oregon, three days before the event at Phelps Creek Vineyards and started searching for ingredients while owner, Robert Morus, ran around opening back vintages we’d never tried before.

Even before we arrived, Chef Liebman had a general menu and wine pairings in mind, but he wanted to let the terroir of Oregon speak to him and direct his cooking. He sees himself as a facilitator of his culinary art. “It’s not about me, my ego, or even about the terroir - it’s about the art that speaks through me, I am just its facilitator” For Chef Liebman, the terroir is the brush, the ingredients, the palate, but you can’t let the brush and palate dictate the painting; you can only allow them to guide your artistic choices.

Here’s what we discovered…


It Starts in the Vineyard

Grape Leaf, Roasted Pinot Noir Grapes, Wild rice, Falafel, Hummus

- Paired with -

Phelps Creek “Lynette” Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge 2013

Phelps Creek’s kitchen is surrounded by their beautiful rolling vineyards; it is just natural to use what the vineyards give – the leaves, the grapes. Grape leaves stuffed with rice is a traditional Mediterranean dish that Eyal grew up on. “Lynette” Chardonnay is a classic, cool climate wine with a gorgeous mouth feel and notes of citrus, wet stones, and apple combined with rich brioche.

This combination of freshness and richness creates a great pairing with Chef

Liebman’s medium-bodied dish. On one hand it adds freshness and on the other, has enough body to hold its own against the richness of the wild rice and hummus.


Close to the Ocean