Urban Farmer is a fantastic farm to table steakhouse, located on the 8th floor of The Nines hotel in downtown Portland. I recently had the chance to visit the restaurant and sat down with the beverage director, Andy Hata, who has composed an exquisite wine list. Andy has been working in the food and beverage industry for many years but has created a Northwest heavy wine list that offers some good values, despite being the feature restaurant in a five star hotel. Here is my interview with Andy Hata: #urbanfarmer
WWB: Can you talk about your background in wine?
Hata: I began studying wines when I attended Syracuse University where I was the TA in a Wine Appreciation Course which was offered in my department. During a study-abroad program to Europe, I traveled through the wine regions of France and Italy and gained an appreciation for learning about wines at their source rather than in classrooms. I then decided to continue my travels abroad and spent the first several years after finishing my degree working in the vineyards of New Zealand and Australia. I then found myself training to be a sommelier in a restaurant called Vue de Monde in Melbourne, Australia. My continued love for traveling eventually took me through the Pacific NW and to my current position at Urban Farmer in Portland, OR.
WWB: I was noticing that a lot of the wines on the list are Washington, as your Northwest section is very strong. Can you talk about some of your favorite Washington producers (red and white wine) and why they are your favorites? I also noticed the strong showing of Oregon Pinots, obviously being an Oregon restaurant you want to highlight some of the best wines. Can you talk about some of your favorite producers of Oregon Pinot Noir and why they are your favorites?
Hata: As a restaurant in Portland, we very much consider it our responsibility to be ambassadors of the great wine producers of Oregon and our neighbours in Washington as well. This is why we try to have a strong representation of these wines throughout our list. A few favourites:
Eroica Riesling – Such a consistently great wine vintage after vintage. I also think that it speaks miles when a legendary winemaker from Europe sees the potential in WA and wants to make wine with the locals.
Domaine Drouhin ‘Arthur’ Chardonnay – I like the Arthur because rather than making “Burgundy in Oregon”, the Drouhin family respect the land and I feel that they set out to make great Oregon wine and I continually find myself going back to this wine.
J Christopher ‘Lumiere’ Pinot Noir – I always have the highest respect for those who dare to venture down the path of biodynamic production. The resulting great wines aside, I think the positive impact it has to for the land is priceless. Jay Somers’ wines are a bold expression of the Eola-Amity with a firm structure on the palate and lots of dark fruit and chocolate notes. It also has the touch of “funkiness” that you get in biodynamic wines too, which I love.
Longshadows Sequel Syrah – Maybe it’s because of my time in Australia and my fondness of wines by John Duval, but from the first time I discovered this wine it has been one of my favourites. Big, bold, peppery Syrah without being over the top. Give it a decent amount of air before starting a bottle and it’s perfect with our Painted Hills Ribeye.
WWB: Also what do you think about vintage variation in Oregon, for instance the 2011 vintage vs. the 2012 vintage?
Hata: Overall, I think we have been very fortunate to consistently see quality wines produced in Oregon year over year. The great winemakers in the region have really found a way to juggle through even the most difficult of seasons to still come out with great wines in the end. The wines definitely differ vintage to vintage, but I think the industry as a whole is too quick to judge wines in their youth. I was recently involved in a 20-vintage vertical tasting of Cameron and it was very apparent that the wines didn’t really start expressing uniquely until they were about 8 years old. As for the Oregon 2011 vs. 2012 discussion, I think only time will tell how good these wines really are. As it stands right now I think the 2012’s are drinking a bit better where as the 2011’s could use a bit more time to become interesting.
WWB: Many of the wines featured on your list are newer. Have you considered buying some older bottles of northwest wine that might be a good fit?
Hata: We are actually in the process of developing a cellaring program. We are working with some of our favourite producers to see if they have any great back-vintages available, but also buying larger quantities of current vintages to set aside for a later release on our list.
WWB: Can you also talk about your favorite pairings for steak or types of steak (fillet, ribeye,etc.)?
Hata: I like Pinot with my leaner steaks and Cabs/Syrahs with the fattier cuts. Currently I’m drinking Hawks View Pinot Noir with my Filet and Lachini ‘La Bestia’ with my Ribeye.