As the sun dips behind a neat row of Pinot Noir vines at Beckham Estate Vineyard, my dining companion turned to me. “Almost nobody grows Belgian endive in the United States,” she says, scooping a tangle of endive and baby kale tossed in a creamy dressing onto her plate. “So my husband and I said, ‘Why not us?'”
It’s moments of farm-to-table singularity like these – eating Belgian endive with an endive grower just a few miles from where it was harvested – that motivate Chef Pascal Chureau, founder and owner of Field & Vine Events and Allium Bistro.
“There are so many great farmers and small producers in Oregon, similar to Hitchcock Farms and other great standouts” Pascal says. “Those people work so hard, and they don’t always have time to connect with their customers. So when we do these Field & Vine dinners, I want producers to come and it gives them an opportunity to shine.”
Field & Vine Events is a series of farm-to-table wine dinners held on vineyards, farms and ranches throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Think of it as a homegrown Outstanding in the Field, as much about community connection as indulgence.
The project started six years ago after a series of family-style suppers at Allium, Pascal’s brick-and-mortar restaurant, in West Linn, Oregon, that reminded him of family dinners from his childhood in Bordeaux, France. He thought what if he took that feeling on the road, inviting diners to travel with him straight to the source of their food and drink, enjoying each others’ company and the bucolic settings of western Oregon while savoring meals produced from ingredients grown, harvested or made right onsite?
So he gave it a try. Roughly 150 people came to that first on-farm dinner, and Pascal said it was a smash hit. “People saw a carrot coming out of the ground for the first time in their lives,” he says. “I thought, this is pretty neat, I’m going to try a series next year.” So he put six events on the calendar, and they all sold out.
The project has only grown since then. This year, Vine & Field Events is holding 36 dinners, running from late May all the way through to December. Every event highlights a single beverage producer, usually skewing towards the small and independent (mostly wine, but beer and spirits make an appearance too). The menu is always different, designed the week before based on what’s fresh, what’s good and even what the weather looks like – nobody wants to eat beef stew on a 90-degree day, after all.
At Beckham Estate in mid-August, that meant a veggie-focused parade of peak-season produce, starting with grilled peach crostini on perfectly airy artisan ciabatta flecked with nutty whole wheat. A duo of salads – the aforementioned endive and kale as well as a tomato, prosciutto and watercress salad that tasted just like a deconstructed BLT – paired perfectly with an unfiltered white field blend highlighting obscure aromatic Germanic grape varieties. A juicy pork tenderloin with cherry and corn relish was served alongside ample pours of Beckham Estates’ deliciously pure 2015 Pinot Noir, full of bright red fruit and a touch of classically Oregonian earth.
As the low rays of the summer sun filtered through the Douglas fir forest surrounding the vineyard, winemaker Andrew Beckham raised his glass and invited anybody interested to linger after dinner for a tour of his ceramics studio, where he produces the 350-liter terra cotta vessels he uses to age some of his wines. It’s yet another opportunity for connecting the dots, courtesy of Field & Vine.