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Eugene Weekly : Wine : 7.7.11

 

Owner Tabitha Eck with a glass of Abbelone •09 Pinot Noir. Photo by Trask Bedortha.

Uncorked in Veneta

Our Daily Bread helps grow local wine tourism

By Lance Sparks

When, last month, the Oregon Legislature passed two bills, HB 3280 and SB 829 ã together dubbed the "King Estate bills,” to be reconciled into one bill ã it became clear that King Estate would retain its full-service, fine-dining restaurant at the winery, and would continue to serve thousands of visitors at the Estate. This came as good news to many of the businesses and towns along Territorial Road, from Cottage Grove to Monroe.

Tabitha Eck, co-owner, along with her parents, Tim and Catharine Perkins, of Venetas only fine-dining restaurant, Our Daily Bread, was delighted at the news of Kings success: "Hey, wonderful! I think it would be sheer foolishness to shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to (wine) tourism. Everything they do there adds value to the valley as a whole. I profit from what they do there,” she said.

Eck and her parents have consciously positioned Our Daily Bread to take an active role in developing the growing wine-tourism businesses along the Territorial corridor. ODB is housed in a former church, remodeled and expanded but retaining some nice church-y touches, such as the Gothic-arched windows with stained glass, even what looks like the churchs old upright piano. (But atop the piano sits a small sign bearing the distinctly secular homily "Dancing Allowed ã Shoes not required.”) The restaurant is open seven days, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. They have gained some fame for baking ã ahem ã their daily bread, plus pastries, focaccia, and a full range of desserts: "It was very important for us to have an in-house product,” Eck said, noting that they also make their own sauces, dressings, gravies, while keeping close relationships with local growers and suppliers, especially wineries.

Tabitha Eck is young, only 28, but she has made some astute decisions about the familys restaurant. Most notably, she has worked hard to make Our Daily Breads wine list the best in the south Willamette Valley for its inclusion of local wines. Nearly every winery in the southern part of the valley has a representative wine on ODBs list: "Some are so new that we havent had a chance to interact with them yet,” Eck said, mentioning Sarver and J. Scott, "but were constantly reprinting our wine list,” broadening and updating to include such rarely found labels as Pfeiffer and HillCrest, which are only sold at the wineries.

Eck has seen what restaurateurs in Californias and Washingtons wine valleys have seen, that concentrating on local wines doesnt imply any compromise on quality, and the mutual support that follows helps everyone. "We have an amazing amount of variety around us, and its all so good. And we really enjoy the relationship aspect. Many of the vineyards are small and family-owned, like us. Its just good for everybody.”

Our Daily Breads kitchen might be small, but the menu is eclectic and ambitious, plating a range from sandwiches and burgers, soups and salads, to pastas and prime rib, and local wines (microbrews, too) to match any dish. The list offers 28 white wines, four rosés, 37 reds (16 local pinot noirs), five sparkling and five dessert wines (including Chateau Loranes honey mead). An additional six wines ã three white, three red ã are available by the glass (or bottle). Total choices add up to around 85. Prices are moderate, ranging from a nice Emerson Chardonnay ($16) to King Estates blockbuster 2006 Domaine Pinot Noir ($86). Eck also reaches into Oregons southern wine valleys to find some rather special bottlings, like Agate Ridges 2007 Primitivo (a Zinfandel relative) from the Rogue, Spanglers 2007 Petite Sirah or Girardets 14 Vines from the Umpqua.

Eck stays busy with her family (as we spoke, her husband, Marshall, waited tables while her three children ã the youngest, Joshua, just 10 months ã waited at home), her restaurant, and her extensive wine list, but apparently thats not quite enough. She also maintains a small retail space where she sells ODBs wines directly, plus Riedel glassware and assorted hand-crafted items related to the kitchen or to wine. The family recently added an event area (and new parking lot), anticipating a summer of hosting wine garden parties featuring local wineries and live music.

How do the Veneta residents feel about all this activity? "We have huge local support,” Eck said. Mothers Day was booked with 400 reservations. The Wings and Wine Festival in May BRING's bird-loving visitors in flocks. Note to other family members: Our Daily Bread also makes something special for Fathers Day, Labor Day and other special occasions.

The quaint former church with modest blue trim adds to the bustle of Venetas downtown along Territorial Road. "Locals appreciate it. And we have a unique ability to attract Eugeneans out this way. Theres nothing in this immediate area, aside from a vineyard” ã unnamed ã "that can say they do that.”

One vineyard that can draw thousands ã King Estate ãis thriving, as is the business of viticulture in this part of the south Willamette Valley. Good food, superb wines and dazzling views; its really a simple formula with a country twist, very attractive.

In Tabitha Ecks words, "Its a unique experience out here.”