I love drinking wine.

That’s a bit like saying, “I love breathing air.”

I’ll admit it, I’m a wine freak with a well-stocked wine cabinet and a fondness for trekking to the Willamette Valley for winery tours and tastings.

While Bend lacks the plethora of vineyards, it does have a robust wine culture with ample wine shops and wine-related events guaranteed to pull your cork.

My favorite recent addition to the mix is the 5 for $50 Wine Dinner Series at Tetherow Golf Club & Resort.

Here’s the skinny: you  pay $50 for a five-course gourmet dinner prepared by Tetherow’s uber-talented executive chef. Every dish he creates is carefully crafted to pair with one of five wines served by the evening’s sponsor winery.

When I first heard about it, I pictured teeny-tiny bites of food offered with a thimbleful of wine. Uh, no. We’re talking a full-on meal here, with more wine than you can politely drink in good company.

The night I attended, I got to enjoy courses like lemon crusted steelhead with steamed potatoes, GoodLife beer blanc, and grilled zucchini. The chef concocted this dish after tasting the 2007 Chateu St. Jean Sonoma Pinot Noir, and I have to tell you it was one of the best wine/food pairings I’ve ever tried.

It was rivaled by the fourth course, which was a duck confit with white wine fettuccini, peas, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and a thyme cream sauce paired with the 2006 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Merlot.

There were other pairings that included varietals like chardonnay and fume blanc, ensuring the white wine drinkers in the group had plenty to enjoy, too. The chef knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating dishes that perfectly complement each wine, and it was apparent from the comments of my fellow diners I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

The cool thing about these dinners is that they’re not your typical, stuffy, uptight wine event. Everything is served family style at big tables, which allows you to get to know your dining companions over the course of the evening. There’s plenty of time for chatting and mingling, though those who prefer a less social scene can easily sequester themselves at the end of a table or perhaps pretend to speak only Yiddish.

One thing you need to know is that every single one of these dinners has sold out thus far. Make your reservations quickly if you want to attend the December 13 dinner featuring Archery Summit & Pine Ridge, or the January 4 dinner featuring Four Vines. The dinners will continue monthly after that, so call 541-388-2582 ext. 120 for dates and featured wineries.

Oh, and so you know it’s not just me blowing smoke up your skirt about the quality of dining at Tetherow, they just won two categories in Central Oregon Magazine’s readers’ choice awards – Best Dining with a View, and Best Place for a Cocktail. Congrats, guys!

Save a glass of celebratory wine for me, OK?

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