Forlorn Hope “Ost-Intrigen” St. Laurent, 13 California

So, I’ve had a total wine crush on the Forlorn Hope wines for MONTHS.

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Maybe it was because (at the time) in South Carolina, they were not available. Maybe it was because they were literally all I saw on Delectable for months. Maybe it was because I went to the website to tempt myself into ordering some and most (almost all) were sold out. Maybe it was because the “another rare creature” line is so. damn. alluring. Whatever it was, I had to have one of these. I would stop at nothing.

I figured I’d come across some in Portland, because Portland is, well- Portland. And has great distribution. And just my luck- I went to a tasting on 12/12 at Storyteller Wine Co and stumbled into several Forlorn Hope options. I was very torn. I wanted them all. But I settled on the St. Laurent. I know I’ll be going back for the Picpoul at some point, if its still available.

You rare little bastard, you!

You rare little bastard, you!

So, the rarity factor with these wines is what makes them impossible to resist. At least for us wine people. When I hear that someone is producing St. Laurent in Carneros, my ears perk up. Must have. Need. So, the biggest question is; when you have a faraway crush for so long, will it live up to the hype? Certainly when these crushes are in human form, they almost never do. That’s why I’ve switched to wine crushes, FYI.

Right off the bat, I am enamored of the nose on this wine. Its bright and fun and flirty. Almost like a Pinot Noir. But there’s something far more savory at work here…

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Color & density-wise, this wine seems very varietally correct. I’ve written about St. Laurent in the past and found a few that I genuinely loved. This one is a bit leaner, more chiseled than past Austrian incarnations I’ve experienced. The nose is all sour cherry, but perhaps a cross between a raw sour cherry and a sour cherry compote. Some enigmatic red floral notes are hiding in the background, as well as deeper, earthier tones of peat moss, lavender, thyme, and sage. All of this is set off by a bright streak of citrus peel. Low alcohol (11.43%) make this a very buoyant wine, on the palate. Frisky and accessible, but with enough complexity to keep you interested. It drinks with frightening ease.

Balls of meat.

Balls of meat.

I made lamb meatballs this evening, and I think the high acid in this wine and its savory elements will be quite delightful with them. I’m about to find out.

Its fun to mention that Forlorn Hope winemaker Matthew Rorick makes the *only* 100% St. Laurent in California. The grapes are sourced from the Ricci Vineyard, owned by Dale Ricci, and originally planted as something of an experiment. Whole cluster fermented with 10 months in (old) barrels. Just 24 cases were produced in the 2012 vintage; in 2013, it jumped to 237- probably the only reason I got to have any.

For what its worth, a far more creative and brilliant individual than I, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, has written much about the 2012 vintage of this wine here and here. Do yourself a favor and go check them out. Speaking of crushes… I love everything Elaine does. Spend a few hours on her site and you’ll see why.

Before I sign off, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all friends near and far! My first Christmas Eve in Oregon has been wonderful. The sun came out, and I went tasting at Adelsheim….

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It didn’t suck at all. I dropped in on the O’Donnell’s and was treated to a dozen freshly lain eggs from the farm. Now I sit in my flannel pants listening to Vince Guaraldi while my meatballs simmer.

Quite content, I am.

 

This wine was purchased at Storyteller Wine Company for $28. 

If you go see James at Morganelli’s in Columbia SC, he may have some Forlorn Hope wines available. No promises, though.

 

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Sunday Funday: Sparkling Dinner at Southeast Wine Collective!

Warning! This post contains a vast amount of both food and wine porn. If you’re ready to drool, please read on, as I’m very excited to share the details of this awesome dinner I attended this past Tuesday. You’ve been warned!

If I had to pick a highlight of the time I’ve spent in Oregon, I’m pretty sure this dinner would be it! For several reasons; first, it was a very well-executed dinner- logistically and the food and wine were on point. Second, I haven’t had the good fortune to actually attend that many wine dinners in my day. Usually I was the one working them. Not in a “oh, poor me” sense, as I’ve had my fair share of amazing food and wine in my day. But to actually sit, relax, converse with fellow wine people, and be served is a real treat. So much preparation goes into an event like this, from portion size, seating, when to pour the next wine, menu planning… I could go on and on. So when I sit at a dinner like this, I remember all these little minute details and I appreciate the effort even more. So now, on with the show!

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The Urban Winery scene in Portland is new to me, but I really like the concept. The Southeast Wine Collective is a home for custom crush operations, coming together in like mind to grow their respective businesses. This dinner was the last of the year in their Supper Social series, and it featured first-ever Sparkling releases from members of the Collective and a handful of other Oregon winemakers. The food was courtesy of Kachka, an award-winning Russian restaurant in Southeast Portland. I was SO excited when I read that this dinner featured Russian food! I love experiencing food from a culture that I’m relatively unfamiliar with. And I like Sparkling wine, like, a lot.

The first sparklings served were the 2011 Kramer Vineyards Brut and the 2013 Bubbles by Enso. Paired alongside was a lavish display of appetizers. I arrived hungry.. not quite hangry, but hungry, so I immediately started sort of wishing that no one else would sit at our table so we could have all the apps to ourselves. Side note: this was an unnecessary concern on my part, as there was more than enough food AND the people we sat with were awesome.

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

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Sparkling Pinot Gris, courtesy of Enso.

I loved the sharpness of the Kramer Brut; it is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has razor-like focus, clear delineation, and offers bright notes of orchard fruit, fresh flowers, citrus zest and pear. Excellent. The Bubbles by Enso were a study in experimentation, which I really appreciated! Made from 100% Pinot Gris, it was made using methode ancestrale– a labor of love, this wine was. To sum up the process, I’ll quote Enso’s Instagram account: “This is how we disgorge our BUBBLES by ENSO: Store upside down for a year, dunk in freezing cold water for a couple minutes, pop the cap to let the yeast fall out, flip and top off with more BUBBLES and recap! No sulfur. No fancy machinery.” There ya go! Relatively full-bodied, this bubbly is definitely interest-piquing and worth a try.

Bay Shrimp "Olivier", Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

Bay Shrimp “Olivier”, Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

I love smokey little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

I love smoky little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all that was just course ONE! Be still my heart. Next up we enjoyed the Division Wine Company’s 2013 Cremant de Portland. I really love the packaging on this one:

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This wine is just a baby- it hadn’t been in the bottle very long when we tried it. This wine is after my heart; it is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Gamay- three of my favorite grapes, and sort of an ode to the Loire/Burgundy regions of France that Kate and Tom are fond of. Its pinkish hue (which you can’t see here) is fleeting and delicate. The nose here is lightly floral, with hints of red fruit and a touch of spice. I can see these elements “marrying” quite nicely with some time in bottle.

Paired with this was probably my favorite dish of the night: Broth & Piroshky. A stunning crab broth with scallion and a Dungeness Crab Pillowy Bun. Crab. Pillowy. Bun?! I didn’t even know these things could be combined in such a way. Absolutely delicious. If anything would make someone break a gluten-free diet &/or experiment- this is it.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

The next course was also impressive; 2011 J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir paired with Mushroom Vareniki- a little dumpling filled with foraged mushroom duxelle and liberally dolloped with sour cream. Yeah, I Instagrammed that one. I couldn’t resist:

I'm a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

I’m a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

This is my new jam.

This is my new jam.

Kind of a show-stealer, the J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir was perfection. If you’re a lover of Oregon wine, you gotta get your hands on this. Owner and winemaker Jim Prosser claims the process nearly killed him, but dude- if you gotta pick a way to go out… Sourced from the Temperance Hill Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this cool vintage provided perfect conditions for Sparkling wine production. The acid in this wine absolutely sings and is met with gorgeous notes of strawberry, red currant, hints of lees, and a vein of poignant spice and smoke. This wine underwent 28 months… 28 months! of riddling, creating an ultra-fine bead and to die for texture. If you’ve always held Argyle Brut Rosé and Soter Brut Rosé as your “standards” of Oregon Sparkling, go ahead and add this to your roster. I really can’t say enough about it. Get on it.

We finished with what else- meat! Latkes & Brisket paired with the 2009 Teutonic Wine Company Riesling Brut.

Loved it.

Loved it.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

I am fond of Riesling Brut; I’m not entirely sure how many (if any) other producers in Willamette make a Riesling Brut other than Teutonic. They’re an Alsatian-style producer, and they’ve been sitting on this Brut for years! I enjoyed the touch of petrol on the forefront of this bubbly, it clearly distinguishes itself as being made out of Riesling. A background of golden apple, peaches & apricots. A tremendously fun wine to pair with food. Even if you’re so stuffed you can barely move. The applesauce accompaniment actually set this off very nicely. This is more of a wine-nerd wine, but a good one. For a really fun look at the making of this wine, check out Teutonic’s blog.

So, are you hungry? Thirsty? You must really be a glutton for punishment if you made it all the way to the end of this post! Fortunately, if you live in Portland or the surrounding area, you can go check out Kachka- it was recently awarded Restaurant of the Year by Eater and Willamette Week. Fear not, food-lovers. It is there and waiting for you.

This dinner was a total feast for the senses and I’m incredibly appreciative to have been included. Cheers!

André Vatan “Les Charmes” Sancerre, 11 France and an ode to the half bottle…

So, I dig half bottles.

Always have, but now that I’m no longer working in a restaurant where I have access to 30 open bottles of wine at all times, I like them even more. I wouldn’t call myself indecisive, but I have always enjoyed options. I’m that person that when I go out to eat, would rather have two (three?) appetizers than one entrée. Don’t bother going out to dinner with me if you’re not a sharer. I’m usually a sharer, but when I’m not I will always be up front about it. “I’m getting THIS and I’m not sharing.” I have uttered those words. It only happens when I’m ordering something I reeeeally like, that I’ve had before, and know in advance that I will have pre-item arrival anxiety if I don’t get enough.

Trips to Vegas and beef carpaccio are flashing before my eyes. Todd English… I love you.

But, moving on from my dining habits, lets talk about drinking habits, and why it’s so fun to incorporate half bottles. And once place in particular that I’ve begun frequenting that has a marvelous selection of half bottles. Feast your eyes:

Such excitement over this.

Such excitement over this.

So Valley Wine Merchants is a cool little retail wine shop in Newberg, Oregon where you can find this marvelous wall of 375ml bottles. There are also a few select glass pours available (today there was an Albert Boxler Sylvaner and an 07 Beaux Fréres- WUT?!- among others) and some snacks and such. A very cool spot. It reminds me of my alma mater, Cellar on Greene, except without the restaurant. The owner, Andrew, is very knowledgeable and has been a good resource for me since I landed. He hosted an awesome tasting with Dick Ponzi a few weeks ago where he opened an ’85 and ’86 Ponzi Pinot Noir for a seriously modest cost. Loved it. Props!

So the wine! Domaine André Vatan “Les Charmes” Sancerrre; I bought this because I had a dozen of the freshest Kumumoto oysters ever in my car, and wanted a little something to go with them. These little suckers were amazing. Also, I learned how to shuck an oyster today. A skill I anticipate using quite often now that I live in the Pacific Northwest…

Briney. Amazing.

Briney. Amazing.

I like trying new things, and this is a new producer to me, but I love Sancerre. Sauvignon Blanc is at its best in the Loire, in my humble opinion. At $16 retail this is definitely a bottle I’d buy again. The nose is a nice combination of gooseberry alongside fresh flowers, lime zest, and a nice smokey edge. Tingly on the tastebuds, and plenty of striking minerality. I get a hint of something spicy in here, too… like almost a chile pepper, but not quite. Plus a little bit of grass and honeysuckle. It has a nice texture; the mouthfeel is soft and elegant. It was really nice with the oysters- I might’ve liked something a bit more saline in this scenario, but overall a pretty nice match. The green hints went really nicely with the mignonette I threw together. What? It’s like 4 ingredients!

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I feel like I’ve crossed over into snobbery, with the oysters and the mignonette and all, but I couldn’t help myself. I mean I kinda wanted the $40-ish bottle of Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc, but I held back! That counts for something.

Here’s another cute half bottle, the EIEIO “Swine Wine” Rie-Chard in Piglet (375ml) form. I love this little bottle…

Piglet.

Piglet.

So I’ve gotten a little wordy here, but the point is- half bottles are a super fun way to get to drink more than one kind of wine in a night. I also use them as an excuse to splurge; I might not want to spend $45 on that 750ml bottle of small-production grower’s Champagne, but somehow $30 on the half bottle feels okay. Why? I don’t really know. That’s another point to make: half-bottles are not “half” as expensive to produce, so don’t harass your wine retailer as to why the half bottle isn’t half as expensive. It’s not really like that. The cork/enclosure, seal, labels, bottle, etc. don’t cost half as much, they cost the same. So you’re really paying for the fun-ness, and that’s your call completely. But you’re not getting ripped off on the price, trust me. Maybe some retailers undercut their margins on halfsies to get them to move, and thats their prerogative. Just don’t be mean to the person selling you your wine, cause that ain’t cool. Just pick someone you like and trust them.

Thats my philosophy, anyway. Cheers!

Chapter 24 “The Last Chapter” Pinot Noir, 12 Oregon, Willamette

Am I the only person on Earth to be drinking “The Last Chapter” by Chapter 24 while reclined on air mattress listening to Britney Spears?

Perhaps. Very possibly.

And for the record, I am listening to “90’s” on Spotify and this song just HAPPENED to come on. I mean, I’m 32. I don’t sit around listening to Britney’s first album in it’s *entirety*. But it’s pretty hard to resist when it does come on. Admit it.

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So the reason I led with that little intro was because this isn’t exactly the kind of wine you’d typically drink on a boring night while you’re wearing sweatpants and doing nothing in particular. This is one of the more expensive wines I’ve ever written about; and truthfully, it isn’t *that* much when you compare it to some of the big heavy hitters in boutique Napa wineries, famous century-old French estates, and the like. It sells for $90 at the tasting room. This wine also scored 96 points from Wine & Spirits, 93 from Wine Spectator, and 94 from Stephen Tanzer. When you hear scores like that, and you see the price tag, you might be inclined to dismiss it, thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to its praise and for that kinda money, you’d just as soon get a half case of some good everyday drinkers. There’s something to be said for that. But, after visiting this wine over the course of a weekend, I have to tell you- it does live up to the hype. It’s worth it. Sorry haters, but it just kinda is.

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Now I love Oregon wine- this much we know. And part of me thinks- well, you’re GD right you can make good wine when you start out bankrolled and with a powerhouse founding/winemaking team (Mark Tarlov and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair). Frenchie, in case you don’t know, is a very well-known and well-respected oeneologist/owner of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanee (Burgundy). The cool kids call it Voz-Rom, by the way. In comparison, I respect small operations wholeheartedly and always will. They are what make industries happen.

But to dismiss this wine for that reason alone would be remiss. True, scores do set expectations and force people to draw comparisons and come to conclusions they might not have come to on their own. However, the fact remains that this is beautifully made juice. And we live in a world where scores happen. So let’s leave that behind for now.

I don’t want to blather on too much longer before I get to the actual tasting notes, but it is worth noting that Chapter 24 Vineyards is a somewhat unique project in that it’s two “staple” bottlings are bottled by soil type, not by individual AVA. “The Fire” is sourced from AVAs with volcanic soil and “The Flood” from AVAs with sedimentary soil (these sell for $60 each). “The Last Chapter” comes from the top four vineyards that are used in Fire and Flood. So when you taste these wines, you’re also almost getting a little lesson in how different soil types taste. Which is pretty cool!

Technically, you could do that with almost any single vineyard bottling that you choose to purchase. Because vineyard sites are typically small enough that they’re only made up of one soil type. Technically. But it’s still really fun to be able to taste Fire and Flood side by side, and know that they’re from two different soil types in the same year. Okay, enough of that…. WHAT the F*%@ does it taste like?!

The nose is somewhat subtle, with fragrant red raspberry, plum & wild strawberry on the forefront, but very delicately woven nutmeg, clove and star anise following close behind. The palate is silky for days and met with darker notes of blackberry, briar patch, berry liqueur and very soft vanilla. It has tannin, but its completely seamless. The texture is really what this wine is all about. Without going into too many geeky details, there are some really interesting winemaking techniques at use here that make the texture happen. Its an experiential wine; it glides, it floats. Ephemeral, yet all the big fruit characteristics of the vintage are there. You’ll see what I mean.

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Chapter 24 tasting room! Brand-spankin’ new, located on the corner of 99 and 5th St in Newberg. 

Just under 900 cases of The Last Chapter were made. I’ll go out on a (not so big) limb and say it is worth seeking one out. Or, if you’re a local Oregonian, it’s *definitely* worth stopping in to the tasting room. It’s convenient (basically right in front of Dobbes, and right before Argyle, if you’re heading West on 99).

In the interest of full disclosure, I did help out at the Chapter 24 tasting room for Thanksgiving weekend, but I wasn’t paid to say nice things about the wine. I promise. The Oregon adventure continues to be a wild ride, but I am enjoying it; working here and getting to know these wines was a total treat.

Cheers, y’all!