Eola-Amity Hills, that is! An AVA in the southern part of the Willamette Valley, and a short 20/25 minute cruise from my house. Its funny, because listening to people speak about it as “down south” made it seem so far… but its really not far. However, it is far enough and with enough slightly different soils/microclimates that you can find some unique grapes! Like THIS- the Zenith Vineyard Estate Tempranillo, 2012! I’m pumped about this one, as finding reds that aren’t Pinot in Willamette proper is a bit of a challenge. But, as I’m also discovering, once we get to Southern Oregon and the Applegate Valley there will be lots of fun reds to be explored. But later for that! Today, we gots Tempranillo.
So wine fans in the world might recognize this grape as being from España, and they’d be correct. Tempranillo’s “spiritual home” would be considered Spain. It likes heat, and after chatting with the tasting room associate at St. Innocent (which is where I purchased this wine- more on that later), come to find out this wine really only likes warm vintages in Oregon, like 2012. The 2008 vintage of this wine got 90 Points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.
So, just so you have a sense of where we are, route 99 runs along the left (west) side of the photo above. Just out of range of this map up 99 is the city of McMinnville. Down in the right hand corner of the map brings you roughly to the city of Salem. So many great wineries are located here. Now that I look at it closer, I think this map is a little on the old side- where you see the O’Connell vineyard pictured is actually now known as the Zenith Vineyard.
I visited St. Innocent last week and bought this bottle, as I said earlier. St. Innocent has been working with (what was then) the O’Connell vineyard since 1989, and did so until 1998, when the vineyard was leased to Willamette Valley Vineyards. In 2002, some St. Innocent customers named Tim & Kari Ramey (I’m paraphrasing all this from the St. Innocent website, by the way) purchased the O’Connell Vineyard, and in 2002 joined forces with St. Innocent winemaker and all-around awesome guy, Mark Vlossak, to form Zenith Vineyard, LLC. So Mark is the winemaker for these wines, and that was a looong way of explaining why I bought this wine at the St. Innocent tasting room. They’re sorta the same building. It’ll make sense if you go there- which you should! Zenith is huge in the area of weddings and events, I think that was sort of the idea when they purchased the site. But that is purely conjecture on my part.
I’m getting really long winded, so I’m gonna cut to the chase. Starting… NOW.
So I’ve tasted this wine over the course of two days; on day one it was noticeably taut and had a pronounced cedar-ific nose, thanks to the luxurious 16 months it spent in American oak, 27% new. There was a prominent streak of red fruit and some higher floral tones, but this is definitely a veiny, dark wine. Deep, broad strokes of licorice, tar, earth, vanilla and blackberry that finished with a firm tannic bite. It wasn’t as bitey on day two, and actually revealed some fun notes of hickory, balsamic and more tar. Really nice juice.
My memory is escaping me, but I don’t think there’s much left of this wine, only 180 cases were made. If you’re an Oregonian, consider jetting down there to pick one up. While you’re there, you can try Mark’s stunning array of 2012 Pinot Noirs in the tasting room; I hadn’t had any ’12’s of his until that day and I was pretty floored. They showed more aging potential than a lot of 2012 Pinots that I’ve had to date. Do it, do it.
This wine was purchased at the St. Innocent/Zenith tasting room for $30.
Cheers to day three!