Sparkling Month: Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant, 2014

Say hello to Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant!

mischief managed.

mischief managed.

This little doll is about as charming as they come. I’ve written about Division Wine Co. before, but this wine fresh from winemaker Kate Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines. Gamine means a girl with a mischievous charm. As a lover of words in general, I’m a fan of this one.  This is an enchanting wine, starting with the fact that its made from Grenache: Grenache from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Grenache is a grape I don’t typically associate with sparkling wine. There’s nothing specific that makes it wrong for sparkling (to me), but especially in a hot climate like Southern Oregon, it has the potential to turn into a hulking monster of a red wine. Alcohol contents can get super high in Grenache in general, which is what makes this wine such an altogether pleasant surprise!

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Delicate, girly, coy… and yes, a little mischievous. Pale pink, with a faint and fine bead. The nose is subtle at first, but becomes a bit more revealing after a few minutes. FullSizeRender (11)Strawberry, cherry pit, fragrant herbs & cantaloupe, leaving you with a fun zesty tingle on the tongue. Given its Pet Nat status, the sparkle that’s found here is a light one, but it doesn’t deflate and leave you wanting more- it maintains it’s fine effervescence. Actually, this wine also drinks well on day two! I opened it last night and kept it overnight with a bubble-topper, and its still razor-sharp. The actual bubbles are no longer with us, but at this point it drinks like  a light, clean, tart rosé. Which is never a bad thing.

Pet Nat sparkling has often been described as “rustic”, and with due reason- but in this case, while there is a touch of that little funk, its a very refined wine. It is sophisticated and ultra-feminine. Normally I resist the use of gender assignment when it comes to wine (because 2015), but this wine just speaks femininity to me. In all forms, not just the light, flirty, girly side of femininity- the general badass side, too. Like this:

... or maybe it's just what I'm listening to currently.

Her walk is mean, yo.

This wine will cost you a ridiculous $26. There’s no ‘this was a sample’ disclosure here. I crushed hard on this wine and bought a couple, along with the Gamine Syrah, which is likewise ridiculously good. That wine is so good, actually, that I don’t even want to tell you about it because I’m concerned it will sell out and I won’t get to have any more. I believe the PetNat was only about 70 cases made, so that too is something  you’re gonna want to get your paws on rather soon, IMO. I think this wine is a really fantastic step for Oregon sparkling in general. A year ago if you would have told me there was a PetNat Grenache Rosé coming out of Southern Oregon, I might’ve looked at you CRAYzy.

One last side note- I love these labels! And to no one’s surprise, the talented Maija Rebecca did the watercolors for the Gamine wines. Love. Her.

I love this wine. It reminds me of pale pink lipstick, parasols, dimples, muddy pink rain boots, a sunny field of lavender, beachy hair waves, and Queen Anne’s lace. How’s that for free-association?

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Food Porn Friday! Loiregon Dinner at SE Wine Collective

Yes, yes, its been a hot second since I last posted. Let me tell you a one word answer for why this is:

SUMMER. 

Like a child who just got out of school, I have been suffering (although it really doesn’t feel like suffering) from extreme lack of desire to focus or even be inside. Summers in South Carolina were so hot, long and brutal that I confess to never really enjoying them. But this?! THIS Summer is the real deal. IT STAYS LIGHT UNTIL 10:00, y’all! And I have a sweet front porch. And a garden. So yes- my love for writing is real. But sometimes I just. don’t. wanna. And to be honest, I can’t really apologize for that. It’s summer!

But I’m breaking the spell today and I hope you’re ready for a truly gratuitous food porn edition. I’ve been thinking about the food from last week’s Vive Loiregon! Dinner at the SE Wine Collective a lot. There were several items that left quite an impression. Couple that with another meal I had there about two weeks prior, and I gotta tellya- Chef Althea is the real deal. I love her style; non-fussy but precisely composed and thought-out. That tiny kitchen is churnin’ out some really fantastic eats. I’ve always liked small kitchens.

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First a little background on the Loiregon Dinner, because it was such a fun and inventive way to bring food and wine together: the dinner featured four wines that were all sourced from the Quady North Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Herb Quady was even there!

This guy.

This guy.

I had a brief fangirl moment, since I have been crushing on Herb’s rosé for months. But I kept it together.

But back to the dinner! All four wines were sourced from Herb’s Quady North vineyard. All wines were “Loirecentric” (I made that word up) and three out of the four were made from all Cabernet Franc. By Loirecentric, I mean that all four wines were made as a sort of ode to France’s Loire Valley.

We started with the Jackalope Whité, 2014. Whité, you ask? Well, ya see… this wine was originally supposed to be a rosé. But is any wine really “supposed” to be anything? This wine just wasn’t having it and didn’t retain any pigment. Hence, it has been dubbed Whité, which I think makes for a fantastic story and I respect the wine’s tenacity to be what it wanted. The Whité was served with some passed appetizers:

<3

I looooved this one: mussels with sauce vert and a potato crisp. The little crunch you got alongside the mussel was perfection.

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Pork Rillettes on crostini with picked cherries– likewise, the pickled cherries were fantastic. They maintained their sweetness, but something pickled always sets off a fat-rich item like pork rillettes.

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We then moved outside, where it was as picturesque a Portland night as you can imagine. About four days later, the heat set in. Oye. The first wine served was one I had also tried and loved not so long ago at the PDX Urban Wine Experience- the Division-Villages “Béton” Cabernet Franc/Gamay, 2014. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this red is absolutely ideal for serving with a slight chill on a warm night. Aged in concrete, the mineral notes really pop alongside its bright, tangy fruit content. The Gamay grapes for this wine were fermented carbonically, and when that meets the slatey smokiness of the Cab Franc- tres magnifique!

Plus, the label? The best.

Plus, the label? The best.

Served with the Béton was one of my favorite things to pair with wine: tartare! This was Full Circle bison tartare with smoked egg yolk (wicked cool, and cool lookin’), morels and a semolina cracker:

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So dainty.

Raw meat is a fun thing to pair with wine, and this wine in particular. The mineral content is nicely offset by the raw meat. The iron/blood (sounds gross, tastes great) goes well with a mineral-driven red. No lie.

Next we had Leah Jorgenson’s “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc, 2013– another wine I have had and loved before- with a beautiful chilled zucchini, nasturtium leaf & pistachio soup topped with Oregon Olive Mill olive oil:

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Leah’s wine was one of my first Southern Oregon Cab Francs that I tried back in December or January. It packs an awesome punch of gunsmoke, sweet blackberries, plums and hints of something floral- hibiscus, I believe someone mentioned at the dinner. I had to confess to those around me that back on the east coast, word on Southern Oregon hasn’t really spread. Before I moved out here, I pretty much thought Oregon stopped at the Rogue Valley (d’oh).

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If anyone could and should spread the Southern Oregon love to the other coast, its these folks. You heard it here.

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We finished with a grilled flat iron steak, crispy smoked new potatoes, caper & green olive aioli, baby arugula, lemon vinaigrette and chives. To drink? Quady North Mae’s Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2011. This is a richly scented red, with well-woven notes of chocolate, sweet red pepper, cedar and briary goodness.

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Oh! One more thing: Pholia Family Farms Hillis Peak Goat Cheese with strawberry coulis, pickled green strawberry, brown sugar & cracked pepper walnuts. And a wee sip of the just disgorged (literally, Tom disappeared, came back with a wet shirt and announced “its been disgorged) Division Crémant de Portland, 2013. I’ve had a few versions of this wine- first in December when it had just been bottled, again in February, and then this one which had hung out on the lees much longer. It offered a more honeyed palate, more developed and settled into itself. Pretty durn good.

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This was a freaking great dinner. Completely non-pretentious. At the beginning, Herb waxed poetic about the idea of a “winemaker dinner” versus “dinner with the winemakers.” I really think this concept was captured; no one preached, no one made “sales-y” pushes, no one talked about scores. It was just about enjoying the company, the food and the wine as one experience.

Side note- I do apologize- I took pictures of Kate, Tom, Corey and Leah as well, but they all came out just dreadfully. I can’t bring myself to include them. The “mid-sentence facial twist” just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Oh, and last but not least, this guy was also an excellent dinner companion:

Cassidy. Good boy.

Cassidy. Good boy.

Many thanks to all involved for such a wonderful evening!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 27 & 28: Field Trip to Portland!

Yesterday I field-tripped up to Portland and paid a visit to the SE Wine Collective! I mean, it WAS Wednesday after all. What better day to have an extended happy hour? Its been unbelievably foggy in the Valley all week, but as soon as I got closer to Portland, the sun was out and it an absolutely gorgeous afternoon. Happy, I was.

The SE Wine Collective was the site of a killer dinner that I went to back in December. I hadn’t been back since, and was excited to explore a few reds in particular. It was really convenient to be able to sample two Cab Francs from Southern Oregon in one place, by the glass/taste. Can any other place really say that? Not sure, but in any case- its darn awesome. Lets dive in. Its Cab Franc time, baby.

Did you know Cab Franc grows in Southern Oregon? I didn’t, before I moved here. Its sort of fun to look back on this blog project and realize that a few of my favorite finds of the month were actually from Southern Oregon. I didn’t see that coming at all, and its a really cool discovery.

Up first was the Jackalope Cabernet Franc, 2013 Applegate Valley:

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Cabernet Franc is a fascinating grape; it can be in the “fresh, red fruit” category and it can also be in the “deep dark tannic monster” category. This one leaned towards the former; it had some nice dark fruit coursing through its veins, but the warm raspberry definitely showed through. A hint of blackberry preserves and coffee bean, and some young, green leafy business going on, along with peppercorn and bay leaves. Really a cool wine that has a lot of different elements at work, without seeming disjointed. Fun to drink. According to the website, less than 70 cases made.

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Next in Cab Franc world was actually a bottle I have seen in a few stores and really wanted to buy. I am loving the packaging on the Willful Cabernet Franc, 2012 Applegate Valley:

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

There’s a cool story here. I’ll paraphrase, as you can surely Google if you’re so inclined. Willful Wine Company was born in 2012, and produces Pinot Noir from their estate in Dundee (I also tried this- great), and small quantities of other Northwest varietals. The owner and winemaker’s name is Pam Walden, and there’s some background here involving Daedalus Cellars/Jezebel wines. I don’t feel like I can do the full story justice without sounding like an idiot, but in any case- if this is only the second year that Pam has released wine under the Willful label- the woman can make some damn wine. I’m sold. This juice is fantastic. Actually, I’ll go out on a limb and say this might be my favorite new discovery of this 30 days.

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This is a big ol’ wine, with full flavors of black cherry and raspberry jam, followed by a high “ding” of sour cherry. Its oak profile is round and integrated; its a curvy wine but incredibly balanced. The finish is long and creamy with baking spices, pepper and subtle vanilla. Theres a nice play of savory/gamey/wildness (all technical terms) but not so much as to drown out the fruit. Its fleshed out nicely, yet not in my opinion overworked. Is that enough praise? I like the wine. Go get it.

I also tried the SE Wine Collective Red Blend- a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay & Cab Franc- it was in keg form, so no photo- but it was a super fun wine! Buoyant, fresh, tart, pomegranate-y and a really great keg wine for all those reasons.

I did a sort of “create your own flight” deal with these wines, and just put together the three tastes individually; they were $4, $5 and $3 each, respectively. Bottles are available for purchase too, for dine-in and take home. The SE Collective also has some pre-determined flights on the menu- the couple who were seated near me were sipping on the Chenin Blanc flight- three from around the world. The place is a fun concept and reminds me a lot of Cellar on Greene, except wine is being made there, which makes it that much cooler.

Also, I ate these dates, which were ridic:

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Ridic is a good thing, by the way. These dates were stuffed with gorgonzola & hazelnuts and wrapped in prosciutto, seared, and drizzled with honey. Freakin’ delicious. You’d think I was being paid to say these things, but really I’m not. I just like the place. You should check it out.

Cheers, and thanks to the Collective for making it so easy to try two Oregon Cab Francs in one place! Score.

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 25: Vermentino in Oregon?!

Wrapping up the last week of my Oregon grapes project, I’m kind of scrambling to try to include as many as possible! So this is a duplicate winery, but I really dug the Zinfandel I wrote about from Troon, so I returned once again. And selfishly, I can walk to this place and its a pretty chill little tasting room. So meet the Troon “Foundation ’72” Vermentino, 2013 Oregon, Applegate Valley! It was the first Vermentino in Oregon:

IMG_8098 (1)Vermentino is kind of a super star in California right now; winemakers are experimenting with different styles with great success (Matthiasson, Rhyme). These grapes come from Southern Oregon, so its not a far stretch that they can live happily in the slightly warmer Rogue Valley. These grapes were grafted in 2006 onto vines that were first planted in 1972.

This is a lean style of Vermentino, and very quaffable. Vermentino is native to Southern Italy and is a pretty accommodating grape- it likes a warm climate and ocean breezes, but in this case its maintained a sense of self despite being in Oregon. It is also a grape that can be treated in many different manners and still be delicious- the Troon is fermented in stainless steel, but it can be made in a slightly richer style as well.

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Vermentino can offer a wide range of fun aromas and tastes- from apple and fresh flowers to ripe citrus, melon and tropical fruit. It almost always has a nice degree of minerality and acid that keeps it from feeling weighty. Mr. Troon here is tart and almost spritzy, with lemon zest, grapefruit, a little bit of a flinty edge and a mouthwatering dry finish. It pulls off a fresh, mediterranean feel. This wine got 87 points from Wine Enthusiast- I consider that pretty respectable for a modest-priced wine. Sometimes if you don’t see the “9” in front of a score its easy to disregard it. Just remember, there’s a lotta numbers less than 87. Like 60 or 73. Which are not so great. Has a wine ever scored, like 40 points? Someone answer this for me. I’m curious.

I can see this wine being a really fun glass pour in a restaurant. I always like surprising glass pours. Apparently Troon will be doing a few different bottlings/styles of Vermentino for the 2014 vintage, which I believe will be released in February. I’ll be looking forward to trying them fo’ sho! So, will Vermentino blow up in Oregon and become a “thing”? Not really sure I can confidently answer that, but I sure don’t mind this one.

I tasted this wine at the Troon Vineyards Tasting Room in Carlton. The bottle is available for purchase for $18. 

Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 4- we goin’ South!

Well, not toooo far south, we’re still in Oregon. But today we’re going to the Applegate Valley! This wine is my first trip there. I intend to go back. Both physically and in wine form. Why? 1.) the actual place is only about 4 hours from here, and 2.) the Troon Vineyard Carlton Tasting Room is literally up the street. I went by there on a whim this past Friday and was really glad I did.

So here she is, the Troon Vineyard Estate Zinfandel, 2012 Applegate Valley…

Zin? Oregon? Wha?

Zin? Oregon? Wha?

So, given that this part of Oregon is not really all that far from California, I suppose it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me that there’s Zin down there. But this little secret hasn’t made it to the East Coast yet, because I had no idea.

The Applegate Valley, as it turns out, is contained entirely within the Rogue Valley AVA. In the same way that the Ribbon Ridge Ava is contained within Chehalem Mountains AVA. Maybe that didn’t require an explanation, but there you have it. It is much hotter there than in the Willamette Valley, the tasting room manager, Meg, was telling me. Last summer, when Willamette was averaging around 90 degrees for a duration, it was 100+ in the Applegate Valley. Which makes it even more sensible that Zin would like to grow there, as Zin loves heat. There is also less rainfall, and I’m pretty sure Zin likes it dry, too.

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Allow me to preface these tasting notes by saying that I had somewhat low expectations of this wine. First, because Zin isn’t typically a grape I gravitate towards. And second, because I still don’t have a ton of experience with this part of Oregon. The Umpqua and Rogue Valley wines that reached me in South Carolina never stuck out as favorites. I recall one Gewürztrainer from Brandborg and the Umpqua Valley that I loved, but that’s about it.

So, given my expectations being set low, maybe it was destined that I be impressed with this wine. But lemee tellya- I really like this wine. I actually had to apologize to the tasting room manager, because I felt like my utter surprise could potentially have been construed as having previously thought their wines were crap (again, not true, as that day was my maiden voyage with Troon wines).

So why don’t I love Zin, usually? I dunno. It’s just not my jam. I don’t love high alcohol-fruit bombs, I generally have more of an affinity for white wine in general, there’s so many California Zins that are unbearably average and some that are downright terrible, if we’re being honest. So then along comes this wine and really makes me wonder. Which I love! I love being made to think. So thank you, Troon Zin. And before you get defensive, California, I KNOW there are good ones out there and I DO like them. Heck, every 2012 Turley Zin I had last year blew me away. Just sayin’- I don’t flock to them.

I can walk here! Be jealous. Plus the Carlton Bakery is across the street. Nom.

I can walk here! Be jealous. Plus the Carlton Bakery is across the street. Nom.

EGADS, I’m getting wordy again. Lets get to it: this wine has no shortage of ripeness. Raspberry jam, blackberry pie, some leaner rhubarb-y accents, macerated cherries and dried cranberry. It lingers with a nice warmth and pleasant cinnamon, vanilla, clove, a touch of mocha, and a brambly undertone. At 14.4% alcohol, its not flabby in the least.

Its worth noting that this wine just got 88 points from Wine Enthusiast. Props to the tasting room for not flaunting that- I like to reach my own conclusions. I like an 88 point rating, personally. Its solid evidence that a wine is good, but unlike a 90+ rating, you don’t have to see it plastered all over press materials for the next year.

If I was gonna build someone a case of truly unique wine from Oregon, this would be one of ’em.

This concludes Day 4! This wine was purchased at the Troon Carlton Tasting Room in Carlton for $29.