Wine Wednesday edition: Statera Cellars

Sometimes I feel busier than I am. And then sometimes I actually am busy. It was my original intention to post this in an attempt to lend a hand to some fellow Oregon wine industry folks, Luke Mathews and Meredith Bell so they could reach their kickstarter goal for their baby, Statera Cellars. Luke emailed me some info last week, and I was intrigued. I was headed to see Straight Outta Compton that night, so I came up with this brainchild:

Yeah, I'm kinda thug like that.

I’ll be here all night, folks.

And yes, I created a few more Straight Outta images that day. This one was the best. But it does have basis in reality- from their press release:

“Three single vineyard Chardonnay wines from Statera Cellars are in their final stages of fermentation. Established in 2014, Statera Cellars is an independent winery that focuses exclusively on Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley–an area predominantly known for pinot noir–by examining wines made from storied single vineyards.

Statera Cellars is the brainchild of Meredith Bell & Luke Mathews, two area locals whose mission is to produce Chardonnay with zero additives until bottling. Using only neutral oak, native ferments and temperature control, Statera wines are markedly natural. The first vintage will be released early in 2016 but opportunities to purchase futures and taste barrel samples with the winemakers will be available during summer 2015.”

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I’d had it in mind to write something on young people in the area who are starting their own projects, as I think its a very cool thing to witness. Something that attracted me to Oregon was the sense of community that is alive and well here. Sure enough, when I went to Luke & Meredith’s kickstarter today as I sat down to write this, they had just surpassed their goal! I was internally happy, and still thought I’d throw up this post regardless. If they collect $300 more dollars before August 29th, they can purchase a settling tank. $500 more and a settling tank, a bulldog, and hoses can be purchased. I read that and at first thought it meant that they would get an *actual* bulldog. Which would also be great, wouldn’t it?

They’re offering some pretty cool rewards to their backers, too: a picnic in a vineyard, dinners, bombshell leggings (okay, so I’m not cool enough to even know what those are, but they look great), and a release party planned for April of next year. Fun times! I know I’ll be looking forward to tasting what Luke & Meredith have created. Check it out and consider pouring one out for these two and their hard work.

Cheers!

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Oregon Wine Month: Durant Vineyards

What are Wednesday nights for? Listening to Coolio on Pandora and tasting a lovely lineup from Durant Vineyards:

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Something I’ve only just learned about Durant is that they make a specific effort to match different blocks of fruit with different winemakers. Interesting! The first wine in my glass is the 2014 IMG_9385Southview Pinot Gris, made by Jesse Lange. A super easy-drinker, this is a wine thats hard to argue with. Great for afternoon sippage and won’t fight with a wide variety of cuisine. If I had to guess, I’d say this wine has a touch of residual sugar. The nose is not terribly in-your-face, leaning towards the subtle end of the fruit spectrum. Golden apple, nectarine, peach, apricot and other lovely stone fruits are found amidst a nice slice of acid. Pinot Gris might not win hip points among wine nerds, but there’s a reason it sells like hot cakes pretty much… everywhere. Its versatile and likeable. Booyah!

Next is the 2013 Lark Block Chardonnay, made by Dean Fisher of Adea (side note- Dean is a total trip!) This wine strikes my fancy. The nose is toasty and the palate has a pleasant “quench” to it. IMG_9386Nectarine, green apple, nutmeg, clove and tangy lemon notes abound. The mid-palate has a fleeting lift to it, wrapping up with a silky and lingering finish. I tried this wine over the course of three days, and on day three it has really softened into a completely different wine. The structure remains, but it now drinks more like an old soul; elegant and soft. Paul Durant co-founded the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium in 2011, and is very committed to seeing the grape get the notoriety it deserves here. Props! At $25 retail, I think this guy is a steal.

We’ll end on a red note: the 2013 Bishop Block Pinot Noir. This wine is made by Isabelle Dutartre of DePonte Cellars & 1789 Wines, her own small label started in 2007. The Bishop Block was planted by the Durant family in 1973, all Pommard clone on native rootstock. That makes them some of the older vines found in the valley. For anyone who’s *not* a rootstock nerd, native rootstock implies that the vines have not been grafted onto younger, phylloxera-resistant roots. Hence why they’re on the older side. The Durants sold this fruit for many years, and now bottle a small quantity under their own label- this vintage was 300 cases. I see that Patricia Green Cellars also has a 13 Bishop Block, at 145 cases bottled. Now that would be a great side-by-side tasting! I’ll have to get on that.

IMG_9387Anyway… this wine is excellent. I’ve also tasted this over three days. Tightly wound and a bit grippy on day one, but all the evidence pointed towards it relaxing and settling into itself. The nose is black cherry, licorice, anise, blackcurrant & plums with additional high tones of pomegranate and vague red floral notions. The palate offers that bricky, teeth-tingly, mouth drying bite that I always associate with Dundee. This did calm down a little with some time, and I think this is actually a wine I will revisit yet again tomorrow just to see where it’s taken itself. The wine closes with a bit of lofty vanilla and cedar. A very polished and precisely crafted bottle.

I am reminded of the person I met years ago who argued with me about how he never drank wine after it had been open more than a day, and was just accosted that I would suggest such a travesty. There were many choice words I would have loved to share with him, but I think the most succinct would have been, “Dude. Your loss.” Watching a wine evolve over an hour, a day, even a week can be fascinating. I invite you to channel your inner patience and give it a try sometime, if you haven’t already.

Okay, I’ll get off that soapbox for now and bid the evening farewell! Check out Durant Vineyards on your next trip. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Its a very rich, multi-faceted experience that they offer. Cheers!

 

 

 

Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, 2015

…. a more appropriate title might be: How I Managed to Taste Over 60 Oregon Chardonnays in less than 24 hours

Yup. All of 'em.

Yup. All of ’em.

So that happened.

I had planned to approach this post in a different way. Originally I had made it my mission to take detailed tasting notes on every wine that was open. It didn’t take but 5 minutes into the Grand Tasting to realize that that wasn’t going to happen. My brain was buzzing from all the information and thoughts expressed at the technical panel, and I really wanted to simply enjoy the roomful of Chardonnay I was in, in a purely experiential fashion. Of course, I will share some standouts and tasting notes, but I’ve had a full 48 hours to process the event and I think my words can be better served to express the tone, energy and real message of the event. So lets get started.

WTF is a clone again?

WTF is a clone again?

The theme of the Symposium this year was Attack of the Clones. This might not mean much to your average sipper of wine, but this topic served as a backdrop to what ended up being, to me, the real theme of the day.

So take a step back with me, if you will. Think about the first real story or conversation you took part in or overheard about Oregon Chardonnay. Did it go something like this? “Yeah, they’ve always had Chardonnay in Oregon, but in the beginning they planted all the wrong clones and so it sucked for a long time, until they figured out which ones to use. Now its pretty good. I mean, its getting better.”

Yes? Well… here’s the thing. Thats not entirely correct. The first speaker of the day, Jason Lett, started the day out with a bang by offering up a few quotes dating back to the 1970’s affirming Oregon as a legitimate place to produce Chardonnay. I’m paraphrasing, but in 1975 the LA Times was quoted as saying Oregon could do “as well as California” with Chardonnay. In 1987, Robert Parker reported that Oregon would “catapult” onto the Chardonnay scene due to its similarity to Burgundy.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

Is there truth to the “wrong clone” argument? Sure. There was a kernel of legitimacy that started the clone conversation, but somehow it has been the resounding soundbite that stayed with the rest of the world. Want to rebuff the “wrong clone” argument? Here’s one: The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Chardonnay Reserve (we tasted the 2012 vintage on Saturday) is sourced from the original vineyards plantings, and they’re currently at the ripe age of about 40 years (and own-rooted!). What clone was first planted by David Lett? The Draper selection, a member of the Wente “family”, from the Draper Ranch in St. Helena, CA. How d’ya like dem apples?

Which leads me to the soundbite that I feel most suits the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium: Its time to change the conversation. 

Boom! Okay, let us pause for a moment to pay homage to Don Draper. Isn’t it serendipitous that I was just talking about the Draper clone?!

"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

So I issue you this challenge, Oregon Chardonnay lovers: change the conversation. Its our job as Oregon wine drinkers and ambassadors for the region to shut down the “they planted the wrong clones” rhetoric. Take it in a different direction. Like the Willamette Valley being a natural home for a cool-climate varietal like Chardonnay. Like the bracing spine of acid that lies at the heart of a good Oregon Chard, stitching it together for decades of ageability. Like the fact that many Oregon Chardonnay vines are just *now* hitting their stride, age-wise, and we’ve only begun to see what these vines are capable of. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that at the core of Chardonnay from this region lies the most energetic, vibrant and haunting persona.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Before we move on to a few gratuitous Wine Porn pictures, a lovely quote from Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights: “Chardonnay needs the restriction of site if it is to become a transparent ware of beauty.” Mimi spoke last, and maybe the room was just itching for a female voice, but her thoughts really seemed to lift the room. Very inspirational.

Want to be jealous? Here’s a lovely crop job of everything I tasted:

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Just remember…

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…Don’t hate the player…

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… hate the game.

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Or maybe hate no one.

Alright alright. You want my top five? You can have ’em. In no particular order. These are just five that stayed with me, all things including price range considered:

FullSizeRender (41)1.) Walter Scott Chardonnay, 2013 Eola-Amity Hills, X-Novo Vineyard. 100 cases made, $45.

A real stunner; one of the more distinctly expressive wines of the day. Like that smokey, gunflinty edge? Cause I’m all about it. Polished, sleek, impossible to resist.

FullSizeRender (42)2.) Big Table Farm Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 476 cases made, $45.

I’ll admit it: I’m totally infatuated with these labels. Of course, the wine inside is killer too. Busty in all the right places, it packs clearly delineated spice, candied lemon, the silkiest of textures, and of course that vein of acid we all love.

IMG_72433.) Belle Pente Chardonnay, 10 Willamette Valley, Belle Pente Vineyard. 330 cases made, $30.

Brian’s 2010 was in a wonderful place on Saturday. I think it actually had an advantage over some of the ’12s and ’13s being poured. An unfair advantage? Oh no. This is a current release. Brian also has his 2010 Riesling as a current release and lemmee tellya- that thing is no joke either. Patience is a virtue, folks. In any case, the cool 2010 vintage did wonders for whites. $30 is insane.

FullSizeRender (44)4.) Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay, 13 Dundee Hills. 3,075 cases made, $35.

By the way, its very difficult picking favorites here, in case you were wondering. This is a favorite because it always hits that vervy place that I love, always reminiscent of a Chablis. Go figure, since they’re DDO. Somewhat larger case production, but this is some good GD Chardonnay.

FullSizeRender (46)5.) Bergstrom “Sigrid” Chardonnay, 12/13 Willamette Valley. $85, ? cases made.

I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer. Sigrid is Queen. Sexy, sexy, sexy. Did I say sexy? They poured 2012 and 2013 on Saturday. Honestly, I can’t recall if I had a preference for one over the other. I had a 2010 vintage in January that knocked me on my ass. Bow down, bitches.

FullSizeRender (45)BONUS: DeLancellotti Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 50 cases made, $50.

Why is it a bonus? Well, because there’s a very good chance there’s none left and I don’t want to be a tease. I first had this wine back in November and was pleasantly reminded of how killer it is on Saturday. Nicely woven oak that isn’t overpowering, to my taste.

Okay, one more bonus: Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Chardonnay, 05. WHUT. This is an extra bonus, because it was poured at the media dinner on Friday night, and my super-spoiled self got to attend. Its almost not fair to mention. This thing was freakin’ singin’, y’all.

Thats about all I have for you on this wrap up of the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium. It has sold out every year. You should go.

*Mic drop.*

Oh, and here’s an adorable picture of the “B” table. I wear my bias on my sleeve.

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Want to hear a few other awesome lady wine writer’s perspectives on The Chardonnay Symposium? Check out Jade Helm and Julie Arnan’s posts!

Lumos Gewürztraminer, 12 Temperance Hill

Happy Sunday evening! I took a quick break after the conclusion of Thirty Oregon Grapes just to regroup- but I’m back at it tonight with a grape I fully intended on including in the project, but just didn’t get to it- Gewürztraminer! There was a bit of Gewürz in the Evesham Wood Blanc de Puits Sec blend, but its a grape that really deserves its own post. In the life of an aromatic white lover, this one is definitely a favorite.

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I was moderately familiar with Lumos prior to this weekend, but I still didn’t realize they had a little tasting room right in downtown McMinnville until recently! They share the space with Honest Chocolates, which were totally drool-worthy. They’re open Thursday-Sunday and after tasting through their wines yesterday, it really dawned on me what an insane value their wines are. Their case production is very small and the majority of their fruit comes from the Temperance Hill Vineyard (this one included), which is a beloved site in the Eola-Amity Hills. Many a winery (Adelsheim, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, J.K. Carriere, Panther Creek, R. Stuart, and St. Innocent just to name a few) have discovered the virtues of this site. Lumos owner and winemaker Dai Crisp is Temperance Hill’s vineyard manager. Yes, that’s his name; he’s Welch, if you can believe that!

So at 171 cases made, all Temperance Hill fruit, and boasting a special price of $15 (for the 2012 vintage), this Gewürz is pretty nuts, in my opinion. Even at its normal price of $19, it would still be a great value. I love Gewürz because its like Riesling’s wicked stepsibling. A touch more animated in character, a bit more perfumed, but still incredibly fun to pair with food and perfect afternoon sippers.

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There. Did I sell you on the grape itself? Now. THIS one. The ’12 Lumos is a temptress; the nose is ridiculously pretty and floral with honeysuckle, fresh white flowers, plum, golden apple and apricot in abundance. A slight twang of citrus on the palate- but mostly soft, fresh tangerine- nothing piercing. The minerality lingers for a bit, and the texture is soft. I’d definitely call this one a “quaffer.” Quaff, while a totally ridiculous word, really does summarize a wine thats perfect for wiling away an afternoon and sipping slowly and without purpose. A nice little companion.

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The Lumos tasting room in Mac is totally worth a stop. On the day I went, they were pouring a couple of 2010 vintage Pinots that were showing beautifully, and the Rosé also had me at “hello.” Its just past Nicks on 3rd Street. I’ll definitely be looking forward to some of their new releases this Spring!

That’s all I got for tonight! Many thanks to Heidi Riehl at Lumos for the tasting. Y’all keep it real out there in wine-drinkin’ world. I’ll be back with a post about the lovely Leah Jorgensen later this week…

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 29: Cameron “Giuliano”!

Its almost the LAST DAY. This is a really fun one that I’m glad I happened into. Not being a native Oregonian, I was totally unfamiliar with Cameron wines until I arrived here. I first remember hearing about Cameron right before Thanksgiving weekend. Some people I knew who worked nearby at Winderlea were talking about going to the winery “because it was open”- like this was a HUGE deal.

Little did I know, upon further time spent here, that it IS a huge deal. Cameron wines are barely distributed; only a handful of retailers in the Valley/Portland and a few restaurants carry them. And they’re never open, even for appointments. Nor do they ship wine. But whatever your thoughts are on that procedure, it does seem to be working for them. These wines have an extremely loyal following. And this bottle, the Giuliano, is one of the most adored white blends in Oregon, so I’m reading. But its new to me, so I’m approaching it as a total rookie.

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I was lucky enough to go to a tasting with winemaker John Paul Cameron right before Christmas at Storyteller Wine Company in Portland. I’ve been on his mailing list for quite a while. I actually had a case of a French white shipped to me in SC last Summer, because after reading Michael’s description of it, I just HAD to have it. The man has a gift with words. In any case, that tasting was INsane; Nebbiolo, older vintages of Pinot Noir that were stunning, and the best Oregon Chardonnay I’ve ever had, hands down- the 2012 Wadsworth, Clos Electrique Vineyard. I believe my exact tasting notes consisted of “Stop. It.” Sometimes when something is that good, I just can’t even talk about it.

So with my not-so-extensive knowledge about Cameron, I was still surprised and delighted to see this bottle at Division Wines in Portland during my fun Wednesday excursion this past week. There are some wines that you know you have to have when you see them. This was one of them. 1.) I love unusual whites, 2.) it was the last bottle, and 3.) its Cameron. So, I was sold. I chatted with the owner Will at some length and found him delightful. I’ll definitely be back.

Okay! On to the wine. What’s in here? Listen up! It’s a really cool blend: Friulano, Auxerrois, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio & Moscato. And get this: all the fruit is from Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge vineyards, both in Dundee. Did you know there was Friulano in freakin’ Dundee?! I sure didn’t. For more on Friulano and whats up with it in Cali, see here.

Pardon my thumb- torn label.

Pardon my thumb- torn label.

This is an intriguing wine to me. The nose has some light granny smith apple, apricots, fresh flowers, and quince. Musky perfume is hidden in the background, probably a result of the Muscat. The texture is nicely viscous and silky. I might’ve expected this wine to be one of those lean, sharp whites, but its definitely not. Its body teeters in this no-mans land just above medium-bodied. I think this wine might’ve changed a bit since its been in bottle. A lot of the tasting notes I’ve come across online describe it as intensely floral- to me, the floral component doesn’t knock me over. Its there, but perhaps dialed back a notch. Pretty interesting. Consider me compelled. It’d be cool to see how this wine changes with more time in bottle. I like wines like this, that make me think. Cheers to that.

This wine is named after John Paul Cameron’s son, Julian, who designed the label. PS: I love the label. I suspect that at about 70 cases made, you’d be hardpressed to find a bottle of this- but its almost Spring, which means new white vintages should be released soon! So get on the radar with your local retailer and jump on this wine when it arrives. It probably sells out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

ONE MORE DAY! I can honestly say that I don’t know what the last wine of the challenge is going to be. Something that I buy at Valley Wine Merchants tomorrow. I live on the edge.

Thanks for following along! I look forward to wrapping this party up tomorrow.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 26: Belle Oiseau! Belle Waz-what?

Behold, one of my favorite Oregon whites, the Belle Pente Belle Oiseau, 2011! 

Belle Oiseau means "Pretty Bird".

Belle Oiseau means “Pretty Bird.” Also, Belle Waz-Oh. 

As it turns out, this wine is beloved by many Oregonians. And with due reason. Winemaker Brian O’Donnell developed this wine for Portland’s Le Pigeon and its little sister restaurant, Little Bird, with the help of General Manager/Partner Andy Fortgang. Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro are currently taking two out of my top five spots for drool-worthy Instagram feeds here in Portland, by the way. I seriously can’t wait to go to either one. Sometimes they Instagram their staff meals, too. I might just show up sometime roughly when I suppose a staff meal would take place.

I’m sure they’d love that.

I mean, seriously. I can't even. How good would this wine be with this?!

I mean, seriously. I can’t even. How good would this wine be with this?!

In any case, this wine was developed as an ode to an Alsatian “Edelzwicker”, a blend of “Noble” varietals. Historically, the grapes would all come from the same parcel, and could even be co-fermented. The 2011 vintage is a blend of mostly Pinot Gris and Riesling, with a bit of Muscat. I’ve had it on a few occasions, but this is the first bottle I’ve purchased for just me. And let me tell you. The more time I spend with this bottle, the more enamored I am with it. On a given Tuesday, I could open a bottle, drink a glass, then say to myself- ok, later for that. But this is the kind of wine where I find myself sneaking another half a glass… then another. Its like an old friend. You can keep coming back to it, and every time you do you’re reminded how much you like it.

A very dry wine with just a touch of RS, it drinks like a lean, clean little machine. Delicate and precise, is has defined stone fruit and white floral characteristics, with soft lemon and golden apple in the background. Sharp enough to cut through something fatty (this wine was developed specifically with charcuterie in mind), yet would be great with light, fresh fare (oysters, anyone?) as well. The finish is lifted with some higher aromatics of jasmine and fresh laundry.

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Of course I’ve already declared my clear personal bias for Belle Pente, but this really is one of my favorite Oregon whites. Originally, this wine was restaurant-only, and sold in keg form. I read in one article that it sold for $8 a glass and $20 for a half-lifer carafe- which is RIDIC- in a perfect way. So well-priced. I would love to share a carafe of this wine, bistro-style, for $20. It sounds too good to be true to me. In any case, this wine in bottle form sells for $18. I purchased it at the winery, and honestly I don’t know if any retailers carry it. They very well could, I just don’t know personally. If you’re local, I of course suggest bringing yourself down to Carlton to buy some at the winery. If you’re not, you’ll have to get a plane ticket. But its cool, you’ll be happy you did.

Gah! I know I’m a day behind right now, but I’m trying my best to wrap up the Thirty Grapes project in the best way possible. Seriously, I’m TRYING. Cheers!

 

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!