Sparkling Month! Analemma Blanc de Noir, 2011

December is here! Naturally, the best time of the year to drink sparkling wine. Well, except February. That’s a good month, too- with that whole holiday that starts with a “V” occurring and all. Personally, I’ll drink sparkling just about any old month, but the craving has really come home to roost in the last few weeks. I think it really began when I was working on this article, and pouring over the Theise Sparkling Manifesto, and realizing just how painfully long it had been since I’d felt that searing acid slice across my tastebuds and the tingle of carbonation. I love the mouthwatering factor of sparkling wine more than anything. I especially love how just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Like now.

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I stole this picture from fellow writer, Tamara Belgard! It was better than mine.

But, hallelujah! There was a saving grace. The weekend of November 14th, I took a quick jaunt up to the Columbia Gorge to attend a release party for Analemma’s 2011 Atavus Blanc de Noir. Perfect! I thought. I’m unfamiliar with the Gorge area in general, still being a relative newbie, and I’ll treat it like a little vacation that’s only a day and a half long. Sold.

 

 

So what better time than December to throw together a little “Sparkling Month” on the blog? Admittedly, thus far I have slated only four Sparklers to tell you about- but they’re good ones, and they’re all very individual representations of Sparkling wine in the Pacific Northwest, and the cool directions its going in.

5.Kris_Steven_closeupWhere to start with the Analemma? There are so many cool facts about this wine. And, I have to lead by saying I was so pleasantly surprised and impressed by my experience there. Kris and Stephen are wonderfully authentic and talented people. A husband and wife team, Kris being the viticulturalist and Stephen the winemaker, they’ve really created a very special place at Analemma Wines. With some impressive notches on their belts, they had the opportunity to lease the Atavus Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge starting in 2010. The vineyard itself was planted in the 1960’s. A very high-elevation site, it sits at between 1600 and 1800 feet, making it absolutely ideal for grapes that thrive in cooler growing conditions. The resulting high acid spells perfection for sparkling grapes. 2011 was especially cold, so this wine was brought into the world at the right time. Three of the coolest things about this bubbly are: it is single varietal (Pinot Noir), single vineyard (Atavus) and single vintage (2011). Got all that?

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A sharp crispness dominates the palate, with really poignant aromas of granny smith apple, underripe red fruit, lemon peel, and a hint of sweet tarts. There are some beautifully woven baking spice notes in the background, accentuated by woodsy herbs and that salinity we all know and love in sparkling wine. Here’s the interesting thing about my experience tasting this wine for the first time. As soon as I tasted it, I thought… “Oh, wow. I *think* this is amazing,” but I didn’t have a chance to really bounce my thoughts off anyone at the time. I had read good press about the wine, so I knew it was well-respected, but sometimes when I first think something is too good initially, I like to test the waters and see if my thoughts fall in line with other people’s. Taste can easily be affected by your mood, your surroundings, etc. At least for me.

In any case, I didn’t trust myself 100%. But, as it turns out, I should have. One of my go-to Pacific Northwest palate’s is Michael Alberty at Storyteller wine in Portland. I love his tasting notes, and have the highest regard for his palate. Just a few days ago he featured this wine in his newsletter, and suffice to say- he likes it. Then I saw that Tamara over at Satiate PDX purchased a bottle at Storyteller just the other night, and she thought it was a rockstar as well. Then there’s the whole Top 100 Wines of 2014 thing, where the 2010 vintage had earned a rightful place. Kiddos, the wine’s good. These people are on to something.

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This is already super long, but I do want to make note that I also *loved * their Gewurztraminer. That thing was singin’! They weren’t kidding when they said this vineyard site was intended for Alsatian varietals. I’d love to feature it in the future at some point!

–Absolute. Last. Thing.– Wondering where the name Analemma comes from? Allow me to tell you! I love this. An analemma is a figure eight pattern that the sun creates across the sky during the course of a year. A specific location has a unique analemma- Beaune, France will have a different-looking analemma then Marlborough, New Zealand. Their logo is an artist’s rendering of the analemma at the Atavus vineyard. The top of the figure eight would occur roughly at the time of the Summer solstice. One of my favorite things about wine is that it is, in many ways, a physical representation of where it comes from. The background of the analemma itself and how it relates to the wine is pretty awesome, I think.

I’d love to thank Kris and Stephen for the really amazing, educational, and eye-opening visit. The Gorge AVA is pretty sick, y’all. I’ll be back.

 

 

 

 

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Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Bayliss-Bower Vineyard

What a treasure.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ghost Hill Cellars. I visited a few weeks back, and (per usual) it took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get this post together. Until about 20 minutes ago, this was going to be a joint “ode to 2011” post, including this and one other 2011 vintage wine. Unfortunately, the wine gods had other plans, and the other bottle that I purchased is bad. A major bummer, but we’re on the rebound. It happens. I’ll still yammer on for a minute or two about the vintage, because I can’t resist, but we’ll mostly chat about Ghost Hill and this wine.

IMG_0673It was actually back in February that a friend recommended Ghost Hill to me. I believe we tried to go in once, but they were closed (because winter). Embarrassingly, it took me until October to reattempt. That’s the reality of living in wine country; we are overloaded with choices!

In any case, this place is a gem. Its probably one of the most authentically Oregon wineries I’ve visited since I’ve lived here. And it doesn’t hurt that the wines are great.

What do I mean by authentically Oregon? Ghost Hill is a 5th generation family farm. Mike and Drenda Bayliss currently farm the property with their children, Michael and Bernadette and son in law Cameron Bower. About 16 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 1999 on the 90-acre property. Oats, wheat and other crops take up a lot of Mike’s time as well.

#oldfashionedfilter #UseThatArtDegree

#oldfashionedfilter
#UseThatArtDegree

The property sits on Willakenzie soil that is prime for grape-growin’ and is neighbored by famed vineyards Abbott Claim and Bonnie Jean. Rumor has it Ken Wright wanted to swipe this property up before the vineyard was planted. The Bayliss family keeps it pretty low-key, making about 1200 cases a year. Recently they’ve had a whirlwind of activity: Eric Hamacher was hired on as their new winemaker (beginning with the 2015 vintage) and their 2012 Bayliss-Bower received a 94 point score from Wine Spectator’s Insider in the 11/4 edition. Huzzah!

IMG_0675Scores are certainly something to be proud of. Now that I’ve been on the winery side for just about a year, I’ve witnessed what scores can do and its definitely an exciting energy to be a part of. Personally, I’ve been a little weary of 2012 lately, and I will continue to sing the praises of the 2011 vintage until I turn blue in the face. Although, as my favorite coworker likes to remind me “I am not the market,” my palate definitely is geared towards a wine like this, and cooler vintages in general. I think a cooler vintage captures the allure of older vines in a more expressive fashion as well. But these are all decidedly in my opinion statements.

I remember when the 2011 vintage fist happened; I was in South Carolina, and somehow the word leaked out into the Southeast that 2011 was bad, bad, bad. Cold and wet. Stay away from them. I had a customer tell me once that “his friend told him NOT to buy ANY Pinot Noir from Oregon from the 2011 vintage.” I don’t quite recall how I responded to that one.

Sometimes I wonder where these things start.

What I can say is that 2011’s really stand out to me. There’s something extremely vervey and alive about these wines. A tingly kind of energy that guides you to the delicate power that is Pinot Noir. That is what continues to excite me about the vintage. And with that, I’ll get off the soapbox and detail this particular one!

IMG_0907A brickish red color, the wine is in a nice evolutionary phase. Immediately upon opening, the nose has a brief flamboyant moment: bright raspberry and red cherry. It settles down a bit, relaxing into its herbal undertones. Asian five spice, sage, fennel, lavender and a resounding note of deeper black cherry abound. The finish is a lively smack of tart pomegranate. That’s the other thing I love about a leaner vintage; the acid lift makes me want to smack my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Satisfying.

I bought this bottle at the winery. Confession: I don’t recall what I paid for it. I do think the bottle price is $42, but I know they had a discount on the 11. If you’re in the area for Thanksgiving, go check them out before they close for the winter. Your pants will be charmed off, and you’ll leave feeling like you have experienced a special part of the area’s history.

Whut.

Whut.

 

 

 

Raptor Ridge Tempranillo, 2013 Rogue Valley, Folin Vineyard

CONFESSION: I’ve had this wine in my possession for way too long. Confession number two: I’ve had numerous wines from Raptor Ridge this Summer that all deserved their own post, but I really don’t know where the time has gone. So I’m seizing this rainy and strangely windy Saturday to catch you up on one of my favorite wineries in the area!

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

We’ll start the party with the post’s namesake, the 2013 Tempranillo. This is just the third year RR has made a Tempranillo, and it sits at right around 200 cases made. Tempranillo seems to enjoy the hotter climate of Southern Oregon; the Folin Vineyards are also planted with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvédre and Grenache- more varieties that bask in the heat.

Heat is evident in this wine, as its nose is big, dark and smokey. Blackberry liqueur, raspberry preserves, briar patch, hints of woodsy/evergreen/fresh sap, along with traditional Tempranillo characteristics: tobacco, leather, savory herbs, and a nice bright streak of tart red fruit to carry it along. Raptor Ridge suggests mole as a pairing, and now that is all I can think of. Or maybe something char-grilled, with a spicy BBQ rub. Ribs?! Oh, indeed.

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In short: a super fun “unusual” varietal perfect for Fall! Fall is a little erratic here, it almost reminds me of South Carolina. It cooled off quickly in September, but its thrown more than a few 80 degree days our way right up until last week.

So, what other Raptor Ridge wines have I enjoyed this year? A favorite: the 2014 Grüner Veltliner:

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This is Estate fruit from their site on the Chehalem Mountains, which tickles me. Again, not much more than 200 cases made and this little guy sings with clean minerality, slate, fresh flowers and a really nice acidic balance.

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The Raptor Ridge 2014 Pinot Gris was probably my favorite Gris of the year. Gris takes some flack out here for being boring, I’ve noticed. Maybe it doesn’t have the most personality of any white grape out there, but the bottom line is: when you find one that hits the nail on the head in terms of value & quality, AND offers the delicious clean, fresh palate that it should.. well, anyone who’s worked in retail or a restaurant knows: they’re money-makers. People love them, they’re versatile and friendly. Long story short, the Raptor Ridge is a winner for all those reasons.

I’m scouring my phone for a picture of the view at the winery but I’m shocked to discover I don’t have one! That means I have to go back soon and get one. Hands down, best view in the valley- and we all know there’s some stiff competition there.

Go check these guys out!

*these wines were received as samples. except the pictured rosé. I bought that because, well, rosé*

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!

Patton Valley “Drink Pink” 2015!

DRINK PINK! Its as though this event was made for me. Now in its fourth year, Drink Pink sold out at 300 people. I probably would have guessed there to be 120 people there, because it never felt crowded (hat tip). I really can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than at Patton Valley, with around 30 different Rosé producers from the Valley. WHUT. Okay, so I wish it had been a few degrees cooler. But we can’t have everything. And fortunately there was shaved ice, in which I drowned my “sorrows.”

Take a gander at those babies.

Take a gander at those babies.

Although I have mixed feelings about “scoring” in general, I wanted to break up a few of the wines tasted on Saturday into fun little categories. Cause really, when I stop to think, there are two main ways to enjoy Rosé: 1.) as a wine (duh): serve it lightly chilled but not ice cold, and enjoy it with food, or just savor it slowly over the course of a Summer evening. And 2.) the “porch pounder”: serve it cold, drink it down on a hot day that’s meant for day-drinking, with as many jovial friends as possible.

There’s plenty of room for both in my world.

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As a general rule, I like porch-pounders to be 1.) thirst quenching and 2.) easy on the wallet. Let’s face it; when you’re buying a for a small gathering or just to have a cold bottle in the fridge at all times, I think they should stay in the $16-$22 price range. Perhaps your definition of a porch-pounder is more like $9-$15, or maybe its $25 and up. Again, I’m generalizing, but the $16-$22 allows plenty of room for a quality wine that *also* is delicious.

So! Without further adieu: My Top Three “Porch Pounders” from Drink Pink 2015:

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1.) David Hill Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Bright, fresh, fun and really captivating in that energetic, buoyant sense. This wine was a nice surprise for me; I’d never had anything from David Hill before and this wine really caught my attention. $18 retail.

(this is an older photo, Patton Valley's Rosé was on tap this Saturday)

(this is an older photo, Patton Valley’s Rosé was on tap this Saturday)

2.) Patton Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Sorry not sorry. These guys host the event for a reason. Their pink is the jam. I’ve yet to find a Rosé that is as fleeting, pretty, floral, clean, delicate and rose petally (not a word?) as this one. And for $18? C’mon. It’s just stupid good.

Also a photo from a few weeks ago. Is this label not awesome?

3.) Division Winemaking Company Gamay Rosé, 2014. This one also takes home the award for coolest label and coolest grape. I’m really trying not to show favoritism here, and I think I may be verging towards unobjective when it comes to this wine, but I first tried it back in April and after revisiting, am convinced of its greatness. Tart, crisp pomegranate and cranberry notes. Refreshing as all get out. Retail $19.

 

Next! My Top Three Big Sexy’s That I’d Like to Spend an Entire Evening With:

IMG_99031.) Alexana Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Richly colored, this wine enjoyed 10 hours of skin contact and neutral French oak barrels for four months. Inviting color, lingering creaminess on the finish and overall sex appeal make this one a winner in my world. Retail $28.

IMG_93062.) Winderlea Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Slightly more mellow in color but in no way lacking in the lovely department. Fragrant, silky, and the epitome of a crowd-pleaser. Robert does amazing things to the textures of his wines, IMHO. Retail $25

Hey there, piggy.

Hey there, piggy.

3.) Big Table Farm Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. I’ve had this wine on a few occasions and it seems to just be getting better over time. Freshly bottled it had great energy but its youth showed a bit; now with a few months to gain traction it has really come together into one magical little entity. Also with a bit of barrel age, this wine ventures into watermelon rind/cherry pith/rhubarb territory. Full malo makes for a nice sturdiness. Yum. Retail $26.

 

Another award: BEST COLOR! Goes to…

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Ribera Vineyards”Molly’s Vineyard” Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. I love the super delicate color on this guy. It reminds me of a few of my favorite Spanish Rosé of Tempranillos that I’ve had in the past. Super crisp, beautiful palate as well. Retail $22.

There were so many killer wines there, I almost feel like a poser playing this “favorite” game, but I needed to mix it up a little today. Plus, the interweb likes “favorites.” I hope you enjoyed!

Oh, and can I just say- THAT PAELLA from Crown Paella. Slap. Your. Mama.

I've never seen such a beautiful sight.

I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight.

Oh, and aforementioned shaved ice from Ono Shave Ice! I had watermelon and blue raspberry, naturally. Because if I’m going to overdose on sugar, I want my tongue to be blue at the end:

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This was a beautifully organized event from start to finish. Great idea, great wine, perfect location, great vibe. Awesome all around! Can’t wait for next year.

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Oregon Wine Month- Rosé all Day!

Greetings on this, the last day of Oregon Wine Month. I have some brief news to share, and then I will leave you to your Sunday plans!

The Pink.

The Pink.

As you may know by now, I am a lover of pink wine. From waaay back. Pink wine was also what transformed me into a lover of white wine. Back when I was young and dumb, I thought I only liked red wine. Until one day I tried a rosé. I believe it was a very warm (okay, probably blisteringly hot) Summer day in South Carolina. It was as if the heavens had opened. I had never been so refreshed and delighted. And the rest is history. You can scroll back through my posts on this site; there are numerous ramblings and starry-eyed odes to pink wine throughout the years. As well as these two articles here and here, which are other fun testaments to my infatuation with the pink juice.

When I ventured out to Oregon, my Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days project helped me make a lot of great contacts- one of them being Carrie at Cellar 503. We met up one day and chatted about a collaboration. When she mentioned she had considered doing a special rosé shipment this Summer, I of course selfishly offered my services.

There began a few week quest at finding some new favorite Oregon rosé! This was a complete hardship. I finally narrowed it down, and I’m pretty tickled about the results. You can purchase the four-pack for $75 via the Cellar 503 website. If you’re local to Oregon, you can find these bottles individually as well, either at the various winery tasting rooms or a few retailers. But isn’t it just a bit more exciting to buy them as a little package? The four pack can also be picked up at the next Cellar 503 tasting event on June 21st. I know I’ll be making an appearance!

My dreamy tasting notes on the four wines can be found here: Anne Amie Huntington Rosé of Pinot Gris, Soter “North Valley” Rosé, Quady North GSM Rosé and Willful Rosé of Pinot Noir. Something I’m also quite proud of is that a total of eleven Oregon grapes are represented in these four wines. Pinot Noir does make great rosé, but I love showcasing the variety of grapes that are found in Oregon, as well as all the different styles of rosé that there are in the world. It’s pretty darn exciting. I hope you enjoy.

Cheers!

 

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!