Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 24: Brittan Syrah!

Today was a serendipitous day! I went to visit my friend Erin, the tasting room manager at the new Winderlea/Brittan tasting room in McMinnville. Which you should go to, by the way. Its a cool little spot, and there’s Chrysalis Coffee and the Dominio IV tasting room nearby too!

I was an early bird, getting there right at 11 after a morning spent getting new brake pads on my car (FUN.) Really, who tastes wine at 11am? Well, me. But who should arrive right as I got there but Robert Brittan! So I got to chat with him a little bit about wine, a little bit about life and a lot about his love for Syrah. I actually first met Robert at Pinot Camp in 2013, when I had no idea that anyone grew Syrah in the Willamette Valley proper. After returning home, his Syrah was one of the wines that stuck with me the most. Mostly because its good, but also because it shattered my preconceived mold of what Syrah could be in the Pacific Northwest.

The dank.

The dank.

So Robert isn’t the only one making Syrah in the Valley- Adelsheim makes a bit, a winery I am not familiar with called Biggio Hamina Cellars sources some from the Deux Vert Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton (interestingly, that is where some of the Tempranillo that I wrote about yesterday comes from), and a handful of others. Most other Syrah that is bottled by Willamette Valley wineries is sourced from either Southern Oregon or the Columbia Valley/Walla Walla.

Robert shared many a story- most of which I can’t really do justice to attempting to re-tell. But he did share that when he first planted Syrah here in the McMinnville AVA, his wife (Ellen, who knows a thing or two about wine herself) laughed at him. It’ll never get ripe, she said. She had a nickname for the acre of Syrah that he first planted, I think it was “Hail Mary.” I could be wrong. In any case, Robert had a wild hair about Syrah, and he found the right site. And made the wine. His spot in the McMinnville AVA benefits from a bit of the Van Duzer Corridor- ie, a stream of cool wind that makes its way from the ocean through coastal range to find the grapes and cool them off at night. To maintain spice, you gotta get cool at night, so I’ve learned.

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I’m fairly certain that the Brittan Syrahs I’ve had are the darkest colored wines in Oregon. Its a little mind-boggling and awesome at the same time. The one I had today in the tasting room is the 2010 vintage, a popular vintage for hardcore Oregon nerds.

So when I said this wine was dark, I wasn’t lyin’. Incredibly deeply colored with a flavor intensity to match, this wine has an incredibly savory quality that I find fascinating. Dark fruit opens the wine; blackberry and black plum, and a deep vein of white and pink peppercorn follow. The texture is dense, and the steadfastness potency never fades. Like a good Northern Rhone, this wine tastes distinctly of meat. To steal a word from The Wine Advocate, in an almost “carnal” fashion. But here’s the kicker; after a few minutes in the glass, the wine shows off some fun and chic notes of cured olives, violet, sage, bay leaf and cassis. For a hulk of a wine, its alcohol content is shockingly low at around 13%, I believe. The picture I took conveniently cut it off, but I remember talking about it. It is worth noting that this wine got 90 Points from The Wine Advocate.

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Since I’m spoiled and lucky, I also previewed the 2013 and 2014 vintages of Robert’s Syrah. The ’13 will go to bottle soon, and its a stunner. The ’14 is still undergoing Malolactic fermentation, so it was a little unruly; but the bones are there, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

There's wine in those.

There’s wine in those.

Only about 2/3 of the way through writing this did I realize I left the tasting notes I wrote at the tasting room this morning. So all this was free-form, but the wine is memorable enough that I didn’t need them. Right now the Brittan-Winderlea tasting room is open Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so get on by!

This bottle is available for purchase for $40. 

Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 22 and 23: R. Stuart!

I’ve been behind this week and had lots of little real world details to take care of, so I had to postpone my wine fun until today. And fun it was! This whole “Friday afternoon at 5pm” game is still a little new to me. But what fun I had this evening- it was a cozy late afternoon at the R. Stuart Wine Bar in downtown McMinnville! Overcast, but not raining, I decompressed, sipped on a few wines and chatted with Casey, the manager (? I actually don’t know her title, but she’s rad).

Love this spot on 3rd St.

Love this spot on 3rd St.

So I went because I knew I wanted a glass of bubbly, and that it fit in with my January theme. This is only the second bubbly I’ve written about. Its made out of 100% Chardonnay, and I have sort of exceeded my Chardonnay capacity… but, I mean… its bubbles. So, yeah. Sue me.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

R. Stuart has been well-known for their Rosé D’Or sparkling, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which is rich and luscious. This bubbly, known as “Bubbly” was just released, I believe, this past Thanksgiving weekend. I had it for the first time right before Christmas and really loved it. At $28, its very competitive with other Champenoise Oregon bubblies.

How freaking good does this look?

How freaking good does this look?

I’m not 100% sure if it was just the lighting, but this wine had a slight pale pink color to it as I sipped it. A round, creamy mouthfeel, this bubbly is elevated by lovely notes of baked apples and pears and a refreshing citrusy palate. Its zingy, fun to drink, flirty and doesn’t take itself too seriously; yet is a pleasure to drink and you can tell its Champenoise. A tiny hint of sweet tarts and fresh flowers on the finish. Really lovely. Comparably, the Argyle Brut sells for a similar price and is kind of a staple and totem of Oregon sparkling. Argyle is always super clean, high acid and delicious- this wine has a bit more texture and weight, and maybe more fanciful packaging. There’s room for both. If you’re a sparkling ho like me.

Next? Been meaning to try their Big Fire Tempranillo, which I did.

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So the last Tempranillo I had was from Eola-Amity Hills, the Zenith Vineyard. A 2012 vintage, and very delicious. The R. Stuart Big Fire Tempranillo is sourced from one small vineyard in Carlton, the Deux Verts vineyard, and predominantly Southern Oregon. As I mentioned in my last post, I learned that in Willamette, Tempranillo struggles to get ripe except in unusually warm years like 2012. So this Tempranillo is a 2011 vintage, but since a lot of the fruit is from Southern Oregon where its warmer, there is plenty of ripeness to be found here.

The nose is peppery, with a background of cedar and violets, accentuated by some beautiful vanilla and leather. There’s a touch of bright red and brambly fruit.  The palate is firm and smooth, and finishes with a pleasant bite of tannin to hold it together. At $20, its a great house red and then some. Very different than the last Tempranillo I had from Zenith, but a tough contender at $20 a bottle.

I love this “House Rules” at R. Stuart Wine Bar:

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This place kind of makes me wish I lived in McMinnville- every time I go, the vibe is warm and friendly, and the staff knowledgable and personable. A perfect stop for this “Friday at 5pm” feeling that many (but not all) of us experience. I gotta say, it doesn’t suck.

Cheers! I’ll be back for more McMinnville fun tomorrow…

Oh! And if you like Oregon bubbles, you should go to the Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie on February 14th! Its gonna be. the. shit. $40 gets you four hours of unadulterated Oregon sparkling, and Anne Amie’s debut sparkling wine is included (holla!). I can’t freakin’ wait.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 20 & 21: the tale of two white blends…

Tonight? I’m all about white. I knew when I started this endeavor that it would end up being white heavy (I was okay with that), but I AM going to make an effort towards reds this weekend. But tonight, its all about white. Because I like it, first of all, and because I made some delicious spicy veggie fried rice for dinner, which both of these wines complement perfectly! Win.

So tonight we have a tale of two white blends! One that I impulse bought, and one that I’ve been wanting to try since last Summer: the Whoa Nelly! “Whoa Nelly White”, 13 Willamette Valley and the Eveshem Wood “Blanc de Puits Sec” Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer, 13 Eola-Amity Hills.

White white and more white!

White white and more white!

So the Whoa Nelly caught my eye at Roth’s while I was picking up some adorable baby shiitake mushrooms for my fried rice. I mean really, the darn things are adorable:

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Not the first, and definitely not the last time I’ve impulsed purchased wine while grocery shopping by any means, this one caught my eye because I was seeking a white blend and I dug the label. Upon further inspection, while it says Whoa Nelly White on the front, the back says 2013 Arneis. I perked up at the sight of this, because I absolutely love Oregon Arneis. And by that I mean, I’ve had exactly one and I love it- its from Ponzi. Is there more Arneis to be found? I don’t believe I’ve come across one until today.

Whoa! Nelly.

Whoa! Nelly.

I am a tad beguiled. Is it all Arneis or is it a blend? I tend to think that because the front label says its a white, it kinda has to be a blend. I don’t think you’re allowed to put a single varietal on a bottle in Oregon unless its at least 90% of that grape. It might be 95%. It might even be 100%. It’s 8:00pm and I’m drinking wine, so my CSW seems to be failing right about now. I do know that its different for every state, and I think its relatively high in Oregon, compared to Cali. In summation, I think if it were 100% Arneis, it would say Arneis on the front. Lets move on, I’ve had enough of this.

This wine is awesome! For $13.99? Are you kidding me? I’d be curious to know exactly whats in it, but in truth? I don’t really care- the stuff is delish. Its a lean, fresh and floral style- slightly textured and aromatic. Honeysuckle, jasmine, ripe pears and a nice bite of lemon and candied orange. Super fun and will literally go with anything. Its relatively high acid, but not streaky.

The interesting thing here is that this wine label is a side project of Helioterra, a beloved member of the SE Wine Collective that has some really nice press. I’ve yet to have any of their wines, but consider it on the list of things to try. They’re also affiliated with the Guild Wines, which I absolutely LOVED back in South Carolina. The Guild Red and White blends were seriously some of the best in their price range for what they were, and where they were from. Look ’em up! Seems like they’re doing something right.

Next? A beloved winery in Eola-Amity Hills, Evesham Wood:

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We did quite well with Evesham Wood in SC- their Pinots always came in and sold out very quickly. Last year I got on their mailing list, and (albeit, a tad late) tried to order a bunch of their white wines and have them shipped to SC, as they weren’t distributed there. Unfortunately I was late, and it had gotten too hot to ship to SC, and I didn’t feel like waiting until October (okay, maybe I’m impatient). So how fortunate of me that I decided to up and move here, where I can buy their whites!

This wine is a racy blend of 85% Pinot Gris and 15% Gewürztraminer. Gewurz is fairly common in Eola-Amity and a really fun white that reminisces of a Riesling, but a bit spicier. Pinot Gris, of course, is an Oregon staple. A “Gris-ish” nose of wet stone, apricots, and sparkly minerals is very charming. Playing a nice second fiddle are some accents of white pepper, rose petal and a creamy lemon-ness. A touch of sourdough might be hiding in there, too. Evesham Wood is certified Organic, too, which is worth noting. I haven’t been there yet- I actually sent them a quick email about 2 weeks ago about coming in to taste, but I suspect that they’re closed for the winter. But I’ll be there! It’ll happen. I bought this bottle at Roth’s as well, for $15.99 I think.

I need suggestions! Anyone have an Oregon Red I just HAVE to have? Maybe a funky Southern Oregon Mourvedre that kicks serious ass?

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 19! Oink.

Happy Monday! This is such a fun and brilliant little wine- the EIEIO Swine Wine “Rie-Chard”, 2013 Willamette Valley. 

Piglet.

Piglet. Adorbs. 

I actually had this bottle several weeks ago, when I had the good fortune to be introduced to Jay McDonald, winemaker and owner of EIEIO wines (Jay McDonald had a farm, EIEIO! get it?!) I absolutely loved it the minute I saw it. I do have a fondness for pigs, so I was a little predisposed.

Jay is sort of like a Horcrux of this area… but in a good way. I’ll explain. Jay opened The Tasting Room in Carlton back in the day right in the center of town in a really cool old bank building. I can’t find an exact date, but suffice to say it was right when a lot of Oregon winemakers that are now very well-established were just getting their start. The Tasting Room was a retail store/tasting room (go figure) where local producers could get their wines out to the people before they were big enough to have tasting rooms of their own. Legend holds that many-a now well-known winemakers had help from Jay in the beginning. Thats why he’s a Horcrux- he has a bit of all of their souls. But again, not in a sinister way.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

So that is a little background- but Jay has been making his own wine since 1998. The “Swine Wines” as they’re called, come in Pinot Noir and this Rie-Chard form. This particular bottle is known as a Piglet, as its a 375ml bottle. The full-size 750ml’s are available for purchase on his website here. I’m not totally positive on the availability of the 375’s, so don’t hate me.

So whats the story on this little Piggy? It is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, not your most common bedfellows; obviously no one told them that, because they make a lovely couple in this wine. It captures the cool-climate persona of the Willamette Valley with finesse. Gentle, yet with a bracing acidity, it will enchant with aromas of pear, quince, green apple and nuances of honeysuckle. If you’re patient enough to let this wine open up, its texture will soften and charm your pants off. This wine is actually what began my fondness for half bottles. They’re just fun, doggone it. A slight amount of residual sugar makes it very accessible and bright. Good clean fun. Plus, did I mention its cute? Its cute.

Jay’s Chardonnay is downright fantastic as well- really looking forward to the Chardonnay Symposium in just over a month! This concludes Day 19. Hope you enjoyed your intro to one of the coolest dudes in the Valley!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 18!

For the last two months, I have been driving by Carlo & Julian almost every day and seeing a sign that said “Closed.” I did start to wonder if they were ever open. This almost added to the intrigue, as it was obvious that its a tiny place. As luck would have it, my roommate happened to drive by on Saturday and noticed the sign said OPEN. We hustled on over, needless to say. Part of me thought by the time we got there it’d be closed.

But it wasn’t! We noticed a high volume of cars, and in turn, people, as we walked in. What a cozy spot. Its almost the epitome of Carlton; a tiny driveway, chickens and cats meandering about, a tasting room filled with pallets of wine that you know doubles as a winemaking facility. No frills, but very inviting and non-fussy.

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

We had actually stumbled into a Tempranillo tasting, we soon found out. The event was probably publicized to the mailing list, but we just got lucky. The owner and winemaker Felix was tasting about 8 different vintages of Tempranillo and two vintages of a blend called Six Grapes. The Tempranillos were wildly fluctuating in character, but all had maintained posterity and reflected the vintage. My favorite wine I had that day was one that was unfortunately sold out- the 2009 Six Grapes. Alas, I had to just enjoy it and then let it go. But I was curious about the Albariño that was listed as available and decided to give it a whirl. I have seen maybe 3-4 other Oregon Albariño around and had been meaning to check one out.

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

While Felix bottles a lot of Estate fruit, these Albariño grapes come from some nice folks named Ray and Sandra Ethell near Hubbard, OR. I had never heard of Hubbard, so I had to look it up; but it is very close to Woodburn, almost directly east of Carlton. This vineyard contains the first commercial planted Albariño vines in the Willamette Valley, which is sort of a fun fact! So now we can add it to the list of Spanish varietals grown in Oregon.

Always a high acid, super citrusy grape, this is no exception. The nose is all gooseberry, a touch of lees, some light floral accents, and a touch of peach that is almost hidden. In a warmer year like 2012, I can see more tropical fruit probably fleshing out these grapes a bit, but this year is all about the acid. This was such a soggy weekend that this wine makes me dream of a warm Summer evening and some fresh ceviche. Acid-on-acid is a delicate balance, but I think if you threw a sweet fruit salsa in there to marry them, it’d be on time. This wine could also probably cut through something with a higher fat content, or maybe a tangy goat cheese.

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In summation, this is a tasty little wine, but prepare your palate to be wow’d by acid. It is a cool-climate wine, no doubt. The bottle doesn’t state how much of this wine was made, but it probably wasn’t much. Carlo & Julian is having a Malbec tasting in a few weeks and I’ll definitely be there! I recommend a stop. Go for it.

This wine was purchased at the winery for $22. Cheers!