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*

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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: Day 3- we goin’ to Eola!

Eola-Amity Hills, that is! An AVA in the southern part of the Willamette Valley, and a short 20/25 minute cruise from my house. Its funny, because listening to people speak about it as “down south” made it seem so far… but its really not far. However, it is far enough and with enough slightly different soils/microclimates that you can find some unique grapes! Like THIS- the Zenith Vineyard Estate Tempranillo, 2012! I’m pumped about this one, as finding reds that aren’t Pinot in Willamette proper is a bit of a challenge. But, as I’m also discovering, once we get to Southern Oregon and the Applegate Valley there will be lots of fun reds to be explored. But later for that! Today, we gots Tempranillo.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

So wine fans in the world might recognize this grape as being from España, and they’d be correct. Tempranillo’s “spiritual home” would be considered Spain. It likes heat, and after chatting with the tasting room associate at St. Innocent (which is where I purchased this wine- more on that later), come to find out this wine really only likes warm vintages in Oregon, like 2012. The 2008 vintage of this wine got 90 Points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

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So, just so you have a sense of where we are, route 99 runs along the left (west) side of the photo above. Just out of range of this map up 99 is the city of McMinnville. Down in the right hand corner of the map brings you roughly to the city of Salem. So many great wineries are located here. Now that I look at it closer, I think this map is a little on the old side- where you see the O’Connell vineyard pictured is actually now known as the Zenith Vineyard.

I visited St. Innocent last week and bought this bottle, as I said earlier. St. Innocent has been working with (what was then) the O’Connell vineyard since 1989, and did so until 1998, when the vineyard was leased to Willamette Valley Vineyards. In 2002, some St. Innocent customers named Tim & Kari Ramey (I’m paraphrasing all this from the St. Innocent website, by the way) purchased the O’Connell Vineyard, and in 2002 joined forces with St. Innocent winemaker and all-around awesome guy, Mark Vlossak, to form Zenith Vineyard, LLC. So Mark is the winemaker for these wines, and that was a looong way of explaining why I bought this wine at the St. Innocent tasting room. They’re sorta the same building. It’ll make sense if you go there- which you should! Zenith is huge in the area of weddings and events, I think that was sort of the idea when they purchased the site. But that is purely conjecture on my part.

I’m getting really long winded, so I’m gonna cut to the chase. Starting… NOW.

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So I’ve tasted this wine over the course of two days; on day one it was noticeably taut and had a pronounced cedar-ific nose, thanks to the luxurious 16 months it spent in American oak, 27% new. There was a prominent streak of red fruit and some higher floral tones, but this is definitely a veiny, dark wine. Deep, broad strokes of licorice, tar, earth, vanilla and blackberry that finished with a firm tannic bite. It wasn’t as bitey on day two, and actually revealed some fun notes of hickory, balsamic and more tar. Really nice juice.

My memory is escaping me, but I don’t think there’s much left of this wine, only 180 cases were made. If you’re an Oregonian, consider jetting down there to pick one up. While you’re there, you can try Mark’s stunning array of 2012 Pinot Noirs in the tasting room; I hadn’t had any ’12’s of his until that day and I was pretty floored. They showed more aging potential than a lot of 2012 Pinots that I’ve had to date. Do it, do it.

This wine was purchased at the St. Innocent/Zenith tasting room for $30.

Cheers to day three!

Orin Swift “Locations E-1”, 2011 Spain

Okay, kiddos.  This post comes to you today from a sunny, beautiful Columbia, SC- AKA the Center of the College Football Universe.

Most of you that live in Columbia will probably not even read this until tomorrow, at the soonest.  Because your life has, of course, been put on pause until the conclusion of the USC-UGA game this evening.  I get it.  But I am for want of things to do this afternoon, as I am not one of those individuals who gets Football Fever.  I occasionally like install shock and fear in folks around here by telling them there is no such thing as College football in New England.  Horrifying, yes; but 100% true.  It’s like telling them there’s no Santa Claus.  In any case, I do have a vested interest in seeing the Cocks win tonight.  Mostly because I hate hearing my coworkers whine and pout if they lose.  That and I find most Georgia fans I’ve encountered to be a bit abrasive. (sorry, Lane. not you.).  But Bulldogs are cute.  That’s all I got.

So let us move on to a topic that can unite even  one of?? the biggest rivalries in the SEC- WINE! (we are in the SEC, right? I don’t really know.  I just remember someone saying “welcome to the SEC, Missouri.” or maybe it was Kentucky. Like I said, I don’t care about this stuff).  I’ll stick to what I like, which is WINE!!  Especially brand-new wine from Orin Swift winemaker Dave Phinney!

a study in simplicity, this package is.

Direct and to the point, the large capital letter E announces this wine’s company.  Functional, non-glamorous, yet appealing to the eye; I like it.  It reminds me of those bumperstickers that people put on their cars with the insider abbreviations for particular vacation spots.  For some reason, I like this bottle, yet I hate those stickers.  Like, if YOU were cool enough, YOU’D know what OBX stood for, and you’d go there!  But we won’t dwell on that.

Locations is a blend of three grapes from three of the most prominent growing regions in Spain; Grenache from Priorat, Tempranillo from Rioja, and Carignan from Ribera del Duero.  Despite some Googling, I can’t seem to find a breakdown of percentages.  I doubt it’s an even three way split, but stranger things have happened.  Now, I am a total slut for Spanish wine.  If I had to choose one country’s wine to drink for the rest of my life, it’d be Spain.  I would shed a tear for Rose from Southern France, but I’d get over it.  So maybe I’m predisposed to liking this wine, in which case I’m biased.  But I also have good taste, so you’ll have to take a gamble if you believe me when I tell you this wine is DELICIOUS.  It’s one of those wines I like to call “a drinker.”

specs.

Yes, all wines are drinkers, technically.  But the ones I call official “drinkers” have to have a specific characteristic- they have to leave your mouth feeling lighter OR as light as it was when you started drinking it.  In other words, it can’t weigh you down.  It can’t coat your mouth.  All you should feel after you sip it is a pleasant little tingle, AKA a lightening sensation.  Often it can make you want to smack your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  We could also call this the correct amount of acid, if we wanted to be technical.

But let’s get back to how it tastes, before I get too wordy.  I’ve actually consumed about a glass of this while writing.  So I’m an expert.  A very ripe and luscious nose of blackberry, black cherry, plums, blackberry liqueur, a hint of fresh sage and maybe juniper arrive in your olfactory glands ceremoniously.  The palate, as I said before, is zesty and bright with nice acid and a good balance of fruit.  Savory, robust and lip smackin’.  Structured, with a nice weight and again- very drinkable.  As is evidenced by me crushing a glass while sitting around at 2 in the afternoon.

In closing, I would say this; remember that this is a Spanish wine in addition to it being an Orin Swift wine.  For me, it is a nice venture into Spain from winemaker Dave Phinney- it IS an Orin Swift wine, because I (as should you) would have 100% confidence in buying it untasted, as I would know I’d be getting high quality wine, with precise, experienced and focused winemaking.  But these be Spanish grapes, not ‘Merican.  So if you buy it thinking it’s going to taste like The Prisoner, it won’t.  But you SHOULD buy it because it’s GOOD and because you love wine.  Also?  It’s only $22!  That’s a major win for this wine, and I’m really glad to see such a friendly price-tag on it.  A touch over your everyday price, but not so much that you’ll want to hoard it and feel bad for opening it.

Now here’s the kicker- this wine is in somewhat limited supply.  So I’d suggest stopping in and grabbing a bottle sooner rather than later.  Or, if you’re a transplant like me, come in tonight and have a glass- because in all likelihood, it will only be on by-the-glass until Tuesday of next week, the 9th.

get you some!

***Also!!  A special announcement for SPANISH WINE-LOVERS, if you’ve made it this far, about a way-awesome tasting we have Wednesday, October 10th from 5-7!!  Four brand-new Spanish reds from Well-Oiled Wine Company!  I was literally blown to pieces over these wines, and the PRICES are stunning.  None of them retail for more than $15.  And they’re all kick-ass.  Absolutely fantastic.  We’ll be trying the Pieza “El Coll” Garnacha, Gran Familia Rioja, Anciano 5 Year Tempranillo, and LAN Crianza Rioja.  I’m trying to talk Ricky into making some Spanish-style food to go along with them, too!  Put it on that calendar!

And okay, fine- after a glass of wine, I can say it- GO COCKS!!!

Carmen Rodriguez Carodorum “Issos” Tempranillo, 07 Spain, Toro

Yes, I know, it’s Summa-time, and this is a big, nasty Red Wine.  So uncharacteristic of me, given my long-standing obsession with pink and white wine.  But sometimes, folks, you have to break the mold, and this is one such occasion.  A wine so good, that I will still drink it when it’s 90+ degrees outside.  Okay, maybe after I cool down with a glass of Rose, but STILL; I will drink it.  Happily.

So here’s a little background on the Bodegas Carmen Rodriguez wines, per my own accord.  I occasionally buy wine on www.wtso.com (which you should check out, they’ve been known to have some cool deals), and this wine’s big (like, REAL big) sister- the Carodorum Seleccion Especial, 2006 vintage, was on WTSO for something like $35.  As I was feeling indulgent that day, and I am a sucker for a big, nasty Spanish wine, I bought three, untasted.  The box arrived at Cellar and I ripped it open unceremoniously, and even though it was the morning (let’s be honest- when has that ever stopped me?), I opened a bottle. It was one of the more memorable wine moments of my life.  I stood, somewhat dumbfounded, on the verge of comprehending that this was an incredibly special and amazing wine- but had no one to bounce my thoughts off of.  So I mostly just stood there saying “holy shit” to myself over and over.  A good customer whose palate I trust came in a while later and tried it, and agreed that it was a phenomenon.  A force to be reckoned with.

That is all well and good, but we’re still talking about the Big Sister- fast forward to NOW!  I was delighted to discover just two weeks ago that our tiny little hippie friends at Sour Grapes Wine, located in Asheville NC, carry the Carmen Rodriguez wines!  AND was even more delighted to discover that there was a baby sister, the Issos, available!  It may not sound that exciting, but this was pretty much the high point of my week that week.

This wine hails from a hot little pocket of Spain called Toro- located just west of the Portugese border:

Toro has long, hot summers (sound familiar??) and Tempranillo (aka Tinta de Toro) is the primary red grape grown there.  Reds from Toro are generally potent, dense, and pack a lot of character.  Issos is no exception!  She is rich and exotic, and delights the senses with notes of espresso, blackberry liqueur, anise, balsam/cedar, and a touch of vanilla.  The palate is not weighty; the acid really grabs hold and it finishes with a punch of dark fruit, leather and graphite.  And a little smoke.  Day-um, y’all.  I’m serious; this wine is rockin’.  If you’re used to lighter reds, it might be a bit much for you, as the tannins are fairly present- but if you’re, y’know- into that– this is right up your alley.  It’d be amazing with anything off the grill, maybe a spicy-espresso-rubbed steak?  Now you’re talkin.  Merguez sausage?  (one of my favorite things on the planet) HELLS yeah.  Bring. It. On.

I like to imagine that this is what this wine would look like, personified.  Maybe it’s just me:

*le sigh*  A girl can dream.  Until then, we have the wine.  I urge you to come sample a glass (it’s by the glass for the foreseeable future), or take a bottle home for $18.  Also- if you’re feeling muy especial– we do have exactly three bottles of the 2007 Seleccion Especial available for purchase, too, at $48. Oh, and I almost forgot- Issos got a lovely little 89 point rating from Robert Parker- Big Sis got a 92.  Happy drinkin’ peoples!  Til next time…

Semaphore 7, 2009 Portugal

This wine sure does go pretty well with the blueberries I’m eating for lunch.  No joke.  Surely I will dig up something more substantial a little later, but for now it’s wine and blueberries.  It feels like morning to me, even though it’s 1pm.  So really this is breakfast.  Wine for breakfast?  it’s the new coffee.

Okay, maybe not.  And I’m not really drinking, I’m merely tasting.  So what’s the deal with this wine?  Welllll…. it’s made out of a bunch of grapes you’ve probably not heard of, but I’ll tell you anyway:  a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragones, and Trincadeira.  Portugal, Portugal.  They just cannot call a grape something we ‘Murricans can remember.  They sure are a stubborn bunch.  Don’t they know that America is the center of the universe??  And that everything revolves around us?

I’m kidding, in case that sarcasm went over any of your heads.  I actually really appreciate the fact that this wine is true to from whence it came.  I know of a particular bottle of Primitivo that goes as far as to print Zinfandel in parentheses under the word Primitivo on the bottle.  I bet it took a whole team of marketing experts to decide on that one.  “Study groups have shown that sales increase drastically when there is a recognizable word on the label!”  Okay, so I made that up.  But I’m sure it’s not far from the truth.  And it’s all about the sales quota, isn’t it?

Well, no.  Not for this wine.  This wine is just going to be who it is.  And if you are unfamiliar with the grapes?  Google them!  That’s what I did.  Educate yourself.  You might learn a thing or two, and have a little fun.  And impress your friends.  So here’s what I learned; Aragones is Tempranillo.  It’s known as Aragones/Aragonez in one part of Portugal.  It’s known as Tinta Roriz in another part of Portugal.  Alicante Bouschet is a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache.  Grenache!  There’s a familiar word.  I like Grenache.  And if you do too, you will probably like this wine.

Okay, that was a LOT of wine-nerding for this post.  I think I’ve filled the quota for today.  Let’s move on to experiential things like how it tastes, smells, and behaves!  It’s mostly black fruit n’ flowers.  Since Portugal is best known for port, a lot of times with Portugese reds I get more hints of dried raisins (what other kind of raisin is there?), prunes, plums, blackberries and dried currants.   The Semaphore is young and fresh, so it offers a bit more ripeness and juiciness than many of its cousins and step-siblings might.  There’s also a really nice undercurrent of violets and maybe a little jasmine, followed by some exotic spices.  All in all, an interesting and fun to drink little bottle.

And the best part?  It’s inexpensive!  Retails for $11!  You can grab a bottle and be on your way, or you can sip on a glass during dinner at Cellar on Greene, where it’s on by the glass.  OR if you really wanted to be cool, you could ask for this in your next Mystery Case purchase!  Yes, it’s available as a Mystery Case pick.  Quite a few of you picked it the last two weeks, so hopefully you liked it!  That’s all I got time for today, so happy drinking!

Wines of the Week!

I’m a little ADD this week… I just couldn’t decide on one wine.  So I picked two.  On the one hand, I am loving this most recent Gruner Veltliner from Cobenzl- but considering that it’s fall and how long we here in SC have waited for cooler weather, I know people are itching for red wine.  But the fact remains this Gruner is awesome.  And on the other hand, the Ramon Bilbao Crianza has been flying outta here the past two weeks and it’s freaking awesome, too!  Here they is:

Weingut Cobenzl Gruner Veltliner, 2009 Austria.  I’ve been looking at Weingut Cobenzl’s website and drooling for the better part of 30 minutes… BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, beautiful…

It’s just dawned on me that I allowed the entire hot, brutal summer to pass me by without writing about a Gruner Veltliner.  This is an abomination of the highest proportion.  But better late than never, I suppose- and while Gruner is a perfect summer wine, it has fantastic versatility, so it’s definitely not strictly a summer wine.  Gruner is something of a trendy grape, especially over the last 3-4 years.  When I started waiting tables at Solstice (gah!  almost 5 years ago) we were the only restaurant in Columbia to serve a Gruner by the glass.  It had recently hit the Charleston wine scene and was developing it’s cult status as a cool grape.  As a testament to it’s coolness, The Shop Tart LOVES Gruner.  And she is mad cool.  Check out a spot she filmed this summer at Cellar where she tastes a Gruner! 

This particular Gruner really is one of the best I’ve had this year.  It offers a touch more elegance while maintaining it’s Gruner characteristics of pure minerality, spice, stone fruits, and notes of apple, quince, and citrus.  Exceptionally clean and almost virginal.  Despite it’s youthful personality, it also possesses a nice stylistic degree of maturity and a longer finish that is a testament to some kick-ass winemakin’!  You can find this wine by the glass at Cellar, and you can also take a bottle home for $15!

Ramon Bilbao Crianza, 2006 Rioja is now added to my “I’m a sucker for a good Tempranillo” list.  I suppose I should be less predictable, but I. Just. Can’t. HELP IT!  Tempranillo is amazing.  There very few grapes that, in my opinion, can offer such a consistently drinkable everyday wine for $10-12!  Try to think of one.  And not just drinkable- like GOOD drinkable, not something you would open when someone stopped by just to be nice- something you would actually look forward to opening, and would look for excuses to open.  Actually- Garnacha is a pretty consistant everyday drinker, too… okay, you got me.  I got myself.  Ahh, whatever… on to the wine!  A bright, deep cherry red, aromas of black beries, balsamic, licorice, tobacco, vanilla and smoke leap outta the glass.  A perfect acidic balance really allows this wine to stand on it’s own two feet.  14 months in American Oak make it hearty and ready for cooler weather, but the oak manages to be perfectly integrated and not hit-you-over-the-head, which I am not a fan of.    Oh, did I mention that this bottle retails for $12??!  Yes, it does.  You can also grab a glass of it at Cellar for the forseeable future– in fact, it would taste pretty fantastic with our new Panzanella-Proscuitto Salad… this wine and cured meats are a match made in heaven…

Ramon Bilbao also won a Winery of the Year award in 2009, although I’m a little unclear as to who the award was from… but as an added bonus, the guy all the way to the right in this photo of them receiving the award is pretty hot: 

And on that note, I sign off for today.  Happy drinkin’ and thanks for reading!