Some California wine history you should definitely buy… and why I have been radio silent

Good morning y’all! I’m not going to waste any time:

I just. Don’t. Have. Time. For this.

I haven’t posted on here in over a year and man, does that feel crazy and kind of sad to say, in a way. But I’m being blunt: I just don’t have time. It’s been a wild and crazy first year+ of working in distribution, and it has actually felt good to put this aside for a while, to be honest. I like having one thing to pour myself into, and my brain does actually require a break from wine, when I have down time. Keeps me focused.

But I have had a thought! I would love to be able to update you local Columbia people about where the f*&# I am half the time, whether it’s a tasting or an event or even just to give you a good old fashioned “hey! you need this!” from time to time.

So, Columbians! Reply to this, and I’ll add you to a new newsletter format I’m going to work on. No, I will not bother you every week. I’d say every month is more accurate. Shoot, once November rolls around you’ll likely get more silence. I’m not the most consistent, but I do mean well.

Now! Onto the other item on the agenda: I dusted off my wine writing skills today, and guest-sent the Cellar on Greene Wine Club email, in honor of the very last vintage of a certain wine I’m super fond of being released. I think you should read it, and buy some.

Okay, it’s Shafer Merlot. And Doug Shafer is the most badass m*%&#$%^@*$% I’ve ever met, and I want everyone to get their grubby little paws on a bottle of this if it kills me! Did I mention I work in sales now? (I’m making fun of myself).

Lastly, the other thing I’m going to tell you to do is come to the Cellar Wine Sale this Saturday (8/19) from 12-2! I’m helping out and want to see you before this town pops off with eclipse nonsense. So ready for that to be over. Sorry not sorry?

Buy some wine, email me, inspire me to complete this mailing list idea, come see me, do all the things, and keep being wonderful wine lovers!

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Sparkling Month: Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant, 2014

Say hello to Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant!

mischief managed.

mischief managed.

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

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

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

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

Her walk is mean, yo.

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

Qupé Marsanne, 2013 Santa Barbara

It’s ANOTHER “Summer’s Swan Song” post on this balmy Friday! We had a bit of an Indian Summer here in Oregon and it was actually really lovely. Well, maybe not so lovely for the fruit-pickers that are currently working their @ss’s off all over the Valley, but for me? Divine. It made me want to eat all the Summer produce one last time. Tomatoes, watermelon, squash- all of it! So I’m somewhat glad I saved this bottle of Marsanne from Qupé until now. It’s perfect for a Summer Friday afternoon.

Kyoo-PAY. It means "poppy".

Kyoo-PAY. It means “poppy”.

Founder and winemaker Bob Lindquist is an original “Rhone Ranger”; he started Qupé in 1982 making Syrah, Chardonnay and dry Rosé in California’s Central Coast. He subsequently teamed up with Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clenenden and the two built a shared facility in 1989. The rest is, as they say, history. Both Au Bon Climat and Qupé have great reputations, and I’m currently being reminded of how badly I need to get to this part of California. I’ll go ahead and add it to my list… which is pretty long. Le sigh.

This wine is made from 75% Marsanne and 25% Roussanne. These two French varieties are bros from way back. Most commonly found in the Northern Rhone, they play off each other beautifully; Marsanne produces wines of great color and depth and are intensely perfumed. Roussanne is a bit stingier, more of a bastard to grow, and usually packs a solid punch of acid, making them great agers. Both these fellas enjoy the Coastal California vibe, basking in the afternoon ocean breezes and morning fog, which helps them maintain their acidity.

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Both grapes for this wine are whole cluster pressed. The Marsanne, which comes from roughly 28-year old vines on the Ibarra-Young Vineyard, is chilled in tank for 48 hours before it goes to neutral French oak barrels. The Roussane, interestingly, heads straight to barrel with the lees after an evening chilling. (Literally). Bob prefers the use of once filled Francois Freres barrels previously used for Chardonnay with the Roussanne. I love these little facts. The Roussanne comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area for all grapes Rhone.

Now! We gotta talk about what this wine tastes like before I get too much wordier. Its a dark golden strawish color and the nose is a nice combination of slightly tropical with ripe stone fruit. Nectarine, apricot, a touch of pineapple. Once it warms up a bit, you can detect its oak content a bit- hints of baking spice and creamy lemon. You might think it was a flab-fest, but the finish really clenches with pleasant acid and even a drying sensation which leads me to think this wine will age nicely. There’s something that reminds me of menthol lingering in there as well. The texture is viscous and slightly oily, but in a luscious way. Oily is a strange word to use to describe wine, and its connotation would seem negative, but its not intended as such. Its one of those descriptors that makes perfect sense once you identify it.

This is the first California wine I’ve written about in Lord only knows how long! Its been fun. I sometimes forget California exists. Not really. But almost. Hope you enjoyed this little trip to Cali and are as ready for Fall as the rest of America seems to be.

This wine was received as a sample. Its suggested retail cost is $20.

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!

 

Cuvée Stroll at The Allison

What’d you do on Friday evening? Sample tons of goodies from local producers alongside some awesome Willamette Valley wine? That’s exactly what went down at The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg this past Friday night! I got to be a fly on the wall… well, a fly that tasted lots of delicious food and wine. So not really a fly at all. I was there, and it was great!

After the event concluded, I found myself continually thinking about many of the local producers that were there, and plotting how I was to acquire some of the goodies I sampled. Of course, I could’ve just purchased them that evening, but I’ve never been one to make life easy for myself.

Want a little peek at the bounty of snacks and sips available? Here ya go!

Victoria's Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Victoria’s Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

The Face Rock Creamery people were *not* shy with the samples. A favorite was their twist on an “apple pie”- an oat cake, apple butter and a big ol’ slice of moderately sharp cheddar. The sweet & sharp together are pretty delicious. Deschutes Brewery had a great pairing as well- a little goat cheese-caramel tart, paired with their Spiced Saison, Zarabanda. Jory brought the heat with some delightful little BBQ pork sliders with cole slaw- since I spent the last several years in the South, I have eaten my share of BBQ, and these were delish. I chatted with the chef about how I’d never heard of putting cole slaw ON things until I lived in the South. Now I don’t think I can live without it. Another favorite was the Republic of Jam– they had a apricot-cardamom curry sauce that they served with meatballs. Oy! So good. Guess what’s in my fridge right now? Apricot-cardamom jam. I wasted no time in buying that one.

Is this real?

Is this real?

The Carlton Bakery, if you haven’t been, is a divine feast for the senses. Probably some of the best baked goods I’ve ever had. Plus if you go there, make sure to grab a cappuccino from Brenda at Common Grounds, which is basically in the parking lot of the Carlton Bakery. Woman makes a mean cappuccino.

Who's that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

Who’s that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

There were many awesome winemakers there on Friday as well. Lynn Penner-Ash, Luisa Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem, Rollin Soles of ROCO, Steven Guy from Brick House and several more. The size of the crowd was perfect, allowing everyone to have plenty of time to converse without having to push your way to any one table and fight for space. We’ve all been to those kind of tastings, amiright? 

Cuvée Stroll was part of Cuvée Weekend, but many of the folks I spoke to were locals (Portland/Tualatin, etc), as you could purchase tickets to this event “a la carte.” Definitely worth a quick drive, as you’d be hard-pressed to find so many great winemakers and artisan producers under one roof, short of large food & wine festivals. The Allison provided a lovely and intimate experience. No surprise there.

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Many thanks to The Allison and all the wonderful vendors. Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 11!

Coming to you from a soggy Sunday afternoon at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, allow me to present my first (but definitely not last) Riesling of this project- Mad Violets Wine Co. Riesling, 2012 Dundee Hills!

Riesling Rules.

Riesling Rules.

I’ve been seeing these wines around the area and crushing hard on the labels for a few weeks. I think they’re well-designed, eye-catching and classy. The owners’ property is in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the Buttonfield Estate Vineyard. This Riesling is sourced from the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. I used to drive by the Maresh vineyard every day- its effing gorgeous. This is, according to the Mad Violets website, the oldest Riesling vineyard in Yamhill County, planted in 1970. This wine definitely has a gorgeous “old vine” quality to it; the concentration and minerality are very striking.

At just 180 cases made (and from the Maresh Vineyard?!), this wine is insanely well-priced at $25. Its clean, focused, pristine and tastes damn good. Absolutely nothing in the world makes me want food more than Riesling. Sushi? Yes. Thai? Yes. And my favorite thing with Riesling? FRIED CHICKEN. Well, specifically you need fried chicken with a sweet n’ spicy sauce like honey-wasabi. The crunchy/salty of fried chicken and obvious fat content is cut so well by a high-acid Riesling. I’m making myself hungry. I’m also making myself want to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi in Vegas and eat their fried chicken. Oye. 

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The initial nose on this wine is a pleasant medium petrol; I really try not to use that word often because I don’t want it to be off-putting, but true Riesling-lovers will understand what I mean; Petrol is actually a delicious thing to smell. Following close behind are layers of prickly lime zest, honeysuckle, caramelized pears, apricots and fuzzy white peach. Well-balanced and freaking gulpable. At 10% alcohol, this is both a great food wine and a perfect afternoon sipper.

After I left the Studio, I went and tried a few Rieslings at a nearby winery that sported some very high scores and slightly higher price points. While I did like them, honestly I preferred this one. It has serious heart and soul. Kudos!

Anyone have a suggestion for a Riesling I just GOTTA try? I’m on the hunt. Holler at me.