Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Days 8, 9 & 10: Chard Party!

Earlier in the week I had the idea for this Chardonnay party and I’ve barely been able to contain myself. I only had to wait for my roommates to be back in town to complete the idea; fortunately they were agreeable. I’m providing the wine, and they’re providing the crab. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone. So the wines we’re drinking are as follows:

Haden Fig Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley

Belle Pente Chardonnay, 09 Willamette, Yamhill-Carlton, Belle Pente Vineyard

Domaine Serene “Etoile” Chardonnay, 10 Willamette, Dundee Hills

Its a Chard Party!

Its a Chard Party!

It would’ve been a travesty to open all three of these for just me, so I had to wait until I had people to share them with! The Haden Fig I picked up at Roth’s for $14.99, the Belle Pente was given to me as a gift last Summer (I believe the individual bottle cost is $30, but they occasionally do particular case specials at Belle), and to be honest, I have no idea how I acquired the Domaine Serene. I think someone gave it to me. Its retail cost is around $70. I’ve been saving it for a while now. So thats why I’m breaking the “repeat grapes allowed only once” rule: a special occasion! So there will be three Chards in my Thirty Oregon Wines project, mmmkay? Don’t care? Didn’t think so.

I sort of included an extra Chard on purpose- I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium coming up on March 15th!! I didn’t really discover Oregon Chard until I came to OPC in June of 2013. The following Spring I remember seeing posts about the Symposium from my then home in SC and seriously considering getting on a plane and coming here for 48 hours JUST to go to it.

That should cue you in to something: I. Freaking. Love. Oregon. Chardonnay. What else do I like? Crab. Lots of crab. So that’s what we’re doing tonight. I severely apologize if you end up hangry/jealous/hating me at the end of this post.

So these are three very different wines from three price ranges and three areas of the Willamette Valley. Haden Fig is a relatively small producer located in the Eola-Amity Hills. The owner was the winemaker at Evesham Wood for many years before launching the Haden Fig label in 2008. I used to sell a bit of the Haden Pinot Noir in SC, but it was only scantily available. It did develop a small fan base in Columbia, mostly because it was good, but also because people loved the owl on the bottle. I gotta say, I love that owl, too. So how excited was I to see this lil guy at the grocery store?! And for such a reasonable price!

Belle Pente and I have a long history. It was actually one of Brian’s Pinots that *first* made me think to myself- “hey, I like Oregon Pinot Noir.” This was back in roughly 2008, when I first started managing at the restaurant. Bossman let me pick a bottle for staff training a few times a week, and it had to have been his ’07 Willamette Valley, maybe ’06, that I picked. I wish my memory was that good, unfortunately it ain’t. But it stuck with me. Then I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with Brian, Jill, their daughter and their dog Peanut at OPC in 2013, and decided they were the nicest people alive. And here we are in 2015, and I live 5 minutes from their winery. In fact, I dropped in on Jill just yesterday because I had to get a picture of the sunset…

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I mean, come on. I can’t even.

Their Estate Chard comes from a small two-acre parcel that faces southwest, planted in 1999. Usually between 300-400 cases a year are made. Brian dabbles with using Oregon oak now and then, something that is relatively unexplored in Oregon; however, I can’t speak to how much/if any was used in this wine. According to a few sources, Oregon oak can be very aggressive and wily. But used sparingly, carefully? Hmmmm…. Only time will tell.

The Domaine Serene is sort of the “crown jewel” of this party. $70 definitely isn’t chump change for most people, but when I had this bottle a in 2013, it was an eye-opener. Mostly because I couldn’t believe how freaking good it was. More on that later. Lets get to individual tasting notes…

Do you heart this owl? I do.

Do you heart this owl? I do.

So this little guy sits at just 150 cases made, from two vineyard sites in the Eola-Amity Hills. For the price, I’m pretty impressed with it. I can easily see it as a restaurant glass pour- if I went to a restaurant and paid $9 a glass for it, I’d be happy. Bright, streamlined and linear, it cuts right to the chase with honeydew, golden apple, lots of citrus, and a hint of toast. It showcases the nice acidity and energy that Oregon Chardonnay in general personifies. It hits a nice note and finishes quietly.

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The Belle Pente has a very outgoing nose, and the three of us concede that this particular bottle is the most charming of the three. The warmth of 2009 is definitely at play here; the oak is clearly defined yet not overpowering. Touches of warm vanilla, honeyed pears, peaches, orange blossom, and prickly pineapple. The oaking in this wine is intriguing; its supportive, yet also at times steals the show. Not on every sip, but every couple sips I get a very enigmatic spice component as well. I may be biased, but I’m in total support of this bottle and think its a perfect segue for California Chard whores who need to see the grape in a not-so-slutty way. Pardon my language there, but I can’t help it.

RIDIC.

RIDIC.

So… hmm.. what can I say about this wine? It’s nuts. Worth every penny. I can’t back down from that opinion. The wine is insane. Its as pure as Snow White. Its as balanced as an Olympic athlete on a balance beam, with enough muscle to support its frame. Chisled and Chablis-like, it opens with a nose of bright lime zest, wet stone, white flowers and green apple. A vague creamy indication lingers in the background, an indicator of things to come. The mid-palate absolutely blooms with vanilla- but not in-your-face vanilla; like delicate, integrated vanilla. And texture! Oh, texture. It pierces just a little, but caresses. I really can’t even. This wine is drinking like a dream right now, with 5 years in bottle, yet I really think it’ll age for at least a decade.

Did I mention Crab?

YES.

YES.

Crab and Chardonnay are, at this moment in my life, my top pairing. The buttery texture of Oregon Dungeness crab, combined with the texture and minerality of Oregon Chard are literally a match made in heaven. It has to be experienced to be believed. It defies explanation.

So, what should you take from this long and over-explanatory post about Oregon Chardonnay? You need it! Oregon is on the precipice of absolute world-class Chardonnay production, and that “secret” is pretty much out, to a lot of people. But not all the way. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, Chardonnay is going to keep it there. It’s the next big thing. And I think you need it. Now. And some Dungeness crab. Just do it.

Cheers to days 8, 9 & 10! Thanks for reading and there’s more wine to come!

Forlorn Hope “Ost-Intrigen” St. Laurent, 13 California

So, I’ve had a total wine crush on the Forlorn Hope wines for MONTHS.

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Maybe it was because (at the time) in South Carolina, they were not available. Maybe it was because they were literally all I saw on Delectable for months. Maybe it was because I went to the website to tempt myself into ordering some and most (almost all) were sold out. Maybe it was because the “another rare creature” line is so. damn. alluring. Whatever it was, I had to have one of these. I would stop at nothing.

I figured I’d come across some in Portland, because Portland is, well- Portland. And has great distribution. And just my luck- I went to a tasting on 12/12 at Storyteller Wine Co and stumbled into several Forlorn Hope options. I was very torn. I wanted them all. But I settled on the St. Laurent. I know I’ll be going back for the Picpoul at some point, if its still available.

You rare little bastard, you!

You rare little bastard, you!

So, the rarity factor with these wines is what makes them impossible to resist. At least for us wine people. When I hear that someone is producing St. Laurent in Carneros, my ears perk up. Must have. Need. So, the biggest question is; when you have a faraway crush for so long, will it live up to the hype? Certainly when these crushes are in human form, they almost never do. That’s why I’ve switched to wine crushes, FYI.

Right off the bat, I am enamored of the nose on this wine. Its bright and fun and flirty. Almost like a Pinot Noir. But there’s something far more savory at work here…

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Color & density-wise, this wine seems very varietally correct. I’ve written about St. Laurent in the past and found a few that I genuinely loved. This one is a bit leaner, more chiseled than past Austrian incarnations I’ve experienced. The nose is all sour cherry, but perhaps a cross between a raw sour cherry and a sour cherry compote. Some enigmatic red floral notes are hiding in the background, as well as deeper, earthier tones of peat moss, lavender, thyme, and sage. All of this is set off by a bright streak of citrus peel. Low alcohol (11.43%) make this a very buoyant wine, on the palate. Frisky and accessible, but with enough complexity to keep you interested. It drinks with frightening ease.

Balls of meat.

Balls of meat.

I made lamb meatballs this evening, and I think the high acid in this wine and its savory elements will be quite delightful with them. I’m about to find out.

Its fun to mention that Forlorn Hope winemaker Matthew Rorick makes the *only* 100% St. Laurent in California. The grapes are sourced from the Ricci Vineyard, owned by Dale Ricci, and originally planted as something of an experiment. Whole cluster fermented with 10 months in (old) barrels. Just 24 cases were produced in the 2012 vintage; in 2013, it jumped to 237- probably the only reason I got to have any.

For what its worth, a far more creative and brilliant individual than I, Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, has written much about the 2012 vintage of this wine here and here. Do yourself a favor and go check them out. Speaking of crushes… I love everything Elaine does. Spend a few hours on her site and you’ll see why.

Before I sign off, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all friends near and far! My first Christmas Eve in Oregon has been wonderful. The sun came out, and I went tasting at Adelsheim….

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It didn’t suck at all. I dropped in on the O’Donnell’s and was treated to a dozen freshly lain eggs from the farm. Now I sit in my flannel pants listening to Vince Guaraldi while my meatballs simmer.

Quite content, I am.

 

This wine was purchased at Storyteller Wine Company for $28. 

If you go see James at Morganelli’s in Columbia SC, he may have some Forlorn Hope wines available. No promises, though.

 

“I’m. So. Fancy.” Charles Bove Vouvray, 13 France

Doesn’t this bottle just look fancy?

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You already know.

Who doesn’t like to feel a little fancy? Especially when on a “weeknight” budget?

Let me begin by saying that this is one of those wines that I’m bordering on a little unhealthily obsessed with. It’s all I want. Every time I re-taste it, I am once again struck by its brilliance and I usually let out some kind of involuntary exclamation of joy. I can see where this may be an odd sight, but I really can’t help it. It’s just. So. Good.

So what’s in this wine? What is a Vouvray? It’s not too hard to remember, but it still might fall into the unrecognized category- Vouvray is a region in the Loire Valley of France, which is roughly located in Central France. And Vouvray is roughly in the center of the Loire. See here if you want to get more techy about it:

loire_valley_wine_map

This is actually a great map.

Loire-Valley-Map-1

But more importantly, what is IN a Vouvray? Chenin Blanc. One of my ALL-TIME favorite grapes EVER. Chenin seems to have the adoration of many wine nerds, and with good reason. They’re incredibly versatile, and while the Loire is considered the “true” home of Chenin Blanc, I’m also often mucho impressed with South African versions. So the Vouvray region produces a lot of sparkling wine (sparkling Chenin- also a YES), but the still versions are freakin’ awesome too. They are made in a wide variety of styles ranging from dry to sorta-sweet to dessert-sweet. All are fantastic. Chenin is naturally very high in acidity, so even the sweet versions never feel syrupy. And they have, arguably, some of the best ageability in the world.

But anyway, WHY do I adore this particular one and what does it taste like? First, the nose. Oh! The nose. Honeysuckle, lime zest, nectarines, quince, maybe a touch of candied ginger, fresh flowers, clean sheets and a vague nutty afterthought. The palate is all about lightening-like acidity. It will cut through anything. You get a nice tangy pop of green apple and lime as you sip. With the intensely fragrant nose, you might expect this wine to be sweeter; and while it does have (as far as I can tell) a bit of residual sugar, the acid is really what stands out here. The finish is a bit chalky, which just leaves me wanting more.

This wine is imported by Vintage 59 Imports, who are no strangers to good French wine.

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So now that you know that you need this wine, let’s go back to the title of this post: “I’m. So. Fancy.” Have you heard this song? This is one of those pop culture phenomenons that I happened to catch after listening to the radio a lot while painting my bathroom last weekend. I heard it about 1,000 times. Normally I might’ve missed it altogether, since I’m in my 30’s and therefore extremely uncool (not). I’m still not sure whether it’s cool to like this song or not, but I will say that it stays in my head for hours at a time. And when I heard it, I thought of this wine. Because it’s fancy.

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Just watched the video this morning. It has some distinct Clueless references, although I doubt its target audience has ever seen Clueless (how sad it that?). Did any one actually GO to high school with girls that looked like this? I kinda doubt it. After a bit of Googling, it seems like this poor girl is getting ripped by online commenters, disgracing her “rapping” abilities. Mind you, I never said I liked this song. Just that it gets stuck in my head. And isn’t that all it takes to be considered a successful pop phenomenon?

So when’s a good time to come try the Charles Bove? TOMORROW! July 12th. 12-2pm. At the Wine Sale! We actually sold out of this wine at the sale 2 weeks ago. It’s that good! It retails for $17, but there’ll be a discount at the sale tomorrow. Truthfully? I think I’d pay $22 for this wine. Dollar for dollar, it’s an absolutely insane value.

YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT!

Penner-Ash Riesling, 11 Oregon, Willamette

It’s BANANAS how good this stuff is!

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Please, oh please don’t disregard this post if you think you don’t like Riesling.  You will break my Riesling-loving heart if you do.  Did you know that most wine-loving people have a deep preoccupation with Riesling?  We do.  There are lots of reasons, some of which I will touch on today.  Bossman and I have tried for several years to put a pep in people’s step about Riesling.  Unfortunately, most of the time it has been wasted effort.  Riesling flights, Riesling pairings, Riesling weeks… always, there will be a handful of people who love it, and the rest largely ignore it.  *woe are we*

Consider this, in case you still think it’s just us: the Summer of Riesling was started in 2008, and went national in 2011.  It’s a pretty awesome campaign, and a lot of fantastic restaurants and wine shops around the US participate.  This Summer I’m having my own Summer of Riesling, and it begins and ends with the Penner-Ash!  If I can get YOU to buy this, or at least have a glass or two at Cellar, I will have won.  Why now?  Well, I am still fresh and doe-eyed over my amazing trip to Oregon Pinot Camp, it’s hot as hades (aka perfect Riesling weather), and this was one of the wines (and wineries) I totally fell for on the trip.  And the reason you’re hearing about it today is that we just put it on by-the-glass at Cellar! We are definitely the only restaurant in SC to be pouring this wine by the glass, and it is also our first-ever Willamette Riesling!  that is reason enough to celebrate…

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I’m already feeling wordy today, so I’m gonna get straight to the point before I babble on too long;  this shit is bananas. The first thing you need to know about this wine is that is is gorgeously dry.  This is an excellent way for it to be.  Willamette, as many of us know, is a cool climate.  Cool climates mean (among other things) acidity.  Riesling is naturally high in acid, and also offers some of the most exciting, vibrant aromas your nose could ever encounter.  This wine is focused, pure and happy to be alive.  A bright nose of tangerine, fresh lime zest, apricots, honeydew melon, honeysuckle and a touch of something soapy and clean will greet you.  A little touch of petrol is hiding in there too.  The body is a nice combination of lightening-quick acidity and a silky mouthfeel.  The minerality on the finish stays with you for quite a bit…

Which leads me to one of the BEST reasons to love Riesling– minerality and acid mean FOOD!  Riesling and food are meant to be togther.  What kind of food?  So many kinds!  Your options are not limited- that’s yet another BEST reason to like Riesling- versatility!  One of my all-time favorite combinations is Riesling with Thai cuisine.  The power of a dish that has a bit of spice and a high-acid white with nice fruit such as this = mind-blowing. The “prickle” that many Rieslings offer also makes it a great match for fried items (don’t act like you too good for fried food).  What else?  Sushi.  Shellfish.  Indian Curries.  BBQ.  Grilled fruit that you throw on a fresh green salad.  There are several menu items this week at Cellar that beg for this wine- Torched Beef Shoulder Tataki with ponzu, cukes, pineapple, sriracha, lime and cilantro; Sockeye Salmon with thai chile glaze and pineapple salsa, and the Gorgonzola Stuffed Peach Salad.  Speaking of Gorgonzola- this wine, in addition to being a pleasant afternoon or dinner sipper would make a marvelous palate-cleanser with a cheese plate for dessert.  A nice strong Blue cheese with a bit a honey and a sip of this?  BOOM.  that’s it.

Another reason why you must try this wine: for lack of better words, because I’m telling you to.  I would love for you to really “get” why I’m pushing Willamette Valley whites, and this is a good way to get it.  Plus, Riesling is only the beginning!  Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau… Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, but whites are doing some amazing things to help keep it there.  Trust me.

Here are a few pictures of Penner-Ash, this wine’s home:

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This wine is available for retail purchase ($24) as well as by-the-glass at Cellar!  Drink up, at just over 300 cases made, it won’t last forever!  And I’m putting a decent dent in it pretty much every night…

Domaine Sainte Lucie “MiP” Rose, 2012 France

In case you haven’t noticed—

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This makes me happy.  Why?  Because Rose is good.  And I like good things.  Pretty much every wine person I know has a special affinity for a good dry Rose.  Why is this, exactly?  Why do we all freak out over Rose?  Why do we become like fiends, trying to find the absolute most perfect one ever made (that year)?

There are a variety of factors, not all of which necessitate a long conversation.  But I should start, of course, with reminding you that if you’re still one of those people that THINK they don’t like Rose, I plea with you; try this one.  Especially if you like white wine.  If you like white, chances are you like Rose too.  You just don’t know it yet.  If you think you don’t like white wine?!  Well, I’ll work on YOU later…

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Allow me to introduce you to my new baby, Domaine Sainte Lucie “MiP” Rose, 2012 vintage from the Provence region of France.  “MiP” stands for “Made in Provence”, giving this wine an accessible and memorable package.  This picture doesn’t really do it justice; although it does look frosty and inviting, you really have to see this wine in person to appreciate it’s beautiful color.  Pale, pale, pale rose petal pink.  This is a blend of mostly Cinsault, with a bit of Grenache and Syrah.  My favorite thing about this wine is the nose- you’d have to be a crazy not to realize you’re in for something special when you get your first inhale of this wine.  It is completely alive, vibrant, and bursting with fresh notes of wildflowers, passionfruit, a little prickly pineapple, wild strawberries and a minerally touch of wet stone.  The mouthfeel is silky and addicting.  A pleasantly dry body, and a finish that lingers, refreshes, and cleanses.  It feels like satin.  In my opinion, there is something nothing short of magical in this wine.  That which cannot be explained.  Must be experienced.  But that IS the point of drinking wine, isn’t it?

Which brings me back to my original question- why does Rose captivate us wine-lovers?  In essence, I believe it to be because Rose is just fun.  Rose reminds us that wine is meant to be enjoyed- today.  It’s pink color is flirtatious and suggests an air of frivolity that is not present in other wines.  It is inviting.  It doesn’t just ask to be drunk, it begs to be.  It’s not serious or heavy handed (although, there are of course serious Rose drinkers), it just invites you to come play.  NOW.

My Google search yielded no quality results, so that’s as good of an explanation as I think we are going to get:

photo (36)So, in closing, YOU NEED THIS WINE.  And you need it now!  It is $17 a bottle and will be in residence at Cellar on Greene and available for sampling until it runs out!  Which it will, at some point.  So hop to it.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

Goedhart Family Syrah, 09 Washington, Red Mtn

So I’ve had to create a new category to file this wine under, for blog purposes.  If you’re not familiar with blog-speak, a category is a “tag” that you assign to each post that is sort of a “heads up” to search engines as to what the post is about.  So this wine is filed under “Washington”, “Syrah”, and …. “unhealthy obsessions.”  The reason for this is that I couldn’t stop thinking about this wine since I first tasted it last Thursday.  I could hardly stand having to wait until yesterday, which was our next delivery day.  So my adoration for this wine might border on a little intense.  But this NOSE, y’all…. once you get an inhale, hopefully you’ll understand.

sexytime

sexytime

So my interest in this wine has spurred me to research a bit more about the Red Mountain AVA in Washington.  And has thoroughly deepened my appreciation for Washington State wines in general.  I’ve always had a fondness for Riesling from Washington State, and knew there were amazing reds to be found, but I don’t find our market to be especially “flooded”, the way we are with California wines.  Especially top-notch Washington reds get pricey fairly quickly, and sell out fast.  Which is why this wine is such a gem.

So here is a map of Washington State wine growing regions (also known as AVA’s):

map_WA_AVAs_lrg

It’s not a terribly BIG map, but whip out your glasses and take note that the Red Mountain AVA is that teeny tiny little red one- and this wine is from just one vineyard site- Bel’ Villa Vineyard- located within Red Mountain.  It is the smallest in Washington at just over 4000 acres, and just 600 of those 4000 are planted with grapes.  It is also the most expensive.  The Hedges family of Hedges Family Estate, have been making wine in this region since the late 80’s.  Sarah Hedges Goedhart (daughter of Hedges founders and also their assistant winemaker) and her husband Brent produce this wine, to quote their website, “in their basement.”  Hence, it’s super-small production and hand-crafted.  And wicked cool.

So all of these facts contribute to a trifecta of amazingness and here’s why: 384 cases produced?  from the most special spot in Washington?  AND (drumroll please…) this wine costs a wicked $32 retail!!  That’s absurd.  If this wine was from the Stags Leap District in California, it would easily set you back $75-$100.

Alright, alright so that’s enough economic/wine-nerdy facts about this wine.  I’m sure you’re more than ready to hear me go to town about how freaking RIDIC it tastes. But first the nose.  A fellow wine-buyer friend shares my affinity for this wine and stated that when he first smelled it, he just looked at their sales manager and said: “YES.”  So simply, YES.  yesyesyes.  It’s a big nose, and actually it’s gotten a bit bigger this afternoon since I opened this bottle last night. Even now, I can’t smell it without wanting to squeal with delight.  It has a great combination of dark fruits with hints of red fruits.  This is due to the fact that they pick some grapes early, and some grapes later.  I don’t know a ton about this, but once I read it, and tasted it, it kind of clicked.  I hope it does to you, too, because it’s an interesting little tidbit.  So back to the smell.  Dark fruit- blackberry, blueberry, and touches of black cherry.  A suggestion of graphite and maybe a bit of smoke.  Today, with the overnight to open it up, I get more round aromas of cocoa powder, and some warmth- like blackberry liqueur.  And some graceful, feminine floral notes as well.  It’s much more forthcoming today.  Aged for 10 months in French oak, 30% new, it would definitely age beautifully, as it’s sleepover sluttiness might suggest.

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The thing I LOVE about Syrah, and THIS Syrah is that it is a perfect combination of masculine and feminine.  This is something I really admire in a wine.  It strikes the balance so well.  Rough and scratchy like a 5:00 shadow, yet also silky and graceful.  Dark colored and deeply flavored, and just 14% alcohol.  Lean and mean.  Also, a side note- I love this packaging.

I should have an open bottle for sampling purposes all weekend, and we will have a by-the-glass special on it for Friday and Saturday nights!  And open at the wine sale this Saturday from 12-2!  So that gives you plenty of opportunities to taste it!  And swoon over it, and take it home.  And promise to love it forever.  This is $32 well spent.  That’s all I got for today, happy drinking!