Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 12!

THE VIOGNIER COMETH!

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Penner Ash Viognier, 2013 Willmette Valley. I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine for a while! And it wasn’t just this tweet from Penner Ash that made me do it…

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The crown Lynn refers to is the crown I “won” at a blending seminar at OPC. And yes, I still have it. But no, I didn’t wear it. Not this day, at least.

I’ve liked this wine since I first met it! Which was probably the 2012 vintage. This wine was available in distribution in South Carolina (albeit, not a lot) and it definitely made a few friends at a wine dinner or two held by the distributor. We used to joke that a lot of people didn’t necessarily know how to pronounce it, but they liked it. Ie: “Hey, that Vee-OG-nee is really good!” As we would say in South Carolina, bless their hearts.

Vee-OWN-yay, or sometimes VEE-uhn-yay are the two ways I’ve heard Viognier pronounced. I lean towards the former and truth be told I don’t know if one’s more correct than the other. I’ve heard pros say it both ways. But I digress…

This is such a fun Oregon grape! Viognier is a grape that originates in France, but I’ve had versions from a lotta places; both the Rhone and Southern France, California, Washington, Virginia (yes, really! and it’s GOOD- check out Breaux Vineyards if you don’t believe me), Australia and probably a few more that are escaping me. Michel Chapoutier’s “Matilda” Viognier was a recent Aussie favorite. Freakin’ great.

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Oregon’s Viognier does best in the slightly warmer regions down South. The stats on the 2013 Penner Ash indicate just that. For being 100% stainless steel, this wine has a supremely luscious texture and medium-viscosity. Abundant with notes of perfumey jasmine, ripe pears, lemon curd, mango, cantaloupe and lychee. If you’ve never smelled a lychee… well, they’re tropical, but mellow. They’re pretty delicious, actually. The thing I like about this Viognier is that it has a big personality, but it is well-balanced and not over-the-top. Sometimes I dislike Viognier, when it veers into the too perfumey arena. Where I feel like I’m at a bridge tournament in a room full of old ladies. No one wants that. This wine is graceful and a real palate-pleaser. The slight amount of residual sugar make it really appealing to a lot of palates. I’d be willing to bet that this wine would charm the pants off a lot of people in a tasting room lineup.

I purchased this wine at the Penner Ash tasting room for $30, which I drive by every day. I love being neighbors with Penner Ash! The day I was there, I took this lovely shot- it was an unreal day, plus it was Friday AND payday. Holla!

Amaze.

Amaze.

Well, happy Monday friends! And hope you swing by Penner Ash soon! Their Riesling is great too, as far as whites go. But you’d not soon be disappointed in the Pinot Noir lineup, either. My neighborhood rocks!

 

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Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 2!

Day 2! Typically I would have broken at least one resolution by now, but I’m determined to see this project through. And what better way than with a barely recognizable varietal that you might not know exists- Adelsheim Auxerrois, 2013 Ribbon Springs Vineyard! 

Aux-sair-WHAT?

Aux-sair-WHAT?

Oak-sair-wah. There ya go. The nice folks at Adelsheim actually put that on the back of the bottle. Almost as if they saw that coming…

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So what’s the deal with Auxerrois? Its an Alsatian varietal, where its often blended with Pinot Blanc or used in sparkling Cremant d’Alsace production. I had an Alsatian wine that was labeled Pinot Blanc this Summer, and it was at least half Auxerrois. And it was damn good, as I recall.

Not much Auxerrois at all is planted in Oregon, and this vineyard in Ribbon Ridge may be the largest. Apparently there’s some to be found a bit further south in the Eola Amity Hills, in the Zenith vineyard (note to self: investigate this), and a producer called Elemental Cellars. Gotta track this down! I’d be curious to see how the grape behaved in a different vineyard. Anyway!

I think 2013 was a great year for Oregon whites; haven’t wrapped my head around why just yet, but there’s something noticeably perfect about a lot of whites I’ve tried from this vintage. This wine is as light and fresh as it gets. It plays a close fiddle to Pinot Blanc in the “what would I like to drink while I eat fresh, raw oysters” question. High minerality is offset by delicate fruit (green apple, pear and melon) and some herbal and fennel-y notes. I will say, this wine was pretty tightly wound on the first day I opened it. It actually relaxed a bit and softened into its structure on day two. While it doesn’t scream loudly, what it does have to say it says nicely and in a polite and refreshing fashion. Good clean fun right here.

Also, it didn’t suck that this was the view at Adelsheim on the day I bought this wine:

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A few fun facts for the hardcore wine people out there: they ferment just 9% of this wine in neutral oak barrels. The remaining 91% stay in stainless steel, and it undergoes no malolactic fermentation. Interesting. To me, at least. I like learning about all the little percentage details like this. So with that, I wrap up Day 2! Hope your brain feels just a bit bigger than it did when you started reading, and that now you have to satiate a craving for fresh oysters. Cheers!

I bought this juice for $25 at the Adelsheim tasting room located here

PS: Columbia SC peeps: this wine IS available in SC, so go talk to Ricky or Jennifer to see about ordering some!

The Eyrie Vineyards Chasselas Doré, 13 Dundee Hills

What the what?

Okay, so now I’m just straight up showing off a little. I’m showing off that I have access to this 80 case produced Swiss varietal grown in Willamette’s Dundee Hills. The wind is currently howling around me as I sit in the middle of the Dundee Hills (well, I’m inside, but y’know). So what better time than now to drink a light, fresh and clean white wine?

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Just so you’re forewarned, this wine is only available at the winery. 80 cases were made, and as of yesterday they had about 8 left, according to the tasting room staff. Given this fact, and the fact that I’m a sucker for a white wine I’ve never heard of, how could I not buy it? However, other wines from The Eyrie *are* available in SC. They don’t have a huge presence there, but they are available. And lemmee tell ya- their 2012 Willamette Pinot Noir deserves your attention. It has all the charm of the 2012 vintage, but is a tad more refined and shy than some of it’s “slutty” 2012 siblings.

Yeah, I said it.

Anyhow. This wine is just all kinds of fun. It is the perfect trifecta of the weird white; unrecognizable (to most people), difficult to pronounce (until someone tells you), and small-production. Booyah! So, I made myself a couple handy phonetic guides on the tasting sheet. Only problem was, once I got home, I couldn’t decipher them. So, after a quick consult with a fellow wine peep- its Chass-luh Door-ray. Like a Morey eel.

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So, little Chasselas is a varietal widely planted in Switzerland. The Swiss enjoy it with fondue, I’ve been told. I’ve never been a big fondue fan, but I can see this wine being a nice complement to a rich cheese. There is a vague suggestion of something nutty here, but mostly this wine just graces your palate with its presence… as they write in their tasting notes, its “ethereal.” Light citrus, fresh soap, soft minerality. Leaves your mouth feeling uplifted. This wine is sort of like a fairy. Like Thumbelina. Remember Thumbelina?! I didn’t until just now. This is why I love writing!

If tasted blind, I can see someone thinking this was a mild, unoaked Washington State Chardonnay, or maybe an Alsatian white. But there’s something extra-special about this one. You can tell it was treated carefully. Which is something that I think really stands out about The Eyrie wines in general. They’re a gift for the senses.

This wine really screams Summer in South Carolina to me. I know James and I and Bryan would’ve crushed this wine if given the opportunity. But, you can’t have them all. Having it now is enough for me.

Just for a laugh, check out all the names that Chasselas Doré also goes by, according to Wikipedia:

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what in the actual fuck?

One thing I did notice? Chasselas Noir is another word for Dolcetto. Remember how I just wrote about a a Dolcetto the other day? Maybe my brain was on some kinda wavelength that I didn’t even know about!

I purchased this wine at The Eyrie Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville for $27. 

Cheers, y’all!

Ponzi Dolcetto, 12 Willamette. PS I’m in Oregon.

Welcome to my first blog post from the state of Oregon! But first, a disclaimer to those that didn’t know I had relocated…

In the past, I’ve always blogged about wines that were available for purchase at Cellar on Greene in Columbia, SC, because that was where I worked! (duh). Now that I’m here, I want to continue to write, but I don’t want to alarm anyone or confuse any local Columbia readers when I write about wines that may not be available at Cellar. I loved using the blog as a platform to expose people to wines available at Cellar, and that was the original intention of starting this blog. And it served me (and you, I hope) well. But as I’ve entered a new phase, I hope that if you’re a Columbian, you’ll continue to read if for no other reason that you’ve grown fond of my writing and you love to read about new and different wines. But in an effort not to create work for Ricky, don’t expect everything I write about here to be available at Cellar, or for that matter, in South Carolina at all. I hope to bridge the gap, and will do what I can to assist. So sit back and hopefully enjoy this new ride I’m on!

So- TONIGHT! Ponzi Dolcetto! Purchased at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, OR for $25. Conveniently located just down the road from me. How awesome is that.

Dolcetto in Willamettte? Who knew!

Dolcetto in Willamettte? Who knew!

So, Dolcetto? Who woulda thunk. I thought I was all cool because I knew Ponzi made an Arneis (amazing Italian white varietal), but now I get here and discover this Dolcetto! I tasted it at the Dundee Bistro a few nights ago, really enjoyed it, and knew I’d be picking up a bottle at some point. Here’s the skinny on Dolcetto: most is found in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Some was brought to Cali by expat Italians (go figure!). This particular vineyard was planted in 1992 in the Chehalem Mountains AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Is there more Dolcetto to be found in Willamette Valley? Dunno! Yet, anyway. I’m only in the first week of discovery here.

deets, heard.

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So this wine is a 2012 vintage, and since it’s my first time having it, I can’t compare it to other vintages. BUT- I have to say, it’s freakin’ slammin. Not sure if they submit for scores or not, but I could see this scoring a solid 90 or 91. From someone important. If that’s important to you. Why’s it so good? 1.) it’s varietally correct. It reminds me of several Dolcetto d’Alba’s I came into contact with in the SC market. Perhaps a slightly higher price point, but with the production level on this one and relative scarcity, that’s to be understood. So 2.) it’s delicious, of course! A beautiful deep, vibrant purple/magenta with nice medium density. A nose of mulberry, blackberry, licorice, briar patch, and a nice streak of herbs- mint, maybe a touch of rosemary. With a sturdy tannic finish, I find this to be a perfect sipper. What would marry nicely with it? Braised lamb? Something wintery? Yes, I think so. This wine is robust, yet not in-your-face. Certainly best drunk within a few years of bottling, in my opinion. I’m into it.

Sadly, I’m almost 100% certain this wine is not available in SC. That just means you’re gonna have to get your tail to Oregon and visit the winery.

So, how am I? Is anyone curious? Now that I’ve had a glass of wine, I’ll share. Granted, it’s been less than a week, but it’s been a little up n’ down. Highs and lows. Highs? Realizing I can go wine tasting any time I want. Amazing scenery. Great people. Did I mention amazing scenery??

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Sunset at Belle Pente yesterday.

Sunset from my house tonight.

Sunset from my house tonight.

So, lows? Not having a job. YET, anyway. I do have leads, and I remain optimistic, but I pretty much hate not being employed. I like to work. It’s hard to feel like I’m getting in the groove when I don’t have any real “purpose” on a day to day or even hourly basis. But writing seems to make me feel more like “me”, so if anything else, that is a motivator to keep writing. Other lows? I do miss y’all. My Columbia peeps. I miss my constant slew of work-related texts. I miss Ricky Mollohan’s ass. I really do. It’s strange to not be able to talk to him about Homeland and The Blacklist spur of the moment. I hate that while I was driving here, Vincent Sheheen did NOT become the governor. I truly hate that for the state of South Carolina. I feel far away, and that’s a little hard to swallow. But at other moments, it feels amazing to be far away.

But I’m good. I got this.

Now go drink some wine! Cheers, y’all.

This Week’s Whites to Watch Out For!

It finally feels like we better strap in and enjoy the ride folks- Summer is almost here! Spring was sort of a temptress this year, no? Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. And the last few days have been downright Summery. Complete with a forecast full of rain and… no accumulation. So what better time than to preview a few fun exciting new whites?

mmm.. WHITES

mmm.. WHITES

 

Folk Machine Tocai Friulano, 13 California, Mendocino. Retail $15. 

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OKAY OKAY- so THIS one is hands-down one of the coolest whites I’ve had this year! For a lot of reasons, some nerdier than others. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first I must regale you with details about how delicious this stuff is! If you’re after a flowery-citrus-bomb that’ll leave you feeling like you licked a grapefruit peel, this one might not be your jam. Because it is a study in understated, if you will. It’s an effortless little wine, made from a cool grape that you don’t see a lot of in California, and dollar for dollar, it absolutely owns some of it’s closest “competitors”, style-wise. Yes, I’m speaking of the “New California” category. But anyway, let us first get back to the wine itself: this wine has an irresistible freshness straight out of the bottle. I hesitate to call it “petillant”, but there’s definitely a touch of fizz on this wine when you first crack it. It’s a lean and fresh palate that you’ll find when you sip this guy. Slightly saline with green hints. Think an underripe pear, green grapes straight outta the fridge, lime pit, and fresh herbs. The nose is not terribly forthcoming, but that’s just kinda how it rolls. It hits the thirst-quenching note quite precisely, and the finish is dry and a bit chalky. This wine is like Vinho Verde’s slightly more evolved cousin, in my opinion. Meant to be taken just a bit more seriously than your average poolside-crusher, but still falls into the everyday category. Would be genius with a fresh tomato salad with plenty of herbage and some tangy goat cheese. This wine was written up by The New California Wine author Jon Bonne in SFGate. Check it out!

 

Anne Amie “Cuvee A” Muller-Thurgau, 2012 Oregon, Willamette. Retail $16.

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So if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’ve written about this wine before. But… it’s just SO. DURN. GOOD. And this is a new vintage! I can’t resist a revisit. Especially since I have been to Oregon and Anne Amie Vineyards since the last time I wrote about this wine, so my appreciation has only deepened. I’ll skip the part where I explain to you what Muller-Thurgau is in great detail; suffice to say, it’s a grape you should be drinking. It originated in Germany but has found a happy home in Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley. And you can call it MULL-er, or MEW-ler, depending on your mood. I go with MULL-er because I find the alternative awkward. I may be remiss in that, but I am okay with the consequences. I have heard pros say it both ways. So there.

It goes without saying that this wine has been delicious and consistent every year that I’ve tasted it, and this one is no exception. It’s aromas are downright intoxicating. Sweet honeydew melon, honeysuckle, peaches and fresh spring flowers. The palate offers a touch of tartness (green apple, lime) and minerality. But it finishes up with an oh-so-silky mouthfeel that will make you squeeeeee. I can’t think of a more perfect wine for Pad Thai (yeah, probably even the kind you can get at Food Lion), a Spicy Tuna Roll &/or a Shrimp Summer Roll with sweet thai chile sauce! (I gotta pause and drool now….) LOVE. IT. You need it in your mouth.

 

Vina Tobia Blanco, 12 Spain, Rioja. Retail $14. 

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Yet another funsie! I love a good, zippy Spanish white. If you’ve been in an Albarino phase, let this one be your next fling! It is a blend of 50% Viura, 20% Verdejo, 10% Malvasia, 10% Tempranillo Blanco and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Note: there will be a quiz. You may or may not be familiar with many of those, but Verdejo and Viura are fairly common in the world of Spanish whites and you may have had them before. An energetic and vibrant white, it has a rounder texture than an Albarino typically does, but all the lovely bright citrus flavors you probably love. You’ll also find some exciting hints of pineapple, passionfruit and and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is fresh and clean, but with the aforementioned touch of texture and “waxiness”. Kind of an odd word, but it will make more sense once you try it.

…And try it you will! Or can, at least, at TOMORROW’S Wine Sale! All these babies will be open for the tasting from 12-2. I picked three off-beat wines today for a reason- my new catch phrase at the wine sales is going to be “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” Cause I love y’all mean it, but sometimes I feel as though I sell the same wines to the same people every week. We gotta shake it up! Try new stuff! That’s what we’re here for.

Come visit tomorrow, have a great, wine-filled weekend, and thanks for reading! 

 

 

Let’s get weird: Sattler St. Laurent, 2012 Austria

Let’s give the weirdos some love this week, y’all.

First of all, let’s have a round of applause for some of my favorite weird characters from various movies. If you don’t know who any of them are, I really pity you… Especially if you’ve never seen Wet Hot American Summer.

photo (21)So yes, this is a weird little grape. What’s weird about it? Well, definitely not the taste. Mostly the name. Yes, the St. Laurent is in fact the name of the grape! I can’t help but wonder, perhaps somewhat glibly, what they were thinking when they named the grape St. Laurent. From my not-terribly-extensive-Googling-okay-so-sue-me, the conclusion seems to be that it was named that after St. Lawrence Day, which is celebrated by Europeans (what a cheeky bunch they are!) on August 10th, which is when or around this grape usually ripens.

The cat finds this bottle highly suspect.

The cat finds this bottle highly suspect.

But maybe that’s just my American sensitivities that are confounded by the name of the grape. And I don’t dislike it, per say; I just think it’s odd. But, there’s a zillion grape names out there that are nothing if not odd: remember the Bukettraube? Vranec? Just to name a couple.

But onward we go to our weirdo celebration! And now that we’ve actually past the weird part, we can get to how fantastic this wine is! And that’s really the challenge with a weird grape name- encouraging people to not be scared of the unfamiliar! Sometimes that takes a while. *sigh*

I found some really colorful ways to describe St. Laurent on the good old interwebs: Terry Theise calls it “Pinot Noir with a touch of ‘sauvage'” in one of his catalogues. John Schreiner says, “it comes across as a Pinot Noir wearing hiking boots.” (source is a great article found here). The Pinot Noir comparisons are no coincidence, as it IS actually genetically related to Pinot Noir. Here’s what I think: yes to both of those quotes. Suffice to say, I would definitely recommend this wine to people that are fond of Pinot Noir. It drinks like a old-world style Pinot, but with a bit more flesh on its bones. The skin on St. Laurent is darker, and the wine definitely reflects that. A deep, pretty shade of eggplanty-purple, the nose is generous and forthcoming. Notes of creamy vanilla swirl about after some initial blue fruits, black cherry, blackberry, violets, cherry cough drops, and a touch of evergreen. The palate is richer than it’s 13% alcohol reflects and uber-smooth. It finishes with a tang of red plums and redcurrants. Really tasty.

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St. Laurent is apparently one of the widest planted grapes in the Czech Republic and other parts of Eastern Europe. And there’s some in Canada and New Zealand, too. Are there any crazy wahoos in Oregon growing this grape? Inquiring minds want to know! It wouldn’t shock me, logistically, except that I don’t know much about what it takes to grow a new grape somewhere. Seems like that might be tricky.

So give this one a try if you’re looking for a cool new discovery this week! You’ll find it at the wine sale this Saturday, March 22nd from 12-2, if you remain unconvinced of it’s merit. If nothing else, you can commit some of this to memory and show off to a friend or two the next time you’re in a wine store or a wine bar. Like… Cellar on Greene. Since you definitely will not find this wine as a glass pour anywhere else in Columbia. Yep, we excel at the strange on our corner of Greene Street.

I should also mention that this wine sells for $17 a bottle! So try it! Get weird!

One Wine to Rule Them All- Verso Rosso Salento, 2012 Italy

THIS is your big Winter Red!!

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I’m 1000% serious.  This is absolutely THE wine you are gonna fall head over heels for during the chillier months that are upon us.  The best part?  You’ve probably never heard of these grapes.  You might not know how to say Verso or Salento (VAIR-so and sa-LAIN-to).  Heck, you might not have had an Italian wine quite like this before.  But trust me, YOU’RE GONNA FLIP!!

This wine is special for several reasons– first, it comes to us from one of my favorite portfolios, Small Vineyards.  In order to be included in Small Vineyards, the wine must be hand-harvested, from a family-owned estate, and be farmed in an ecologically friendly manner.  Note the word organic is not in use here; in my opinion it’s a bit irrelevant- you can trust that this wine comes from people that really cares about their impact on the environment as well as making the best wine possible, which I trust over a USDA certification eight days a week.

Raisins are tasty.

Raisins are tasty.

Second, this wine is big and sexy for a cool reason; a portion of the grapes (no, I’m not sure which ones) were allowed to “raisin”- which is exactly what it sounds like!  Also known as “appassimento”, it is a process of allowing the grapes to hang out and dry a bit- concentrating their sugars.  It is a labor-intensive process, which results in the reduction of the yield.  A labor of love, I would call it.  So it means they end up with LESS total wine to put into bottles, BUT the wine that results is so rich and flavorful it’ll leave you speechless- and (AND!) it it not weighed down with a high alcohol content!  This wine comes in at a solid 14% abv.  That’s a full 1.5-2 percentage points less than your average Cali Cab, Zin or Shriraz- the typical wines “big red” drinkers tend to like.  Balance, people- balance!  And it means you can drink a bit more of this guy without that thick, heady feeling you get after two glasses of Zinfandel.

Alright, so I got wine-nerdy there for a minute- so let’s get moving with HOW IT TASTES!  Because that’s what’s gonna keep you coming back for bottle after bottle.  But before I forget, this wine is a blend of 60% Negroamarao, 35% Primitivo (aka Zinfandel’s parent grape) and 15% Malvasia Nera.  A giant nose of figs, cloves, anise, vanilla, raisins (go figure), a hint of olives and black peppercorns, a nice lift of dried flowers and red berries and blueberry.  The texture is silky, polished and mouth-coating.  There’s some unique spicing at work here that I can’t quite pinpoint… I want to say it’s Sumac, but I can’t be positive.  It’s taunting me.  The wine finishes with elegance and a tangy little pop.

So I saved the BEST FOR LAST!  This bottle will cost ya just $16!!  

To add to the fun, this wine is available as part of TURKEY PACK #2 at Cellar on Greene this year!  That means you can have it along with three other swell bottles to take to your Thanksgiving feast quickly and effortlessly.  Never heard of a Turkey Pack?  Well, you must click here and check them out.  They’re only our most popular wine club item every year!  Good news is, you can absolutely grab them as a walk-in purchase- it’ll take 2 seconds for us to pack you one.  So you can leave it til last minute, if you’re at all like me!  

Happy Thanksgiving, wine-lovers!