Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Bayliss-Bower Vineyard

What a treasure.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ghost Hill Cellars. I visited a few weeks back, and (per usual) it took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get this post together. Until about 20 minutes ago, this was going to be a joint “ode to 2011” post, including this and one other 2011 vintage wine. Unfortunately, the wine gods had other plans, and the other bottle that I purchased is bad. A major bummer, but we’re on the rebound. It happens. I’ll still yammer on for a minute or two about the vintage, because I can’t resist, but we’ll mostly chat about Ghost Hill and this wine.

IMG_0673It was actually back in February that a friend recommended Ghost Hill to me. I believe we tried to go in once, but they were closed (because winter). Embarrassingly, it took me until October to reattempt. That’s the reality of living in wine country; we are overloaded with choices!

In any case, this place is a gem. Its probably one of the most authentically Oregon wineries I’ve visited since I’ve lived here. And it doesn’t hurt that the wines are great.

What do I mean by authentically Oregon? Ghost Hill is a 5th generation family farm. Mike and Drenda Bayliss currently farm the property with their children, Michael and Bernadette and son in law Cameron Bower. About 16 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 1999 on the 90-acre property. Oats, wheat and other crops take up a lot of Mike’s time as well.

#oldfashionedfilter #UseThatArtDegree

#oldfashionedfilter
#UseThatArtDegree

The property sits on Willakenzie soil that is prime for grape-growin’ and is neighbored by famed vineyards Abbott Claim and Bonnie Jean. Rumor has it Ken Wright wanted to swipe this property up before the vineyard was planted. The Bayliss family keeps it pretty low-key, making about 1200 cases a year. Recently they’ve had a whirlwind of activity: Eric Hamacher was hired on as their new winemaker (beginning with the 2015 vintage) and their 2012 Bayliss-Bower received a 94 point score from Wine Spectator’s Insider in the 11/4 edition. Huzzah!

IMG_0675Scores are certainly something to be proud of. Now that I’ve been on the winery side for just about a year, I’ve witnessed what scores can do and its definitely an exciting energy to be a part of. Personally, I’ve been a little weary of 2012 lately, and I will continue to sing the praises of the 2011 vintage until I turn blue in the face. Although, as my favorite coworker likes to remind me “I am not the market,” my palate definitely is geared towards a wine like this, and cooler vintages in general. I think a cooler vintage captures the allure of older vines in a more expressive fashion as well. But these are all decidedly in my opinion statements.

I remember when the 2011 vintage fist happened; I was in South Carolina, and somehow the word leaked out into the Southeast that 2011 was bad, bad, bad. Cold and wet. Stay away from them. I had a customer tell me once that “his friend told him NOT to buy ANY Pinot Noir from Oregon from the 2011 vintage.” I don’t quite recall how I responded to that one.

Sometimes I wonder where these things start.

What I can say is that 2011’s really stand out to me. There’s something extremely vervey and alive about these wines. A tingly kind of energy that guides you to the delicate power that is Pinot Noir. That is what continues to excite me about the vintage. And with that, I’ll get off the soapbox and detail this particular one!

IMG_0907A brickish red color, the wine is in a nice evolutionary phase. Immediately upon opening, the nose has a brief flamboyant moment: bright raspberry and red cherry. It settles down a bit, relaxing into its herbal undertones. Asian five spice, sage, fennel, lavender and a resounding note of deeper black cherry abound. The finish is a lively smack of tart pomegranate. That’s the other thing I love about a leaner vintage; the acid lift makes me want to smack my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Satisfying.

I bought this bottle at the winery. Confession: I don’t recall what I paid for it. I do think the bottle price is $42, but I know they had a discount on the 11. If you’re in the area for Thanksgiving, go check them out before they close for the winter. Your pants will be charmed off, and you’ll leave feeling like you have experienced a special part of the area’s history.

Whut.

Whut.

 

 

 

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Wine Wednesday edition: Statera Cellars

Sometimes I feel busier than I am. And then sometimes I actually am busy. It was my original intention to post this in an attempt to lend a hand to some fellow Oregon wine industry folks, Luke Mathews and Meredith Bell so they could reach their kickstarter goal for their baby, Statera Cellars. Luke emailed me some info last week, and I was intrigued. I was headed to see Straight Outta Compton that night, so I came up with this brainchild:

Yeah, I'm kinda thug like that.

I’ll be here all night, folks.

And yes, I created a few more Straight Outta images that day. This one was the best. But it does have basis in reality- from their press release:

“Three single vineyard Chardonnay wines from Statera Cellars are in their final stages of fermentation. Established in 2014, Statera Cellars is an independent winery that focuses exclusively on Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley–an area predominantly known for pinot noir–by examining wines made from storied single vineyards.

Statera Cellars is the brainchild of Meredith Bell & Luke Mathews, two area locals whose mission is to produce Chardonnay with zero additives until bottling. Using only neutral oak, native ferments and temperature control, Statera wines are markedly natural. The first vintage will be released early in 2016 but opportunities to purchase futures and taste barrel samples with the winemakers will be available during summer 2015.”

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I’d had it in mind to write something on young people in the area who are starting their own projects, as I think its a very cool thing to witness. Something that attracted me to Oregon was the sense of community that is alive and well here. Sure enough, when I went to Luke & Meredith’s kickstarter today as I sat down to write this, they had just surpassed their goal! I was internally happy, and still thought I’d throw up this post regardless. If they collect $300 more dollars before August 29th, they can purchase a settling tank. $500 more and a settling tank, a bulldog, and hoses can be purchased. I read that and at first thought it meant that they would get an *actual* bulldog. Which would also be great, wouldn’t it?

They’re offering some pretty cool rewards to their backers, too: a picnic in a vineyard, dinners, bombshell leggings (okay, so I’m not cool enough to even know what those are, but they look great), and a release party planned for April of next year. Fun times! I know I’ll be looking forward to tasting what Luke & Meredith have created. Check it out and consider pouring one out for these two and their hard work.

Cheers!

Patton Valley “Drink Pink” 2015!

DRINK PINK! Its as though this event was made for me. Now in its fourth year, Drink Pink sold out at 300 people. I probably would have guessed there to be 120 people there, because it never felt crowded (hat tip). I really can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than at Patton Valley, with around 30 different Rosé producers from the Valley. WHUT. Okay, so I wish it had been a few degrees cooler. But we can’t have everything. And fortunately there was shaved ice, in which I drowned my “sorrows.”

Take a gander at those babies.

Take a gander at those babies.

Although I have mixed feelings about “scoring” in general, I wanted to break up a few of the wines tasted on Saturday into fun little categories. Cause really, when I stop to think, there are two main ways to enjoy Rosé: 1.) as a wine (duh): serve it lightly chilled but not ice cold, and enjoy it with food, or just savor it slowly over the course of a Summer evening. And 2.) the “porch pounder”: serve it cold, drink it down on a hot day that’s meant for day-drinking, with as many jovial friends as possible.

There’s plenty of room for both in my world.

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As a general rule, I like porch-pounders to be 1.) thirst quenching and 2.) easy on the wallet. Let’s face it; when you’re buying a for a small gathering or just to have a cold bottle in the fridge at all times, I think they should stay in the $16-$22 price range. Perhaps your definition of a porch-pounder is more like $9-$15, or maybe its $25 and up. Again, I’m generalizing, but the $16-$22 allows plenty of room for a quality wine that *also* is delicious.

So! Without further adieu: My Top Three “Porch Pounders” from Drink Pink 2015:

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1.) David Hill Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Bright, fresh, fun and really captivating in that energetic, buoyant sense. This wine was a nice surprise for me; I’d never had anything from David Hill before and this wine really caught my attention. $18 retail.

(this is an older photo, Patton Valley's Rosé was on tap this Saturday)

(this is an older photo, Patton Valley’s Rosé was on tap this Saturday)

2.) Patton Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Sorry not sorry. These guys host the event for a reason. Their pink is the jam. I’ve yet to find a Rosé that is as fleeting, pretty, floral, clean, delicate and rose petally (not a word?) as this one. And for $18? C’mon. It’s just stupid good.

Also a photo from a few weeks ago. Is this label not awesome?

3.) Division Winemaking Company Gamay Rosé, 2014. This one also takes home the award for coolest label and coolest grape. I’m really trying not to show favoritism here, and I think I may be verging towards unobjective when it comes to this wine, but I first tried it back in April and after revisiting, am convinced of its greatness. Tart, crisp pomegranate and cranberry notes. Refreshing as all get out. Retail $19.

 

Next! My Top Three Big Sexy’s That I’d Like to Spend an Entire Evening With:

IMG_99031.) Alexana Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Richly colored, this wine enjoyed 10 hours of skin contact and neutral French oak barrels for four months. Inviting color, lingering creaminess on the finish and overall sex appeal make this one a winner in my world. Retail $28.

IMG_93062.) Winderlea Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. Slightly more mellow in color but in no way lacking in the lovely department. Fragrant, silky, and the epitome of a crowd-pleaser. Robert does amazing things to the textures of his wines, IMHO. Retail $25

Hey there, piggy.

Hey there, piggy.

3.) Big Table Farm Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. I’ve had this wine on a few occasions and it seems to just be getting better over time. Freshly bottled it had great energy but its youth showed a bit; now with a few months to gain traction it has really come together into one magical little entity. Also with a bit of barrel age, this wine ventures into watermelon rind/cherry pith/rhubarb territory. Full malo makes for a nice sturdiness. Yum. Retail $26.

 

Another award: BEST COLOR! Goes to…

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Ribera Vineyards”Molly’s Vineyard” Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2014. I love the super delicate color on this guy. It reminds me of a few of my favorite Spanish Rosé of Tempranillos that I’ve had in the past. Super crisp, beautiful palate as well. Retail $22.

There were so many killer wines there, I almost feel like a poser playing this “favorite” game, but I needed to mix it up a little today. Plus, the interweb likes “favorites.” I hope you enjoyed!

Oh, and can I just say- THAT PAELLA from Crown Paella. Slap. Your. Mama.

I've never seen such a beautiful sight.

I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight.

Oh, and aforementioned shaved ice from Ono Shave Ice! I had watermelon and blue raspberry, naturally. Because if I’m going to overdose on sugar, I want my tongue to be blue at the end:

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This was a beautifully organized event from start to finish. Great idea, great wine, perfect location, great vibe. Awesome all around! Can’t wait for next year.

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Lumos Gewürztraminer, 12 Temperance Hill

Happy Sunday evening! I took a quick break after the conclusion of Thirty Oregon Grapes just to regroup- but I’m back at it tonight with a grape I fully intended on including in the project, but just didn’t get to it- Gewürztraminer! There was a bit of Gewürz in the Evesham Wood Blanc de Puits Sec blend, but its a grape that really deserves its own post. In the life of an aromatic white lover, this one is definitely a favorite.

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I was moderately familiar with Lumos prior to this weekend, but I still didn’t realize they had a little tasting room right in downtown McMinnville until recently! They share the space with Honest Chocolates, which were totally drool-worthy. They’re open Thursday-Sunday and after tasting through their wines yesterday, it really dawned on me what an insane value their wines are. Their case production is very small and the majority of their fruit comes from the Temperance Hill Vineyard (this one included), which is a beloved site in the Eola-Amity Hills. Many a winery (Adelsheim, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, J.K. Carriere, Panther Creek, R. Stuart, and St. Innocent just to name a few) have discovered the virtues of this site. Lumos owner and winemaker Dai Crisp is Temperance Hill’s vineyard manager. Yes, that’s his name; he’s Welch, if you can believe that!

So at 171 cases made, all Temperance Hill fruit, and boasting a special price of $15 (for the 2012 vintage), this Gewürz is pretty nuts, in my opinion. Even at its normal price of $19, it would still be a great value. I love Gewürz because its like Riesling’s wicked stepsibling. A touch more animated in character, a bit more perfumed, but still incredibly fun to pair with food and perfect afternoon sippers.

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There. Did I sell you on the grape itself? Now. THIS one. The ’12 Lumos is a temptress; the nose is ridiculously pretty and floral with honeysuckle, fresh white flowers, plum, golden apple and apricot in abundance. A slight twang of citrus on the palate- but mostly soft, fresh tangerine- nothing piercing. The minerality lingers for a bit, and the texture is soft. I’d definitely call this one a “quaffer.” Quaff, while a totally ridiculous word, really does summarize a wine thats perfect for wiling away an afternoon and sipping slowly and without purpose. A nice little companion.

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The Lumos tasting room in Mac is totally worth a stop. On the day I went, they were pouring a couple of 2010 vintage Pinots that were showing beautifully, and the Rosé also had me at “hello.” Its just past Nicks on 3rd Street. I’ll definitely be looking forward to some of their new releases this Spring!

That’s all I got for tonight! Many thanks to Heidi Riehl at Lumos for the tasting. Y’all keep it real out there in wine-drinkin’ world. I’ll be back with a post about the lovely Leah Jorgensen later this week…

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 29: Cameron “Giuliano”!

Its almost the LAST DAY. This is a really fun one that I’m glad I happened into. Not being a native Oregonian, I was totally unfamiliar with Cameron wines until I arrived here. I first remember hearing about Cameron right before Thanksgiving weekend. Some people I knew who worked nearby at Winderlea were talking about going to the winery “because it was open”- like this was a HUGE deal.

Little did I know, upon further time spent here, that it IS a huge deal. Cameron wines are barely distributed; only a handful of retailers in the Valley/Portland and a few restaurants carry them. And they’re never open, even for appointments. Nor do they ship wine. But whatever your thoughts are on that procedure, it does seem to be working for them. These wines have an extremely loyal following. And this bottle, the Giuliano, is one of the most adored white blends in Oregon, so I’m reading. But its new to me, so I’m approaching it as a total rookie.

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I was lucky enough to go to a tasting with winemaker John Paul Cameron right before Christmas at Storyteller Wine Company in Portland. I’ve been on his mailing list for quite a while. I actually had a case of a French white shipped to me in SC last Summer, because after reading Michael’s description of it, I just HAD to have it. The man has a gift with words. In any case, that tasting was INsane; Nebbiolo, older vintages of Pinot Noir that were stunning, and the best Oregon Chardonnay I’ve ever had, hands down- the 2012 Wadsworth, Clos Electrique Vineyard. I believe my exact tasting notes consisted of “Stop. It.” Sometimes when something is that good, I just can’t even talk about it.

So with my not-so-extensive knowledge about Cameron, I was still surprised and delighted to see this bottle at Division Wines in Portland during my fun Wednesday excursion this past week. There are some wines that you know you have to have when you see them. This was one of them. 1.) I love unusual whites, 2.) it was the last bottle, and 3.) its Cameron. So, I was sold. I chatted with the owner Will at some length and found him delightful. I’ll definitely be back.

Okay! On to the wine. What’s in here? Listen up! It’s a really cool blend: Friulano, Auxerrois, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio & Moscato. And get this: all the fruit is from Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge vineyards, both in Dundee. Did you know there was Friulano in freakin’ Dundee?! I sure didn’t. For more on Friulano and whats up with it in Cali, see here.

Pardon my thumb- torn label.

Pardon my thumb- torn label.

This is an intriguing wine to me. The nose has some light granny smith apple, apricots, fresh flowers, and quince. Musky perfume is hidden in the background, probably a result of the Muscat. The texture is nicely viscous and silky. I might’ve expected this wine to be one of those lean, sharp whites, but its definitely not. Its body teeters in this no-mans land just above medium-bodied. I think this wine might’ve changed a bit since its been in bottle. A lot of the tasting notes I’ve come across online describe it as intensely floral- to me, the floral component doesn’t knock me over. Its there, but perhaps dialed back a notch. Pretty interesting. Consider me compelled. It’d be cool to see how this wine changes with more time in bottle. I like wines like this, that make me think. Cheers to that.

This wine is named after John Paul Cameron’s son, Julian, who designed the label. PS: I love the label. I suspect that at about 70 cases made, you’d be hardpressed to find a bottle of this- but its almost Spring, which means new white vintages should be released soon! So get on the radar with your local retailer and jump on this wine when it arrives. It probably sells out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

ONE MORE DAY! I can honestly say that I don’t know what the last wine of the challenge is going to be. Something that I buy at Valley Wine Merchants tomorrow. I live on the edge.

Thanks for following along! I look forward to wrapping this party up tomorrow.

Pairings Dinner at Willamette Valley Vineyards!

We interrupt the Thirty Oregon Grapes in Thirty Days series to bring you a special post about the Pairings Dinner that I was fortunate to attend last night at Willamette Valley Vineyards! Who doesn’t love a good wine dinner?

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I live about an hour from the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate in Turner, so I was able to catch a gorgeous sunset on the drive down. I was a little bummed that it was dark by the time I got there at 6:30 (WINTER! Grrr), because the view from the Estate has got to be a stunner during the daytime. The space is large, cozy and inviting.

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The Pairings dinners, as I understand it, were just started this January. They continue for the month of February, Friday evenings at 6:30. Each dinner is four courses, paired with (at least last night) a combination of their Estate wines and the Griffin Creek bottlings from Southern Oregon.

Food porn will follow. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

The first course was Baked Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brie with raspberries, almonds and a coriander arugula salad with citrus-raspberry gastrique. It was paired with their 2012 Estate Chardonnay. This Chard is medium-full bodied, with a nice touch of spicy oak and toast. The red fruit in the salad was an interesting offset to the citrusy qualities in the wine; texturally it worked, and the coriander was picked up by the oak ever so slightly:

Cheeeese.

Cheeeese.

The following course was Cedar Planked Rosemary Brined Steelhead Salmon (you can’t be in Oregon at a wine dinner and not have Salmon, amiright?). It was accompanied by roasted brussel sprouts with house-cured bacon and molasses lime anise syrup. To sip alongside was their 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, 93 Points rated by Wine & Spirits. My highlight from this marriage was definitely the molasses syrup, it played nicely off the carmel-y, ripe quality of the wine. Of course you can (almost) never go wrong with Salmon and Pinot, but I liked the slight richness of the molasses with this particular Pinot. A big warm vintage like 2012 can stand up to something like molasses. Cheers to that!

Don't eat the cedar plank.

Don’t eat the cedar plank.

The next course was my personal favorite: Tails & Trotters Pork Osso Bucco & Sweet Potato Hash, with Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese & tobacco onions. This was served with the 2011 Griffin Creek Syrah from the Rogue Valley. I’ve been on a real Southern Oregon kick lately, and really liked this wine. It was layered with black cherry, blackberry liqueur, burnt coffee (sounds gross, tastes good), woodsy/earthy veins and a sweet tobacco/brown sugar finish. Some underlying smokyness in the wine played really well with the smoked pungency of the blue cheese. Great success!

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The portion sizes were well-thought out, so I actually did have room for dessert: a Chocolate-Hazelnut Beignet with Tillamook Marionberry Pie Ice Cream. Mm-hmm. For sippage, there was a 2013 Sweet Tempranillo. I’d been craving ice cream, but refused to buy any at home for fear I’d eat the whole pint in one sitting, so I was particularly glad to see the ice cream. I don’t even have next-day regret, either.

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This is definitely an awesome event space that I’ll surely return to in the Spring! I can only imagine sitting on that porch during the sunset! The Pairings dinners are $50 per person, and check out the calendar here if you’re interested in attending one. Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 26: Belle Oiseau! Belle Waz-what?

Behold, one of my favorite Oregon whites, the Belle Pente Belle Oiseau, 2011! 

Belle Oiseau means "Pretty Bird".

Belle Oiseau means “Pretty Bird.” Also, Belle Waz-Oh. 

As it turns out, this wine is beloved by many Oregonians. And with due reason. Winemaker Brian O’Donnell developed this wine for Portland’s Le Pigeon and its little sister restaurant, Little Bird, with the help of General Manager/Partner Andy Fortgang. Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro are currently taking two out of my top five spots for drool-worthy Instagram feeds here in Portland, by the way. I seriously can’t wait to go to either one. Sometimes they Instagram their staff meals, too. I might just show up sometime roughly when I suppose a staff meal would take place.

I’m sure they’d love that.

I mean, seriously. I can't even. How good would this wine be with this?!

I mean, seriously. I can’t even. How good would this wine be with this?!

In any case, this wine was developed as an ode to an Alsatian “Edelzwicker”, a blend of “Noble” varietals. Historically, the grapes would all come from the same parcel, and could even be co-fermented. The 2011 vintage is a blend of mostly Pinot Gris and Riesling, with a bit of Muscat. I’ve had it on a few occasions, but this is the first bottle I’ve purchased for just me. And let me tell you. The more time I spend with this bottle, the more enamored I am with it. On a given Tuesday, I could open a bottle, drink a glass, then say to myself- ok, later for that. But this is the kind of wine where I find myself sneaking another half a glass… then another. Its like an old friend. You can keep coming back to it, and every time you do you’re reminded how much you like it.

A very dry wine with just a touch of RS, it drinks like a lean, clean little machine. Delicate and precise, is has defined stone fruit and white floral characteristics, with soft lemon and golden apple in the background. Sharp enough to cut through something fatty (this wine was developed specifically with charcuterie in mind), yet would be great with light, fresh fare (oysters, anyone?) as well. The finish is lifted with some higher aromatics of jasmine and fresh laundry.

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Of course I’ve already declared my clear personal bias for Belle Pente, but this really is one of my favorite Oregon whites. Originally, this wine was restaurant-only, and sold in keg form. I read in one article that it sold for $8 a glass and $20 for a half-lifer carafe- which is RIDIC- in a perfect way. So well-priced. I would love to share a carafe of this wine, bistro-style, for $20. It sounds too good to be true to me. In any case, this wine in bottle form sells for $18. I purchased it at the winery, and honestly I don’t know if any retailers carry it. They very well could, I just don’t know personally. If you’re local, I of course suggest bringing yourself down to Carlton to buy some at the winery. If you’re not, you’ll have to get a plane ticket. But its cool, you’ll be happy you did.

Gah! I know I’m a day behind right now, but I’m trying my best to wrap up the Thirty Grapes project in the best way possible. Seriously, I’m TRYING. Cheers!