Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 15! We ballin’.

We’re high rollin’ tonight, people. This is a somewhat special bottle that my roommate has generously donated… shared… for the use of my project. I first had a bottle of this wine about 8 weeks ago during my first month here. I was floored, to say the least. I didn’t know Sauvignon Blanc of this quality was to be found in the Willamette Valley. Even if it weren’t for the rare/small-production factor, this wine is still slammin’. So without further adieu, the Rocky Point Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Willamette Valley, Russell-Grooters Vineyard.

Sexytime.

Sexytime.

The vineyard site is located not too far from my humble abode here in Yamhill-Carlton. The wine is made by Drew Voit, who is a consulting winemaker on many-a-project, and also makes one of my favorite Willamette Pinot Blancs under his own label, Harper Voit. Owner Amy Lee has implemented a unique barrel program with this family of wines, some stemming from Washington State and some from Oregon. This particular bottle was barrel-fermented in two different barrels (yup, this is a two-barrel production wine), with slightly different seasoning. The oaking in here is really nuts- absolutely gorgeous, layered and somewhat unexpected.

The thing about Sauvignon Blanc… let me swirl my glass for a second… is that it can be SO many different things. If you’ve had one from New Zealand and couldn’t tell whether you were drinking wine or chewing on a grapefruit peel- fear not. This is almost the complete and total opposite. I do enjoy a NZ Sauv Blanc now and then, and some of my favorite value Sauv Blancs are actually from Chile. But the puckery quality that can be pleasing in such a Sauv Blanc isn’t what’s goin’ on here. I digress…

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This wine is tropical- like a girl in a bikini. Passionfruit, mango, kiwi, coconut and mad honeydew. But just when you think its a total slutty fruit-bomb, this really beautiful spice component comes in- fun notes of coriander and fennel, along with some creamy vanilla. It all sounds like a menagerie of contrasts, but they work together like a symphony- I swear it.

The really profound thing about this wine is this: if you were at a tasting room in Napa, and were poured this alongside some $50-$75 a bottle single vineyard Cabernets, it would fit right in, in terms of its class and elegance. But what a fun surprise that this wine is from the freaking Yamhill-Carlton district of the Willamette Valley?! I love it. Love. It.

So, this post is a little bit of a tease, as this wine is not yet released, and I can’t even really tell you where to look for it when it is released. But I do suggest keeping an eye on the Rocky Point website for more info. Suggested retail on this wine will be in the $40 range. Treat yourselves!

Cheers!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 13!

Dry Muscat, anyone? One that comes in a pretty bottle? Yeah, I think so.

Love the art on this bottle.

Love the art on this bottle.

I bought this wine on my first, but probably not last, trip down to the Eola Amity Hills and Brooks Winery. It was absolutely frigid outside; so naturally, I chose to taste the whites flight they were pouring that day. I’m a huge proponent of drinking white wine year round. It was actually great that it was frigid, because there were mad mountains to be seen:

Aww yeah.

Aww yeah.

I had several favorites this day, but chose to buy the Terue Dry Muscat, 2012 Eola Amity Hills because I knew I’d be needing unusual varietals for this project. And because it was freakin’ delicious, obviously!

What’s the story on Muscat? Well, just to confuse the matter, remember the DePonte Melon de Bourgogne I wrote about last week, and how it was the same grape as Muscadet wine from France? Well, this grape, Muscat, is not related to Muscadet. It IS, however, the same grape as is used in Moscato production, notably Moscato d’Asti in Italy. So all these grapes, some related, some not, different styles- oye! A lot to remember. Once we move past this, however, you uncover the reason I really love Muscat: versatility!

Moscato d’Asti is made in a sweet or semi-sweet fizzy style. Sometimes Muscat is made in Oregon in a slightly sweeter frizzante style, too. Silvan Ridge in Southern Oregon is apparently known for theirs, which I’ll have to check out. But as is true with essentially any grape you wish to make into wine, you can leave residual sugar in it, or you can not. And NOW for my point: the Terue Muscat is a dry version! Which means you get ALL the amazing aromatics of Muscat with a dry palate. Its a wonder to behold.

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Oh, aromatic whites- how do I love you? Let me count the ways. You leap out of the glass, you make me think of warm Spring days, gentle breezes and you’re just so darn FUN. Wine can be serious, with its terminology and regions and rules and methods and sometimes exclusionary air. This is a wine that while you can tell was made with total intention, is fun to drink. At just 10.5% alcohol, it is light, refreshing and jubilant. Bright, youthful aromas of white flowers, golden apple and citrus combine with accents of spice and fresh herbs. The texture is silky and it finishes dry, but not tight. One of those wines that “glides” in the mouth. This is a total warm Saturday afternoon crusher. This is the winemaker at Brooks Wine’s own label, so just 82 cases were made. I can think of a few gingers in Columbia, SC that would sell the shiz out of this wine if it were available there! This is a great South Carolina wine.

I had a few other favorites at Brooks that day, mainly the 2011 Ara Riesling and a killer late harvest Riesling called Tethys:

Can't stop thinking about the Ara.

Can’t stop thinking about the Ara.

Gorgeous acid, just divine.

Gorgeous acid. Perfect. 

Actually, the only thing I didn’t taste at Brooks that day were reds. So I guess that means I have to go back! Aww, shucks. The Brooks tasting room is relatively new and really lovely. It has a very relaxing vibe and chill, knowledgeable staff. Hat tip!

Seacrest out for day 13, y’all!

I purchased this bottle at the Brooks tasting room for the extremely nominal fee of $18.

 

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.

 

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!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 7!

So, I took a risk on this one. I picked up the Gresser Vineyard “Recumbent Red”, NV Oregon at Roth’s while I was scouring for another under-the-radar red and it caught my eye. I liked the price, I liked the package, I googled it quickly to see what the blend was and a bit about the winery (I take longer to pick out wine than anyone you know). I was convinced that at $13.99, I would be in for a solid little everyday red wine, if nothing else. Interestingly, the less than $14 price range seems to be my own personal cutoff of wine I’m willing to risk buying “just to see.”

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I’m a little new to the world of actually purchasing wine as a consumer. Since I spent so long as a GM/wine buyer, I just never had need to buy wine. It just came to me. There were always open bottles that I could sip on while I finished paperwork, or a sample bottle here and there. And when I did buy wine, it was at a steep “Ricky discount”. Those were wildly varied, but always extremely acceptable. So I am sort of enjoying attacking the retail shelves, armed only with my existing knowledge, a desired budget, and whatever kind of mood I’m in.

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Initially, I thought this wine fell a little short; I think was because for some reason I had it in my head that since it was a Pinot/Syrah blend (remember, the rule is Pinot Noir can be included in my project if its blended), it would be a touch denser. On the contrary, it drinks like a Pinot Noir (go figure). But the Syrah notes I get are actually a nice little addition to the wines overall palate. The nose is overtaken by sour cherry, rhubarb, pomegranate, potpourri and dried herbs. The finish is where you pick up on some violet and white pepper additions, and a bit of a fleshed out texture- hey, Syrah! Maybe a slight hint of cured meat. It sits at 77% Pinot Noir from their estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, and 23% Syrah from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. Just 465 cases were made.

Going back to my prior incarnation as a buyer, if this wine were poured for me from a distributor and the wholesale price is what I can guess it to be (I’ll keep that a secret), I would definitely consider it as a glass pour. Especially if it were late summer/early fall; it would really fit the bill of unusual lighter reds, which we used to do very well with that time of year in SC. Plus it has good retail shelf presence, in my opinion. Good enough to get ME to buy it, at least! And I’m kind of a tough critic.

One more note about NV wines- I’m sort of a fan. Don’t be dissuaded. This included, there are some really great NV wines (still, rather than sparkling) out there that suffer a bit of an image problem. The Sokol Blosser Evolution wines are always non-vintage, and I think it helps them stay consistent from year to year. I won’t get all wordy on this subject, but just wanted to throw it out there that Non Vintage doesn’t equal total junk, as can be the perception.

Can you blame me for double fisting? I had some Patton Valley Pinot Blanc left from Day 6’s post…

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

This winery is super small and family owned; the prices on all their wines are pretty competitive and I’d be curious to try more of their juice. Especially the Riesling. Overall this was a fun learning experience and I actually do really enjoy the wine selection at Roth’s.

Cheers to Day 7! This wine was $13.99, in case you missed that earlier. 

Here’s a preview: I’m going to combine days 8, 9 & 10 into one post and it will be called Chardonnay Party. I know I said I couldn’t repeat varietals more than once, but I have one I’ve been saving that I really want to open and I can’t resist. There may also be crab involved. It’ll be good, I promise. It’ll most likely go up on Saturday. Can you handle the suspense?!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 6!

What shall we do on day six? Take a break from some of the more hard to find grapes and drink some durn Pinot Blanc. How ’bout it?

Gimmee the Blanc.

Gimmee the Blanc.

The Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Blanc, 2013 Mora Brothers Vineyard is a delightful rendition. Hands down, Pinot Blanc is one of my favorite white Oregon grapes. Why? On average, they cost you a few more bucks than your run of the mill Pinot Gris, but those few bucks are so crucial. I will gladly extoll the virtues of Pinot Gris any day of the week, but to me a really nice Pinot Blanc brings a lot more to the table for that modest couple extra dollars you spend on it.

What strikes me about Pinot Blanc is always the minerality. I read somewhere that minerality can be a tough thing to really explain and clearly delineate. What do minerals taste like? No one eats minerals. So why describe a wine as minerally? For me it can often be more of a sensation; a pleasant little tingle on the tongue that stays with you. If you think about it logistically, minerals are found in soil; that much is simple. So a wine may have more minerality if it comes from a certain soil, or is made in a way that highlights the mineral tendencies (concrete, as an example, tends to do this). Another thing you might notice is that a “minerally” wine might make you salivate just a little. I really like that; I like for wine to leave my tastebuds wanting more. They also make great food pairing wines.

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In any case, I find Pinot Blanc to be just slightly more intriguing than Gris, and this one is no exception. It opens with delicacy; soft and floral. Accents of white peach, lime zest, green apple, Sleepytime tea, pears and clean white sheets. That sounds funny, but this wine really does remind me of freshly hung white sheets, billowing in the sunshine on a clothesline. That is one of my favorite things to smell, I should add. Blanc often has some distinct nutty aromas- I get a touch of faint almond here, but overall this wine sticks with the clean, bright fruit and freshy freshness.

Can't get enough of these views.

Can’t get enough of these views.

Just 158 cases were made, and the 2013 is the first vineyard-designate vintage for this wine. The day I went to Patton Valley was absolutely gorgeous. The northern Willamette, towards Gaston, is home to a couple of my favorite wineries. I had a really great experience in their tasting room, too; it was a quiet Friday and I was the only one there, but the associate (she may also manage the wine club? I can’t recall…) Talia, was really welcoming and we had ourselves a nice chat. I’m not 100% sure that’s how you spell her name. Plus I’m horrible with names, but I’m almost 100% sure that was her name. I’m truly sorry if its not.

They were tasting a lot of 2011 Pinot Noirs that day, too, and it was a treat. 2011 is becoming one of my favorite vintages for Pinot Noir. I guess I’m just a cold year dork like that. CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on some of the Patton Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir when it comes out. Squeeeeeee.

That concludes Day 6! I’m still having fun! Are you? This wine was purchased at the Patton Valley Vineyard Tasting Room for $20. A freakin’ steal.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 3- we goin’ to Eola!

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

A Spaniard in Oregon.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to day three!

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!

Sunday Funday: Sparkling Dinner at Southeast Wine Collective!

Warning! This post contains a vast amount of both food and wine porn. If you’re ready to drool, please read on, as I’m very excited to share the details of this awesome dinner I attended this past Tuesday. You’ve been warned!

If I had to pick a highlight of the time I’ve spent in Oregon, I’m pretty sure this dinner would be it! For several reasons; first, it was a very well-executed dinner- logistically and the food and wine were on point. Second, I haven’t had the good fortune to actually attend that many wine dinners in my day. Usually I was the one working them. Not in a “oh, poor me” sense, as I’ve had my fair share of amazing food and wine in my day. But to actually sit, relax, converse with fellow wine people, and be served is a real treat. So much preparation goes into an event like this, from portion size, seating, when to pour the next wine, menu planning… I could go on and on. So when I sit at a dinner like this, I remember all these little minute details and I appreciate the effort even more. So now, on with the show!

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The Urban Winery scene in Portland is new to me, but I really like the concept. The Southeast Wine Collective is a home for custom crush operations, coming together in like mind to grow their respective businesses. This dinner was the last of the year in their Supper Social series, and it featured first-ever Sparkling releases from members of the Collective and a handful of other Oregon winemakers. The food was courtesy of Kachka, an award-winning Russian restaurant in Southeast Portland. I was SO excited when I read that this dinner featured Russian food! I love experiencing food from a culture that I’m relatively unfamiliar with. And I like Sparkling wine, like, a lot.

The first sparklings served were the 2011 Kramer Vineyards Brut and the 2013 Bubbles by Enso. Paired alongside was a lavish display of appetizers. I arrived hungry.. not quite hangry, but hungry, so I immediately started sort of wishing that no one else would sit at our table so we could have all the apps to ourselves. Side note: this was an unnecessary concern on my part, as there was more than enough food AND the people we sat with were awesome.

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

Hey Cramer! You need to try this when you come visit!

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Sparkling Pinot Gris, courtesy of Enso.

I loved the sharpness of the Kramer Brut; it is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has razor-like focus, clear delineation, and offers bright notes of orchard fruit, fresh flowers, citrus zest and pear. Excellent. The Bubbles by Enso were a study in experimentation, which I really appreciated! Made from 100% Pinot Gris, it was made using methode ancestrale– a labor of love, this wine was. To sum up the process, I’ll quote Enso’s Instagram account: “This is how we disgorge our BUBBLES by ENSO: Store upside down for a year, dunk in freezing cold water for a couple minutes, pop the cap to let the yeast fall out, flip and top off with more BUBBLES and recap! No sulfur. No fancy machinery.” There ya go! Relatively full-bodied, this bubbly is definitely interest-piquing and worth a try.

Bay Shrimp "Olivier", Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

Bay Shrimp “Olivier”, Assorted Pickles, Baltic Sprats.

I love smokey little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

I love smoky little fish- This Baltic Sprat with parsley mayo and pumpernickel toast was delicious.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

House Cured Coho Salmon Roe with yeasted blini, chive, butter and sieved egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Veal Tongue with daikon radish, pickled cranberries, horseradish cream.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

Beautiful presentation of the Coho Salmon Roe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all that was just course ONE! Be still my heart. Next up we enjoyed the Division Wine Company’s 2013 Cremant de Portland. I really love the packaging on this one:

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This wine is just a baby- it hadn’t been in the bottle very long when we tried it. This wine is after my heart; it is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Gamay- three of my favorite grapes, and sort of an ode to the Loire/Burgundy regions of France that Kate and Tom are fond of. Its pinkish hue (which you can’t see here) is fleeting and delicate. The nose here is lightly floral, with hints of red fruit and a touch of spice. I can see these elements “marrying” quite nicely with some time in bottle.

Paired with this was probably my favorite dish of the night: Broth & Piroshky. A stunning crab broth with scallion and a Dungeness Crab Pillowy Bun. Crab. Pillowy. Bun?! I didn’t even know these things could be combined in such a way. Absolutely delicious. If anything would make someone break a gluten-free diet &/or experiment- this is it.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

Pillowy Buns. Seriously. WUT.

The next course was also impressive; 2011 J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir paired with Mushroom Vareniki- a little dumpling filled with foraged mushroom duxelle and liberally dolloped with sour cream. Yeah, I Instagrammed that one. I couldn’t resist:

I'm a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

I’m a sucker for anything in dumpling form.

This is my new jam.

This is my new jam.

Kind of a show-stealer, the J.K. Carriere Blanc de Noir was perfection. If you’re a lover of Oregon wine, you gotta get your hands on this. Owner and winemaker Jim Prosser claims the process nearly killed him, but dude- if you gotta pick a way to go out… Sourced from the Temperance Hill Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this cool vintage provided perfect conditions for Sparkling wine production. The acid in this wine absolutely sings and is met with gorgeous notes of strawberry, red currant, hints of lees, and a vein of poignant spice and smoke. This wine underwent 28 months… 28 months! of riddling, creating an ultra-fine bead and to die for texture. If you’ve always held Argyle Brut Rosé and Soter Brut Rosé as your “standards” of Oregon Sparkling, go ahead and add this to your roster. I really can’t say enough about it. Get on it.

We finished with what else- meat! Latkes & Brisket paired with the 2009 Teutonic Wine Company Riesling Brut.

Loved it.

Loved it.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

Braised Brisket served with (not pictured) potato latkes, applesauce, cabbage salad.

I am fond of Riesling Brut; I’m not entirely sure how many (if any) other producers in Willamette make a Riesling Brut other than Teutonic. They’re an Alsatian-style producer, and they’ve been sitting on this Brut for years! I enjoyed the touch of petrol on the forefront of this bubbly, it clearly distinguishes itself as being made out of Riesling. A background of golden apple, peaches & apricots. A tremendously fun wine to pair with food. Even if you’re so stuffed you can barely move. The applesauce accompaniment actually set this off very nicely. This is more of a wine-nerd wine, but a good one. For a really fun look at the making of this wine, check out Teutonic’s blog.

So, are you hungry? Thirsty? You must really be a glutton for punishment if you made it all the way to the end of this post! Fortunately, if you live in Portland or the surrounding area, you can go check out Kachka- it was recently awarded Restaurant of the Year by Eater and Willamette Week. Fear not, food-lovers. It is there and waiting for you.

This dinner was a total feast for the senses and I’m incredibly appreciative to have been included. Cheers!

Chapter 24 “The Last Chapter” Pinot Noir, 12 Oregon, Willamette

Am I the only person on Earth to be drinking “The Last Chapter” by Chapter 24 while reclined on air mattress listening to Britney Spears?

Perhaps. Very possibly.

And for the record, I am listening to “90’s” on Spotify and this song just HAPPENED to come on. I mean, I’m 32. I don’t sit around listening to Britney’s first album in it’s *entirety*. But it’s pretty hard to resist when it does come on. Admit it.

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So the reason I led with that little intro was because this isn’t exactly the kind of wine you’d typically drink on a boring night while you’re wearing sweatpants and doing nothing in particular. This is one of the more expensive wines I’ve ever written about; and truthfully, it isn’t *that* much when you compare it to some of the big heavy hitters in boutique Napa wineries, famous century-old French estates, and the like. It sells for $90 at the tasting room. This wine also scored 96 points from Wine & Spirits, 93 from Wine Spectator, and 94 from Stephen Tanzer. When you hear scores like that, and you see the price tag, you might be inclined to dismiss it, thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to its praise and for that kinda money, you’d just as soon get a half case of some good everyday drinkers. There’s something to be said for that. But, after visiting this wine over the course of a weekend, I have to tell you- it does live up to the hype. It’s worth it. Sorry haters, but it just kinda is.

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Now I love Oregon wine- this much we know. And part of me thinks- well, you’re GD right you can make good wine when you start out bankrolled and with a powerhouse founding/winemaking team (Mark Tarlov and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair). Frenchie, in case you don’t know, is a very well-known and well-respected oeneologist/owner of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanee (Burgundy). The cool kids call it Voz-Rom, by the way. In comparison, I respect small operations wholeheartedly and always will. They are what make industries happen.

But to dismiss this wine for that reason alone would be remiss. True, scores do set expectations and force people to draw comparisons and come to conclusions they might not have come to on their own. However, the fact remains that this is beautifully made juice. And we live in a world where scores happen. So let’s leave that behind for now.

I don’t want to blather on too much longer before I get to the actual tasting notes, but it is worth noting that Chapter 24 Vineyards is a somewhat unique project in that it’s two “staple” bottlings are bottled by soil type, not by individual AVA. “The Fire” is sourced from AVAs with volcanic soil and “The Flood” from AVAs with sedimentary soil (these sell for $60 each). “The Last Chapter” comes from the top four vineyards that are used in Fire and Flood. So when you taste these wines, you’re also almost getting a little lesson in how different soil types taste. Which is pretty cool!

Technically, you could do that with almost any single vineyard bottling that you choose to purchase. Because vineyard sites are typically small enough that they’re only made up of one soil type. Technically. But it’s still really fun to be able to taste Fire and Flood side by side, and know that they’re from two different soil types in the same year. Okay, enough of that…. WHAT the F*%@ does it taste like?!

The nose is somewhat subtle, with fragrant red raspberry, plum & wild strawberry on the forefront, but very delicately woven nutmeg, clove and star anise following close behind. The palate is silky for days and met with darker notes of blackberry, briar patch, berry liqueur and very soft vanilla. It has tannin, but its completely seamless. The texture is really what this wine is all about. Without going into too many geeky details, there are some really interesting winemaking techniques at use here that make the texture happen. Its an experiential wine; it glides, it floats. Ephemeral, yet all the big fruit characteristics of the vintage are there. You’ll see what I mean.

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Chapter 24 tasting room! Brand-spankin’ new, located on the corner of 99 and 5th St in Newberg. 

Just under 900 cases of The Last Chapter were made. I’ll go out on a (not so big) limb and say it is worth seeking one out. Or, if you’re a local Oregonian, it’s *definitely* worth stopping in to the tasting room. It’s convenient (basically right in front of Dobbes, and right before Argyle, if you’re heading West on 99).

In the interest of full disclosure, I did help out at the Chapter 24 tasting room for Thanksgiving weekend, but I wasn’t paid to say nice things about the wine. I promise. The Oregon adventure continues to be a wild ride, but I am enjoying it; working here and getting to know these wines was a total treat.

Cheers, y’all!