Sparkling Month: Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant, 2014

Say hello to Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant!

mischief managed.

mischief managed.

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

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

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

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

Her walk is mean, yo.

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

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

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

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Bubbles Fest 2015!

Bubbles Fest 2015- either it happened, or I died and went to heaven yesterday. The former is more likely. Plus, I have photos and I do think I am still alive as I type this.

First, and definitely not last, Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie.

First, and definitely not last, Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie.

So, remember that article from Palate Press that was published in January, declaring that a Sparkling Wine Movement was underway in the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest in general? Well, yesterday about 150 of us got to experience just a drop in the bucket of what’s going on with Sparkling Wine here in the Valley. And it was pretty darn phenomenal.

Here’s an interesting interjection; I’ve already accepted that this is going to be a long post, so I want to briefly touch on why *now* seems to be the time for Sparkling here. In fact, its kind of a two word answer: Andrew Davis. Andrew, former winemaker at Argyle, created a mobile sparkling wine production company in 2013. Let that sink in for a sec. Of course I’ve never seen this equipment, but I remember the first time I heard the concept, I instantly pictured it as some sort of ice cream truck, except for Sparkling Wine. Which, needless to say, made me very giddy. I somehow doubt that it does resemble an ice cream truck… but while we’re on the subject… will someone buy an old ice cream truck and fashion it into something that can drive around and sell bubbly? Surely you don’t need anything fancy like a permit or a license to pull that off, right? 

I kid. The question is, why did this niche need filling? Why didn’t wineries jump at the chance to make sparkling before the creation of the mobile unit? Well, I’ll be brief- but here’s two reasons: time and money. Sparkling wine production (champenoise method) is labor intensive, requires its own bottling equipment ($$), and takes a lot longer to make than still wine. As in, years longer. Its not entirely feasible for a small winery to sit on a product for 2-4 years before they sell any of it. And that’s after the hassle of getting it made! Its a labor of love. In any case, I give a major hat tip to Andrew for dreaming up the idea, and I truly think its an absolute game-changer. So game on.

I can't even.

I can’t even.

I can’t even talk about how gorgeous it was yesterday. The wine Gods truly smiled on this event, especially considering sun was forecasted ALL WEEK, but never really appeared in full force until yesterday.

Lets dive in! There’s a lotta bubbles to talk about today. In no particular order..

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The Airlie Joie de Vie (retail $30) was the first bubbly I tasted. Not a winery I was terribly familiar with before yesterday, but by the end of the afternoon, I looked back and realized that this one was one of my favorites. Made from 50-50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this 2010 vintage brut was clear and concise with light hints of yeast and ultra-fine bubbles. I found this one and the Argyle Blanc de Blancs to be the two that reminisced the most of a French Champagne. Speaking of the Argyle…

This guy was kind of the Old G of this party.

This guy was kind of the Old G of this party.

Another 2010 vintage Brut, this Blanc de Blancs from Argyle (retail $50) was as sleek, steely and pure as ever. This is the second time I’ve had the Blanc de Blanc from Argyle, and I’m a big fan of their Rosé bubbly as well. Argyle will always remain etched in my mind as one of the staples of Oregon Sparkling wine. At about 1000 cases made, this one doesn’t see much availability outside the tasting room. The fruit is all Chardonnay, all sourced from the Dundee Hill’s Knudsen Vineyard. 2010 was a fairly cold, low-yielding vintage- perfect for Sparkling production. This wine is an elegant treat. There’s no arguing with it. 92 Points, Wine Spectator.

Our fabulous hosts at Anne Amie also had something up their sleeve: winemaker Thomas Houseman’s first-ever Sparkling Wine, the 2011 Marilyn Brut Rosé (retail $45).

Guess what's in my fridge right now? This guy.

Guess what’s in my fridge right now? This guy.

Anne Amie was wonderfully represented back in South Carolina, and I pretty much love everything they do. Last year’s Amrita white was one of our best-selling wines of the Summer. When I heard a Sparkling was to be born, my excitement was tangible. Beautifully packaged, this guy really hits the nail on the head. Its elegant and round, full of beautiful red fruit, tangy citrus, light spice and a lush mouthfeel. It closes with all that gorgeous acid that 2011 is known for. They should be proud of this wine, it’s freakin’ killer. Just talking about it now makes me want to open the bottle I purchased. Hmmm…

Next? Some funsies from Kramer Vineyards, the 2014 Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir and 2014 Grüner Veltliner (both $24).

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Kramer has a tasting room that’s walking distance to my house, so I think I’ve now had almost all of their sparklers. The Celebrate series wines are made in tank method as opposed to champenoise. Because this process doesn’t take as long, they’re very competitively priced. There was a lot of buzz over the Grüner Brut yesterday, and it didn’t disappoint. I love the willingness to try all different grapes in this series. The Rosé of Pinot was pretty charming and fruity- I can’t imagine that “the masses” wouldn’t just eat this one up. The Grüner was sharp and deftly balanced. I really like what Kimberly has goin’ on with her sparklers.

Division Wines brought their pretty little guy, whose package I still just can’t resist…

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I love the spirit of the Crémant de Portland (retail $26), and the aromatics on this wine are hard to beat; yesterday the Chenin was really out to play. I want to say that this wine might be temporarily sold out until the next disgorgement, but don’t get mad at me if that’s wrong. This was sort of a “wet” day after all…

Another fun find is the Raptor Ridge Harbinger Vineyard Pinot Noir Brut Rosé (retail $63). This is Raptor Ridge’s first ever sparkling wine, but probably not the last. From a small site in the Chehalem Mountains that takes its sweet time ripening, 2011 provided a good opportunity to turn these guys into bubbles (are you sensing a trend here?). Just about 50 cases were made, and it has a beautiful, pale salmony pink color. Dry, with light stone fruit, strawberry, soft citrus and a really nice biscuity undertone. It pleased me greatly. Do make an effort to track one of these down at the tasting room, it will probably sell out lightening fast.

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R. Stuart’s Rosé d’Or (retail $35) has recently wound its way into my heart. Its made in a fairly rich style, purposefully with less actual bubbles than most. On the nose, I’m reminded of a spice cake, followed by lots of black cherry and strawberry. Not heavy or weighty, but definitely has its own mind.

IMG_8295Next we have the two sex-machines: J.K. Carriere 2011 Blanc de Noir (retail $75) and Soter Mineral Springs 2010 Brut Rosé (retail $65). Oh sorry, have you never referred to sparkling wine as a sex-machine? Well I do. Sexy, sexy juice, both of these.

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This is J.K. Carriere’s first sparkling, and back in December I remember the winemaker saying it almost killed him. I’m really glad it didn’t kill him, because I’d like more where this comes from. Color- gorgeous pale pink. Texture- light and pristine. Finish- lifted and high-toned. A winner. And what is there that needs to be said about the beloved “Soter Pop”? Its the bomb. 2010 was a great year for Soter Pop, too.

Roots Wine Company was another new one for me- they had two bubblies out yesterday, the Cuvée Theo Melon de Bourgogne, NV (retail $30) and the Cuvée Theo Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $35).

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These two were fun- the Melon was fresh and lively, with a very nice salinity on the finish. The Rosé was clean and brisk. I give props to anyone who makes Sparking Wine out of Melon de Bourgogne.

I will leave you with the Sokol Blosser Sparkling Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $60). This one was a little understated, in a calm cool and collected fashion. Definitely an easy-drinker; soft yet crisp, with delicate notes of strawberry, apricot and a hint of lees.

IMG_8296So what should you learn from all my ramblings? 1.) Sparkling wine is my favorite and 2.) if it isn’t also your favorite, I don’t like you. Kidding! Kidding. But there’s a whole world of Sparkling Wine down here in this Valley just waiting to be discovered. By you. Or else I’ll drink it all first.

Many thanks to Anne Amie for a great event! I’m already looking forward to next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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

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

a-secret-crush

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

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

You rare little bastard, you!

You rare little bastard, you!

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

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

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

Balls of meat.

Balls of meat.

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

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

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

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

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

Quite content, I am.

 

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

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