Wine Awesomeness “Women in Wine” Month: a tale of two reds

Oye! It’s almost November. How did that happen?! I bring to you today a tale of two reds that hail from the bros over at Wine Awesomeness. Errr… well, in the spirit of disclosure, I write for these fellas at their site The Back Label, and have for years. So while I’m not their employee, I do have a vested interest in talking to you about these wines. Mostly because I’m quite fond of these dudes, and also because every time a blue box from WA shows up at my door, I am surprised and delighted at the quality of wine they’ve been able to pull together. More on that later.

The cat clearly enjoys blue box day, too.

The cat clearly enjoys blue box day, too.

First! A little information on the Women in Wine month that I helped (a little) put together for October. I’ve been jacked up on the idea of a Women in Wine theme for quite a while. Like probably over a year. I consider myself a feminist in most regards, although that word is a bit out of fashion. I studied feminist theory a little in school, and it interested me because taking a historical look at the “strings” that connect the way women are have been perceived, treated, marginalized and boxed in over the course of history is eye-opening. Things that you might not think of: the idea of “the male gaze” and things being visually geared towards a (straight) man. Once someone points that out to you, you can’t not see it everywhere. And then there are obvious little annoyances like gender pay inequality that still baffle me and make me declare myself a feminist.

I would like those chicken & waffles delivered, please.

I would like those chicken & waffles delivered, please.

All that aside, when I first chatted with Hayes over at WA about this theme, what we agreed on is this: Women in Wine really shouldn’t be a thing. Yes, women can and do make wine. What makes anyone think they can’t or don’t? Why do we need to point this out? If someone did a “Men in Wine” month it would encounter many a puzzled look.

But therein lies the point, in a way. Women in Wine is something cool to showcase. Still. Will women always be the other? And with that, we end the soapbox portion of this entry. If you like hearing me on a soapbox, check out my piece on gendered wine descriptions.

So! Now we get to the real reason you clicked on this: the wine! Lets talk about a two of the reds that came in the Women in Wine shipment…

Three Rivers Winery “River’s Red”, 2012 Washington, Columbia Valley

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When you live in Oregon and are surrounded by amazing Oregon wine, you can become entrenched in the Oregon wine bubble. That’s why its so refreshing to visit a wine like this, from our neighbor to the North. This is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Lemberger (no shit!) The Sangio lends a bright red berry component to this wine, but the nice hints of dark chocolate are all Merlot. The Lemberger (aka Blaufrankisch) threw me for a loop, but I have seen drops of it trickle down here to Oregon, so I know its out there. Winemaker Holly Turner is from McMinnville- holla! All in all, a solid little bottle perfect for weeknight consumption with just about everything. Like a weeks worth of The Daily Show episodes.

Pellegrini “Susan’s Vineyard” Zinfandel, 12 California, Russian River Valley

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Confession: I’m not typically a huge fan of Zinfandel in this price range. Give me a $50 bottle of Turley and I’ll be Zin’s biggest fan. But a lot of times I find them a one-note symphony of over the top jam/berry pie/cooked fruit/pepper/etc. and I’m just not captivated.

But this little guy? Delicious! Again, maybe I’ve been in the Oregon bubble too long, but I’m all about this big California nose right now. True to its nature, this wine is full of boysenberry, raspberry, black cherry and vanilla on the nose. The palate is where you see this wine’s self-discipline: a vein of acid carries the big fruit along, accentuating with spicy notes of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Its just a touch more polished than it has to be. I love Zins with a burger or braised short ribs, and with winter almost here, the latter sounds pretty gd great.

Another fun thing for you to check out in Women in Wine month: a wonderful article about Leah Jorgensen and her brilliant Loiregon wines (these are a favorite discovery of mine since I’ve been out here). Don’t miss that one.

For real though, and no one is paying me to say this, I take my hat off to the WA team. They kill it with the wine selections and with the creative themes. Its easy to dismiss the idea of these web-based wine clubs. I’m sure there are plenty out there that just try to grab closeouts, off-vintages, bankrupt wineries, whatever- and they throw the wines out there for a high markup. That’s never been the case here, and it really shows. They seek out interesting wines and try like hell every month to make you see what’s cool about them. I have fun with it, and I’m someone who’s worked with wine for almost a decade. Yeesh, I’m old. And on that note, it’s almost 8:00pm, which means my eyes are about to give out.

Side notes: a.) no, no one paid me to write this or suggested I write this. I wanted to, and b.) these wines are received as “samples”? I guess. Whatever.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 4- we goin’ South!

Well, not toooo far south, we’re still in Oregon. But today we’re going to the Applegate Valley! This wine is my first trip there. I intend to go back. Both physically and in wine form. Why? 1.) the actual place is only about 4 hours from here, and 2.) the Troon Vineyard Carlton Tasting Room is literally up the street. I went by there on a whim this past Friday and was really glad I did.

So here she is, the Troon Vineyard Estate Zinfandel, 2012 Applegate Valley…

Zin? Oregon? Wha?

Zin? Oregon? Wha?

So, given that this part of Oregon is not really all that far from California, I suppose it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me that there’s Zin down there. But this little secret hasn’t made it to the East Coast yet, because I had no idea.

The Applegate Valley, as it turns out, is contained entirely within the Rogue Valley AVA. In the same way that the Ribbon Ridge Ava is contained within Chehalem Mountains AVA. Maybe that didn’t require an explanation, but there you have it. It is much hotter there than in the Willamette Valley, the tasting room manager, Meg, was telling me. Last summer, when Willamette was averaging around 90 degrees for a duration, it was 100+ in the Applegate Valley. Which makes it even more sensible that Zin would like to grow there, as Zin loves heat. There is also less rainfall, and I’m pretty sure Zin likes it dry, too.

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Allow me to preface these tasting notes by saying that I had somewhat low expectations of this wine. First, because Zin isn’t typically a grape I gravitate towards. And second, because I still don’t have a ton of experience with this part of Oregon. The Umpqua and Rogue Valley wines that reached me in South Carolina never stuck out as favorites. I recall one Gewürztrainer from Brandborg and the Umpqua Valley that I loved, but that’s about it.

So, given my expectations being set low, maybe it was destined that I be impressed with this wine. But lemee tellya- I really like this wine. I actually had to apologize to the tasting room manager, because I felt like my utter surprise could potentially have been construed as having previously thought their wines were crap (again, not true, as that day was my maiden voyage with Troon wines).

So why don’t I love Zin, usually? I dunno. It’s just not my jam. I don’t love high alcohol-fruit bombs, I generally have more of an affinity for white wine in general, there’s so many California Zins that are unbearably average and some that are downright terrible, if we’re being honest. So then along comes this wine and really makes me wonder. Which I love! I love being made to think. So thank you, Troon Zin. And before you get defensive, California, I KNOW there are good ones out there and I DO like them. Heck, every 2012 Turley Zin I had last year blew me away. Just sayin’- I don’t flock to them.

I can walk here! Be jealous. Plus the Carlton Bakery is across the street. Nom.

I can walk here! Be jealous. Plus the Carlton Bakery is across the street. Nom.

EGADS, I’m getting wordy again. Lets get to it: this wine has no shortage of ripeness. Raspberry jam, blackberry pie, some leaner rhubarb-y accents, macerated cherries and dried cranberry. It lingers with a nice warmth and pleasant cinnamon, vanilla, clove, a touch of mocha, and a brambly undertone. At 14.4% alcohol, its not flabby in the least.

Its worth noting that this wine just got 88 points from Wine Enthusiast. Props to the tasting room for not flaunting that- I like to reach my own conclusions. I like an 88 point rating, personally. Its solid evidence that a wine is good, but unlike a 90+ rating, you don’t have to see it plastered all over press materials for the next year.

If I was gonna build someone a case of truly unique wine from Oregon, this would be one of ’em.

This concludes Day 4! This wine was purchased at the Troon Carlton Tasting Room in Carlton for $29.