Patton Valley Rosé, 14 Willamette Valley

My FIRST Rosé of the 2014 vintage! I’m just TICKLED:

OH LAWD HAVE MERCY.

OH LAWD HAVE MERCY.

If that picture doesn’t make you want to drink pink wine, I seriously must question your sanity. There ain’t nothin’ purtier than sunlight shining through a bottle of pink wine. The only thing that could make it better is if it were a frosty bottle, with beads of condensation running down it that made your salivary glands start dancing the minute they saw ’em.

So I first had this wine at OPC 2013, and I think it was the first wine from Patton Valley I ever had (at the time they weren’t available in my market). I instantly loved it. This is not exactly a shocker, since I mostly love every Rosé ever. But the memory of this one stuck with me, so I was excited when they did a pre-release of it on Valentine’s Day. I’m still a little shocked I managed to make it to Patton Valley after Bubbles Fest went down, but so strong was my determination to taste this wine that I made it happen.

60 and sunny in February? I'LL TAKE IT!

60 and sunny in February? I’LL TAKE IT!

Like I said, I do enjoy Rosé of almost any kind, but this one has cemented a permanent place in my heart. First of all, the color is perfect. Crystalline pale pink with a palpable brightness. The nose is incredibly graceful. Subtle, delicate, yet very inviting. Floral, clean and impossibly fresh, it offers strawberry, rose petal, a hint of tangerine zest, white flowers and a nice pop of quince and tart green apple at the finish. The palate is silky and it drinks like it doesn’t have a care in the world. Which, after all, is sort of the point of drinking Rosé: drink it to wile away the hours and enjoy whatever moment you’re in. Rosé, to me, should always have a slight air of frivolity to it. It should be fun, it should make you happy, it should make you stop rushing and slow down and savor. Want to listen to me ramble a little more about why Rosé is magical? Check it out here.

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Patton Valley really captures this spirit and I love them for it. The other important factor here is that this wine is insanely well-priced. $18? Are you kidding? The only thing is, I’m very certain they don’t make a ton of it and it sells out every year fairly quickly. I know I’ll be stock-piling a bottle or two or five for massive enjoyment once it gets warmer. I will say, I feel incredibly fortunate that it was warm enough last night to crush this bottle on my patio with a friend. It didn’t suck.

Also? Want to brush up on why Rosé is pink to begin with? Here’s another cool piece I wrote. I’m shamelessly self-promoting today. Sorry not sorry.

I do know that I’ll definitely be in attendance for Patton Valley’s Drink Pink 2015, set for July 18th! I’m down. Seeya there?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 30! Quady North GSM

Its finally day 30! Even though I’m a day late posting this and its actually February right now, I am pretty proud that I finished what I set out to do. In the past, I would always resolve to post at least once a week. Then life would get away from me, I’d get distracted, sometimes a little slack.. and not do it. So I’m really glad that I forced myself to write a lot this past month. My wallet needs a little rest, though. I ain’t gonna lie.

But I already have a great many items on my blogging agenda for February! Among them, a trip to Lumos, Patton Valley’s Rosé release on the 14th AND the 2015 Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie on the 14th, too! Thats gonna be a good day, right there. This is the most I’ve looked forward to Valentines Day in at least a decade. Woot!

90 points Wine Spectator, right here.

90 points Wine Spectator, right here.

This wine, the Quady North GSM, 2011 Rogue Valley, caught my eye a couple times at Roth’s, and then Valley Wine Merchants posted about it on Facebook a few weeks ago. Its been in the back of my mind for a while, so I decided to make it the last wine of the Thirty Oregon Wines project, because two out of its three grapes haven’t been written about yet! Grenache and Mourvedre. I geeked out a little over the fact that this is an Oregon GSM. My Oregon GSM cherry has officially been popped.

These guys are pretty hot- this wine got 90 Points from Wine Spectator, and there’s a host of accolades to go around for several of their other wines too. If I blind tasted this, I definitely would guess California Grenache. The nose is herby and savory, a little wily and a little meaty. The Mourvedre “funk” brings in a touch of smoke, pepper and almost mesquite BBQ. Red fruit is also prominent, plenty of red cherry and raspberry. Touches of sage and leather. The finish is what grabs me with this wine. As silky as it could be, with a touch of creamy vanilla makes for an uplifting conclusion.

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This wine seems to be a winner at our dinner table. Its been open for maybe an hour, and is becoming more outgoing as the time passes. That finish, though. Its hanging on strong! I dig it. This is a cool find. I’d be really interested to try more wines from Quady, including their Rosé (squee! it’s almost Rosé time!) It has also continued the piquing of my interest in whats going on in Southern Oregon.

ANYWAY, I want to thank everyone who’s followed along on this lil’ project! I’ve gotten a lot of really nice comments and feedback from readers, which feels great! Its helped me really hone in and focus on Oregon wine, which seems like a crucial element to why I decided to uproot and move out here. Plus, its been fun and I’ve learned a lot. Hope you have, too!

This wine was purchased at Valley Wine Merchants in Newberg for $26. 

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, days 27 & 28: Field Trip to Portland!

Yesterday I field-tripped up to Portland and paid a visit to the SE Wine Collective! I mean, it WAS Wednesday after all. What better day to have an extended happy hour? Its been unbelievably foggy in the Valley all week, but as soon as I got closer to Portland, the sun was out and it an absolutely gorgeous afternoon. Happy, I was.

The SE Wine Collective was the site of a killer dinner that I went to back in December. I hadn’t been back since, and was excited to explore a few reds in particular. It was really convenient to be able to sample two Cab Francs from Southern Oregon in one place, by the glass/taste. Can any other place really say that? Not sure, but in any case- its darn awesome. Lets dive in. Its Cab Franc time, baby.

Did you know Cab Franc grows in Southern Oregon? I didn’t, before I moved here. Its sort of fun to look back on this blog project and realize that a few of my favorite finds of the month were actually from Southern Oregon. I didn’t see that coming at all, and its a really cool discovery.

Up first was the Jackalope Cabernet Franc, 2013 Applegate Valley:

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Filed under: Fonts I like.

Cabernet Franc is a fascinating grape; it can be in the “fresh, red fruit” category and it can also be in the “deep dark tannic monster” category. This one leaned towards the former; it had some nice dark fruit coursing through its veins, but the warm raspberry definitely showed through. A hint of blackberry preserves and coffee bean, and some young, green leafy business going on, along with peppercorn and bay leaves. Really a cool wine that has a lot of different elements at work, without seeming disjointed. Fun to drink. According to the website, less than 70 cases made.

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Next in Cab Franc world was actually a bottle I have seen in a few stores and really wanted to buy. I am loving the packaging on the Willful Cabernet Franc, 2012 Applegate Valley:

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

A touch of whimsy on the label art tickles my fancy.

There’s a cool story here. I’ll paraphrase, as you can surely Google if you’re so inclined. Willful Wine Company was born in 2012, and produces Pinot Noir from their estate in Dundee (I also tried this- great), and small quantities of other Northwest varietals. The owner and winemaker’s name is Pam Walden, and there’s some background here involving Daedalus Cellars/Jezebel wines. I don’t feel like I can do the full story justice without sounding like an idiot, but in any case- if this is only the second year that Pam has released wine under the Willful label- the woman can make some damn wine. I’m sold. This juice is fantastic. Actually, I’ll go out on a limb and say this might be my favorite new discovery of this 30 days.

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This is a big ol’ wine, with full flavors of black cherry and raspberry jam, followed by a high “ding” of sour cherry. Its oak profile is round and integrated; its a curvy wine but incredibly balanced. The finish is long and creamy with baking spices, pepper and subtle vanilla. Theres a nice play of savory/gamey/wildness (all technical terms) but not so much as to drown out the fruit. Its fleshed out nicely, yet not in my opinion overworked. Is that enough praise? I like the wine. Go get it.

I also tried the SE Wine Collective Red Blend- a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay & Cab Franc- it was in keg form, so no photo- but it was a super fun wine! Buoyant, fresh, tart, pomegranate-y and a really great keg wine for all those reasons.

I did a sort of “create your own flight” deal with these wines, and just put together the three tastes individually; they were $4, $5 and $3 each, respectively. Bottles are available for purchase too, for dine-in and take home. The SE Collective also has some pre-determined flights on the menu- the couple who were seated near me were sipping on the Chenin Blanc flight- three from around the world. The place is a fun concept and reminds me a lot of Cellar on Greene, except wine is being made there, which makes it that much cooler.

Also, I ate these dates, which were ridic:

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Ridic is a good thing, by the way. These dates were stuffed with gorgonzola & hazelnuts and wrapped in prosciutto, seared, and drizzled with honey. Freakin’ delicious. You’d think I was being paid to say these things, but really I’m not. I just like the place. You should check it out.

Cheers, and thanks to the Collective for making it so easy to try two Oregon Cab Francs in one place! Score.

 

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!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 25: Vermentino in Oregon?!

Wrapping up the last week of my Oregon grapes project, I’m kind of scrambling to try to include as many as possible! So this is a duplicate winery, but I really dug the Zinfandel I wrote about from Troon, so I returned once again. And selfishly, I can walk to this place and its a pretty chill little tasting room. So meet the Troon “Foundation ’72” Vermentino, 2013 Oregon, Applegate Valley! It was the first Vermentino in Oregon:

IMG_8098 (1)Vermentino is kind of a super star in California right now; winemakers are experimenting with different styles with great success (Matthiasson, Rhyme). These grapes come from Southern Oregon, so its not a far stretch that they can live happily in the slightly warmer Rogue Valley. These grapes were grafted in 2006 onto vines that were first planted in 1972.

This is a lean style of Vermentino, and very quaffable. Vermentino is native to Southern Italy and is a pretty accommodating grape- it likes a warm climate and ocean breezes, but in this case its maintained a sense of self despite being in Oregon. It is also a grape that can be treated in many different manners and still be delicious- the Troon is fermented in stainless steel, but it can be made in a slightly richer style as well.

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Vermentino can offer a wide range of fun aromas and tastes- from apple and fresh flowers to ripe citrus, melon and tropical fruit. It almost always has a nice degree of minerality and acid that keeps it from feeling weighty. Mr. Troon here is tart and almost spritzy, with lemon zest, grapefruit, a little bit of a flinty edge and a mouthwatering dry finish. It pulls off a fresh, mediterranean feel. This wine got 87 points from Wine Enthusiast- I consider that pretty respectable for a modest-priced wine. Sometimes if you don’t see the “9” in front of a score its easy to disregard it. Just remember, there’s a lotta numbers less than 87. Like 60 or 73. Which are not so great. Has a wine ever scored, like 40 points? Someone answer this for me. I’m curious.

I can see this wine being a really fun glass pour in a restaurant. I always like surprising glass pours. Apparently Troon will be doing a few different bottlings/styles of Vermentino for the 2014 vintage, which I believe will be released in February. I’ll be looking forward to trying them fo’ sho! So, will Vermentino blow up in Oregon and become a “thing”? Not really sure I can confidently answer that, but I sure don’t mind this one.

I tasted this wine at the Troon Vineyards Tasting Room in Carlton. The bottle is available for purchase for $18. 

Cheers!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, day 24: Brittan Syrah!

Today was a serendipitous day! I went to visit my friend Erin, the tasting room manager at the new Winderlea/Brittan tasting room in McMinnville. Which you should go to, by the way. Its a cool little spot, and there’s Chrysalis Coffee and the Dominio IV tasting room nearby too!

I was an early bird, getting there right at 11 after a morning spent getting new brake pads on my car (FUN.) Really, who tastes wine at 11am? Well, me. But who should arrive right as I got there but Robert Brittan! So I got to chat with him a little bit about wine, a little bit about life and a lot about his love for Syrah. I actually first met Robert at Pinot Camp in 2013, when I had no idea that anyone grew Syrah in the Willamette Valley proper. After returning home, his Syrah was one of the wines that stuck with me the most. Mostly because its good, but also because it shattered my preconceived mold of what Syrah could be in the Pacific Northwest.

The dank.

The dank.

So Robert isn’t the only one making Syrah in the Valley- Adelsheim makes a bit, a winery I am not familiar with called Biggio Hamina Cellars sources some from the Deux Vert Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton (interestingly, that is where some of the Tempranillo that I wrote about yesterday comes from), and a handful of others. Most other Syrah that is bottled by Willamette Valley wineries is sourced from either Southern Oregon or the Columbia Valley/Walla Walla.

Robert shared many a story- most of which I can’t really do justice to attempting to re-tell. But he did share that when he first planted Syrah here in the McMinnville AVA, his wife (Ellen, who knows a thing or two about wine herself) laughed at him. It’ll never get ripe, she said. She had a nickname for the acre of Syrah that he first planted, I think it was “Hail Mary.” I could be wrong. In any case, Robert had a wild hair about Syrah, and he found the right site. And made the wine. His spot in the McMinnville AVA benefits from a bit of the Van Duzer Corridor- ie, a stream of cool wind that makes its way from the ocean through coastal range to find the grapes and cool them off at night. To maintain spice, you gotta get cool at night, so I’ve learned.

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I’m fairly certain that the Brittan Syrahs I’ve had are the darkest colored wines in Oregon. Its a little mind-boggling and awesome at the same time. The one I had today in the tasting room is the 2010 vintage, a popular vintage for hardcore Oregon nerds.

So when I said this wine was dark, I wasn’t lyin’. Incredibly deeply colored with a flavor intensity to match, this wine has an incredibly savory quality that I find fascinating. Dark fruit opens the wine; blackberry and black plum, and a deep vein of white and pink peppercorn follow. The texture is dense, and the steadfastness potency never fades. Like a good Northern Rhone, this wine tastes distinctly of meat. To steal a word from The Wine Advocate, in an almost “carnal” fashion. But here’s the kicker; after a few minutes in the glass, the wine shows off some fun and chic notes of cured olives, violet, sage, bay leaf and cassis. For a hulk of a wine, its alcohol content is shockingly low at around 13%, I believe. The picture I took conveniently cut it off, but I remember talking about it. It is worth noting that this wine got 90 Points from The Wine Advocate.

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Since I’m spoiled and lucky, I also previewed the 2013 and 2014 vintages of Robert’s Syrah. The ’13 will go to bottle soon, and its a stunner. The ’14 is still undergoing Malolactic fermentation, so it was a little unruly; but the bones are there, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

There's wine in those.

There’s wine in those.

Only about 2/3 of the way through writing this did I realize I left the tasting notes I wrote at the tasting room this morning. So all this was free-form, but the wine is memorable enough that I didn’t need them. Right now the Brittan-Winderlea tasting room is open Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so get on by!

This bottle is available for purchase for $40. 

Cheers!