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…

sunset 1.9.15

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.

FullSizeRender (11)

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!

Advertisements

This Week’s Whites to Watch Out For!

It finally feels like we better strap in and enjoy the ride folks- Summer is almost here! Spring was sort of a temptress this year, no? Warm. Cold. Warm. Cold. And the last few days have been downright Summery. Complete with a forecast full of rain and… no accumulation. So what better time than to preview a few fun exciting new whites?

mmm.. WHITES

mmm.. WHITES

 

Folk Machine Tocai Friulano, 13 California, Mendocino. Retail $15. 

photo 2 (10)

OKAY OKAY- so THIS one is hands-down one of the coolest whites I’ve had this year! For a lot of reasons, some nerdier than others. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first I must regale you with details about how delicious this stuff is! If you’re after a flowery-citrus-bomb that’ll leave you feeling like you licked a grapefruit peel, this one might not be your jam. Because it is a study in understated, if you will. It’s an effortless little wine, made from a cool grape that you don’t see a lot of in California, and dollar for dollar, it absolutely owns some of it’s closest “competitors”, style-wise. Yes, I’m speaking of the “New California” category. But anyway, let us first get back to the wine itself: this wine has an irresistible freshness straight out of the bottle. I hesitate to call it “petillant”, but there’s definitely a touch of fizz on this wine when you first crack it. It’s a lean and fresh palate that you’ll find when you sip this guy. Slightly saline with green hints. Think an underripe pear, green grapes straight outta the fridge, lime pit, and fresh herbs. The nose is not terribly forthcoming, but that’s just kinda how it rolls. It hits the thirst-quenching note quite precisely, and the finish is dry and a bit chalky. This wine is like Vinho Verde’s slightly more evolved cousin, in my opinion. Meant to be taken just a bit more seriously than your average poolside-crusher, but still falls into the everyday category. Would be genius with a fresh tomato salad with plenty of herbage and some tangy goat cheese. This wine was written up by The New California Wine author Jon Bonne in SFGate. Check it out!

 

Anne Amie “Cuvee A” Muller-Thurgau, 2012 Oregon, Willamette. Retail $16.

photo 3 (8)

So if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’ve written about this wine before. But… it’s just SO. DURN. GOOD. And this is a new vintage! I can’t resist a revisit. Especially since I have been to Oregon and Anne Amie Vineyards since the last time I wrote about this wine, so my appreciation has only deepened. I’ll skip the part where I explain to you what Muller-Thurgau is in great detail; suffice to say, it’s a grape you should be drinking. It originated in Germany but has found a happy home in Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley. And you can call it MULL-er, or MEW-ler, depending on your mood. I go with MULL-er because I find the alternative awkward. I may be remiss in that, but I am okay with the consequences. I have heard pros say it both ways. So there.

It goes without saying that this wine has been delicious and consistent every year that I’ve tasted it, and this one is no exception. It’s aromas are downright intoxicating. Sweet honeydew melon, honeysuckle, peaches and fresh spring flowers. The palate offers a touch of tartness (green apple, lime) and minerality. But it finishes up with an oh-so-silky mouthfeel that will make you squeeeeee. I can’t think of a more perfect wine for Pad Thai (yeah, probably even the kind you can get at Food Lion), a Spicy Tuna Roll &/or a Shrimp Summer Roll with sweet thai chile sauce! (I gotta pause and drool now….) LOVE. IT. You need it in your mouth.

 

Vina Tobia Blanco, 12 Spain, Rioja. Retail $14. 

photo 4 (4)

Yet another funsie! I love a good, zippy Spanish white. If you’ve been in an Albarino phase, let this one be your next fling! It is a blend of 50% Viura, 20% Verdejo, 10% Malvasia, 10% Tempranillo Blanco and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Note: there will be a quiz. You may or may not be familiar with many of those, but Verdejo and Viura are fairly common in the world of Spanish whites and you may have had them before. An energetic and vibrant white, it has a rounder texture than an Albarino typically does, but all the lovely bright citrus flavors you probably love. You’ll also find some exciting hints of pineapple, passionfruit and and a touch of nuttiness. The finish is fresh and clean, but with the aforementioned touch of texture and “waxiness”. Kind of an odd word, but it will make more sense once you try it.

…And try it you will! Or can, at least, at TOMORROW’S Wine Sale! All these babies will be open for the tasting from 12-2. I picked three off-beat wines today for a reason- my new catch phrase at the wine sales is going to be “TRY SOMETHING NEW!” Cause I love y’all mean it, but sometimes I feel as though I sell the same wines to the same people every week. We gotta shake it up! Try new stuff! That’s what we’re here for.

Come visit tomorrow, have a great, wine-filled weekend, and thanks for reading! 

 

 

Goin’ Goin’, Back Back, to Oregon!

Sometimes inspiration is hard to find, friends. 

That’s a lesson I’ve repeatedly learned throughout the course of writing this blog. It’s really easy to fall into the rabbit hole of non-creativity and lack of motivation (for me) when it comes to writing. It’s almost like when you put off doing a specific task for a few weeks, even though you know you’ll feel great once you do it. Then one day? You wake up and just FEEL like doing it! It’s miraculous. Like today!

It also helps to have a friend tell you: “WTF? You’re not blogging! You suck.” She meant that with love, honestly.

#OregonNerd

#OregonNerd

The OTHER thing that helps is having two wines arrive a day apart from each other that are SO marvelously Oregon that they inspire you beyond words. And that happened this week! You’ll definitely want to check these out at the Wine Sale tomorrow, March 1st from 12-2. Yeah, I know there’s Mardi Gras stuff going on tomorrow, but there’s plenty of time to do both, mmmkay?

First up is the brand-spanking new vintage of Walnut City Wineworks Pinot Gris, 2013 Willamette Valley. What is it about a really nicely balanced and well-priced Oregon Pinot Gris? When they hit the nail on the head, they’re just the ultimate go-to wine. But some of them speak to me more than others- usually I look for an ultra thirst-quenching bite on the finish, and I like fun accents of florality. Is that a word? Maybe. Plus I LOVE their label art:

photo (14)

So this is an effortless little drinker that is everything it should be; crisp, clean and fragrant with notes of kiwi, lime zest, white flowers (gardenias, maybe) and something vaguely soapy and lovely. I like the slight addition of tropical fruit flavors, which you could pick up nicely with whatever you choose to dine on- a tropical fruit salsa? Atop a salad with goat cheese and even some grilled salmon? Oh, I do think I just planned a meal for you… how easy was that? This wine retails for $15, and you can also find it on Cellar on Greene’s by-the-glass list for the time being!

Next up is definitely my favorite 2012 Willamette Pinot that I’ve had in a minute- Left Coast Cellars “Cali’s Cuvee”. I believe this wine is relatively new to South Carolina (I might be wrong on that, but at the very least I had never had nor seen it until just before the holidays). Lemee tellya, this stuff is perfect. I’ll always support the merits of 2011 Oregon Pinots- I embrace the light, cooler vintages as much as a warmer one like 2012. But coming off of 2011, this wine is such a welcome change! It really captures fullness and ripeness without sacrificing the overall “cool” nature of Oregon Pinot Noir in general. It has a nice depth of color- and offers more of the blue fruit spectrum- blueberry, black cherries; as opposed to the lean cranberry/pomegranate palate. The finish is undeniably sexy- warm and soft, with lingering vanilla and French oak. A touch of strawberries n’ cream, almost. But not like a nasty strawberries n’ cream candy bar- like actual fresh strawberries with a mound of freshly whipped cream on top. Did I mention that I had the best strawberries of my *life* last summer in Oregon? I thought I knew strawberries. They were life-changing.

photo (15)

 

But back to the wine: hints of Asian five spice and a touch of clove are flirtatious and fun. This wine won a Double Gold at the Oregon Wine Awards for it’s 2011 vintage. I literally cannot get enough of it. The other thing I’ll say about this wine is that our staff at Cellar LOVES it. I take pride in this, because they, at the ripe ages of around 23-26, actually DO know a killer wine when they taste one. They might not be able to tell you exactly why (yet), but they know it’s good. I like that. It’s that you-can’t-quite-pinpoint-why kind of love. Like when you meet a person and you KNOW you instantly like them, even though you don’t know every single thing about them yet. Evidently I’ve had too much wine before lunch, so I will quit my rambling right about now.

BUT the BEST part of this wine? It’s freaking $22! That, my friends, is an absolute steal for such a high-quality Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I insist you try it.

Also, here’s a screenshot of yet another source of inspiration that got me pumped to write about wine today. And don’t you judge my station list… Sometimes one needs Mariah Carey Radio.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 12.05.40 PM

That’s all I got for today- see y’all at the WINE SALE TOMORROW! 

 

new wines for Friday that are Fabulous and Fun!

It’s FRIDAY, and that means it’s high time we chatted about some new juice.  Well, technically any day of the week is perfect for that, but today’s the day.  These three puppies are really, truly fantastic and individualistic.  They truly each deserve a post of their own, but multi-wine posts are a little easier to pull off on a Friday afternoon.  So let’s take a peek…

allthree82913

A total of five grapes and three countries!  One grape of which you probably have never heard of.  One brand-new to SC Pinot Noir.  And one freaking excellent Malbec blend from a forgotten place for Malbec- France!  Eeek, what fun!

First up is one of my favorite finds of the last few weeks: Cederberg Bukettraube, 2012 South Africa:

Buke-what?  Buke-who?

Buke-what? Buke-who?

When I first met this wine, I knew we would be fast friends.  I’m widely known as a weird white wine nerd, so it wasn’t exactly a shock that I took a liking to this one.  However, just cause you weird, don’t mean you good- but this one is!  To me, when I first smelled it, it reminded me of a really pretty Vouvray.  Which, when you consider that South Africa does really well with Chenin Blanc, isn’t too far of a stretch.  However, this Bukettraube (buke–rhymes with nuke–uh-traube) is not related to Chenin, as far as I could Google.  Apparently it is a grape of German origin.  It is a cross of Silvaner and Schiavia.  Not much else to be found on this one, but you shouldn’t be phased by that.  There’s only so much background info we really need.  What we do need to know is how incredibly TASTY it is!

An incredibly aromatic wine, it bursts with smells that are similar to a Muscat; ripe apricot, lychee, rose petals, peaches and prickly pineapple.  Nice floral accents set it off, the mouthfeel is soft and plush but not overbearing, and the finish clenches with a nice pop of citrus zest.  Truly a gorgeous and unique wine.  Who will like it?  Well, probably other white wine nerds like me.  But if you like Riesling, Chenin Blanc or even a Sauvignon Blanc (minus a little citrus), you will want to give this one a try.  It would be to DIE with spicy cuisine.  The 2010 vintage of this wine got a little press; 90 Points form Steven Tanzer and 89 points from Wine Enthusiast.  I’d not be shocked if this one earned itself a rating, too, so keep your eyes peeled.  Or don’t, if you don’t care.  This wine is a ridiculous value at $13 retail!

What’s next?  A personal fave.  Omero Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Willamette Valley, Oregon.  I actually had this wine prior to my trip to Oregon in June and was quite tickled by it.  My appreciation grew after the trip, where I tasted approximately 10,000 (okay, slight exaggeration) Oregon Pinot Noirs.  We just picked up this wine as a by-the-glass pour last week (hat tip- only the second account in SC to do such…).

serious Oregon juice.

serious Oregon juice.

So why do I like this particular one?  Well, an Oregon Pinot that is artfully made tends to really stand out.  When that wine offers what I perceive to be a great value, they stand out even more.  This is the first distribution vintage for this winery; they are very small and only 1500 cases of this 2011 were made.  It’s everything Oregon Pinot Noir should be: bright acidity, a nice mix of ripe red fruit on the forefront, followed by some sour cherry, pomegranate, wild strawberry and raspberry.  There is a nice softness and a flowery suggestion in the finish, and a touch of mild vanilla.  This wine tastes freaking phenomenal the second day after opening!  In and of itself, this is an indicator that this wine is a great candidate for a bit of time in the Cellar.  For a cooler vintage like 2011, this is a great quality for a wine to have.  The winemakers are pretty legit, making it their goal to express the true nature of Willamette’s climate and soil.  Their winery is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of Willamette, which is where the majority of this fruit is sourced.  This wine is currently available for tasting purposes and as a glass pour!  It’s retail cost is a modest $24.  (Side note: their single Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir is exemplary, too).  You will not find this on any other wine list in Columbia- BOO-YAH!

What’s the last thing on my mind today?  A little Frenchie!  From one of my favorite regions in France, Cahors.  Cahors is relatively close to the Bordeaux region.  Malbec is a grape that is considered a true Bordeaux varietal, but it is often seen in Cahors as a single varietal, or in this case used in a cool blend of 80% Malbec with a splash of Merlot and Tannat:

mmmmmm.

mmmmmm.

Chateau de Gaudou, 2011 retails for a sweet $15.  It is as close to a perfect house French red as you could find.  In my mind, approach this wine as 1.) a great value French red and then 2.) as a Malbec.  It will not taste like the Argentinian Malbec you had last week.  Sure, there are some definitive grape characteristics that are similar, but they’re treated much differently in each country.  I like both, but I find Cahors Malbecs to have density, color and depth that are quite striking.  A deep purple, almost black color, it has a whopper of a nose of blackberry liqueur, blackcurrant, toasty oak, black cherries, violets, and undertones of roasted sage and thyme.  Some higher notes of red raspberry are found if you search for them, too.  The mouthfeel is smooth with a little bite of tannin that makes it great with food.  Grilled or roasted game.  Maybe a beef or lamb tartare to make the mineral content pop a bit.  It’s quite versatile and great on it’s own.  This wine is also currently a glass pour at Cellar, so should you desire a taste, just stop on in!  Or have a glass with your next dinner!

Thanks for reading and HAPPY DRINKIN!