Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Bayliss-Bower Vineyard

What a treasure.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ghost Hill Cellars. I visited a few weeks back, and (per usual) it took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get this post together. Until about 20 minutes ago, this was going to be a joint “ode to 2011” post, including this and one other 2011 vintage wine. Unfortunately, the wine gods had other plans, and the other bottle that I purchased is bad. A major bummer, but we’re on the rebound. It happens. I’ll still yammer on for a minute or two about the vintage, because I can’t resist, but we’ll mostly chat about Ghost Hill and this wine.

IMG_0673It was actually back in February that a friend recommended Ghost Hill to me. I believe we tried to go in once, but they were closed (because winter). Embarrassingly, it took me until October to reattempt. That’s the reality of living in wine country; we are overloaded with choices!

In any case, this place is a gem. Its probably one of the most authentically Oregon wineries I’ve visited since I’ve lived here. And it doesn’t hurt that the wines are great.

What do I mean by authentically Oregon? Ghost Hill is a 5th generation family farm. Mike and Drenda Bayliss currently farm the property with their children, Michael and Bernadette and son in law Cameron Bower. About 16 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 1999 on the 90-acre property. Oats, wheat and other crops take up a lot of Mike’s time as well.

#oldfashionedfilter #UseThatArtDegree

#oldfashionedfilter
#UseThatArtDegree

The property sits on Willakenzie soil that is prime for grape-growin’ and is neighbored by famed vineyards Abbott Claim and Bonnie Jean. Rumor has it Ken Wright wanted to swipe this property up before the vineyard was planted. The Bayliss family keeps it pretty low-key, making about 1200 cases a year. Recently they’ve had a whirlwind of activity: Eric Hamacher was hired on as their new winemaker (beginning with the 2015 vintage) and their 2012 Bayliss-Bower received a 94 point score from Wine Spectator’s Insider in the 11/4 edition. Huzzah!

IMG_0675Scores are certainly something to be proud of. Now that I’ve been on the winery side for just about a year, I’ve witnessed what scores can do and its definitely an exciting energy to be a part of. Personally, I’ve been a little weary of 2012 lately, and I will continue to sing the praises of the 2011 vintage until I turn blue in the face. Although, as my favorite coworker likes to remind me “I am not the market,” my palate definitely is geared towards a wine like this, and cooler vintages in general. I think a cooler vintage captures the allure of older vines in a more expressive fashion as well. But these are all decidedly in my opinion statements.

I remember when the 2011 vintage fist happened; I was in South Carolina, and somehow the word leaked out into the Southeast that 2011 was bad, bad, bad. Cold and wet. Stay away from them. I had a customer tell me once that “his friend told him NOT to buy ANY Pinot Noir from Oregon from the 2011 vintage.” I don’t quite recall how I responded to that one.

Sometimes I wonder where these things start.

What I can say is that 2011’s really stand out to me. There’s something extremely vervey and alive about these wines. A tingly kind of energy that guides you to the delicate power that is Pinot Noir. That is what continues to excite me about the vintage. And with that, I’ll get off the soapbox and detail this particular one!

IMG_0907A brickish red color, the wine is in a nice evolutionary phase. Immediately upon opening, the nose has a brief flamboyant moment: bright raspberry and red cherry. It settles down a bit, relaxing into its herbal undertones. Asian five spice, sage, fennel, lavender and a resounding note of deeper black cherry abound. The finish is a lively smack of tart pomegranate. That’s the other thing I love about a leaner vintage; the acid lift makes me want to smack my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Satisfying.

I bought this bottle at the winery. Confession: I don’t recall what I paid for it. I do think the bottle price is $42, but I know they had a discount on the 11. If you’re in the area for Thanksgiving, go check them out before they close for the winter. Your pants will be charmed off, and you’ll leave feeling like you have experienced a special part of the area’s history.

Whut.

Whut.

 

 

 

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Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, 2013 Willamette Valley

Its high time we dove head first into the deep end of the pool, ladies n’ gents. And in this circumstance, I mean: 2013 Oregon Pinot Noirs! This is the first of a series I’d like to do that focuses on the 2013 vintage for Oregon Pinot. How many will be in the series? Meh. I don’t know yet. Probably quite a few. There are a lot of things that interest me about 2013, mainly how it will be perceived by “the masses” following a very popular and publicized vintage like 2012. I’m on a mission to ensure 2013 doesn’t get turned into a “throw away” year. Well maybe not ensure, as my platform isn’t the loudest, but at the very least- I’m starting to observe what others are saying and throw my two cents in whenever I can. So here we go!

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Not the first 2013 I’ve tasted, but the first I’ve chosen is the 2013 Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. What’s today? Wednesday. What is this? A great Wednesday wine. A somewhat unfair term which I have mixed feelings about, but it does get to the point. The pricetag on this little guy is but $20. Which as I sit here with the wine, does seem like a meager sum for this bottle. I bought it at the winery a few weeks ago, during an epically long day in Portland that involved a lot of wine tasting and Ikea (what better time to go to Ikea than after you’ve had some wine?)

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE- snacks galore.

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE. 

I really enjoyed my visit to Boedecker. Very down to earth, low-key, non-pretentious people who racked up quite a few impressive scores in 2012. This wine has actually bloomed beautifully in the 30 minutes that I’ve had it open. Youthful (duh) and lively, it has a buoyant nose of black cherry, raspberry, rhubarb jam and a teeny undertone of cherry cola. The palate is fresh and lean- rose petal, potpourri and a tang of orange zest. A nice easy sipper, but with enough variation that it doesn’t just sing one note.

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Nicely balanced acid, pretty fruit, brightly colored- all in all a very inviting glass of vino. This is my idea of a no-brainer restaurant glass pour, or like I said earlier- a Wednesday wine. And when you find a perfect Wednesday wine- it kind of rules.

This is what people did over 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir:

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Will they do that over 2013? Only time will tell. Those of us who drink a lot of Oregon Pinot might. Those that prefer California Pinot might not. 2013 is not going to smack you upside the head with burly fruit. But what they will do, in my opinion, is charm you and wile their way around your heart. Thus far, that is what they’ve done for me. I’d like that to be the case for everyone. So stay tuned, and we’ll do this more often! What say you?

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!