Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, 2015

…. a more appropriate title might be: How I Managed to Taste Over 60 Oregon Chardonnays in less than 24 hours

Yup. All of 'em.

Yup. All of ’em.

So that happened.

I had planned to approach this post in a different way. Originally I had made it my mission to take detailed tasting notes on every wine that was open. It didn’t take but 5 minutes into the Grand Tasting to realize that that wasn’t going to happen. My brain was buzzing from all the information and thoughts expressed at the technical panel, and I really wanted to simply enjoy the roomful of Chardonnay I was in, in a purely experiential fashion. Of course, I will share some standouts and tasting notes, but I’ve had a full 48 hours to process the event and I think my words can be better served to express the tone, energy and real message of the event. So lets get started.

WTF is a clone again?

WTF is a clone again?

The theme of the Symposium this year was Attack of the Clones. This might not mean much to your average sipper of wine, but this topic served as a backdrop to what ended up being, to me, the real theme of the day.

So take a step back with me, if you will. Think about the first real story or conversation you took part in or overheard about Oregon Chardonnay. Did it go something like this? “Yeah, they’ve always had Chardonnay in Oregon, but in the beginning they planted all the wrong clones and so it sucked for a long time, until they figured out which ones to use. Now its pretty good. I mean, its getting better.”

Yes? Well… here’s the thing. Thats not entirely correct. The first speaker of the day, Jason Lett, started the day out with a bang by offering up a few quotes dating back to the 1970’s affirming Oregon as a legitimate place to produce Chardonnay. I’m paraphrasing, but in 1975 the LA Times was quoted as saying Oregon could do “as well as California” with Chardonnay. In 1987, Robert Parker reported that Oregon would “catapult” onto the Chardonnay scene due to its similarity to Burgundy.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

Is there truth to the “wrong clone” argument? Sure. There was a kernel of legitimacy that started the clone conversation, but somehow it has been the resounding soundbite that stayed with the rest of the world. Want to rebuff the “wrong clone” argument? Here’s one: The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Chardonnay Reserve (we tasted the 2012 vintage on Saturday) is sourced from the original vineyards plantings, and they’re currently at the ripe age of about 40 years (and own-rooted!). What clone was first planted by David Lett? The Draper selection, a member of the Wente “family”, from the Draper Ranch in St. Helena, CA. How d’ya like dem apples?

Which leads me to the soundbite that I feel most suits the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium: Its time to change the conversation. 

Boom! Okay, let us pause for a moment to pay homage to Don Draper. Isn’t it serendipitous that I was just talking about the Draper clone?!

"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

So I issue you this challenge, Oregon Chardonnay lovers: change the conversation. Its our job as Oregon wine drinkers and ambassadors for the region to shut down the “they planted the wrong clones” rhetoric. Take it in a different direction. Like the Willamette Valley being a natural home for a cool-climate varietal like Chardonnay. Like the bracing spine of acid that lies at the heart of a good Oregon Chard, stitching it together for decades of ageability. Like the fact that many Oregon Chardonnay vines are just *now* hitting their stride, age-wise, and we’ve only begun to see what these vines are capable of. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that at the core of Chardonnay from this region lies the most energetic, vibrant and haunting persona.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Before we move on to a few gratuitous Wine Porn pictures, a lovely quote from Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights: “Chardonnay needs the restriction of site if it is to become a transparent ware of beauty.” Mimi spoke last, and maybe the room was just itching for a female voice, but her thoughts really seemed to lift the room. Very inspirational.

Want to be jealous? Here’s a lovely crop job of everything I tasted:

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Just remember…

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…Don’t hate the player…

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… hate the game.

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Or maybe hate no one.

Alright alright. You want my top five? You can have ’em. In no particular order. These are just five that stayed with me, all things including price range considered:

FullSizeRender (41)1.) Walter Scott Chardonnay, 2013 Eola-Amity Hills, X-Novo Vineyard. 100 cases made, $45.

A real stunner; one of the more distinctly expressive wines of the day. Like that smokey, gunflinty edge? Cause I’m all about it. Polished, sleek, impossible to resist.

FullSizeRender (42)2.) Big Table Farm Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 476 cases made, $45.

I’ll admit it: I’m totally infatuated with these labels. Of course, the wine inside is killer too. Busty in all the right places, it packs clearly delineated spice, candied lemon, the silkiest of textures, and of course that vein of acid we all love.

IMG_72433.) Belle Pente Chardonnay, 10 Willamette Valley, Belle Pente Vineyard. 330 cases made, $30.

Brian’s 2010 was in a wonderful place on Saturday. I think it actually had an advantage over some of the ’12s and ’13s being poured. An unfair advantage? Oh no. This is a current release. Brian also has his 2010 Riesling as a current release and lemmee tellya- that thing is no joke either. Patience is a virtue, folks. In any case, the cool 2010 vintage did wonders for whites. $30 is insane.

FullSizeRender (44)4.) Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay, 13 Dundee Hills. 3,075 cases made, $35.

By the way, its very difficult picking favorites here, in case you were wondering. This is a favorite because it always hits that vervy place that I love, always reminiscent of a Chablis. Go figure, since they’re DDO. Somewhat larger case production, but this is some good GD Chardonnay.

FullSizeRender (46)5.) Bergstrom “Sigrid” Chardonnay, 12/13 Willamette Valley. $85, ? cases made.

I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer. Sigrid is Queen. Sexy, sexy, sexy. Did I say sexy? They poured 2012 and 2013 on Saturday. Honestly, I can’t recall if I had a preference for one over the other. I had a 2010 vintage in January that knocked me on my ass. Bow down, bitches.

FullSizeRender (45)BONUS: DeLancellotti Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 50 cases made, $50.

Why is it a bonus? Well, because there’s a very good chance there’s none left and I don’t want to be a tease. I first had this wine back in November and was pleasantly reminded of how killer it is on Saturday. Nicely woven oak that isn’t overpowering, to my taste.

Okay, one more bonus: Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Chardonnay, 05. WHUT. This is an extra bonus, because it was poured at the media dinner on Friday night, and my super-spoiled self got to attend. Its almost not fair to mention. This thing was freakin’ singin’, y’all.

Thats about all I have for you on this wrap up of the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium. It has sold out every year. You should go.

*Mic drop.*

Oh, and here’s an adorable picture of the “B” table. I wear my bias on my sleeve.

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Want to hear a few other awesome lady wine writer’s perspectives on The Chardonnay Symposium? Check out Jade Helm and Julie Arnan’s posts!

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?

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!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 22 and 23: R. Stuart!

I’ve been behind this week and had lots of little real world details to take care of, so I had to postpone my wine fun until today. And fun it was! This whole “Friday afternoon at 5pm” game is still a little new to me. But what fun I had this evening- it was a cozy late afternoon at the R. Stuart Wine Bar in downtown McMinnville! Overcast, but not raining, I decompressed, sipped on a few wines and chatted with Casey, the manager (? I actually don’t know her title, but she’s rad).

Love this spot on 3rd St.

Love this spot on 3rd St.

So I went because I knew I wanted a glass of bubbly, and that it fit in with my January theme. This is only the second bubbly I’ve written about. Its made out of 100% Chardonnay, and I have sort of exceeded my Chardonnay capacity… but, I mean… its bubbles. So, yeah. Sue me.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

BUBBLES. My bubbles.

R. Stuart has been well-known for their Rosé D’Or sparkling, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which is rich and luscious. This bubbly, known as “Bubbly” was just released, I believe, this past Thanksgiving weekend. I had it for the first time right before Christmas and really loved it. At $28, its very competitive with other Champenoise Oregon bubblies.

How freaking good does this look?

How freaking good does this look?

I’m not 100% sure if it was just the lighting, but this wine had a slight pale pink color to it as I sipped it. A round, creamy mouthfeel, this bubbly is elevated by lovely notes of baked apples and pears and a refreshing citrusy palate. Its zingy, fun to drink, flirty and doesn’t take itself too seriously; yet is a pleasure to drink and you can tell its Champenoise. A tiny hint of sweet tarts and fresh flowers on the finish. Really lovely. Comparably, the Argyle Brut sells for a similar price and is kind of a staple and totem of Oregon sparkling. Argyle is always super clean, high acid and delicious- this wine has a bit more texture and weight, and maybe more fanciful packaging. There’s room for both. If you’re a sparkling ho like me.

Next? Been meaning to try their Big Fire Tempranillo, which I did.

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So the last Tempranillo I had was from Eola-Amity Hills, the Zenith Vineyard. A 2012 vintage, and very delicious. The R. Stuart Big Fire Tempranillo is sourced from one small vineyard in Carlton, the Deux Verts vineyard, and predominantly Southern Oregon. As I mentioned in my last post, I learned that in Willamette, Tempranillo struggles to get ripe except in unusually warm years like 2012. So this Tempranillo is a 2011 vintage, but since a lot of the fruit is from Southern Oregon where its warmer, there is plenty of ripeness to be found here.

The nose is peppery, with a background of cedar and violets, accentuated by some beautiful vanilla and leather. There’s a touch of bright red and brambly fruit.  The palate is firm and smooth, and finishes with a pleasant bite of tannin to hold it together. At $20, its a great house red and then some. Very different than the last Tempranillo I had from Zenith, but a tough contender at $20 a bottle.

I love this “House Rules” at R. Stuart Wine Bar:

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This place kind of makes me wish I lived in McMinnville- every time I go, the vibe is warm and friendly, and the staff knowledgable and personable. A perfect stop for this “Friday at 5pm” feeling that many (but not all) of us experience. I gotta say, it doesn’t suck.

Cheers! I’ll be back for more McMinnville fun tomorrow…

Oh! And if you like Oregon bubbles, you should go to the Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie on February 14th! Its gonna be. the. shit. $40 gets you four hours of unadulterated Oregon sparkling, and Anne Amie’s debut sparkling wine is included (holla!). I can’t freakin’ wait.