Raptor Ridge Tempranillo, 2013 Rogue Valley, Folin Vineyard

CONFESSION: I’ve had this wine in my possession for way too long. Confession number two: I’ve had numerous wines from Raptor Ridge this Summer that all deserved their own post, but I really don’t know where the time has gone. So I’m seizing this rainy and strangely windy Saturday to catch you up on one of my favorite wineries in the area!

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

Oregon Tempranillo: not as rare as you might imagine.

We’ll start the party with the post’s namesake, the 2013 Tempranillo. This is just the third year RR has made a Tempranillo, and it sits at right around 200 cases made. Tempranillo seems to enjoy the hotter climate of Southern Oregon; the Folin Vineyards are also planted with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvédre and Grenache- more varieties that bask in the heat.

Heat is evident in this wine, as its nose is big, dark and smokey. Blackberry liqueur, raspberry preserves, briar patch, hints of woodsy/evergreen/fresh sap, along with traditional Tempranillo characteristics: tobacco, leather, savory herbs, and a nice bright streak of tart red fruit to carry it along. Raptor Ridge suggests mole as a pairing, and now that is all I can think of. Or maybe something char-grilled, with a spicy BBQ rub. Ribs?! Oh, indeed.

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In short: a super fun “unusual” varietal perfect for Fall! Fall is a little erratic here, it almost reminds me of South Carolina. It cooled off quickly in September, but its thrown more than a few 80 degree days our way right up until last week.

So, what other Raptor Ridge wines have I enjoyed this year? A favorite: the 2014 Grüner Veltliner:

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This is Estate fruit from their site on the Chehalem Mountains, which tickles me. Again, not much more than 200 cases made and this little guy sings with clean minerality, slate, fresh flowers and a really nice acidic balance.

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The Raptor Ridge 2014 Pinot Gris was probably my favorite Gris of the year. Gris takes some flack out here for being boring, I’ve noticed. Maybe it doesn’t have the most personality of any white grape out there, but the bottom line is: when you find one that hits the nail on the head in terms of value & quality, AND offers the delicious clean, fresh palate that it should.. well, anyone who’s worked in retail or a restaurant knows: they’re money-makers. People love them, they’re versatile and friendly. Long story short, the Raptor Ridge is a winner for all those reasons.

I’m scouring my phone for a picture of the view at the winery but I’m shocked to discover I don’t have one! That means I have to go back soon and get one. Hands down, best view in the valley- and we all know there’s some stiff competition there.

Go check these guys out!

*these wines were received as samples. except the pictured rosé. I bought that because, well, rosé*

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Oregon Wine Month: EIEIO & Co!

Yikes! Its almost halfway through May, and I have a lot more wine to write about this month. Today I bring you a few that are near and dear to my heart. I first wrote about EIEIO a few months ago, and I heard from a few people that were equally as in love with the little “piglets” as I was. So here now I present two more delightful selections from one of the coolest dudes in the Valley, Mr. Jay McDonald. Pictured here:

This guy.

This guy.

A few weeks ago, I poured with Jay at the Yamhill-Carlton AVA tasting where his 2014 White Pinot made its debut. The response to the wine was- if I do say so- pretty off the charts.

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Gleaming with a bright golden color, the White Pinot (or WP, as the cool kids call it) is sure to stump even the cleverest wine nerd in a blind tasting. Mark my words. Unconventionally fruit-forward and luscious, it has distinct “candied” aromas to me; white gummy bears, white lollipops and pineapple, accompanied by punches of lime zest, honeydew melon, peaches, and fresh flowers. A twinge of something nutty is hiding in there somewhere, and the texture is as silky as silky gets. A pure pleasure-seeking wine; meant to drink and enjoy.

Not really the most glamorous backdrop, but hey- that's life.

Not really the most glamorous backdrop, but hey- that’s life.

Made with no added yeasts or enzymes, the “yearly” White Pinot production is a bit of a gamble; Jay labels the barrels “WPA”, which stands for “White Pinot Attempt.” If I was a religious person, I’d say he “lets go and lets God” with this wine. Unfortunately the stars did not align in 2013, but both 2011 and 2012 did get some exciting scores from the Wine Advocate. When I was at Jay’s this past Friday, he was down to less than 10 cases. Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

Next! This is a favorite of mine, the 2013 Yates Conwill Vineyard Pinot Noir: 

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The nose on this wine is truly ridiculous. Freaking intoxicating. This is the kind of wine that reinforces my earlier claim that 2013 is an exciting vintage, at least for my tastebuds. Elegant, ethereal, gorgeous. Sour cherry, red raspberry, plum, clove, anise, subtle vanilla, and a youthful energy. The palate is a little grippy- this wine is, after all, an infant- with a firm bite that I find pleasant now, but I think will soften and reward with a lil time. The tannin leaves a twinge or two on your teeth on the way out, kind of like black tea does.

I am reminded of Hesh from The Sopranos: “a hit is a hit.” This is a hit, friends. If you’re one of those 2012-obsessed Oregon Pinot fans, it might not be your cup of joe. But really. You should probably evolve anyway.

I’m starting to get a little wordy, so I must wrap up with a quick note about Jay’s new release DINNERS that are rapidly approaching! Cuisine from The Painted Lady, new releases of EIEIO Pinot and Chardonnay, and shoes are optional? Count me in. Seems like you should put July 2nd &/or 3rd on your calendar if you’re local.

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Cheers!

Oregon Olive Mill Chocolate Chip Cookies!

We interrupt my normal wine ramblings with a special edition- COOKIES. Would you believe me if I told you this beautiful, well-lit, expertly iPhone photographed cookie was made with olive oil? Local Oregon olive oil at that?

YES- Olive Oil. Believe it.

YES- Olive Oil. Believe it.

Believe it! Because it is. May is Oregon Wine Month, but what better time to pause and marvel at another agricultural product made right here in Oregon? About 10 minutes from my house, at the Oregon Olive Mill– also home to Durant Vineyards. Collectively this idyllic little spot in Dundee is known as Red Ridge Farms. I went to an olive oil tasting there not so long ago, and my wine-lovin’ little self had a truly eye-opening experience trying all the different varietals of olive oils produced there…

Koroneiki has my heart.

Koroneiki has my heart.

Meet olive oil badass Libby Clow:

#gingersrule

Libby is the olive oil program ambassador at Red Ridge and she’s pretty awesome. At some point during the our tasting, she mentioned that she had a recipe for chocolate chip cookies using olive oil rather than butter. I was intrigued. As a lifelong baker, I immediately started picturing all the things that could go wrong when one tried to sub olive oil for butter. What about the texture? Surely they’ll be dry. Butter gets fluffy, olive oil doesn’t. And what about that errr... olivey flavor? I knew I had to try it for myself to see if Libby was telling the truth. Fortunately, they hooked it up with the recipe!

I set up shop, armed and ready.

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The part I was most skeptical about was first- I’ve taken the liberty of documenting the phases for you so you can see how the sugars and the oil look when you whip them:

I did switch the attachment to whip, for those paying attention.

I did switch the attachment to whip, for those paying attention.

The recipe’s instructions call for whipping the oil and sugars together in phases; whip, let rest, whip again, etc. You get the idea. The mixture does actually get beautifully frothy and creamy. Not fluffy the way butter does, but still successful. The end resulting dough is a bit crumbly, but nothing out of the ordinary or suspicious.

Salt = key ingredient.

Salt = key ingredient.

Ball ’em up, and sprinkle some fancy salt of your choosing. I think I actually used boring old Kosher salt, but it did the job.

YEESSS.

YEESSS.

Baking temperature is 325′ for 10-12 minutes. Side note- mine took a bit longer- maybe 20 minutes. Perhaps it was my oven. I let them rest on the hot cookie sheet for a good while. End result?

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You know you wanted to see it again. So what WAS the texture like? And the olivey taste? I actually loved the texture. Slightly more chewy than your average cookie, with a bit of density. Not dry in the least. Flavor? Awesome! That hint of richness from the olive oil made for a lovely backdrop of flavor in this confection. You don’t taste olives in this cookie, per say, but there’s this underlying interestingness (is that a word?) that lingers and intrigues. Another side note- I believe in the power of butter in my baked goods, so I mostly made this recipe out of sheer curiosity. But ended up really liking it, and will definitely make it again.

Red Ridge farms is home to 13,000 acres of olive trees of many different varietals. I can’t believe I was alive on earth for 33 years before I even knew that different varietals of olives existed! Like I said, truly eye-opening. This recipe calls for Arbequina. I have fallen hard for the spicy, peppery Koroneiki in my daily life and pretty much drench everything I can in it. Red Ridge presses their own olives, but since we are in chilly Oregon after all, their oils are supplemented with olives from Northern California. The olives are driven up here under cover of night, like a stealth Game of Thrones-style abduction. Brilliance.

What you’ve all been waiting for is, perhaps, the recipe! Here ya go. Knock yourselves out! Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with cookies. Its a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Libby’s EVOO cookies

Bake safely!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 14! Let’s Evolve.

Sokol Blosser’s Evolution White has been a longtime favorite of mine. I do believe it was one of the first white wines I found myself liking. I shudder to think that there WAS a time in my life that I didn’t like white wine, but we all must come to terms with our younger, dumber selves. I like the Evo White because it stayed consistent year to year; I could always be guaranteed of its engaging, lively, fruit-forward palate and a thirst-quenching acidic finish. It also goes with pretty darn close to everything. But contrary to how I’m beginning this post, this review is actually of the Red version of the Evolution series, Evolution Red, NV Oregon. 

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I believe this is now the third incarnation of the Evolution Red (?) I might be incorrect there, but it seems like about three years ago that this wine was first poured for me at the restaurant as a brand-new introduction. Maybe four, actually. Oye. I feel old all of a sudden. So that was how they always labeled the White: it wasn’t a vintage or a non-vintage, it was an incarnation. I think they’re up to about 20 incarnations of the White. As I stated in a post last week, I think a Non-Vintage wine can be a real asset. It keeps a consistent style every year and the cost in a friendly zone.

With the white, it was always a blend of (up to) 9 varietals. In the Red, they’re playing their hand pretty close and not really disclosing much of the blend at all. They’ll go as far as to say “Syrah-based”, but the rest is up to our imaginations. So let us deduce: the color on this wine is medium-light, and we are in Oregon, so we can presume that a bit of Pinot Noir is at play here. The nose is abundantly fruity and big- maybe a splash of Zin? If there’s Syrah, then chances are there’s Zin, in my opinion. Sangiovese would be a likely player, too- similar bodied to the Pinot Noir, but adding some interest. The texture is soft and not overly acidic. For my taste, maybe a bit too soft- but you know the expression “you can’t please all the people all the time”? Well, this wine comes pretty close to such, and I think that was the intention. If you are having a party and need to please all or at least most of the people? Go for it. Its smooth, light, fruity and easy to get along with. Red currant, candied strawberry, blood orange, a streak of citrus peel, warm cinnamon and milk chocolate are all workin’ their way around in this wine.

I’ve just discovered that the website says there’s a touch of Evolution White in here, too. Coulda fooled me, for sure, although I’m sure it lifts the overall weight of the wine in a general “up” direction.

It's about time. True dat.

It’s about time. True dat.

This definitely isn’t a wine that demands a complex explanation; it’s meant to be a perfect Wednesday night wine. Which is what it is right now, and I really can’t complain. Stella approves as well:

Wine Wednesday on couch with dog. Not bad.

Wine Wednesday on couch with dog. Not bad.

I bought this wine for something like $17 at Safeway. Don’t judge. Cheers! We’re halfway through the week!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 11!

Coming to you from a soggy Sunday afternoon at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, allow me to present my first (but definitely not last) Riesling of this project- Mad Violets Wine Co. Riesling, 2012 Dundee Hills!

Riesling Rules.

Riesling Rules.

I’ve been seeing these wines around the area and crushing hard on the labels for a few weeks. I think they’re well-designed, eye-catching and classy. The owners’ property is in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the Buttonfield Estate Vineyard. This Riesling is sourced from the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. I used to drive by the Maresh vineyard every day- its effing gorgeous. This is, according to the Mad Violets website, the oldest Riesling vineyard in Yamhill County, planted in 1970. This wine definitely has a gorgeous “old vine” quality to it; the concentration and minerality are very striking.

At just 180 cases made (and from the Maresh Vineyard?!), this wine is insanely well-priced at $25. Its clean, focused, pristine and tastes damn good. Absolutely nothing in the world makes me want food more than Riesling. Sushi? Yes. Thai? Yes. And my favorite thing with Riesling? FRIED CHICKEN. Well, specifically you need fried chicken with a sweet n’ spicy sauce like honey-wasabi. The crunchy/salty of fried chicken and obvious fat content is cut so well by a high-acid Riesling. I’m making myself hungry. I’m also making myself want to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi in Vegas and eat their fried chicken. Oye. 

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The initial nose on this wine is a pleasant medium petrol; I really try not to use that word often because I don’t want it to be off-putting, but true Riesling-lovers will understand what I mean; Petrol is actually a delicious thing to smell. Following close behind are layers of prickly lime zest, honeysuckle, caramelized pears, apricots and fuzzy white peach. Well-balanced and freaking gulpable. At 10% alcohol, this is both a great food wine and a perfect afternoon sipper.

After I left the Studio, I went and tried a few Rieslings at a nearby winery that sported some very high scores and slightly higher price points. While I did like them, honestly I preferred this one. It has serious heart and soul. Kudos!

Anyone have a suggestion for a Riesling I just GOTTA try? I’m on the hunt. Holler at me.

 

Chehalem Gamay Noir, 12 Oregon, Ribbon Ridge

It’s the third Thursday in November! We know what that means. Beaujolais Nouveau Day! The day the wine world rejoices in the conclusion of another year’s harvest and people everywhere toasts with a bottle of this fruity, light little wine. Check out the Beaujolais Nouveau: Explained! post I wrote about for Wine Awesomeness: the Back Label the other day. It’s a fun lil’ read. But for my own selfish purposes, I want to delve into another kind of Gamay- the kind that grows in Oregon! Yes, it does! It is fast becoming one of my favorite Oregon grapes. If you think about it, it makes sense; the Beaujolais region and the Burgundy region of France are pretty close together, geographically. So it is logical that Gamay and Pinot Noir would both enjoy the lovely climate here in Oregon. Pinot Noir definitely put Oregon on the map, and there’s not a *ton* of Gamay planted here in comparison. But they’re worth seeking out! Especially this one, made by one of my favorite producers- Chehalem Wines!

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Mysterious looking.. that’s because it came from a TAP!

Wine on tap- woohoo!

Wine on tap- woohoo!

Yup, as you can see above, I bought this wine “growler-style”! I’ve been wrestling with whether its still called a growler if its a Liter, and if it has wine rather than beer. I don’t see why not. Come to find out, my receipt from Chehalem says “growler.” So that answers that. So on the day that I visited the Chehalem Tasting Room in Newberg, there was Pinot Blanc and Gamay both on tap. The glass containers are $5 the first time you buy them, and then they’re yours. The cost, for 1 Liter of what’s on tap, is the same as the cost of a 750ml bottle of that wine. But you get a ‘lil bit more! And that’s a nice “thank you” for reusing your packaging, cutting down your footprint, and just in general making a little less work for those involved. Plus, it’s cool! Wine in keg form is not exactly a brand-new idea, but plenty (like Chehalem) are embracing it. Its great for restaurants, as the product stays fresher and there’s very little waste. You may have been to a restaurant or wine bar with a wine tap system, they’re becoming more popular.

I love this.

I love this.

So, why exactly do I love Oregon Gamay? Because its good- obvs. It’s quite different than French Gamay (especially Beaujolais Nouveau- that’s sort of in it’s own category), but there are slight overlaps. You might think it was Pinot Noir if you had to take a wild guess. The most obvious difference, right off the bat, is that it is darker in color. A blackish-purple. Whereas Pinot Noir can sometimes be a little “shy”, this Gamay is pretty outgoing. A broad palate of crushed blackberries and plum compote are met with high tones of red raspberry and black cherry. There is a noticeable freshness (I think this quality makes it a great tap wine) and vibrancy to this wine’s personality. The acidic balance is nice, and it drinks incredibly easily. Some soft floral notes, combined with a little herbaceous-ness (that’s a word), make this a multi-dimensional and versatile wine. It may even (gasp!) be a great Thanksgiving wine! I also love French Cru Beaujolais as Thanksgiving picks, so this is not exactly a revelatory statement.

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I’ve now had a total of three 2012 Oregon Gamay Noir, and they’ve all been fantastic. Beaujolais is a touch warmer than Burgundy, so maybe the Gamay grapes just reveled in this slightly warmer vintage here in Willamette. So here we are, getting to reap the benefits of happy grapes. That makes me happy. This kinda happy:

Happyyyyyyyy

Happyyyyyyyy

That about wraps it up for today- cheers, y’all! This bottle was purchased at the Chehalem Tasting Room in Newberg for $24. 

 

The Eyrie Vineyards Chasselas Doré, 13 Dundee Hills

What the what?

Okay, so now I’m just straight up showing off a little. I’m showing off that I have access to this 80 case produced Swiss varietal grown in Willamette’s Dundee Hills. The wind is currently howling around me as I sit in the middle of the Dundee Hills (well, I’m inside, but y’know). So what better time than now to drink a light, fresh and clean white wine?

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Just so you’re forewarned, this wine is only available at the winery. 80 cases were made, and as of yesterday they had about 8 left, according to the tasting room staff. Given this fact, and the fact that I’m a sucker for a white wine I’ve never heard of, how could I not buy it? However, other wines from The Eyrie *are* available in SC. They don’t have a huge presence there, but they are available. And lemmee tell ya- their 2012 Willamette Pinot Noir deserves your attention. It has all the charm of the 2012 vintage, but is a tad more refined and shy than some of it’s “slutty” 2012 siblings.

Yeah, I said it.

Anyhow. This wine is just all kinds of fun. It is the perfect trifecta of the weird white; unrecognizable (to most people), difficult to pronounce (until someone tells you), and small-production. Booyah! So, I made myself a couple handy phonetic guides on the tasting sheet. Only problem was, once I got home, I couldn’t decipher them. So, after a quick consult with a fellow wine peep- its Chass-luh Door-ray. Like a Morey eel.

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So, little Chasselas is a varietal widely planted in Switzerland. The Swiss enjoy it with fondue, I’ve been told. I’ve never been a big fondue fan, but I can see this wine being a nice complement to a rich cheese. There is a vague suggestion of something nutty here, but mostly this wine just graces your palate with its presence… as they write in their tasting notes, its “ethereal.” Light citrus, fresh soap, soft minerality. Leaves your mouth feeling uplifted. This wine is sort of like a fairy. Like Thumbelina. Remember Thumbelina?! I didn’t until just now. This is why I love writing!

If tasted blind, I can see someone thinking this was a mild, unoaked Washington State Chardonnay, or maybe an Alsatian white. But there’s something extra-special about this one. You can tell it was treated carefully. Which is something that I think really stands out about The Eyrie wines in general. They’re a gift for the senses.

This wine really screams Summer in South Carolina to me. I know James and I and Bryan would’ve crushed this wine if given the opportunity. But, you can’t have them all. Having it now is enough for me.

Just for a laugh, check out all the names that Chasselas Doré also goes by, according to Wikipedia:

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what in the actual fuck?

One thing I did notice? Chasselas Noir is another word for Dolcetto. Remember how I just wrote about a a Dolcetto the other day? Maybe my brain was on some kinda wavelength that I didn’t even know about!

I purchased this wine at The Eyrie Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville for $27. 

Cheers, y’all!