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 19! Oink.

Happy Monday! This is such a fun and brilliant little wine- the EIEIO Swine Wine “Rie-Chard”, 2013 Willamette Valley. 

Piglet.

Piglet. Adorbs. 

I actually had this bottle several weeks ago, when I had the good fortune to be introduced to Jay McDonald, winemaker and owner of EIEIO wines (Jay McDonald had a farm, EIEIO! get it?!) I absolutely loved it the minute I saw it. I do have a fondness for pigs, so I was a little predisposed.

Jay is sort of like a Horcrux of this area… but in a good way. I’ll explain. Jay opened The Tasting Room in Carlton back in the day right in the center of town in a really cool old bank building. I can’t find an exact date, but suffice to say it was right when a lot of Oregon winemakers that are now very well-established were just getting their start. The Tasting Room was a retail store/tasting room (go figure) where local producers could get their wines out to the people before they were big enough to have tasting rooms of their own. Legend holds that many-a now well-known winemakers had help from Jay in the beginning. Thats why he’s a Horcrux- he has a bit of all of their souls. But again, not in a sinister way.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

So that is a little background- but Jay has been making his own wine since 1998. The “Swine Wines” as they’re called, come in Pinot Noir and this Rie-Chard form. This particular bottle is known as a Piglet, as its a 375ml bottle. The full-size 750ml’s are available for purchase on his website here. I’m not totally positive on the availability of the 375’s, so don’t hate me.

So whats the story on this little Piggy? It is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, not your most common bedfellows; obviously no one told them that, because they make a lovely couple in this wine. It captures the cool-climate persona of the Willamette Valley with finesse. Gentle, yet with a bracing acidity, it will enchant with aromas of pear, quince, green apple and nuances of honeysuckle. If you’re patient enough to let this wine open up, its texture will soften and charm your pants off. This wine is actually what began my fondness for half bottles. They’re just fun, doggone it. A slight amount of residual sugar makes it very accessible and bright. Good clean fun. Plus, did I mention its cute? Its cute.

Jay’s Chardonnay is downright fantastic as well- really looking forward to the Chardonnay Symposium in just over a month! This concludes Day 19. Hope you enjoyed your intro to one of the coolest dudes in the Valley!

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.