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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Wine Wednesday edition: Statera Cellars

Sometimes I feel busier than I am. And then sometimes I actually am busy. It was my original intention to post this in an attempt to lend a hand to some fellow Oregon wine industry folks, Luke Mathews and Meredith Bell so they could reach their kickstarter goal for their baby, Statera Cellars. Luke emailed me some info last week, and I was intrigued. I was headed to see Straight Outta Compton that night, so I came up with this brainchild:

Yeah, I'm kinda thug like that.

I’ll be here all night, folks.

And yes, I created a few more Straight Outta images that day. This one was the best. But it does have basis in reality- from their press release:

“Three single vineyard Chardonnay wines from Statera Cellars are in their final stages of fermentation. Established in 2014, Statera Cellars is an independent winery that focuses exclusively on Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley–an area predominantly known for pinot noir–by examining wines made from storied single vineyards.

Statera Cellars is the brainchild of Meredith Bell & Luke Mathews, two area locals whose mission is to produce Chardonnay with zero additives until bottling. Using only neutral oak, native ferments and temperature control, Statera wines are markedly natural. The first vintage will be released early in 2016 but opportunities to purchase futures and taste barrel samples with the winemakers will be available during summer 2015.”

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I’d had it in mind to write something on young people in the area who are starting their own projects, as I think its a very cool thing to witness. Something that attracted me to Oregon was the sense of community that is alive and well here. Sure enough, when I went to Luke & Meredith’s kickstarter today as I sat down to write this, they had just surpassed their goal! I was internally happy, and still thought I’d throw up this post regardless. If they collect $300 more dollars before August 29th, they can purchase a settling tank. $500 more and a settling tank, a bulldog, and hoses can be purchased. I read that and at first thought it meant that they would get an *actual* bulldog. Which would also be great, wouldn’t it?

They’re offering some pretty cool rewards to their backers, too: a picnic in a vineyard, dinners, bombshell leggings (okay, so I’m not cool enough to even know what those are, but they look great), and a release party planned for April of next year. Fun times! I know I’ll be looking forward to tasting what Luke & Meredith have created. Check it out and consider pouring one out for these two and their hard work.

Cheers!

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!

Lumos Gewürztraminer, 12 Temperance Hill

Happy Sunday evening! I took a quick break after the conclusion of Thirty Oregon Grapes just to regroup- but I’m back at it tonight with a grape I fully intended on including in the project, but just didn’t get to it- Gewürztraminer! There was a bit of Gewürz in the Evesham Wood Blanc de Puits Sec blend, but its a grape that really deserves its own post. In the life of an aromatic white lover, this one is definitely a favorite.

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I was moderately familiar with Lumos prior to this weekend, but I still didn’t realize they had a little tasting room right in downtown McMinnville until recently! They share the space with Honest Chocolates, which were totally drool-worthy. They’re open Thursday-Sunday and after tasting through their wines yesterday, it really dawned on me what an insane value their wines are. Their case production is very small and the majority of their fruit comes from the Temperance Hill Vineyard (this one included), which is a beloved site in the Eola-Amity Hills. Many a winery (Adelsheim, Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, J.K. Carriere, Panther Creek, R. Stuart, and St. Innocent just to name a few) have discovered the virtues of this site. Lumos owner and winemaker Dai Crisp is Temperance Hill’s vineyard manager. Yes, that’s his name; he’s Welch, if you can believe that!

So at 171 cases made, all Temperance Hill fruit, and boasting a special price of $15 (for the 2012 vintage), this Gewürz is pretty nuts, in my opinion. Even at its normal price of $19, it would still be a great value. I love Gewürz because its like Riesling’s wicked stepsibling. A touch more animated in character, a bit more perfumed, but still incredibly fun to pair with food and perfect afternoon sippers.

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There. Did I sell you on the grape itself? Now. THIS one. The ’12 Lumos is a temptress; the nose is ridiculously pretty and floral with honeysuckle, fresh white flowers, plum, golden apple and apricot in abundance. A slight twang of citrus on the palate- but mostly soft, fresh tangerine- nothing piercing. The minerality lingers for a bit, and the texture is soft. I’d definitely call this one a “quaffer.” Quaff, while a totally ridiculous word, really does summarize a wine thats perfect for wiling away an afternoon and sipping slowly and without purpose. A nice little companion.

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The Lumos tasting room in Mac is totally worth a stop. On the day I went, they were pouring a couple of 2010 vintage Pinots that were showing beautifully, and the Rosé also had me at “hello.” Its just past Nicks on 3rd Street. I’ll definitely be looking forward to some of their new releases this Spring!

That’s all I got for tonight! Many thanks to Heidi Riehl at Lumos for the tasting. Y’all keep it real out there in wine-drinkin’ world. I’ll be back with a post about the lovely Leah Jorgensen later this week…

 

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.

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.