Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Days 16 & 17: Willakenzie!

I didn’t forget about days 16 and 17! I did take one day off, though. This whole “Friday” being the end of the week thing is new to me, so I have trouble focusing on anything on Friday afternoons. But I knew I had a great duo for today: two awesome picks from Willakenzie Estate! I bought these wines on a magical afternoon of sunshine and lemon drops. Between Willakenzie and Patton Valley, it was actually one of my favorite tasting days I’ve had since I’ve been here. So allow that to be a preface to these two wines, the WillaKenzie Estate Blanc de Pinots, 2011 and WillaKenzie Estate Gamay Noir, 2012.

So, remember when I said Pinot Noir wasn’t allowed in my project unless it was blended? Well, I pretty much made that rule because of this wine. Because I already owned it, loved it, wanted to marry it, and put it in this series of posts.

 

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

This wine is included because, although I don’t think its disclosed on the bottle, it IS blended with a bit of Gamay and Pinot Meunier. For anyone that doesn’t know, it IS possible to make a white wine out of a Pinot Noir grape! A grape’s color is contained in its skin, so if you crush it right quick (Southern expression), the skin’s color doesn’t bleed into the actual juice. You 86 the skins and that shit turns out white. Voila! 

The first white Pinot Noir I had was from Anne Amie about 5 years ago, and I had never heard of such a thing. Since then, I see the trend continuing, but most wineries that make one don’t make enough to sell to the masses- I’m not sure if this one sees any distribution at all, but don’t quote me on that.

IMG_8046This has been, to date, my favorite White Pinot I’ve tasted. Why? Its style is a bit different; White Pinot is sort of a novelty, and this one in particular is fermented in stainless steel, maintaining the high acidity and overall cool nature of the 2011 vintage. White Pinot can be barrel fermented (like Red Pinot) and barrel aged for a more textured wine, and often is. Some might say that thats what White Pinot should be. Me? I dig this one because its the total opposite. Lean and puckery, this wine screams across your tastebuds with notes of white pepper, granny smith apple, citrus, white flowers, and a hint of sour patch kids. I really appreciate this wine’s against the grain’s nature. Its a white wine, 100%, whereas a lot of White Pinot Noirs fall into an abyss of “what am I?”  I like that too; I like a wine that challenges your notions of what it “should” be, and totally appreciate it. The Anne Amie “Prismé” is gorgeous and definitely worth your hard-earned dollars. For me, this particular wine just speaks to me. So, as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that. This could be a polarizing wine for many wine nerds, but I should at least mention that this wine got 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. Holla!

Next up? Another gem from WillaKenzie! And one of my FAVE Oregon grapes by far- GAMAY! And 2012 was absolutely spectacular for Oregon Gamay. And this Oregon Gamay.

Yum.

Yum.

Why do I like Gamay? Have I said this before? I think I have, with the Chehalem Gamay post back in November. But let me reiterate. Gamay is delicious. Gamay is deeply colored, accessible, spicy, fun, and fully alive. This particular one reverberates on the tongue with deep yet exuberant notes of blackberries, red licorice, plums and cranberry compote. Aged for 10 months in 20% new barrels, it has a touch of softness and vanilla and maintains a supreme drinkability. It should be drunk now and often, in my opinion. A super fun wine. Just do it.

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This Blanc de Pinots sparked an interesting discussion in my house about the intention behind making White Pinot in general, and what it is meant to be. I stand behind my opinion on this wine. Maybe I am remiss and haven’t paid enough homage to the history of White Pinot… but I gotta say, I think this is the most sellable White Pinot Noir that I’ve had. To me. Granted, we all sell things that we like, so maybe that’s what makes it sellable. Its an interesting subject. I certainly welcome any opinions anyone has on this style of wine and would never dismiss thoughts on the subject. All I’m sayin’ is, I like dis one.

It is also worth mentioning that WillaKenzie Estate is certified sustainable, LIVE and salmon safe. And their location is AMAZE:

I die.

I die.

I highly recommend a stop in to WillaKenzie!

I bought these wines at the tasting room for $25 and $24, respectively. Cheers, y’all!

 

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 12!

THE VIOGNIER COMETH!

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Penner Ash Viognier, 2013 Willmette Valley. I’ve been looking forward to writing about this wine for a while! And it wasn’t just this tweet from Penner Ash that made me do it…

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The crown Lynn refers to is the crown I “won” at a blending seminar at OPC. And yes, I still have it. But no, I didn’t wear it. Not this day, at least.

I’ve liked this wine since I first met it! Which was probably the 2012 vintage. This wine was available in distribution in South Carolina (albeit, not a lot) and it definitely made a few friends at a wine dinner or two held by the distributor. We used to joke that a lot of people didn’t necessarily know how to pronounce it, but they liked it. Ie: “Hey, that Vee-OG-nee is really good!” As we would say in South Carolina, bless their hearts.

Vee-OWN-yay, or sometimes VEE-uhn-yay are the two ways I’ve heard Viognier pronounced. I lean towards the former and truth be told I don’t know if one’s more correct than the other. I’ve heard pros say it both ways. But I digress…

This is such a fun Oregon grape! Viognier is a grape that originates in France, but I’ve had versions from a lotta places; both the Rhone and Southern France, California, Washington, Virginia (yes, really! and it’s GOOD- check out Breaux Vineyards if you don’t believe me), Australia and probably a few more that are escaping me. Michel Chapoutier’s “Matilda” Viognier was a recent Aussie favorite. Freakin’ great.

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Oregon’s Viognier does best in the slightly warmer regions down South. The stats on the 2013 Penner Ash indicate just that. For being 100% stainless steel, this wine has a supremely luscious texture and medium-viscosity. Abundant with notes of perfumey jasmine, ripe pears, lemon curd, mango, cantaloupe and lychee. If you’ve never smelled a lychee… well, they’re tropical, but mellow. They’re pretty delicious, actually. The thing I like about this Viognier is that it has a big personality, but it is well-balanced and not over-the-top. Sometimes I dislike Viognier, when it veers into the too perfumey arena. Where I feel like I’m at a bridge tournament in a room full of old ladies. No one wants that. This wine is graceful and a real palate-pleaser. The slight amount of residual sugar make it really appealing to a lot of palates. I’d be willing to bet that this wine would charm the pants off a lot of people in a tasting room lineup.

I purchased this wine at the Penner Ash tasting room for $30, which I drive by every day. I love being neighbors with Penner Ash! The day I was there, I took this lovely shot- it was an unreal day, plus it was Friday AND payday. Holla!

Amaze.

Amaze.

Well, happy Monday friends! And hope you swing by Penner Ash soon! Their Riesling is great too, as far as whites go. But you’d not soon be disappointed in the Pinot Noir lineup, either. My neighborhood rocks!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 7!

So, I took a risk on this one. I picked up the Gresser Vineyard “Recumbent Red”, NV Oregon at Roth’s while I was scouring for another under-the-radar red and it caught my eye. I liked the price, I liked the package, I googled it quickly to see what the blend was and a bit about the winery (I take longer to pick out wine than anyone you know). I was convinced that at $13.99, I would be in for a solid little everyday red wine, if nothing else. Interestingly, the less than $14 price range seems to be my own personal cutoff of wine I’m willing to risk buying “just to see.”

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I’m a little new to the world of actually purchasing wine as a consumer. Since I spent so long as a GM/wine buyer, I just never had need to buy wine. It just came to me. There were always open bottles that I could sip on while I finished paperwork, or a sample bottle here and there. And when I did buy wine, it was at a steep “Ricky discount”. Those were wildly varied, but always extremely acceptable. So I am sort of enjoying attacking the retail shelves, armed only with my existing knowledge, a desired budget, and whatever kind of mood I’m in.

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Initially, I thought this wine fell a little short; I think was because for some reason I had it in my head that since it was a Pinot/Syrah blend (remember, the rule is Pinot Noir can be included in my project if its blended), it would be a touch denser. On the contrary, it drinks like a Pinot Noir (go figure). But the Syrah notes I get are actually a nice little addition to the wines overall palate. The nose is overtaken by sour cherry, rhubarb, pomegranate, potpourri and dried herbs. The finish is where you pick up on some violet and white pepper additions, and a bit of a fleshed out texture- hey, Syrah! Maybe a slight hint of cured meat. It sits at 77% Pinot Noir from their estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, and 23% Syrah from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. Just 465 cases were made.

Going back to my prior incarnation as a buyer, if this wine were poured for me from a distributor and the wholesale price is what I can guess it to be (I’ll keep that a secret), I would definitely consider it as a glass pour. Especially if it were late summer/early fall; it would really fit the bill of unusual lighter reds, which we used to do very well with that time of year in SC. Plus it has good retail shelf presence, in my opinion. Good enough to get ME to buy it, at least! And I’m kind of a tough critic.

One more note about NV wines- I’m sort of a fan. Don’t be dissuaded. This included, there are some really great NV wines (still, rather than sparkling) out there that suffer a bit of an image problem. The Sokol Blosser Evolution wines are always non-vintage, and I think it helps them stay consistent from year to year. I won’t get all wordy on this subject, but just wanted to throw it out there that Non Vintage doesn’t equal total junk, as can be the perception.

Can you blame me for double fisting? I had some Patton Valley Pinot Blanc left from Day 6’s post…

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

I threw a wad of cream cheese in my tomato sauce tonight. It was kinda boss.

This winery is super small and family owned; the prices on all their wines are pretty competitive and I’d be curious to try more of their juice. Especially the Riesling. Overall this was a fun learning experience and I actually do really enjoy the wine selection at Roth’s.

Cheers to Day 7! This wine was $13.99, in case you missed that earlier. 

Here’s a preview: I’m going to combine days 8, 9 & 10 into one post and it will be called Chardonnay Party. I know I said I couldn’t repeat varietals more than once, but I have one I’ve been saving that I really want to open and I can’t resist. There may also be crab involved. It’ll be good, I promise. It’ll most likely go up on Saturday. Can you handle the suspense?!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 6!

What shall we do on day six? Take a break from some of the more hard to find grapes and drink some durn Pinot Blanc. How ’bout it?

Gimmee the Blanc.

Gimmee the Blanc.

The Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Blanc, 2013 Mora Brothers Vineyard is a delightful rendition. Hands down, Pinot Blanc is one of my favorite white Oregon grapes. Why? On average, they cost you a few more bucks than your run of the mill Pinot Gris, but those few bucks are so crucial. I will gladly extoll the virtues of Pinot Gris any day of the week, but to me a really nice Pinot Blanc brings a lot more to the table for that modest couple extra dollars you spend on it.

What strikes me about Pinot Blanc is always the minerality. I read somewhere that minerality can be a tough thing to really explain and clearly delineate. What do minerals taste like? No one eats minerals. So why describe a wine as minerally? For me it can often be more of a sensation; a pleasant little tingle on the tongue that stays with you. If you think about it logistically, minerals are found in soil; that much is simple. So a wine may have more minerality if it comes from a certain soil, or is made in a way that highlights the mineral tendencies (concrete, as an example, tends to do this). Another thing you might notice is that a “minerally” wine might make you salivate just a little. I really like that; I like for wine to leave my tastebuds wanting more. They also make great food pairing wines.

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In any case, I find Pinot Blanc to be just slightly more intriguing than Gris, and this one is no exception. It opens with delicacy; soft and floral. Accents of white peach, lime zest, green apple, Sleepytime tea, pears and clean white sheets. That sounds funny, but this wine really does remind me of freshly hung white sheets, billowing in the sunshine on a clothesline. That is one of my favorite things to smell, I should add. Blanc often has some distinct nutty aromas- I get a touch of faint almond here, but overall this wine sticks with the clean, bright fruit and freshy freshness.

Can't get enough of these views.

Can’t get enough of these views.

Just 158 cases were made, and the 2013 is the first vineyard-designate vintage for this wine. The day I went to Patton Valley was absolutely gorgeous. The northern Willamette, towards Gaston, is home to a couple of my favorite wineries. I had a really great experience in their tasting room, too; it was a quiet Friday and I was the only one there, but the associate (she may also manage the wine club? I can’t recall…) Talia, was really welcoming and we had ourselves a nice chat. I’m not 100% sure that’s how you spell her name. Plus I’m horrible with names, but I’m almost 100% sure that was her name. I’m truly sorry if its not.

They were tasting a lot of 2011 Pinot Noirs that day, too, and it was a treat. 2011 is becoming one of my favorite vintages for Pinot Noir. I guess I’m just a cold year dork like that. CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on some of the Patton Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir when it comes out. Squeeeeeee.

That concludes Day 6! I’m still having fun! Are you? This wine was purchased at the Patton Valley Vineyard Tasting Room for $20. A freakin’ steal.

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 3- we goin’ to Eola!

Eola-Amity Hills, that is! An AVA in the southern part of the Willamette Valley, and a short 20/25 minute cruise from my house. Its funny, because listening to people speak about it as “down south” made it seem so far… but its really not far. However, it is far enough and with enough slightly different soils/microclimates that you can find some unique grapes! Like THIS- the Zenith Vineyard Estate Tempranillo, 2012! I’m pumped about this one, as finding reds that aren’t Pinot in Willamette proper is a bit of a challenge. But, as I’m also discovering, once we get to Southern Oregon and the Applegate Valley there will be lots of fun reds to be explored. But later for that! Today, we gots Tempranillo.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

A Spaniard in Oregon.

So wine fans in the world might recognize this grape as being from España, and they’d be correct. Tempranillo’s “spiritual home” would be considered Spain. It likes heat, and after chatting with the tasting room associate at St. Innocent (which is where I purchased this wine- more on that later), come to find out this wine really only likes warm vintages in Oregon, like 2012. The 2008 vintage of this wine got 90 Points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

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So, just so you have a sense of where we are, route 99 runs along the left (west) side of the photo above. Just out of range of this map up 99 is the city of McMinnville. Down in the right hand corner of the map brings you roughly to the city of Salem. So many great wineries are located here. Now that I look at it closer, I think this map is a little on the old side- where you see the O’Connell vineyard pictured is actually now known as the Zenith Vineyard.

I visited St. Innocent last week and bought this bottle, as I said earlier. St. Innocent has been working with (what was then) the O’Connell vineyard since 1989, and did so until 1998, when the vineyard was leased to Willamette Valley Vineyards. In 2002, some St. Innocent customers named Tim & Kari Ramey (I’m paraphrasing all this from the St. Innocent website, by the way) purchased the O’Connell Vineyard, and in 2002 joined forces with St. Innocent winemaker and all-around awesome guy, Mark Vlossak, to form Zenith Vineyard, LLC. So Mark is the winemaker for these wines, and that was a looong way of explaining why I bought this wine at the St. Innocent tasting room. They’re sorta the same building. It’ll make sense if you go there- which you should! Zenith is huge in the area of weddings and events, I think that was sort of the idea when they purchased the site. But that is purely conjecture on my part.

I’m getting really long winded, so I’m gonna cut to the chase. Starting… NOW.

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So I’ve tasted this wine over the course of two days; on day one it was noticeably taut and had a pronounced cedar-ific nose, thanks to the luxurious 16 months it spent in American oak, 27% new. There was a prominent streak of red fruit and some higher floral tones, but this is definitely a veiny, dark wine. Deep, broad strokes of licorice, tar, earth, vanilla and blackberry that finished with a firm tannic bite. It wasn’t as bitey on day two, and actually revealed some fun notes of hickory, balsamic and more tar. Really nice juice.

My memory is escaping me, but I don’t think there’s much left of this wine, only 180 cases were made. If you’re an Oregonian, consider jetting down there to pick one up. While you’re there, you can try Mark’s stunning array of 2012 Pinot Noirs in the tasting room; I hadn’t had any ’12’s of his until that day and I was pretty floored. They showed more aging potential than a lot of 2012 Pinots that I’ve had to date. Do it, do it.

This wine was purchased at the St. Innocent/Zenith tasting room for $30.

Cheers to day three!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 1!

Happy New Year!

In honor of 2015 being an exciting year for me, I’m embarking on a little challenge this January! Since every year I resolve to blog more, and most years I only marginally succeed, I wanted to start out with a bang. Write about an Oregon wine a day for 30 days! It’s like those 30 day gym motivational challenges, except this one has WINE. So much better. Then I thought, I gotta make it a little harder (that’s what she said) and write about 30 Oregon wines that AREN’T Pinot Noir. Not that I don’t absolutely love Pinot Noir- I did move here, after all– but I think it’ll be super awesome to highlight some of the more under the radar grapes here in Oregon. So, BAM! #Oregon30in30 is born. Here goes.

Now, for the rules. These are all self-imposed. I have consulted no one. I am the master of my domain:

1.) Pinot Noir is only allowed if it’s been blended or turned into bubbles.

2.) Repeat grapes & wineries are acceptable, but no more than twice (ie, two different Rieslings, two wines from Willakenzie, etc).

3.) I have to have tasted (duh) the wine in question, but not necessarily purchased an entire bottle- can be written up based on a tasting room experience or bummed off a roommate, etc. My credit card would not thank me if I embarked on this having to purchase every single bottle, I ain’t gonna lie.

4.) When at all possible, these have to be wines I haven’t had before.

5.) I can combine a few wines into one post, at most once a week (ie- Gamay day, etc).

So, I think this will be fun! I hope you do, too! And if you’re someone who gets an email every time I write a post… well, don’t get all “my inbox is too cluttered!” and unsubscribe. I mean, you can if you want, but I’m sure once February rolls around I’ll be back to my once-a-week-maybe schedule.

Without further adieu, here is WINE NUMERO UNO! Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Müller-Thurgau, 2013…

Müller Bubbles. Mmm.

Müller Bubbles. Mmm.

So, I really enjoyed the 2011 Kramer Brut at the Southeast Wine Collective Dinner a few weeks ago and was itching to try another one of their sparklers. Also they have a tasting room that’s walking distance to my house, so I’m constantly looking at it and saying to myself, “man, I gotta get in there.”

Well, I didn’t this time, but I will. I bought this little guy at Roth’s in McMinnville on Monday knowing I’d want to drink it on New Years and that their tasting room would not be open before then. Oof. That was a lot of planning. #thisisyouinyourthirties.

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I like the intention behind this wine; to me, it’s essentially a Prosecco but its from Oregon and its much more fun. Titillating and flirty flavors of granny smith apple, fresh flowers, honeysuckle, apricot and a nice tingle of bright acidity. Fresh and ready to party. A wine that’s clearly meant to be consumed with joy, with friends, at parties, with nothing but whimsy in the air.

This wine was made bubbly using the tank method; stainless steel fermented, aged on the lees for 5 months, then transferred to a large stainless steel tank and infused with CO2. Whammo. Sparkling wine. This method is great for highlighting a wines natural delicacy and freshness, so this is a really fun little marriage. A charming little wine, I gotta say.

I gotta get in to that tasting room. First resolution of 2015, right there!

MY BUBBLES.

MY BUBBLES.

So here’s to a new year, a new state for me and lots of new wines to explore. I’m about to throw my black eyed peas in the crock pot, and sip on this bubbly while I clean the house and listen to 90’s music. If that ain’t a good way to start the new year, I don’t know what is.

Cheers!