Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, days 20 & 21: the tale of two white blends…

Tonight? I’m all about white. I knew when I started this endeavor that it would end up being white heavy (I was okay with that), but I AM going to make an effort towards reds this weekend. But tonight, its all about white. Because I like it, first of all, and because I made some delicious spicy veggie fried rice for dinner, which both of these wines complement perfectly! Win.

So tonight we have a tale of two white blends! One that I impulse bought, and one that I’ve been wanting to try since last Summer: the Whoa Nelly! “Whoa Nelly White”, 13 Willamette Valley and the Eveshem Wood “Blanc de Puits Sec” Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer, 13 Eola-Amity Hills.

White white and more white!

White white and more white!

So the Whoa Nelly caught my eye at Roth’s while I was picking up some adorable baby shiitake mushrooms for my fried rice. I mean really, the darn things are adorable:

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Not the first, and definitely not the last time I’ve impulsed purchased wine while grocery shopping by any means, this one caught my eye because I was seeking a white blend and I dug the label. Upon further inspection, while it says Whoa Nelly White on the front, the back says 2013 Arneis. I perked up at the sight of this, because I absolutely love Oregon Arneis. And by that I mean, I’ve had exactly one and I love it- its from Ponzi. Is there more Arneis to be found? I don’t believe I’ve come across one until today.

Whoa! Nelly.

Whoa! Nelly.

I am a tad beguiled. Is it all Arneis or is it a blend? I tend to think that because the front label says its a white, it kinda has to be a blend. I don’t think you’re allowed to put a single varietal on a bottle in Oregon unless its at least 90% of that grape. It might be 95%. It might even be 100%. It’s 8:00pm and I’m drinking wine, so my CSW seems to be failing right about now. I do know that its different for every state, and I think its relatively high in Oregon, compared to Cali. In summation, I think if it were 100% Arneis, it would say Arneis on the front. Lets move on, I’ve had enough of this.

This wine is awesome! For $13.99? Are you kidding me? I’d be curious to know exactly whats in it, but in truth? I don’t really care- the stuff is delish. Its a lean, fresh and floral style- slightly textured and aromatic. Honeysuckle, jasmine, ripe pears and a nice bite of lemon and candied orange. Super fun and will literally go with anything. Its relatively high acid, but not streaky.

The interesting thing here is that this wine label is a side project of Helioterra, a beloved member of the SE Wine Collective that has some really nice press. I’ve yet to have any of their wines, but consider it on the list of things to try. They’re also affiliated with the Guild Wines, which I absolutely LOVED back in South Carolina. The Guild Red and White blends were seriously some of the best in their price range for what they were, and where they were from. Look ’em up! Seems like they’re doing something right.

Next? A beloved winery in Eola-Amity Hills, Evesham Wood:

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We did quite well with Evesham Wood in SC- their Pinots always came in and sold out very quickly. Last year I got on their mailing list, and (albeit, a tad late) tried to order a bunch of their white wines and have them shipped to SC, as they weren’t distributed there. Unfortunately I was late, and it had gotten too hot to ship to SC, and I didn’t feel like waiting until October (okay, maybe I’m impatient). So how fortunate of me that I decided to up and move here, where I can buy their whites!

This wine is a racy blend of 85% Pinot Gris and 15% Gewürztraminer. Gewurz is fairly common in Eola-Amity and a really fun white that reminisces of a Riesling, but a bit spicier. Pinot Gris, of course, is an Oregon staple. A “Gris-ish” nose of wet stone, apricots, and sparkly minerals is very charming. Playing a nice second fiddle are some accents of white pepper, rose petal and a creamy lemon-ness. A touch of sourdough might be hiding in there, too. Evesham Wood is certified Organic, too, which is worth noting. I haven’t been there yet- I actually sent them a quick email about 2 weeks ago about coming in to taste, but I suspect that they’re closed for the winter. But I’ll be there! It’ll happen. I bought this bottle at Roth’s as well, for $15.99 I think.

I need suggestions! Anyone have an Oregon Red I just HAVE to have? Maybe a funky Southern Oregon Mourvedre that kicks serious ass?

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Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: day 5! Fun with DePonte.

Here we are on day five, and I ain’t even slowin’ down yet! However, I did need to give my wallet a rest and draw back on a wine I drank a few weeks back and LOVED- the DePonte Cellars Melon de Bourgogne, 2013 Dundee Hills!

Aromatic white, say what?!

Aromatic white, say what?!

Just when you think you’ve heard of all the wacky whites in Oregon, here comes another one! Actually, we’ve barely grazed the surface in the white department. More to come. This wine is actually fairly well-known here, and is considered to be DePonte Cellars “flagship” white, amongst a beautiful lineup of Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs. These wines are not distributed in South Carolina, so I was unaware of their existence until I moved here. Score!

We’ve now noted that both Alsatian and Spanish varietals can flourish here, and so little Melon brings us to France, specifically to the Loire Valley. In the Loire, Melon de Bourgogne is known as Muscadet. Let it be known that a dry Muscadet is perhaps one of my faaaavorite things in the world. Its a genius little wine; there are insane values to be found, they’re perfect for hot weather and with shellfish.

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However, the Nantes region of the Loire Valley where Muscadet comes from is a stone’s throw from the Ocean, so it behaves a bit differently there. Noticeably minerally, briney (mmmm) and with a bracing “fresh ocean breeze” sort of quality. The Willamette Valley is fairly close to the ocean but there is that whole mountain range thing that separates them. We still do benefit from ocean breeze and fog, but not in precisely the same way that Muscadet grapes do. Throw that together with a different soil type and you’ve got a completely different wine.

The DePonte Melon takes on a very tropical and floral persona; very outgoing and sunshiney. Energetic, with bright and resounding jasmine, white flowers and honeysuckle. Golden delicious apple, pears and pineapple are also abundant, and it finishes with really nice acidity. Just about 1000 cases were made of the 2013 vintage.

Food-wise, this wine differs from its French cousin strikingly. Whereas Muscadet and oysters are a dream, this wine could handle an oyster- but perhaps one with a hint of something fruity/citrusy, maybe with the addition of a mignonette. And a more sweet/succulent oyster, not the ultra-briney ones. The DePonte website suggests scallops- I would say absolutely to this idea, but again, a sweet/fresh preparation rather than savory. Savory would be a no-no in my taste bud premonitions. The tropical and floral-ness of this wine would clash with savory. But, I’d be hard pressed to find a better Summertime sipper than this. Fo sho. Writing this has really made me long for warm weather. Le sigh….

A handful of other producers in Oregon make/plant Melon, but I’ve yet to come across one. The Eyrie made one in 2010, it looks like. Panther Creek did at one time, but I don’t see it on their site as of now.

That wraps up day 5! This wine was purchased at the “Deck the Hills” Dundee Hills Tasting Event held at Argyle Winery for $24. I think. 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 2!

Day 2! Typically I would have broken at least one resolution by now, but I’m determined to see this project through. And what better way than with a barely recognizable varietal that you might not know exists- Adelsheim Auxerrois, 2013 Ribbon Springs Vineyard! 

Aux-sair-WHAT?

Aux-sair-WHAT?

Oak-sair-wah. There ya go. The nice folks at Adelsheim actually put that on the back of the bottle. Almost as if they saw that coming…

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So what’s the deal with Auxerrois? Its an Alsatian varietal, where its often blended with Pinot Blanc or used in sparkling Cremant d’Alsace production. I had an Alsatian wine that was labeled Pinot Blanc this Summer, and it was at least half Auxerrois. And it was damn good, as I recall.

Not much Auxerrois at all is planted in Oregon, and this vineyard in Ribbon Ridge may be the largest. Apparently there’s some to be found a bit further south in the Eola Amity Hills, in the Zenith vineyard (note to self: investigate this), and a producer called Elemental Cellars. Gotta track this down! I’d be curious to see how the grape behaved in a different vineyard. Anyway!

I think 2013 was a great year for Oregon whites; haven’t wrapped my head around why just yet, but there’s something noticeably perfect about a lot of whites I’ve tried from this vintage. This wine is as light and fresh as it gets. It plays a close fiddle to Pinot Blanc in the “what would I like to drink while I eat fresh, raw oysters” question. High minerality is offset by delicate fruit (green apple, pear and melon) and some herbal and fennel-y notes. I will say, this wine was pretty tightly wound on the first day I opened it. It actually relaxed a bit and softened into its structure on day two. While it doesn’t scream loudly, what it does have to say it says nicely and in a polite and refreshing fashion. Good clean fun right here.

Also, it didn’t suck that this was the view at Adelsheim on the day I bought this wine:

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A few fun facts for the hardcore wine people out there: they ferment just 9% of this wine in neutral oak barrels. The remaining 91% stay in stainless steel, and it undergoes no malolactic fermentation. Interesting. To me, at least. I like learning about all the little percentage details like this. So with that, I wrap up Day 2! Hope your brain feels just a bit bigger than it did when you started reading, and that now you have to satiate a craving for fresh oysters. Cheers!

I bought this juice for $25 at the Adelsheim tasting room located here

PS: Columbia SC peeps: this wine IS available in SC, so go talk to Ricky or Jennifer to see about ordering some!

Chapter 24 “The Last Chapter” Pinot Noir, 12 Oregon, Willamette

Am I the only person on Earth to be drinking “The Last Chapter” by Chapter 24 while reclined on air mattress listening to Britney Spears?

Perhaps. Very possibly.

And for the record, I am listening to “90’s” on Spotify and this song just HAPPENED to come on. I mean, I’m 32. I don’t sit around listening to Britney’s first album in it’s *entirety*. But it’s pretty hard to resist when it does come on. Admit it.

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So the reason I led with that little intro was because this isn’t exactly the kind of wine you’d typically drink on a boring night while you’re wearing sweatpants and doing nothing in particular. This is one of the more expensive wines I’ve ever written about; and truthfully, it isn’t *that* much when you compare it to some of the big heavy hitters in boutique Napa wineries, famous century-old French estates, and the like. It sells for $90 at the tasting room. This wine also scored 96 points from Wine & Spirits, 93 from Wine Spectator, and 94 from Stephen Tanzer. When you hear scores like that, and you see the price tag, you might be inclined to dismiss it, thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to its praise and for that kinda money, you’d just as soon get a half case of some good everyday drinkers. There’s something to be said for that. But, after visiting this wine over the course of a weekend, I have to tell you- it does live up to the hype. It’s worth it. Sorry haters, but it just kinda is.

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Now I love Oregon wine- this much we know. And part of me thinks- well, you’re GD right you can make good wine when you start out bankrolled and with a powerhouse founding/winemaking team (Mark Tarlov and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair). Frenchie, in case you don’t know, is a very well-known and well-respected oeneologist/owner of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanee (Burgundy). The cool kids call it Voz-Rom, by the way. In comparison, I respect small operations wholeheartedly and always will. They are what make industries happen.

But to dismiss this wine for that reason alone would be remiss. True, scores do set expectations and force people to draw comparisons and come to conclusions they might not have come to on their own. However, the fact remains that this is beautifully made juice. And we live in a world where scores happen. So let’s leave that behind for now.

I don’t want to blather on too much longer before I get to the actual tasting notes, but it is worth noting that Chapter 24 Vineyards is a somewhat unique project in that it’s two “staple” bottlings are bottled by soil type, not by individual AVA. “The Fire” is sourced from AVAs with volcanic soil and “The Flood” from AVAs with sedimentary soil (these sell for $60 each). “The Last Chapter” comes from the top four vineyards that are used in Fire and Flood. So when you taste these wines, you’re also almost getting a little lesson in how different soil types taste. Which is pretty cool!

Technically, you could do that with almost any single vineyard bottling that you choose to purchase. Because vineyard sites are typically small enough that they’re only made up of one soil type. Technically. But it’s still really fun to be able to taste Fire and Flood side by side, and know that they’re from two different soil types in the same year. Okay, enough of that…. WHAT the F*%@ does it taste like?!

The nose is somewhat subtle, with fragrant red raspberry, plum & wild strawberry on the forefront, but very delicately woven nutmeg, clove and star anise following close behind. The palate is silky for days and met with darker notes of blackberry, briar patch, berry liqueur and very soft vanilla. It has tannin, but its completely seamless. The texture is really what this wine is all about. Without going into too many geeky details, there are some really interesting winemaking techniques at use here that make the texture happen. Its an experiential wine; it glides, it floats. Ephemeral, yet all the big fruit characteristics of the vintage are there. You’ll see what I mean.

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Chapter 24 tasting room! Brand-spankin’ new, located on the corner of 99 and 5th St in Newberg. 

Just under 900 cases of The Last Chapter were made. I’ll go out on a (not so big) limb and say it is worth seeking one out. Or, if you’re a local Oregonian, it’s *definitely* worth stopping in to the tasting room. It’s convenient (basically right in front of Dobbes, and right before Argyle, if you’re heading West on 99).

In the interest of full disclosure, I did help out at the Chapter 24 tasting room for Thanksgiving weekend, but I wasn’t paid to say nice things about the wine. I promise. The Oregon adventure continues to be a wild ride, but I am enjoying it; working here and getting to know these wines was a total treat.

Cheers, y’all!