Matteo Correggia Brachetto “Anthos”, 2014 Piemonte

Don’t be a dweeb.

Bottles is purty.

Bottles is purty.

I will allow those to be the opening words for my first blog post since arriving back in South Carolina! Yes, that happened. It happened so fast that the memory of the 5 day cross country drive feels extremely foggy, only three weeks later. But yes, I did it, I am back, and I’m excited to say that I’m now working with Advintage Distributing. It’s been a wild first few weeks, but suffice to say I’m loving it.

Which means that I can now commence telling you about all the cool wine I’ll be selling all over Cola! I’m kicking off my “back to Columbia” blogging day with the ultimate testament to why I love wine, why I love writing about wine and why I love selling it. This wine needs me to sell it to you, just a little. Because it’s kind of a weirdo. And maybe you recall that I excel at weirdos. But it’s a brilliant little weirdo! So don’t be a dweeb, and try it! Did you know that tomorrow is Easter? I say that tongue in cheek, because I actually forgot it was Easter until roughly Wednesday. My point is, this is a great little Easter wine. What is it?

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Matteo Correggia “Anthos” Dry Brachetto from Italy’s Piemonte region, Roero specifically. Are you not familiar with Brachetto? This is a really cool place to start. Brachetto is typically made into a sweet, slightly sparkling wine (Brachetto d’Acqui). The Roero area struggles to compete with it’s nearby famous and very spendy neighbors, Barolo and Barbaresco. I find this a really exciting area to look for unusual values- this wine is case in point.

Made in a dry style, this wine captures the transparency of what is a very light, pure, highly aromatic little grape. The initial aromas are some of the more exciting I’ve stuck my nose in lately: reminiscent of a Beaujolais, it’s all about plump red berry fruit, potpourri, red twizzlers, violets, rhubarb and a nice string of interesting spice to weave it all together. This wine has very little tannin, but that touch of spice and a bit of sparkly minerality give the fruit something to hang their hat on. Without them, this would probably be like drinking boozy Kool-Aid. Which might not be the worst thing, but it would remind me of being 19 at a house party. Oye vey.

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Suggestion, and pretty please take it: chill this wine. It will help pronounce the flavors, and make it that much more quaffable. The low tannin and hint of spice make this wine ideal for charcuterie. I can see it going well with ham as well- again, great for Easter, and ham is not the easiest thing to pair with wine, IMO.

I’m leaving out the best part! This wine is $12.99. Absolutely ridiculous value, and great for entertaining a crowd. You can find it at Bottles– you know, that new place that you might not have been to yet. Great selection, great people.

Chill it and kill it, y’all. That’s all you gotta do. Happy Easter!

 

 

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Sparkling Month: Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant, 2014

Say hello to Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant!

mischief managed.

mischief managed.

This little doll is about as charming as they come. I’ve written about Division Wine Co. before, but this wine fresh from winemaker Kate Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines. Gamine means a girl with a mischievous charm. As a lover of words in general, I’m a fan of this one.  This is an enchanting wine, starting with the fact that its made from Grenache: Grenache from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Grenache is a grape I don’t typically associate with sparkling wine. There’s nothing specific that makes it wrong for sparkling (to me), but especially in a hot climate like Southern Oregon, it has the potential to turn into a hulking monster of a red wine. Alcohol contents can get super high in Grenache in general, which is what makes this wine such an altogether pleasant surprise!

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Delicate, girly, coy… and yes, a little mischievous. Pale pink, with a faint and fine bead. The nose is subtle at first, but becomes a bit more revealing after a few minutes. FullSizeRender (11)Strawberry, cherry pit, fragrant herbs & cantaloupe, leaving you with a fun zesty tingle on the tongue. Given its Pet Nat status, the sparkle that’s found here is a light one, but it doesn’t deflate and leave you wanting more- it maintains it’s fine effervescence. Actually, this wine also drinks well on day two! I opened it last night and kept it overnight with a bubble-topper, and its still razor-sharp. The actual bubbles are no longer with us, but at this point it drinks like  a light, clean, tart rosé. Which is never a bad thing.

Pet Nat sparkling has often been described as “rustic”, and with due reason- but in this case, while there is a touch of that little funk, its a very refined wine. It is sophisticated and ultra-feminine. Normally I resist the use of gender assignment when it comes to wine (because 2015), but this wine just speaks femininity to me. In all forms, not just the light, flirty, girly side of femininity- the general badass side, too. Like this:

... or maybe it's just what I'm listening to currently.

Her walk is mean, yo.

This wine will cost you a ridiculous $26. There’s no ‘this was a sample’ disclosure here. I crushed hard on this wine and bought a couple, along with the Gamine Syrah, which is likewise ridiculously good. That wine is so good, actually, that I don’t even want to tell you about it because I’m concerned it will sell out and I won’t get to have any more. I believe the PetNat was only about 70 cases made, so that too is something  you’re gonna want to get your paws on rather soon, IMO. I think this wine is a really fantastic step for Oregon sparkling in general. A year ago if you would have told me there was a PetNat Grenache Rosé coming out of Southern Oregon, I might’ve looked at you CRAYzy.

One last side note- I love these labels! And to no one’s surprise, the talented Maija Rebecca did the watercolors for the Gamine wines. Love. Her.

I love this wine. It reminds me of pale pink lipstick, parasols, dimples, muddy pink rain boots, a sunny field of lavender, beachy hair waves, and Queen Anne’s lace. How’s that for free-association?

Sparkling Month! Analemma Blanc de Noir, 2011

December is here! Naturally, the best time of the year to drink sparkling wine. Well, except February. That’s a good month, too- with that whole holiday that starts with a “V” occurring and all. Personally, I’ll drink sparkling just about any old month, but the craving has really come home to roost in the last few weeks. I think it really began when I was working on this article, and pouring over the Theise Sparkling Manifesto, and realizing just how painfully long it had been since I’d felt that searing acid slice across my tastebuds and the tingle of carbonation. I love the mouthwatering factor of sparkling wine more than anything. I especially love how just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Like now.

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I stole this picture from fellow writer, Tamara Belgard! It was better than mine.

But, hallelujah! There was a saving grace. The weekend of November 14th, I took a quick jaunt up to the Columbia Gorge to attend a release party for Analemma’s 2011 Atavus Blanc de Noir. Perfect! I thought. I’m unfamiliar with the Gorge area in general, still being a relative newbie, and I’ll treat it like a little vacation that’s only a day and a half long. Sold.

 

 

So what better time than December to throw together a little “Sparkling Month” on the blog? Admittedly, thus far I have slated only four Sparklers to tell you about- but they’re good ones, and they’re all very individual representations of Sparkling wine in the Pacific Northwest, and the cool directions its going in.

5.Kris_Steven_closeupWhere to start with the Analemma? There are so many cool facts about this wine. And, I have to lead by saying I was so pleasantly surprised and impressed by my experience there. Kris and Stephen are wonderfully authentic and talented people. A husband and wife team, Kris being the viticulturalist and Stephen the winemaker, they’ve really created a very special place at Analemma Wines. With some impressive notches on their belts, they had the opportunity to lease the Atavus Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge starting in 2010. The vineyard itself was planted in the 1960’s. A very high-elevation site, it sits at between 1600 and 1800 feet, making it absolutely ideal for grapes that thrive in cooler growing conditions. The resulting high acid spells perfection for sparkling grapes. 2011 was especially cold, so this wine was brought into the world at the right time. Three of the coolest things about this bubbly are: it is single varietal (Pinot Noir), single vineyard (Atavus) and single vintage (2011). Got all that?

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A sharp crispness dominates the palate, with really poignant aromas of granny smith apple, underripe red fruit, lemon peel, and a hint of sweet tarts. There are some beautifully woven baking spice notes in the background, accentuated by woodsy herbs and that salinity we all know and love in sparkling wine. Here’s the interesting thing about my experience tasting this wine for the first time. As soon as I tasted it, I thought… “Oh, wow. I *think* this is amazing,” but I didn’t have a chance to really bounce my thoughts off anyone at the time. I had read good press about the wine, so I knew it was well-respected, but sometimes when I first think something is too good initially, I like to test the waters and see if my thoughts fall in line with other people’s. Taste can easily be affected by your mood, your surroundings, etc. At least for me.

In any case, I didn’t trust myself 100%. But, as it turns out, I should have. One of my go-to Pacific Northwest palate’s is Michael Alberty at Storyteller wine in Portland. I love his tasting notes, and have the highest regard for his palate. Just a few days ago he featured this wine in his newsletter, and suffice to say- he likes it. Then I saw that Tamara over at Satiate PDX purchased a bottle at Storyteller just the other night, and she thought it was a rockstar as well. Then there’s the whole Top 100 Wines of 2014 thing, where the 2010 vintage had earned a rightful place. Kiddos, the wine’s good. These people are on to something.

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This is already super long, but I do want to make note that I also *loved * their Gewurztraminer. That thing was singin’! They weren’t kidding when they said this vineyard site was intended for Alsatian varietals. I’d love to feature it in the future at some point!

–Absolute. Last. Thing.– Wondering where the name Analemma comes from? Allow me to tell you! I love this. An analemma is a figure eight pattern that the sun creates across the sky during the course of a year. A specific location has a unique analemma- Beaune, France will have a different-looking analemma then Marlborough, New Zealand. Their logo is an artist’s rendering of the analemma at the Atavus vineyard. The top of the figure eight would occur roughly at the time of the Summer solstice. One of my favorite things about wine is that it is, in many ways, a physical representation of where it comes from. The background of the analemma itself and how it relates to the wine is pretty awesome, I think.

I’d love to thank Kris and Stephen for the really amazing, educational, and eye-opening visit. The Gorge AVA is pretty sick, y’all. I’ll be back.

 

 

 

 

Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir, 2011 Bayliss-Bower Vineyard

What a treasure.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

Ghost Hill tasting room, made from reclaimed wood.

That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ghost Hill Cellars. I visited a few weeks back, and (per usual) it took me a bit longer than I thought it would to get this post together. Until about 20 minutes ago, this was going to be a joint “ode to 2011” post, including this and one other 2011 vintage wine. Unfortunately, the wine gods had other plans, and the other bottle that I purchased is bad. A major bummer, but we’re on the rebound. It happens. I’ll still yammer on for a minute or two about the vintage, because I can’t resist, but we’ll mostly chat about Ghost Hill and this wine.

IMG_0673It was actually back in February that a friend recommended Ghost Hill to me. I believe we tried to go in once, but they were closed (because winter). Embarrassingly, it took me until October to reattempt. That’s the reality of living in wine country; we are overloaded with choices!

In any case, this place is a gem. Its probably one of the most authentically Oregon wineries I’ve visited since I’ve lived here. And it doesn’t hurt that the wines are great.

What do I mean by authentically Oregon? Ghost Hill is a 5th generation family farm. Mike and Drenda Bayliss currently farm the property with their children, Michael and Bernadette and son in law Cameron Bower. About 16 acres of Pinot Noir were planted in 1999 on the 90-acre property. Oats, wheat and other crops take up a lot of Mike’s time as well.

#oldfashionedfilter #UseThatArtDegree

#oldfashionedfilter
#UseThatArtDegree

The property sits on Willakenzie soil that is prime for grape-growin’ and is neighbored by famed vineyards Abbott Claim and Bonnie Jean. Rumor has it Ken Wright wanted to swipe this property up before the vineyard was planted. The Bayliss family keeps it pretty low-key, making about 1200 cases a year. Recently they’ve had a whirlwind of activity: Eric Hamacher was hired on as their new winemaker (beginning with the 2015 vintage) and their 2012 Bayliss-Bower received a 94 point score from Wine Spectator’s Insider in the 11/4 edition. Huzzah!

IMG_0675Scores are certainly something to be proud of. Now that I’ve been on the winery side for just about a year, I’ve witnessed what scores can do and its definitely an exciting energy to be a part of. Personally, I’ve been a little weary of 2012 lately, and I will continue to sing the praises of the 2011 vintage until I turn blue in the face. Although, as my favorite coworker likes to remind me “I am not the market,” my palate definitely is geared towards a wine like this, and cooler vintages in general. I think a cooler vintage captures the allure of older vines in a more expressive fashion as well. But these are all decidedly in my opinion statements.

I remember when the 2011 vintage fist happened; I was in South Carolina, and somehow the word leaked out into the Southeast that 2011 was bad, bad, bad. Cold and wet. Stay away from them. I had a customer tell me once that “his friend told him NOT to buy ANY Pinot Noir from Oregon from the 2011 vintage.” I don’t quite recall how I responded to that one.

Sometimes I wonder where these things start.

What I can say is that 2011’s really stand out to me. There’s something extremely vervey and alive about these wines. A tingly kind of energy that guides you to the delicate power that is Pinot Noir. That is what continues to excite me about the vintage. And with that, I’ll get off the soapbox and detail this particular one!

IMG_0907A brickish red color, the wine is in a nice evolutionary phase. Immediately upon opening, the nose has a brief flamboyant moment: bright raspberry and red cherry. It settles down a bit, relaxing into its herbal undertones. Asian five spice, sage, fennel, lavender and a resounding note of deeper black cherry abound. The finish is a lively smack of tart pomegranate. That’s the other thing I love about a leaner vintage; the acid lift makes me want to smack my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Satisfying.

I bought this bottle at the winery. Confession: I don’t recall what I paid for it. I do think the bottle price is $42, but I know they had a discount on the 11. If you’re in the area for Thanksgiving, go check them out before they close for the winter. Your pants will be charmed off, and you’ll leave feeling like you have experienced a special part of the area’s history.

Whut.

Whut.

 

 

 

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*

Qupé Marsanne, 2013 Santa Barbara

It’s ANOTHER “Summer’s Swan Song” post on this balmy Friday! We had a bit of an Indian Summer here in Oregon and it was actually really lovely. Well, maybe not so lovely for the fruit-pickers that are currently working their @ss’s off all over the Valley, but for me? Divine. It made me want to eat all the Summer produce one last time. Tomatoes, watermelon, squash- all of it! So I’m somewhat glad I saved this bottle of Marsanne from Qupé until now. It’s perfect for a Summer Friday afternoon.

Kyoo-PAY. It means "poppy".

Kyoo-PAY. It means “poppy”.

Founder and winemaker Bob Lindquist is an original “Rhone Ranger”; he started Qupé in 1982 making Syrah, Chardonnay and dry Rosé in California’s Central Coast. He subsequently teamed up with Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clenenden and the two built a shared facility in 1989. The rest is, as they say, history. Both Au Bon Climat and Qupé have great reputations, and I’m currently being reminded of how badly I need to get to this part of California. I’ll go ahead and add it to my list… which is pretty long. Le sigh.

This wine is made from 75% Marsanne and 25% Roussanne. These two French varieties are bros from way back. Most commonly found in the Northern Rhone, they play off each other beautifully; Marsanne produces wines of great color and depth and are intensely perfumed. Roussanne is a bit stingier, more of a bastard to grow, and usually packs a solid punch of acid, making them great agers. Both these fellas enjoy the Coastal California vibe, basking in the afternoon ocean breezes and morning fog, which helps them maintain their acidity.

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Both grapes for this wine are whole cluster pressed. The Marsanne, which comes from roughly 28-year old vines on the Ibarra-Young Vineyard, is chilled in tank for 48 hours before it goes to neutral French oak barrels. The Roussane, interestingly, heads straight to barrel with the lees after an evening chilling. (Literally). Bob prefers the use of once filled Francois Freres barrels previously used for Chardonnay with the Roussanne. I love these little facts. The Roussanne comes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area for all grapes Rhone.

Now! We gotta talk about what this wine tastes like before I get too much wordier. Its a dark golden strawish color and the nose is a nice combination of slightly tropical with ripe stone fruit. Nectarine, apricot, a touch of pineapple. Once it warms up a bit, you can detect its oak content a bit- hints of baking spice and creamy lemon. You might think it was a flab-fest, but the finish really clenches with pleasant acid and even a drying sensation which leads me to think this wine will age nicely. There’s something that reminds me of menthol lingering in there as well. The texture is viscous and slightly oily, but in a luscious way. Oily is a strange word to use to describe wine, and its connotation would seem negative, but its not intended as such. Its one of those descriptors that makes perfect sense once you identify it.

This is the first California wine I’ve written about in Lord only knows how long! Its been fun. I sometimes forget California exists. Not really. But almost. Hope you enjoyed this little trip to Cali and are as ready for Fall as the rest of America seems to be.

This wine was received as a sample. Its suggested retail cost is $20.

Food Porn Friday! Loiregon Dinner at SE Wine Collective

Yes, yes, its been a hot second since I last posted. Let me tell you a one word answer for why this is:

SUMMER. 

Like a child who just got out of school, I have been suffering (although it really doesn’t feel like suffering) from extreme lack of desire to focus or even be inside. Summers in South Carolina were so hot, long and brutal that I confess to never really enjoying them. But this?! THIS Summer is the real deal. IT STAYS LIGHT UNTIL 10:00, y’all! And I have a sweet front porch. And a garden. So yes- my love for writing is real. But sometimes I just. don’t. wanna. And to be honest, I can’t really apologize for that. It’s summer!

But I’m breaking the spell today and I hope you’re ready for a truly gratuitous food porn edition. I’ve been thinking about the food from last week’s Vive Loiregon! Dinner at the SE Wine Collective a lot. There were several items that left quite an impression. Couple that with another meal I had there about two weeks prior, and I gotta tellya- Chef Althea is the real deal. I love her style; non-fussy but precisely composed and thought-out. That tiny kitchen is churnin’ out some really fantastic eats. I’ve always liked small kitchens.

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First a little background on the Loiregon Dinner, because it was such a fun and inventive way to bring food and wine together: the dinner featured four wines that were all sourced from the Quady North Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Herb Quady was even there!

This guy.

This guy.

I had a brief fangirl moment, since I have been crushing on Herb’s rosé for months. But I kept it together.

But back to the dinner! All four wines were sourced from Herb’s Quady North vineyard. All wines were “Loirecentric” (I made that word up) and three out of the four were made from all Cabernet Franc. By Loirecentric, I mean that all four wines were made as a sort of ode to France’s Loire Valley.

We started with the Jackalope Whité, 2014. Whité, you ask? Well, ya see… this wine was originally supposed to be a rosé. But is any wine really “supposed” to be anything? This wine just wasn’t having it and didn’t retain any pigment. Hence, it has been dubbed Whité, which I think makes for a fantastic story and I respect the wine’s tenacity to be what it wanted. The Whité was served with some passed appetizers:

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I looooved this one: mussels with sauce vert and a potato crisp. The little crunch you got alongside the mussel was perfection.

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Pork Rillettes on crostini with picked cherries– likewise, the pickled cherries were fantastic. They maintained their sweetness, but something pickled always sets off a fat-rich item like pork rillettes.

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We then moved outside, where it was as picturesque a Portland night as you can imagine. About four days later, the heat set in. Oye. The first wine served was one I had also tried and loved not so long ago at the PDX Urban Wine Experience- the Division-Villages “Béton” Cabernet Franc/Gamay, 2014. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this red is absolutely ideal for serving with a slight chill on a warm night. Aged in concrete, the mineral notes really pop alongside its bright, tangy fruit content. The Gamay grapes for this wine were fermented carbonically, and when that meets the slatey smokiness of the Cab Franc- tres magnifique!

Plus, the label? The best.

Plus, the label? The best.

Served with the Béton was one of my favorite things to pair with wine: tartare! This was Full Circle bison tartare with smoked egg yolk (wicked cool, and cool lookin’), morels and a semolina cracker:

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So dainty.

Raw meat is a fun thing to pair with wine, and this wine in particular. The mineral content is nicely offset by the raw meat. The iron/blood (sounds gross, tastes great) goes well with a mineral-driven red. No lie.

Next we had Leah Jorgenson’s “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc, 2013– another wine I have had and loved before- with a beautiful chilled zucchini, nasturtium leaf & pistachio soup topped with Oregon Olive Mill olive oil:

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Leah’s wine was one of my first Southern Oregon Cab Francs that I tried back in December or January. It packs an awesome punch of gunsmoke, sweet blackberries, plums and hints of something floral- hibiscus, I believe someone mentioned at the dinner. I had to confess to those around me that back on the east coast, word on Southern Oregon hasn’t really spread. Before I moved out here, I pretty much thought Oregon stopped at the Rogue Valley (d’oh).

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If anyone could and should spread the Southern Oregon love to the other coast, its these folks. You heard it here.

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We finished with a grilled flat iron steak, crispy smoked new potatoes, caper & green olive aioli, baby arugula, lemon vinaigrette and chives. To drink? Quady North Mae’s Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2011. This is a richly scented red, with well-woven notes of chocolate, sweet red pepper, cedar and briary goodness.

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Oh! One more thing: Pholia Family Farms Hillis Peak Goat Cheese with strawberry coulis, pickled green strawberry, brown sugar & cracked pepper walnuts. And a wee sip of the just disgorged (literally, Tom disappeared, came back with a wet shirt and announced “its been disgorged) Division Crémant de Portland, 2013. I’ve had a few versions of this wine- first in December when it had just been bottled, again in February, and then this one which had hung out on the lees much longer. It offered a more honeyed palate, more developed and settled into itself. Pretty durn good.

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This was a freaking great dinner. Completely non-pretentious. At the beginning, Herb waxed poetic about the idea of a “winemaker dinner” versus “dinner with the winemakers.” I really think this concept was captured; no one preached, no one made “sales-y” pushes, no one talked about scores. It was just about enjoying the company, the food and the wine as one experience.

Side note- I do apologize- I took pictures of Kate, Tom, Corey and Leah as well, but they all came out just dreadfully. I can’t bring myself to include them. The “mid-sentence facial twist” just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Oh, and last but not least, this guy was also an excellent dinner companion:

Cassidy. Good boy.

Cassidy. Good boy.

Many thanks to all involved for such a wonderful evening!