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!

 

 

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?

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.

 

 

 

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:

<3

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!

Oregon Wine Month: Durant Vineyards

What are Wednesday nights for? Listening to Coolio on Pandora and tasting a lovely lineup from Durant Vineyards:

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Something I’ve only just learned about Durant is that they make a specific effort to match different blocks of fruit with different winemakers. Interesting! The first wine in my glass is the 2014 IMG_9385Southview Pinot Gris, made by Jesse Lange. A super easy-drinker, this is a wine thats hard to argue with. Great for afternoon sippage and won’t fight with a wide variety of cuisine. If I had to guess, I’d say this wine has a touch of residual sugar. The nose is not terribly in-your-face, leaning towards the subtle end of the fruit spectrum. Golden apple, nectarine, peach, apricot and other lovely stone fruits are found amidst a nice slice of acid. Pinot Gris might not win hip points among wine nerds, but there’s a reason it sells like hot cakes pretty much… everywhere. Its versatile and likeable. Booyah!

Next is the 2013 Lark Block Chardonnay, made by Dean Fisher of Adea (side note- Dean is a total trip!) This wine strikes my fancy. The nose is toasty and the palate has a pleasant “quench” to it. IMG_9386Nectarine, green apple, nutmeg, clove and tangy lemon notes abound. The mid-palate has a fleeting lift to it, wrapping up with a silky and lingering finish. I tried this wine over the course of three days, and on day three it has really softened into a completely different wine. The structure remains, but it now drinks more like an old soul; elegant and soft. Paul Durant co-founded the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium in 2011, and is very committed to seeing the grape get the notoriety it deserves here. Props! At $25 retail, I think this guy is a steal.

We’ll end on a red note: the 2013 Bishop Block Pinot Noir. This wine is made by Isabelle Dutartre of DePonte Cellars & 1789 Wines, her own small label started in 2007. The Bishop Block was planted by the Durant family in 1973, all Pommard clone on native rootstock. That makes them some of the older vines found in the valley. For anyone who’s *not* a rootstock nerd, native rootstock implies that the vines have not been grafted onto younger, phylloxera-resistant roots. Hence why they’re on the older side. The Durants sold this fruit for many years, and now bottle a small quantity under their own label- this vintage was 300 cases. I see that Patricia Green Cellars also has a 13 Bishop Block, at 145 cases bottled. Now that would be a great side-by-side tasting! I’ll have to get on that.

IMG_9387Anyway… this wine is excellent. I’ve also tasted this over three days. Tightly wound and a bit grippy on day one, but all the evidence pointed towards it relaxing and settling into itself. The nose is black cherry, licorice, anise, blackcurrant & plums with additional high tones of pomegranate and vague red floral notions. The palate offers that bricky, teeth-tingly, mouth drying bite that I always associate with Dundee. This did calm down a little with some time, and I think this is actually a wine I will revisit yet again tomorrow just to see where it’s taken itself. The wine closes with a bit of lofty vanilla and cedar. A very polished and precisely crafted bottle.

I am reminded of the person I met years ago who argued with me about how he never drank wine after it had been open more than a day, and was just accosted that I would suggest such a travesty. There were many choice words I would have loved to share with him, but I think the most succinct would have been, “Dude. Your loss.” Watching a wine evolve over an hour, a day, even a week can be fascinating. I invite you to channel your inner patience and give it a try sometime, if you haven’t already.

Okay, I’ll get off that soapbox for now and bid the evening farewell! Check out Durant Vineyards on your next trip. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Its a very rich, multi-faceted experience that they offer. Cheers!

 

 

 

Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, 2013 Willamette Valley

Its high time we dove head first into the deep end of the pool, ladies n’ gents. And in this circumstance, I mean: 2013 Oregon Pinot Noirs! This is the first of a series I’d like to do that focuses on the 2013 vintage for Oregon Pinot. How many will be in the series? Meh. I don’t know yet. Probably quite a few. There are a lot of things that interest me about 2013, mainly how it will be perceived by “the masses” following a very popular and publicized vintage like 2012. I’m on a mission to ensure 2013 doesn’t get turned into a “throw away” year. Well maybe not ensure, as my platform isn’t the loudest, but at the very least- I’m starting to observe what others are saying and throw my two cents in whenever I can. So here we go!

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Not the first 2013 I’ve tasted, but the first I’ve chosen is the 2013 Boedecker Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. What’s today? Wednesday. What is this? A great Wednesday wine. A somewhat unfair term which I have mixed feelings about, but it does get to the point. The pricetag on this little guy is but $20. Which as I sit here with the wine, does seem like a meager sum for this bottle. I bought it at the winery a few weeks ago, during an epically long day in Portland that involved a lot of wine tasting and Ikea (what better time to go to Ikea than after you’ve had some wine?)

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE- snacks galore.

They were having a club pickup day- SCORE. 

I really enjoyed my visit to Boedecker. Very down to earth, low-key, non-pretentious people who racked up quite a few impressive scores in 2012. This wine has actually bloomed beautifully in the 30 minutes that I’ve had it open. Youthful (duh) and lively, it has a buoyant nose of black cherry, raspberry, rhubarb jam and a teeny undertone of cherry cola. The palate is fresh and lean- rose petal, potpourri and a tang of orange zest. A nice easy sipper, but with enough variation that it doesn’t just sing one note.

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Nicely balanced acid, pretty fruit, brightly colored- all in all a very inviting glass of vino. This is my idea of a no-brainer restaurant glass pour, or like I said earlier- a Wednesday wine. And when you find a perfect Wednesday wine- it kind of rules.

This is what people did over 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir:

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Will they do that over 2013? Only time will tell. Those of us who drink a lot of Oregon Pinot might. Those that prefer California Pinot might not. 2013 is not going to smack you upside the head with burly fruit. But what they will do, in my opinion, is charm you and wile their way around your heart. Thus far, that is what they’ve done for me. I’d like that to be the case for everyone. So stay tuned, and we’ll do this more often! What say you?

Cuvée Stroll at The Allison

What’d you do on Friday evening? Sample tons of goodies from local producers alongside some awesome Willamette Valley wine? That’s exactly what went down at The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg this past Friday night! I got to be a fly on the wall… well, a fly that tasted lots of delicious food and wine. So not really a fly at all. I was there, and it was great!

After the event concluded, I found myself continually thinking about many of the local producers that were there, and plotting how I was to acquire some of the goodies I sampled. Of course, I could’ve just purchased them that evening, but I’ve never been one to make life easy for myself.

Want a little peek at the bounty of snacks and sips available? Here ya go!

Victoria's Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Victoria’s Lavender, Face Rock Creamery, Oregon Olive Mill & Republic of Jam.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Pork BBQ sliders from Jory Restaurant, Goat Cheese-Caramel tarts from Deschutes brewery, and of course- SALT.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

Durant, Chehalem, Brick House, Roco, and a new one for me- Deschutes Brewery from Bend.

The Face Rock Creamery people were *not* shy with the samples. A favorite was their twist on an “apple pie”- an oat cake, apple butter and a big ol’ slice of moderately sharp cheddar. The sweet & sharp together are pretty delicious. Deschutes Brewery had a great pairing as well- a little goat cheese-caramel tart, paired with their Spiced Saison, Zarabanda. Jory brought the heat with some delightful little BBQ pork sliders with cole slaw- since I spent the last several years in the South, I have eaten my share of BBQ, and these were delish. I chatted with the chef about how I’d never heard of putting cole slaw ON things until I lived in the South. Now I don’t think I can live without it. Another favorite was the Republic of Jam– they had a apricot-cardamom curry sauce that they served with meatballs. Oy! So good. Guess what’s in my fridge right now? Apricot-cardamom jam. I wasted no time in buying that one.

Is this real?

Is this real?

The Carlton Bakery, if you haven’t been, is a divine feast for the senses. Probably some of the best baked goods I’ve ever had. Plus if you go there, make sure to grab a cappuccino from Brenda at Common Grounds, which is basically in the parking lot of the Carlton Bakery. Woman makes a mean cappuccino.

Who's that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

Who’s that lovely vision pouring wine? Lynn!

There were many awesome winemakers there on Friday as well. Lynn Penner-Ash, Luisa Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem, Rollin Soles of ROCO, Steven Guy from Brick House and several more. The size of the crowd was perfect, allowing everyone to have plenty of time to converse without having to push your way to any one table and fight for space. We’ve all been to those kind of tastings, amiright? 

Cuvée Stroll was part of Cuvée Weekend, but many of the folks I spoke to were locals (Portland/Tualatin, etc), as you could purchase tickets to this event “a la carte.” Definitely worth a quick drive, as you’d be hard-pressed to find so many great winemakers and artisan producers under one roof, short of large food & wine festivals. The Allison provided a lovely and intimate experience. No surprise there.

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Many thanks to The Allison and all the wonderful vendors. Cheers!

Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, 2015

…. a more appropriate title might be: How I Managed to Taste Over 60 Oregon Chardonnays in less than 24 hours

Yup. All of 'em.

Yup. All of ’em.

So that happened.

I had planned to approach this post in a different way. Originally I had made it my mission to take detailed tasting notes on every wine that was open. It didn’t take but 5 minutes into the Grand Tasting to realize that that wasn’t going to happen. My brain was buzzing from all the information and thoughts expressed at the technical panel, and I really wanted to simply enjoy the roomful of Chardonnay I was in, in a purely experiential fashion. Of course, I will share some standouts and tasting notes, but I’ve had a full 48 hours to process the event and I think my words can be better served to express the tone, energy and real message of the event. So lets get started.

WTF is a clone again?

WTF is a clone again?

The theme of the Symposium this year was Attack of the Clones. This might not mean much to your average sipper of wine, but this topic served as a backdrop to what ended up being, to me, the real theme of the day.

So take a step back with me, if you will. Think about the first real story or conversation you took part in or overheard about Oregon Chardonnay. Did it go something like this? “Yeah, they’ve always had Chardonnay in Oregon, but in the beginning they planted all the wrong clones and so it sucked for a long time, until they figured out which ones to use. Now its pretty good. I mean, its getting better.”

Yes? Well… here’s the thing. Thats not entirely correct. The first speaker of the day, Jason Lett, started the day out with a bang by offering up a few quotes dating back to the 1970’s affirming Oregon as a legitimate place to produce Chardonnay. I’m paraphrasing, but in 1975 the LA Times was quoted as saying Oregon could do “as well as California” with Chardonnay. In 1987, Robert Parker reported that Oregon would “catapult” onto the Chardonnay scene due to its similarity to Burgundy.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

The panel, ready to drop some knowledge.

Is there truth to the “wrong clone” argument? Sure. There was a kernel of legitimacy that started the clone conversation, but somehow it has been the resounding soundbite that stayed with the rest of the world. Want to rebuff the “wrong clone” argument? Here’s one: The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Chardonnay Reserve (we tasted the 2012 vintage on Saturday) is sourced from the original vineyards plantings, and they’re currently at the ripe age of about 40 years (and own-rooted!). What clone was first planted by David Lett? The Draper selection, a member of the Wente “family”, from the Draper Ranch in St. Helena, CA. How d’ya like dem apples?

Which leads me to the soundbite that I feel most suits the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium: Its time to change the conversation. 

Boom! Okay, let us pause for a moment to pay homage to Don Draper. Isn’t it serendipitous that I was just talking about the Draper clone?!

"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

So I issue you this challenge, Oregon Chardonnay lovers: change the conversation. Its our job as Oregon wine drinkers and ambassadors for the region to shut down the “they planted the wrong clones” rhetoric. Take it in a different direction. Like the Willamette Valley being a natural home for a cool-climate varietal like Chardonnay. Like the bracing spine of acid that lies at the heart of a good Oregon Chard, stitching it together for decades of ageability. Like the fact that many Oregon Chardonnay vines are just *now* hitting their stride, age-wise, and we’ve only begun to see what these vines are capable of. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that at the core of Chardonnay from this region lies the most energetic, vibrant and haunting persona.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Wines from the Technical Panel.

Before we move on to a few gratuitous Wine Porn pictures, a lovely quote from Mimi Casteel of Bethel Heights: “Chardonnay needs the restriction of site if it is to become a transparent ware of beauty.” Mimi spoke last, and maybe the room was just itching for a female voice, but her thoughts really seemed to lift the room. Very inspirational.

Want to be jealous? Here’s a lovely crop job of everything I tasted:

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Just remember…

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…Don’t hate the player…

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… hate the game.

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Or maybe hate no one.

Alright alright. You want my top five? You can have ’em. In no particular order. These are just five that stayed with me, all things including price range considered:

FullSizeRender (41)1.) Walter Scott Chardonnay, 2013 Eola-Amity Hills, X-Novo Vineyard. 100 cases made, $45.

A real stunner; one of the more distinctly expressive wines of the day. Like that smokey, gunflinty edge? Cause I’m all about it. Polished, sleek, impossible to resist.

FullSizeRender (42)2.) Big Table Farm Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 476 cases made, $45.

I’ll admit it: I’m totally infatuated with these labels. Of course, the wine inside is killer too. Busty in all the right places, it packs clearly delineated spice, candied lemon, the silkiest of textures, and of course that vein of acid we all love.

IMG_72433.) Belle Pente Chardonnay, 10 Willamette Valley, Belle Pente Vineyard. 330 cases made, $30.

Brian’s 2010 was in a wonderful place on Saturday. I think it actually had an advantage over some of the ’12s and ’13s being poured. An unfair advantage? Oh no. This is a current release. Brian also has his 2010 Riesling as a current release and lemmee tellya- that thing is no joke either. Patience is a virtue, folks. In any case, the cool 2010 vintage did wonders for whites. $30 is insane.

FullSizeRender (44)4.) Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay, 13 Dundee Hills. 3,075 cases made, $35.

By the way, its very difficult picking favorites here, in case you were wondering. This is a favorite because it always hits that vervy place that I love, always reminiscent of a Chablis. Go figure, since they’re DDO. Somewhat larger case production, but this is some good GD Chardonnay.

FullSizeRender (46)5.) Bergstrom “Sigrid” Chardonnay, 12/13 Willamette Valley. $85, ? cases made.

I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer. Sigrid is Queen. Sexy, sexy, sexy. Did I say sexy? They poured 2012 and 2013 on Saturday. Honestly, I can’t recall if I had a preference for one over the other. I had a 2010 vintage in January that knocked me on my ass. Bow down, bitches.

FullSizeRender (45)BONUS: DeLancellotti Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley. 50 cases made, $50.

Why is it a bonus? Well, because there’s a very good chance there’s none left and I don’t want to be a tease. I first had this wine back in November and was pleasantly reminded of how killer it is on Saturday. Nicely woven oak that isn’t overpowering, to my taste.

Okay, one more bonus: Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Chardonnay, 05. WHUT. This is an extra bonus, because it was poured at the media dinner on Friday night, and my super-spoiled self got to attend. Its almost not fair to mention. This thing was freakin’ singin’, y’all.

Thats about all I have for you on this wrap up of the 2015 Oregon Chardonnay Symposium. It has sold out every year. You should go.

*Mic drop.*

Oh, and here’s an adorable picture of the “B” table. I wear my bias on my sleeve.

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Want to hear a few other awesome lady wine writer’s perspectives on The Chardonnay Symposium? Check out Jade Helm and Julie Arnan’s posts!

Bubbles Fest 2015!

Bubbles Fest 2015- either it happened, or I died and went to heaven yesterday. The former is more likely. Plus, I have photos and I do think I am still alive as I type this.

First, and definitely not last, Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie.

First, and definitely not last, Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie.

So, remember that article from Palate Press that was published in January, declaring that a Sparkling Wine Movement was underway in the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest in general? Well, yesterday about 150 of us got to experience just a drop in the bucket of what’s going on with Sparkling Wine here in the Valley. And it was pretty darn phenomenal.

Here’s an interesting interjection; I’ve already accepted that this is going to be a long post, so I want to briefly touch on why *now* seems to be the time for Sparkling here. In fact, its kind of a two word answer: Andrew Davis. Andrew, former winemaker at Argyle, created a mobile sparkling wine production company in 2013. Let that sink in for a sec. Of course I’ve never seen this equipment, but I remember the first time I heard the concept, I instantly pictured it as some sort of ice cream truck, except for Sparkling Wine. Which, needless to say, made me very giddy. I somehow doubt that it does resemble an ice cream truck… but while we’re on the subject… will someone buy an old ice cream truck and fashion it into something that can drive around and sell bubbly? Surely you don’t need anything fancy like a permit or a license to pull that off, right? 

I kid. The question is, why did this niche need filling? Why didn’t wineries jump at the chance to make sparkling before the creation of the mobile unit? Well, I’ll be brief- but here’s two reasons: time and money. Sparkling wine production (champenoise method) is labor intensive, requires its own bottling equipment ($$), and takes a lot longer to make than still wine. As in, years longer. Its not entirely feasible for a small winery to sit on a product for 2-4 years before they sell any of it. And that’s after the hassle of getting it made! Its a labor of love. In any case, I give a major hat tip to Andrew for dreaming up the idea, and I truly think its an absolute game-changer. So game on.

I can't even.

I can’t even.

I can’t even talk about how gorgeous it was yesterday. The wine Gods truly smiled on this event, especially considering sun was forecasted ALL WEEK, but never really appeared in full force until yesterday.

Lets dive in! There’s a lotta bubbles to talk about today. In no particular order..

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The Airlie Joie de Vie (retail $30) was the first bubbly I tasted. Not a winery I was terribly familiar with before yesterday, but by the end of the afternoon, I looked back and realized that this one was one of my favorites. Made from 50-50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this 2010 vintage brut was clear and concise with light hints of yeast and ultra-fine bubbles. I found this one and the Argyle Blanc de Blancs to be the two that reminisced the most of a French Champagne. Speaking of the Argyle…

This guy was kind of the Old G of this party.

This guy was kind of the Old G of this party.

Another 2010 vintage Brut, this Blanc de Blancs from Argyle (retail $50) was as sleek, steely and pure as ever. This is the second time I’ve had the Blanc de Blanc from Argyle, and I’m a big fan of their Rosé bubbly as well. Argyle will always remain etched in my mind as one of the staples of Oregon Sparkling wine. At about 1000 cases made, this one doesn’t see much availability outside the tasting room. The fruit is all Chardonnay, all sourced from the Dundee Hill’s Knudsen Vineyard. 2010 was a fairly cold, low-yielding vintage- perfect for Sparkling production. This wine is an elegant treat. There’s no arguing with it. 92 Points, Wine Spectator.

Our fabulous hosts at Anne Amie also had something up their sleeve: winemaker Thomas Houseman’s first-ever Sparkling Wine, the 2011 Marilyn Brut Rosé (retail $45).

Guess what's in my fridge right now? This guy.

Guess what’s in my fridge right now? This guy.

Anne Amie was wonderfully represented back in South Carolina, and I pretty much love everything they do. Last year’s Amrita white was one of our best-selling wines of the Summer. When I heard a Sparkling was to be born, my excitement was tangible. Beautifully packaged, this guy really hits the nail on the head. Its elegant and round, full of beautiful red fruit, tangy citrus, light spice and a lush mouthfeel. It closes with all that gorgeous acid that 2011 is known for. They should be proud of this wine, it’s freakin’ killer. Just talking about it now makes me want to open the bottle I purchased. Hmmm…

Next? Some funsies from Kramer Vineyards, the 2014 Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir and 2014 Grüner Veltliner (both $24).

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Kramer has a tasting room that’s walking distance to my house, so I think I’ve now had almost all of their sparklers. The Celebrate series wines are made in tank method as opposed to champenoise. Because this process doesn’t take as long, they’re very competitively priced. There was a lot of buzz over the Grüner Brut yesterday, and it didn’t disappoint. I love the willingness to try all different grapes in this series. The Rosé of Pinot was pretty charming and fruity- I can’t imagine that “the masses” wouldn’t just eat this one up. The Grüner was sharp and deftly balanced. I really like what Kimberly has goin’ on with her sparklers.

Division Wines brought their pretty little guy, whose package I still just can’t resist…

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I love the spirit of the Crémant de Portland (retail $26), and the aromatics on this wine are hard to beat; yesterday the Chenin was really out to play. I want to say that this wine might be temporarily sold out until the next disgorgement, but don’t get mad at me if that’s wrong. This was sort of a “wet” day after all…

Another fun find is the Raptor Ridge Harbinger Vineyard Pinot Noir Brut Rosé (retail $63). This is Raptor Ridge’s first ever sparkling wine, but probably not the last. From a small site in the Chehalem Mountains that takes its sweet time ripening, 2011 provided a good opportunity to turn these guys into bubbles (are you sensing a trend here?). Just about 50 cases were made, and it has a beautiful, pale salmony pink color. Dry, with light stone fruit, strawberry, soft citrus and a really nice biscuity undertone. It pleased me greatly. Do make an effort to track one of these down at the tasting room, it will probably sell out lightening fast.

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R. Stuart’s Rosé d’Or (retail $35) has recently wound its way into my heart. Its made in a fairly rich style, purposefully with less actual bubbles than most. On the nose, I’m reminded of a spice cake, followed by lots of black cherry and strawberry. Not heavy or weighty, but definitely has its own mind.

IMG_8295Next we have the two sex-machines: J.K. Carriere 2011 Blanc de Noir (retail $75) and Soter Mineral Springs 2010 Brut Rosé (retail $65). Oh sorry, have you never referred to sparkling wine as a sex-machine? Well I do. Sexy, sexy juice, both of these.

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This is J.K. Carriere’s first sparkling, and back in December I remember the winemaker saying it almost killed him. I’m really glad it didn’t kill him, because I’d like more where this comes from. Color- gorgeous pale pink. Texture- light and pristine. Finish- lifted and high-toned. A winner. And what is there that needs to be said about the beloved “Soter Pop”? Its the bomb. 2010 was a great year for Soter Pop, too.

Roots Wine Company was another new one for me- they had two bubblies out yesterday, the Cuvée Theo Melon de Bourgogne, NV (retail $30) and the Cuvée Theo Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $35).

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These two were fun- the Melon was fresh and lively, with a very nice salinity on the finish. The Rosé was clean and brisk. I give props to anyone who makes Sparking Wine out of Melon de Bourgogne.

I will leave you with the Sokol Blosser Sparkling Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $60). This one was a little understated, in a calm cool and collected fashion. Definitely an easy-drinker; soft yet crisp, with delicate notes of strawberry, apricot and a hint of lees.

IMG_8296So what should you learn from all my ramblings? 1.) Sparkling wine is my favorite and 2.) if it isn’t also your favorite, I don’t like you. Kidding! Kidding. But there’s a whole world of Sparkling Wine down here in this Valley just waiting to be discovered. By you. Or else I’ll drink it all first.

Many thanks to Anne Amie for a great event! I’m already looking forward to next year!