Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 19! Oink.

Happy Monday! This is such a fun and brilliant little wine- the EIEIO Swine Wine “Rie-Chard”, 2013 Willamette Valley. 

Piglet.

Piglet. Adorbs. 

I actually had this bottle several weeks ago, when I had the good fortune to be introduced to Jay McDonald, winemaker and owner of EIEIO wines (Jay McDonald had a farm, EIEIO! get it?!) I absolutely loved it the minute I saw it. I do have a fondness for pigs, so I was a little predisposed.

Jay is sort of like a Horcrux of this area… but in a good way. I’ll explain. Jay opened The Tasting Room in Carlton back in the day right in the center of town in a really cool old bank building. I can’t find an exact date, but suffice to say it was right when a lot of Oregon winemakers that are now very well-established were just getting their start. The Tasting Room was a retail store/tasting room (go figure) where local producers could get their wines out to the people before they were big enough to have tasting rooms of their own. Legend holds that many-a now well-known winemakers had help from Jay in the beginning. Thats why he’s a Horcrux- he has a bit of all of their souls. But again, not in a sinister way.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

Dead center in the bustling little metropolis of Carlton.

So that is a little background- but Jay has been making his own wine since 1998. The “Swine Wines” as they’re called, come in Pinot Noir and this Rie-Chard form. This particular bottle is known as a Piglet, as its a 375ml bottle. The full-size 750ml’s are available for purchase on his website here. I’m not totally positive on the availability of the 375’s, so don’t hate me.

So whats the story on this little Piggy? It is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, not your most common bedfellows; obviously no one told them that, because they make a lovely couple in this wine. It captures the cool-climate persona of the Willamette Valley with finesse. Gentle, yet with a bracing acidity, it will enchant with aromas of pear, quince, green apple and nuances of honeysuckle. If you’re patient enough to let this wine open up, its texture will soften and charm your pants off. This wine is actually what began my fondness for half bottles. They’re just fun, doggone it. A slight amount of residual sugar makes it very accessible and bright. Good clean fun. Plus, did I mention its cute? Its cute.

Jay’s Chardonnay is downright fantastic as well- really looking forward to the Chardonnay Symposium in just over a month! This concludes Day 19. Hope you enjoyed your intro to one of the coolest dudes in the Valley!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 18!

For the last two months, I have been driving by Carlo & Julian almost every day and seeing a sign that said “Closed.” I did start to wonder if they were ever open. This almost added to the intrigue, as it was obvious that its a tiny place. As luck would have it, my roommate happened to drive by on Saturday and noticed the sign said OPEN. We hustled on over, needless to say. Part of me thought by the time we got there it’d be closed.

But it wasn’t! We noticed a high volume of cars, and in turn, people, as we walked in. What a cozy spot. Its almost the epitome of Carlton; a tiny driveway, chickens and cats meandering about, a tasting room filled with pallets of wine that you know doubles as a winemaking facility. No frills, but very inviting and non-fussy.

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

Oregon Albariño- Wha?

We had actually stumbled into a Tempranillo tasting, we soon found out. The event was probably publicized to the mailing list, but we just got lucky. The owner and winemaker Felix was tasting about 8 different vintages of Tempranillo and two vintages of a blend called Six Grapes. The Tempranillos were wildly fluctuating in character, but all had maintained posterity and reflected the vintage. My favorite wine I had that day was one that was unfortunately sold out- the 2009 Six Grapes. Alas, I had to just enjoy it and then let it go. But I was curious about the Albariño that was listed as available and decided to give it a whirl. I have seen maybe 3-4 other Oregon Albariño around and had been meaning to check one out.

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

Does it get better than this on a rainy Saturday?

While Felix bottles a lot of Estate fruit, these Albariño grapes come from some nice folks named Ray and Sandra Ethell near Hubbard, OR. I had never heard of Hubbard, so I had to look it up; but it is very close to Woodburn, almost directly east of Carlton. This vineyard contains the first commercial planted Albariño vines in the Willamette Valley, which is sort of a fun fact! So now we can add it to the list of Spanish varietals grown in Oregon.

Always a high acid, super citrusy grape, this is no exception. The nose is all gooseberry, a touch of lees, some light floral accents, and a touch of peach that is almost hidden. In a warmer year like 2012, I can see more tropical fruit probably fleshing out these grapes a bit, but this year is all about the acid. This was such a soggy weekend that this wine makes me dream of a warm Summer evening and some fresh ceviche. Acid-on-acid is a delicate balance, but I think if you threw a sweet fruit salsa in there to marry them, it’d be on time. This wine could also probably cut through something with a higher fat content, or maybe a tangy goat cheese.

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In summation, this is a tasty little wine, but prepare your palate to be wow’d by acid. It is a cool-climate wine, no doubt. The bottle doesn’t state how much of this wine was made, but it probably wasn’t much. Carlo & Julian is having a Malbec tasting in a few weeks and I’ll definitely be there! I recommend a stop. Go for it.

This wine was purchased at the winery for $22. Cheers!

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

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

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

 

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

Its Pinot, but its WHITE?! WUT.

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

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

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

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

Yum.

Yum.

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

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

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

I die.

I die.

I highly recommend a stop in to WillaKenzie!

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

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 15! We ballin’.

We’re high rollin’ tonight, people. This is a somewhat special bottle that my roommate has generously donated… shared… for the use of my project. I first had a bottle of this wine about 8 weeks ago during my first month here. I was floored, to say the least. I didn’t know Sauvignon Blanc of this quality was to be found in the Willamette Valley. Even if it weren’t for the rare/small-production factor, this wine is still slammin’. So without further adieu, the Rocky Point Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Willamette Valley, Russell-Grooters Vineyard.

Sexytime.

Sexytime.

The vineyard site is located not too far from my humble abode here in Yamhill-Carlton. The wine is made by Drew Voit, who is a consulting winemaker on many-a-project, and also makes one of my favorite Willamette Pinot Blancs under his own label, Harper Voit. Owner Amy Lee has implemented a unique barrel program with this family of wines, some stemming from Washington State and some from Oregon. This particular bottle was barrel-fermented in two different barrels (yup, this is a two-barrel production wine), with slightly different seasoning. The oaking in here is really nuts- absolutely gorgeous, layered and somewhat unexpected.

The thing about Sauvignon Blanc… let me swirl my glass for a second… is that it can be SO many different things. If you’ve had one from New Zealand and couldn’t tell whether you were drinking wine or chewing on a grapefruit peel- fear not. This is almost the complete and total opposite. I do enjoy a NZ Sauv Blanc now and then, and some of my favorite value Sauv Blancs are actually from Chile. But the puckery quality that can be pleasing in such a Sauv Blanc isn’t what’s goin’ on here. I digress…

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This wine is tropical- like a girl in a bikini. Passionfruit, mango, kiwi, coconut and mad honeydew. But just when you think its a total slutty fruit-bomb, this really beautiful spice component comes in- fun notes of coriander and fennel, along with some creamy vanilla. It all sounds like a menagerie of contrasts, but they work together like a symphony- I swear it.

The really profound thing about this wine is this: if you were at a tasting room in Napa, and were poured this alongside some $50-$75 a bottle single vineyard Cabernets, it would fit right in, in terms of its class and elegance. But what a fun surprise that this wine is from the freaking Yamhill-Carlton district of the Willamette Valley?! I love it. Love. It.

So, this post is a little bit of a tease, as this wine is not yet released, and I can’t even really tell you where to look for it when it is released. But I do suggest keeping an eye on the Rocky Point website for more info. Suggested retail on this wine will be in the $40 range. Treat yourselves!

Cheers!

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 14! Let’s Evolve.

Sokol Blosser’s Evolution White has been a longtime favorite of mine. I do believe it was one of the first white wines I found myself liking. I shudder to think that there WAS a time in my life that I didn’t like white wine, but we all must come to terms with our younger, dumber selves. I like the Evo White because it stayed consistent year to year; I could always be guaranteed of its engaging, lively, fruit-forward palate and a thirst-quenching acidic finish. It also goes with pretty darn close to everything. But contrary to how I’m beginning this post, this review is actually of the Red version of the Evolution series, Evolution Red, NV Oregon. 

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I believe this is now the third incarnation of the Evolution Red (?) I might be incorrect there, but it seems like about three years ago that this wine was first poured for me at the restaurant as a brand-new introduction. Maybe four, actually. Oye. I feel old all of a sudden. So that was how they always labeled the White: it wasn’t a vintage or a non-vintage, it was an incarnation. I think they’re up to about 20 incarnations of the White. As I stated in a post last week, I think a Non-Vintage wine can be a real asset. It keeps a consistent style every year and the cost in a friendly zone.

With the white, it was always a blend of (up to) 9 varietals. In the Red, they’re playing their hand pretty close and not really disclosing much of the blend at all. They’ll go as far as to say “Syrah-based”, but the rest is up to our imaginations. So let us deduce: the color on this wine is medium-light, and we are in Oregon, so we can presume that a bit of Pinot Noir is at play here. The nose is abundantly fruity and big- maybe a splash of Zin? If there’s Syrah, then chances are there’s Zin, in my opinion. Sangiovese would be a likely player, too- similar bodied to the Pinot Noir, but adding some interest. The texture is soft and not overly acidic. For my taste, maybe a bit too soft- but you know the expression “you can’t please all the people all the time”? Well, this wine comes pretty close to such, and I think that was the intention. If you are having a party and need to please all or at least most of the people? Go for it. Its smooth, light, fruity and easy to get along with. Red currant, candied strawberry, blood orange, a streak of citrus peel, warm cinnamon and milk chocolate are all workin’ their way around in this wine.

I’ve just discovered that the website says there’s a touch of Evolution White in here, too. Coulda fooled me, for sure, although I’m sure it lifts the overall weight of the wine in a general “up” direction.

It's about time. True dat.

It’s about time. True dat.

This definitely isn’t a wine that demands a complex explanation; it’s meant to be a perfect Wednesday night wine. Which is what it is right now, and I really can’t complain. Stella approves as well:

Wine Wednesday on couch with dog. Not bad.

Wine Wednesday on couch with dog. Not bad.

I bought this wine for something like $17 at Safeway. Don’t judge. Cheers! We’re halfway through the week!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 13!

Dry Muscat, anyone? One that comes in a pretty bottle? Yeah, I think so.

Love the art on this bottle.

Love the art on this bottle.

I bought this wine on my first, but probably not last, trip down to the Eola Amity Hills and Brooks Winery. It was absolutely frigid outside; so naturally, I chose to taste the whites flight they were pouring that day. I’m a huge proponent of drinking white wine year round. It was actually great that it was frigid, because there were mad mountains to be seen:

Aww yeah.

Aww yeah.

I had several favorites this day, but chose to buy the Terue Dry Muscat, 2012 Eola Amity Hills because I knew I’d be needing unusual varietals for this project. And because it was freakin’ delicious, obviously!

What’s the story on Muscat? Well, just to confuse the matter, remember the DePonte Melon de Bourgogne I wrote about last week, and how it was the same grape as Muscadet wine from France? Well, this grape, Muscat, is not related to Muscadet. It IS, however, the same grape as is used in Moscato production, notably Moscato d’Asti in Italy. So all these grapes, some related, some not, different styles- oye! A lot to remember. Once we move past this, however, you uncover the reason I really love Muscat: versatility!

Moscato d’Asti is made in a sweet or semi-sweet fizzy style. Sometimes Muscat is made in Oregon in a slightly sweeter frizzante style, too. Silvan Ridge in Southern Oregon is apparently known for theirs, which I’ll have to check out. But as is true with essentially any grape you wish to make into wine, you can leave residual sugar in it, or you can not. And NOW for my point: the Terue Muscat is a dry version! Which means you get ALL the amazing aromatics of Muscat with a dry palate. Its a wonder to behold.

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Oh, aromatic whites- how do I love you? Let me count the ways. You leap out of the glass, you make me think of warm Spring days, gentle breezes and you’re just so darn FUN. Wine can be serious, with its terminology and regions and rules and methods and sometimes exclusionary air. This is a wine that while you can tell was made with total intention, is fun to drink. At just 10.5% alcohol, it is light, refreshing and jubilant. Bright, youthful aromas of white flowers, golden apple and citrus combine with accents of spice and fresh herbs. The texture is silky and it finishes dry, but not tight. One of those wines that “glides” in the mouth. This is a total warm Saturday afternoon crusher. This is the winemaker at Brooks Wine’s own label, so just 82 cases were made. I can think of a few gingers in Columbia, SC that would sell the shiz out of this wine if it were available there! This is a great South Carolina wine.

I had a few other favorites at Brooks that day, mainly the 2011 Ara Riesling and a killer late harvest Riesling called Tethys:

Can't stop thinking about the Ara.

Can’t stop thinking about the Ara.

Gorgeous acid, just divine.

Gorgeous acid. Perfect. 

Actually, the only thing I didn’t taste at Brooks that day were reds. So I guess that means I have to go back! Aww, shucks. The Brooks tasting room is relatively new and really lovely. It has a very relaxing vibe and chill, knowledgeable staff. Hat tip!

Seacrest out for day 13, y’all!

I purchased this bottle at the Brooks tasting room for the extremely nominal fee of $18.

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 12!

THE VIOGNIER COMETH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amaze.

Amaze.

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

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Day 11!

Coming to you from a soggy Sunday afternoon at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, allow me to present my first (but definitely not last) Riesling of this project- Mad Violets Wine Co. Riesling, 2012 Dundee Hills!

Riesling Rules.

Riesling Rules.

I’ve been seeing these wines around the area and crushing hard on the labels for a few weeks. I think they’re well-designed, eye-catching and classy. The owners’ property is in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the Buttonfield Estate Vineyard. This Riesling is sourced from the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. I used to drive by the Maresh vineyard every day- its effing gorgeous. This is, according to the Mad Violets website, the oldest Riesling vineyard in Yamhill County, planted in 1970. This wine definitely has a gorgeous “old vine” quality to it; the concentration and minerality are very striking.

At just 180 cases made (and from the Maresh Vineyard?!), this wine is insanely well-priced at $25. Its clean, focused, pristine and tastes damn good. Absolutely nothing in the world makes me want food more than Riesling. Sushi? Yes. Thai? Yes. And my favorite thing with Riesling? FRIED CHICKEN. Well, specifically you need fried chicken with a sweet n’ spicy sauce like honey-wasabi. The crunchy/salty of fried chicken and obvious fat content is cut so well by a high-acid Riesling. I’m making myself hungry. I’m also making myself want to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi in Vegas and eat their fried chicken. Oye. 

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The initial nose on this wine is a pleasant medium petrol; I really try not to use that word often because I don’t want it to be off-putting, but true Riesling-lovers will understand what I mean; Petrol is actually a delicious thing to smell. Following close behind are layers of prickly lime zest, honeysuckle, caramelized pears, apricots and fuzzy white peach. Well-balanced and freaking gulpable. At 10% alcohol, this is both a great food wine and a perfect afternoon sipper.

After I left the Studio, I went and tried a few Rieslings at a nearby winery that sported some very high scores and slightly higher price points. While I did like them, honestly I preferred this one. It has serious heart and soul. Kudos!

Anyone have a suggestion for a Riesling I just GOTTA try? I’m on the hunt. Holler at me.

 

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days, Days 8, 9 & 10: Chard Party!

Earlier in the week I had the idea for this Chardonnay party and I’ve barely been able to contain myself. I only had to wait for my roommates to be back in town to complete the idea; fortunately they were agreeable. I’m providing the wine, and they’re providing the crab. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone. So the wines we’re drinking are as follows:

Haden Fig Chardonnay, 13 Willamette Valley

Belle Pente Chardonnay, 09 Willamette, Yamhill-Carlton, Belle Pente Vineyard

Domaine Serene “Etoile” Chardonnay, 10 Willamette, Dundee Hills

Its a Chard Party!

Its a Chard Party!

It would’ve been a travesty to open all three of these for just me, so I had to wait until I had people to share them with! The Haden Fig I picked up at Roth’s for $14.99, the Belle Pente was given to me as a gift last Summer (I believe the individual bottle cost is $30, but they occasionally do particular case specials at Belle), and to be honest, I have no idea how I acquired the Domaine Serene. I think someone gave it to me. Its retail cost is around $70. I’ve been saving it for a while now. So thats why I’m breaking the “repeat grapes allowed only once” rule: a special occasion! So there will be three Chards in my Thirty Oregon Wines project, mmmkay? Don’t care? Didn’t think so.

I sort of included an extra Chard on purpose- I want everyone to be as excited as I am about the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium coming up on March 15th!! I didn’t really discover Oregon Chard until I came to OPC in June of 2013. The following Spring I remember seeing posts about the Symposium from my then home in SC and seriously considering getting on a plane and coming here for 48 hours JUST to go to it.

That should cue you in to something: I. Freaking. Love. Oregon. Chardonnay. What else do I like? Crab. Lots of crab. So that’s what we’re doing tonight. I severely apologize if you end up hangry/jealous/hating me at the end of this post.

So these are three very different wines from three price ranges and three areas of the Willamette Valley. Haden Fig is a relatively small producer located in the Eola-Amity Hills. The owner was the winemaker at Evesham Wood for many years before launching the Haden Fig label in 2008. I used to sell a bit of the Haden Pinot Noir in SC, but it was only scantily available. It did develop a small fan base in Columbia, mostly because it was good, but also because people loved the owl on the bottle. I gotta say, I love that owl, too. So how excited was I to see this lil guy at the grocery store?! And for such a reasonable price!

Belle Pente and I have a long history. It was actually one of Brian’s Pinots that *first* made me think to myself- “hey, I like Oregon Pinot Noir.” This was back in roughly 2008, when I first started managing at the restaurant. Bossman let me pick a bottle for staff training a few times a week, and it had to have been his ’07 Willamette Valley, maybe ’06, that I picked. I wish my memory was that good, unfortunately it ain’t. But it stuck with me. Then I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with Brian, Jill, their daughter and their dog Peanut at OPC in 2013, and decided they were the nicest people alive. And here we are in 2015, and I live 5 minutes from their winery. In fact, I dropped in on Jill just yesterday because I had to get a picture of the sunset…

sunset 1.9.15

I mean, come on. I can’t even.

Their Estate Chard comes from a small two-acre parcel that faces southwest, planted in 1999. Usually between 300-400 cases a year are made. Brian dabbles with using Oregon oak now and then, something that is relatively unexplored in Oregon; however, I can’t speak to how much/if any was used in this wine. According to a few sources, Oregon oak can be very aggressive and wily. But used sparingly, carefully? Hmmmm…. Only time will tell.

The Domaine Serene is sort of the “crown jewel” of this party. $70 definitely isn’t chump change for most people, but when I had this bottle a in 2013, it was an eye-opener. Mostly because I couldn’t believe how freaking good it was. More on that later. Lets get to individual tasting notes…

Do you heart this owl? I do.

Do you heart this owl? I do.

So this little guy sits at just 150 cases made, from two vineyard sites in the Eola-Amity Hills. For the price, I’m pretty impressed with it. I can easily see it as a restaurant glass pour- if I went to a restaurant and paid $9 a glass for it, I’d be happy. Bright, streamlined and linear, it cuts right to the chase with honeydew, golden apple, lots of citrus, and a hint of toast. It showcases the nice acidity and energy that Oregon Chardonnay in general personifies. It hits a nice note and finishes quietly.

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The Belle Pente has a very outgoing nose, and the three of us concede that this particular bottle is the most charming of the three. The warmth of 2009 is definitely at play here; the oak is clearly defined yet not overpowering. Touches of warm vanilla, honeyed pears, peaches, orange blossom, and prickly pineapple. The oaking in this wine is intriguing; its supportive, yet also at times steals the show. Not on every sip, but every couple sips I get a very enigmatic spice component as well. I may be biased, but I’m in total support of this bottle and think its a perfect segue for California Chard whores who need to see the grape in a not-so-slutty way. Pardon my language there, but I can’t help it.

RIDIC.

RIDIC.

So… hmm.. what can I say about this wine? It’s nuts. Worth every penny. I can’t back down from that opinion. The wine is insane. Its as pure as Snow White. Its as balanced as an Olympic athlete on a balance beam, with enough muscle to support its frame. Chisled and Chablis-like, it opens with a nose of bright lime zest, wet stone, white flowers and green apple. A vague creamy indication lingers in the background, an indicator of things to come. The mid-palate absolutely blooms with vanilla- but not in-your-face vanilla; like delicate, integrated vanilla. And texture! Oh, texture. It pierces just a little, but caresses. I really can’t even. This wine is drinking like a dream right now, with 5 years in bottle, yet I really think it’ll age for at least a decade.

Did I mention Crab?

YES.

YES.

Crab and Chardonnay are, at this moment in my life, my top pairing. The buttery texture of Oregon Dungeness crab, combined with the texture and minerality of Oregon Chard are literally a match made in heaven. It has to be experienced to be believed. It defies explanation.

So, what should you take from this long and over-explanatory post about Oregon Chardonnay? You need it! Oregon is on the precipice of absolute world-class Chardonnay production, and that “secret” is pretty much out, to a lot of people. But not all the way. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; Pinot Noir put Oregon on the map, Chardonnay is going to keep it there. It’s the next big thing. And I think you need it. Now. And some Dungeness crab. Just do it.

Cheers to days 8, 9 & 10! Thanks for reading and there’s more wine to come!

Thirty Oregon Wines in Thirty Days: Day 7!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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