Recently, I’ve been struggling with finding good tidbits to write about and feel a little bit like a slacker on my blog.  After visiting Oregon wine country however, my friend mentioned a story about how oakay buttery $10 chardonnay is Cougar Juice (apologies in advance to you cougars out there, but I am a card carrying member of the ABC – KJC club.  Go figure THAT one out).  You know, the type that the older ladies on the prowl for their  gardener’s younger companions drink by the gallon at the Ruby Tuesday’s bar.

Well that got me thinking, since I was in McMinnville Oregon, heart of the Willamette Valley, if Panther Creek Cellars could qualify as Couger Juice, and if for that matter, I qualified as a couger.  Happily, since I am neither a cradle robber nor does Willamette Pinot Noir resemble the strange phenomenon of the yellow snow Cougar Chard, I can report that there are some very big cats in the Willamette Valley that are NOT hunting for Ashton Kutcher.

Panther Creek has been making that famous Oregon Bob Cat Juice, Pinot Noir, since 1986.  Purchasing grapes from all over the Willammete Valley AVA, their goal is to make wines that express the personality of the vintage and vineyard as purely as possible.  Each wine is different and is encouraged to show it’s terroir.
The winery is located in an old power plant near the old grange building and railroad station in McMinnville.  The re-purposing of these historical buildings to make world class wine is something that makes the story more interesting, and this particular building previously housed three large diesel generators that provided power McMinnville before the advent of cleaner power sources.

First up, I tasted the Bob Cat Juice, also known as 2008 Elton Vineyard Chardonnay.  While this was a rich chard, it was unoaked and very refreshing on a warm late summer day.  The  notes of lemon curd, fresh citrus, and light chalky citrus rind also showed granny smith apples and a hint of cream on the finish.  Even though I’m not normally a chardonnay girl, there are occasions like this where I hide my ABC card and chug down the white.

Starting in with the Pinot Noirs, we begin to focus on the single vineyard designates, which showcase a particular sub appellation in the valley.  The first, 2007 Verde Pinot Noir, is a blend of three sustainably farmed vineyards, showcasing the variety of techniques that different sustainably farmed vineyard properties can produce.  The Momtazi Vineyard is biodynamic, the Elton Vineyard is LIVE Certified (more on that in a minute) and the Temperance Hill Vineyard is organic.  It is a classically Oregon wine in my opinion, with a silky texture, earthy forest floor and cinnamon spiced cloves, pepper, and mushrooms.  I got the impresion that I was drinking wine soaked in mulling spices, which left my mouth coated after the wine was long gone.  For $35 retail, this is a great wine to explore the terrior and is a MUST BUY.

Now, back to LIVE certified.  You may remeber that we discovered LIVE in July at the wine Bloggers Conference.  LIVE stands for Low Input Viticulture and Enolgy.  It’s a non profit that provides education and

certification for wineries using international standards of sustainable viticulture and wine production, and bases it’s certification on several factors from fertilizer use to salmon safe farming.  For me, while it’s yet another organization that shows how sustainable farming practices are increasing in the wine business, the detailed entries on the checklist balance the need to responsible monoculture with the need to run an effective wine business.  I encourage you to investigate the checklist yourself, to see juts how difficult it must be to be a LIVE certified winery or vineyard, and how committed these businesses are to running a balanced consumer business.

Next up, the entry level Pinot, 2007 Winemakers Cuvee Blend is the workforce of the winery.  This fighting pinot retails for about $25 and exposes pather Creek and the willammette to a wider audience.  It’s a blend of Lazy River, Benderic and Freedom Hill Vineyards and  has a light and delicate color with a bright red fruit and cherry nose.  There is a sweet finish on the nose, but the palate is all black cherry, dark black spice notes, and tons of red fruit like Hood Strawberries.  Just to be clear, these are not the big watery strawberries that the rest of us make do with during most of the summer months.  These are these amazing, juicy, potent little berries that ANY good Oregonian will gladly show off.  I also tasted pomegranate, and raspberries with a touch of cream.  It was a lovely wine, TRY it if you find it around.

A winery only exclive, the 2007 Vista Hills Pinot Noir is a deeper color but still refined and light.  It has flavors of birght cranberry and reminds me of a much more Burgundian style, which is what I typically think of as Oregon.  There was an intense flavor of forest floor and mushrooms, with black tea tannins.  It was a bit tight, but might open up beautifully if I had some time to decant this.  At $40, I would TRY it if i saw it on a list or for less in the retail market, but there are others I’d try first.
Ahhh here we come to one of my favorite vineyards in The Willamette.  The 2007 Shea Vineyads Pinot Noir is a bold bright cherry bomb, black cherry and cedar.  There were several root beer, cola, and sassafrass notes with a lot of cinnaomn bark and floral notes.  Rose petals stood out with the black raspberries and white pepper followed by bakaing spice, and nutmeg.  I really loved this wine, and though it was a rich pinot for Oregon, the depth of spice and earthy notes opened up and developed as we sipped on the glass.  Those Hood Strawberries came out to play again, and the bright acidify just lingered and left my tongue dancing.  This would be a great wine to age, and I think in 3-5 years it will only be more amazing.  It retails for $40, but I’d buy this in a heart beat.  This is a MUST BUY.

The 2006 20th Anniversary Pinot Noir is a celebratory blend where the winemaker picked their favorite barrels and blended the final wine, which aged in barrel for 6 additional months.  The big dark ruby colors and bold black cherry notes also complimented blackberry flavors.  It had a lovely aroma of rose petals and jasmine.  It’s a special wine and is worth a SPLURGE.

I really enjoyed my visit to Panther Creek, and it has become a new favorite of mine in Oregon.  I look forward to visiting again, and bringing some of the treats home!  Make sure you stop by the old power station if you are in town.

Happy Drinking! More Oregon to come…


4 thoughts on “Where the cougars dare…”

  1. You're making me drool…slurp. I love the expansive palate lingo lady. As I'm still telling the hubby what I think & then checking against the tasting notes with a happy grin showing improvement with each drink. Thank you for your approachable writting style & hope to see you again soon in the Sonoma area.

    1. Heheh yeah they had some GREAT juice there! It takes practice to get the palate lingo down, sometimes my descriptions are rather…INTERESTING shall we say ;-p I pull random things out of my box of words.

      I'm so glad you like reading the blog! I to try keep it interesting both for every man and myself, so it sounds like it's right on par. Keep reading and I'll see you soon!

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