On the Left Coast, we do things a little differently

 left_coast_logo-black+w-+Font Here on the Left Coast, we do things a little differently.  We may lean a little left, we may be innovative.  And we certainly approach wine with a creative verve.

Left Coast Cellars has been making world class wines in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon since 2003.  I was first introduced to Left Coast when I attended a conference in Oregon, and me Ivy Hover, DTC Manager and all around great gal.

Committed to sustainability, Left Coast Cellars is certified.Salmon Safe, as well as LIVE and several other sustainably responsible certifications.

 With a wide variety of both Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and other Oregon classics, the estate sits in the Van Duzer corridor, making it an idea place to grow these grapes.  The cooler fog and breezes from the Pacific Ocean cool down the 9 vineyards and make it a magical spot.
The Field of Dreams vineyard was planted in 2007, with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.  Here, the rebel Pinot Meunier that I tasted was born.

image courtesy of Left Coast Cellars

Left Coast Cellars Pinot Meunier is typically used in their sparkling wine, which is also common in Champagne, but they make a small amount of still Pinot Meunier and I was lucky enough taste it.  Intensely earthy, with violets and cigar box flavors, this mutation of the Pinot Noir grape is simply stunning.  For those wine lovers who don’t like Pinot Noir, seek out still Pinot Meunier.  The richness and complex earthy spice will make your tongue dance with joy.

One of the crowd pleasers is the budget friendly 2014 Left Coast Cellars Cali’s Cuvee Left Coast CalisPNPinot Noir.  Bottled under screw cap, this 100% Pinot Noir is bright, youthful and fun – and is a drink now style that will please even the pickiest pinot drinker.  With tell tale Oregon brightness, the fuller boded blackberry, plum and bing cherry flavors float above the forest floor and spruce flavors that are so often a part of the Wädenswil clone that makes up part of the blend.  $24

Stay tuned for more Left Coast Cellars reviews!  Special thanks to Ivy for sending this yummy juice.

 

 

 

 

 

Troon Vineyards M&T Reseve: An Unusual Blend from an Unusual Winery

You might not expect a dark and delicious red wine to come from Oregon’s Applegate Valley, but Troon Vineyard’s 2013M&T Reserve is just that.  This co-fermented blend of Tannat and Malbec is surprisingly low in alcohol at only 13.7%, but is rich in flavor!

Intensely floral, full of black licorice and dried lavender on the nose, the palate is full of bold espresso, dark chocolate and dark berries.  This is a lush wine but also has a beautifully ripe and bright strawberry finish, and is bursting with cracked pepper.

As I sip this wine on a cool and foggy summer afternoon, I can’t help but think of how cozy it would be with a roaring fire and some roasted pork, orange and is perfect for some nice homemade lasagne.

 Thank you Troon and Craig Camp for sharing these lovely wines!  Next up, we move backwards to the refreshing whites!




Oregon Pinot: Stoller Family Estate

Stoller Family Estates sits on a piece of Dundee Hills history, founded in the 1940s as a working farm.  Growing a small family farm to a larger enterprise through 50 years, the Stoller Family passed on the land to Bill Stolller, who founded the vineyard in 1993.

Today, Stoller owns the largest single contiguous vineyard in the Dundee Hills region of the Willamette Valley.  With an eye towards sustainability, innovations include pest management, research, and modern techniques.  Planted almost entirely to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Stoller is also experimenting with Tempranillo, Syrah, and other Alsatian varietals.

Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2014 this fresh and fun entry level Chardonnay was fermted entirely in stainless steel, resulting in a fruit forward, vibrant wine full of pineapple, tropical mango and peach, and bright citrus.  $25

Stoller 2013 Dundee Hills Pinot NoirBursting with rhubarb and rose petals on the nose, the palate reinforces this classic Oregon Pinot Noir with Bing cherry, hibiscus, cinnamon, leather and cola syrup, with a hint of bacon fat.  This elegant but approachable wine is a great introduction to the region.  $30

The beautiful all season tasting room opens on to majestic views of the Dundee Hills, and is also the source of 100% of it’s electrical needs, through the solar panels on the roof.  Driving your Tesla?  Feel free to charge up at the EV station

Stoller Family Estate is located in the Dundee Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  They are open daily, and invite you to sti down and stay a while as you taste through some of the reserve selections.  Want to experience the vineyard after visiting hours?  Stoller offers various guest house accommodation for an inside view.

Thank you to Stoller Estate and Trellis Growth Partners for sharing these lovely wines.

 

Roses of Summer: Ousterhout Wines Russian River Valley

Ousterhout Wine & VineyardIt isn’t often that I find a new winery, that I haven’t at least heard of.  Recently, when I received the invitation to the Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard Release party here in San Francisco, I was excited to be able to go and try new wines without having to go very far from home.  Leave it to me and my city dwelling blogging friends to be able to go wine tasting on a Tuesday night in the Marina!

Owners Douglas and Nancy Ousterhout create delicious Pinot Noir Rose and Zinfandel from a small vineyards in Sonoma County, as well as thier estate vineyard in Alexander Valley.  With strong agricultural roots, the Ousterhouts are wine naturals. With a thriving medical practice in San Francisco, the vineyard property is a weekend retreat where they can build their brand in the tranquility of this quiet corner of Sonoma.

Winemaker Michah Wirth cut his baby teeth in Oregon, working with cult producers like Raptor Ridge before moving back to Healdsburg.  Here, he started working with Gary Farrel Winery, where he spent 7 years learning how to create stellar Pinot Noir.  Like most young winemakers, he wanted to create his own wines, which he did in 2007 with Joseph Jewell in 2006.  Today, he makes the wines at Ousterhout in a refreshingly different style.  While the zins are bold, they are not overpowering.  The roses are distinctive and not sweet.

 With three roses and two Zinfandels, along with a Sauvignon Blanc for added measure, Ousterhout is tightly focused on their wines.  In particular, the three roses really caught my attention.

This week, my rose of the week is the porch pounder summer loving Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir.  Along with two vineyard designate roses, the Russian River is a delightfully crisp refreshing Rose.  With bright red fruit, Tuscan melon, strawberries and mineral note, this is a great rose for grilled chicken, salads, and turkey burgers.  At only $22, it’s an afforable summer wine, that is brest served well chilled on the deck with friends.

Check out Ousterhout’s other wines here!  Enjoy a great dry rose of Zinfandel, or a classic Zinfandel from Dry Creek!

Jack Steffan, Director of Sales & Marketing graciously provided me with a bottle of wine for further inspection, but all options and expression of joy are my own. 

 

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Running up that hill – Cardiac Hill

Kramer VineyardsWe interrupt this armchair travel series on Rioja with a short trip to the Willamette Valley for two different Oregon Pinot Noirs, brought to you by Kramer Vineyards.

First up, the 2010 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir, which is from the steepest part of the estate vineyards that Kramer sources fruit from.  Planted in 1995, with rich red soils and ribbons of clay running through the slopes.

Hand harvested blocks due to the steep slopes were treated to a 25% new French oak treatment, and slept for 18 months, where it was then bottled unfined and unfiltered.  The resulting wine is bright and slightly cloudy, with tangering, cranberry, wild strawberry and brilliant acid.  I love the woodsy note on the nose, and the earthy violets in the glass that opens up to tart cherries and cinnamon spice on the finish.  I loved having the comparison to the next wine, but the Cardiac Hill can go on for days, and belies the more traditionally bolder, bigger style of many 2010 wines from the region.  $40

In contract, the 2010 Rebecca’s Reserve comes from just over the field from the Cardiac Hill, but was planted with a higher density.  The grape clusters here are smaller, and tighter, creating wines with more depth and complexity.

Also harvested by hand, the fruit is given the same oak treatment as Cardiac Hill but had an extra month on oak before bottling.  The result is bright red fruit on the nose, with strawberry, crushed raspberry, berry jam, and rich brown sugar.  It is more lush and rounded, with a burst of lemon zest and blood orange on the finish.  I love the baking spice on the palate along with vanilla and cola, with a long lingering finish.  $35

Check out Kramer’s Wines for great examples of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton region.  Small and mighty, winemaker Kimberly Kramer continue to impress with each passing vintage, be it still or sparkling.

Cheers!

These wines were provided by the winery for a live twitter tasting, always a raucous good time.  Check out #drinkkramerwine and #tastekramerwine for off the cuff commentary!

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Seven of Hearts she stole my taste buds!

I don’t know about you, but those of us who live in the Bay Area understand this peculiar thing called Indian Summer.  It was the last day of September and finally, it’s got hot!  This called for some delicious white wine.  (Mind you it’s been raining, hailing and freezing for the last week, now that it’s November but…)

So I went to my trusty top shelf of my refrigerator  where I keep whites and rose for ready consumption  and found the Seven of Hearts 2011 Pinot Gris in my fridge, ripe for the opening.  I also happened to find a 2010 that was buried in there from a long ago visit!  WOOHOOO!  Vertical!

Pinot Gris is a bit of a dark hourse, being a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir.  Not white or red exactly, it literally is…gris (grey).  This Pinot Gris comes from a site in north eastern Oregon that typically has warm days and cool nights.  With the longer growing season of 2011, it was perfect for Pinot Gris.

Created from four lots, each one was fermented separately  three in neutral oak which allows the wine to really develop a personality.  The fourth lot was fermented in stainless steel, which gives the crisp brightness that lights up the wine.  This is a dry, delicious wonder that was bright and citrus driven, with lovely mineral notes followed by rich pears, stone fruit and ripe luscious peaches.  At only $18 a bottle, this is a no brainier

The 2011’s older sister, 2010, had been hiding in the back of my fridge.  When I found it I was excited to do a side by side.  The older vintage was a deep golden color, with rich peach flavors and spiced pear and tropical fruits, including kumquat.  The bottle age definitely made a difference, but the oak was more present, and baking spice, apple and vanilla were showing through.

These two sisters were a delightful summer reprieve and I was happy to enjoy them on a warm day.  I look forward to visiting Byron again soon!

Teh 2011 was provided as a sample, but I earned that 2010 all on my own!

 

Stepping over Stones to Oregon

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Cornerstone wines.  I’ve visited the tasting room in Yountville several times, and every new release is something to be savored.  Now, Craig Camp and Tony Rynders, a well known Oregon wine making star, have teamed up to create something new:  Cornerstone Oregon.  It’s also probably no secret that I am in love with Oregon wines, particularly pinot noir.  Cornerstone Oregon is a new baby and boy is she tasty.

After my whirlwind 10 days in Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference and wine tasting, I was missing the Oregon terroir a bit.  Luckily for me, the Cornerstone Oregon wines showed up just as fall was rearing her ugly head.

A collaboration between former Oregon resident Camp and Rynders, Craig’s passion for pinot was ignited when he was meandering around the wilds of Burgundy.  Rynders has been the winemaker at Domaine Serene for 10 years, a well known Oregon powerhouse of pinot.  With Craig playing Batman, and Tony as trusty sidekick Robin (who usually does the heavy lifting anyway),these wines are sure to be amazing.

First off, I tasted the 2010 Chardonnay.  No really!  Normally, this is not my first pick for white wine, as I’d rather go for the delicious Oregon Pinot Gris that dapples the Willamette, but this was a departure from the expected.  Similar in style to a French Chablis, this chardonnay was full of bright citrus, nutmeg and nectarines   2010 was a cooler growing season, which created lively, bright wines.  This was a wonderful wine for a warm late summer evening and I look forward to future bottles.

Next up, the 2010 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – this is the second vintage of this wine, and I have to say I prefer the 10 to the 09.  It was a cool year, which gives these wines a great acid profile and wonderful bright red fruit without being heavy.  Tons of classic cherry and raspberry flavors, with tell tale Willamette earth, spice, and smoke.  with 68% Yamhill-Carlton fruit, and bits from 5 other sub AVAs, it blends together perfectly.  62% new French oak meshes perfectly with the fruit without overpowering it.  This is an absolutely beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir that shows the best of the region.  It is soft and supple with a piquant wild strawberry finish that just makes my taste buds so happy.  At $50 it’s a bit pricey  but on par with most higher quality Willamette Valley pinot noirs.  Considering the dynamic duo behind this project, it’s priced perfectly to fit with both the Cornerstone line, as well as the product.

Finally, the second label, 2010 Stepping Stone Pinot Noir – while the Stepping Stone label was created to be fun, creative, and affordable, more every day wine.  This pinot noir however, is nowhere close to everyday.  Very much a departure from the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the Stepping Stone is big, ripe, and red.  The bulk of the fruit is Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity, which can sometimes producer bigger fruit flavors.  Lots of big strawberry and raspberry flavors in there with cherry fruit roll up.  A delicious wine, it is definitely a bolder style but is still full of Willamette leather, spice and earthy notes.  Spicy figs and macerated berries pop through with some lovely rose petal aromas.  $30 is a steal for this baby!

Bottom line, you really can’t go wrong with Cornerstone!  I am a lucky blogger to have received these wines as samples, and unlike some of my blogger brethren I am hard pressed to hold these wines for very long.  Go out and buy some for yourself!   you will not be sorry.

It's the pinot stupid!

While attending Carlton’s Walk in the Park, I was lucky enough to meet Ken Morrison of K&M Wines.  Clearly passionate about Oregon wine, he began his winemaking career 15 years ago with the grapes on the vineyard property he lives on.  With 6 acres planted  and 3 more in process, K&M produces about 500 cases annually.

Initially Ken’s hobby, he and his partner Mauro Hernandez (the M) have grown this hobby in to a small business, pursuing their dream of food, wine, and entertaining.  I was excited by Ken’s 2007 Pinot at the Walk in the Park, and little did I know that I would be seeing quite a bit of him over the next day and a half!

As the Blitz Carlton Crew split up in to two smaller groups on Monday morning, you’ve already heard about my adventure up the hill to Luminous Hills.  Later that afternoon, after we rolled out of Cuvee’s delicious lunch, we walked around Carlton and did speed tastings in several tasting rooms.  The first was K&M.

I was delighted to see that I would get the opportunity to taste more of Ken’s wine in a more focused (but fast) environment, and it confirmed that I did indeed like the wine very much.

First up, the 2010 Chardonnay, 50% Alchemy Vineyard Estate fruit and bursting with sandlewood, hazlenuts, and smoke.  Fermented sur lie, in 100% neutral oak, this is gorgeous example of an Oregon chardonnay.

The 2009 Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir is the a blend of the estate vineyard and Dundee Hills fruit, and is a classic, bursting with cherries and red fruit.  Dense and smoky, it is full of dark raspberry with soft, silky tannins.  With only 25% new oak, it has a subtle finish that is much appreciated.

My favorite of the tasting was the 2007 Alchemy Vineyard Pinoit Noir, a special treat Ken was pouring at A Walk in the Park.  Panned by critics, loved by pinotphiles, this is a very good example of the Oregon Pinot Noirs from this year.  Raspberry, pomegranate  strawberry and creamy vanilla, it is a classically elegant Pinot that K&M held back for a few extra months in oak to give it a long silky finish.  Yum!

K&M Wines keeps prices affordable, and you can afford to splurge on these little luxuries.  With the Reserve Pinot Noir topping the charts at $35, even the most budget minded wine lover can taste the Oregon terroir.

Thanks again Ken for the great wines and the entertaining ride back to Portland!

K&M Wines is located in Carlton, Oregon.  Make sure you say hi if you make the trip!

The hills are a glow with…

Pinot!

Luminious Hills

On our Blitz Carlton tour of the Yamhill-Carlton wine region, I was lucky enough to visit the Luminous Hills vineyard sight.  I have tasted the wines of Byron Dooley a few times before, as he owns the Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills labels, but this visit was special.

Byron Dooley tells us about the wine, the site, and how much bees like corked wine!

Joe Power of Another Wine Blog really enjoys his pinot!

Piling in to the trusty Subaru wagon (legally required if you live in Oregon), we trekked up a rough and ready road to the beautiful rolling hills.  The steep slopes of the site are hidden from the main road and are a beautiful hollow in the hills where the cool air pools in the valley.

The vineyard is located in the southwest corner of the Yamhill-Carlton District, in a uniquely high elevation site full of both Jory and sedimentary soils.  The two soils, which are very different, combined with the specific clones that Byron uses to make these wines, create some delicious and complex Oregon Pinot Noirs.

 

Like many vineyards in the area, the bulk of the plantings are Pommard, with blocks of 777, 667,

Bloggers stop at nothing to tweet! Do you have a signal? I have a signal. Where is the signal!

and 115 also planted to add terroir and variety.  The property is dry farmed, which maximizes the site’s terroir, although emergency irrigation is possible if needed in a difficult vintage   Sustainable farmed, the three Pinot Noirs from Luminous Hills are each distinct, wonderful, and full of character – much like Byron himself!

Luminous Hills producers four wines.  I will let you taste them

for yourself, but the details are:

Rose of Pinot Noir – This is such a delicious refresher, with 70% purpose made from Pommard and 777, and 30 Saignee.  The clean, crisp flavors jump out of the glass, and the bolder style is perfect to tuck away in your cellar.

Estate Grown Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton – This affordable luxury contains all four clones from the property,  and is a clear picture of the location.

 

 

Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill-Carlton LUX – this wine is only Pommard and 777, with the richness of the Pommard overlapping the bright spikes of the 777.  The higher elevation of the vineyard produces brighter, elegant fruit.  This is my fave!

Robbin Gheesling of Vineyard Adventures looks longingly at the Rose

Snack time of local cheeses!

Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill Carlton- Utilizing the 667 clone from the top of the vineyard and the 115 from the bottom, the Astra has more whole cluster fermentation and is a rich, bold wine.

I hope you will stop by the tasting room in Carlton when you are in the Willamette Valley!  Byron, Lena and the chocolate will be waiting for you!

 

 

 

Cocktail, laughter, and damn fine jam

After we meandered through the Walk in the Park, the Blitz Carlton crew headed back in to town and met up at Republic of Jam for cocktails and catching up.

The Republic of Jam is a unique shop that specializes in jams and culinary concoctions of distinction made from local farms and suppliers.  Each jar of jam contains at least one pound of fresh fruit, with half of the sugar of traditional jams – making them deliciously savory as well as sweet.  These are not your average jams!  With flavors like Apricot Vanilla Riesling and Mango Viognier, you are sure to have your taste buds teased and enthralled.

Lynnette creating Plum Royales
Photo courtesy of Josh Chang

In this little slice of heaven, members of the Jam Nation (the shop’s quarterly club) can wander the shelves of little gems like the much coveted Pacific Berry Jam, only made once a year, or perhaps some Cherry Black Pepper jam to spread on your pork chop.  With other items such as Spiced Pomegranate Culinary Syrup as well as mustards, the sky is the limit when it comes with creative uses of these sauces and spreads.

Republic of Jam’s proprietresses, Amy Wilder and Lynnette Shaw, are creative and inspired jam masters who are only limited by the supply of season fruit.  The creative recipies and inspirations that they come up with are truly amazing.

On our visit, we were treated to several nibbles as well as three cocktails, using both jams and culinary syrups.

Photo courtesy of Josh Chang (I swear I took pictures, but clearly not of the cocktails!)

Try some fresh chevre or farmers cheese with a little blueberry jam, or perhaps a Smoked Tomato jam with bacon sandwich!

The first cocktail was Plum Ginger culinary syrup, paired wit local winery Kramer Vineyards Brut.  This created a Plum Royale, and the flavor of the plums make it a refreshingly fun sparkler, with a twist.  When I got home, I had a bottle of Spiced Pomegranate syrup, so I tried that as well – and boy!  What a way to ring in the holidays!

Next up locally crafted artisan gin was paired with Blueberry Lemon jam, slowly dissolved in a glass with a generous slug of gin, topped with sparkling water.  Lemon Blueberry Gin fizz anyone?  I had two…or three!  Hey, I was walking 2 blocks back to the B&B and the restaurant for dinner was next door.

Our final jam libation was a Strawberry Mint Julep, created with Temperance Trader Bourbon, bitters, and Strawberry Black Pepper culinary syrup.  With the unexpected kick of pepper at the end of a sweet julep, this was absolutely delicious.

If you are in Carlton, be sure to stop by!  Situated between 7 of Hearts winery and Horseradish cafe, you can stroll the main street all day and never be bored.

As for me, I have about 7 jars of jam collected on my counter, and 3 culinary syrups in my fridge.  This weekend is the Craft Spirits Carnival, and I will be doing my best mixology routine tomorrow!  We’ll see how it goes…

Happy jamming!

Attack of the clones

One of my favorite interactive sessions at the Wine Bloggers Conference was a component tasting of clonal selections of Pinot Noir, hosted by Erath Winery.  As a wine geek, I love tasting each piece of the puzzle that makes up a final blend; in the case of Oregon Pinot Noir, it is frequently the case that a specific vineyard block is planted to more than one clone.  What is also true is that blocks might be clone specific but the final wine is a blend of those clones.

First, a bit about Erath.  Erath Winery was established in 1967, with it’s first vintage in 1972.  They were one of the early pioneers in the Willamette Valley.  They were, in fact, the first winery in the Dundee Hills AVA, focused on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Piot Blanc.  Dick Erath was inspired to create wine in 1965 after some garagiste experiments   After leaving an engineering career behind, he attended UC Davis, and relocated to Oregon in 1968. In 1969, Erath planted the Dundee Hills’ first vineyards, with 23 varieties   With Pinot Noir flourishing, he had producted his first commercial vintage in 1972.  While the original plantings were from his Davis roots and California bred clones, he watned to experiment with French clones, and imported them to Oregon in 1974.  Today, Erath uses Pommard, 115, and 777 clones to create world class Pinot Noir.

Now, let’s look at each of the Pinot Noir clones that were part of our tasting.  Of course, there are many more clones used in Oregon, but Erath focuses on these three.  Grape clones are developed for specific reasons, flavor profiles, color, and body.  There are Dijon clones, the Pommard clone, and the Wadinswil clone, widely usd in Oregon.  Erath uses three clones for their wines, 115, 777 and Pommard.  All of the clones and the blended wine resulting from them are from Prince Hill Vineyard, in the Dundee Hills.

The Pommard clone has become most widely known as the distinct Oregon style.  Pommard is often used alone, while the Dijon clones are classically blended.  Pommard gives Pinot NOir powerful fruit notes, spicebox and a rich body.  In the 2009 Prince Hill Pommard Clone, the oldest vines on the property are used.  The bright classic cherry flavors were obvious, with earth hiding underneath.  I loved this wine, with the bright acid and root beer notes, and a touch of herbal notes.  I really enjoyed this single clone, however, I found it lacking in some interest with just the Pommard.

Dijon clone 115 can have vegetal flavors, with rose petals edges.  It is a deep colored grape, with rich aromas and red fruit flavors.  With the strong tannins it’s a good choice for a wine you plan to age long.  The 2009 Prince Hill 115 Clone Pinot Noir had lovely earth, and dark red fruit with a bit of a nutty finish.  This clone brings cedar and earth, and adds a nice backbone.

Clone 777 also has more earthly vegetative flavors, with the classic mushroom and forest floor notes.  True to Erath’s restrained style the 2009 Price Hill 777 Clone has strong aromas of perfume and flowers, with mushrooms, brown sugar and figs followed by rich berry fruit.  It’s a bolder style, with silky textures.  The overwhelming note was strawberry, and this is the clone that brings the fruit tot he party.

There can be up to 15 selections put together to make the final wine, the 2009 Prince Hill Pinot Noir.  The backbone is the old vine Pommard, which brings the baking spice notes.  The fruit comes slowly, building on Bing cherry, rhubarb and cranberry, with stewed fruit and meat at the end.  There was a delicious umami note, with subtle, big red fruit.  The finished product is a subtle, elegant wine full of cherry flavors with great acid, lighter in style with a touch of earth.  The 15 months in 40% new French oak is a bold choice, but it is well integrated.

Componant tastings like these are fascinating since you can see what each single clone brings to the party.  With so many other clones of Pinot Noir out there, it’s going to be a great study!  Windsor Oaks Winery in Windsor, California makes several blends, of 2, 3, 4 and five clones for their customers to study and enjoy.  I think I’ll open some tonight!

Turn left at the coast

Early in my trip to Oregon in August, I took a day and a half long detour through the southern Oregon region surrounded Salem.  One of our stops was Left Coast Cellars, located in the Eola-Amity appellation, Left Coast is situated on a rolling hill, where they can catch the strong Van Duzer breezes that flow through the gap to the coast, cooling off the area and the precious grapes.

Our hostess, Ivy Hover, was dedicated to showing us a great time.  A ball of energy and a social media guru, Ivy get sit.  She is connected, and invested in engaging with the blogger audience.   Throughout the conference later that week, Ivy was tweeting up a storm and an active participant in the discussions around engagement and interaction.

The winery is located on the 45th parallel, and has 306 acres of steep hills that form a natural amphitheater with a spring fed lake.  The vineyard, which is sustainably farmed, is naturally irrigated via a gravity flow system.  With vineyards planted primarily on the southern facing slopes, the remained of the property is kept as an ecological preserve, with old growth White Oaks, orchards, as well as natural lakes, streams and meadows.

Left Coast, like many Oregon producers, is committed to sustainability and is one of 14 wineries that completed the Carbon Reduction Challenge.  With a focus on being completely carbon neutral, Left Coast has installed two large solar panels.  The first provides 100% of the power for the guest cottage, and front gate, the irrigation system, and landscaping needs.  Another solar panel on the winery roof generates most of the electricity needed to operate the production facility.  With a large spring fed lake in which rain water is collected, the gravity flow irrigation system is fed.  Add in some bio-diesel winery vehicles and you have a very green operation!

But now, let’s talk about the wine.  As our hosts for dinner, Left Coast set up under the Tree House, a large open air gazebo just above the winery in the woods.  Here, in the shade of the hot summer day, we could sip Pinot Noir Blanc and look out at the beautiful hills around us.

I hit the jackpot when I saw that they were pouring an 07 Latitude 45 Pinot Noir!  07 you say?  07 I say!   Widely panned by critics but much loved by Pinot drinkers, the 07s are in short supply these days but what is left is amazing.  With a low 13.5% ABV, the spice and minerality shows off the best of the vintage.   With Dijon clones 114, 115, 667 and 777, it is a well balanced wine with great black pepper and acid balance.   It’s a big wine for 2007, but not big over all and I love it.  $30 buy now if you can.

To beat the heat, the 2011 White Pinot Noir was surprisingly delicious.  I admittedly scoff at “white” Pinot Noir, questioning why you wouldn’t make a delicious rose instead, but there are several examples in Oregon of White Pinot Noir that are lovely.  This one is produced from free run juice, and has a floral note with delicious green apple and cranberry.  Fermented in stainless steel, it’s a crisp refreshing wine with just a kiss of pink.  $20 a great summer sipper

It’s little sister, the 2011 Pinot Noir Rose, is a salmon pink Pinot rose with classic notes of watermelon and strawberry.  Again, the low ABV of 13% makes this a great wine to enjoy with your picnic.  At $16, you can afford it everyday.

While there are many more wines of left coast to enjoy, these were my favorites.  I can’t wait to get back up and visit!

 

Youngberg Hill Winery

Driving up to the inn & winery, past the rolling hills south of McMinnville, through the farmlands, you feel like you are on top of the world.  Turning in to the driveway of the winery, and you realize why the current owners, Wayne Bailey and family choose to purchase this particular spot.

in 2003, the Baileys purchased the property, and proceeded to radically change the way the vineyards and winery were managed.  The vineyard was moved to organically farmed grapes, and they are still lint he process of being more biodynamically farmed as we speak.  Today, Youngberg Hill is a small, family owned winery that produces Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (as well as a renegade Pinot Blanc).  Today, an inn operates on the vineyard property, offering luxurious accommodations with sweeping views of the McMinnville hills.

The winery sits on 50 acres, on top of a hill, surrounded by the estate vineyards.  It’s easy to have Wayne’s infectious enthusiasm rub off on you, and I sat on the deck of the inn, nibbling on a light lunch, tasting the delicious wines.  Wayne’s dream was to create a winery that produced distinctive wines, while respecting the environment and local climate accordingly.  For 22 years, the vineyard has been producing these lovely wines, while maintaining a green philosophy that is so dominant in Willamette’s wine making industry.

With 20 acres planted to 3 blocks of Pinot Noir and one block of Pinot Gris, each block is unarmed for one of the Baily daughters – Natasha, Jordon and Aspen, as  well as the Camelot block that was planeted in 2008.  Natasha is 7 acres, and is the largest of the Pinot blocks.  At 600 feet, it sits on marine sediment from the sea that once covered this area.  Jordan is 4 acres, and is on a steeper slope that is volcanic soil, at 800 feet.  Both of these blocks are planted with 60% Pommard and 40% Wadenswil, from the original vineyard planting in 1989.  The third pinot block, Camelot, is smaller at 3 acres and sits between the two sisters, with a blend of volcanic and marine sediment.  This is planted to 777, and was a more recent addition in 2008.  The Aspen Pinot Gris is dry farmed, and is between 525 and 600 feet.

The vineyards are all hand harvested and field sorted before the secondary table sorting begins.  Youngberg Hill does not use whole cluster fermentation, and all of the fruit is destemmed.  Traditionally, they use a native yeast fermentation, but as most wineries do, there is an emergency box with commercial yeast, to assist when things get stuck.  The importance of native yeast cannot be stressed enough – since it’s a complex blend that comes in from the vineyards, as well as the house style in the cellar.  Replacing that with a single staring with do a disservice to to the wine, and as Youngberg is striving to be sustainable, organic and local, they shy away from those practices.

Some of the other sustainable practices in place today include reducing soil erosion with cover crops, a primary focus of biodynamcis.  The winery also uses alternative pesticides such as biodegradable oils, soaps, and plant extracts, and is aggressively pursuing the goal of 100% sustainability in its vineyard.  In 2005, they earned their LIVE and Salmon Safe certifications, two key sustainable organizations in Oregon.  In 2010, Youngberg Hill was certified by the Oregon Wine Board as sustainable.  The latest goal is to be biodynamically certified.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I can’t wait to go back and visit!  The inn is on the isolated hilltop, and is the perfect place to bring a book or three, and disconnect for the weekend.  The staff will be sure to take excellent care of you as you sip on the wines below, gazing out at the stunning views below.  I know I will be planning a weekend as soon as I can!

2011 Aspen Block Pinot Gris – The 800 foot elevation gives this Pinot Gris a brilliant and bracing citrus acidity that is well balanced and delicious.  Lots of grapefruit and Granny Smith apple.  This is a beautiful porch pounder for your early fall sipping!


2011 Pinot Blanc – The Pinot Blanc is the only non estate wine in the line up, and is from the Larkins Vineyard in the Eola Hills.  The nose has bright grapefruit and lime citrus, with luscious stone fruit and cream on the palate.

2009 Estate Pinot Noir – this is a blend of the 2 older blocks of Pinot, Natasha and Jordon.  It has an earthy dust, mushroom notes and flavors of the forest floor, with a nice acid profile with bright cherries and spicebox.  A hint of minerality with cinnamon dusted plum to finish.

2009 Natasha Block Pinot Noir – This is the 24th leaf of the block.  There are richer cherry cola notes, and lots of Dr. Pepper, prune, and rhubarb notes.  A darker one but wonderful.

2008 Jordan Block Pinot Noir – This is the upper block, on volcanic soils.  It producer more intense black cherry, brambleberry, and fig notes.  There was a lot of root beer, with nice earth and bark finish.  The Jordan uses 20+25% new oak, that gives it a great balance.

Thank you Wayne for hosting, and I look forward to visiting again soon!

The dirt on Willamette Valley terroir

With all of this wine tasting all over the Willamette Valley that I did before, during, and after the Wine Bloggers Conference, I thought we should visit the different AVAs as well as the soil types.  Since the combination of these two plus a little magic creates a terroir, it is important to note what variables can impact the wines that you love.

Now I am no geologist, or an enologist, but I do know something about soil and the mechanics of it.  That said, this is just my opinion.  You should go out and form your own but tasting wines from all over the Willamette!  Using Pinot Noir as my baseline, since it seems to show the characteristics of the terroir the most clearly, here is a bit of dirt from the Willamette.

Coming from a state that has over 100 distinct AVAs, many of which are widely known for their Pinot Noirs (Santa Lucia Highlands, Russian River Valley, Carneros, Anderson Valley to name a few), I have acquired a particular taste for elegant, earthy, austere wines.  The Willamette Valley while offering a wide variety ina  small region, offers several different and distinct regions, all of which have an overwhelming style of wine that is produced in each.

First, the Willamette Valley has six sub-AVAs within the greater Willamette Valley AVA.  The larger AVA was established in 1984, while the first vineyards were planted around 1965.  The rebels that really started the Willamette trend planted in the mid 1970s.  Each of the 6 sub-AVA has a primary soil type, which can produce vastly different results when combined with the weather patterns.  The sub-AVAs today, with more proposed (roughly North to South) are:

Chehalem Mountains – the newest AVA, was established in 2006 and is the closest to the metro area of Portland.  The mountains were formed when the seabeds were uplifted, filling with lava beds and overblown with silt.  This gives the area quite a diverse soil base.

Dundee Hills – the most well known, with the largest amount of wineries.  Established in 2004, it is the oldest AVA geologically, they were formed 15 million years ago when lava flows from eastern Washington flowed down the Willamette.  Then, earthquakes and tectonic shifts created the Coast Range, and further shaking created the Dundee Hills.  During the Missoula Floods, when the glaciers melted in weather patterns over thousands of years, layers of sediment were repeatedly poured over the area creating rich sedimentary layers.  The deeper underlying Jory soils poke up through the hills above the flood plain.

Ribbon Ridge – is a short ridgeline that contains mostly ocean sediment, created from tectonic uplift.  With finer and more uniform sedimentary soils, it is unique enough to warrant their own AVA, established in 2005, it is a smaller AVA contained within the Chehalem Mountains.

McMinnville – Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA rises from 200 to 1000 feet in elevation.  When the Coast Range was created, fingers of lava flowed in to McMinnville, leaving basalt fingers, that are oddballs in the area of mostly marine sediment.  McMinnville also benefits from the cool Van Duzer winds, which flow through from the coast, that cool down the vineyards and help dry the vines, preventing mildew during humid summer days.

Yamhill-Carlton – Established in 2004 addition, this AVA ranges from 200 to 1000 feet in elevation, and is in the rain shadow of the Coast Range.  A horseshoe shape, the rural landscape hides most of the wine making activity here.  Coarser grained marine sediment soils are some of the oldest in the region, and they provide excellent drainage, perfect for vines.  The vines here tend to ripen earlier and more completely thanks in part to this excellent drainage.

Eola-Amity – the furthest south, Eola-Amity was created in 2006, and stretches from the hamlet of Amity in the north, to the city of Salem in the south.  The Van Duzer winds are steady, which cools the summer temperatures.  Eola-Amity sits on a basalt plateau, which is on top of the marine sediment layer.  The plateau has been rippled and wrinkled thanks to tectonic activity, and the Eola-Amity hills are part of this wrinkle pattern.

Now that we have the lay of the land, we can start to look at what soil types are in each region.  Soil types impact growth patterns and drainage, which in turn impact ripening patterns and base flavor profiles.

Jory is the primary soil type in the Dundee Hills.  A volcanic soil that is mostly basalt, Jory is found in most vineyards in Dundee Hills.  Filled with iron and clay, it is lush and full of nutrients.  Jory is also a wet soil, and it will stick together if you compact it in your hand.  Formed when massive lava flows covered most of Washington and Oregon with a layer of basalt, Jory grown Pinot Noirs tend to have a classic cherry and red fruit profile, with a strong minerality component.  Jory is found in the Dundee Hills, and produces classic cherry, red fruit and spicy Pinot Noirs.

Willakenzie – a sedimentary soil, formed when western Oregon was once 8000 feet under the sea.  When the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains were formed by tectonic shifts, the seabed was exposed, leaving Willakenzie soils made of marine sediment.  In some places, this exposed seabed is covered by a layer of volcanic soil.  The dry and brittle soil forces vines to reach deep in to the crust, which creates dark wines with structured spice and cola flavors.  More black than red fruit, Willakenzie is found in McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carolton.

Loess (Laurelwood) – is a silty loam soil, and is a very thin layer, unlike the Jory or Willakenzie which form a more substantial layer of soil.  With Loess, there is always another soil type underneath the thin layer, as it is primarily windblown.  A dusty sedimentary soil, it is fertile and drains well.  Pinot Noirs from Loess tend to be bright red fruit, with an underlying earthy flavor, and a sprinkling of white pepper.  Loess is particularly found in Chehalam Mountains.

Soil types, weather, style, and seasons all impact the terroir of a wine growing region.  Many of these factors are said to be similar to Burgundy.  I am not particularly well versed in the wines of France, so I can’t say for sure, but I do know that there is something very special about Oregon, and Oregon Pinot Noir in particular.

While every winemaker has their hand in creating every wine, and a house style, the terroir of a vineyard creates the baseline for these wines.  My personal taste has shown me that I am a big fan of the 2007 vintage, with 2010 comign hot on the hells.  2008 is turnign out to be a very interesting vinetage as well, alhtough I find it bigger and bolder than the 2007s or 2010s.  2009 on the other hand?  The jury is still out.  I also know that I love the bright fruit and tangy earth from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge, and that I’m not a fan of the wines from Eola-Amity, which are bigger, bolder, and dark.

There were a few wines I just plain didn’t care for, but overwhelmingly, the wines from the Willamette Valley, Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and further south, Syrah, as well as renegade wines produced in the middle of Pinot heaven are showcases of the region.  With the average winery in Willamette producing less than 1000 cases, it’s rare to find a producer that has a homogeneous style that they try to repeat year over year.  Even the larger producers, such as Willamette Valley Vineyards, strive for uniqueness and terroir driven wines.  This makes it a very special place indeed.

I’m looking forward to tasting more and seeing what happens in Oregon in the coming years!

Where the wind blows Winderlea…

On top of the rolling hills of the Dundee AVA in Oregon, Winderlea Vineyard and Winery sits on top of the world.  Looking out at the rolling vineyards below, through  the glass wall of the tasting room overlooking the estate vineyards, I felt like I was sitting in the vines.

Named for the original property and it’s owners, the name Winderlea is thought to come from the German word that means “Wind in the Meadow”.  That is exactly what it feels like when you are sitting there.  Too hot to sit outside on this particular day, I can imagine how, in the early fall, how the tasting room would be with the glass wall of doors rolled back and the outside melding with the inside.

Winderlea was recommended by several friends, and as we were in the area, we decided to stop by, and i’m so glad we did.  Sitting in the nice air conditioned tasting room (phew it was hot!) sipping delicious wines, what could get better?

Bill Sweat and Donna Morris always had a passion for wine.  Leaving their previous careers behind in Boston, they moved to Oregon to pursue their combined passion for wine, and specifically Pinot Noir.  Why Oregon you might ask?  Like many of the current crop of vintners and winery owners in the Willamette that I met, Sweat and Morris were drawn to the unique climate and soils, along with the drive to make small batches of amazing wine.  Newcomers are welcomed and tutored, and the wine community is inclusive of new members.  I heard this story over and over again with different places in Oregon, and many of my tech compatriots have left Southern California and Silicon Valley for vineyards in Oregon.

Winderlea is a luxury boutique winery specializing in the limited production of Pinot noir and Chardonnay from Oregon.  Crafting elegant, sensuous and age worthy wines for those who view the pairing of wine and food essential to their lifestyle and well being is what Winderlea is all about. Our focus is on making small lots of Pinot noir and Chardonnay that show the best characteristics of each vineyard. Hand crafted with minimal intervention and the modest use of new French oak barrels, our food friendly wines are classic in style.

Ensuring that the vineyards are LIVE certified as well as Salmon Safe, the team at Winderlea cultivates the land in a way that leaves the soil in tact for many future vintages to come.  This is a common theme here in Oregon; unlike California, the word sustainable is used extensively.  Much less so than Organic or fully Biodynamically certified, sustainable vineyards are a practice that can be maintained over the long haul, while using the best of all farming practices to produce the best results.

Augmenting this sustainable philosophy, Winderlea believes that the vineyard workers should be sustainable as well.  To support this, the $15 tasting fee (which is well worth it regardless) is donated to ¡Salud!, an alliance between Oregon winemakers, and local healthcare agencies to provide education and access to services for Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers and their families.  Similar to San Francisco’s healthy restaurant tax, this enables vineyard workers to support their families and their employers year round.

Warning:  The tasting caused me to join their wine club!  Read at your own risk.  The 2010s are just being released, so expect more to hit the shelves soon.

2009 Chardonnay – Creamed honey, with apricot, spiced pear and baking spice.  Lovely nutmeg finish.

2010 Dundee Cuvée Pinot Noir – the 2010s are shaping up to be a fantastic vintage.  Bright, with a fun and funky nose that gives way to coffee, stewed fruit and cherries, this wine screams Willamette.  The bright raspberries almost have a beet like note to them, with that earthy texture and mincemeat spice.

2010 Crawford Beck Pinot Noir – Crawford Beck breaks from the Dundee Hills AVA and goes further south, in to the Eola-Amity AVA.  The climate in the Eola-Amity area is influenced by the Van Duzer gap, which allows in cool coastal breezes.  This marine cooling trend taht happens every afternoon cools down the vineyards and tend to create more natural acidity in the Pinot Noir.  This wine had dusty plum with cocoa powder, slight sandlewood notes, and hints of walnut.  It is a young and fresher style of pinot.

2010 Ana Vineyard Pinot Noir – Back in the Dundee Hills AVA, the Ana Vineyard also has some of the oldest Pinot Noir in Oregon.  With mostly Pommard and 777 clones, the vineyard sits on the ridge top at 450 feet, sloping down to 350 feet.  Sitting in a bowl, the afternoon sun heats up the vineyard and creates bolder, fruitier fruit.  This was a clear and bold wine, with classic cherry flavors, bordering on sweet.  The acidity came out after the first taste, and I would call it craisen with raspberry juice.

With many more wines in the library Winderlea is worth a stop on even the shortest of visits to the Willamette Valley.

Cheers!

 

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