Where the wind blows Winderlea…

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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 […]

Anderson Family Vineyards – Oregon wines of distinction

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Before the mayhem of the Wine Bloggers Conference began earlier this month, I took some extra time to explore the different AVAs of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, known for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.  One winery that came up in conversation over and over again was Anderson Family Vineyards.  Recommended by several friends, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. Sitting on top of a hill, the sweeping views of the Dundee Hills AVA are breathtaking.  Just below the estate vineyards, a hazelnut orchard sits on the flats.  Set up an armchair, and I could sit there for days!  The Anderson family started off as growers of premium Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, selling these grapes for over 20 years.  After a while, they wondered why they weren’t’ using some of the amazing fruit for themselves, and the winery was born.  Currently, Anderson Family sells 1/3 of their grapes to area wineries, and uses the remainder for their own label. Cliff Anderson began his search in the 1980s for land that would produce grapes that would rival the great wines of Burgundy.  His belief that vines that struggle and need to reach for water, becoming deeply rooted, become amazing wines led him to the heart of Oregon wine country – the Dundee Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley.  Situated in the rolling countryside outside of Newberg, they found a property with steep hillsides full of broken stones and basalt.  In 1992, the vineyard was planted. Organically farmed, the Anderson Family creates wines in small lots with native yeast, in a gravity flow winery.  Carefully taken care of each small batch of wines, they move a little slower here.  While many larger operations have already released the 2010 vintage, Anderson Family is holding back; there will be no wine before it’s time! We had the opportunity to taste through the current releases with assistant winemaker Jonathan Riekert, a rising star of the area who is passionate about Pinot Noir as well as the Oregon terroir. 2009 Pinot Gris – There is something special about Oregon Pinot Gris.  I can’t quite describe it, but it combines the creamy nature of Gris with the crisp acidity of a Pinot Blanc in a beautiful swirl. 2009 was a warmer vintage for Oregon, but it was peppered with cool nights, as well as a few cooler days which helped keep the acidity in this wine.  With no malolactic fermentation, and 100% stainless steel fermentation, there are beautiful green apple, grapefruit and Asian pear notes.  With a dusting of nutmeg and a nutty finish, this is what I love about Pinot Gris. This wine was a bit of accident, as the vineyard was thought to be planted to chardonnay, I am glad they found this hidden gem! Next, we tasted a vertical of Chardonnay.  Much more European in style, these are lean and racy.  Just what I like! 2007 Chardonnay – 2007 had a longer growing season than some other years, which gave the grapes time to […]

Oregon's OTHER pinot!

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We’ve had a bit of a false spring here in the Bay Area.  Well, until recently that is.  Brr!  Today it’s dark and rainy, and this week has been chilly.  But, when the weather heats up, or it’s just warm enough to enjoy something other than a red wine, I reach for white wines with a slant.  As a card carrying member of the ABC Club (Anything But overoaked buttery Chardonnay), one of my favorite alternative whites is Pinot Gris.  As my friend (wineaux in training) put it, “it’s got all the flavor of that Sauvignon Blanc but not all the acid!”  As she has been imbibing on the NZ Savvy, this is the ultimate swing away from the typically high acid and grassy wines of NZ. Oregon is well known for it’s Pinot Noir.  In fact, I plan to go a bit crazy in August when I’m visiting for the Wine Bloggers Conference this summer.  That said, they do make more than Pinot Noir, and one of the other famous wines is Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris  is believed to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.  The name gris means grey in French, and grape can range from gray-blue to white, but it all produces lovely white juice.  Yes, this is the same grape that is used to make Pinot Grigio but my oh my is Pinot Gris different! The good people from the Oregon Pinot Gris marketing association sent me some samples, and so far, I’ve enjoyed three.  As soon as the weather warms up, I aim to enjoy the rest! First up: 2008 Oak Knoll Pinot Gris which was filled with buttery lemon curd,  nectarines and preserved lemons.  There was a hint of tropical mango and pineapple, followed by sandlewood.  While this wine was fermented in stainless steel, I found a touch of sandlewood and wood flavors, which aren’t my favorite.  Still, well worth trying at the low low price of $12.  TRY Next, we have the 2009 Arlie Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley.  This is a pre-release sample, but it was my favorite of the three that I tried in the first tasting batch.  This won had  tons of fresh peach and apple flavors, with a touch of minerality to finish.  The nose had some terrific floral aromas, though not as strong as a viognier.  The viscosity of the wine coats your mouth and the flavors linger, while the acid cuts through the richness.  Fermented in stainless steel, this gives this wine a crispness that oak aged Pinot Gris doensn’t have.   I was a bit sad to see the last of this bottle in my glass!  RUN OUT AND BUY A CASE with excellent QPR at $14 And rounding up this trio I tasted the 2010 David Hill Pinot Gris.  This was a bit higher in acid, with more citruis fruit, but also lovely.  I tasted asian pear, Granny Smith apple, and meyer lemon.  This wine is also stainless steel fermented, which lends a nice crispness.  Here here for stainless steel!  TRY […]

Feast on THIS!

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I first found out about Cana’s Feast Winery when touring around the WIllamette Valley last fall.  I didn’t pay it much attention, as we drove by on our way to a Pinot Pit Stop, primarily because they made other wines that weren’t on my hit list.  Bu also because I was overwhelmed with other deliciousness.  I finally woke up when my friend and fellow wine blogger started working there.  Well!  Fortunately for me, Tamara was able to send me samples as part of her marketing job, and I received a bottle of the 2008 Meredith Mitchell Pinot Noir.   I wasn’t very happy with this wine at first, because it was very woody, and suffered from a bitter quinine aftertaste that just didn’t sit right with me for an Oregon Pinot.  There was some burnt sugar and earth, and it was overwhelmed with dusty baking spice.  Where was the fruit?  Where was the PINOT in this Pinot? Well, far be it for me to throw away wine.  It’s just not in my making to dump Pinot!  So I left it, for about an hour, corked but not completely closed.  When I came back to it, it was beginning to wake up but there really wasn’t any THERE there if you know what I mean.  Oh well.  Fortunately, the next night, since I already had two open bottles of Pinot, both from Willamette, I was able to re-taste it.  What a different a day makes!  Now, I tasted bright cherries, pomegranate, cranberry.  There was my red fruit!  There was my acid!   It really opened up nicely, and turned in to a wine that I very much enjoyed.  The lesson here is DECANT DECANT DECANT!  It needs some serious air to show her true colors.  I’d also cellar this for at LEAST 2 years to get the full benefit. Which brings up an interesting point.  When I was poking around in September, I really didn’t like the 08 Pinots coming out of Willamette. They were just too ripe, too big, too Russian River, bordering on Sta Rita Hills.  Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!  That wasn’t what Oregon was supposed to be!  WHere was my Burgundy?  Where was my restrained style and light body?  I was sadly disappointed.  That said, here were are 6 months later; I’ve been tasting several of the 08s, as they are the current release for the most part.  My my my what a little bottle age will do!  They are improving, slowly but surely.  I think 2008 might not be such a bad year after all… This bottle of Oregon Crack was supplied by my dealer at Cana’s Fest.  Thanks guys!  

A little vertical

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I walked by the TWELVE Wines tasting room in McMinnville, OR last Labor Day weekend, but didn’t get the chance to pop by since we were on our way to meet my dear friends from Republic of Jam, Lynnette & Amy. As luck would have it, I was contacted by their PR rep, and received samples of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Pinot Noir 144 to taste.  Yay!  Twelve Wines is a family owned winery in the Yamhill-Carlton area of the Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon, where they have 11 acres of Pinot Noir planted. First up, I opened the 2005 Pinot Noir 144 after a long day of spring cleaning.  Sipping away in a long bubble bath while reading about Spain, I really enjoyed the boldness of the wine on a cold San Francisco day.  the trick with bold Pinots is that they don’t really evote a Pinot Noir feeling however.  This wine is 50% Pommard clone, 17% Wadenswil clone, and 33% 115 clone.  It was 100% destemmed, and fermented in 50% new French Oak for just shy of a year.  This was a big Pinot, with flavors of cranberry, dark strawberry and rich raspberry with some strawberry jam, with huge cherry pie filling.  I detected a bit of cola nut as well as some strong dark plum characteristics.  I’d TRY this if you’;re curious about the area, but you might save your money for the later vintages.  I enjoyed this wine, but prefer my wines from Oregon to be a bit more Burgundian in style, and not so much Santa lucia highlands.  there was an unexpected smoke to this, and it was way to full bodied for my expectation of Oregon. In contrast, the 2006 has a much higher acidity and a lot more zing.  This is somewhat surprising given that 2006 was quite a warm year in the willammette and the ABV is over 14%.  There were a lot of bright cranberry, hibiscus, and raspberry flavors, followed by a touch of violets and spice rack, with some root beer and bark, and a touch of vanilla.  It was much lighter than the 2005, but stil had a medicum body with crisp acidity.  I think it was great with food and would BUY it if i found it on the shelf. As luck would have the wines kept getting better and better.  nowing that, for hte most post, Oregon is known to have the best vintages in odd years, I was looking forward to the 2007. I certainly was not dissapoitned as this was my favorite of the three by far.  It was was classically burgundain, iwth lovely acidity and bright red fruit.  The spice notes were earthy and forest floor, and it was simploy a lovely example of what I love about Oregon wines.  big bright red cherries and a touch of nutmeg were clearly present, but it almost tasted older than an 07, in the very best way.  this is a MUST BUY for me and is still affordable for this quality […]

Back on the wagon?

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Holy cow!  Where has the time gone?  I’m not quite sure how this happened, but it’s almost Halloween, and I find myself struggling for words.  I know I know, it’s a shocking turn of events for this Gemini gal, who basically blogs because she likes to talk.  Truth be told, between work, events, friends, breaking my first bone, catching the crud in the hospital when said bone was being fixed, and feeling overwhelmed, I haven’t been blogging like I used to.  I apologize for that, but I have lost my mojo.  I havent’ stopped drinking however, since I frankly find Pinot NOir a better pain killer than vicodin and since the combination of those two might permanently delay my wine adventures, I choose Pinot noir. So here goes:  My medication, as found in Oregon, over Labor Day weekend at Lemelson Vineyards.  Naturally, I wanted to go to Lemelson because they made a wine especially for me, Thea’s Selection!  Lemelson Vineyards produces Pinot Noir (as well as Pinot Gris and Chardonnay) from 7 estate vineyards, which are all Certified Organic.  the winery’s location just east of Carlton, Oregon in the Willamette valley AVA is on a meandering country road which combines rural farm agriculture with vineyards, making it a diverse and beautiful area to explore. First and foremost, let’s talk about my wine.  The 2007 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir is the benchmark blend for the vintage, and is made of a combination of six mature vineyards.  It had a dark ruby red color, and flavors of black cherry, rhubarb, and black pepper as well as bright cherry, and blackberry followed by earthy spice.  It really opened up after a few minutes in the glass, and the majority of the bold fruit blows off, leaving a clearly Burgundian style wine with earth & spice.  This is MUST BY, particularly since I got a case of the 07 during and end of vintage sale.  And to show off my name on a wine bottle obviously! The follow up vintage of Thea’s Selection, 2008, was very similar but brighter than the 07.  The first impression was bright cherry, earth, and freshly ground cinnamon.  it was clearly a forest floor influence with mushrooms and dusty spices, but it wasn’t funky.  the dark plums and dark red fruit were more present than in the 07, with a lot of cherry pie and baking spice.  This is a STRONG BUY, especially fi you try the vintages side by side. The 2008 Six vineyards was designed to be a restaurant wine, particularly for a by the glass program; this was an easy drinking, smooth and mellow wine.  I enjoyed it but found it a big pedestrian if I were to buy a bottle.  It’s made from six mature vineyards, and is a light translucent ruby red.  It was very light, and had cranberry, rhubarb, and dusty nutmeg flavors.  It’s a great VALUE so i would TRY this if you are looking for an everyday wine ~$20. 2007 Meyer Pinot Noir […]

Where the cougars dare…

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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 […]

Grace, Hope, Charity, Faith

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Maybe those are the Four Graces.  I’m not quite up on my religious mythology, but I do know that The Four Graces Winery in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon shares the winemaking talents of Laurent Montalieu with Solena Estate.  You can read more about that HERE and HERE, but to refresh your memory, Laurent hails from Bordeaux, which is not exactly known for it’s Pinot Noir making prowess.  Enter Laurnet, who shook things up and moved to Oregon to make Pinot Noir, and a star was born. Since I know that I adore Solena’s vineyard selection Pinot Noirs, as well as their blends and Pinot Gris, I was exited to receive this bottle of Four Graces in my sample bin.  Last night, I sat down to taste it.  Ok drink it. The 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is subtle, and a bit muted in the glass.  It has a lot of Oregon terroir, what I consider it anyway, and tastes of sticks and earth, with mushroom undertones.  It’s a smoothly elegant wine, with well integrated oak that adds class and doesn’t take away from the dark red fruit of the wine.  The longer this wine sits in the glass, the juicer the red berries in it become.  Tons of strawberry, raspberry and bright red cherry fruit are layered with cinnamon, wood smoke, and even a touch of rhubarb pie.   This wine is really growing on me as an example of Oregon Pinot that is easily approachable.  For $29, I’d definitely BUY this as a great entry point example to Oregon wine.  the soft corners make it approachable and plush.  the low 13.75 ABV make it easy to sip the whole bottle! If you’re looking to learn about Oregon Pinot Noir, I’d try to find this wine as one of your educational experiments.  It’s just a ncie sipper for after work, before dinner, or relaxing at a picnic. The Grace-ful people at The four Graces generously sent me this wine to sample.  I’m glad they did because the bottle is almost empty!