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!
Being a California girl, while I have spent some time diving up the coast and meandering through Ashland, I have not spent a lot of time in Oregon. I have spent even less time examining the finer points of Oregon wines, specifically Oregon Pinot. Those of you who have known my taste buds know that I am a pinotphile and I usually reach for a pinot before any other red wine these days. As a local to the Northern California, I have access to some amazing wines. Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to do some in depth exploration of Oregon wines and have fallen in love. Again. It all started with a little blogger conference in Walla Walla. Having the choice to fly in to Seattle or Portland, I chose Portland since I had several friends in the area, and I was dying to meander through Oregon wine country. Enter my friends at Solena Estate, and a mini WBC blogger tour of Willamette Valley was born. My Oregon wine friends put together a blogger tour of the area that would seek to educate, palate tease, and giggle our way through the area. First, let’s just kick off the day by saying that our transportation was not your typical wine country bus. I knew something was up when Lynnette said “you’ll know your vehicle when you see it”. Enter Double Decker PDX, a new tour company that (poor chaps) agreed to take thier maiden voyage with us to wine country. Sitting on top of the old London Transport double decker bus, fully outfitted in leather seats, a wine cooler, and Froot Loop Donuts from VooDoo Donuts, we were off to visit the wine country in blogger style. Our first stop was the new Grand Cru property of Solena Estate Winery. This property is where the winery was founded, and as we took a tour around, we were treated to a bit of history from Laurent & Danielle Montalieu, the owners of this beautiful property. Solena was founded in 2000 when Laurent & Danielle purchases the “Wedding Vineyard”, 80 acres of rolling hillside vineyards. Instead of a gift registry, the couple asked people to buy them pinot noir vines – a novel gift idea, and one I might steal if I ever get married with 80 acres of land on my hands. The result was 80 pinot noir vines with 6 different clones, and the Estate Vineyard was born. Down in the barrel room, Laurent had a surprise for us in 6 barrel samples of the 2009 Pinot Noirs, from various vineyards. Handing each of us our own personal thief (a dangerous proposition if I’ve ever seen one), we were allowed to wander free sampling six wines, with several of them having wood variations. The barrel tasting experiences isn’t new to most bloggers, however, the ability to taste all six pinot noirs side by side, with a few extra tastings of wood variations, really gave us food for thought and interesting conversation topics. […]
I first found out about Soléna Estate wines from my blogger friend Ryan Reichert, (@oenoblog)when he moved to Oregon to start his new career in the wine industry. Through Ryan, I was introduced to Lynnette Shaw, the tasting room manager at Soléna. When Lynnette was in San Francisco for the Chronicle Wine Competition Grand Tasting, we got to talking about all things social media and how Twitter, Facebook, and blogging can increase exposure to your brand and introduce your wines to new audiences. I’ve talked a lot about changing perceptions and increasing your market share through exposure, and this was another opportunity for me to share my passion for new media. Fortunately for me, Lynnette left me with samples of Soléna’s current releases to sample and share, and knowing that I was a pinotphile (thanks Ryan!) I was excited to explore a bit of Oregon. Being a California girl, with some much world class wine available at the source an hour away from my house, I find myself occasionally getting stuck – although I am not complaining about my love of the Cellar Rat, Cartograph, Holdredge, and MacPhail, in the well trodden track between my house and Sonoma County. I suppose stuck isnt’ exactly the right word, since i don’t really find myself that motivated to climb out of the so called ditch, but exploring other regions reignites my passion for wine, and allows me to refresh my palate with new wines. Soléna’s Estate was started by Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus-Montalieu, and the name is derived from the French word Solene, and the Spanish Solana, for the sun & moon. the first vintage was the 2003 Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, from Domaine Danielle Laurent vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton appellation. Low yields in the source vineyards and various vineyard techniques including biodynamics produce high quality fruit and some amazing wines of distinction. 2007 Pinot Noir – Hyland Vineyard – Some funk on nose, which I expected from Oregon, with rose petals, lots of mushrooms, forest floor and wet river rock. What I didn’t expect was that this was a BIG pinot, with dark ripe raspberry, blueberry, baking spice, and a touch of jalepeno. While it did seem a touch hot to me, I did really enjoy this wine. If you should find it, BUY it. It is a great example of an unfined and unfiltered pinot from a different region. 2008 Grand Cuvee Pinot Noir – is the entry level Pinot from Soléna, and can be found more readily in major markets. Once again, I found lots of forest floor and mushroom, but this blend had more ripe cherry, red berry, and rhubarb flavors followed by cranberry and strawberry. This has the softest body, and a plush finish. The Cuvee is a blend made from a selection of grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the blending process allows the winemaker to select the best of each vineyard to create a masterpiece. It’s a bit like a full symphony versus a single stanza, […]