Black Magnolia is no dark flower

When my friend and marketing guru approached me about trying a new Oregon wine, I, unsurprisingly, leap at the chance.  After all, Oregon, and Pinot Noir, are some of my favorite things.

When I learned that it was partially sourced from Hyland Vineyard, which provides fruit to some of Oregon’s most prestigious brands, and is also one of the oldest vineyards in the area, I was even more intrigued. I know that Hyland Vineyard produces fruit that goes in to some of my favorite wines.  Along with the Olsen Vineyard & Domaine Loubejac Vineyard, Black Magnolia has a significant pedigree.

With the goal to make an outstanding Oregon Pinot Noir that has a friendly price point, and that is representative of the highest quality wines from the region, the Black Magnolia Wines team delivers on target and on budget.

Widely believed to be an exceptional vintage throughout Oregon, the 2015 Black Magnolia Willamette Valley Pinot Noir holds up its end of the bargain.

With classic, yet muted cherry notes, telltale glimpses of cedar and fresh floor show through the black raspberry on the surface.  A hint of spearmint plays with the juicy orange and rose hips, while young and firm tannins highlight pipe tobacco and cracked whole spices.  A bright and shiny acidity is indicative of the Willamette, and with the 2015, one would expect it as odd numbered years tend to be the critics darlings.

One might expect this wine to be $30-45, as many Oregon Pinots are, but the stunning $22 price tag makes this a case worthy selection.

Well done Black Magnolia!  I can’t wait to see what else these cats come up with.  With a combined experience from Burgundy to New Zealand, anything is possible.

Special thanks to April Yap-Henning for spreading the love about this wine and arranging for this yummy samples!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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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!

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!

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!

Anderson Family Vineyards – Oregon wines of distinction

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 develop on the vine.  Unpredictable rains and a mellow season produced balanced flavors and bright fruit.

A blend of 50% barrel fermented and 50% stainless steel, with 60% malolactic fermentation, it is full of hazelnuts, lemon curd and apple flavors.  It’s a richer chard, but not buttery and has a lovely minerality with a pear finish.

2008 Chardonnay – 2008 had a cool season with late blooms, with warmer days in October.  This leads to a longer hangtime, which brings bigger, fuller flavors to the wine.  In the case of chardonnay, it means big ripe flavors, but maintaining a bracing acidity.  This year had a brighter citrus base, with a touch of butterscotch and meyer lemon, with more spice.

2009 Chardonnay – 2009 was a very hot year.  With a series of unpredictable heat spikes dotted with cooler days and nights, the fruit was very ripe, with a touch less acidity than 2008.  This developed in to a clear citrus, blood orange, and higher acid wine with a long wet river rock finish.

Finally, the core of any Oregon wineries line up – Pinot Noir.  With a classic style full of spice and earth, the Anderson Family Pinot Noir’s did not disappoint.

I was thrilled when the 2007 was still available; widely panned by critics at the time of release, it’s always been one of my faovrite years for Oregon Pinot Noir.  Now, of course, the critics are back peddling and saying how nicely it’s developed in teh bottle  Whatever, it’s simply delectable!

2007 Pinot Noir – The big deal about 2007 is that it was a cool, wet year.  This made a wine with bright acid, clean fruti notes, and earthy underpinnings.  Classic flavors of cola, baking spice and red fruit with a lighter body are the makings of a great year in this bloggers mouth.  mind.  I found notes of dried berries, rhubarb, and spices, especially cloves.  It was classically 2007 with mushrooms and earth, followed by a mineral rub.

Left in the barrel for longer than normal, this wine has intense aromas with tons of baking spice.  The 115, 667, 777, Pommard and Wadenswil clones in the final blend give it the powerful fruit base of the Pommard with the spice and earth of the 115 and 117.  Yum!

2008 Pinot Noir – A bigger vintage in general, there is more dark fruit than red fruit.  The hot season needs time to simmer down.  The late summer forced longer hangtime of the fruit, which I think gives it a bolder feel.

2009 Pinot Noir – While 2009 set a new record for warm days, the summer was finicky with hot days and cool days.  There was a narrow window when the fruit ripened; I currently prefer the 09s to the 08s, because the cool days provide some lovely acidity along with the big red and black fruit.

It’s a deeper bolder Pinot than the 07, but not as big as the 08.  I found lots of pomegranate, bright berry and classic cherry fruit, followed by baking spice.  Less earthy overall, this will be a crowd pleaser.

Thank you Jonothan and Cliff for taking the time to show me the wines!  If you are in Newberg, please be sure to call Anderson Family Vineyards for a visti you will not soon forget.  I brought home the Pinot Gris and 2 of the 07 Pinot Noirs.  I can’t wait to revisit them!

Bullseye!

It isn’t often when I taste several wines from a winery and like each one more than the last.  When I do, I get excited and I know that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Archery Summit, located in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon, is one such winery that gets me revved up.  I recently tasting three of their wines, and fell madly in love.  Yes, I was already a Pinot Noir lover, and particularly Oregon Pinots, but in this case, these were some of the few 2010s that I have tasted.  I also had the opportunity to taste a particularly wonderful Rosé.  With the weather warming up, and the rare sunny summer day in San Francisco, I was in heaven.

Archery Summit is located in the Dundee sub-appelation of the Willamette Valley AVA on a mineral rich alluvial fan created when the Ice Age receded and meltwater created giant fresh water oceans.    This reesulting in a rich mineral soil, which is amazing for growing Pinot Noir.  The cool growing regions of Oregon are very similar to Northern France, and create world class Pinot.

Archery Summit focuses on a small lot, hand crafted, approach to winemaking.  From the modern gravity flow winery which helps create Pinot Noir without bruising the fragile ego of the delicate Pinot Noir grapes, to the small bins of harvested grapes that are and hand sorted, every step is purposeful and careful.  A unique aspect to winery operations, each member of the vineyard staff is actually assigned to a specific vineyard.  Giving the vineyard crew autonomy and ownership of their area allows them to become expert vignerons of a small parcel, where their familiarity becomes intimate and intense.  Some staff members have been working in plots from the birth of the parcel (planting in 1994), giving them a full lifecycle view of what works, what doesn’t, and what might be going off road.  With such dedication to knowing the land and the vines results in some pretty amazing juice.

2011 Vireton Rosé – Love at first sip!  This delicate Rosé of Pinto Noir is full of tropical fruit,

watermelon and Hood River strawberries.  I absolutely loved this wine.  The bright fresh raspberry juice was clean and crisp, and is a perfect summer sipper.

While I typically prefer a purpose made Rose, this Saignee (juice bled from the red wine tanks during fermentation), I am impressed by the delicacy and flavor profile of the Rose.  Fermented in neutral oak and stainless steel, there is no skin contact.  The delicate pale pink color is the natural color of the juice from the bleed off.  This vintage is a blend of juice from each of the estate vineyards, from Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge.

The first Pinot Noir we had was the 2010 Premier Cuvee.  Created by blending  a bit of every vineyard, it is primarily Arcus Estate, and includes a bit of every Dijon clone planted on the property.  It has a fresh cranberry and pomegranate acid edge, which I love, followed by earthy notes of root beer, baking spice, and cherry notes.  With a touch of floral violets on the finish, it’s bright and rich at the same time, with mineral notes on the finish.  Fermented in 35% new French oak, the wine has the subtle touch of the oak without being overpowered.

The last wine we tasted was the 2010 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir.  This single vineyard offering was bolder, with more depth and strength than the Cuvee.  With soft leather, cola, and nutmeg, this is a crowd pleaser.  The classic juicy cherry flavor profile is combined with a rich boysenberry and cocoa blend.  This is a rich Pinot Noir, opening up nicely after an hour or so.  With 50% new French oak, the toasty spice and marzipan really come through but it’s well balanced and integrated.

I am very impressed iwth the 2010 Oregon offerings I’ve tasted so far; typically, the Willamette is known for odd numbered years, but I am much more pelased with the 10s this year than the 09s.  These wines could easily cellar for 5 years, but they are ready to drink now if you can’t wait (like me).

Thank you Archery Summit for providing these wines for my enjoyment, and I look forward to tasting some of the other wines with you in August at the Wine Bloggers Conference!

Feast on THIS!

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

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 of wine.  This is a wine that you MUST BUY if you are in the area and are a Pinotphile!

I fully expect great things to continue to come from TWELVE Wines, and really look forward to seeing what else they come up with.  They also make a Pinot Gris, and I look forward to tasting that when i thaw out.

Happy drinking, and I look forward to bringing you more pinot nori from the 2011 Pinot Noir Summit in Feburary!

No people were harmed in my desire to run to the nearest Pinot Noir, but these wines were provided as samples.

Back on the wagon?

photo provided by Chow Studios

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 shows as quite acidic, with leaner, stronger red fruit flavors.  The 07 vintage had strage weather in Oregon, and early rains caused some challenges.  This had flavors of wild strawberry, raspberries and baking spices with some cola.  It was lean and quite austere, with a luscious and bright with a long clean finish.  There was a lot of minerality on the finish, and it was very different than the others.  This is also a STRONG BUY.

The 2008 Meyer was an ideal vintage.  It was hotter, so this wine is more reminiscent of a Russian River wine to me; I found a caramel chocolate finish, with big bold root beer and cola notes surrounded the cherry and strawberry jam base.  It finished dry with dusty nutmeg.  The bold fruit forward style gave way to a classic Oregon wine, which I would BUY again if I found it.

2007 Stermer Vineyard Pinot was very bright and light.  The raspberreis and cherries showed first, with rose petals and cranberry right behind.  There was just a hint of earthy spice and red apple lingering.  TRY this wine for variety.  While I liked the 07, I did NOT enjoy the 2008 Stermer and I would AVOID that one.

The 2007 Cuvee X Pinot Noir is a blend made up of 99% Meyer Vineyard.  It comes from the highest elevation of the vineyard, and was picked before the rain in 07, and aged in 100% new French oak, which, in my opinion, overwhelmed the wine.  I didn’t like it and if you are not an oak monster, I’d AVOID it.

2008 Jerome Reserve Pinot is a blend of the six mature vineyards, where the most age worthy selections of wines are hand selected for blending and aging.  This was an interesting wine, and I’d HOLD on to it for a fe years to see how the sarsaparilla and root beer flavors give way to the black cheery spice.  It’s a baby, but I can see a lot of potential.

All in all, I really enjoyed my visit to Lemelson, and can’t wait to open up my case of wine!

Have you had these wines?  What did YOU think?

Grace, Hope, Charity, Faith

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!

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