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!

Judgement at Okanagan

On our last day in the Okanagan, we were greeted by gloomy skies and chilly temperature.  That didn’t deter from the sweeping views from the top of the valley floor, where we arrived at Tantalus Winery

for a tasting and lunch.  At the winery, we were joined by Rhys Pender, Master of Wine, from the B.C. Wine Institute, who led us through a head to head blind tasting, pairing B.C. wines with those from Napa, Sonoma, Australia, and France.

During this taste-off, I really had a chance to taste the red wines of the region and get a better sense of place.  More often than not, the BC wines showed the depth of character and old world charm of those from France and Italy, landing somewhere between the New World and Old Worlds.  The value is on par with the comparable wines, and there are some excellent examples being produced.

Among the wines we tasted, here are my notes, and my first guess below the actual wine.
Flight 1 – Chardonnay

  • Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve – Santa Barbara, California

oaky and bold, California

  • Chartron et Trebuchet Pouilly Fuisee – Burgundy, France

bright citrus, minerals, France

  • acidic with lots of citrus, B.C.
    Tantaslus Chardonnay – Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Yay I guessed right!


Flight 2 – Syrah/Shiraz
  • Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit Saint-Joseph – Rhone Valley, France

Oaky, with smoke and bold berry plum flavors.  thinner, tannic.  B.C.

  • Nk’Mid Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah – Okanagan Valley, B.C. (It’s interesting to note that Nk’Mid is the first winery in North America to be owned & operated by First Nation native peoples)

Juicier, ripe plum, bold berry bright fruit.  France.

  • Layer Cake Shiraz – McLaren Vale, Australia

Huge, brambly and chewy.  Tell take Aussie shiraz with dense spice and chocolate.

Hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!


Flight 3 – Cabernet Blends
  • Chateau Branaire-Ducru Saint Julien – Bordeaux, France

Funky earth, dry and bitter.  France

  • Mission Hill Family Estate winery Oculus – Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Bold and jammy with deep coffee notes,  B.C.

  • Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley, California
Flabby, with floral notes, violets.  Sweeter and dense.  Napa.
This flight was hard but I got them all right too!


Now I was really guessing on the first two because it could go either way, but the Napa example was such a departure from the first tow, it was obvious.  It’s amazing what side by side tastings can do for your palate exposure!
After our blind tasting, we enjoyed lunch and some of the Tantalus wines.  I particularly enjoyed both the Riesling and the pinot noir, which was juicy and full of ripe strawberries and cherries.   This wine was going down a a treat, and I sipped it during lunch much to my pleasure.


While it can be challenging to find BC wines outside of the local area, and certainly outside of Canada, it’s a worthwhile destination for all that the Okanagan offers.  From water sports, to snow sports, to wine sports, I am looking forward to a repeat visit before WBC 2013!


This is going to be a treat, when we are there in June, to enjoy the summer weather and great wines.  I can’t wait to go back!


Crushing it in Dogpatch

Oh no you say!  Not another “do it yourself” urban winery!  Ok, I’d have to agree – that was my first reaction when I got the press release about Dogpatch Wine Works.  Since Crushpad abandoned their urban winery projects and effectively dumped its consumer based wine program after its move to Napa (and subsequent move to Sonoma Valley), I’ve had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth for community crush projects.

But, Dave Gifford’s email intrigued me.  A Crushpad alum, Dave knows first hand how to (and frankly, how NOT to) do an urban custom crush operation.  Moving in a scant block down from Crushpad’s former headquarters on 3rd Street in San Francisco, Dogpatch now operates a 15,000 square foot urban winery with a missing “to enable wine enthusiasts to realize their passion for all things wine”.  I’m hoping that this enthusiasm is somewhat more friendly than Crushpad’s seeming lackadaisical consumer program.  As a former Crushpad customer, I got to know them well as I wandered through three winemaking projects with a group of wineaux.  If you’re super nice I might let you come over for a tasting of the zin, cab blend, and freshly minted BeezleBubblez!  I got to know the team well, and in fact, and pleased to see former head winemaker Mike Zitzlaff joining the Dogpatch crew.

While I fully understand the economics of operating a micro winery and custom crush, a good business plan requires you to commit and focus on your core audience.  A business bill yourself as a “community based winery”, then you need to be…well, community based. Crushpad’s failing was that they lost focus and weren’t interested in pursing the consumer base.  The primary goal was to be a custom crush and attract premier winery partners.  That’s fine, but please don’t tell me you care about me and send me an email halfway through the full winemaking cycle that says “oh hey yeah we moved to Napa”.   Please note these opinons are NOT AT ALL reflective of any experience with DPWW, simply my observatoins as a disgruntled Crushpad customer.

Anyway…back to Dogpatch Wine Works.  Taking a note from Crushpad’s premium vineyard plans, DPWW allows you to choose from terrific grapes including – I’m very happy to report – Windsor Oaks Pinot Noir. Hey Julie, you ROCK!  As a big fan of Windsor Oaks fruit, this could yield some interesting stuff.  Add in the requisite equipment, a bonded winery, and expertise (yeah well ok so I didn’t go to Davis and chemistry isn’t my strong suit so Mike, i NEED you!), you hopefully have – a winery in a box, in a fun urban environment.  Some additional vineyard offerings are Sonoma Coast Pinot, Atlas Peak Cab, and Anderson Valley Pinot.  Ohh AV pinot?  Count me in!

All of these seems familiar, and I get a buzz of excitement that the beast is alive.  The goal of community based wineries is to allow you, for a fee (well yeah they need to make money) to participate from head to toe in the winemaking process.  Theoretically, you will learn a lot, have fun, and get purple with it.  Oh, and you get wine when you’re done!~  Yay!

One feature that Crushpad was missing whilst in the city was a tasting room, where we could actually TASTE some examples of wine they produced.  While in Napa, they did indeed have a microwinery tasting room, but well, it was in Napa.  This alone will add a unique feature which will be a draw; while there is a wine bar in Dogpatch (Yield) a tasting room is going to add interest and attract visitors.

Giving Crushpad it’s due, some of my favorite brands were launched there.  I just wish they had been clear about their goals from the start.

I salute you Dave, for being willing to revisit a space that Crushpad  screwed up abandoned, and taking on the challenge with a renewed focus.  This a huge space and one that I see a lot of potential in; avid wine lovers want to learn and experience the full lifecycle.  This is how we can do it.  Please check out Dogpatch Wine Works if you’re in the city – I know I will be!  I am starting to think I might need to make some more wine…Pinot anyone?



**Wordpress ate my homework**  I’m sorry to say that 2 of my best paragraphs ran away.  arrrgh!  I will repost if I remember them.  Yes, yes, I know.  Write in Word, archive, paste.  Bugger.