PV365 Winery is GOLDEN at the 2023 American Fine Wine Competition

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes

PV365 Winery, co-owned by Pradip Patel and Vinanta Mundra, is capturing attention across the country with their beautifully crafted wines.  The savvy owners, together with skillful winemaker Patrick Saboe (a 2002 UC Davis Viticulture and Enology graduate), have developed a creative, thoughtful approach to successful winery management, and top notch winemaking.  An engaging tasting with this dynamic duo uncovered the extraordinary wines Saboe has crafted here of top quality Napa Valley fruit.  Quite taken with the wines, I asked if they had ever entered a wine competition.  No, they had not, but that would soon change.

This year I invited PV365 to enter their wines into The Invitational 2023 American Fine Wine Competition (AFWC).  This prestigious competition is one in which invitees feel honored to participate.  All wines entered here must be vetted and invited by a small acquisition team that deems the wine to be Gold Medal worthy.  Pradip and Vinanta entered three red wines, each of which the professional judges (consisting of Sommeliers, Wine Journalists, Retail Buyers, and Wine Educators) awarded high scores.  PV365’s Cabernet Sauvignon scored a DOUBLE GOLD Medal (all four judges rating it Gold), the Cabernet Franc also earned the winery a DOUBLE GOLD Medal, and PV365’s Red Blend “Sajana” scored a GOLD Medal. 

Here are my impressions of PV365’s winning wines:

2019 Broken Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley:  A compelling aroma of this classy Cabernet Sauvignon wafts from the glass.  The multilayered and complex palate unveils delectable flavors of black cherries, red and black currants, a touch of tobacco, cassis liqueur, earthiness, and underlying barrel spice (from 22 months in French oak) sitting ideally in the background.  Intense and well defined, with a firm backbone of tannins, and the finish just keeps on delivering well past the final sip.  Decant if drinking now or hold for future enjoyment.  This gem is cellarworthy, promising a long life ahead.  ($118) Double Gold Medal, 94 points

2018 Stagecoach Vineyard® Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley: This divine Cabernet Franc has a bit of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cab Sauv giving it added depth and complexity.  Violets and dark berries on the nose engage the senses.  Beautiful purity is showcased on the palate as blackberries, black currants, graphite, hints of roasted red pepper puree, blueberries, well integrated oak (26% new French barrels), and subtle earthiness meld seamlessly. It is varietally spot on and perfectly balanced with refined tannins, and the finish is everlasting.  Approachable now, and ageworthy.  ($108) Double Gold Medal, 93 points

2019 PV 365 “Sajana” Red Blend, Napa Valley:  This velvety smooth blend, composed of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot is compelling at first swirl. Unveiling dark berries and anise seed on the nose, it bursts with flavor upon entry.   A deep, dark, delicious mouthful of cassis, purple plums, tobacco, hints of spice, and fresh leather flows seamlessly across the palate. Balancing acidity, supple tannins, and a nice core of fruit keep it well balanced through the lively finish.  ($90) Gold Medal, 93 points

PV365 wines also include a snappy, lively 2021 Sauvignon Blanc which opens with a citrus blossom aroma leading to flavors of juicy melon, Meyer lemon, crisp pear, hints of pineapple, and lemon verbena that persist through the bright, nervy finish.   The winery’s invigorating 2021 “So Be It” Riesling shows off a beautiful expression of stone fruit and river rock elements. The palate bursts with white peach, nectarine, lemon-lime, a thread of minerality, lively acidity, and a twist of orange rind on the upbeat finish.  And don’t miss their 2019 Sparkling Brut Rosé which offers compelling scents of strawberries and tinges of brioche. Sweetheart cherries, boysenberries, pie crust, and a squeeze of blood orange enliven the palate, and the tiny bead of bubbles is endless; a brilliant apéritif.  For further information and to order wines for your enjoyment, visit PV365’s website at www.pv365winery.com.

Congratulations to owners Vinanta and Pradip, and winemaker Patrick for the impressive results at this competition. I envision continued success for them ahead.

Enlighten Your Palate at The Carlton Winemakers Studio

Oregon, Tasting Notes

In the heart of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Willamette Valley lies an intriguing incubator that brings together startup winemakers looking to hone their craft, and Willamette Valley wine aficionados looking for a wine-tasting experience to please multiple palates. The Carlton Winemaker Studio offers support to new and expert winemakers with space, equipment, collaboration opportunities, and the ability to connect with curious customers over dozens of Pinots, Chardonnays, and more, in a charming tasting room.

This unique, eco-friendly winemaking facility was founded in 2002 by Winemaker Eric Hamacher and his wife, Ponzi Vineyards Winemaker Luisa Ponzi, along with Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin. Built to LEED standards, in accordance with the U.S. Government’s Green Building Codes, the beautiful Studio with its gravity flow production equipment is now owned by Portland-based Hampton Lumber (purchased the facility in August 2021).

Founder and winemaker Eric Hamacher believes that “starting and running the Studio for 20 years may well be one of the most important things that I have done in my career. It opened folks’ eyes to what was possible if you work together and see opportunity in shared goals,” says Hamacher, “and by showing environmentally thoughtful and beautiful design we had a rather large soapbox (winery)—we opened a lot of eyes to the very idea of building green.” Eric is pleased that the new owners continue to bring in his wines.

Through the years, 47 vintners have utilized the space at this highly functional studio, some of whom now have their own properties.  Fifteen vintners currently call the Winemaker Studio their homebase for crafting wine.

When Charlie Garrell, Owner of Oregon Wine Guides and frequent Studio visitor, first visited in 2008 when “most brands were young in the industry, usually sourcing fruit, and on a relatively “shoestring” budget,” he said. “Today the average winemaker at the Studio has over 20 years in the industry, the brands are well financed and most of the wines made here are top tier. I believe something extra special happens by the different winemakers sharing thoughts, experiences and comparing tasting notes and techniques.”


The Studio’s General Manager and winemaker Anthony King started at the Studio in early 2015 after more than eight years at nearby Lemelson Vineyards.  Interested in accelerating his learning curve, Anthony said “the collaborative nature of the Studio seemed like a logical next step.” He has been an invaluable part of the Studio ever since. King takes on additional work consulting with other small brands, as well as making wine for his own brand, Ratio Wines. “Working with the Studio team to continue to improve the experience of both the visitors in the tasting room and the winemakers in the cellar has been one of life’s great challenges; I couldn’t see doing it with a better team than we have now” he says.

Tasting Room Manager Nick George joined the Studio after earning a degree in Business and Hospitality and working harvest at multiple well known vineyards within the Willamette Valley. George, who runs the tasting room along with Director of Hospitality and Wine Clubs Whitney Govert, shares that “no two tasting are exactly alike at the Studio.” He and Govert can tailor tastings to what the customer is looking for during their visit.  The wines to be poured in any given week are always changing, and there is a broad price range of wines to be tasted, from a $22 Pinot Gris to a $175 Pinot Noir. “It is a tasting experience unlike any other,” he declares . 

Govert, who is celebrating her 7th year at the Studio this year, was initially drawn to the ability to work alongside the winemakers at the Studio. “That seems more and more rare for tasting room teams to interact daily with the winemakers they are featuring. It’s one of the best parts of being part of the Studio team,” she said.

Rounding out the Studio team are Production Manager/Facilities Manager Mel Liebeck, and Office Manager/Bookkeeper Debbie Strauss, who have been with Studio for 5 and 7 years respectively.

Richmond Virginia resident Harry Thalhimer, a Studio wine club member since 2015, first encountered the Studio when a friend gifted him a one-year membership. He’s never looked back. Thalhimer says that “the Studio staff members are exceptional people to deal with, and I’ve never had a wine from them that was not awesome.”


Some of the Studio’s clients have been making wine here for several years, including Andrew Rich who has been here since the opening of the studio in 2002. Although one might think it could be frustrating working in a shared facility, Rich says “the fact that all the winemakers are seasoned pros who know how to work collaboratively and who can roll with the punches means things tend to go very smoothly. And he adds “Over the years there have been many upgrades to the physical plant and to equipment, but I think the most consequential changes have been the hiring of the current GM, Anthony King, and of the current facilities manager, Mel Liebeck. They’ve been responsible for ensuring that the Studio operates at its current high standards, in a way that’s responsive to the owners and the wineries.” Most of Andrew Rich Wines’ existence has been spent at the Studio. “Over time the wines have evolved and, I think, improved. Without a doubt some of that is due to the exchange of information that takes place at a shared facility like the Studio,” says Rich.

Francine Goitz and David Willis of Bend, Oregon, joined the Studio wine club in 2020, after hearing about amazing wines being made here, and tasting Rich’s pinot noirs. “Once we sat down and had a full tasting of many (though not all!) of their winemakers’ works, we knew we would be members, always” said Goitz, who says they appreciate “the wide variety of phenomenal wines we can enjoy, thanks to the hospitality and approachability of the tasting room team and winemakers.”

During the Studio tour, arranged by Consultant and Media Relations expert Carl Giavanti, we tasted a well-crafted Gruner Veltliner crafted by Wynne Peterson-Nedry, Winemaker at Ribbon Ridge Winery, whose brands include Ribbon Ridge and Ridgecrest. Wynne co-owns the winery with her father Harry Peterson-Nedry.  A Willamette Valley icon,  Harry planted the first vines at Ridgecrest Vineyards (in what is now the Ribbon Ridge AVA) 41 years ago in 1982 and remains the sole owner of Ridgecrest Vineyards. The vineyards are planted to 40 sustainably dry farmed acres of wine grapes.

Wynne shares that her “favorite part of working at the Studio, which is also the most compelling and beneficial part of the setup, is the ability to work with and be surrounded by so many other fabulous and talented winemakers. We are all a big family, able to share advice, tips, tricks, and whatever else might be useful. It’s fun to have a collective winemaking mind to bounce things off of, have others taste the wines, and everyone creates a great sounding board for problems.” In addition to utilizing French barrels, Wynne owns a concrete egg used for a special portion of her white wines, and a couple 4.5 ton wooden open-top fermenters used  for her best Pinot Noir. “I like the way both of these materials interact with the wine during fermentation, and I am able to make a unique product not only based on the phenomenal fruit my dad grows, but also because of my own winemaking process and vessels,” she adds.

Winemaker Isabelle Meunier has been making wine at the Studio since 2014.  Isabelle came to the Studio after crafting wines in Burgundy, New Zealand, and France. She and business partner Greg Ralston co-founded their single vineyard wine brand, Lavinea.  Isabelle says that “the camaraderie amongst the winemakers makes it a unique and interesting place to work. There are a lot of talented people under the one roof which provides us with moments to share knowledge, a few laughs, and the opportunity to share ideas and a few bottles of wine. There is a great level of professionalism among the winemakers there that I greatly respect. When asked about her barrel program, Isabelle shares that she uses Burgundian barrels exclusively. As grain tightness has improved consistency she “prefers tight and extra tight oak profiles to suit the long elevage in barrel, while preserving freshness.”  When asked about a standout vintage, she notes that “I have a couple of favorite vintages in the recent years, in particular the 2017’s, which overall was perfectly balanced in my view.  I also really loved this past vintage in 2022.  It had been a while since we’ve had a delayed spring, and subsequent long and late ripening, well into October. The late fall weather was wonderful, the flavor development was complex while preserving great acid balance. I am truly excited by these young wines and look forward to seeing them through completion.”

Winemakers at the Studio most commonly take an “Alternate Proprietor” approach where the winemakers use the property as leased space and pay a la carte for labor from Studio staff if they need a helping hand. Others can choose the “Custom Crush” approach to winemaking and receive varying levels of assistance with winemaking decisions whether they work directly with the Studio Production Winemaker or through a custom crush agreement with one of the tenant winemakers.

“Winemakers are not responsible for building maintenance and upkeep, which would typically take up to 20% to 40% of a winemaker’s time if the building belonged to them” says General Manager Anthony King.


Here are a few fine examples of many beautifully crafted wines at the Studio:

Ribbon Ridge Winery 2021 Ridgecrest Estate Gruner Veltliner (Winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry):  Snappy and fresh with hints of tropical fruit and citrus on the nose. Star fruit, juicy white peaches, lemon-lime citrusy notes, white pepper, and lemon verbena entwine with mouth-watering acidity, exhilarating the palate through the bright finish. ($24)

Ratio Wines 2018 Retina Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (Winemaker Anthony King):  This gem opens with an expressive aroma of red fruits.  Youthful while fully flavored as it broadens on the palate with raspberries, subtle herbs, red cherries, a touch of salinity, and nice underlying oak (from 15 months in 20% new, and seasoned French Taransaud barrels).  The wine finishes with pretty savory notes.  ($40) 

Ratio Wines 2017 Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton (Winemaker Anthony King): The wildly expressive aroma with tree fruits and lemon tarragon leading the way, is captivating.  Reminiscent of a fine Chablis, it’s sleek with crisp apples, citrus herb notes, a thread of minerality,  barrel spice sitting perfectly in the background, and racy acidity keeps it finely balance through the long finish. ($38) 

Hamacher Wines 2016 Signature Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (Winemaker Eric Hamacher):  Floral notes rise from the glass with this silky Pinot Noir.  The well-defined palate showcases rich Bing cherries, spice-dusted wild berries, forest floor elements, and subtle oak nuances from French barrel aging.  It is beautifully textured, and the finish is nervy and long-lasting.  ($60)

Andrew Rich Wines 2018 Sojeau Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills (Winemaker Andrew Rich):  A tantalizing earth-driven nose rises from the glass.  Multilayered and ideally balanced on the palate as black cherries,  anise, black raspberries, and a nice herbaceous accent unfold seamlessly with well managed oak adding a touch of spice. Pure and elegant with fine depth and a lingering finale. ($60)

Studio wineries in addition to those previously mentioned include 00 Wines, Aubaine, Lazy River, Lavinea, Asilda, Dusky Goose, Project M, Megan Anne Cellars, Wahle, North Valley Vineyards, Lucid Wild, and Guillen.   Visitors can taste and purchase wines, and also join the Studio wine club, in which wines are shipped twice per year. Both tastings and wine club shipments can be customized to suit the customers’ needs. 


For further information, visit the Studio’s website www.winemakersstudio.com. For a broader perspective of the many impressive wines made here, call (503) 852-6100 to set up an appointment or visit their facility at 801 N. Scott Street in Carlton, Oregon. The Studio is open daily from 11 am to 4 pm, and reservations are not required.

Willamette Valley’s Domaine Drouhin Oregon: Linking Old World Tradition to New World Terroir

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Oregon, Tasting Notes

The Drouhins believe in the family approach to wine in both Burgundy and Oregon. This speaks to how they live, the wines they make, and their respect for the land. They are farming sustainably and they are LIVE certified. Their team includes fourth-generation head winemaker Veronique Boss-Drouhin, Asst. Winemaker Arron Bell, Philippe Drouhin who is responsible for managing Drouhin vineyards in Burgundy, Chablis and Oregon, and David Millman, President and CEO of Domaine Drouhin Oregon.

Their Oregon wines link the family’s tradition of fine winemaking in France to the terroir in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon site was selected for its similarity to the climate, latitude and aspect of their renowned vineyards in Burgundy. Maison Joseph Drouhin, located in Beaune France, is one of the largest estates in the region. In addition to their 235-acre Domaine Drouhin Oregon estate (established in 1987) in the Dundee Hills AVA, they own Roserock Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, also contained within Oregon’s larger Willamette Valley AVA.

All Domaine Drouhin Oregon wines are made from estate fruit and are crafted by hand at their four level gravity flow winery in the Dundee Hills AVA. Here two incredible examples of their well-crafted wines:

Dundee Hills 2019 Cuvée Laurène Pinot Noir:  The enchanting aroma of rose petals and earthy tones is heavenly. Layers of Lapin cherries, underbrush, spiced plum, star anise, subtle oak nuances, and cherry cola gloriously fill very nook and cranny in the mouth. Pure, polished and divinely balanced with good tension and supple tannins. And the finish will have you reaching for more.  SRP:  $75

Dundee Hills 2021 Arthur Chardonnay: A  perfumed aroma of fresh turned earth and citrus blossom kicks off this complex, multilayered Chard. Flavors of an airy mushroom soufflé, lemon curd, minerality, almond paste, and creamy baked pears glide seamlessly across the palate. It displays wonderful depth of flavor and balancing acidity, and the finish lingers on and on.  SRP:  $42  www.domainedrouhin.com

Visit their website to schedule a tasting at their stunning 235 acre estate in the Dundee Hills AVA, overlooking the beauty of the Willamette Valley. The estate is open seven days a week from 10 am to 3 pm.

2021 McMinnville Wine Classic Competition

Oregon, Tasting Notes

The 2021 McMinnville Wine Classic was executed beautifully. Kudos to Wine Competition Manager Rolland Toevs, Carl Giavanti (PR & Media Relations Consultant) and their competent and efficient backroom staff. It flowed very smoothly with Covid-19 protocols in place, and the judges found it to be a delicious and enjoyable experience. Wines from wineries throughout the state of Oregon were entered this year.

Wines I found extraordinary on my judging panel (earning Gold or Double Gold medals) included:

40:31 Wines 2017 Blanc de Noir ($40), Willamette Valley: This engaging sparkling wine (crafted in the traditional method) delivers an aroma of stone fruit and fresh baked bread. Tantalizing the palate are layers of nectarines, lemon sorbet, peaches and cream, Honeycrisp apples, and brioche. It is brilliantly balance and full of personality, with an active tiny bead escorting the wine to a vibrant finish. (GG)

Lady Hill Winery 2019 Chardonnay ($28), Columbia Gorge: Highly aromatic, you will want to linger over a glass of this captivating wine a while before sipping; the aroma will have you salivating. Juicy Red Delicious apples, a touch of ginger, crisp Bartlett pears, honeysuckle, citrusy elements, and a pinch of herbs flood the palate. Nicely textured and balanced from the first swallow through the lively finish. (G)

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2018 Tempranillo ($29), Umpqua Valley: This irresistible Tempranillo broadcasts dark berries and mocha notes on the nose. Shades of black cherry, semi-sweet chocolate, plum preserves, hints of fresh turned earth, roasted marshmallow, and spice box elements coat the palate. It is velvety in texture with refined tannins, and the lengthy finish is memorable. (GG)

Parrett Mountain Cellars 2018 Barbera ($44), Willamette Valley: Violets on the nose draw you right into this deep, dense, delectable Barbera. Black Splendor plums, melted chocolate, ripe boysenberries, baking spices, and toasty notes fill every nook and cranny in the mouth. It is rich and jammy while maintaining fine balance, with hints of vanilla on the persistent finish. (GG)

Utopia Vineyards 2017 Estate Pinot Noir ($48), Ribbon Ridge: This highly expressive Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley’s tiniest AVA is oh so elegant. Aromas of fragrant flowers, and flavors of Sweetheart cherries, forest floor, fresh raspberries, pomegranate seeds, underlying barrel spice, and a touch of anise meld seamlessly. Stylish and complex, and the wine shows off great length, too. (G)

Youngberg Hill 2017 Cuvee Pinot Noir ($35), Willamette Valley: This finely structured Pinot Noir opens with juicy red fruits on the nose. Broadening on the palate are layers of Montmorency cherries, cranberry sauce, cherry-cola, a touch of cinnamon stick, hints of earth, and oak nuances sitting nicely in the background. It is pure and captivating through the lively final sip. (G)

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2018 Bench Lands Pinot Noir ($24), Umpqua Valley: Aromas of spice and cherries rise from the glass with this polished Pinot Noir. Santa Rosa plums, black cherries, and tayberries intermingle with exotic spice, sandalwood, and earthiness, creating a brilliant medley of flavors on the palate. Elegant and deeply flavored with a finish that is long and mouthwatering. (GG)

Résolu Cellars 2017 Cabernet Franc ($38), Columbia Valley: From this boutique winery in Beaverton, Oregon comes a dynamite Cab Franc. Perfumed aromas waft from the glass. Classic notes of roasted bell peppers, plum chutney, black licorice drops, cassis, fresh ground peppercorns and a drop of vanilla extract weave a colorful tapestry through the lingering finish. (G)

And finally, the Best of Show wine:

South Stage Cellars 2019 Romeo & Juliet ($30), Rogue Valley: This magical white blend is crafted of 51% Roussanne, 44% Marsanne and 5% Viognier. The gorgeous floral nose is heavenly. It’s scintillating as it traverses the palate, where star fruit, lemon-lime, juicy summer peaches, a trace of earthiness, and a thread of minerality intertwine. Simply stunning through the never-ending finale. (GG/BOS)

Click on the link below for further details and a full list of results from this year’s McMinnville Wine Classic. And CONGRATULATIONS to all the award-winning grapegrowers, winemakers and vintners!

 McMinnville Wine Classic Competition

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2019

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Oregon, Tasting Notes

While judging the beautifully executed Oregon Wine Experience wine competition, one of our excursions was an exhilirating Hellgate Jetboat ride on the Rogue River.  During our delicious lunch on the bank of the river we had the opportunity to taste a variety of additional Oregon wines.  Here are some excellent whites we tasted that I highly recommend:

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2017 Albarino; Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon ($24):  The engaging aroma of fresh citrus captures the nose.  Bright and minerally up front, this gem explodes with flavor.  Melon, lemon grass, juicy nectarine, citrus blossom and subtle salinity light up the palate.  Striking acidity pulls it all together through the lively finish. www.sfvineyards.com

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc; Umpqua Valley ($20):  Here’s a gloriously expressive Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of fresh summer grasses.  Tropical fruit, a suggestion of hay, and lemon-lime accents enliven the palate.  The contribution of neutral French oak gives it a fuller mouthfeel, and the bracing acids keep it lively and well balanced.  www.brandborgwine.com

Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2017 Broken Boulder Vineyards Pinot Noir Blanc; Columbia Gorge ($32):  Aromas of fresh tree fruits and a hint of spice is engaging at first whiff. Crisp and juicy with flavors of Asian pear, citrus blossom, Rainier cherries and subtle ginger notes harmonizing on the palate.  Smoothly textured and well balanced all the way through.   www.staveandstone.com

Quady North 2017 Pistoleta; Southern Oregon ($20):   Aromas of a bowlful of fresh-sliced stone fruits wafts from the glass, fully engaging the senses.  Vivacious flavors of nectarine, peach, lime soda, and star fruit burst onto the palate, supported by rocking acidity and a solid thread of minerality.  The zesty finish is uplifting and long-lasting.    www.quadynorth.com

Carlton Cellars 2017  Auxerrois; Yamhill-Carlton ($18):  This jazzy dry white wine is full of flavor and personality.  Scents of a summer floral bouquet lead to layers of Oro Blanco grapefruit, Bartlett pear, almond paste, lemon tisane, quince, and minerally notes melding in harmony on the palate.  Focused and finely balanced with a persistent finish.  www.carltoncellars.com

AWEN Winecraft 2017 Grenache Blanc; Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon ($30):   Notes homemade applesauce greet the nose with this full-bodied dry white wine.  Coating the mouth are focused flavors of Granny Smith apple, tropical melon, mandarin orange, a hint of toast, minerality, and a subtle anise note.  Nicely balanced with a silky texture, and plenty of length.   www.awenwinecraft.com


New Discoveries in the Willamette Valley

Oregon, Tasting Notes

Looking for new wine discoveries in the Great Northwest?   Bells Up Winery (in northern Willamette Valley) and Iris Vineyards (at the southern end) are two of my latest noteworthy finds within the Willamette Valley AVA.  Each one broadens my positive impression of this significant and ever-expanding wine region.

Bells Up Winery

After years of exploring wine regions and delving into home winemaking in their spare time (while Dave was a corporate attorney), Dave and Sara Specter felt a change of career was in order.  They had become infatuated with the Willamette Valley, and that lead them to establishing Bells Up Winery in Newberg, Oregon in 2013.  The name Bells Up stems from their location on Bell Road, and Dave’s two-decades of playing the French horn.  “Bells Up” in a music piece calls for the horn to be positioned with the bell up, which results in a more dramatic and striking level of sound.  And now they are on their way to building a loyal following with the striking and dramatic wines they are crafting.

The Specter’s 9-acre estate vineyard, located within the Chehalem Mountains sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley, is being planted in phases.  It began in 2014 with three acres of Pommard and 667 Pinot Noir clones, followed by half an acre of Seyval Blanc in 2014, and in 2016 Pinot Noir clones Wädenswil, 113 and 943 were planted.

Dave, with his award-winning home winemaking experience behind him, is the winemaker.  He and Sara opened their tasting room in the spring of 2015 with the release of their first wine.  The first estate wines came from their 2017 harvest of Pinot Noir.  In the Spring of 2018, their 2017 vintage Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir was released.  This year brings the release of their 2018 Helios Seyval Blanc (Willamette Valley’s first release of this variety). Their boutique winery is now producing about 500 cases of wine per year.   Dave and Sara have captured something very special here.  Wines currently available include:

2018 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley:  This gorgeous Pinot Blanc sourced from Plum Hill Vineyard opens with inviting scents of tropical fruit.  Blossoming on the palate are focused flavors of Bartlett pear, pineapple, Melogold grapefruit and fresh kiwi, with lime zest accents.  Sur lie aging contributes to the complexity and rich mouthfeel, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $28

2018 Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley:   This elegant, bone dry Rosé boasts an engaging floral aroma.  Elegant and multi-layered on the palate with watermelon, citrusy elements, cranberry, and Rainer cherry flavors intermingling with delicate herbal notes.  Fresh and crisp with nice balancing acidity, it remains bright through the last sip.  SRP:  $22

2016 Titan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: This expressive Pinot Noir combines florals with a touch of earth on the nose.  Wild cherry, loganberry jam, red raspberry, a hint of earth, savory herbs, sweet tangerine notes, and a touch of candied cherries unravel seamlessly onto the palate.  Well-balanced and ethereal with fine grained tannins and a satin-like texture, it flows harmoniously to a long and gratifying finish.  SRP:  $40

For additional information check out their website at www.bellsupwinery.com, or give them a call at 503 537 1328 to schedule a visit and/or purchase wine.   You can also reach them via email at info@bellsupwinery.com.


Iris Vineyards

Richard Boyles and Pamela Frye share a passion for fine food and wine.  Together they spent time experiencing wineries throughout Oregon and Washington, before a career move sent them to Europe.  After spending a few years in France, Germany and Switzerland, and learning more about wine regions while they were there, Richard and Pamela returned to the Northwest.  That move lead them to choosing a prime site to root vines.  Their 870-acre southern Willamette Valley property, Iris Vineyards, sits southwest of Eugene, Oregon. Upon the property sits their Chalice Estate Vineyard (50 planted acres) along with hundreds of acres of forest, a large garden, and their residence. The first vines were planted in 1996, and 2001 marked their first vintage.  At present, they produce 14,000 cases a year.

Richard’s draw to wine dates back to making wine with his grandmother, from grapes grown at their home on the Umpqua River in Roseburg, Oregon.   The grapes were pressed with a wood press Richard’s father made as a high school woodworking project.  He recalls memorable meals paired with wine at family gatherings over the years.

Winemaker Aaron Lieberman began making wines for Iris Vineyards in 2008, bringing with him 12 years of previous experience gained at wineries in the Willamette Valley, including Amity Vineyards, De Ponte Cellars, and Owen Roe.  The wines he crafts have earned Iris Vineyards multiple top tier medals at prestigious wine competitions around the country, and the current vintages that I recently tasted were impressive as well:

2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley:  Exquisitely layered and wildly aromatic, this Rosé from their Chalice Estate Vineyard is stylish.  Scents of forest berries and exotic spices lead the way.  Well defined on the palate as a core of pomegranate, red cherry, and Sunkist orange entwine with berry-herbal tisane and a trace of lemon verbena.  Aging in 43% stainless steel and 57% French oak barrels prior to final aging in stainless adds deeper textural qualities, and the wine finishes with verve.  Their 2017 Rosé took a Double Gold medal at the New Orleans International Wine Awards competition.   SRP:  $17.99

2017 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley:  Fragrant aromas and delightfully rich with nice balancing acidity, this finely tuned Pinot Gris comes from Chalice Estate and Confluence vineyards fruit.  Grilled pineapple, homemade Golden Delicious applesauce, savory tones, and lemon-lime citrus accents enliven the palate.  Zesty on the finish, with a subtle note of crushed pink peppercorns.  Their 2016 Pinot Gris scored a Double Gold medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.   SRP:  $15.99

2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley:  Forest floor aromas awaken the senses with this enticing and easy to quaff Pinot Noir.   Silky smooth on the palate, where red cherries, wild mushrooms, black and red raspberries, a tinge of spice and a suggestion of vanilla bean wrap around supple tannins.  Nicely integrated oak nuances (from 98% French oak [15% new], and 2% American oak aging) add further dimension.  Their 2015 Pinot Noir earned a Double Gold medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition.  SRP:  $21.99

Seek out the Iris Vineyards website, www.irisvineyards.com, for further details or give them a call (tasting room 541 242 6588, or winery 541 942 5993).  You are welcome to pop into their tasting room, overlooking Chalice Estate Vineyards in the Oregon Coast Mountain Range, which is open daily from 12 noon to 6 pm, too.

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards – Umpqua Valley, Oregon

Great Northwest, Oregon, Tasting Notes

Umpqua Valley’s Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards hits the mark vintage after vintage, remaining a favorite of mine.  Tasting new releases and unveiling wines with a few years age proves the multitude of Gold, Double Gold, Platinum and Best of Class awards showered upon proprietors Stephen and Gloria Reustle and their staff each year are well deserved.  Not only are Winemaker Stephen Reustle and Associate Winemaker Wade Smith crafting impressive wines that drink beautifully at release, their wines age remarkably as well.

2017 Riesling; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  The gorgeous river rock and stone fruit aroma clearly broadcasts Riesling.  Sun-kissed peaches, juicy nectarines, a suggestion of lemon grass, fresh squeezed lime, and a solid thread of minerality weave a brilliant array of flavors on the palate.   Bright, mouthwatering and lively with the level of acidity keeping it in perfect balance through the perky finish.  SRP: $21

2016 Winemaker’s Reserve Pinot Noir; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Purity and varietal correctness abound!  Scents of earthiness and wild cherries rise from the glass.  On the palate, red cherries, earthy notes, a touch of sarsaparilla, raspberries and exotic spice unfold in harmony.  Polished and elegant with well-integrated oak nuances adding dimension.  Irresistible from first engaging sip, to the long and satisfying last one.   SRP:  $42

2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Grüner Veltliner; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  This classic Grüner is simply divine!  Captivating and expressive, it reveals pristine balance, elegance and plenty of verve. Bright aromas and flavors of crisp green apple, citrus blossom, summer peaches, white pepper, fresh cut lemon verbena, a subtle hint of licorice, and a clear-cut thread of minerality.  Pure and immaculately balanced with brisk acidity through the vibrant and long-lasting finish.  It has aged splendidly and promises more years ahead.  SRP:  $29

2015 Revelation & Sorek Bloc Estate Grüner Veltliner; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Fresh squeezed lime and peach aromas are heavenly from the moment this gem approaches the nose.  It continues to broaden and invigorate the senses as citrus blossom, white peach, earthy tones, Meyer lemon, pear, guava, lime zest, a pinch of white pepper and minerality flow effortlessly onto the palate. It’s meticulously balanced and vivacious with a finish that never ends, and age-worthy, too.  SRP:  $24

2014 Gloria’s Syrah; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Aromas of dark berries and grilled meat are intoxicating.  Full bodied, complex and well-structured with lovely precision, and each lip-smacking sip reveals more complexity and depth.  Boysenberry, black currant, multi-colored peppercorns, plum jam, charcuterie, and allspice entwine, creating a glorious burst of flavors in the mouth.  Stunning through the noteworthy and everlasting finale.  One for the cellar!  SRP:  ~$42

2015 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  The compelling scent of forest fruits and savory spice encourage you to hover over the glass before tasting.  Complex and layered as blackberries, black raspberries, spice encrusted roast beef and a pinch of dried herbs entwine with nicely integrated oak, semi-sweet chocolate, and a touch of vanilla.  Expansive on the palate with a lovely mouthfeel and vital finish, and it too promises years of enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $32

2015 Timnah Bloc Estate Tempranillo; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  This delectable, well-structured Tempranillo is impeccably balanced and smoothly textured, with black cherry, dark plums, tobacco leaf, hints of leather, and freshly ground black pepper wrapped around a backbone of refined tannins and bright acids. This approachable, while age-worthy wine exhibits a delightful cocoa-dusted finish that lingers on and on, delicious!  SRP:  $29

I highly recommend checking out their vineyards and winery in Roseburg Oregon (in the Umpqua Valley AVA).  There is plenty to be impressed with, including their competent and delightful staff, exquisite setting, impeccable vineyards, impressive caves and tasting areas, and exquisite, age worthy wines.  To learn more about their picturesque and welcoming property, and full line up of award-winning white, red and dessert wines, view their website at www.reustlevineyards.com, or even better, plan a visit soon!

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes

Willamette Valley Shines Again

A return visit to Oregon’s Willamette Valley unveiled more gems, from producers I have engaged with in prior years as well as producers I had not personally met with in the past.

One of the latter, Stoller Family Estate (www.stollerfamilyestate.com), is a property producing beautiful wines from 100% estate grown vines in the Dundee Hills appellation (a sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley) in Oregon.  Bill Stoller was born on the property, having acquired it from a family member in 1993, believing (rightly so!) that the rocky, well drained Jory soil and the south facing slopes were ideal for growing wine grapes.  Not a novice to the wine world (co-ownership in Chehalem Winery) he planted his first ten acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Stoller Family Estate in 1995 and the rest is history.  Their drive for sustainability earned Stoller the first ever LEED Gold certification in North America. Vineyard Manager Robert Schultz says “it’s an honor to farm this land” and he certainly is doing a fine job at that.  Spending time with President Gary Mortensen and additional talented team members at Stoller was enlightening.  The following Stoller wines were among my favorites:

Stoller Family Estate 2013 Stainless Steel Chardonnay:   Mouthwatering aromas of fresh tree fruits wow the senses.  Cascading onto the palate are bright flavors of green apple, crisp pear, lime zest, a trace of herbs and minerality.  I love the elevated level of acidity and the purity of fruit that truly captures the essence of the Chardonnay grape.  I also appreciate the restraint on the alcohol level (12.5%) of this sleek, delicious wine.   SRP:  $20

Stoller Family Estate 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay:  If a rounder, fuller bodied Chardonnay is more to your liking, you’ll delight in this well structured beauty which was aged in 20% new and 80% neutral French oak barrels.  The nose offers up a pretty toasty aroma without being over the top, and the body of the wine is rich and deep, reminiscent of a French White Burgundy.  Flavors of apples sautéed in brown sugar, fresh pear cobbler, sweet oak spice, citrus accents and nutty toffee bar notes interlace harmoniously on the palate and linger heavenly on the long lasting finish.   SRP:  $35

Stoller Family Estate 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé:  This dry Rosé’s brilliant hue dazzles the eye, and the wine continues to impress with its engaging floral notes wafting from the glass. Nicely balanced and full of vivacity with juicy fresh strawberries joining flavors of cranberry sauce, red grapefruit and a touch of watermelon.  The acidity is spot on and the finish is vibrant and uplifted.  SRP:  $20

Stoller Family Estate 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir:   The evocative aroma simply screams Pinot Noir; wow.  Scents and tasty elements of dark cherry and raspberry fruit, forest floor nuances, cinnamon, nutmeg spice and creme brulee notes swirl on the palate with ease.  If you’re not yet a Pinot Noir aficionado, this one should swing you over.   Complex and Burgundian in style with a finish that continues to heighten and linger beyond the last sip. SRP:  $45

Stoller Family Estate 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir:  Here’s a splendid wine that will please your pocketbook too, it is an outstanding value.  Proclaiming varietal correctness through and through with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit accented by pleasing cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spice and a trace of cola, this Pinot Noir will stimulate your sensory receptors and leave you with a smile.  The acidity balances the elegant fruit, and a pretty touch of oak peeks through from mid palate through the pleasing finish.  SRP:  $30

Stoller Family Estate 2011 Helen’s Pinot Noir:   Crafted from estate Wädenswil clone vines, Helen’s 2011 PN pulls out all the stops.  Aromatically it is wildly expressive and the entry displays intense flavor with forest floor notes in the foreground.   Deep, complex and Burgundian in style it is oh so palate pleasing with the earthy nuances, spice and minerality weaving among cherry, raspberry and pomegranate notes provocatively coating the mouth.   Streamlined and solidly built with the acidity, fruit and fine grained tannins in precise balance.  They have hit the nail on the head with the beautiful oak integration too; clearly a cellar worthy wine.    SRP:  $70

Archery Summit Estate (www.archerysummit.com)

This was my 3rd visit to Archery Summit Estate over the past 7 years, and vintage to vintage their wines continue to impress.  Their property encompasses more than 100 acres of planted vines in the Dundee Hills appellation, and they employ a combination of organic and biodynamic farming methods among their six estate vineyards.  My favorites this visit included:

Archery Summit Estate 2013 Vireton Rosé:   This lively dry Rosé was crafted in the Saignée method (combining saignéed juice from their six vineyards).  The vivid hue glistens like a sparkling pink gem, and displayed on the nose are fragrant orange blossom and raspberry aromas.  A delicious medley of watermelon, strawberries and cherries splashed with fresh citrus accents swirls on the palate, and lingers nicely on the bright, clean finish. SRP:  $24

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Renegade Ridge Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir:  This enticing Pinot Noir crafted from their eastern facing Renegade Ridge Estate Vineyard opens with attractive floral, earthy aromas.  Flourishing in the mouth are layers of deep red cherry, pomegranate and cola notes highlighted by a pinch of herbs and forest floor nuances.  It is immaculately balanced with a highly focused vein of minerality and a backbone of firm tannins.  On the extended finish, hints of orange zest add further dimension, a compelling wine.  SRP:  $85

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir:   Expressive aromas of red berries, violets and wild mushrooms will have you swooning before the first sip touches your lips.  This PN is full bodied on the palate with concentrated fresh cherry and strawberry fruit joining exotic spices, a nice touch of oak, minerally notes and an attractive mushroom component carried over from the fascinating aroma.  Masculine in style, the balance is spot on with well integrated tannins and racy acidity playing off the rich fruit.  A complex, structured wine built to go the distance.  SRP:  $85

Archery Summit Estate 2011 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir:   A bowlful of brown spice infused black and red berries and tinges of forest floor fully engage the nose on this artfully crafted Pinot Noir.  Mirrored on the palate are concentrated blackberry, black cherry and plum jam flavors that interweave with dusty forest floor characteristics, chocolate drenched cherries, minerality, cola and sandalwood notes wrapped around beautifully structured tannins.   Nicely integrated oak underlines the 12 month aging in 44% new French oak barrels, and the finish is everlasting.   SRP:  $100

Ponzi Vineyards (www.ponziwines.com)

Ponzi Vineyards has been producing wine in the Willamette Valley for more than 40 years. This was my first visit to Ponzi, at their new tasting room and winery in Sherwood which opened last year.  Their modern, savvy tasting room which overlooks a northwest facing Chehalem Mountains slope is surrounded by their magnificent Avellana Vineyard.  Ponzi’s Estate Vineyard is located at their original historic winery site.  Their Abetina, Madrona, Avellana and Aurora Vineyards are all situated on the North slope of the Chehalem Mountains appellation.   They remain committed to sustainability; back in 2008, they became one of the first Oregon wineries to be recognized as LIVE Certified Sustainable. Among my favorites from Ponzi were:

Ponzi Vineyards 2012 Arneis:   This energetic, well-crafted wine (from a grape that grows widely in the Piedmont region of Italy and translates as “Little Rascal” there because it can be a challenge to cultivate) suits that translation to a “T”.  It is bright and playful with the delicate florality on the nose expanding to a bigger than expected flavors and textures draping the palate.   At the core you’ll find crisp, tart apples, lemon curd and Bosc pears topped with slivered almonds, all of which are framed by a nice backbone of acidity that leaves you wanting more.   A fresh, clean and delicious sipper.  SRP:  $30

Ponzi Vineyards 2012 Tavola Pinot Noir:  This pleasing, moderately priced Pinot Noir displays leafy green herb and tart cherry aromas on the nose and entry.  Spicy red and black cherry flavors with dried herbs and a hint of pepper spice flesh out on the mid to back palate.  The finish highlights almond and vanilla extract accents; a nicely balanced and easy to quaff wine.   SRP:  $25

Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Avellana Reserve Chardonnay:  Rich and intense on the nose, this impressive Burgundian style Chardonnay brings buttered croissants to mind.  Full bodied and complex with minerals and brisk acidity cutting through the delectable richness of spicy poached apples, pear chutney, a touch of caramel and butterscotch pudding saturating the palate.   A nice leesy quality is welcomed, and the aging for 18 months in 25% new and 75% neutral French oak followed by 6 months in the bottle before release speaks volumes to the lovely oak integration.  SRP:  $60

Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Abatina 2 Pinot Noir:   Vividly aromatic with violet and lavender scents teasing the senses, this wine shows its feminine side up front.  Earthy, dark red cherry and currant notes are unveiled on the entry, and the 20 month aging in 50% new French oak barrels starts to make its presence known here.  The wine builds on the palate with truffles, dried cherries, a suggestion of black licorice drops and sandalwood joining the forest floor and red cherry elements that hold through the lengthy finish.  This wine promises to age nicely for several years to come.  SRP:  $100

Among these and additional extraordinary wines now being crafted here, it’s clear that the Willamette Valley AVA continues to raise the bar and craft world class Pinot Noir that can stand up to wines from any region around the globe.  Pinot Gris has also made its mark here.  What’s most surprising to me after tasting a good number of Willamette Valley Chardonnays from a variety of producers over the past several years is how this region is really hitting its stride now in producing outstanding Chardonnay, as well.   Cheers and congrats are in order!





Gems in My Glass. . .September 2011

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes

Willamette Valley Oregon delights!

My annual trek to the Willamette Valley unveiled new gems that include not only shining Pinot Noirs, but a good representation of other red varieties (including Sangiovese, Merlot Zinfandel, Syrah and Bordeaux Blends), impressive white varieties (including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay), and a bone dry Pinot Noir Rose. Read on; these are certain to tickle your palate:

Brittan Vineyards

Winemaker Robert Brittan and his wife and co-owner Ellen purchased their 128 acre hillside outside of McMinnville, Oregon in 2004. Their goal was to produce unique, top quality Pinot Noir that truly speaks to the place. This was my first exposure to Brittan Vineyards, and I must tell you from my perspective they have clearly met with tremendous success achieving their goal.

2007 Basalt Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: Provocative black cherry and dried herb aromas waft from the glass demanding your attention and the first sip confirms there is something very special in this glass. Layer upon layer of black cherry, licorice, red currant, anise and hints of tobacco unravel remarkably on the palate. Impeccably balanced and complex with stunning purity; irresistible.

2008 Basalt Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: The 2008 vintage of the Basalt Block PN showcases dense red cherry and raspberry fruit and a touch of cola, accented with earthy, mushroom notes from first whiff through the palate to the wonderful lingering finish. Supple, bright and multi-layered with lively acidity offsetting the rich fruit, and skillful use of high quality French oak barrels shines through.

2008 Gestalt Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: Gorgeously Burgundian in style, this polished PN opens with aromas of fresh cherry, raspberry and cranberry. The red berry and black cherry fruit flavors remain focused on the palate, melding harmoniously with exotic savory spice, licorice and an alluring thread of minerality from start to finish. Precisely structured and well balanced with beautifully integrated oak; finishes memorably.

Sineann Winery

Winemaker Peter Rosback began making wine more than 25 years ago, and maintains his passion for crafting elegant Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley as well as noteworthy wines from grapes grown in other regions around the world including Washington, California and New Zealand.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: Beautiful expressive aromas of a fresh herb garden and a touch of grass which fuse delectably with the citrus and green apple notes on the palate. Bright and lively with zippy acidity and a snappy finish; a skillfully made SB.

2009 Oregon Pinot Noir: Aged in neutral French oak barrels, this is reminiscent of a graceful red burgundy with its delicate structure and elegance on the palate. Balanced and pleasing with a touch of earthiness mingling through the red cherry and spice notes from start to finish.

2008 Wyeast Pinot Noir, Columbia valley: From the Oregon side of the Hood River Gorge, this nicely crafted PN that opens with fresh cherries and forest floor notes and expands fully with cherry and wild berry, mushroom and spice accents. Round, full and gutsy with silky tannins and a finish that lingers on and on.

2010 Yates-Conwill Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton: Alluring with its fragrant spicy aromas and understated pleasing entry that bursts open on mid palate richly coating the mouth with juicy cherry, allspice and a hint of licorice holding through the lasting finish. Showing nicely in its youth, and likely to age gracefully.

2008 Champoux Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: Inviting aromatics make way for dark wild berry and juicy blueberry flavors swirling deliciously on the palate alongside pie spices and a touch of vanilla. Balanced and elegant with nice depth and structure, and the exquisite fruitiness persists beautifully through the finish.

Natalie’s Estate Winery

Named for owners Boyd and Cassandra Teegarden’s daughter Natalie, this charming tasting room and winery located in the Chehalem Mountain AVA in the Willamette Valley region was founded in 1999. As winemaker, Boyd handcrafts small quantities of well-balanced premium wines from the Columbia, Yakima and Willamette Valley appellations.

2008 Natalie’s Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountain: Enticing aromas of a bowlful of ripe cherries flecked with spice rise from the glass and blend handsomely with earthy, wild cherry flavors at the core. Rich, full bodied and very satisfying with firm tannins suggesting cellar worthiness.

2008 Elephant Mountain Syrah, Yakima: Minty, plummy aromas make way for layers of blackberries, plums, dark chocolate and a subtle touch of meatiness unfolding richly on the palate. Nicely structured and balanced with well integrated oak, and the purity of fruit really sings through the finish.

2008 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley: From the Oregon side of Columbia Valley, this juicy Zinfandel opens with jammy, dark berry aromas and the concentrated fruit that persists on the palate melds harmoniously with white pepper and baking pie spices. Fresh and juicy, balanced and easy to quaff.

Chehalem Winery

Chehalem‘s history dates back to 1980 with vineyard operations started by Harry Peterson-Nedry, who founded Chehalem Winery in 1990 and remains winemaker, co-owner and managing partner today. Mike Ayres shares the winemaking role with Harry, along with Asst. Winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Bill and Cathy Stoller joined Chehalem as co-owners in 1993, and they also owners of Stoller Vineyards. Chehalem’s wines include beautifully crafted red and white wine varieties showcasing quality fruit, minerality and wonderful balance.

2008 Reserve Chardonnay, Dundee Hills: You may not have tasted a great number of Chards from Oregon, but this one will convince you it belongs here! This classy Chardonnay displays fresh tree fruits and wet stone on the fragrant nose and broadens fully mid palate with layers of baked apples laced with cinnamon spice, creamy lemon curd, and minerally notes weaving throughout. The finish is heavenly with pretty spice and oak notes.

2009 Wind Ridge Block Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge: Spicy aromas full of nutmeg and cinnamon please the nose and lead to a decadent mouthful of red and black cherries, raspberry, allspice and anise unfolding brilliantly on the palate. Velvety smooth with beautifully integrated firm tannins suggesting good aging potential.

2009 Ridgecrest Vineyards Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge: Mouthwatering aromatics full of fresh cherries and florality send you dreamily into the glass where the earthy, woodsy notes are superbly interwoven with juicy cherries, wild berries, cocoa and spice. Complex and impeccably balanced with beautiful structure and nice backbone of acidity.

2010 Sekt, Semi-sparkling Riesling: Splendidly aromatic with floral, citrus and stone fruit notes and the entry simply dances on your tongue! Citrus flecked apples and white peach flavors are vibrant and clean on the palate, and the finish is uplifting and refreshing.

Carlton Cellars

Husband and wife team Dave Grooters and Robin Russell released their first wine in 2001 and soon after planted their own vineyards in the Willamette Valley. In 2007 they opened their winery and tasting room in Carlton and released their first estate wine, the exceptional Cape Lookout Pinot Noir. Today they are crafting additional varieties that captured my heart as well.

2010 Cannon Beach Pinot Gris Willamette Valley: The expressive, fruity, floral aromas of this Pinot Gris wow the senses, and it delivers on the palate too. Juicy apple, fresh pear and citrus notes and remain fresh and clean through the finish. Beautiful expression of Pinot Gris, simply delightful!

2010 Pinot Noir Rose, Willamette Valley: I love a good dry rose, and this one really hits the mark.  Enticing aromatics lead to a mouthful of delicious fresh strawberry and Rainier cherry flavors offset by bright acidity. Well-balanced and lively, and the eye pleasing, sparkling hue is a lovely bonus.

2008 Cape Lookout Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton: Aromas of bright red cherries and earthy notes rise from the glass and the entry is gloriously fruity. Mushroom and fresh cherries take center stage on the palate with a dash of exotic spices adding complexity. Rich and full bodied with deep flavors, this PN is beautifully textured and showcases nicely integrated tannins.

2008 Roads End Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: Deeply fruited aromas and a touch of smokiness greet the nose, and delectable flavors of black cherry, blackberry, spice and forest floor notes broaden fully mid palate. Rich with a nice backbone of tannins, and the dense fruit and earthiness linger provocatively on the long satisfying finish.

Cana’s Feast

Cana’s Feast Tuscan inspired winery in Carlton is co-located with their charming Cucina offering brunch, lunch and supper with cuisine to match their food friendly wines. Patrick Taylor, Winemaker and Dan Duryee, Asst. Winemaker craft an exceptional new world Sangiovese, among other nice wines.

2007 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley: Inviting aromatics of dried cherry and earthy notes speak Sangiovese loud and clear, and the palate delivers equally pretty and varietally correct flavors of cherry, strawberry and herbs alongside the grape’s natural acidity. Balanced and food friendly with a gratifying finish.

2007 Syrah, Columbia Valley: This Cote Rotie style Syrah is blended with 2% Viognier, which tones down the broad tannins. Dark fruit and meaty notes please the nose and remain focused and pure on the palate with juicy layers of black cherry, berry and plum fruits and a touch of licorice adding interest. A rich, layered, stylish Syrah.

2007 Mountain Cuvee, Columbia Valley: This beautifully hued Bordeaux blend is comprised of 44% Cab Franc, 42% Merlot and 14% Cab Sauvignon. Cassis and blackberry flavors drive both the aromas and flavors with accents of roasted meats and touch of green bell pepper and spice. Full bodied with velvety tannins that top off the nice package.

Oregon wineries are really stepping up to the plate and producing outstanding wines that rival some of the top wine regions around the world. The level of quality today compared to my first visit twenty years ago is exceptional. I have added to my list a visit to the Eastern and Southern AVA’s in Oregon, too!

Remarkable Oregon Discoveries

Oregon, Tasting Notes

For years the Willamette Valley, with its sun drenched summer days and cool nights, has been highly touted as a thriving wine region for Pinot Noir, and that didn’t happen by chance.   Meandering through the picturesque valleys through northwest Oregon this month confirmed my previous positive impressions of well crafted wines from the Willamette Valley, and uncovered new discoveries as well.   Pinot Noir certainly captures the lion’s share of the attention, and there are other varieties that also thrive here that should not be overlooked:

Arborbrook Vineyards 2009 Croft Vineyards Pinot Gris:  Captivating aromas of honeysuckle and juicy pear sprinkled with fresh squeezed citrus draw you into the glass and keep your attention fully engaged with generous ripe tree fruit, grapefruit and lemon-lime notes holding firmly from first sip to lasting finish.  Bright acidity is a bonus with this 100% stainless steel fermented Pinot Gris; yum!

Arborbrook Vineyards 2008 Vintner’s Select Pinot Noir:  The black cherry and spice that fill the nose and the palate richly are nicely offset by tangy acidity and beautiful oak integration (aged 18 months in 100% new French oak).  This is a well balanced pinot noir with refined tannins and a sprinkling of delicate floral notes on the pretty, persistent finish.

Vidon Vineyard 2008 Brigita Pinot Noir:  This 777 clone displays aromas of juicy cherry and earth notes and the pleasing aromas mesh nicely on the palate with sweet and tart cherries, hint of cassis and earthy notes.   Aged 15 months in new French oak, the barrel influence is well integrated.  The finish offers attractive cherry vanilla tones and a pleasant hint of toast, too.

Vidon Vineyard 2008 Mirabelle Pinot Noir:   A smoky note on the nose adds a nice dimension to the dried cherry aromas and leads to a rich mouthful of black cherry and raspberry compote and a dash of spice adding complexity.  There is a silky elegance about this well balanced pinot noir that keeps you wanting more.  

Trisaetum 2009 J & A Frey Vineyard Josahn Riesling:   Aromas of fresh picked flowers, juicy white peach and lime zest rise from the glass and leave you anxious to bring it to your lips.  Brimming with peach,  pineapple, citrus and a sprinkling of roasted nuts, this wine is fresh, clean and beautifully balanced; a scintillating expression of Riesling from the Willamette Valley.

Trisaetum 2008 Artist Series #5 Pinot Noir:  This pinot noir carries an intriguing subtle smoky note that nicely frames the sweet, dense black cherry and wild cherry fruit at the core.  Focused and pure, with earthy mushroom and spice nuances that add complexity to this classy example of Pinot Noir, packaged in a stylishly designed Artist Series label.

Beaux Freres 2007 Upper Terrace Pinot Noir:  From Dijon 667 and 777 clones, this sophisticated jewel of a wine expresses earthy, dried cherry notes alongside spice, black licorice and a pretty touch of oak that contributes to its charm.  Tannins that are refined and smooth hold firm from entry through the everlasting finish. 

Beaux Freres 2008 Beaux Freres Vineyard Pinot Noir:  Forest floor and wild cherry waft from the glass and intoxicate your senses.  Layers of damp earth, savory truffle and spice infused cherries intertwine artfully and fill the mouth richly and the finish is long and memorable.  Pure finesse in a glass! 

Lachini Vineyards 2007 Cuvee Giselle Reserve Pinot Noir:  This Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir boasts wild berry and minerality in the nose, with generous ripe cherry and berry fruit accented with appealing flinty, wet stone notes on the palate.  Balanced and nicely crafted with a finish that lingers memorably. 

Although not made from Oregon fruit, I also had the opportunity to taste the Lachini 2006 il Mulinello Bordeaux Blend during my visit to their Newberg Oregon site.  This impressive blend, comprised of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot and 8% Cab Franc, is crafted from Klipsun Vineyards fruit in the Red Mountain AVA in Washington.  The sweet cassis, blackberry and dark currant flavors at the core are complimented by hints of tobacco, toffee and spice.  Nice depth and intensity with very good aging potential. 

Bergstrom Wines 2009 Old Stones Chardonnay:  A blend of 50% Bergstrom and 50% Shea Vineyards, here is a stunning example of a complex chardonnay that displays both old world and new world characteristics.  The minerality showcases Burgundian style chardonnays; and the gorgeous purity of fruit is all about the new world.  Aged in 100% French oak, the hint of toast is subtle but refined, and the rich, creamy pear and fresh apple fruit complimented by a sprinkling of nuts and lively acidity intertwine simply beautifully; wow.

Bergstrom Wines 2008 Bergstrom Vineyard Pinot Noir:  From the volcanic soils of the Dundee Hills, intoxicating mushroom and truffle notes fill the senses and mesh heavenly with decadent cherry and raspberry at the core surrounded by forest floor notes, spice and  florality.  Deeply flavored and complex yet lifted and graceful on the palate with subtle oak and refined, velvety tannins.

Ayres Vineyard  2009 Lewis Rogers Lane Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir:  A blend  667, 777, 115, 113, and Pommard clones, this complex pinot noir opens with alluring floral and cherry cola on the nose and leads to a dense mouthful of black cherry, raspberry, anise spice, savory mushrooms, a hint of cigar box and the essence of forest floor.   Full bodied, juicy and nicely textured from start to finish.

Ayres Vineyard 2009 Pioneer Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir:  Scents of sweet cherries and boysenberries lure you into the glass and remain focused with a pleasing earthiness alongside baking spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice weaving throughout.  This polished and elegant single estate 667 clone pinot noir boasts lively acidity and a good depth of flavors that keep it beautifully balanced through the long, lingering finish.

White Rose 2007 Dragon’s Bluff Vista Hills Vineyard:  Vibrant sour cherry and herbal aromas delight and lead to  layers of rhubarb, spice, dusty wild cherry and forest floor notes delectably unraveling on the palate.   Beautifully textured and complex with a persistent finish.

White Rose 2007 Dragon’s Bluff White Rose Vineyard:  Floral notes grab your attention and remain as a nice accent on the palate with juicy cherry, a dash of black and pink peppercorn and herbs at the core.  Gorgeous silky mouth feel, pleasing acidity and perfect oak integration lead to an unforgettable finish.

White Rose Estate 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir:   Dazzling cherry and red licorice aromas rise from the glass and steer you gently and seductively into a mouthful of rich concentrated cherry, black raspberry and herbal notes.  From the Dundee Hills sub-appellation of Willamette Valley, this pinot noir is round and generous on the palate with great length.

De Ponte Cellars DFB Estate Melon:  Crafted 100% from Melon de Bourgogne grape (aka Muscadet), here is a perfect match for freshly shucked oysters and clams.  Floral aromas and subtle tropical fruit flecked with fresh lemon and lime peel stay focused and refreshing on the palate.  The lively acidity really keeps the wine lifted and vivacious from first to delicious last lingering sip.  

De Ponte Cellars 2007 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir:  Provocative forest floor notes scream pinot noir, and the powerful burst of flavors on the palate handsomely showcases wild cherry, savory spice, mushroom and earth notes.   Firmly structured and full bodied yet ever so elegant and refined through the memorable finish.

De Ponte Cellars 2008 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir:  This beautifully hued PN (aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels, the balance in 2 to 3 year French oak barrels) opens with alluring aromas of wild raspberry hints of vanilla bean and expands broadly on mid palate with layers of juicy cherry, minerality, spice and subtle earth notes.   Smooth as silk and deftly balanced; a Pinot Noir that should age gracefully for years.

The summer is still lingering in Oregon and this year’s later than normal harvest keeps grape growers and wine producers on their toes; a visit there may help lift their spirits, and will surely lift yours!

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