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!

Praiseworthy Palate Pleasers from Oregon


Venturing out to the Willamette Valley and other nearby wine regions in Oregon in the sun drenched month of September could not have been more enjoyable and enlightening.   Pinot noir vineyards abound, producing styles as diverse as the micro-climates throughout the regions.   Although the area is most known for pinot noir, other varieties also planted and meticulously cared for are noteworthy in their own right.

 At Domaine Serene, Allan Carter (Director of Marketing and Sales) began our tour with a stroll around the stunning property perched at the top of the Dundee Hills.  Owners Kevin and Grace Evenstad arrived years ago in the late 80’s and began with the planting of the Mark Bradford Vineyard.  They expanded from there, and of their 420 acres, 150 acres are now planted in grapes.  They released their first wine in 1990, and their first vintage from the estate winery in 2001.  When visiting Domaine Serene, don’t miss noticing the artistically crafted copper doors, and other fine decor.

Our first sip here was a taste of their 2006 Clos du Solei Chardonnay.  A well crafted wine that opens with expansive aromas and boasts minerality and a juicy baked apple richness that continues to delight, and is interwoven with bright acidity on mid palate.  Focused and very well balanced with a heavenly finish that lingers forever.

Allan described their meticulous operation, from tending the vines, to the careful harvesting of the grapes, to 100% hand sorting of the fruit, to fermentation in their one, three and five ton fermenters; followed by 12 to 18 month oak aging, and additional aging in the bottle.  Pinot Noir is often termed a finicky grape; and I liked Allan’s description “Pinot remembers EVERYTHING you do to it”.  Yes, how true.   Here’s a snapshot of the current vintages:

2005 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, produced from estate vineyards in Dundee Hills and Eola Hills, teases the senses with forward fruit aromatics and builds on the palate with layers of black cherry, raspberry, spice and toasty notes, and an enticing earthiness.  Showcasing a fine purity of fruit, this wine is smooth and elegantly structured from start to finish.

2005 Fleur de Lis Vineyard Pinot Noir:  Pretty floral aromatics fill the nose; and a punch of bright plumy and black cherry fruit flavors surrounded by spice and oak notes enliven the palate from entry through mid palate to a long, persistent finish.  Complex and seductive with silky tannins, this should age with grace and open more fully with time.

2005 Jerusalem Hill Vineyard:   All about inviting herbs and earthiness in the nose; promises plenty and delivers.  More muscular and powerful in style with a full, tangible texture.  This Pinot Noir is dense and voluptuous with black cherry at the core cloaked with wild berry, mushroom and forest floor essence, and I think it’s just begun to show its stuff.  The depth of flavors and full tannins suggest a good long life ahead.   Wow.

 2004 Del Rio Vineyard Syrah:  Meatiness greets the nose; followed by a splash of green bell pepper.  Spicy with focused black peppercorn notes wrapped around dark blackberry at the core.  Varietally right on; there is plenty to like in this full bodied, nicely balanced Syrah. 

 Willakenzie Estate is a new discovery for me; and what a find it was.  Located in the Willamette Valley in the Chehalem Mountains, the vineyards (102 acres) were planted in 1992, and the property encompasses 420 acres.  Bernie Lacroute and Ronnie Lacroute purchased the ranch and planted vineyards in 1992.  We were treated to a thrilling ride through the vineyards among the rolling hills with owner Bernie Lacroute (whose passion for Pinot goes back to his native home in Burgundy).   Hanging on to our seats at the highest point of the vineyards at about 750 feet elevation, we appreciated their vertical shoot position trellis system, which offers good sun exposure and air flow through the vines, and marveled at the views.  They grow organically and are very proud of their sustainable agricultural practices; and are certified by both L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture & Enology) and Salmon Safe.  Bernie expounds on the soil here, which is well drained with layers of clay and mica sandstone.  He adds that as they avoid using herbicides; weeds in the vineyards are removed manually; a laborious practice they firmly believe is well worth the additional time and effort.  You’ll see grasses, herbs and flowers among the vineyards, and surrounding the vineyards are majestic Douglas fir and oak trees; simply breath-taking.  The impressive and picturesque setting leads to the captivating wines:

2007 Pinot Blanc:  bright and focused with stone fruit, grapefruit and lime tones on center palate. Very balanced and easy to quaff wine which will pair well with seafood, lemon chicken and herbed cheeses.   Their 2007 Pinot Gris was round and pretty with melon, peach and juicy apple aromas and flavors intermingling attractively from the enticing entry to the pleasing viscosity on mid palate to the clean, satisfying finish. 

2005 Kiana Pinot Noir:  Inviting aromatics steer you into the rich, dense red cherry and raspberry fruit and lush ripe tannins that fully engage the taste buds.  Lively and well balanced with smoky notes and subtle French oak accents that add complexity.

2005 Aliette Pinot Noir:  Distinctive earthy aromas and notes of strawberry rhubarb pie fill the nose.  Delightful essence of wild cherries and berries weave through the spice laden mouthful of lip-smacking flavors all wrapped up beautifully in a complex package with firm tannins.  Very impressive now, and this one should live for many years to come.

2005 Pierre Leon Pinot Noir:  Sun ripened fruit prevails on the nose, followed by dense black cherry, blackberry and wild berry flavors taking center stage with a bit of smoke and forest floor earthiness swirling throughout.  A captivating, full structured wine with moderate tannins and a memorable finish.

2005 Emory Pinot Noir:  With a focus of earthiness and a hint of florality up front, this powerhouse of a Pinot unfolds temptingly on the palate with concentrated black fruits and chocolate notes dancing in tune with the earthiness that follows through from the initial aromas.   Intensely structured with a velvety texture, this wine will open up even more fully when decanted.

2005 Terres Basses Pinot Noir:  A bit restrained in the nose, but tons of complexity here with layer upon layer of red cherries, blackberries, dark juicy plums, forest floor and smoky notes and subtle pie spices. Young at this point, but full of promise.  If drinking now, you should definitely decant this hugely structured full bodied wine, or wait a few years; it will be worth it!

Domaine Drouhin:  I first visited Burgundy’s Maison Joseph Drouhin family property in Beaune, Burgundy several years ago and was mesmerized by their passion, viticulture practices and wines.  When they shared details about their Domaine Drouhin property in Oregon, I vowed to visit one day; and am glad I did.  Members of the fourth generation of the Drouhin family are at the helm in Oregon; including Veronique Drouhin-Boss, Winemaker; and Philippe Drouhin, vineyard manager. 

 Tasting room Manager Mark Bosko at their Dundee Hills property led us on the informative tour.  They have 90 acres of hillside vineyards planted on the 225 acre estate that range in elevation from 400 ft to 800 ft, flourishing  in the Dundee Hills rich volcanic soil with a good bit of iron.  Mark shared that their vines are densely planted (up to 3300 per acre).  They are well stressed, producing good concentrated wines noted for red fruit and spice.  The fruit is all hand picked, hand sorted and destemmed, and they use only indigenous yeast.  A combination of neutral and new French barrels with medium toast are used for barrel aging. 

Domaine Drouhin made their first wine in 1988 (with purchased grapes), the same year they began planting their estate vineyards.  In 1992 their first wine from 100% estate fruit was produced.  Let’s take a peak at their current vintages now:

2007 Arthur Chardonnay:  Stunning aromas of fresh flowers and citrus notes greet the nose.  Divinely rich and viscous upon entry, filling the mouth with notes of pear, citrus and plenty of minerality.  The well balanced acidity and nicely integrated French oak add further dimension and complexity, and the flavors linger generously.

 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir:  Subtle earthiness fresh red cherries greet the nose.  Bright red cherry flavors meld seamlessly with accents of smokiness, spice and earth notes; and create a mellifluous feel on the palate.  This wine displays a beautiful delicacy and purity of fruit, and finishes with elegance.

2005 Laurene Pinot Noir:  Concentrated black cherry aromatics pull you into the glass.  Spice, cola and earth notes surround the delectable black cherry core and broaden on the palate luxuriously.   Well balanced and intensely structured with firm tannins; delicious now, and built to last for years. 

 Adelsheim Vineyard:  Established in 1971, this family-owned winery and estate vineyards are located on the Chehalem Mountains in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley.   David Adelsheim and Ginny Adelsheim began planting their original vineyard in 1972 and David Adelsheim made their first wine for commercial release in 1978.   They too use sustainable farming practices, and have a passion for quality and consistency of fruit from top notch vineyards.  Co-owners Jack and Lynn Loacker joined Adelsheim Vineyard in 1994, and began planting Ribbon Springs Vineyard in 1995; and the winery continues to grow and expand.  Current releases include:

2006 Adelsheim CH:  A juicy Chardonnay that opens with aromas of butter glazed baked pears and oak notes.   The expansive mouthful of succulent ripe pears and white peaches, a dash of spice, and subtle thread of minerality remain focused from start to finish.  The round, rich texture and lasting finish cap the wine off with a flair. 

2006 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir:  Opens with enticing earthy, smoky aromas that carry through on the palate and accentuate the generous black cherry, hints of red currant, licorice and forest floor accents.  Full bodied with a rich texture and warm, velvety tannins suggesting plenty of ageability ahead. 

2006 Calkins Lane Pinot Noir:  Potent aromatics filled with earthiness, herbal notes and dark cherry fruit.  Dense, opulent and concentrated on the palate, and the purity of fruit shines through with aplomb.  A powerhouse of a PN, well balanced with resolved tannins and a finish that goes on and on. 

 Oswego Hills Winery:  Owner Jerry Marshall and Winemaker Derek Lawrence speak with joy about their vineyards, practices and wines.  Their vineyards are about 11 years old, and they plan to continue planting until they have about 20 acres of planted vines.  The vineyards are north – south oriented, and they use vertical shoot position trellising; both which encourage good sun exposure.  They harvest at the last possible opportunity, giving the grapes as much hang time as possible.  All wines here are estate grown, produced and bottled.   My favorites include:

2007 Pinot Gris:  Delightful citrus aromatics stay focused on the palate with  crisp green apple, grapefruit and lime zest notes weaving together harmoniously.  Fresh and zippy with beautiful acidity and a brightness that lasts through the finish and beyond.

2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir:  Made with 80% new oak barrels and 20% one year old barrels, this very reasonably priced Willamette Valley pinot noir ($23) showcases classic regional characteristics of dark cherry fruit, toasty, smoky accents and alluring forest floor notes.  An elegant style that is well balanced and clean, and a pleasure to quaff. 

2006 Merlot:  Sourced from grapes grown in Columbia Valley, their merlot has inviting spicy, cinnamon scented aromatics that lead to blueberry, cherry and blackberry flavors exploding on the palate, with hints of oak and spice in the background.   Nicely structured with soft velvety tannins.

 Oregon’s wine regions offer a wealth of wines suited to a plethora of palates.  Rain or shine is a good time to head on over.  I’m sure you’ll find plenty of favorites for your unique palate, and have plenty of praises of your own to share!