Gems in My Glass. . .September 2011

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Oregon, Tasting Notes No Comments

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!