Friday, January 29, 2010

A Short but Rewarding Trip

Got a late start today but still got what I needed done and made a nice contact that resulted in a bottle of really fine wine.
Just at the north edge of Dundee sits a little old farm cottage that houses the tasting room for The Four Graces. The Blacks had put aside a bottle for me to pick up so that was my first stop of the day. Jason Senior greeted me and handed over a magnum of '05 Black Family Estate Pinot Noir($150) hand signed by  the owners. They also included a tasting certificate for 6 people($60).
I always forget to take a picture of the tree and barn outside the farm house but today I remembered.

Next stop was to drop off wines at Northwest Wines to You, located at The Abby outside Lafayette. Rebecca Pittock Shouldis
takes care of the business and will also be, along with Steve Baker from Authentica, our wine experts with Bob Sogge at this years auction.
We had a nice long lunch with Mike Steele, VP of Pioneer Packaging and some friends at Farm to Fork in Dundee where Paul made us some truly delightful food. Duck Confete salad for me. Can't praise this place enough!
During lunch Paul de Lancellotti and he handed me a bottle of his '07 Estate Pinot Noir($65).
Paul is one of the owners of the Inn at Red Hills where Press, and Farm to Fork are located. I recommend that you eat both here and at the Dundee Bistro every chance you get.
Last stop for the day was at the place I stopped first in the Dundee area when I started all this in December of '08, Stoller Vineyard and winery.
Grace and Emily were there getting ready for an event so I did not take up much of their time with a tasting, just begged politely, and was rewarded with a bottle of the '05 Cathy's Reserve Pinot Noir ($100). Wow!
I must say that there are a lot of really good looking people in the Oregon wine industry. Must be all the wine.
From their web site:
Wine Overview: The 2005 Cathy’s Reserve comes from a 5-barrel lot of our oldest planted Pinot Noir; Pommard clone planted in 1995.  Three new, one 1-year and one 2-year barrels were used to articulate the high quality of the 2005 vintage.
Vintage Notes: 2005 was a classic vintage in Oregon.  The growing season was ideal for Pinot Noir: moderate in temperature and leaning towards the cool side, even through the summer.  The fall brought intermittent rains, leading to a long and spread out harvest.  The result of this vintage is elegant wines with moderate alcohol levels (13.5% average) and bright natural acidity.
Harvest Notes: We began harvest September 24th at Stoller Vineyards, and concluded October 20th.
Tasting Notes: Elegant and powerful, with a nice balance of earth and fruit.

Another thing about this winery, along with a growing cadre of like minded businesses in the Northwest, is their commitment to conservation and energy management
From their web site:
Stoller's Gold LEED certified winery.
The Stoller winery is the first Gold LEED Certified winery in the United States. It integrates gravity-flow winemaking techniques, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and waste-water reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.
This environmental consciousness goes hand-in-hand with the Stoller's belief in a sustainable workplace, where the people whose efforts go into producing Stoller wine are cared for as diligently as the vineyards they tend. (more)

Next trip will be Saturday to Marsh Ann Landing for Oregon Mozart Players -- A Tale of Two Wolfgang's: A European Romp. Rich bassoon and vibrant strings with works by Mozart, Dohnani, Wolfgang, and Devienne -  and a little wine tasting.

Four Great Articles About the Pioneers of Oregon Wine

Sokal Blosser posted this on Facebook today and I thought I would pass it along:
It was published in the Jan.7th, 2010 Oregon Wine Press
In Memory Of:
Richard Sommer
Cal Knudsen
Gary Andrus
Arnold Kohnert

Richard Sommer - Father of Oregon’s fine wine industry dies at age 79
By Cara Pallone
First Published in September 2009

Like the old winemaker’s vines, stories about Richard Sommer are rooted in time—a source of laughter and conversation as his friends reminisce for years to come.
They’ll remember his signature suspenders and berets. They’ll toast glasses of sweet Riesling or a mellow red and talk about his unruly locks or his fresh, homemade bread.(more)

Cal Knudsen - Willamette Valley wine pioneer dies at age 85
By Karl Klooster
First Published in the June 2009 Edition

Renaissance man” would have been a suitable sobriquet for C. Calvert “Cal” Knudsen, who succumbed to cancer April 24 at his Palm Springs home at the age of 85.
He could also have been called “lucky,” because the fates favored him at certain pivotal points in his life, when things might easily have gone the other way.(more, scan down)

Gary Andrus - Enterprising winery owner raised the Pinot Noir barBy Karl Klooster 

First Published in the March 2009 Edition

Gary Andrus, owner of Gypsy Dancer, died Jan. 30, from complications of pneumonia. He was 63.
Personal passions marked Andrus’ life.
He will be most remembered as a man whose passion for Oregon Pinot Noir elevated it to another level. But he also made the U.S. Olympic team as a downhill skier, and he loved fly-fishing for trout, the most cerebrally challenging contest of man versus fish ever contrived.
It’s quite an accomplishment to have made outstanding wine in even one distinct growing region, much less in three. But Andrus’ 30-year career led him to success in California and New Zealand as well as Oregon.
In 1978, he founded Pine Ridge Winery in California’s Napa Valley. He named it after a noted ski area.
He jumped on the California wine bandwagon just as it was beginning to gather speed. And he rode it for all it was worth. (more, scan down)

Arnold Kohnert - “Mr. Pompadour” leaves legacy, legion of friends

By Gregory Jones
First Published in July 2009

In April, the Rogue Valley and Oregon wine community lost one of its pioneers and staunchest supporters in Arnold Kohnert. Known affectionately as “Mr. Pompadour,” Kohnert’s signature statement could be heard on his answering machine: “This is Pompadour Vineyard, home of the best Bordeaux grapes in the Valley.”
Kohnert’s distinguished career stretched from the beaches of Normandy in WWII, to the profession of engineer, building commercial buildings in California, to Pompadour Vineyard, which he and his wife, Mary, tended for more than 20 years. (more, scan down)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Day Much Like Any Other, Except For All the Wine!

When I awoke this morning I was determined not to waste the day driving down to the Umpqua Valley, missing everyone, and coming back with two or three bottles of wine. I had sent out a few emails warning of my arrival but at 7:00 am, who reads their email! So after feeding the cats, kissing Linda good-by, and making sure the card was in my camera, I was off!
First stop was Iris Hill.I went down to Cottage Grove and over to the new facility that the Iris folks have put together. Wow! Nice place! Laura was in the office and when I identified myself she said that she was getting ready to email me and ask when I was coming. They gave us a bottle of the '06 Reserve Pinot Noir($36). Just released and outstanding. (from the tasting notes) Very deep and dark in color with rich aromas of ripe black cherry and cassis with hints of sweet, smoky oak. On the palate this Pinot Noir bursts with mouth watering, ripe berry flavors framed by subtle sweet oak spice and has outstanding concentration. The acid balance is excellent and the tannins are fine and soft. The ripe black fruit finish is long and velvet smooth.
It got 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and 91 from Wine Spectator "Smooth and focused, with a meaty note running through the dark berry and spice flavors, lingering on the round, generous finish".
Since they opened their large facility down in Cottage Grove they have been without a proper tasting room, but that will soon change. Within the next month we will be able to do tastings in the office so keep you eyes open for details.

Heading south, I dropped my card at the tasting room for Sienna Ridge and hoped to catch them on the way home.
I decided to go all the way down to Girardet and work my way bask up the valley.  After a visit to the Winston Visitors Center for maps and info, I enjoyed a sunny drive west on Highway 42 to one of the few producers of Baco Noir in the west.
Phillip was there to hand over a bottle of their just released '08 Zinfandel ($29). It is a truly stunning wine with huge berry notes in the nose and a smooth dark cherry taste. Complex and bold with just the right amount of acid and a tart finish. Here is Phillip with one of his Baco Noirs. I tasted through most of the reds and a couple of whites: I can recommend the Pinot Gris (bright bite with a smooth finish) the Pinot Noir (remarkable wine! Soft berry with a hint of soil and leather, nice balance of sweet and tart.) and my biggest surprise of the day, the Chardonnay! (Smoked meats, salmon, in the nose, then nice fresh fruit on the palate. Wow! This has to be the ultimate wine for paste or fish.).Cedar, the tasting room person, helped me through the samples and gave me directions to my next stop, Abacela..
There I met with Andrew Wenzl, their wine maker. He led me through the winery from crush pad to barrel room and I felt as if I had gone to school again. There is so much to learn and there are so many different approaches to making great wine, that is, variations on the basic theme, that it is always interesting to listen to what each wine maker says about the wine. One of the intriguing things I learned from Andrew was that they use their own Pinot noir and other wines to make the brandy that goes in to the Port. They take it up to Clear Creek and have it distilled, then add it back in to the port. The result is a delectable, rich, and mellow Port with a character all its own. Love it!
I plan on going back to visit Andrew with a video camera later in February and having him talk about Abacela's wines and how they are made.
I left with a bottle of their '05 Reserve Tempernio ($65) (tasting note)

The single most important prerequisite of our Reserve wines is vineyard provenance. This mandate so guides our winemaking philosophy that prior to the 2005 vintage we have produced only two Reserve wines.
In 2005 we detected the required benchmark qualities in the Tempranillo fruit from the rocky, sandy soils in our estate’s South East, Angle and Knoll blocks.(more)

Delfino Vineyards was next on the trip and when I stopped by to visit I was met by Jim, who with cigar in hand, was good enough to present a bottle of their '07 Zinfandel ($23). (Tasting notes)
Aromas of raspberries and Bing cherries, followed by subtle shades of violets, licorice and cinnamon fill your nose as flavors of ripe blackberries, plums and bittersweet chocolate tease your palate. (more)
I have always been tempted to move in to their guest cottage for a couple of days while down there gathering wine and I may do it next year. It is really a wonderful little retreat and I hear the breakfast is very good.
On the way to Melrose Vineyards I stopped, out of hunger, at what I thought would be a place for a prepackaged burger and a plastic container of chocolate mil, the Melrose Country Store & Deli. Boy was I wrong! As I waited for the man behind the counter to finish his phone conversation I glanced up at the "Today's Special" board and saw Chicken Tikka Masala!
I was a little confused as this was out in the country surrounded by farms and wineries, not some where I would expect to find Indian food.
I took a chance and  Deep, the cook, wife, and co-owner came out with a huge helping of what may be the BEST chicken Tikka Masala I have EVER had. This is better than any Indian restaurant food I have tasted. When I spoke to her about how good it was she smiled and brought out a sample of the lintel and rice soup, again, the best! Then she gave me a spiced pickled ginger that she makes herself and I was hers forever! I plan on surprising my vegetarian wife with a visit to a back woods grocery store! If you have a chance, stop here and eat. You will not regret it!
Up the road on the left is Melrose Vineyards where, as far as I know, the only Pinotage grown in the state of Oregon, or for that matter, anywhere other than small lots in California, Virginia, and Texas., is grown and bottled. Boy is it good! Smoky, fruity, and complex and it stands up to most spicy foods amazingly well. The first I had years ago was in Amsterdam, paired with very spicy Indonesian foods and chilled just a bit.
But for all that, I ask for their incredible '08 Viognier ($18). This one of the best tasting Viogniers so far this year and they should be very proud. Peach, citrus, very slight clove in the nose with warm clean notes of peach, soft apple, and just a little tartness in the mouth, with a long smooth finish. (Robert (me) gives it a 92).
My next stop was for 18 holes of golf for the auction from the Roseburg Country Club.
Now for the trip home.
With the pleasant small of curry keeping me company, I made my way to Sienna Ridge Winery, located off the freeway outside of Rice Hill. You can see it from the road and it is worth the stop. I was greeted by Cindy Braack and given a full tasting through the Pinot Noirs, Cabernet, Chardonnay, and remarkably good "Ice wines".
She loaded me up with every one of the wines they had on hand! The '03 ($28), '04 ($27), and '05 ($25) Pinot Noir are all very different from the Northern Willamette Vally vintages for the same grape due to the elevation (1,100 ft), soil (red Jory) and climate. While some of the '03 Pinot Noir from up north were short lived in the bottle, theirs are just drinking well right now. The '04 was less interesting but still good, and the '05 was outstanding!. They have their own AVA, Red Hills, and they have about 267 acres planted.
Cindy also gave me a bottle of the '03 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29), '07 Chardonnay ($17), and one each of the '03 Gewurztraminer ($25)and '04 Riesling ($24) "Ice Wines". Their web site is down at the moment but I will re-post it when it is up again.
While I right this I am sipping the Sienna Ridge '05 Pinot Noir.Yum!
In the morning I venture north to drop off two cases at Northwest Wines to You located in The Abby outside Lafayette and pick up a few bottles along the way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Day of Pleasure Upon Pleasure

After a morning of egg and cheese omelet, fresh OJ, honey on toast and a little recorded CSI, Linda and I drove up to Portland for the matinee of "Snow Falling on Cedars" at Portland Center Stage, located in the old armory building. The rain that was predicted never came, and though we were in fog ( that weird kind where the sun penetrates just enough to create a glow) the trip still went fast;  faster when Linda napped.
We were early enough to visit Design Within Reach, and  Versailles in the Pearl, a really classic French decor shop with the table we have been looking for for years! There goes the new car...
We booked lunch on Open Table at 50 Plates and though we were an hour early, they seated us and the fun began.
We split the warm beet salad (absolutely perfect), Linda chose the Mushroom dish and I went for the Chicken Fried Pork chops. The real treat came when the wines were on the table. I chose the '07 Oswego Hills Pinot Noir and Linda had the Four Graces '07 Pinot Noir (The Four Graces just gave us a magnum of their '05). The Oswego Hills was darker and richer with  layers of  blackberry, plum and blueberry , a subtle smokey taste and  perfect elegant finish It stood up to the slaw, mashed potatoes and the strongly flavored chops very well.
Linda's Four Graces was lighter and much more subtle, opening again and again with each taste to a warm fruit compote, soft mouthfeel, and superb finish. If we were not going to sit through a two hour play we would have had another each.
After lunch we walked to the theater and I must say I was a little put off when we went to the bar to order our half-time wines. They have NO OREGON WINES!!!
If you read this and attend theater there, please let them know how FW that is.
The play was excellent in all ways. The staging was exceptional as was the acting. We highly recommend it.
We ran from the theater during the standing ovation so we could make it to Boedecker Cellars over on 30th to pick up some promised wines. I was stressed, as I always am, about getting there on time!!!. It took all of 7 minutes...
Dewey Kelly and I have been playing wine tag for the last three weeks and today, I won! He has planted no less than four bottles all over Portland for me to pick up if I could ever get to one of the locations. His wife Robin is the executive chef at the Racket Club so there was one waiting there also.I have missed because of timing, being caught up at another winery, or just being too tired to make it to Portland but today, victory!
Dewy Kelly and John Grochau, who's wine is available at the tasting room, were both at the winery and presented me with their donations. John gave a bottle of his marvelous  '07 Cuvee' des Amis Pinot Noir($36) (There is a great piece done on Wine Spies on John's 07 Pinot Noir) and Dewey held out a bottle of Ribbon Ridge '06 Estate Pinot Noir ($32) that got 91 points in Wine Spectator, December 2008.
Gwen Goodrich helped us through a tasting of the Boedecker wines starting with the Chardonnay which is sourced from Cliff Anderson's vineyards, one block over from Bergstrom's famous  Sigrid Chardonnay (sold out for '07).
Athena, who gave us a bottle last time, was not there but we picked up a bottle of the wine named for her, '06 Athena Pinot Noir ($34). Absolutely delicious! Linda grudgingly let me taste it after she she sat smiling and whirling the wine. It was by far the favorite next to the Chardonnay.
If anyone is looking for an excellent way to spend an afternoon in Portland, PCS, then Boedecker Cellars/GC Wines tasting room are high on the list!
The drive back was uneventful, and when we were home, I made us a little cocktail and we regaled the cats with tails of high adventure!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Nice Surprise!

In today's mail was a gift certificate for 6 tastings at The Four Graces! I will go up on Wednesday of next week and pick up the other part of the donation: A magnum of '05 Black Family Estate Pinot Noir ($105) signed by the owners, Steve and Paula Black. This wine is SOLD OUT so this is a very special gift indeed. Here are the tasting notes: This Pinot Noir marks its voluptuous impression immediately, rose petals, almond tones and a red fruit mix finishing with soft oak and vanilla tones. The tannins are fine with a long finish. Enjoy this wine now, but it will continue to evolve, with its prime 3 to 5 years. More

 We are so lucky to have so many friends and supporters amoung the wineries here inOregon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great Blog Piece on Kelly Fox and Carlton

Paul Gregutt wrote in his blog:
Tuesday was another lovely day spent exploring Oregon wine country, this time centered on the town of Carlton. A small agricultural enclave, it was all but dying after the main employer, a seed company, went out of business some years ago. Then winemaker Ken Wright moved in, purchased some abandoned buildings, set up a winery, and opened the doors to Carlton becoming the most wine-centric town in the state.(more)
Very good article about 2007 wines in general and Kelly's specifically.

Friday, January 15, 2010

1 Magnum, 1 Case, 2 Days

The weather on Thursday morning kept me off the freeway and on 99 through Junction City and Monroe. My first stop was at a new winery located about four miles northwest of Monmouth, Illahe Vineyard .
Winemakers Brad and Micheal (seen here) are well schooled in the art and bring different approaches to the wine production. I have yet to taste the wines but I am sure that they are as good as they say.
 Our reserve was just bottled after 18 months in the barrel. A blend of the best lots of the vintage are smooth and round on the palate and offer deep fruit and delicate baking spice aromas. The age-worthy tannins and acid will allow the wine, raised in 45% new oak, to benefit from many more years in the bottle.
Bethany the National Sales Manager (seen here) presented me with a bottle of the '07 Reserve Pinot Noir($38).

My second stop was for food. I have been driving through Amity for two years now gathering wines and today I decided to stop at Ashes Cafe for a little local chow. I don't know where or how the place got its name. I smelled nothing burned or burning, and according to the owner it used to be the Post Office. She had a 1953 newspaper that showed a picture of the place back then. We all enjoyed reading the want ads: 18 acres, with house, and  barn for $1800! Sign me up!
The food was good and hearty, and was  just right for a rainy Oregon day. The burger was as juicy as any I have had. The waitress was cute, so that made everything taste better!  No, I am not standing on a chair to take this, she is just tiny.
I drove straight up to the Abby where I delivered  two cases in to the care of Rebecca , one of the owners and operator of Northwest Wines to You.
After a bowl of soup with Rebecca, (one of our wine experts for the auction), at The Horse Radish in Carlton I walked across the street to Alexana Winery for a bottle of 2006 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75). I met the owner, Dr. Madaiah Revana  earlier this year at IPNC and he promised a good one!
He balances a successful practice as a cardiologist in Houston, Texas with his commitment to winemaking.  His love for both wine and the rich tradition and culture of winemaking led him first to develop his estate Cabernet property in Napa Valley and then Alexana in Oregon’s Dundee Hills.(more)

Now off to Ayres Vineyard to meet with Don, who took time to hand over a bottle of his '08 Ayres Lewis Rogers Lane Pinot Noir. This wine is a treat for all senses: extremely dark boysenberry & blueberry fruit, rich pastry, alongside spice and earth for good measure.  This brand new bottling is sure to be a crowd favorite.  If you were a Piper fan in the past, welcome to your new favorite wine!    (more)
Don was busy prepping for chromatography of all his winesand as we chatted he kept counting so rather than screw up his test, I went next door to visit Brick House Vineyards and collect a bottle from Doug.(seen here in this great video).
He had a bottle of the '07 Les Dijonnais Pinot Noir( $42) for us. This is a great example of '07 gone great! The public was put off the '07 vintage due to bad but not deserved revues (sometimes before the wine was even in the bottle!) but this one belies all the rumors. Deep, richly fruited , great acid balance, and perfect mouth feel. Love it!

I love driving around in the hills here and searching for wineries. The veiws are spectacular and sometimes even on a dank and rainy day I just have to get out and take it all in.
I stopped at Bergstrom Wines hoping to pick up the same little package as last year. I have to tell you that the biggest surprise of last years auction came when Bergstrom's Shea, Broadly's Shea,  and Shea's Pinot Noir came up for bid.. Bob Sogge got the crowd excited and the wines, 3 bottles total, went for $900!
Josh did not disappoint this year and Kate (left) handed over a bottle of the '07 Shea Vineyard  Pinot Noir ($65).
From thier tasting notes: The 2007 is the first bottling that includes all clonal selections and it is one of my favorites to date! Dark ruby in color, this wine is extremely mineral in the nose with lots of spice and earth, lush dark fruits as well as some toasty oak spice character to accent. The mouthfeel is focused and rich at the same time with very dark red fruits showing up again. This wine has a great purity to it with nice acid and tannin that will make this one of the longest lived Shea Vineyard Pinot Noirs that Bergström has made to date. Drink from 2010 to 2020.
So far today I have two Shea vineyard wines and there are still more to come.

My last stop on the west side of Newburg was at Anderson Family Vineyard. Sitting high up on a hill of broken rocks and deep rich Jory soil, they sources some of the best grapes around to other wineries such as Bergstom. They also make their own and that was what I was after today. Cliff gave me a tour of the barrel room and he picked out three different wines to give us: '07 Chardonnay ($34.95), '07 Pinot Noir ($49.95), and the '06 Pinot Noir ($49.95). Word has it that these are indeed worth more than Cliff is asking, especially the Chardonnay.
Getting lost is one of my favorite things except when I only have 30 minute to get to a winery, and no clue where it is. Last year I had the exact same problem but this year T-Mobile has coverage in the area. Jill ( seen here) gave me directions no less than three times and told me to look for the sheep. I finally found Owen Roe and was well rewarded. Last year David gave me one of his O'Reilly's Pinot Noirs but this year they were sold out so I got a bottle of '08 Sinister Hand ($26)

and a bottle of '07 Cabernet Franc Rosa Mystica($42). From the tasting notes:
This Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc has elements of Old World charm and fragrance, yet its bright berry and plush richness is all New World. Three vineyards are situated on hillsides high in the western Yakima Valley. The fourth small block is from Dr. Steve Elerding’s Six Prong Vineyard along the Columbia River in Alderdale. Ripening their small crops in late October, all the vineyards yielded wonderfully rich fruit flavors with nice acidity. In the winery, we’ve been careful not to employ too much new oak, trying to gently coax characteristics that are expressive of this fragrant and complex varietal. This 2006 wine has all the hallmarks of a world-class Cabernet Franc and its ripeness and power do not overshadow the delicacy of its cedar fragrance, olive flavor and beautiful berry fruit.This is a fascinating winery and produces a lot of very great wines.
Tonight I had dinner with seven women at Dundee Bistro to celebrate my friend's promotion to Tech Sargent in the Air Force reserve. She is a winemaker, mother of two, runs her own business, and is a jet mechanic! And you thought you worked hard:). Afterwords I talked until the wee hours with a winemaker who lets me use his spare room during my trips north. I learn more about wine from one conversation with him than in all the books I read or classes I have taken.
Thursday morning brought a quick stop at Safeway for copies and Starbucks, then off I went to visit Rex Hill and my friend Christina. I took a whole bunch of shots and will post hem when I get a bottle from them. Last year they gave both A to Z and Rex Hill.

After barrel tasting and getting a full tour of all the facilities (the place is endless!) I took off for a visit with Joan at Wine Country Farm Cellars. I still want to take Linda up there for a stay in the the guest house. The views are astounding and so is Joan. She was gracious enough to give me her '08 Armonea Muller-Thurgau adorned with her brand new label. I will be back for a taste soon and another informative chat. Here she is hiding because she was out pruning her trees when I came up.

Down the road and around the corner perch high on the hills sits DePonte Winery where Isabelle Dutartre makes the wine. She also makes 1789, Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir($48)  which  was chosen as number 2 of the Top 50 Oregon Wines. Supple textures, bright red-cherry scents, powerfully fruity yet restrained. Made by Isabelle Dutartre, perhaps Oregon’s least-known top-echelon winemaker.(more) She was nice enough to give one bottle!
Suzanne from DePonte handed over a bottle of the '07 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($38).
I am looking forward to trying both when I have time to linger a bit.
A quick stop at Archery Summit to visit Chris Nagy ended with a VERY big surprise! A Magnum of '03 Estate Pinot Noir ($419).

Here are the tasting notes because unless my wife waves the bid card while I am not looking, I will never know what it tastes like.

The 2003 Archery Summit Estate Pinot Noir opens with inviting aromas of black cherry, black plum, violets and rose hips. There is a seductive earthiness on the mid-palate penetrated by bright notes of marionberry, black currant and dark chocolate. The wine is generous, complex and satisfying. Well structured, the depths of flavor finish long leaving hints of spice cake, twig tea and plum. The 2003 Archery Summit Estate Pinot Noir is a complex and focused wine for serious collectors, and may be cellared for five to ten years.

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the wineries here in Oregon especially in this economy and this years stupid reviews of the '07s, yet still they give!
As I left Archery Summit I took one last picture of the day: Mount Hood in the distance, farmland in the middle, and vineyards up close!

On the way home to Eugene I stopped at Eola Hills and bought a bottle of the La Creole '07 Pinot Noir so they would give one.
Here is Ann with the bottle of Pinot Noir.
Tom Huggins, founder and general manager of Eola Hills, had a dream rooted in facts. He knew that great wines could only come from great vineyards, and through his former occupation as a agricultural insurance expert, he knew where that precious vineyard land was located. This knowledge enabled him to purchase some of the prime sites for his own vineyards in the rolling terrain of the Northwest Willamette Valley in Oregon wine country, and to fulfill a dream of creating his own wine.(more) They have a very nice array of wines and thier low end wines are very affordable ($9.95) with the Estate wines at $19.95. Also they are huge supporters of Oregon Tourism, bike riding, and all things that are economic drivers for the state.
When you drive north or south through Rickreall, stop and support them.
Home for a board get together at which I poured Sol et Soleil '08 Syrah (that we helped bottle), Whybra 07 Pinot Noir (That I corked by hand, all 28 cases) and a bottle of Girardet '06 Baco Noir
Needless to say, the meeting went well!

An Article About Our New Second Horn Player

I know that all I seem to be interested in is wine, but I am also a proud board member and supporter of Oregon Mozart Players. Here is a little insite in to why I am out there gathering wine for our auction to help support our players.
Down the street on this October night, some of his University of Oregon classmates tip back a few at Taylor’s Bar & Grille. A skateboarder zips down Alder Street. A guy and girl giggle their way through the Pioneer Cemetery.
Meanwhile, in Room 211 of UO’s MarAbel Frohnmayer Music Building, John Dodge is lost in practicing a Mozart horn concerto on his French horn.
He has just come from teaching a lesson, part of the way he pays down the $40,000 student loan he’s incurred to earn his master’s degree in musical arts.
Dodge, 26, sandwiches practice around a full day of music classes. In the morning, he spent two hours warming up. Now, he’ll spend another two hours polishing material for his master’s recital at Beall Hall on Thursday.
The polishing complete, he’ll walk a few blocks to his apartment, scarf down some chili-covered pasta — to save time and money, he fixes enough to last him a week — then return to experiment with new material until about 1 a.m.
Grow up like Dodge did, bumping from place to place, at times homeless, and you learn to survive. Even thrive.
“John’s not one of those musicians who started playing at 3 and was composing at 6,” says Rachel Pearson of Florence, a parent volunteer when John taught band at Siuslaw Middle School.
He lived in 13 apartments or houses by the time he was 18. But now is surprisingly focused.
“My lifetime goal,” he says with no bravado, “is to play in the New York Philharmonic.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Have to Try This Cider!

 If the only cider you have had is the stuff you buy from the supermarket you need to tune up your taste buds with a little of the real thing. I have become addicted to the simi-dry cider. It is only about 6% alcohol and has a really refreshing taste and a smooth finish and a great aftertaste of  honey and tart apple.
Wandering Angus Ciderworks will have plenty of cider this year. The pear cider (fermented apple cider plus pear juice) will take away from what we can make of our Bloom and Wanderlust Ciders. Pear cider is different from Perry. Perry is made only from fermented pear (best if from hard to find Perry pears). Pear Cider is a blend of apples and pears
They will produce about 200 cases of Pommeau in late October.Pommeau is a unique apple dessert wine. Select heirloom cider apple varieties were fermented and then distilled. The resulting apple brandy, after aged 5 years in oak, was expertly blended with fresh juice from cider apples that offer diverse character - those with a wealth of tannins and those with plentiful sugars. Pommeau is a delicately sweet, surprisingly smooth, aromatic wine with an incredible brandy essence. Serve chilled or warm and enjoy as an aperitif, a dessert or with a meal.The brandy for it (made from our cider) is currently aging in French cognac barrels. They will add juice from the 2010 harvest (bittersweet apples and Wickson crab).

Monday, January 11, 2010

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

I really enjoy getting good news about our donors. Just got this bit from San Francisco and wanted to pass it one. I have tasted all of these wines and they really are delicious! 
Brandborg Vineyard and Winery took home three medals recently; '08 Gewurztraminer Gold, '08 Riesling, Silver, and for Pinots in the $20-$24.99 category, a Bronze for their '07 Pinot Noir Benchland.
Also showing was King Estate's Acrobat '08 Pinot Noir (Silver) and their Next '08 Riesling (Gold)
Agate Ridge got a Bronze for their '07 Pinot Noir. For the entire list click here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wine and Spirits Magazine Gives Ghost Hill 91 Pts

"This dark and savory pinot leads with scents of seawrack and plum. With air the aromas grow more exotic: violets, black earth, the black currant fruit given an earthy bottom note like turned soil. The richness of the middle palate suggests serving it with duck."  Too bad there is little left...
This is a great wine but the '08 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir is even better. We helped bottle it and had some moments after it was done. Absolutely delicious! Rich, creamy, great balance of fruit and spice. It will a treat to sample after it has been in bottle for a while. Can't wait!
You can order on line at Northwest Wines to You.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh Deer! From Evesham Wood to the Hazelnut Farm

Making last minute decisions is usually not the greatest thing to do, or so says my wife, who plans ahead, a lot, but Wednesday I threw caution to the wind and headed out in the rain. The freeway north was horrible with trucks and rain and by the time I got to Salem I was ready to go sit in a Starbucks and veg. Instead, I drove north on 221 and in to wine country. 

First stop: Evesham Wood, where Russ and his cats gave me a bottle of their '07 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir ($34). They have a lovely vineyard that faces east down the hill from their beautiful house. They, like Linda and me, have four cats inside. Coyotes and owls are the real danger for them this far from the road. I did not have time for a tatse and Russ was busy so:
(from their web site)
Nestled on a lower terrace of the Eola-Amity Hills’ eastern slope in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, our east facing 13 acre estate vineyard, Le Puits Sec, was planted in 1986. The soils are primarily basalt-derived volcanic and very well-drained, thus yielding pinot noir with great structure and at the same time aromatic and with finesse. As well, chardonnay and the Alsatian varieties thrive in this micro-climate, producing intensely varietal yet subtle wines. (more)
Second Stop: The rain had subsided and the roads were less traveled so I headed for Dundee where Argyle's Tasting room sits in the middle of town.. Consistently over the years, they have made some of the best sparkling wines in the northwest if not the world. They were ranked this year in the top 100 wines in the world by Wine Spectator two years in a row. This year, the Extended Triage '99 ($50. SOLD OUT) came in at #18!. Cathy gave me a bottle of the '06 Black Brut ($30) this year. While I was there, Kathy lead me through the Pinot Noirs and I found one that  is one of the very best overall Pinot Noirs I have tasted so far this year. It is always hard to say one wine is better than another because they are all so different, your tastes change from day to day , and sometimes the moment you are in adds a level of awareness. The '06 Spirit House Pinot Noir was the one that did it for me. I could have just stopped all else and sipped this wine for the rest of the day. Pure velvet and rich berry dancing with spices and dark fruits over a floor of tannins and earth. Superb!

Third Stop: I drove up into the Dundee Hills past farms and vineyards until I came to the Torii Mor tasting room. where I was greeted by Ariana. The room they have for tasting is so welcoming and comfortable it makes you want to stay and enjoy the views, and the wine. She poured an array of Pinot Noirs starting with the Oregon '07 and ending with the '07 Olsen Estate. The Oregon was the one that surprised me : Deep dark berry, cherry, and lots of earth.  finely balanced wine with a wonderful mouth feel. The others were different, more complex but this one kept my interest. (from their web site) The name TORII MOR was chosen by Dr. Olson as he felt it conjured a feeling of unique elegance.  Borrowing from the Japanese, the “Torii” refers to the ornate gates most often seen at the entrances to Japanese gardens.  “Mor” is a word in ancient Scandinavian that means “earth”.  By integrating these two distinct languages, the romantic image of a gate to an earth space, or passageway to beautiful things, is formed.  We believe that Pinot noir, more than any other varietal, is that beautiful gateway to the earth. (more)
I left with a bottle of the  '07 Oregon Pinot Noir ($24) and went down the road to my
Fourth Stop: Lange Estate  Winery to pick up a bottle of the '08 Lange Estate Pinot Gris.

This stop turned out to be the reason I brought my camera. As I drove in I was tracked by a family of deer that were momentarily disturbed by my presence. The view from up in these hills is spectacular. It seems when you find your what you think is the best view, the next stop out does the last.
Joanne took me through most of the whites and a couple of the reds and I must say, the wines here are worth the drive. The rich, smooth mouth feel of the Estate Pinot Gris leads you to a sweet yet bright taste of honey and flowers. 90 Points from Parker.   
(from their tasting note)

Lange Estate Winery was the fourth producer in the United States to work with Pinot Gris and winemaker, Don Lange, was the f first to produce a barrel - fermented style. Neutral oak puncheons are used to lend weight and texture to the wine while maintaining remarkably balanced acidity . The nose displays hints of ripe melon, mandarin, jasmine blossom, and stone fruit minerality , while the palate reveals grape fruit, lychee, white peach, and fennel . I would have walked away with my own bottle of this one save for my wife's insistence that I not buy a bottle at every winery...we do need to eat I suppose.I bid them farewell and waved at the family, still munching away.

Fifth Stop: Time for lunch at one of the best little restaurants in the area, the Dundee Bistro, where I have always found the meals hearty and the staff welcoming. They also have a huge wine selection.
I had a cup of the clam chowder with fingerling potatoes, bacon, and yes, clams. After that I had the  Duck confit with fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash, nicoise olives roasted red peppers & paprika tomato sauce paired with a glass of Mayasara Rose'.
Great way to start an afternoon.

Sixth Stop: On the way out of town, south on 99, I saw the sign for Daedalus Cellars out on the street and though I had not emailed ahead, I took a chance and stopped anyway. Pam was there with the dogs, one a sweet young girl with a head just slightly smaller than my own, and the other a cute little guy who just wanted some pets. After I passed the sniff test, Pam presented me with a bottle of the their superb '07 Labyrinth Pinot Noir.($45). Last year at our auction, I bought, or should I say, my wife who was waving our bid card wildly behind my back, bought a case that had the '06 Labyrinth in it. I opened it for friends in October and paired it with thinly sliced steak wrapped around goat cheese and apple slices and grilled. Nothing could have been better!
I had to go, yes, I said HAD TO GO, to see a Broadway in Eugene performance of The Wedding Singer tonight at 7:30. We have season tickets and this one is on the list. I must say I never made it all the way through to movie so that should be a warning...
Anyway, I am in a hurry so a stop to visit with Jackie Dukes and her husband Pat at his office in downtown McMiinnville is the last stop before 99 South. They had picked out one of their Dukes Family Vineyard  Pinot Noirs for me but at the last moment they gave me a magnum of the Thomas '06 Pinot Noir.($100)
(from their web site)
The color is somewhat lighter and more finessful than the bold colors of the Alyssa, which is typical of the vineyards in the Dundee Hills AVA. The brick hue of the color shows more developed in the glass and well supports the attack in the mouth and the finish that unfolds. The dark fruits of plum and dark cherry become the undertone of the terroir; we recognize the red-volcanic soil more than the darker fruit notes of the vine. The aroma is definitely classic Red Hills with earth, floral overtones and minerality. The floral aromas are reminiscent of the Burgundy Cotes du Nuits and are enhanced by very subtle hints of spice and fine French oak. The acidity is vibrant and expressive which should provide great aging potential.
R. Gary Andrus – Winemaker
2006 was the last vintage made by Gary.

You can buy their wines at Northwest Wines to You
The magnum they gave me has the dragon fly etched into the glass and is presented in a wooden box. This will be a separate item at the auction. Thank you Jackie and Pat!

Last Stop: A few weeks ago I stopped at one of the hazelnut growers south of Amity and got 5 bags of shells for $20. This time a loaded up 10 bags, paid my $40, and motored on to my fate; sitting and being blasted by too loud music in a wonderful hall, wife by my side, with dreams of more wine gathering dancing in my head. I have posted a picture of the new hazelnut path in the back yard and when I get them in place, I will take a better shot. I really love the way they look, and the neighbor cat hates the way they feel!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Great Little Piece on Oregon's Southern Wine Region.

Sunset featured three of our donors in this month's magazine. Well, two of our donors, Abacela did not give us a bottle of wine last year but I am hoping they will this year.

Abacela South Face Block Reserve Syrah 2005 (Southern Oregon; $45).
Brandborg “Love Puppets” Pinot Noir 2006 (Umpqua Valley; $30).
Foris Pinot Gris 2008 (Rogue Valley; $14).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Willamette Valley Vineyards to ArborBrook by way of Nordstrom

This morning I awoke with the realization that I have to lead the Eugene First Friday ArtWalk (held, of course on the second Friday this month) and that I had to have something to wear. I had a sports coat waiting at Nordstrom in Portland so why not go for a little drive and since I was going up there anyway, way not stop to collect some wines along the way?
First Stop

Willamette Valley Vineyards, located just south of Salem on the right side of the freeway perched high atop the hill. I was early but took a chance on finding someone who could track down the wine that Rachael had promised. I was greeted by Mickey Bellman who is a founding shareholder in the winery, a forester, and a talented writer.
He poked around and could not locate anything with my name on it so he grabbed a bottle of one of my all time Favs,  Griffin Creek Viognier this one the '06 ($25)  and a bottle of the '07 Founders Reserve Pinot Noir ($30). I tasted it, and though it was slightly before my usual tasting time, my mouth was ready and willing! The nose is raspberry and chocolate with a spice like pepper but not as sharp. In the mouth it is sweet and bright with red berry, cherry, and and dry pepper. Very nice aftertaste. It develops in the mouth as do most of the '07 Pinot Noirs, giving it a lasting finish.
I took my leave and drove slowly down the long driveway, enjoying the morning light on the spent vines.      I got to Portland about 11:00 and found a place to park half a block away, ran in and grabbed my coat and had time for a quick 12 oz tepid skinny double shot Latte' before moving on.
I read my map and since I was on my way to pick up at Alloro anyway, I thought that a stop at the neighbors would be in order.

Second Stop I usually let people know I am coming but I drove to Cooper Mountain Vineyards unannounced. Jason Lubow greeted me like a long lost friend, though we had only met once before. He regaled me with stories about the wine business and about the wines we tasted, then presented me with a bottle of '08 Reserve Pinot Gris ($15) and a bottle of '07 Mountain Terroir Pinot Noir ($45).(from their notes) Mountain Terroir is a blend of some of the best grapes harvested from our three vineyards sites(Grabhorn & Meadowlark & Johnson School). Singled out in individual barrels for aging, the contents of this bottle have been carefully brought together to convey what we hope to be the best expression of Cooper Mountain's terroir, of our environment. Drink this wine and enjoy thousands of years of natural processes, careful vineyard management and the loving care of our winemaker. (more)

Third Stop I called David at Alloro to let him know I was on my way and he called back saying he was going for a run and that he would leave me some wine in the mailbox. I love Oregon! When I drove up to the driveway I got out and, sure enough. there were two bottles waiting, along with his mail. A bottle of the '08 Riesling and one of the '07 Estate Pinot Noir($28) The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir is a blend of four estate grown pinot noir clones.  Strawberry and cherry  fruit with hints of smoke, spice and fine tannin.
I drove in to Newburg and out past Allison Spa to NE North Valley Road to Calkins Lane where I went first to Adelsheim Vineyard then to Arbor Brook Vineyards.

Fourth Stop Adelsheim Vineyard, as they did last year, gave me a prize bottle of Elizabeth's Reserve '07 ($28). It is a very good Pinot Noir with soft and lush mouth feel, just the right tannins, and a long, strawberry and spicy ceder finish. I plan on going back to taste more when there is time. Last year they had just put up their solar panels. This year I need to find out how they are doing as they inspired me to put up our array. Here is a shot of their array:

Fifth Stop I was greeted by the barn cats at ArborBrook. There was crowd of people and the one cat who was inside sat calmly by the window and took it all in. Dave Hansen, who, with his wife Mary, owns the winery, welcomed me and the tasting began in earnest: '08 Croft Vineyard Pinot Gris,($18) '07 Heritage Cuvee' Pinot Noir ($35)   '07 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir ($42)

 then all the '08s and their wonderful desert wine, the "Sydney" Semillon ($38).

I spoke to many interesting people. there were four biologists from Russia, now living in Seattle, a local wine collector, and a friends old collage pal.
I bid farewell, and took my Heritage Cuvee' and Estate Block 777 and headed for home.
Sixth Stop The last stop I made was for a tuna subway at the Pilot station off I-5. The guy who lost all the weight would have been a bit put off by the new sales approach. When I ordered the woman ask if I wanted double meat and for that I would get a free cookie... I said "No thanks" and she said  "How about two cookies?" "No" again. Then the woman taking my money tried her best to force me into a coolie! "No!" cried I, "what's the deal here? The whole weight loss thing is out the window?" Neither had any idea what I was talking about but the two people in line behind me with their free cookies seemed annoyed.
Back home with my cats and a glass of Pendleton Bourbon. Goodnight!