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.

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