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!

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