Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taking My Wife Along for Once

Linda agreed to a short drive up the valley and back before we went to the 7:30 performance of Eugene Ballet's "Dark side of the Moon" at the Hult Center. We made it to Corvallis and to Belle Vallee's tasting room on 1st street for a taste of there wines. I was struck by the labels on the bottles and discovered that they are first made of fused glass, then copies and used on the bottles.
Very cool idea.
We tasted the '07 Pinot Noir: Good Chocolate and slight berry nose, simple berry compote taste with a nice balanced acid finish. Good for burgers on the deck.
Next came the big sister, the '07 Reserve Pinot Noir: More thought provoking with fruit and dark candy, great tannins. This one is for a more elegant dinner and will last for a long time in he cellar.
They gave us the '06 Grand Cuvee' Pinot Noir ($56) witch was not open for tasting on Saturday but is on that I have had before: It has a nice balance of fruit and earth. Minerals give it a sharp but pleasant mouth feel that quickly turns soft and the dark fruit takes over. Very good '06 without the BIG FAT FRUIT that a lot of them were known for. Elegant!
I impressed Linda when I tasted the '05 Syrah and said "Del Rio".  The tastes are unmistakable: Smoke, earth, candied fruit, lush, soft mouthfeel, long finish. I don't care what anyone says about not having the smoke from the fires there influence the taste, it has to be in the soil or in the air, somehow it comes through and is not a bad thing, just a good example of terroir. They say drink by 2010 but this one will last another 10 years easily.
Now for something completely different: The '04 Cabernet is a surprise to the nose. We swirled and sniffed and got fresh cut squash, grass, and violets. The taste was very complex dry fruit with a bit of an acid finish that would be great with beef  or tomato sauce. This one was high on my list!
Joe Wright, the winemaker, really knows his stuff and I can't wait to visit the winery and meet him.
We went upstairs to visit one of my all time great wine store owners, Jerry at Wineopolis. He has a vast array of wines from all over the world and a depth of knowledge that rivals most. While we were there he had 11 people coming in to ask, taste, and buy.
We taste some velvety smooth Henri Bourgeois La Porte Du Caillou Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc. 
He has become a source for me as he knows most of the wineries in the area and likes the arts.
Driving north to Rickreal we spotted lots of sheep, llamas, and blueberry bushes. I love this part of the valley.
We skipped Eolla Hills (packed parking lot) and went for a first time visit to Cherry Hill's new tasting room. It sets off to the left as you head north just before the highway 22 overpass in an old and small house . The place was packed and the host was beside herself trying to sell, sample, and acknowledge everyone. She did an admirable job of it and everyone seemed happy. We tasted through one white and all the reds. They even had some very good little tiny cupcakes for the Valentines Day crowd.
First on the list was the Poverty Road Pinot Gris: This is a simple, straightforward white with no oak, dry start, and peach, pineapple, and citrus in the mouth. Acidy finish with an aftertaste of flowers and peach. Good wine for a hot day!
Next was the Sweeny '08. This is a 100% Pommard clone wine made from selected barrels by Mike Sweeny, the owner. The '08 has a ways to go before it is ready to drink but the future looks great. Lots of dark fruit and vegetal tastes with a sweet edge. Nice nose of flower and dark cherry, hint of leather and hard candy. Like this.
The dog that runs the show at the winery is a '07 Papillon and has her face on the label of the namesake wine. This is the wine I drank when we staid at their cottages a few years ago. The nose is cherry kool-aid and pie cherry. The mouthfeel is clean bright cherry and plum.Nice acid balance and tannins. This is a bold, big wine.
My favorite was the '07 Cherry Hill; Sour black fruit nose with overtones of sweet plum, mouthfeel is soft and as you taste the flavors unfold from a compote of red berry to a sweet jam and back to a dry dark cherry. Hints of chocolate and earth in the long finish.
We loaded up our purchase and I decided to surprise Linda with a little visit to one of the coolest winery tasting rooms around.
We drove down the long gravel road off 99 to the Van Duzer Vineyards tasting.
The first time I went there I was struck by the art, the view, and the architecture. The feel is that of coastal Northern California and I think part of it is the proximity to the pass through the coast range where the winds off the ocean make their way in to this part of the valley, giving it a different feel and cooling the vines in the hottest times of the year.
We met Josh Kimball, who I knew from his time a King Estate. He is the Direct Sales and Hospitality Manager here and has a huge knowledge of wines. He is very proud of what this winery is putting out, as evidenced by his enthusiasm.
There is something about the terroir here that gives all the reds a distinct nose of an almost wild, overwhelming, darkness. Huge red fruit, plum, leather, and a rawness that sets you up for  what you get on the tongue. The tastes have the same distinctiveness.
The '07 Vintners Cuvee' has a huge combination of tastes; berry, pepper, ginger, dark plum, chocolate, and strawberry. O Magazine paired it with a salad in the January issue.
The '07 West side Block Pinot Noir , tasting notes from the web site:
Aromas of raspberry and vanilla rise to the senses, quickly followed by spicy cinnamon and white pepper, fennel and anise. The component grapes contribute to a lively palate of currants, pomegranate, raspberry, sweet, slightly toasty oak and spice. The finish is smooth, velvety and long with balancing tannins that have a slight grip.(more). 
They sent a '07 Estate Pinot Noir ($30)
The one I liked best was the 
'07 Homestead Block Pinot Noir( I have written down that the wine was an '07 but the link on their page is for an '05). It has ceder, violet, forest floor, slight tropical flowers and ginger in the nose and chocolate, ginger, vanilla, black cherry, and wood on the pallet. Soft lush finish that lasts and lasts. Love it.
We met a nice young couple from Monmoth who had recently returned from that big hot state with oil and Bush. Nichole has a company called Vino and Vinyasa that puts on Yoga retreats at various wineries around the valley. Give people a chance to rejuvenate in amazing surroundings. Cool idea!
We got home in plenty of time to see one of the most moving and well done ballets I think I have ever seen. "Dark Side of the Moon" plus two other works,"Without Cover" by Venezuelan dancer and choreographer Gillmer Duran the other, "Common Ground" by Toni Pimble, artistic director and the lead choreographer.
Absolutely spectacular!

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