Friday, March 26, 2010

Bend to Bonanza to Ashland to Cave Junction, then Home

Got a late start on Tuesday but made good time with a stop in Blue River for a burger. Arrived in  Bend about 2:00 and headed straight for Volcano Vineyards new tasting room where Scott greeted me with a glass of Viognier. Very nice, unfined and unfiltered and in a box no less. Tasty, so much so that I ended the evening much later with (?) glasses. Lots of white peach, pear and floral nose. Soft  and pleasant on the pallet with an appealing aftertaste. 15 months in neutral French oak, finished on the leas.
Tasted the '06 Syrah ($29) also. Liked the smell of hard sweet plums, nice and spicy with a black cherry, plum, and coco taste and a long complex finish. This is the wine I selected for the auction.
The blend of '06 and '07 Merlot was really interesting. Lots of black fig in the nose and a soft plum and fig taste with a spicy finish. Great food wine.
They have been looking at a new space for both the winery and tasting room and should have some progress to report soon.

I was impressed by what Bend has become even as the economic downturn has hit very hard there. The industry in Bend and the surrounding areas has been, as far as I can ever recall, housing. The growth they experienced in the 70's through the 2000's had been remarkable, but now that the market has slowed, there are signs of distress everywhere. Galleries seem to be the first to go and I saw some empty spaces. But, I also saw hope and there was an element of hope in the air. The new hotel, The Oxford, makes quite an impression indeed. Located in the heart of downtown it fills the need for a truly upscale venue, lacking in Bend proper, and it is much nicer than any of the outlying "resort" hotels.
The lobby is modern yet warm, with nice use of color and shape, cool and calm says it all. The rooms are perfectly appointed and have a stately feel, akin to some of the more elegant Swedish or Danish upscale hotels. They have a beautiful workout room overlooking the town from the top floor, and a restaurant, Ten Under, that looked as if it were a well kept secret for those in the know.The concierge, Julie, is knowledgeable and friendly, with suggestions for places to visit and places to eat. She is a native so she knows all the best places, and is very smart, so she can glean for your manner and demeanor what you might like, a very handy but usually lacking quality in a concierge.
I have not had as pleasant a nights sleep in a hotel in years. Highly recommend a visit!
After getting settled, I strolled through downtown and enjoyed a relaxing visit with the owner of Mockingbird gallery, Jim Peterson. One of my all time favorite artists,  Ed Koch, formally of Eugene, shows his work there (over Jim's shoulder) and is worth the trip over just to see his work.Beautiful gallery! Lots of bronze and many good northwest painters.
I walked out and ran in to two young girls who were doing a street art project for school, randomly photographing people on the street in front of a sheet pinned to the wall. I turned the tables on them.
Next was a stop at a cute little wine shop called  The Good Drop. Well stocked with Northwest wines and a collection of rarities in the basement.
Back to the Hotel and then back to Volcano for a few sips.
Fish and chips at some bar next door to the hotel, then off to a night of bad TV and a good rest.
Morning came with a soft gray sky and I thought I was in for a dank day. After checking out and stopping for breakfast down the block, I headed south to Klamath Falls, then to Bonanza.
There is good reception down there so I was able to get good directions and get to the winery without much trouble.
This is really not where you would exspect to find a winery, but boy do I like the wine!
12 Ranch was at the Newport show and I was told that if I came down to visit and I think they were a bit surprised that I did.
Ken and Connie use Hungarian oak and it imparts a very unusual nose and richness to the pallet.
If you have ever been on a farm and smelled the wonderfully rich and pleasant aroma of freshly opened bale of straw hay, you know the smell I am referring to. That is a close as I can come to describing the first notes I got on the nose along with a deep rich dried fruit and a soft, elegant mouthfeel of the '05 Syrah ($25).
I also tasted the Merlot and was equally impressed: Same nose with more plum and spice. So good!
They are building their tasting room and winery and looking at the progress, I bet they will be done by the end of Summer. Landscaping is lovely also.
They gave me directions on how to get to Ashland the best way. To bad I did not listen... I ended up on the curviest road in Oregon! I would not advise anyone who gets car sick to even look at on a map!
When I got to Ashland and Weisingers of Ashland winery it was 4:30 and I needed a glass of wine!
I got in just as they were beginning to close up and so did a few other folks so they staid open till 6:00. I tasted all the wines and was especially taken with the Mescolare Lot 17 '05 ($26).
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Nebbiolo and has a deep purple color that speaks of things to come. Rich dark berry with hints of spice and anise. Long finish with a sweet note on the sides of the tongue. Robert gave me this one for the collection.
I also had to agree with Katie and Stephen Wagner that the '05 Cabernet was outstanding; Lots of Chocolate, coco, leather, black cherry and soft spice. really  nice wine.
Hope they make it to the auction.
I drove north to Medford and to my go to hotel there, Red Lion. Cheap, clean, quiet, and most of all, close to 38 Central.
I walked over and had a great hamburger with a perfectly dressed salad paired with Pebblestone's '07 Merlot. Perfect!
Sad news in the morning. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Charles Dowd, passed away. My wife gave me the news and I had a somber drive in the pouring rain out to Cave Junction.
First stop was Bridgewiew Winery for a six pack of thier Blue Moon wines:
1 bottle each
'06 “Blue Moon” Chardonnay, '08 “Blue Moon” Pinot Gris, '08 “Blue Moon” Riesling, '07 “Blue Moon” Merlot       '06 “Blue Moon” Cabernet/Merlot'06 “Blue Moon” Cabernet Sauvignon
Here is Lelo posing with a bottle of the Blue Moon Riesling.
I stopped to visit with the swans that live in the pond outside.
Last stop:
Foris Vineyards and Winery for a bottle of perfectly developing '06 Pinot Noir($30) from .
Forest floor, maple, sweet spice, and black cherry on the nose with lots of dark fruit with notes of fresh strawberry. Lush mouthfeel with a shorter but very pleasant finish. This wine has change over the last year in the bottle in to an even more complex and interesting, food friendly (roast pork?) wine. Dena said that the '07 is going like mad in Manhattan, where they sell a lot of their wines. If you have not been to the Oregon Caves, make the trip and make the stop at Foris.
I only have a few more stops to make for the rest of wines. but I plan to keep the blog going with video interviews with the winemakers and owners as well as the folks who work the tasting rooms.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Daffodils, Blue Dots, and RainSong

This afternoon Linda and I drove to the Log Tom Grange's Daffodil Festival for our annual outing among the flowers, llamas, and cinnamon rolls. We strolled the booths and she found a new necklace, while I spoke with to Tabitha, the cook at Our Daily Bread, located in Veneta, about the blog and about progress on Domaine Meriwether's new digs. After that I found caramel corn and cinnamon rolls while admiring Linda's new necklace.
We got to pet a llama and an alpaca, and we watched as a boy of 8 got taken down by a kid goat. Hilarious!
After our repast we drove the short distance up to Pfeiffer Winery for a glass of blue dot Pinot Noir, '07 for me, '08 for Linda. She said when ask if we wanted to taste "I'm only here for the kisses!" and went to find Robin. The '06 is lush, large, and long on fruit while the '07 is a bit lighter, leaner, and less licentious, it is much more complex and more likely to follow the rules of a typical Oregon Pinot Noir. While there we tasted out of barrel, the '09. I will not reveal the secret but should warn that futures will be bright (and dear). As we left, Robin gave Linda her kiss and gave me a bottle of '07 Blue Dot Pinot Noir ($60)
Short jaunt up to RainSong for a promised bottle of the '06 Pinot Noir($30) and a bottle of '08 Chardonnay($15). Mike came down from the house and told us about the great success of their custom Barrel Bottling , a service they have found very popular with organizations and clubs that want their own label for events. Sounds like a great idea!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wine Sorting: Almost Done!

Delivering one more case to the collection building at The Abbey was very satisfying. Rebecca and I uncased over two hundred wines and sorted them by varietal. We ended up with almost 100 Pinot Noirs, lots of Gris, Cabs, and assorted reds and whites.Exciting to see them all laid out! Thibaud Mandet, the winemaker at Willakenzie Estates, gave a Magnum of Alliette and a mixed case of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for the tables at the auction.
I still have about a case of Willamette Valley wines to gather, and a trip to Hood River, Bend, Lakeview, and Cave Junction the I think I am done for this year!
After sorting, Thibaud and Rebecca took me to Cuvee in Carlton for a wonderful meal and a bottle of  great red, then a bottle of Gamay Noir made by Thibaud at Willakenzie. The food was superb. I started with a liver pate' with bread crisps, hot mustard, and home made humus, followed by pork loin. Gilbert Henry outdid himself on this one!
This morning I drove through to mountains to Hebo and then back on 22 to Dundee just to find out where the road went. Its a guy thing... Back to the Abbey and listing wines for the table, the "wall of wines" and the Mystery wines that will be the center pieces on the tables. Rebecca decided what wines would fit best together in the case lots and put some very special cases together. One lot of two cases consists of 12 wines made by women, and twelve made by men. Another is just signed bottles, 4 regular, four Magnums.
A quick lunch at Farm to Fork: Duck Confit Salad. Presentation was 4 stars. Blue cheese, black figs, crumbled hazelnuts, greens, and cooked table grapes, Duck leg done to perfection for a mid day repast! The wine I chose was more out of curiosity. It was the "Open Book"  and it was a little to big and fruity for what I had. I should have ordered a great '07 that had more complexitty and grace.
The "Open Book" was good alone and also would have worked with a darker meal.
Two days off to go to a play in Portland and the Daffodil Festival in Junction City, then back on the road!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Went to Sip! And I Left a Bottle Behind...

Such an absolutely wonderful day in so many ways! The weather was just right for a drive and it followed me up the freeway to Woodburn, over to Newburg, with a stop at Sokol Blosser for a pick up of a bottle of their delicious '07 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir($38),  and then on to Evergreen Museum where Sip! was in its third day.
Destiny Dudley, Tasting Room & Wine Club Manager at Cana's Feast, who is putting together an auction on the 28th for wine to water at Alu. met me so I could give her two of my etchings for the event. We met up with Chris Czarneck , Chef at Joel Palmer House, for a few tastes but I told them to go on without me as I was taking my time, visiting, and begging.
My first stop was at the Evergreen Winery tasting room to figure out who to ask for "one bottle" It took me all day but I found the right person to ask someone else who is in charge if it is OK to give us one...God I love big organizations.
Next stop was a booth that is selling wine guides that have coupons  and maps in them . It is called the "Wine Country Guidebook" and looks like Cindy Anderson, the author, put a lot of time in to it. She gave us one for the auction and I plan on pairing it with a couple of tasting room certificates. That should make a nice weekend for someone. I will also use it to track down some of the wineries I have yet to ask this year. Good tool.
John Olson was the first face I recognized and he sampled me a really good blend he came up. Excellent mouthfeel and finish, nose from the Merlot and back from the Cab franc. Really like this one. The Umpqua Valley is such a great area for a day of tasting and I recommend a tour before the crowds hit! Mathew and Jean Driscoll of Wildaire cellars, gave me a bottle of the '08 Timothy Pinot Noir($20). Nose of plum compote, soft, not jammy, with a slight hint of figs, rose petal, and vanilla. On the palate , pie cherry, island spice, coco, and currents. Bright clean mid palate and a long spicy finish. Good for now but will drink really well in about 3-5 years. They make some really fine wines and are a winery to watch.
Next stop? Zerba. I am getting old. There are no polite ways to say how stupid I feel sometimes at the things I do, or as it were, forget to do, like pick up the bottle Zerba so kindly offered, that I took a picture of, and that I left sitting, bagged, on their counter. Now I have to drive all the way to Milton Freewater! I tasted the Wild Z, the wine they tried so hard to give me, and found it big and bold with lots of jammy notes and a really mellow finish. Can't wait to taste it Eastern Oregon.
(I talked to them today and they said I could pick up one in Portland!)
I ran in to Ray Walsh of Capitello, who gave us a bottle of his Pewter Labeled Pinot Noir early in the week and he said the event had gone well and he was up from last year in sales. Good sign! Here he is looking heroic, as well he should. I heard more comments from other wineries about his wine than of anyone else. winemaker extraordinaire!
I had a bite to eat and then found a charming young lady looking a bit tired and ready to go home. Jo Spencer was giving tastes of the Mia Sonatina wines and I was amazed that I had never tasted them. The '08 Pinot Gris has a caramel, baked apple nose, rich mouthfeel, and citrus on the tip of the tongue and soft white fruit on the mid palate. Long finish of spice and pear.
The '07 Merlot had a hint of rubber that gave way to dark cherry and chocolate, then tasted chocolate, plum jam, hints of leather and earth. Long complex finish. Four stars!
Next came the '07 Cab. Slight smoke with chocolate and dark cherry with hints of licorice, complex and soft on the mid palate. It has a hard back taste that quickly mellow to a fine long finish. Great tannins and acids. 5-7 years.
The one they gave us is the '07 Crescendo blend. Much boysenberry, coco, soft mouthfeel, sweet notes that counter the darkness of the chocolate and big fruit. Four stars!

Last year, Dave Mascioriniear  of Nameste Vineyards gave me the '07 Peace and so this year I ask for the '08 Peace ($12). Linda and I bought the case of mixed whites that contained the '07 and we loved it.

From their site:Peace is our unique blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Gewürztraminer fermented to a semi-sweet style done exclusively in stainless-steel tanks. The 2008 Peace has ravishing peach scents coupled with floral overtones to tickle the nose with a rich aromatic style. Blending the acidity and sweetness of our Chardonnay with the spice and floral notes of our Gewürztraminer has created a beautifully balanced wine with rich fruit tastes. For those looking for a wine of great character and versatility, this is your wine.

Over to Troon and a visit with the woman who runs the northern outpost in Carlton,  Joni, who surprised me buy saving me a trip down to the Applegate valley by handing me the '06 Old Vine Meritage ($39)
Stunning color, dark chocolate, black cherry, hints of sandlewood, all emerge from the glass over time with each swirl. Gold Medal - Dallas Morning News Wine Competition She is so sweet!

On to my last stop(s). I found out that both Zenas and Sejourne are owed by the same family so I got to catch two wines in one ask.Robyn Howard (left) gave me one from each winery, a '07 Cab Franc($26) from Zenas: Rich deep plum color, wild plum jam and current with coco on the nose, mellow soft mouthfeel that intensifies and moves to a blackberry and spice back. Lovely wine!
The Pinot Noir($25) that she gave me from Sejourne, '  is one of many '08 wines I have taasted, and though they are to new to assess what they will be like in a few yeears, it is a fair bet that most will be a good solid hit. They have hints of the "big" of the '06 and some of the complexity of the '07 while retaining their own style. This one is a hit. Dry coco and coffee with sweet fruit on the nose with black berry, spice, pepper on the tongue and a return of the coco. Finishes semi sweet, dry and pleasant. Long after.
Just before I left I sat down for a 20% off plate of Mexican food and struck up a conversation with a young couple who looked like they needed to rest for a while. This event is demanding of the people in the booths but for those who spend time and effort to see it all, it is also draining. They were there looking for wineries to carry some of her company's products and I ask Mimi if I could take a look. They had a cool aerator/decanter that I am sure will attract some interest, but the really cool item that caught my eye was a fold up cooler with holes for the bottle neck. You can fill it with ice and carry around your wine while it chills. I want one if any of the wineries buy some.
On the way out I stopped and said hi to Jennifer who was running the booth for Walnut City Wineworks. They are always so nice and the wines are outstanding.
I made good time heading back to Eugne and had fun screwing with my Google navigator on the way by taking roads she had not sugested. I know these things have electronicly generated voices, but she was begining to sound genuinly peeved!
Until next time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Slow Days of Winter

After gathering so many bottles of wine I felt like taking a little slow time and not rushing from winery to vineyard looking for that "one bottle". I met Ray Walsh at Territorial  Vineyards and Wine Company and thanked him for his donation of one of his Capitello Wines Pewter Label , '07 Succession Cuvee Pinot Noir ($75). He has nearly sold out!  His wines consistently amaze me. His was ranked second out of ten top Oregon Pinot Gris.While I was there I asked the wine maker, John, at Territorial if he would again donate and he agreed to a bottle of his well loved (Bob Sogge RAVES about it!) Opine Cellars '04 Syrah($35). After I left them I took a nice leisurely drive north to Tyee Cellars, located off of highway 99 between Monroe and Corvallis. A family run winery offering a variety of wines from a very tasty Pinot Gris to a complex Pinot Noir. They are far enough away from everything else that you need to make this a destination or perhaps a stop between Benton Lane and Lumos or Harris Bridge. In the summer that have many events involving music and it is a great place for a leisurely afternoon of wine and relaxation.
They gave us a bottle of '08 Gewurztraminer($18), a spicy, bright wine with a caramel and spice finish. Great sipping wine for a warn afternoon or paired with a fruit salad, crudite', or just about any light fair.
After a long slow cup of coffee and a really good hamburger at a little cafe' near Adair Village, I considered stopping at Firesteed, but they are owned by some Seattle people so no one there can say yes. I really like the wines they make but to much trouble and time for one bottle. When I got to Lafayette and The Abbey (at left), I dropped off a case and bottle with Rebecca, who, with Steve Baker will be our wine experts during the auction..
My adventures at Rex Hill Vineyards and Winery took place a few months ago when a friend invited me to go on a tour of the winery. It was very Oregon rainy day when I got there so we went down to the barrel rooms, the bottling room, and then outside to watch the cleaning of the tanks. The operation is huge and seams to go one forever. I was taken by the amount of cooperation and joy I saw in the people working there. They say the wine takes on the character of it's surroundings.  That must be one reason their wine is so tasty. On this visit I was able to taste the '07 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir; bold, smokey fruit with a dark chocolate undertone, ripe black cherry and boysenberry with a long complex finish of honey and spice.The '07 Chardonnay was wonderful! Ripe pear, white peach, and a hint of citrus in the nose with smooth mouthfeel. Honey, vanilla, nice sweetness on the side of the tongue, and a clean soft finish.The '07 Pinot Gris was a little tight in the nose becuse it was still  bit chilled but the taste was caramel, citrus, and baked pear. great aftertaste.The '06 Estate Pinot Noir ($42) held here by Katie, that they presented to us was a real treat. Nose of very ripe black plum and cherry with figs and raisins, robust mouthfeel with hints of very ripe fruit, black figs. Very long after with spice and hints of dates.They always have a ring of glasses they fill with sample smells and tastes that you might encounter while tasting the wines. This time a looked askance at the colors of the items and what they had on display, until Anne reminded me that St. Patrick's Day was near.
I was in kind of a melancholy mood but Rebecca and her two kids snapped me out of it, with the help of Johnna's drink making skills at the Golden Valley Brewery and Restaurant. That is a Lafayette sitting so temptingly in front of her, made with Sapphire, a very small amount of dry vermouth, shaken (hard) with a few mint leaves, and poured in to a chilled glass coated with Grand Marnier (not very much). It is a VERY good drink.We ate little plates until we were very full then I was off to my guest quarters for a night of bad TV and good wine.Up early for coffee and a scone and off to gather. I made a trip out to visit with Drew at Shea Vineyards where Dick had promised a Magnum of his '07 Estate Pinot Noir. Last year his bottle of '06 Pinot Noir, along with Broadley Shea, and Bergstrom Shea, sold for $900. Not bad. This year we have  (so far) three bottles and one magnum of wine sourced from the Shea vineyards.We should do well again I hope! Drew has been making wines for over ten years and loves Pinot Noirs and the complexity, challenge, and reward of making a great one. Their '07 is nectar and is going to be a real prize for whoever out-bids ME!
Next on the agenda was Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. The drive up to the winery would lead one to believe that a wrong turn had been taken but when the car rises up over the edge of the hill one sees a glorious panorama of the valley and hills far away below. Modern building with fine art hanging, clean and bright, open views to the winery below. Very pleasant. So was the wine. I know I go on about Viognier here in Oregon but there is something about that grape that is almost as interesting as the Pinot Noir is its ability to be influenced by it's surroundings. In this case, the '08 Viognier has all the right notes in all the right places. Lynn Penner-Ash pulls out all the long cool notes of the wine and it presents a fine nose of fresh cut white peach, citrus skin with a deep creamy taste of white grape and pear. Long complex after with a little hint of vanilla and rose petal in the back. I like this wine.
Kelley gave me a chance to recover before pouring me a taste of the wine they would give, the '07
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($45). It was so rich and dark in the nose with hints of tobacco and chocolate, with overtones of ripe cherry. The taste was that of  a complex compote of strawberry, rhubarb, and mulling spice with a hint of pepper and a nice broad finish.. How very different was the '07 Dussin Vineyard Pinot Noir: Wild rose, plum, berry, island spices in the nose with an elegant cherry and chocolate taste and a sweet and sour marionberry hint in the finish. Love it. After I thanked them for their gift I drove up to Gaston for some gas, then back down 47 and up the hill to the Kramer Vineyards where there was a bottle of Thistle '06 Pinot Noir waiting for me.This one is a little more interesting than some of the "big" '06 Pinot Noirs we saw. The tannins are good and the complexity of taste is surprising. A keeper. Trudy also handed over a bottle of the Semi-sparkling Pinot Gris that they were bottling and trying to get labeled. While I was there it snowed!. The dogs loved it and came in dusted with white. They flopped over on the floor and posed for me.
On the way back at the house I picked up Chinese and a bottle of Riesling and watch a movie before falling asleep. Still in kind of a forlorn mood the next day I decided against much interaction with people but I did stop at the Horse Radish for a mixed plate of almonds, cheese, salami, and other treats, accompanied by a glass of Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir (who I have yet to get) and a nice visit with
Sabra Mathot, the owner for a little while longer. New owner on the way and Sabra is going to get a much needed rest! She was sweet enough to give me a bottle of Cody Wright's Purple Hands Table($17.99) wine. Great stuff made at Ken Wright's winery around the corner. That is what is great about eating there, you get to meet all the wine industry folks and get a little insight in to the wine industry. Also, it is a great place to eat and drink good Oregon Wines.
I had one more stop to make for a really exciting wine, the '06 Carabella Pinot Noir ($35): Plush, showing an array of dark cherry, blackberry and plum character with soft, mouth-filling tannins. The warmth of the fall contributed to the dark garnet color. The softness of the Pommard and chocolate tannins of the Wadenswil clone round out the cuvee. Excellent with Morroccan lamb stew.
Time to go home and relax. Only a few days of gathering yet to come. I am going to SIP! on Sunday the 14th to try to play catch up.