Monday, December 20, 2010

Newberg and Carlton

On my way back from Portland, after visiting Gallery 903 to check out a possible purchase, I stopped at Anam Cara's new tasting room. Just as you turn right off 99 on to 240 out of Newberg you will see the new signs on the right. I was so pleased to see it but I had one caveat: they are next to Jem 100 Ice Cream Saloon, a malt shop that has THE BEST malts I have had in years. I have found it very difficult to make your taste buds behave after a burger and chocolate malt so be sure to go there AFTER you taste the wines!
With that in mind, and due to the fact that Sheila was rushing out to give a tasting, I just collected a bottle of their wonderful 2007 Nicholas Estate Pinot noir they gave us and did not take the time to taste.
This is very typical of the '07 Pinot Noir that was so maligned by short sighted people and has now proven to be elegant, delicate, and complex. I love this wine and this year. There are of course a few that were just not ever going to work themselves out but they are few and far between.
This '07 did very well: 94 points in PinotReport, 90 points from Wine Advocate and 88 points from Wine Enthusiast I will return soon and enjoy a taste.
Driving past all the winery signs between Newburg and Carlton made me realize what a chore I have in front of me. Some friends laugh and make fun of the "job" I have chosen to do again this year but it is work. I have met the most wonderful people, tasted the best wines, and actually worked in a few of the wineries picking, sorting, pruning, doing punch downs, and bottling. This has given me a real respect for all that goes in to making the "One Bottle" I am asking for.
When I arrived at Carlton I was very excited to find Seven of Hearts open and pouring! I usually miss them because I try and not go gathering on the weekends. The wineries are busy and don't have time to be interrupted by someone begging for "one Bottle".
 Byron Dooly, owner and winemaker, was there with some of his club members. I bought a Lavender dark chocolate with a dusting of sea salt from Byron's wife and partner Dana, who creates wonders for the palette (and matches fine chocolates to the wines!) under the name Honest Chocolates and waited for a taste.
My reward came with a sip of the Viognier and Roussanne blend that took me by surprise! Such a great balance of flavors and structure. It has the delicacy of the Viognier and the backbone of the Roussanne. This is a wine that recalls the great whites of the Rhone valley.
We went through the entire selection and I must say, none of the wines disappointed but some stood out as wines I could have a passion for. The Chatte D'Avignon Grenache and Syrah blend is outstanding. A soft, firm, and warn flavor with a strong earthy base. long finish with all kinds of fruits and flowers along the way. Byron writes in his blog::
   It’s a treat to have the opportunity to work with 15-year-old Grenache and Syrah vines situated on ideal    sites — truly reminiscent of the regions where these varietals initially gained their reputation in the Rhone Valley of France — right along the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. All the elements that make those wines great there, are present here as well: the heat, the moderating influence of the river, the winds (much like the Mistral winds of the Rhone Valley), and the gravelly sandy soil).
These are special wines because they have a lot of soul. The Syrah is more of a northern Rhone meaty, earthy expression than the more fruity expression you may have come to know. The Grenache is the one that brings the fruit to the party. The truth is both of these were acquired to make the blend, something that reflects some of my favorite red Rhone wines, such as Chateauneuf du Pape that is dominated by the elegance of Grenache, but with enough Syrah to give it penetrating depth and backbone.more
After we were done with the Seven of Hearts he moved us on to the Luminous Hills wines. These are estate grown Pinot noirs that show  a very complex and educational range of tastes depending on what lot they are from, the clones used, and the treatment during processing. Here is what Byron has to say:
   The Luminous Hills “silver label” utilizes the 667 from the higher elevation volcanic soil in Luminous Hills vineyard to give it its bright fruit expression.  Darker, spicier notes are derived from the 115 clone on the lower elevation sedimentary soil.  A little bit of whole cluster Pommard (20%) rounds it out and gives it its fleshy quality.  
And about the Gold, which he gave for the auction along with the D'Avignon Grenache and Syrah.:
   LUX, or the “gold label”, is a special selection, much smaller production, from select parts of the Luminous Hills vineyard.  A favorite clonal combination comprised of a big foundation of Pommard from the lower sedimentary part of the vineyard, providing the bass notes, but with enough 777 off the higher elevation volcanic soil to give it high tone structure and lift.  50% whole cluster fermentation.  
His new sign, attached to the front of his hand made wooden counter fools the eyes. You will have to go by and see how it is made, and of course taste all his wonderful wines along with Ana' Chocolates.
Before I left town I stopped over at Alexana Winery's elegant tasting room located 116 West Main for a quick visit with Christie Shertzer. The wines they make are consistently wonderful! Lynn  Penner-Ash is the winemaker  I ask if they would again this year be willing to donate "One Bottle" for the cause and she said "Of course!".  I ask for a bottle of the Shea vineyard '08 Pinot noir. This wine was given 94 points from Wine Advocate and 92 from Wine Spectator! We will add this bottle to a set of wines made from Dick Shea's grapes and create a really exciting package for the highest bidder. I can't wait to come back next week and taste through all the wines.
My next trip will be south to Elkton and Roseburg.

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