Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the Road to Carlton

Carlton, Oregon has become a center for wine and has as many tasting rooms, wineries, and eateries as any small town I have ever been to. Today I plan to visit a few that are open this time of year and take some tasting notes. Seven of Hearts, Luminous Hills, and Alexana have already donated a bottle each but I may just pop in for a taste anyway.
My main targets today will be Carlton Cellars, Ghost Hill, Solena, and a couple of others that I hope are open, like the Carlton Winemakers Studio, Cana's Feast, and Cliff Creek.

First stop, Cana's Feast for a visit with my face-book buddy Jason, winemaker, tasting room dude, and soon to be Australian traveler and wine maker. He served up a tasting of all the wines that were out and one that was not. First in line was a new Pinot Noir. An 08, from the Gran Moraine vineyard due east of Carlton up high with sedimentary soils. This wine shows lots of red fruit in the nose with earthy tones. Dry mouth feel and a hint of chocolate and toast over red berry. Nice $20 Pinot Noir, and it will age well, say 5-7 years.
Watch this space for notes tonight.
Next came one of my old favorites, the '07 Barbera. This wine is all blackberry nose with a hint of blackberry layered over more blackberry. Taste? Guess. Love this one and it is not as simple as I might let on. It is a deep dark wine with layer after layer of infused dark fruit, spice and wood. 
 I then tasted the surprise wine, an '09 Counoise , a blending grape grown primarily in the Rhône valley,
used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
It was light, low tannin, subtle, and a surprise. 
As we were chatting a couple came in and started their round of tastes. They were from North Carolina and were both retired school teachers from New York.Mel and Moreen Hauser. Very nice to talk opera with them as we are both going to Portland Opera Thursday night to see Turandot. Small world indeed!
They had been driving upp the west coast stopping in various wineries along the way and had come to Carlton for much the same reason had I.
The '07 Sangiovasi was next and was also the wine Cana's feast donated this year. A full bodied, raspberry taste with rich ripe notes of soft black fruits and a long pleasant finish of spice at the back of the tongue.
We tasted the '07 and '06 Syrahs back to back and as neither was even a little spineless, it was quite a match up;,the '06 leather and wood with black raspberry fruit, long soft tones of spice and earth. The '07 was blended with a bit of Viognier to mellow it and give it polish. It was a much more formal Syrah with hibiscus on the nose and a blueberry and plum taste. Lovely wine!
When I left I told the Hausers to make sure they stopped at Alexana for a taste and I headed there for my next adventure. Christie had given me a bottle of the '08 Shea vineyard Pinot Noir on my last trip through but I had no time to taste so today was all about taking time.
The two whites, a '09 Pinot Gris from the Revana vineyard and a  Riesling from  the same vineyard were a nice change from all the big heavy reds I had been sipping. The pinot Gris fills the nose with light dry straw and bright fruits followed by semi-sweet tastes of pear, spiced tea, and green apple. Soft mouth feel with a lingering spice finish. Lovely wine.
The '09 Riesling was a bit of a surprise! I lived in Germany and was used to that diesel or kerosene smell when I first opened a bottle of really fine Riesling. This one has just a hint of that smell followed by burnt sugar, apricot, and gives way to soft peach and white peach. I bought a bottle to take home and hide from myself for a few years.
All these wines are made by Lynn Penner-Ash and show her skill, especially the '08 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. There is little I can say about this wine that would do it justice, high score from the wine mags, smokey black ripe fruit with chocolate and earth and spiced coffee finish. I could taste this for days and get a new hit every time. Truly an Oregon Pinot Noir!

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