Friday, March 25, 2011

Short North, Long South

Tuesday, March 22nd: I had never been to Ankeny Vineyards save one short stop when they first opened, and were not open. This time I hit pay-dirt and found the owner, did a tasting, and picked up a bottle of great wine. Joe Olexa started prepping the ground on this old farm in the 1980's and has been growing grapes for other winemakers for years. Now he both sells grapes and produces his own wines with the help of  Andy Thomas, the wine maker, and of course Hershy, the big red lab!
The wines are very good to great and he poured a few of great ones:
2006 Reserve Pinot Noir $25.  Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 Northwest Food and Wine Festival. Silver Medal Winner at the 2010 Oregon State Fair Wine Competition. Bronze Medal Winner at the 2009 Oregon State Fair Wine Competition. Jewel-red ’06 Reserve Pinot Noir offers complex aromas of roses, cherries, vanilla and spice. It is soft and balanced on the palate with a fruit basket of flavors—cherry, plum, raspberry and a touch of tangerine. Drink it now or hold it for a year or longer.
2007 Pinot Noir New Release! $18. Enjoy the silky texture, the aromas of plum, apple butter and citrus, and the ripe plum, strawberry and orange flavors. This aromatic and complex wine will match perfectly with a wide variety of savory dishes.
2008 Pinot Noir New Release! $24.Ankeny’s 2008 Pinot Noir is a zesty complement to grilled salmon, roasted vegetables, lamb, pork. Its grape jam and nutmeg aromas, flavors of strawberry and blackberry preserves and blood orange, and medium-light tannins and refreshing acidity make it a good match for many other foods as well.
He gave me a bottle of the '06 Reserve Pinot Noir for the collection and I took off for points north.
I was on a mission. I am going to DC in April and need to fit in to my Tux for a dinner honoring Holt International's 55th Anniversary at the Korean Ambassador's residence. The problem is, I now am 260lb and 2 inches bigger around than the last time I had it on. To solve the problem I went to my friend Jane for the solution. Other friends have used Xyngular and lost huge amounts of weight so I figure it is worth a try, and I can always get the tux let out at the last minute, right? Anyway, I stopped by her house up on the hill overlooking Turner, had a wonderful lunch, and picked up my order AND a bottle of '06 Domaine Serene Two Barns Pinot Noir! The notes are for the '07 as the '06 is long gone. This will make a great item for the auction even if it did not come from them!
Now we head south. I got up this morning and weighed in at 254.8 after one day of the diet! Now I have to visit all these wineries and NOT DRINK ANY WINE!!! GRRR! But I can still taste, so here we go.
Thursday, March 25th: I drove in the hard rain to Elkton for a visit with Rivers Edge and Brandborg. The owners at Rivers Edge, Mike and Vonnie, were on their way back from Seattle on the train so I met with Midge Anderson and she lead me through a tasting of all the reds and one of the whites. I am consistently impressed by the flavors of their wines, especially the Barrel Select  Pinot Noir and the Black Oak  Pinot Noir. This tasting was no exception. We started with a plumy ripe strawberry berry '08 Umpqua Valley  Pinot Noir with fruit from both Bradley and Rivers Edge. Nice flavors and interesting finish, almost like candy.
The next was one of my favorites, the Barrel Select '07 Pinot Noir. This wine is changing in the bottle from a light bodied simple wine to this smokey, meaty nosed beaast with a juicy and intense fruit in the mid pallette and a soft, long finish. I love the '07s that are just getting their stride.
Ok, so I am in love with a little patch of land where they grow these grapes. Black Oak vineyard has some of the most rich and intense flavors around and they all come out in this wine. Think roasted hazelnuts, almonds, and black berry, then add black cherry and spices from the east, hints of curry, pepper, and cumin, just enough oak to mellow it, and a long drawn out finish of pepper and dark cherry. This '08 Black Oak Pinot Noir is a must have for those who love big Pinots.
They made a Dulcet Cuvee in '06 and I had some (until recently) but I must say, this one, the '09 Dulcet Cuvee' Pinot Noir, has it beat by just a hair, or a vannila bean as it were. Very tasty with long finish and very pleasent nose. Drink now or hold for about 5 years.
I tasted one white, only because I have a hard time spiting out really good whites, so this one had to count. How many of you remember the taste of, or have ever had, gooseberry pie? THAT is what I got from this fine Dry Gewurztraminer. Great wine!  I was honored to pick up both an '08 Black Oak Pinot Noir and an '08 Barrel Select Pinot Noir for the collection.
Back up the road a very short distance is the Brandborg Vineyard and Winery, where Sue met me and though she was very busy, took the time to present a bottle of their finest, the '08 Ferris Wheel Pinot Noir. Joan took me though some tasting and I was very pleased with what I tasted. The Pinot Noirs are all great and '08 was such an expectational year for them that it is hard to pick a favorite, but I will try. This is so good I hate to auction it off. The '08 Bench Lands is a mix of light cherry and berry with nice spice, yet has an undercurrent of soil and must that makes it even more enjoyable. great balance and the mouthfeel is perfect.
Next was the one that I bought last time Linda and I came though town on our way back from the coast, the Love Puppets '08 Pinot Noir. This is lavender, cherry, bitter sweet almonds and bright red raspberry with a lovely pie crust and dark cherry finish. The second taste brings out subtle flavors of vanilla and softer fruit. This one I like to drink by itself, no food, no interference, just sip after sip of discovery.
I got Sue mid giggle!
Next was the prize.
As they say: The vines had thinned themselves to a light crop load and the resulting wine has the deepest burgundy hue that we have seen to date from our Estate.  The fruit aroma is dark cherry, blackberry and raspberry jam.  The bouquet has a strong hit of cola with pie spices, juicy berry pie fresh out of the oven and mocha milk chocolate bonbons.   The dark fruits carry the flavors with a pleasing caress of candied orange rinds, pipe tobacco and black tea.  The mouthfeel and texture is medium bodied, with some zing that lingers.  This wine should develop more roundness with age for many years to come.  The 2008’s were given more time in barrel, but after year one, in older neutral oak.  
Last in the reds was the '05 Umpqua Valley Syrah and man is it bold. I am guessing but I would say this came from down around Winston and is more of a cold climate Syrah than what you taste out of Washington or the Rogue Valley. Very spicy and rich, stand a pencil up in it wine. I can see this one with a big blackened roast and winter vegetables. Yum! 
I finished with a sip of the '09 Gewurstaminer, yes, I know I was going backwards but I can do that, I have dislexia. This one was floral, caramel, and coconut with grapefruit. Wow!
Please visit Elkton and enjoy all the fine wines produced there! Bradley was not open but I will get them next trip. 
 At Becker Vineyard I met with Peggy and, though they are almost sold out of most of their wines and have stopped donating, she gave me a bottle of the '09 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was the dogs two year birthday and he was ready for lots of pets. This is a BIG dog and is very gentle. I think that I have never met a mean winery dog, have you?
This wine is all big fruit, strong flavors and is so good you want to hold it tight.
The other wines I tasted were out of this world. They have a small vineyard and it is in an ideal placement for growing grapes. 
I have tasted a lot of '09 Muller Thurgau but this one is hands down the best I have ever had. So much papaya, melon, guava,  and passion fruit, with floral spices, and a huge mouthfeel that just keeps building. I highly recommend this one and it is worth the trip just to get one bottle but I advise a case. get it while you can. While I was there she got three calls about the whites.
 I always have such a good time at Melrose Vineyards. They are really nice folks and have a great variety of wines, all estate grown, including one of the rarest wines you will find in Oregon, or anywhere outside South Africa, Pinotage. You have to come down and taste this one. I first had a Pinotage in Amsterdam at Sampurna Indonesian restaurant where when ask what wine we wanted with our food, I said, "bring us what you would have" and he brought out  a bottle of Red wine...I was not sure if he understood me but he served it chilled and I can say without hesitation, it was the best wine possible for a hot and spicy dish.
Try this one chilled with some hot curry from down the road (more on that latter)
They also grow Baco Noir, and Dolcetto along with the usual suspects.  
I met Deb and wrangled a bottle from her. She was not sure what to give us this year so Cody stepped in and suggested the '09 Dolcetto. This is a wine that has been used in blending for centuries in Northern Italy but we are beginning to see it as a single grape for wine
Cody took grapes from two blocks and put them together to make this delicious , wine. Strawberry, pie crust, caramelized sugar in the nose with a ripe fruit and compote taste. Love it!
  Now for a treat and a surprise. In a little store, on the corner of Melqua Road and Melrose Road, hidden among the common foods, take out pizza, groceries,and deli sandwiches, a gem, the Melrose Country Store.When was the last time you were driving around in the Oregon countryside and smelled Chicken Marsala, or Palak Paneer? Oh my, what a wonder this place is. I was ready to say "to hell with the diet" and dive in but I though better of it and bought my with a treat instead.
The food is by far the best Indian food I have had in Oregon! 
Ranjit  (far right) makes all the food fresh for her family and customers daily and there is no menu, you get what she makes. Her family, Hareen, Rajan, and Harjeeed, owns the store and has created a truly wonderful spot to stop and enjoy the glory of great food. I recommend stopping even if you don't think you are hungry!
On up the road is the winery with what has to be the best name in the wine business. Chateau Nonchalant.
Weldon and Vicky met me and showed me the spot where they new fountain will go, hopefully before the big wine tour, and then brought me in to the hand built tasting room with its cellar room and beautifully finish woods. Weldon has done all this and it is impressive indeed! So are their wines.
They produce a lot of grapes and sell most of them but do keep some for their own wines. Vickie gave me a bottle of the '07 Estate Pinot Noir from their preferred block and one of the '07 Pinot Gris harvested at Wild Rose Vineyard. Both wines are superb and the Pinot Noir is the true statement of what an '07 can be.
Last stop of the day was Sienna Ridge, up the freeway just past  Rice Hill, on the right. This winery has its own AVA! 
Cindy runs the tasting room located in a beautiful old house that has been fixed up and is just perfect for a taste and a visit. She is a font of information about the history of wines in the Umpqua valley and is a joy to talk to. I wish more people would take the time to stop and taste these wines.  
She gave me a bottle of '09 Cabernet Sauvignon that has yet to be released, a couple of bottle from the old Domaine de la Rasmus, an '06 Pinot Blanc, and an '06 Chardonnay.
Take some time and relax a bit before you head north, or south, and taste some award winning wines.
Friday morning I go to The Abbey to drop off what I have gathered and pick up more exciting Oregon wines. Until then!

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