Sunday, October 30, 2011

'05 Devitt Merlot

We had a nice treat for dinner, a 2005 Devitt Merlot sourced from Steel-head Run Vineyard. Dark complex candied fruit, coffee, dark chocolate in the nose with fruit compote, 7 spice and deep dark fruit in the mouth. Excellent mouth feel, sot and pleasant with perfect acid balance. I had it with a roast and a salad and it paired very well. Great finish. I let it open for about 45 minutes and the difference was noticeable. Thank you Jim.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harvest at Ghost Hill

Wednesday began on a bit of a sour note. Linda was backed up in meeting and we were trying to get on the road to Carlton to help sort fruit. As we got ready to leave, barely in time to make it up there at a reasonable time, we opened the garage door to fine our more adventurous cat had secreted himself in the garage while I was taking this out to the car. Out he went under the garage door the moment it opened. To say I was upset would be a ...well, let's just say I am glad there were no small children within earshot. Linda, ever calm and present, walked out and found him enjoying hide and seek in the garden, and after a short chase, he stopped in the dry leaves in the gutter and had a good roll. She calmly went over and picked him up. Back in the house, dusty and happy, and we were getting later and later.
We made it up in record (well not quite record time, after all, Linda was in the car with me) time and dashed in to Horse Radish for a plate of Hummus and salad.
Rebecca (seen above trying NOT to fall in) , the winemaker for Ghost Hill, was all ready for us, gave us our stations, and in came the grapes.
We were using the facility at Carlton Cellars, owned by my friend Dave Grooters and his partner/ wife Robin Russel, and were under the gun to finish and have things cleaned up so the next batch could come in.
The picking began at 11:00 on the Bayliss- Bower vineyard and we had Wädenswil on the sorting table by 1:00. The clusters were huge and firm. I tasted a few random grapes and I was amazed by the development in structure and complexity. These had a semisweet flavor bursting with rich,lush flavors of blue fruit, spice, pepper, and a soft mouthfeel. The seeds were brown and the skins were dense but not overly thick.. Very pleasant hint of acid.
We found very little botrytis as the leaves had been cut back to avoid standing water on the fruit and there very few unripe clusters.

Next came the 777 and man was it intense! This grape usually has a sweet, dark juice and a firm fruit with a thicker skin than other Pinot Noir grapes. These were no exception, rather, they were some of the finest firmest, most flavor filled 777 grapes I have ever tasted. Dark fruit, thicker, chewier skin with none of the usual bitterness, just a slight acidic feel on the tooth. This is going to be an exceptional year. We found a bit more mold deep in the clusters but still very little. The smaller more conical clusters were larger this year due to more hang time and because of the intense dropping of fruit done for the development of the best possible fruit. Most vineyard dropped fruit to 1 cluster per stem.
After a short break we started in on the 114 and I was amazed at the cluster size in these bins. The fruit, being thinner skinned than the 777, was easy to burst and the flavors were sweet and rich, not from high brix, usually higher in this clone, but from the long cool maturation that took place.
This is called physiological ripeness (or physiological maturity) of grapes is a relatively recent addition to the discussion of ripeness in viticulture and winemaking. The phrase has become a "catch all" term used to describe other factors in the development of ripening grapes that affect a wine's quality beyond the standard measurements of sugars, acids and pH. These factors generally includes evaluating the ripeness of tannins as well as the development of other phenolic compounds that contribute to the color, flavor and aroma of wine. In many ways, the concept of physiological ripeness is similar to the French term Engustment (from the Latin root gustis or taste) which denotes the stage of ripening when aroma and flavor become apparent. Research has shown that most aroma compounds develop in the berry in glycosylated form as secondary metabolites which occur late in ripening as the build up of sugars have leveled. This stage is distinct from the sugar/acid interactions of ripening because it is possible for a grape to be "ripe" in the context of sugar and acid levels but still be very immature when it comes to the development of tannins, aromas and flavor that characteristic a complex or quality wine.
For the most part, many of these qualities are difficult to objectively measure so evaluation of the physiological ripeness of grapes is centered around observing and physically sampling the grapes. With experience winemakers and viticulturists learn to associate certain taste and characteristics with different stages of development. They evaluate the skin and pulp texture of the berry as well as the color of skins, seeds and stems. If the seeds are still green, the tannins inside the grape are more likely to be harsh and bitter. As the tannins continue to develop, the seeds start darkening in color. They will observe the lignification of the stems as they turn from being flexible and green to hard, woody and brown (for many varieties but not all) indicating that vine has completed its work in developing its "offspring" grape clusters and has started to store carbohydrates and resources for its next growing season. During the ripening period winemakers and viticulturists will continually sample grapes throughout the vineyard in the weeks and days leading up to harvest. (from an article in Wickipedia
Absolutely joyful flavors.The smell of these grape filled the winery as they were crushed.
On to the last and my surprise favorite, Pommard. The clusters were small and had good brown stems on much of the grapes. The taste of these was what I will call meaty. Dense, ripe, smooth, and satisfyingly flavorful. I could eat bowls of these for breakfast. Very little sweetness, just that mature taste mentioned above.
The last tank was filled with a blend and we selected whole cluster with brown stems for the tank. Can't wait to try that one.
After a few hours of clean up, we bade farewell and headed in to Dundee for a bite at Dundee Bistro. There are so many fine places to eat but I had my heart set on the deconstructed clam chowder.
Manilla Clam Chowder with Mussels & Fuji Apples
fingerling, applewood bacon, leeks, cream & spinach 16

I was not disappointed. I had it with a glass of the 2009 PONZI Willamette Valley. Perfectly balanced, not to sweet and held its own against the apple and cream tastes.
A long drive home with a 1977 performance from the Met of Il Trovatore on the radio, ending the day on a fine note.
There are few things more wonderful than having your hands in the wine you will one day drink!
Mark my words: This WILL be the best year Oregon has seen for developed flavors and character of the wines. This will be the benchmark!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thank You "My Wine Words"!

I just got a nice email from Alie at My Wine Words.
They had a contest to fill in the blank. A nice glass of Pinot Noir is like__________.
Click the link to see the winners!

Tasting at Authentica

My friend Steve Baker, owner of one of the best wine stores in the county, gave a gift certificate for a wine tasting to OMP's auction and Linda bought it. Last night we took advantage of it and had a great time tasting through three whites and three reds. The whites were all Chardonnay and were all just to my taste. We blind tasted and I pegged the first one as an Oregon wine. I was right! Winderlea '09 Chardonnay. What a wonderful and rich wine with great balance and complexity showing hints of soft apple and oak. Sweet but balanced finish.. The minerality that makes the great whites is always missing in wines from around here as we have no limestone, but Winderlea and a few others from up north have managed to coax out every bit of taste from the grape and it shows in this wine. Drinkable for another 3-4 years, great now. I highly recommend this one.
I did not take notes but the other two were also good and the one from Frances was the best with olives and hard cheese. The Winderlea was remarkably good with blue cheese. I will get the info from Steve and list the other wines.
I was fooled by the reds. The first wine was obviously a Pinot Noir but it had the rich full leathery hard red fruit of wines from the Van Duzer area. I was wrong! It was from the Alexander Valley in California. Very impressive wine! I will get the info from Steve and post it. The one I remember most is the Johan '08 Nils Reserve. The winemakerDaniel J. Rinke,  uses only native yeast, does not use SO2 to clean (and kill) and they are Bio-dynamic. This wine is so elegant it almost did not fit with the two other wines (the third was a Burgundy) and would have stood by itself. Soft mouthfeel with very soft tannins and minerality. Black fruit and hints of sweet cherry. Great with the white cheese.
More on the other wines later.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pudding River Syrah '09

We opened a bottle of Pudding River's  '09 Syrah from Walla Walla last night and had it with roast beef and roasted veggies. Absolutely amazing. Huge warm richness in front with big fruit, then no fall off, instead it built to a creamy mouthfeel and a perfect acid finish with long notes of warn fruit.
One of the best I have had this year. Highly recommend!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some of My Salud! Auction Etchings

 WillaKenzie's Longhorn

A view from the back of Bethal Heights
 A view in the front of Winderlea Vineyards
 Ken Wright Cellars
Archery Summit

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Great News!

I just received this letter from Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards and went to the Wine and Spirits web site for a look at who else I know who hit the Top 100. Tonight, our winery will be honored as one of the "Top 100 Wineries in the World" by Wine & Spirits magazine in San Francisco.

Editor, Joshua Greene said, "Each year, our panels and critics blind
taste more than 10,000 wines, selecting the best for recommendation
in the magazine. Our "Top 100 Wineries of the Year Award" highlight
brands with a range of wines our critics have scored at the top of
their categories. Willamette Valley Vineyards' performance makes it a
great ambassador for wines of Oregon."

This is wonderful recognition for the vineyard crew and winemaking staff who dedicate their lives to making a delicious, classic representation of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley.

Thank you for the support you have given us over these many years,


Jim Bernau,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Off the Subject of Wines

This week I had the pleasure to spend  two days in Portland and take part in a couple of very cool events.
I drove up early and checked in to the Crown Plaza, which I had never heard of and found quite by accident using Google's new Hotel Finder. Very nice hotel that feels like it should be downtown. Classy, clean, and well appointed. The staff was great and so was the food. I took the MAX, located two blocks from the hotel right in front of the convention center.
After a pleasant ride in to Downtown I stopped in at South Park at 901 SW Salmon for a quick snack and a Lafayette (Martini glass + rinse of Grand Marnier + Sapphire Gin shaken with fresh mint, served VERY cold)
I ordered the Salmon Cakes, served with freesia lettuce and lemon curd. Absolutely wonderful and well within my diet.
Alexa , shown here, is a very accomplished  Bartender and was a fount of information about the food and the restaurant. I was very impressed and will make many return trips.
Next stop was the Portland Art Museum for a truly unusual experience, the "Object Stories" project.(Go to search and type in Gordon.)
I had taken a picture of my press, an old type high, hand crank press I had found at the bottom of the stairwell in Lawrence hall near my old studio. I got some help and hauled it up, put it back together, and used it for woodblock and lino block printing. There was also a piece of 3/4 inch plywood and a thin sheet of steel that could be used for etching but was not very efficient.
A few years later, after I had graduated and was working in my own studio I got a call from the Art Museum about printing a C.S. Price linoleum block that had been his 1929 Christmas card. His relatives had it and were willing to have it used for prints to give donors to the building fund during a large showing of Price's work.
I agreed, but after printing a few by hand, decided I needed to borrow a press.
I called the school and ask if I could used the old press and the Dean said that as far as he knew nobody ever used it and that I could just have it.
Allen Cox and I jumped in his van and picked it up, brought it up to the studio, and I printed 125 images for the show.
I used the press all the time for block printing but needed an etching press. I went down to Multi craft Plastics and ask for some advice about what to use for a press bed. They suggested Lexan and the last 12 years has proven them right.
I took the press to a machine shop and had them repair the gears, put on a wheel, and put on adjustment handles. $900 was a great price to get  it tuned up and ready. I ordered some press blankets and got to work.
One evening I had set up a workshop for a print collecting group I was part of and my friend Gordon Gilkey came along. We were created collagraphic plates and each time Gordon put his plate on the press bed he would get this odd look on his face. Finally he turned to me and said, in his deep resonant voice,"Where'd you get that press?" I told him and he smiled and said "By God, that's my old press!"
That night he regaled us with stories of printing on the press, which he said was old when he used it in 1938.
He would often call and stop by for a visit and to see how his old press was doing. Every time I use it I think of the legacy he left.
After that I went over to a reception for the Oregon Arts Conference at the Schnitzer, mingled a bit, then headed down to Urban Studio for the opening party Fashion Week. Greta party, with lots of people who looked as if they had no idea why they were there, but the music was good, the food was great, and the conversations were stimulating.
Back to the hotel and up early for breakfast and a brisk walk over to the Oregon Arts Commission Conference.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Wine Label

Well, my life is now complete! My first wine label is on the bottle.
My good friend Rebecca Pittock Shouldis, winemaker for Ghost Hill Cellars made a cool climate Syrah from grapes grown at the Dukes family vineyards and it has one of my etchings for a lable.
She bought a Portrait from a Oregon Mozart Players auction and insted ask if I would shoot an image for her and make an etching for the label. I agreed and we set out to creat an image that portraid the name of the wine A La Main, loosely, Made by hand.
I went to dinner with her and the kids at Golden Valley  and we went over to the winery to try some ideas. The one that struck home was an image of the wine flowing through the hands of the kids in to the barrel. I only took a couple of shots and was happy.
It took a long time to get the image right and to create the etching but I am so happy with it.