Linda and I had the honor to attend a vertical tasting at Benton Lane lead by Steve and Carol Girard, the owners. They talked about the history of the winery and their motivations to move to Oregon. Steve told the story of how the soil here was deposited and has continued to develop and how the iron rich Jory dirt feeds the important nutrients to the plants. They grow clovers and other crops between rows and till them in to feed the bugs and they run sheep that keep the weeds and grass down while at he same time adding nitrogen to the soil.
One of the things they mentioned that they add to compost every two years is rock dust. I have long been an advocate of re-mineralization of soil through rock dust. he gravel plants end up with a huge amount of the soft fine dust the easily is broken down by enzymes and biologicals in the soil.
After St Helen's erupted everyone thought it would be a disaster for the cherry and apple growers up the gorge. Not so! They had the best crops ever after a few years with new mineral rich deposits in the soil. It works for grapes just the same way but without the volcanic eruption.
We tasted three years: '09, '10','11.The first was the '09 First Class Pinot Noir. Light and subtle, strawberry on the nose with a bit of dark chocolate with plum, dark cherry and mocha in the mouth. This wine will increase in complexity and mature in a few (3-4) years and will be even better that it is now.
Next, out of order, we tasted the '11. 2011 was a problematic years for many in the valley as it was an extremely late harvest year. Many I know harvested in November, one on the 17th! That said, if the hang time did anything, it increased the flavor profile of the grape while, due to the lack of heat, not adding the levels of alcohol. This one is a wine I would watch. See Wine Julia's take on Benton Lane's '11 harvest.
In '07 people had disparaging things to say about the year and were dismissive of the wine. A friend in the Dundee hills said, in her very French accent "Buy all you can get! These people have no idea what they have!" so I did;). As any of you who know now realize, the phenolic chains and other components of the '07 have, in bottle and over time, developed in to an amazingly great wine! I still love going around to the little back woods stores and buy the post off '07's for $7 or$8 dollars!
Don't tell anyone!
So underestimate the '11 all you like: I will be buying it up and you can come see me in 5 years;)
Last and certainly not least was the award winning '10. This wine is still not mature and has a long way to grow before it has reached is peak but it is already a 93 in Wine Spectator so in a few years in the bottle, well, hold on to your hat!
The flavors in this one were amazing! Nose: hints of butterscotch and chocolate with mint/anise and hay/humus (forest floor, not food). The taste developed from dark cherry, cola, and plum, with a soft mouth-feel and a beautifully long finish. For much more on Benton Lane click here.
After the tasting we picked up our wine club wines and headed to town for a visit to Linda's favorite store Talbots at Oakway, where I dropped her off to play while I went to the Gallery at the Watershed to see if clients had decided on a large Lillian Almeida work. They had, so I went to out storage facility and selected a replacement.
After a little wait, and admiring Linda's selections, we were off to Market of Choice to stock up for the week. While we were at checkout a very sweet young woman came over and ask if I would like a sample of her chocolate. Indeed! I am always up for a taste of something new and in this case, I was astounded! This was possibly the best chocolate I have ever had the pleasure to try. Layers of flavors and complexity, like a really fine wine, swirled around in my mouth as my nose was teased by saffron and cardamom. Amazing! OMA is the name and she, Kara Blandi, is the creator. Available at Market of Choice in the chocolate section. Try some and see what you think. I think she has found a new level of taste in this wonderful concoction!
So all in all a great day of sunshine, sold art, great wines, great chocolate, and new clothes for Linda, with a nice dinner on the deck finished off with Ghost Hill '11 Rose' ( a must have for warm afternoons in the sun). Made by my best friend Rebecca, this is an all star Rose' that can NOT be missed!
Signing off: Lunch at King Estate coming in a couple of hours!