Category Archives: Travels

IPNC 2017 Grand Seminar Featuring French Winemakers of Oregon & Their Wines!

Continuing my reflection on The French Adventurers: Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon, the Grand Seminar event at the 31st Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, some background on French-born winemakers Dominique Lafon, Alexandrine Roy, Jacques Lardiere and Jean-Nicolas Méo.  As well as some reviews of their exciting Oregon wines!


Dominique Lafon – Lingua Franca, Eola-Amity Hills

As the namesake, wine director, and winemaker of one of the great estates of Meursault, Dominique is a descendant of Jules Lafon, who created the revered wine festival, La Paulée.  After taking over the family’s winery in the 80s, Dominique revitalized its red and white winemaking approach in the 1990s.  As an adventurer, Dominique’s first visits to the Willamette Valley occurred in the 1990s.  And as the connections between Oregon and Burgundy became stronger, he fell in love with the property that eventually became the Seven Springs Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, which is now home to the base fruit that he and partners Master Sommelier Larry Stone, co-winemaker Thomas Savre and CFO David Honig work with for the Lingua Franca label.

Lingua Franca 2015 Joshua, Junichi & Siri, Ribbon Ridge – 92 pts
The name of this wine is a tribute to the valiant workers who made this vintage happen in 2015.  This full-bodied wine starts with alluring aromas of black raspberry, cherry and earth, which lead to expressive flavors of ripe berries, black plum, a kiss of French oak, and a long dry finish. $50

Lingua Franca 2015 Mimi’s Mind, Eola-Amity Hills – 94 pts
Named after Mimi Casteel of Bethel Height Winery and Vineyard, founded in theEola-Amity Hills in 1977; this special vineyard selection included a percentage of whole clusters, which added more layers of flavor, structure and balance to the finished wine. The end result is a very complex Pinot Noir with concentrated notes of blackberry, cola root, dried strawberry, fresh violets and lavender. Still very young, but deep, dense and rewarding. $90.

Alexandrine Roy – Phelps Creek Vineyard, Hood River

As proprietor, winemaker, and the fourth-generation member of a family that has been farming in the famed Burgundy region of Gevrey-Chambertin, Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy made her first visit to IPNC in 2004. Three years later she met Bob Morus, who was starting an adventurous Pinot Noir program in the Columbia Gorge, a few hours east of Portland. After being approached by Bob, Alexandrine was hesitant about taking part in the project since she was committed to making wine in Burgundy.  But after seeing the beautiful property near the quaint town of Hood River and realizing there was nearly a month between harvest dates in Europe (early September) and Oregon (early October); she agreed to take part in this unique project. Today, Alexandrine crafts the Philips Creek Pinot Noir primarily with grapes from the Pommard vines that are influenced by the volcanic soils, warm days and chilly nights. “My goal is to make something distinctive that expresses the site I’m working with,” says Roy.

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2014 Cuvée Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge / $54 – 92 pts
Complex wine with rich flavors of dark fruits, wild berries, fresh fungi and a true sense of this special site influenced by the surrounding forest, volcanic soils and moderate temperature in the area of Hood River, Oregon.

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2013 Cuvée Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge / $54 – 94 pts
Although 2013 was a challenging vintage in western Oregon, the pristine blocks of the Pommard grapes planted inland on the 34-acre Phelps Creek Vineyard near the small town of Hood River had a long, balanced ripening season. The end result shows in this elegant wine layered with generous flavors of ripe red fruits, wild strawberry, rhubarb, mineral, earth tones and rustic spices. In the end, the only downside to this wine is the fact that it’s still rather young and taunt. For that reason, decant if serving it over the next couple years or simply age in the cellar for up to 15 years.

Jacques Lardiere, Resonance Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton

Jacque Lardiere is a stud, but you’d never know it at first glance. With a full head of white hair, he’s a fun man to be around. But when you bring up the topic of Pinot Noir, you quickly realize the advantage he had working with prestigious grape at Maison Louis Jadot near Beaune for 37 years  when he talks about working with fruit in Willamette Valley. For that reason, Jacque has a very Burgundian approach to the wines he makes under the new Resonance Vineyard label started in the small Yamhill-Carlton AVA in 2013. Today, Jacque and his team work with a 12-acre parcel near the quaint town of Yamhill and currently rent space from James Frey at Trisaetum Winery.  But plans are in the works to develop their own state of the art winery within the next couple years. “I’m not a young chicken, of course,” says Jacque with a smile. “But for us, it’s a great opportunity to start from the beginning from the ground up in Willamette Valley.”  Oui, alors.

Resonance Vineyard 2014, Yamhill-Carlton/ $65 – 93 pts
From the Kevin Chambers Vineyard, this flavorful wine is made with Pommard, 777 and Wadenswil clones of Pinot Noir. Deep, concentrated scents of wild berries and savory spices. On the palate, a high-toned combination of ripe raspberry, dark cherry and cardamom; chewy tannins; broad structure; and a long, generous finish. Ripe lively, earthy and elegant. Very approachable now, but worthy of aging for 20 years. Great with slow-roasted lamb, as tasted with Jacques, at the Salud! charity for vineyard workers hosted at Stoller Vineyards near McMinnville the night before IPNC began.

Resonance Vineyard 2013, Yamhill-Carlton / $65 – 92 pts
Lofty aromas of dark berries, toasted brioche, soy sauce, allspice and a hint of smoke. Dark cherry-cola, huckleberry and licorice; elegant mouthfeel finish. Approachable now or cellar for 7-12 years.

Jean-Nicolas Méo – Nicolas-Jay, Dundee

In 2012, talented Burgundy winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo partnered with longtime friend and visionary music guru Jay Boberg to start the Nicholas-Jay brand in Dundee. Today, Jean-Nicholas applies the skills he developed while working with fruit from the prestigious Burgundy sites in the Echezeaux, Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot and Corton Clos Rognet to the Pinot Noir grapes he uses from the winery’s organically-farmed Bishop Creek Vineyard property in Yamhill-Carlton and specialty blends made with a selection of other famous vineyards in Willamette Valley.  At the IPNC seminar, Jean-Nicolas joked about his original response to Jay’s inquiry about the partnership. “I enthusiastically said maybe,” he quipped, with a smile. Needless to say, we’re all glad he said yes in the end.

Nicholas-Jay 2015 Willamette Valley / $65 – 95 pts
From the Nicholas-Jay estate Bishop Creek Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton comes a deep, dense and sexy style of Pinot Noir with lovely aromas of black and blue fruits, wet rocks, and subtle spices. On the palate, ripe blueberry, blackberry, plum and fresh mountain herbs. Very subtle, sexy and complex. Combination of structure, finesse and power in every sip.

Oregon Pinot Noir with a French Twist

Based at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, the International Pinot Noir Celebration has brought joy to wine fans who love drinking world-class wines made with variations of this noble grape grown in Oregon, California, Burgundy and other special regions around the globe. This year’s festivities in late July marked a chance to learn about where Pinot Noir has come over the past three decades and how the special combination of French soul and Oregon soil helped make the Willamette Valley one of the top wine growing regions of the world.

It is a journey that began four years before “Papa Pinot,” the young American adventurer David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards, planted young samplings of the first Pinot Noir grapes near Corvallis, Oregon in 1965; another early pioneer to see the potential to plant world-class vines in the region was Frenchman Joseph Drouhin, who came to the region to sell his family’s wine from Burgundy in 1961. But it wasn’t until 25 years later that Drouhin’s daughter Veronique laid the foundation to accomplish this dream when she visited the region and interned with upcoming wineries Adelsheim Vineyards, Bethel Heights and Eyrie in 1986.

The following year, Veronique and her family established Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Today, the majestic winery in the Dundee Hills represents a signature French accent that helped put Willamette Valley and other segments of Oregon on the world wine map to stay.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of these accomplishments, the Grand Seminar at this year’s festival, moderated by wine critic Eric Asimov of the New York Times, was aptly titled The French Adventurers: Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon. Here is the SawyerSomm synopsis of the seminar and the a few Domaine Drouhin wine reviews.

Veronique Boss-Drouhin, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee

Like her father Joseph, who originally visited the Willamette Valley in 1961, Veronique Boss-Drouhin immediately saw the promise of the region primarily located west of Highway 101 and the Pacific mountains between Portland and Eugene, when she first visited the area in 1986. Although the region did not have the limestone soils of Burgundy, Drouhin loved the cool climate and the various forms of basalt and volcanic soils that make it a prime region to grow the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes she studied while attending the University of Dijon in the mid-1980s. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the family’s dreams of planting vines in the region started to become a reality.

When the first 96 barrels of DDO wines were made the following year, the family didn’t own a winery or had to source the grapes they worked with. But after the original Pommard and Wadenswil clones of Pinot Noir were planted and the winery was finished a few years later near Dundee, the winery has become one of the most celebrated Pinot Noir producers in the United States.

In the words of John Paul, proprietor of Dundee-based Cameron Winery, who spoke briefly at the IPNC seminar, “Veronique and her family brought the legitimacy that the Oregon wine industry really needed.”

Domaine Drouhin 2014 Roserock Zephirine, Eola-Amity Hills / $60 – 97 pts
Although it’s a relatively new planting on the southern edge of the exciting Eola-Amity Hills appellation, winemaker Veronique Drouhin-Boss loves the possibility of this new DDO estate vineyard. The quality of the fruit shows in this new release, which is from the warm vintage of 2014. Rich, supple and concentrated, the wine starts with attractive aromas of dark fruits, potpourri, fresh tea leafs, blood orange peel and licorice. The flavors are equally deep, with deep notes of black plum, raspberry, wild strawberry, red cherry, mineral, chewy tannins, structure and layers of savory spice on the finish.

Domaine Drouhin 2012 Cuvée Laurene, Dundee Hills / $70 – 96 pts
Soft, subtle and graceful. Lovely aromas of ripe red fruits, cola, earth tones and baking spice. Lively flavors of dark cherry, wild berries, plum, cocoa, fresh sage and forest floor. Overall, elegance and finesse from start to finish, with the structure and natural verve showing with more time in the glass. A classic signature of the DDO style.

Theory Kitchen Founder Visits Robert Mondavi Winery, July 26th

Robert Mondavi Winery is planning a very special dinner on Wednesday, July 26th: Their illustrious winery Chef Jeff Mosher will be collaborating with rising star culinarian, 23-year-old Chef Theo Friedman, to prepare a fabulous, one of a kind, wine pairing dinner.

Spotlight on Emerging Chef Series –
Dinner with Chef Theo Friedman

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
6:30 pm to 10:00 pm

 

Theo has taken the NY culinary scene by storm with his inventive cuisine since recently graduating from Tufts University.  Theory Kitchen, featuring his recurring pop up dinners have been dubbed among “The 5 Most Amazing Underground Dining Experiences in America” by Vogue Magazine and his talents have been chronicled in publications such as the Village Voice, The Boston Globe and TimeOut, among others.

Purchase your tickets online or call (888) 766-6328, ext. 2

The Incredible Wineries at Telluride Wine Festival!

Thank yous go all around to these amazing people for coming to Telluride, sharing their wines and making it a great experience for me and the wine lovers in attendance!  Such spectacular memories, many more than in the pictures below.

  • Bob Iantosca of Gloria Ferrer
  • Dave Phillips of Michael David
  • James MacPhail of The Calling
  • Julia Iantosca of Lasseter Family Winery
  • Lise & Vincent Ciolino of Montemaggiore
  • Michael McCullough of Drew Family Wines
  • Mike Sullivan of Benovia
  • Randall Watkins of Laurel Glen
  • Ryan Solis of Kunde
  • Tres Goetting of Robert Biale Vineyards
twf12
20170624_154449
20170624_160117
twf16

Clockwise: Bob pours Brut at the Sunday Brunch; Tres shares his wares at the Grand Tasting; Some delicious selections from The Calling; On the town with Ryan, Mike, Randall taking an obligatory selfie!

nadia3
20170624_150927
20170622_094600
20170622_121404

Clockwise: Myself, Lise, Nadia the Somm and Dave at the Trending Now Lunch; Some Rodney Strong & Davis Bynum at the Grand Tasting; The beautiful view of Mountain Village; The first event, Precious Bites Luncheon with Julia, Bob, Mike and myself.

Countdown to Telluride Wine Festival, June 22-25

Wines are arriving, travel plans stirring, stomachs rumbling for the big event next week! If you are not coming be sure to follow the adventures on social media, but virtual is nothing like the reality of those gorgeous mountains, delicious wines and elegant meals.  Hope you will all be joining me there!
Cheers! Christopher

Hosting a seminar at the Telluride Wine Festival 2016.
twf-sign
ovilleeastwine
twfglasses

Get your tickets to Festival of Albariño, June 16-17!

A cool event in a hot climate!   At the Festival of Albariño in Paso Robles, you will get to interact with as many winemakers as possible from these low-production wineries on the Central Coast.

Three events at three different venues:
-The seminar at Derby Winery in historic downtown Paso Robles, moderated by Doug Wilder of Purely Domestic Wine Report
-Grand Tasting of over 25 different Albarinos at Broken Earth Winery.
-The dinner Friday night at Brecon is limited to only 46 people, with a few places still available. Pairings of Albariños with a gourmet menu.

Get tickets while you can!

Balletto Vineyard Winemaker’s Dinner on June 8th

Join me for our inaugural wine dinner at Gravenstein Grill featuring Balletto Vineyards & Winery.  I am hosting the event with winemaker Anthony Beckman, pairing Balleto wines with an incredible menu by Bob Simontacchi, sure to entice and delight any palate! 

Seating is limited so call 707-634-6142 or email brandon@gravensteingrill.com now, to guarantee your spot! 

Judging at Concours Mondial in Spain 2017!

Just finished this amazing competition in the spectacular city of Valladolid, Spain and on the way home now. Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is the only touring competition in the world: Next year? China!

This year over 9080 wines from 50 countries competed for a Silver, Gold, and Grand Gold Medals. Two new categories, for old vintage and organic wines, were introduced this year.

Check out the 2017 Concours Mondial results next week at: http://results.concoursmondial.com

Epic view from the Penafiel Castle we visited in the famous winegrowing area of Ribera del Duero D.O., which is an hour away the provincial city of Valladolid, where we are staying in the Castilla y Lyon region of Spain.
Epic view from the Penafiel Castle we visited in the famous winegrowing area of Ribera del Duero D.O., which is an hour away the provincial city of Valladolid, where we are staying in the Castilla y Lyon region of Spain.
#SawyerSelfieDeluxe with my fellow American wine judges at the Concours Mondail de Bruxelles International Wine Competition (from left): Master Sommelier Robin O'Conner; Wine Business Monthly Assistant Editor Eric Kirschenmann; Wine Guru/Sommelier Charlie Arturaola of Grappolo Blu, Inc; Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen of the Wine Enthusiast/World Wine Guys.
#SawyerSelfieDeluxe with my fellow American wine judges at the Concours Mondail de Bruxelles International Wine Competition (from left): Master Sommelier Robin O’Conner; Wine Business Monthly Assistant Editor Eric Kirschenmann; Wine Guru/Sommelier Charlie Arturaola of Grappolo Blu, Inc; Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen of the Wine Enthusiast/World Wine Guys.

Try out my new Wine List at Gravenstein Grill!

The amazing halibut dish!  See more food porn below.
The amazing halibut dish! See more food porn below.

If you find your way out to Sebastopol, then be sure to stop by The Gravenstein Grill, located at 8050 Bodega Avenue in Sebastopol!  It recently opened with food by star chef Bob Simontacchi of Brick & Bottle fame.

My family and I have already sampled their menu a few times with of course fabulous wines, but there is a spacious bar with hand-crafted cocktails, and Sonoma County’s famous micro-brews to experience as well.  Looking forward to finer weather to enjoy cool sips at the outdoor patio.

Check out the Menu & make your reservation!  Restaurant opens at 5pm, the bar at 4pm; Both close at 9:30, and until 10pm Friday & Saturday (closed Tuesday).  (707) 634-6142

Hope to see you there! Christopher

ggdinner
ggsoup
ggsalad
ggsign

Astoria, Oregon Crab & Wine Fest! April 28-30

If only I could be in two places . . . why my obscure obsession with the coast of Oregon? Because I lived there of course! In Astoria to be exact, for two years of my High School career. A place that is still warm to my heart as well as the memories of delicious sea food. While I will be returning this summer for the many-year HS reunion, perhaps there are others that can be there this weekend for the official 35th Annual Astoria Warrenton Crab, Sea Food & Wine Festival. Running Friday April 28 through Sunday April 30th, swing by and enjoy if you happen to be in north west Oregon!

The friendly representation of Sweet Cheeks Winery at the 2015 festival!
The friendly representation of Sweet Cheeks Winery at the 2015 festival!