Just a short note to say online ticket sales ends this Friday April 20th! I will be there enjoying the stellar wines and company. Some availability already SOLD OUT so get them while you can. If not sold out, tickets to the Opening and Closing Tastings will be available at the door for $10 more. All other tickets must be purchased in advance.
P.S. I Love You!
Yes, YOU, but also Petite Sirah! Next weekend on Sunday March 18th get ready for the P. S. I Love You event put on by the Petite Sirah Advocacy Organization at the Culinary Institute of America’s COPIA campus in Napa.
The Petite Masters class that I will be leading is already sold out and the tickets to the public tasting that will follow are moving fast. So get yours TICKETS asap!
To start off the new year in style, below is the second segment of my notes and reviews of the top Oregon Rieslings I tasted in the second half of 2017. Most of these wines were originally tasted at Nick’s Restaurant in McMinnville, following the conclusion of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). Besides myself and a small group of wine writers and sommeliers; other people at this event included Oregon Riesling Alliance (ORA) members Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery and Sheila Nicholas of Anam Cara Cellars, as well as Sally Murdoch of the Oregon Wine Board.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to taste the new releases in 2018. But if you feel intrigued by travel to the Oregon wine country to sample these wines over the next few months, I certainly recommend that you do! For more information about the Oregon Riesling Alliance and the upcoming Oregon Riesling Revival events, visit www.oregonriesling.net and www.oregonwine.com.
Airlie 2016 Dry Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley. $20 / 93 pts
Known for its portfolio of hand-crafted boutique wines, this new release from the Corvallis-based Airlie Winery reflects the passion for Riesling shared by winemaker Elizabeth Clark and proprietor Mary Olson. Bright and elegant, this stylish medium-body wine opens up with alluring scents of ripe melons, honeysuckle, celery salt and fresh flowers. On the palate, flavors of green apple, lemongrass, cantaloupe, mineral and white pepper are balanced with a pleasurable combination of silky texture, crisp acidity, and a dry finish. www.airliewinery.com
Airlie 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $16 / 88 pts
Intriguing scents of candied pineapple, lime, wild herbs and earth tones. Distinct flavors of ripe melons, citrus and hints of ginger and white soy leading to an acidic sensation that creates a tasty wine that is crisp, playful, and refreshing. Great buy for the price. www.airliewinery.com
Anam Cara 2014 Riesling, Nicholas Estate, Chehalem Mountains. $22 / 92 pts
Located near Newberg, Nicolas Estate has emerged as one of the great Riesling vineyards of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Modeled after the classic medium-dry style Rieslings crafted in Germany and the Alsace region of France; the 2014 vintage was made with fruit from the original acre of vines developed by proprietors Sheila and Nick Nicholas in 2001 and a separate two-acre parcel on the estate that was planted in 2008. Big, bright and lively, the wine features attractive aromas of Meyer lemon, ripe quince, honeysuckle and a freshly opened jar of macadamia nut. In the glass, the citrus-driven flavors of fresh grapefruit, lime, lemon curd, sweet tarts, mineral and tangy acidity create a complex profile and a persistent finish. Pure refreshment in every sip. www.anamcaracellars.com
Aram Cara 2013 Riesling, Nicolas Estate, Estate Grown, Chehalem Mountains – $22 / 93 pts
Dynamic aromas of wild flowers, ripe stone fruits, melon, citrus and petrol. On the palate, the crisp and refreshing flavors of Anjou pear, green apple, cantaloupe and fresh quince are complimented with citrusy sensations of ripe lime and Meyer lemon, a hint of raw honey, and a long zesty finish. This wine recieved a Gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which I judged as well. Therefore, besides being an instant crowd-pleaser; it is also very youthful and a great example of a Riesling that gets more elegant over time. www.aramcaracellars.com
Argyle 2015 Spirithouse Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley – $35 / 91 pts
As part of the Master Series at Argyle Winery, this flavorful, limited-release gem is made with fruit from the winery’s Lone Star Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. To preserve the fresh and expressive flavors, the wine is fermented to dry and aged in neutral barrels. Delicate, with a beautiful light straw hue. The perfumed nose is filled with lively scents of spring flowers, ripe fruits, chamomile tea and fresh herbs. On the palate, the core flavors of ripe melon, white peach and lychee are balanced with a brilliant combination of elegant texture, tangy acidity, and long, dry finish. Refreshing, graceful and very food-friendly. Only 200 cases made. www.argylewine.com
Argyle 2015 Riesling, Nuthouse Vineyard, Estate Grown, Eola-Amity Hills – $30 / 88 pts
Crafted with fruit from three special blocks at the Nuthouse Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this small-production Riesling was aged in 80% stainless steel and 20% neutral barrels. On the nose, the senses are energized with concentrated notes of exotic fruits, lemongrass, raw coconut, macadamia nuts and overall freshness. On the palate, distinctive notes of pineapple, cantaloupe and coconut are lifted with a lively mouthfeel, crisp acidity, and a spicy finish to heighten the experience. www.argylewine.com
Brandborg 2015 Riesling, Elkton Valley, Oregon – $16 / 92 pts
For a flavorful selection from Southern Oregon, try this new release from Brandborg Vineyards and Winery. This unique wine is a blend of premiere fruit from the Bradley Vineyard and the Anindor Vineyard, which are planted near the small farming community of Elkton and the Umpqua River in 1983. The Elkton clone, featured at both sites, is named after Ken Thomason Elkton, who planted the original Riesling vines in this charming region in 1972. On the nose, the wine features floral aromas of fresh jasmine, magnolia blossom, chamomile tea, lemongrass, honey and ripe tree fruits. In the glass, the medium-bodied flavors of pineapple, tangerine, exotic melon, lime, cucumber and spicy notes are masterfully integrated with a rich, round and waxy texture, a burst of crisp acidity, and a long tangy finish. www.brandborgwine.com.
Brooks 2016 Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley – $20 / 93 pts Crafted with mature vines and a variety of intriguing Riesling clones planted in a special selection of microclimates and classic Willamette Valley soils; this bright, cheery and provocative wine offers abundant aromas of fresh wildflowers, white peach, apricot, fresh citrus, and lingering hints of petrol, beeswax and orange blossom. In the glass, the energetic fruit notes of ripe peach, white cherry and exotic melon are accented with layers of spicy and a bone-dry finish. Dry, classy and complex. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 Riesling, Ingram Lane Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills – $26 / 94 pts
Developed by Bethel Heights Winery in 2008, the Ingram Lane Vineyard is planted in the signature volcanic soils of the Eola-Amity Hills. As a true interpretation of the site, this new release immediately leaps out of the glass with fresh floral aromas interlaced with vibrant notes of ripe stone fruits, zesty citrus, wild herbs, mineral, and spiced nuts. These delights continue on the palate with persistent flavors of green apple, papaya, tangy grapefruit, fresh lime, tangerine peel and clove, intertwined with crisp acidity, natural verve, and a rich, silky texture. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 ARA Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley – $38 / 96 pts
Although the “ARA” Riesling is named for the Alter constellation; here on earth, it’s really more of a “statement” wine focused on crafting a world-class Riesling with flavorful fruit from old vines and two classic soil types of Willamette Valley: volcanic basalt and marine sediment. In the glass, this enticing blend opens up with dazzling aromas of ripe stone fruits, melon, fresh citrus, wild herbs, and sea smoke. On the palate, the core flavors of ripe apple, pear and peach are accented with citrusy notes of lemon, lime, grapefruit, mineral and a kiss of oak. As these flavors expand, spicy notes emerge with underpinnings of crisp acidity and a long, graceful finish. Overall, a terrific introduction to the wonders of Oregon Riesling, and a great domestic brand to follow if you love Riesling. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 Sweet P Riesling, Willamette Valley – $28 / 92 pts
Sweet P is a shortened version of the endearing nickname winery founder Jimi Brooks called his son, Pascal. Therefore, to preserve the purity of fruit, high acidity and the youthful attributes associated with mature vines planted on special sites, this medium-dry Riesling is fermented without the addition of yeast. The result is a complex wine that starts with heady aromas of white flowers, fresh melon, citrus and peach, enlivened with subtle nuances of honeysuckle and tangerine blossom. From there, the ripe and fleshy flavors of passionfruit, tangerine, white peach and Casaba melon mingle with spicy notes of ginger, cardamom and pumpkin spice. To add more depth, the layers of sweetness are balanced with refreshing acidity to create a fresh, vibrant finish that makes you want more. Pair with fresh cheeses, prosciutto & melon, spicy dishes, and savory tarts. www.brookswine.com
Chehalem 2015 Three Vineyards, Willamette Valley. $20 / 92 pts
Reminiscent of high-class Rieslings from the Old World with an Oregon twist, the Chehalem Three Vineyards Riesling is designed around capturing the complex flavors of three distinct estate vineyards—Stoller, Ridgecrest and Corral Creek—inside each bottle. This new release features fragrant floral aromas of jasmine, lemongrass, candied ginger, exotic fruits and slate. In the glass, the crisp and youthful flavors of green apple, sweet mango, papaya and accents of mineral and spice lead to an amiable sweet and tangy finish. The end result is a well-balanced wine that offers instant refreshment of the palate and lively flavors that pair nicely with a wide range of fresh cuisine. Terrific. www.chehalemwine.com
Chehalem 2015 Riesling, Corral Creek Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains $25 / 93 pts
Although he was not part of the original group of pioneers that planted the first Riesling vines in Willamette Valley in the 1970s, Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery has been one of the key leaders of the resurgence of Oregon Riesling movement over the past fifteen years. From the best blocks on the families Corral Creek Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, this fantastic new offering features tropical aromas interlaced with dazzling notes of candied fruit, honeysuckle, kerosene and wet stones. As the wine opens up, the complex flavors of white peach, poached pear, papaya, exotic melon and kiss of honey are balanced with a rich, smooth and viscous texture, zippy acidity, and a long, refreshing finish. In short, a dazzling example of a Oregon Riesling with a true sense of place in every sip. www.chehalemwine.com
Chehalem 2015 Riesling, Wind Ridge Block, Ribbon Ridge. $25 / 93 pts
As the name suggests, the Wind Ridge Block is located in a very windy section of the Ridgecrest Estate Vineyard, a high-elevation site in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. For that reason, the berries have a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity when they are picked. From the warm 2015 vintage, this new release with lofty floral aromas and generous flavors of candied mango, papaya and tangerine peel are further enhanced with underlying notes of fresh herbs, spice, mineral, and a long, seamless finish. Delicious now, the wine will continue to develop for years to come. www.chehalemwine.com
Cristom 2016 Riesling, Tunkalilla Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills – $22 / 96 pts
Situated next to one of the classic Cristom Pinot Noir vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA; the Riesling blocks at the Tunkalilla Vineyard were developed by Brian and Ann Crosen in 2005. On the nose, this new release features fragrant floral aromas, accented with hints of ripe melons, beeswax, mineral and wild herbs. As the wine opens up, the lovely flavors of ripe peach, melon, golden delicious apple, raw coconut and citrus rind become more complex, concentrated and tangy. The end result is a world-class Riesling that is sophisticated, sexy, and definitely worth exploring in more detail. www.cristomvineyards.com
Elk Cove 2016 Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley – $19 / 93 pts
Crafted by talented winemaker Adam Campbell and the staff at Elk Cove Winery, near the quaint hamlet of Gaston in the northwestern segment of Willamette Valley; this elegant, food-friendly wine opens up with enticing aromas of fresh stone fruits, wild sage, honeysuckle, mineral and lime. The flavor profile is packed with lively notes of tart apple, ripe pineapple, candied mango, green tea, white pepper and fresh acidity, leading to a long crisp and refreshing finish. An easy Riesling to fall in love with—especially for the price. www.elkcove.com
Lemelson Vineyards 2015 Dry Riesling, Estate Grown, Willamette Valley – $19 / 91 pts
Made with the fruit from the certified organic Meyer Vineyard on the hillside above Dundee, this dazzling new release from Lemelson Vineyards features aromas of lemon zest, dried flowers, ginger and ripe stone fruits. On the palate, the ripe and enchanting flavors of crisp green apple, tart pear and ripe pineapple are accented with notes of fresh lemon, Kaffir lime, mineral and a burst of racy acidity leading to a lean, dry finish. In addition to drinking great on its own; this is also a great wine to pair with fruit-based salads, shellfish, Vietnamese cuisine, and other delicate dishes. Great value too. www.lemelsonvineyards.com
Love and Squalor 2014 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $20 / 86 pts
Need to get in touch with mother nature? If so, try this deep, vibrant and mature wine from Portland Wine Company. Made with premium fruit from older Riesling vines, this intriguing wine starts off with fresh and funky aromas of waxy fruits, dried flowers, lemongrass and tart citrus. In the glass, the flavor profile is anchored with ripe tropical fruits, mango, papaya and jack-o-fruit, as well as sweet and tangy notes lemon drops and key lime pie. While this creative wine is a departure from the more bright and fresh styles of Oregon Rieslings, it definitely offers plenty of personality, intensity and plenty of dense flavors that are tart and savory, instead of sweet and cloying. Pair with gourmet salads with tangy dressings, grilled veggies, stuffed mushrooms, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, roasted goat, and other styles of spicy cuisine. www.portlandwinecompany.com
Love and Squalor 2014 Sunnyside Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $20 / 85 pts
From the famed Sunnyside Vineyard planted near Salem in 1971; this stately single-vineyard designate wine opens up with vibrant notes of sweet and sour fruits, ripe citrus, earth, and exotic flowers. The flavor profile is layered with ripe stone fruits, raw sugar cane, honey and fresh herbs. Austere, intriguing, and an interesting pairing to try with rich cheeses, fresh mussels and fine Asian cuisine. Only 25 cases made. www.portlandwinecompany.com
Ponzi 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $22 / 92 pts
Representing the 45-year anniversary of Ponzi Vineyard, one of the pioneer brands of Willamette Valley; the Ponzi 2015 Riesling is a true charmer to the senses. On the nose, the beauty and natural energy of this wine comes through with vibrant notes of ripe stone fruits, fresh jasmine, fresh herbs, tangy citrus and graphite. While zesty flavors of white peach, ripe apricot, lemon and tart lime pie provide the fruit core, the fresh acidity and delicate texture carry through to a long, satisfying finish. Fresh, elegant and full-bodied, it’s a great Riesling to serve with goat cheese, fresh seafood, and richer, spicier dishes. www.ponzivineyards.com
Rain Dance 2016 Estate Riesling, Nicholas Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains. $22 / 89 pts
Taste-tempting scents of white flowers, ripe fruits, melon and lemongrass lead to refreshing flavors of ripe apple, lime and grapefruit, creamy texture, and lingering finish. Fun, fresh and approachable. www.raindancevineyards.com.
Yamhill Valley 2014 Riesling, McMinnville – $18 / 91 pts
The original Riesling blocks at Yamhill Valley Vineyards near McMinnville were planted on their own roots in 1983 and 1985. Therefore, as this wine deliciously demonstrates, there are advantages to having mature vines. As a very approachable medium-bodied Riesling, the flavors are framed with charming aromas of magnolia blossom, fresh cantaloupe, lemon and delicate Asian spices. Ripe, lively and expressive flavors of apple, tangerine, mango and lemon are balanced with a succession of sweet, tangy and creamy nuances leading to a clean finish. Lovely, complete, and convincing to the very last drop. www.yamhill.com
As much as I enjoy writing about new wine trends, I’m always happy to hear about the resurgence of classic grape varieties that suddenly come back in style after years of being overlooked. One of the exciting cases in point is the recent Oregon Riesling Revival.
With a rich history dating back over 2,000 years, this noble white grape is known for its fragrant aromas, complex flavors, and a wide range of stylish world-class wines crafted with varying levels of sweetness, bright acidity, and balance. After gaining notoriety in Germany, the love for this grape spread to Austria and the Alsace region of France before becoming a very productive varietal planted in premiere winegrowing regions in the New World over the past century.
In Oregon, it’s a journey that began when University of California Davis graduate Richard Sommer planted the first Riesling vines in the Umpqua Valley near Rosenburg in 1961. A few years after Sommer released the debut of the 1963 Riesling under his Hillcrest Vineyards label, a new series of pioneer winegrowers began planting the varietal further north in the cool climate region of Willamette Valley.
In the 1970s, this trend was helped along by the growing popularity of sweet wines in the US marketplace. As a result, Riesling accounted for nearly a quarter of Oregon’s total wine production by the early 1980s. But when the focus began to shift toward the exciting new plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris later that decade, a large percentage of Riesling and other aromatic white grapes like Gewurztraminer, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Blanc were either pulled out or the fruit was used to make simple white wines or sold on the bulk market.
Around fifteen years ago, the rebirth of the varietal in Oregon began when a new wave of vintners, growers and winemakers with a passion for Riesling banded together and eventually formed the Oregon Riesling Alliance. In 2009, my first encounter with this energetic group came when vintner Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery, a ORA member, invited me and Master of Wine/Master Sommelier Doug Frost to a secret pop-up dinner at the luxurious Joel Palmer House in the quaint town of Dayton in Willamette Valley. Since there was no discussion about the theme of the dinner and the event happened on the eve of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, Doug and I were convinced that the seven winemakers participating in the dinner would bring their latest Pinot Noir gems to share with us. Therefore, we were very excited when the mysterious wines hidden in brown bags turned out to be magnificent offerings of fine local Rieslings. On top of that, we were able to taste these finely-crafted wines along with delicious dishes created by rising star Chef Christopher Czarnecki, who had just taken over his family’s business at the Joel Palmer House in 2008. Needless to say, it was an enlightening evening that Doug and I will never forget!
For these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to say that the Oregon Riesling movement has gained much more momentum since that memorable night. Furthermore, the restoration of old vineyards and the development of new sites has resulted in the increase of Riesling vines planted in the state to 749 acres, with more room to grow. Better yet, with the help of better farming practices and access to a wider range of Riesling clones from Germany, France, Italy and Argentina, the quality to fruit is at its highest level as well.
Same is true in the cellars, where a growing number of Oregon producers are now using a new series of innovative techniques to capture the character of the grapes and pure expressions of the vineyards in the finished wines. This attention to detail includes everything from picking the fruit at higher levels of acidity and less sweetness; using more native yeasts and controlling the temperature during fermentation; preserving fresh, fruity flavors and adding more texture to the finished blends with the use of stainless steel tanks, neutral oak barrels, larger barrels or puncheons and concrete eggs; and keeping the best lots separate to make more limited-release single-vineyard designate wines. While the majority of these hip, modern-style of Oregon Rieslings are dry or medium-dry; there are plenty of tasty offerings of medium sweet and sweeter styles that balanced instead of being too sugary or cloying.
With these thoughts in mind, below is Part 1 of my list of favorite Oregon Rieslings I’ve tasted over the past six months. Besides being crisp, clean, elegant and very food-friendly, the affordable price points of $16-$36 make these wines that much more tempting, and another reason to visit the great winegrowing regions of Oregon!
#SawyerSomm: Thrilling Oregon Rieslings of 2017, Part I
More than any white grape varietal, the flavor profile of a well-made Riesling can offer a true sense of place. That is especially true in Willamette Valley, the well-respected winegrowing region south and southwest of Portland, which encompasses a wide array of microclimates, soil types and elevations that can produce very distinctive flavors. A few months ago, the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon Riesling Alliance were nice enough to provided me and a handful of other wine writers with a rare opportunity to sit down with four passionate winemakers/proprietors—Lynn Penner-Ash of Penner-Ash Winery, Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Wines, Bryan Weil of Alexana Wines, and our gracious host James Frey of Trisaetum Vineyards and Gallery in Newberg, OR—to taste through a stylish assortment of world-class wines they make with Riesling grapes grown in Willamette Valley. Here is a collection of the “#SawyerSommReviews from that fantastic experience.
Penner-Ash 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $24 / 93 pts
Following her love for Riesling, gifted winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash made this elegant white wine with pristine fruit from a series of well-respected vineyards located in the northern section of Willamette Valley. In the glass, the personality of these special sites come through with attractive scents ripe pear, orange blossom, oolong tea, ginger and fresh honey. On the palate, the gracious flavors of ripe pear, green apple, apricot and pineapple are underscored with crisp acidity, creamy texture, and hints of spice leading to a lip-smacking finish. Clean, crisp, elegant and dry, it’s a rockstar Riesling that over-delivers for the price.
Penner-Ash 2015 Old Vine Riesling, Hyland Vineyard, McMinnville – $35 / 96 pts
With 200 acres of vines planted at 600-800 feet in the foothills of the Coastal Range near Dundee, the Hylands Estate is one of the largest and most historic vineyard sites in Oregon. Lynn Penner-Ash is one of a handful of winemakers lucky enough to work with the Riesling blocks that were planted on a unique outcropping of ancient basalt soil in 1971. On the nose, the terroir-driven aromas of fresh gardenia flowers, ripe stone fruits, lychee and zesty citrus are enhanced with intriguing notes of orange peel, honeycomb, juniper berries and savory spices. In the glass, the delicious flavors of ripe white peach, Anjou pear, key lime pie, ginger snaps, mineral and roasted hazelnuts are balanced with a brilliant combination of silky texture, tangy acidity, great length, and a seamless finish. Elegant, refined and ageworthy. This is a great representative of the Oregon Riesling heritage and the priceless personality of a special site, all in one!
Alexana 2016 Estate Riesling, Revana Vineyard, Dundee Hills – $32 / 95 pts
Located in the Dundee Hills appellation, the Revana Estate is home to 55 acres of vineyards planted in a unique mixture of sedimentary silt and stones; volcanic stone and clay; and bedrock comprised of sedimentary and basalt below the surface. This new release of the Alexana 2016 Estate Riesling comes from a three-acre parcel on the south-east corner of the property, which provides plenty of cool breezes in the afternoon that help preserve the natural acidity in the berries. The result is a lovely aromatic gem with alluring scents of freshly picked stone fruits, honeysuckle, fresh lime zest, wet stones, and a hint of kerosene. In the mouth, the thirsty-quenching notes of green apple, lychee, lemon and grapefruit are balanced with a rich texture, structure, and a long, crisp and tangy finish. www.alexanawinery.com
Trisaetum 2016 Estate Riesling, Ribbon Ridge – $32 / 96 pts
With captivating scents of ripe tropical fruits, fresh citrus, honeycomb, tangerine blossom and sandstone, there is no doubt this is a lively and complex Riesling from the moment it hits the glass. On the palate, expressive flavors of ripe guava, papaya, lemon-lime and fresh quince are integrated with layers of subtle spices, creamy texture, and a tingly, mineral-driven finish. Flavorful and sophisticated, it’s a wine that gets better with more time in the glass and the cellar. www.trisaetum.com.
Trisaetum 2016 Estate Riesling, Wichmann Vineyard, Dundee Hills – $32 / 93 pts
Guided by smooth texture, natural acidity and a touch of sweetness; this elegant Riesling opens up with lofty aromas of fresh white flowers, ripe melons and candied fruits layered with attractive hints of honeysuckle, lemon verbena, white pepper and wet stones. These dazzling notes carry over to the palate, where sophisticated flavors of ripe pineapple, tangerine, mango and Meyer lemon lead to a long, dry finish that makes you want more. Lip-smacking goodness in every sip! www.trisaetum.com.
Trisaetum 2016 Coast Range Estate Dry Riesling, Yamhill-Carlton – $32 / 94 pts
Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the vines at Trisaetum Coast Range Estate are planted on old volcanic soils dating back 45 million years. Therefore, the character of the site immediately pops with mineral-driven aromas interweaved with more fragrant notes of spring flowers, citrus and fresh stone fruits. On the palate, delicious flavors of white peach, poached pear, papaya and raw honey are balanced with a burst of perky acidity, a touch of French oak, and a bone-dry finish. Great presence from start to finish. www.trisaetum.com.
Montinore 2015 Reserve Riesling, Montinore Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $22 / 93 pts
From the Montinore Estate, a Demeter Certified Biodynamic vineyard near Forest Grove, comes the latest offering of the winery’s Reserve Riesling. With a lovely light golden hue, this complex wine opens up with fragrant scents of exotic fruits and zesty citrus mixed with more savory nuances of wild herbs, green olive and anise. In the glass, the tangy, fruit-driven flavors of ripe peach, passionfruit, fresh guava, grapefruit and lemon harmonize with hints of fresh thyme, forest floor, and spicy accents. Sassy, savory and oh so refreshing! www.montinore.com
Montinore 2015 Riesling Sweet Reserve, Montinore Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $18 / 91 pts
If you are looking for a little sweetness in your Riesling, Montimore has you covered! On the nose, this medium-sweet wine is brimming with aromatic notes of ripe tropical fruits, candied pineapple, fresh lime, beeswax and spring flowers. The core flavors of crisp apple, fresh lychee, ripe peach and lemon are punctuated with hints fresh ginger, mineral, and savory spices. Sweet, but perfectly balanced with bright acidity and a soft, graceful texture. www.montinore.com
Stay tuned for Part II of my
Oregon Riesling reviews for 2017!
Plan a great day to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County! Pinot On The River is a fun filled weekend event , in the delightful Russian River Valley town of Healdsburg. Visit with winemakers and fellow Pinot-lovers to focus on limited production West Coast Pinot Noirs.
The Sunday October 22nd Pinot Noir Grand Tasting, will have over 100 wineries plus guest Artisan Food Vendors on the downtown Healdsburg Plaza Square. Get your tickets HERE!
As the glowing colors of summer change to the brilliant hues of autumn, it seems rather fitting that August 31 represented International Cabernet Sauvignon Day and the last official day of the extremely successful Washington State Wine Month. Twenty years ago, if you would have mentioned Washington State, my mind probably would have focused on vivid images of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, Pike’s Market, Pugent Sound, loud grunge rock songs and SubPop records, roasted coffee beans, some hip micro-breweries on the rise, and a maybe a handful of popular Riesling and Merlot releases from big wine brands like Chateau St. Michelle and Hogue Cellars.
Today, the interest in the state has shifted dramatically. For beyond the well-known revenue-generating companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and the Seattle Seahawks, Washington has earned a reputation for its wide range of fresh seafood coming from the coast; the hot new “farm to table” styles of fine cuisine born in the Seattle area; and the fact that the state has become the nation’s top producers of hops, apples, and other yummy agricultural products primarily grown in the warmer zones east of the Cascade Mountains.
Luckily, these risks-meet-rewards scenarios have paid off for the Washington wine industry too. This exciting new growth has been led by the expansion of vineyards planted in the Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain and the other ten appellations located within the borders of the state over the past two decades. As a result, Washington now ranks #2 in the nation, behind only California, in terms of production of fine wines.
While it’s true that Merlot vineyards led the first wave of large-scale plantings in the 1980s and 1990s, the more recent focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre has helped diversify the styles of wine being made by producers, both big and boutique, who now call Washington State home. Therefore, as the strength of the great sites began to shine, the real turning point came when the winemakers began to put more emphasis on crafting more elegant and refined styles.
A person who watched these transitions happen is veteran winemaker Charlie Hoppes, who started making wine for Chateau St. Michelle and young brands like Snoqualmie, Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge in the early 1990s. After joining forces with the Antinori family of Tuscany to help make some of the early vintages of the highly-touted Col Solare wines from 1995 to 1998, Hoppes went on to start started his own brand Fidelitas in 2000. Since then, he has gone on to make a wide range of Cabernet and Merlot-based wines with fruit from revered sites that include the Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, Quintessence Vineyard, and vines planted on his own estate property in the Red Mountain appellation.
This harvest will be Hoppes’s 30th vintage in Washington. From the soil to each bottle he produces, Hoppes says his goal has always been to produce world-class wines with unique flavors. For that reason, he sees great opportunities for red grapes to flourish even more in Red Mountain and the greater Columbia Valley.
“As the vines mature, we’ve started to grow more ultra-premium red grapes that have that true Washington character. For these reasons, it’s great to see other wineries using more artisan winemaking practices to let the flavors speak for themselves.”
With these thoughts in mind, below is a list of some of my favorite picks of Cabernets, Merlots, and Bordeaux-style or Proprietary blends that I’ve tasted over the past year. Stay tuned for my upcoming article on Rhone style wines from Washington State this fall too. In the meantime, for more information about these fantastic styles of wine, upcoming events and travel ideas; check out the Washington State Wine Commission Website, www.washingtonwine.org.
Maryhill 2014 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $20 / 90 pts
Family-owned and operated since 1999, Maryhill was the Winery of the Year at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2014. While they are known for their silky smooth Merlot and many other specialty wines available in restaurants and retail shops across America; one of their small production gems is the 2014 Cabernet Franc, which was made with pristine fruit from the Tudor Hills Vineyard (89%) and Gunkel Vineyard (11%). Accented with fragrant notes of ripe berries, rose petals, cinnamon and clove, the profile is highlighted with vibrant notes of red currant, blueberry, licorice, chocolate, roasted nuts, and layers of spice at the end. Pleasurable on the palate and a compliment to with grilled veggies, pasta, and roasted meats. Great American version of Cabernet Franc, especially for the price! www.maryhillwinery.com.
L’Ecole No 41 2014 Merlot, Estate Grown, Walla Walla Valley $36 / 92 pts
From the time Marty and Megan Clubb produced their inaugural release of Merlot in 1983 to the present, L’Ecole No. 41 has earned a reputation for crafting wines with a brilliant balance of power, elegance and finesse. In keeping with the tradition of being one of Washington State’s top Merlot producers, this new release was made with world-class grapes grown on the hallowed estate grounds at Seven Hills Vineyard and Ferguson Vineyard. Once the cork is popped, the wine soothes the senses with alluring whiffs of dark fruits, allspice, dried lavender and earth tones. The flavors are equally generous with lavish tastes of ripe plum, black cherry, pomegranate, supple texture, and a burst of tangy acidity leading to a long, reward finish. www.lecole.com.
Amavi Cellars 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley $33 / 92 pts
As a special side project Pepper Bridge, one of the pioneer wineries of Washinton State and Walla Walla Valley, a selection of special sites and gifted Swiss Winemaker/Partner Jean-Francois Pellet; this scrumptious new release is made with Cabernet and smaller fractions of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec from a set of sustainably farmed estate vineyards: Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Summit View, Les Collines, Octave and Goff. With the use of only 24% new oak barrels, this wine is bursting at the seams with fresh aromas of red and black fruits, cocoa, baking spices, and toasted hazelnuts. On the palate, the dynamic flavors expand with vibrant notes of ripe blackberry, black raspberry, dark cherry, fresh plum and pepper, complimented with velvety tannins and a long, smooth finish. Charming, sophisticated and very food-friendly, it’s a great Cabernet to pair with fine cheeses, grilled veggies, fresh pasta with wild mushrooms, grilled meats and sausages, and savory stews. One of the finest 2014 releases I’ve tasted for under $35 per bottle. One again, proving that quality and price do matter!
Woodward Canyon 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series #22, Columbia Valley $59 / 94 pts
If you are looking for a sophisticated red wine to share with close friends, family or to simply age in the cellar, then I would suggest getting your hands on some bottles of the Woodward Canyon Artist Series. Located next to the historic L’Ecole No. 42 Schoolhouse and near the quaint town of Lowden in Walla Walla Valley; the proprietors of Woodward Canyon started making this special series of red wines in the 1990s. When I visited the winery at the conclusion of the 2016 harvest, I got to taste the 2013 Artist Series #22, which is made with the high-quality fruit from the estate and other distinguished sites that include Champoux Vineyard, Sagemoor Vineyard, Charbonneau, Discovery, Spring Creek and Summit View. Ensconced with a stylish label featuring a provocative modern painting by local artist Diana Wooley; this gorgeous bottle contains a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Past the lofty aromas of dark fruits, black olive, licorice and a hint of smoke; the concentrated flavors of ripe blackberries, dark plums, currants and fresh cranberries are integrated masterfully with notes of fresh herbs and spicy oak, fine tannins, rich texture, and a graceful finish. The end result is an expansive wine that becomes even more complex and elegant as it opens up in the glass. A true collectable gem from Washington State. www.woodwardcanyon.com
Col Solare 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain $75 / 93 pts
Let’s face it: When a big name Italian wine family wants in, you know you’re doing something right. In Washington State, such was the case when the well-respected Antinori family of Tuscany formed a partnership with Chateau Ste. Michelle to make the the first vintage of Col Solare wine with fruit from the Red Mountains region in the 1994. To mark the 20-year anniversary of the brand, the new release is comprised of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 2% Syrah. The end result is a powerful, elegant and refined wine highlighted with deep flavors of dark cherry, ripe currents, cassis, cocoa, vanilla and roasted walnuts. To add more complexity, the profile is enhanced with a supple, creamy texture and lingering notes of fresh sage, dried berries and allspice. While this wine is definitely worth cellaring; it’s also admirable it tastes when young, especially when its paired with grilled steaks, rack of lamb, hard cheeses, and flourless chocolate cake with fresh berries. www.colsolare.com
Betz 2013 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon $80 / 95 pts
In hindsight, 2013 was an early vintage which meant the pure varietal flavors were balanced with plenty of natural acidity and pH to help create fine tannins and the structural integrity the winemaking team at Betz Family Winery is always gunning for when they start crafting their annual release of the Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon. Stylish, heady and opulent; the profile of this new release is highlighted with floral aromas and deep flavors of ripe blackberry, red currents, blueberry, cassis, crushed peppercorns, lavender and fresh violets. Add in a silky texture, firm tannins and a long, dry finish lifted with subtle nuances of tobacco, leather and fine French oak, and you have a pristine wine that is graceful, seamless and ageworthy. Hands down, one of my favorite Cabs of this past year. www.betzfamilywinery.com
Bordeaux Blend/Proprietary Blends
Bookwalter 2014 Suspense Red Wine, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley $60 / 94 pts
Looking for a sexy wine? Then try the Suspense Red Wine from by J. Bookwalter . Crafted by gifted winemaker Caleb Foster, this brilliant blend of Merlot 65% and Cabernet Franc 35% immediately seduces the palate with fragrant scents of wild berries, fresh herbs and spicy cedar. In the glass, the flavors are equally stimulating with deep notes of ripe raspberry, black cherry, huckleberry, black tea, cardamom and dark chocolate. Sexy and debonair from start to finish. In addition to pairing nicely with red meats, rich sauces and blue cheese, this wine is also fun to taste side-by-side with its mate, the J. Bookwalter 2014 Protagonist Red Wine ($60), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller portions of Syrah and Malbec. www.bookwalterwines.com
Hedges Family Estate 2012 Red Mountain Estate Red Wine, Estate Grown, Red Mountain $35 / 92 pts
As in the years past, the core of this flagship wine from Hedges Family Estate is based around Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (26%), with smaller amounts of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Interlaced with spicy notes generated by the use of French, American and Hungarian barrels; this stunning wine has a dark purple hue and generous helpings of dark berries, cherry, licorice, savory spices, bright acidity, chewy tannins, and yet still preserves that true sense of place. better yet, the earth tones on the smooth finish also make this a great wine to pair with everything from fine cheeses and risotto with wild mushroom to seared duck breast with a wild berry reduction sauce or slow roasted meats garnered with fresh herbs and savory spices. www.hedgesfamilyestate.com
Fidelitas 2014 Optu Red Wine, Red Mountain $50 / 92 pts
As the signature red wine from Fidelitas Winery, a boutique brand started by longtime winemaker Charlie Hoppes in 2000; this new release is made with 73% Cabernet and smaller lots of Merlot (15%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Cabernet Franc (4%). In the glass, fragrant aromas of ripe red fruits, cocoa, sage and cedar lead to plush layers of black raspberry, dark cherry, blueberry, fresh currants and a kiss of bittersweet chocolate on the finish. To compliment these deep, rich flavors, the tannins are also nicely balanced and the firm structure makes it a great wine to drink young or cellar for more than a decade. www.fidelitaswines.com
Novelty Hill 2014 Cascadia Red Wine, Columbia Valley $50 / 91 pts
This spirited proprietary blend is comprised of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon from Quintessence Vineyard, 45% Merlot and 2% Malbec from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and aged in 50% new oak. With a dark purple-blue hue, the wine opens up with a nice mixture of expressive aromas and deep flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, fresh blueberry, baking spices, roasted espresso, and lovely notes of dark chocolate truffle and fresh sage which gracefully appear on the finish. With a brilliant combination of vibrant acidity, velvety texture and firm structure, this wine is tasting great young and worthy of aging for 10-15 years. www.noveltyhilljnuik.com
With Washington State Wine Month now in full swing, there’s no better time than the present to check out the refreshing styles of white wines from the Pacific Northwest. With these thoughts in mind, below is a special list of some of my favorite wines I’ve tasted since end of harvest in 2016 to the present. As a primer, here’s a quick overview of what’s happening with white grapes in the state…
As in the years past, Washington’s most popular white grape variety is Riesling, which is used to make dry, off-dry and dessert-style wines. Grown in the cool-climate conditions of the Puget Sound near Seattle and the greater Columbia Valley in the southeastern part of the state, the fruit is known for its expressive aromas and lively flavors of apricot, peach and ripe apple. For these reasons, Riesling continues to be the most widely planted grape in the state and represented 22.2% or 50,500 tons of grapes crushed in 2014.
Although Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are very important varieties in Washington, the second most popular grape is still Chardonnay, which represented 19.3% or 43,800 tons crushed in 2014. Not surprising, the vast majority of the vines are planted in the Columbia Valley, which shares similar latitude with the famous Chardonnay vineyards in the Burgundy region of France. Therefore, instead of being rich, buttery and oaky, the Chardonnays tend to be more crisp and delicate with lively flavors of apple, citrus, and tropical notes.
While Pinot Gris (4%), Sauvignon Blanc (3%) and Gewurztraminer (1.6%) round out the Top 5 grape varieties planted in the state; it’s also exciting to note that the remaining 2.4% of the white grapes includes a diverse mixture of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Chenin Blanc, Madeleine Angevine, Siegerebbe, Muller Thurgau, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Ottonel and Aligote. Once again proof that the vintners and growers of Washington are willing to go off the beaten path to experiment with a wide range of grapes that can perform well in the specialty soils and climate conditions that set the state apart from other winegrowing regions in America and beyond.
In keeping with popular styles of Washington cuisine, here are some of my favorite food picks to pair with flavorful white wines produced in the state: fresh oysters; steamed artichokes served with citrus-based aioli sauce; seasonal soups; specialty salads made with kale or arugala; fresh scallop with fruit salsa; pan-seared white fish with a squeeze of lemon; herb roasted chicken with parsnip puree; Indian and Pan-Asian cuisine.
SawyerSomm: Flavorful White Wine Picks
from Washington State 2017
Made with the specialty Neustadt clone of Riesling, here’s a classic example of the Washington State style from J. Bookwalter Winery. With fresh floral aromas, the lively flavors of ripe pear, green apple and citrus are complimented with notes of grapefruit, honey and cinnamon as the wine opens up in the glass. Couple this with silky texture, vibrant acidity and a long elegant finish; the end result is a well-crafted wine that is ripe, sexy and refreshing. As a side note: I’d also recommend trying the J. Bookwalter Chenin Blanc ($26), which I truly believe is one of the finest offerings made with this aromatic grape variety outside France’s Loire Valley. Located at winery in Richland, their delightful on-site restaurant, Fiction at Bookwalter, rocks too! www.bookwalterwines.com
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley ($22) / 92 Pts
Despite being the hottest year on record in Washington State, the 2015 vintage will be remembered for producing a dazzling range of white wines that made an immediate impact in the marketplace. An excellent example is the Eroica Riesling, a special collaboration by talented winemakers Bob Bertheau of Chateau St. Michelle and Ernst Loosen of Mosel in Germany. Layered primarily with pristine fruit from the Evergreen Vineyard in Yakima Valley; this spirited young wine features lifted aromas and vibrant flavors of ripe peach, exotic melon, raw coconut, orange blossom, fresh lime, mineral and white truffle; bright acidity; and a clean, crisp finish. As concluded at our special seminar at Sunset Magazine earlier this year, this wine can go head to head with the finest Rieslings in the world. A true signature wine of Washington State. www.ste-michelle.com
CMS 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington State $15 / 89 pts
Crafted by gifted winemaker Sarah Hedges Goedhat and the team at Hedges Winery in Benton City, the fruit for this unique white wine was mainly grown on the famed Wahluke Slope and specialty sites in Yakima Valley. To compliment the fresh, acid-driven flavors of Sauvignon Blanc, smaller percentages of Chardonnay and Marsanne were added to create more complexity, mouthfeel and texture. As a result, this energetic wine stimulates the senses with notes of crisp green apple, tart lemon, pineapple upside down cake, roasted almonds, racy acidity, and a long, dry finish. Elegant and refreshing from start to finish. www.hedgesfamilyestate.com
As one of the premiere white wine producers in the US, L’Ecole has been making this fascinating blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc since 2007. Therefore, from the moment the cork is popped, this new release immediately draws attention with fresh aromas of ripe tropical fruits, honeysuckle, mineral and spring flowers. Same is true on the palate, which is filled with delicious notes of fresh quince, exotic melon, poached pear, guava and rich texture leading to a long elegant finish. Captivating, complex and a real steal for the price. www.lecole.com
Lauren Ashton 2014 Roussanne, Columbia Valley ($25) / 91 Pts
Following his passion to make his own signature style of world-class, Seattle-based dentist Kit Singh founded Lauren Ashton Cellars in Woodinville in 2009. Through the years, the winery has gained a reputation for producing a brilliant range of high-quality red and white wines which pair extremely well with fine cuisine. As tasted with Kit and his wife at Riinu at RN74 in Seattle, one of the new gems is the 2014 Roussanne. With a light golden hue and fragrant aromas, this lovely wine features lively notes of fresh stone fruits, peach and citrus interlaced with hints of chamomile and mineral; a burst of perky acidity; and a tangy finish that refreshes the palate after each sip. Overall, a fantastic example of the aromatic, energetic and thought-provoking Rhone-style whites coming out of Washington State! www.laurenashtoncellars.com
Dusted Valley 2015 Chardonnay, Olsen Vineyard, Yakima Valley ($34) / 92 Pts
With so many buttery Chardonnays in the marketplace, it’s great when you find one that draws your attention with a bounty of fresh aromas and fruit-driven flavors. From the high-elevation Olsen Vineyard in Yakima Valley, this new release from Dusted Valley is an excellent example of this style. To capture the purity of the flavors, the wine was aged primarily in neutral barrels, stainless steel and concrete eggs. In the glass, this attention to detail shows with delicate notes of fresh Anjou pear, white peach, grapefruit, zippy acidity, and subtle nuances of wet stones and spice. Fabulous by itself or with fresh fish, herb-roasted chicken or grilled pork chops with a squeeze of lemon. www.dustedvalley.com
Woodward 2015 Chardonnay, Washington State ($44) / 94 Pts
Meticulously crafted with premium grapes planted at the Woodward Canyon Estate in Walla Walla Valley and the Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge appellation, here’s a sophisticated wine for Chardonnay lovers. Led by tantalizing aromas of stone fruits, caramel, mineral and roasted hazelnuts, the wine opens up with rich flavors of Asian pear, baked apple, ginger spice, lemon rind, vanilla and nutmeg. Well-balanced with a silky, suede-like texture, vibrant acidity and a lingering finish, not only is this a sexy wine right out of the gate, but its one those gems that will reveal more of its natural personality and style when decanted or aged in the cellar for 5-10 years. Exquisite! www.woodwardcanyon.com
Located on a sloping hillside along the western edge of Yakima Valley, the DuBrul Vineyard is known for growing world-class Chardonnay grapes bursting at the seams with a complex flavors, natural acidity and distinct characteristics based on where the vines are planted on the property. To capture this profile in the bottle, the team at Owen Roe takes a hand-off approach to let the vineyard speak for itself. The latest case in point is the stylish offering from the 2015 vintage. Anchored around the lively notes of fresh white peach, fresh pineapple, lemon and exotic melons, generated by the vines planted at the lower elevation; the flavors are further enhanced with subtle nuances of wild herbs, ginger, citrus, mineral and vibrant acidity from the higher blocks; and rounded out with creamy texture and a subtle kiss of oak that makes every sip count. www.owenroe.com
Novelty Hill 2014 Late Harvest Semillon, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley ($25) / 92 Pts
If you’re looking for dessert wine with personality and style, check out this limited-release Late Harvest Semillon from Novelty Hill. After gaining a reputation for crafting an expansive series of award-winning red, white and dessert wines during his tenure as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1990s, Mike Januik began developing his Januik and Novelty Hill labels in 1999. And although he has make two sweet wines under his Januik label, the Bacchus Vineyard Riesling and the Champoux Vineyard Muscat Canelli; the 2014 Late Harvest Semillon is only the third release made with precious fruit from his family’s Stillwater Creek Vineyard (2007 and 2011 were the others). Aged in French barrels, the wine immediately dazzles the senses with aromas of fresh flowers, ripe tree fruits and beeswax. In the glass, the flavors are ripe, deep and explosive, with layers of pear, peaches, mango, citrus, ripe fig, and a lengthy finish that is rich and vivacious instead of being too sweet or cloying. Graceful and satisfying in every sip, it’s a great wine to enjoy by the fire or serve with tangy cheeses, Key Lime Pie and a myriad of other fruit-based desserts. www.noveltyhilljanuik.com
Join me at Gravenstein Grill this coming Thursday August 24th, 5-6:30pm, for an outdoor wine tasting on the Bartlett Bar Patio for “Drink This! The Passion of Pinot” wine tasting event. Call to reserve your spot 707-634-6142 ($10/person)
Follow up the Zin Zin Din Din with a cool (air-conditioned) weekend outing! Head to Trentadue Winery in Geyserville for the Simply Summer Celebration to continue celebrating Zinfadel of Northern Sonoma County, pairing the widest range of foods, while showcasing the unlimited expressions of taste. Mark your calendar for this coming Sunday, August 13th, from 12:30-3:30.
There you will find. . .
~More than 60 wineries from all over California
~A chance to meet celebrity winemakers
~BBQ meal selections available for purchase by Cochon Volant
~Free dessert samples by Sonoma Cake Creations
~Ticket includes admittance, wine tasting, and ZAP logo wine glass
See you there! Christopher
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.