Yesterday, Jeremiah convinced me it was time to get in the car and head south to visit a couple wineries that fly under the radar. So off we went to shine the spotlight of recognition on them to receive a little well earned praise. Next thing you know, the cat, the bullfrog and I are heading south on I-5 towards Roseburg and the Umpqua Valley. When you drive around with a wine swilling reptile and a grey cat that likes to drive as much as Toonces, it makes the time go by fast when you’re traveling. Beside it’s a good plan to have a designated driver on trips like this and since the cat doesn’t drink it seemed like a pretty good idea. He’s got no points against his license mostly because he doesn’t drink and drive—or it could be because his license does not exist. That being said, south bound on I-5 and a few hours later which means Jeremiah was definitely already drunk (that frog keeps finding ways to imbibe, it’s hard to keep an eye on him when I am driving) the cat just thinks he is funnier that way.
We took exit 136 in Sutherlin and headed for Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards because I had been told by a guy who does wine tours out of Roseburg that they made pretty good wines. There was another reference that recommended them too, oh yeah Pamalicious had read a tweet about a double gold these guys won at the San Diego International Wine Competition. One other reason I went there first was their sign was the first one I saw. Note to wineries: if you can’t get on the blue sign on the interstate that announces local destinations definitely get a sign placed at the end of the exit. Reustle did and that is why I wound up there instead of Misty Oaks first. If you are taking I-5 from Seattle south or San Francisco north, you should make it a point to visit these wineries and a few more I will talk about later.
As I turned off the paved highway and onto the unpaved drive up to the winery I passed a couple of employees who seemed to be very happy to be there but these days if you have a job anywhere you should be pretty happy so I suppose in such a bucolic setting to be working and enjoying good wine your life is going pretty good. I got the same feeling from the deer that were casually sipping from one of the ponds on the property. A scenic sight so prolific to my arrival it seemed almost staged—no that is just my east coast don’t trust anything that looks too pretty. I guess I am being silly, paranoid, or both—something I have been guilty of before.
Reustle is beautiful and I regret that I did not have time to taste through their other wines but I knew I would have to come back when I had more time, so I purchased a couple bottles of Pinot Noir. It was hard enough to get the cat to stay in the car after seeing the deer, but that damn bullfrog looked like he might get sick and I put the cat in charge while I was gone. I would have liked to purchase some of their Reserve 2008 Pinot Noir but they had already sold out, so I took a Pishon Bloc 2008 which took a Silver medal at the Oregon Wine Awards.
I inquired about directions to Misty Oaks Vineyards from the young lady at the office/tasting room at Reustle and was assured that Misty Oaks was close but no one would be there unless I had made an appointment. Despite the thick accent I was able to discern there was a chance no one would be there to meet me. I headed out and was determined to find Misty Oaks but after realizing I was already going to be an hour late for my appointment with Craig Broadley of Broadley Vineyards in Monroe, Oregon someone I had looked forward to meeting since 1990 I decided to abandon my search and head north to Monroe. Craig was coming down to open the winery just for me. After canceling an appointment at Broadley Vineyards once before in 2008 I was inclined to get there at any cost which included the passing up the opportunity to visit Misty Oaks Vineyards.
Besides I was still working on the case of wines I bought from Misty Oaks earlier in the year. I still need to speak with some folks at Hillcrest Vineyards so I knew I would have to return soon. I hope to return before the vineyards are requiring too much attention so the proprietors of those two wineries will be able to set aside some time for an interview.
Lately I have really been enjoying three wines from Misty Oaks Vineyards that I purchased and had shipped to me, a privilege I take very seriously. If you live in a state where you cannot receive shipments of wine and you want change please leave a comment and join the AWCC.
How I became aware of this small producer of distinct wines happened in a manner that was a little different from the usual channels I hear about a wine that I have never tried. It was a bit embarrassing to find out about Misty Oaks fine Cabernet Franc from a guy who writes a wine blog back in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Granted he is one of the best wine reviewers on the web, Fredric Koppel who writes the blog Bigger than Your Head, the 2010 WBC Best Wine Reviewer Award winner. Memphian’s know wine and there are two family’s names who stand out in my mind as being educators in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’ and that would have to be the Grisanti’s and Robilio’s because both families set the stage for some pretty good outside talent to learn from their vast knowledge. Fact in point, I read on a blog in Memphis about a fantastic representation of Cabernet Franc the purest single varietal bottling of this grape he has ever tasted and it’s from an Oregon winery that only made less than a hundred cases of this wine. I doubt any was distributed in Memphis but it certainly made me get off my duff and stash a few bottles. After talking to Christy at Misty Oaks she was able to talk me up from six bottles to a case and made sure I took only eight bottles of Cab Franc, two Malbec’s and a couple bottles of Pinot Blanc. After receiving the wine, I was glad I took her advice.
Why it seems far-fetched is that Misty Oaks is here in Southern Oregon—Umpqua Valley to be exact and they have only 15 acres of vines and the Cabernet Franc only had 75 cases produced in the 2008 vintage. The Malbec was a wine club only selection so I felt quite privileged to be able to sip upon this exalted nectar—my expectations were not let down. Their 2008 Pinot Blanc is a wine so different from most Pinot Blanc I have tasted; they are usually so subtle even the winemakers are not always sure they got it right most of the time. Misty Oaks produces a Pinot Blanc that could be considered a flavor bomb by Pinot Blanc standards, pronounced and elegant. I remember tasting it with a Pinot Gris and a Chardonnay. I thought they were a little weak on flavor and the boldness of this pinot Blanc certainly hammered that point home. The other two white wines mention paled in flavor and structure compared to this wonderful expression of this varietal. I was intrigued by what a different terrior and climate could bring to the table and I was greatly rewarded for my curiosity. I was correct on thinking Pinot Blanc from this location would have a broader flavor spectrum than those who came from cooler climates. My first impression of this wine was wow this is probably the most pronounced Pinot Blanc I have ever tasted.
So I will continue with my official reviews of Misty Oaks Wines and the Pinot Noir I bought from Reustle:
This wine will make you take a second look at the glass and the bottle, but then really who has a set expectation from a Malbec grown in Umpqua Valley? I know I did not and still don’t. The tannins clearly show it could age but what would happen? A dustier drier finish, fruit dissipation, no one knows; I say it will age with grace—juicy stone fruit, more black plum and a bit of crushed fresh tobacco leaf with hint of crushed caraway seed. The flavors are dark berry fruit and a mocha vanilla capped on a bright note of freshly crushed white pepper. Food friendly and ready for almost any challenge this is a sleeper that will mystify if blind tasted in a group of Malbec’s from various regions.
This wine has full floral aromas of white aromatic flowers and a citrus zest lingering pleasantly in the mix. The flavor spectrum is well balanced due to the aging regimen that utilizes half wood (barrel fermented) and the remainder being processed in stainless. Using this method retains a zippy acidity that is very refreshing especially when paired with delicate local Dungeness crab and most other mild seafood preparations and even better if accompanied with a citrusy sauce. Excellent Pinot Blanc from a winery who makes all their varietals well.
I have to say first that I have a penchant for 100% Cabernet Franc. My friend Christophe down at Titus Vineyards in Napa would certainly affirm that statement and to date I have to admit they make one of the most consistent and delicious Cabernet Francs produced anywhere. So as I previously mentioned as I was perusing Mr. Koppel’s blog and saw a mention of Umpqua Valley and Cabernet Franc, I knew I had to get myself some of this juice before it was all gone. After receiving my precious allotment of Misty Oaks 2008 Cabernet Franc, I was hard pressed to keep my hands off of it until it settled down from its travels. Like they say, the proof is in the pudding and Fred was right. This wine is very special and I anxiously await the release of the 2009 vintage with another year of maturity on the young vines and with a favorable growing season, this wine should continue to progress in its intensity and pick up some deeper complexity that comes as they grow older. The dark berry fruit and mineral flavors faint in the background show well with the balanced tannins resulting in a finish that is not quite long enough for me. Not that there is a problem in that finish it’s just that I really wish the bottle did not vanish as quickly as it did. If you live in a state that will let you receive wine from out of state or happen to live in Oregon or Northern California, call the winery—they still may have some. It’s a beautiful area and well worth the drive.
This is one the most unsuspecting locations for such a beautiful vineyard. I regret I did not have more time when I was here but that only means I will have to return soon to experience the entire package of hospitality this winery has to offer. The Pishon Bloc will fare well with a little patience. It has all the classic characters a good Pinot Noir should exhibit. Even though these vines are ten years old the fruit is still tight on this vintage. Earthy, cherry and spice aromas with the berry red and blue coming through on the palate, in time I suspect this one will unwind a bit and become a bit more seamless and soft.
Broad shouldered by Pinot Noir standards this wine makes a great dinner companion. The balance of acidity is well placed and after a couple of years in bottle this wine will be fantastic with seared duck breast and a dried cherry port reduction, or even a rustic braised rabbit dish. Chanterelle mushroom risotto would also be a fantastic match. I look forward to trying other wines from this producer. This wine was a silver medal winner at the 2010 Oregon Wine Competition directed by Christopher Chan held annually at the prestigious Waverly Country Club. We expect big things from this winery in the future, so make it a destination to seek out.
As I headed down the road realizing I would have to hustle, the frog had passed out and that’s a good thing but the cat was restless and after he set up the GPS to find Broadley Vineyards in Monroe, Oregon, he kept on me about wanting to drive. About that time, the GPS said get off I-5 and head towards territorial lane so it seemed like it would be OK to let the cat drive. I figured we would see less law enforcement on the back roads. I had no idea how curvy these back roads were about to become. At the next stop sign, I had to remove the cat from the steering wheel. He kept coming way too close to the edge of the road almost as if he had no fear, probably because I happen to know that cat is on his first life with eight more to go. I was really glad to have proceeded on this route because now I know where King Estate is and Sylvan Ridge/Hinmann Vineyards are located and on my next trip we will make it a point to have lunch at King Estate and visit several other wineries located in that area.
We pulled into Monroe and rolled right up on Broadley Vineyards and just like he said he would, Craig Broadley had come down to open the winery for Enobytes. Amazingly enough we made it right on time.
Craig is the consummate host and that will be a future post, as Broadley deserves a QVV award and a feature story.