Last weekend, my daughter brought some members of her Olympia (WA) wine tasting club to Oregon for the first time. The objective was to taste some good Pinots Noir, and we certainly did that. But, the show-stealers in this tour were several white wines.
This column is about a winery tour, so we’ll avoid the temptation to get bogged down in detailed discussion of every wine. Some highlights are presented. For detailed descriptions of all of the wines, please visit the respective wineries’ web sites.
The first stop was Adelsheim Vineyards, on NE Calkins Lane just off North Valley Road, northwest of Newburg. It is a relatively new winery, and the impressive stone structure shouted about strength and permanence . . . a good metaphor for what David Adelsheim has done with his brand.
David is one of the pioneers of Oregon’s wine industry in several ways that stretch over the 35 years he has been making wine. He started planting in 1971. He was the key guy in obtaining the best clonal material from Europe: the Dijon clones from Burgundy; and selections from Alsace, Champagne and the Reingau. And, David is the architect of Oregon’s tough label law.
The wines tasted were:
- 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir
- 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
- 2008 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir
- 2008 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir
- 2010 Auxerrois, Ribbon Springs Vineyard.
The 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir is a lovely wine. It had strawberry, cherry, red raspberry, peach in abundance and, above all, a smooth wine without any bitter bite of tannin or fire from its 13.7% alcohol. The hostess confirmed that it was made from the “bleed.” Many winemakers use this tactic to increase the intensity of Pinot Noir by drawing off some of the free-run juice prior to fermentation, thus increasing the skin-to juice-ratio for the red wine. The practice is called la saignée in French, or “the bleed.”
The free run juice is the very best quality of the must. It somehow seems a shame to remove some of the best juice from the red wine.
All of the Pinots Noir were way above average wines. Easily 89-91 points on a 100-point scale. Elizabeth’s Reserve and Temperance Hill show dark fruits, setting them apart from the multi-area blend, Willamette Valley, which has more red fruits.
Then came the stunner: 2010 Auxerrois, Ribbon Springs Vineyard. The hostess had already opened a bottle by special request, so she let us sample it too as we enjoyed our picnic on the well-done patio. Rarely have I tasted a wine that so forcefully captures the flavor of the grape skin. Auxerrois comes from Alsace, France, where it is the fourth largest planting in terms of hectares. The variety is almost overlooked by the wine world. Fennel, green pear and citrus blossoms dominate both aroma and taste. And, they are loud.
I would call this wine the most spectacular of the day, outstanding white wine #1.
Our picnic, which first came out at Adelsheim, featured baked pork ribs (no BBQ sauce), five kinds of cheese, two breads, roasted almonds and pistachios, and two kinds of sausage.
Solena/Grand Cru Estates
Stop number two was Solena/Grand Cru Estates, on NE Woodland Loop Road just off Oregon Highway 240 and east of Yamhill. The lower barrel cellar is fabricated of large stone. The second floor (ground floor on the uphill side) housing tasting room, opulent dining room and offices is frame construction, sided with batts & boards. The attached tank room is open air, roof over and half of the walls are covered with steel grillwork, no doubt to keep the birds out. The complex is tastefully done and very classy. The owners are Laurent and Danielle Andrus Montalieu.
- 2010 Pinot Gris
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Vista Hills Vineyard
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Guadalupe Vineyard
- 2008 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir
- 2008 Pinot Noir, Zena Crown Vineyard
- 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA, Yakima,WA
All were very well-made wines and surprising complex for relatively young vines in the Pinot Noir, as one would expect from Laurent Montalieu, arguably Oregon’s most talented winemaker. Raised and schooled in Bordeaux, experienced in Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Bridgeview Vineyards (Cave Junction, OR), before being a founding partner in Willakenzie Estate. Now, Laurent and his wife, Danielle, own this winery, a large custom crush operation in McMinnville called Northwest Wine Company, and are building yet a third winemaking facility in downtown Dundee.
Watch for these red wines to top 90 points as they mature. Robert Parker has already rated Guadalupe and Danielle at 92 points. Wine Spectator gave a 91 to Zena Crown. Things to look for: cigar box aroma in the Vista Hills; violet aroma in Zena Crown, dust in the Klipsun Cabernet. In Napa Valley, they call it Rutherford dust, a combined smell-taste phenomenon. Otherwise, typical Yamhill Valley cherry-berry red fruit characteristics are in all of the Pinots Noir except Guadalupe.
Troon Vineyards Carlton Tasting Room
Then, we went looking for some wines from southern Oregon. We found them at Troon Vineyards’ tasting room in downtown Carlton. Troon’s winery is located at Kubli, in the Applegate Valley to the west of Ashland. The Carlton Tasting Room building may seem somewhat obscure, tucked in between two wineries at 250 N. Kutch St. However, the inside décor is attractively rustic (weathered boards and wall murals). The hostesses, Joni and Chelsea are a delight. Chelsea is a sprite and definitely Taylor Swiftian in looks. Since there wasn’t a big crowd, she offered to bring the wines to us in their spacious courtyard. Wow! Such hospitality! We broke out the picnic foods again.
We tasted six wines:
- 2010 Dry Riesling
- 2009 Druid’s Fluid White
- 2009 Druid’s Fluid Red
- 2008 Zinfandel Reserve
- 2007 Old Vine Meritage (35 year-old vines)
- 2007 Kubli Bench Cabernet Sauvignon.
The first wine was the 2010 Dry Riesling, and it would prove to be another attention-grabbing white. I’ve tasted and made some really good White Rieslings of international acclaim over the years, but this one was Riesling on steroids. Residual sugar is 0.6% by weight, which is indeed dry for White Riesling. The grapes were grown at 1,260 and 1,580 feet MSL, which explains why a good Riesling can be grown in what is otherwise a warm climate. If you like White Riesling, you’ll love this wine. Think yellow apples, pears, melon and lemon and lime citrus. Take the best Rheingau Riesling you’ve ever tasted and kick it up to greater intensity. The wine contains 3% Gewürztraminer and 2% Viognier. Neither is large enough to be detected, but they do serve as “complexing” factors. This was outstanding white wine #2.
Next were two delightful blends, the 2009 Druid’s Fluid White and 2009 Druid’s Fluid Red. Each is comprised of four varieties. The 2007 Old Vine Meritage is a really good Bordeaux style blend, and a little “Rutherford dust” in the finish.
We purchased a bottle of 2007 Kubli Bench Cabernet Sauvignon to drink with our snacks. It showed rich, brambly red fruit, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and a silky tannin finish.
When you visit Troon’s Carlton Tasting Room, ask Chelsea to show you how to play the “Toss the wine cork” game in their courtyard.
The last stop was Kramer Vineyards, on SW Olson Road southwest of Gaston. Kramer is a classic “mom & pop” winery. Trudy began her career by making wine at home. When she had to back her pickup truck up to the door at the State Fair Amateur Wine Competition, just in order to carry out the ribbons and medals, it was time for Trudy and Keith to go commercial. That happened in 1983. Now, the winemaking reins are passing to daughter, Kimberly, who has just returned from an internship in Burgundy. The winery building is definitely rustic, with a cozy tasting room that is packed with wine accessories of all kinds.
The tasting menu was the most varied, by far, of the day, presented by Trudy herself (long friendships bring privileges) on the shaded patio:
- Domaine Kreiger Brut sparkling wine
- Celebrate Műller-Thurgau sparkling wine
- 2006 Chardonnay, Barrel Select
- Quad Rosé
- 2007 Pinot Noir Estate
- 2007 Pinot Noir Rebecca’s Reserve
- 2008 Barbera, Walla Walla
- 2007 Pinot Noir Port.
We started with the Domaine Krieger Brut, a blanc de blanc champenoise sparkling wine of 100% chardonnay. Here we go again! The wine started out tame enough on entry. The mid-palate was intense chardonnay fruit flavors. Then, the wine literally exploded in a kaleidoscope of flavors on the finish. Bingo! Outstanding white wine #3.
I can’t even credit inebriation for this effusive praise. I can no longer consume alcohol, thanks to medications. So, I have to taste and spit which, come to think of it, is what commercial winemakers do most of the time.
The 2007 Rebecca’s Reserve Pinot Noir (densely planted with Pommard and Dijon 115 clones) is lush with cherries, blueberry, cranberry and plum. It finishes with truffles and pleasant oak. The 2008 Barbera, Walla Walla Valley (WA) is a jammy wine, rich in currents, blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, pomegranate, mint, black pepper, licorice and butterscotch. And, it has that fifth taste dimension, umami (meaty). Can you ask for anything more?
Wrapping up at Kramer, and the grand finale of the tour, was the 2007 Pinot Noir Port. We’ve tasted this wine before and loved it every time. The dark ruby, jammy wine displays aromas of cherry, cassis, caramel, black cherry, oak and spice. The flavors are all dark fruits: Bing cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, cloves and oak. Alcohol is 19%, residual sugar is 6%.
Usually, Trudy serves bittersweet chocolate wafers with this wine. For this occasion, though, my wife, Judy, had baked a triple chocolate cake (Fabulous Chocolate Cake, Clipped Wings Cookbook. Clipped Wings is the alumnae organization of UAL flight attendants). It was a food pairing made in heaven. Even the tasting room staff got a chunk of it.
The Port wine broke the white wine theme of the day. It was outstanding wine #4.
Photo credit: baronesswines.wordpress.com