Friday, August 10, 2012
Oregon Wine On My Mind
With about one week to go before I head to Portland, OR for the Wine Bloggers Conference (#WBC12), I’m doing a little reading and research on Oregon wine. I expect I'll be slightly more prepared than without it. Some fluency with the wine-growing regions, climates, producer names, typical grape varieties and styles will go a long way to best contextualize the onslaught of information and experiences that the conference will bring.
We don’t see a lot of wine from Oregon in the New Hampshire State Liquor stores. As of this writing only thirteen selections pop-up in the online inventory listing when you search for “Oregon”. Searching for “Willamette” brings up about twice as many with some overlap, and searching for “Dundee” brings up two more. Familiar names like King Estate, Willamette Valley, Adelsheim, Domaine Serene, Lange and Sokol Blosser are all there. If memory serves I was first exposed to each of those producers from distribution in my home state. Local specialty stores might stock other labels and with more time I could have headed to Massachusetts and try my luck there too. What experience the NH state list does provide me will be enough to enhance my limited knowledge of Oregon wine; whetting my appetite for the much broader range I expect I will be able to sample from next week.
I’ve written about the Evenstad Reserve Pinot from Domaine Serene recently so I didn’t wander back over that ground. That wine was run up side by side with Pinots from a number of other regions and it definitely expressed its virtues and polish clearly. I think I might even have another bottle hiding in my cellar!
One of my local wine blogging friends, Adam Japko, took a look at the Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay from Domaine Serene earlier this year. I didn’t search for that bottling locally, but did easily find the Côte Sud 2007 which is actually the first Chardonnay from Oregon I’ve ever purchased. I know I have tasted Oregonian Chard at the annual Winter Wine Spectacular (Manchester, NH) in the past, but only one or two producers so my experience is truly limited.
This wine pours with a beautiful yellow/gold color with a noticeable minerality in the nose. The mouth is influenced by citrus, white fleshed fruits and nuts. The oak is present, offering a bit of spice, but is restrained and in balance. This is a very elegant wine. The acidity that comes in late and runs with you through the finish brings along hints of citrus.
Pinot Noir is the story most people immediately association with Oregon wine. This certainly makes sense based on the fact that in 2010 Pinot Noir by acre came in at nearly five times higher than the next grape, Pinot Gris. I’ve had a small range of Oregon Pinot both at home and while on a short Pacific Northwest trip in 2010.
I figured I should bone up a bit more using the recent 2009 vintage as a guide. From my local state shop I picked up the following bottles to taste:
The nose on this wine is earthy but not overdone. The wet earth wraps strawberries and cranberries that also follow through on the palate. A spicy character in the mouth feels like it comes from both fruit and oak. The body of the wine of soft and round, presenting very fine tannins. The balance between the unique character and ease of drinking of this wine is what makes it shine. R. Stuart produces other bottlings that likely channel more finesse (I’ll confirm this ASAP), but as an opener this wine set a high enough bar that I definitely want to experience more.
I’m not very enthusiastic about this bottle of wine. I can’t say there were any noticeable flaws, but the wine just didn’t seem right. A green nose, very tart and dry in the mouth and noticeable, rough tannins. It just doesn’t seem like Oregon Pinot to me.
I ended my tastings and reviews with this wine. What a strong finish! The nose is vibrant with fruit and whiffs of wet earth. Dark red fruits abound in the mouth. The wine finishes dry with moderate acidity and very fine tannins. This bottle isn't going to last long! This wine is also an easy drinker like the R. Stuart Big Fire, but with nuance and polish all its own.
What else do I have on my radar?
I have some familiarity with Pinot Gris from Oregon. I enjoy the King Estate Signature Pinot Gris quite a bit and know that I have tasted other bottlings at trade shows and tasting events in the past. I hope to get a much better picture of the range of styles exercised with this grape while on the ground in Oregon.
Warm climate grapes. From my reading of “Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest” I was introduced to the Southern wine-growing regions in Oregon and how the warmer climate there is more conducive to different grape varieties. Tempranillo and Viognier were the first two to jump out at me. I’ve never had either from Oregon before. Cabernet Franc and Syrah are two more that I hope to find well-made versions of.
And of course I hope there are some surprises that I have yet to read about and will add that ever-necessary character to the larger story. Something in this category might be my favorite from the trip and something I find I have to have in my cellar!