Archive for the 'Oregon Wine' Category

2008 Haden Fig Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

This is the second in the collection of Pinot Noir I brought back from my recent trip down South of the border. This wine is described as “a blend of 5 sustainably, organically, or biodynamically farmed vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley.” This piqued my interest as I’ve done a bit of reading and chatting about “natural” and “honest” wines, including Alice Feiring’s book.

This wine is certainly unique, and really likable. I popped it open and poured a bit for a swirl and sip. I should have been a little less enthusiastic and decanted as I quickly got a “sediment seasoned” sample (an unintentional alliteration). Not to worry though.

The nose on this wine is full of dusty black cherry with some musk and a hint of violet. Very interesting. On the palate the first that jumped up was tart cranberry and some seriously bracing acidity. It kind of makes you say “whoa” then you just want to sip it again. The finish had some green stalk and tart currant along with some nice pepper and sweet spice tones.

I sampled this again the next day and the acid had lessened and the flavors began to match the nose much directly with a very nice balance of fruit and acidity right through to the finish. Good stuff.

This is another gem in my mind. A really honest and authentic wine that has been allowed to just “be” without a great deal of manipulation. A good friend, this wine is. We all need more like it.

$21.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants.

4 stars

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2006 EIEIO Cuvee I Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

My recent trip to Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle enabled me to stock up on my supply of Oregon Pinots among other treasures. Our ongoing discussion of value Pinot Noir is here in spades.

The first one I picked up is EiEiO’s 2006 Cuvee I. On sale for $19.99, it fit nicely into the budget. EiEiO is a small winery located near Carlton, Oregon producing Pinot and Chardonnay to a total of about 1800 cases. Based on previous tastes of their wines, I was really looking forward to sipping and savoring it. I was not disappointed at all.

It may be purely anecdotal, or my shopping habits, but it seems that Oregon Pinots are moving towards a more finessed and elegant style from the bold boozy fruit bombs I remember from a few years back. A few swirls brought some barnyard and red fruit with some meaty and clay elements. It reminded me of a hybrid of some the things I like about some Burgundian and Russian River Pinots.

I gave it a little time and as we sipped, it just got better and better. I loved the rhubarb with some red currant and cherry notes backed up by a nice chalky transition into the firm acidity in a medium long finish. The currant and lingered and it balanced the nice tart finish from the acidity.

This is a really tasty treat and a great value to boot. (Some catchy packaging as well, with the notes to “Old Macdonald” scribed on the cork). This is the kind of offering I long for up here!  More Pinots to follow…

$19.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle.

4 stars

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2006 McKinlay Vineyards Ladd Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

I’m putting together my write-up of last Saturday in Sonoma, but I was both thirsty and hungry, so this post worked its way into the mix.

Holy silky Pinot Noir, folks. This bottle was exactly what I was looking for when I pulled the cork tonight. I was cooking up some wild mushroom Tagliatelle and craving some Pinot – OK, it was in the opposite order. I was craving some Pinot and so I cooked up something to go with it.

I hadn’t really heard of McKinlay Vineyards before this bottle caught my eye the last time we were in Portland. It turns out they’re doing their thing in a more Burgundian style and have a bunch of folks excited about the bottles they’re turning out. You can now count me in with them.

I had a few sips before we ate and really liked it, but in true Burgundian style (13% booze, by the way), it was with the food that the wine really came alive. The earthiness of the wine really complemented the mushrooms and the fruit and acidity built on that. Wow. I really liked it.

The nose has a schwack of ripe cranberry and cherry along with a handful of of flowers and some smokey spice. A sip really explodes with the ripe red cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and citrus fruit. I’ll break it down. It just tastes really good and went so well with our meal that I wish we had another bottle. Enough said.

If you like Burgundy and have been looking for an Oregon wine to try, give this a go. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it – thank God everyone’s tastes are different – but I sure as heck did.

Nice work McKinlay.

~$38 USD at Vinopolis in Portland.

4   1/2 stars

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2006 Belle Pente Pinot Noir, Murto Vineyard, Dundee Hills

12212009I just can’t understand why some folks out there don’t give Oregon Pinot its due… The stuff really rocks when it’s done right. Like this bottle – it’s done in a way that if you say you don’t like it, I’m going to shoot right back with, “You just don’t like good Pinot Noir.” ‘Nuff said.

The grapes for this bottle came from Belle Pente’s own Murto vineyard, which was planted back in 1978. It results in a wine that some have apparently called “sublimely Burgundian”, but for me it shows a clarity of brairy red fruit shown in the better Pinots from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It made my taste buds cheer.

The nose is all about the bright and ripe red cherry and strawberry fruit along with rhubarb, spice and a bit of earth. The flavours? The first word that comes to mind is “burst”. There’s a burst of fresh and briary ripe red cherries and strawberry fruit that widens the eyes and makes you want to say to the person next to you, “Wow.” That’s followed up by floral, mineral and even light orange citrus flavours that set up shop in your mouth and hang out for a while. The finish has tannins that are smooth, but firm enough to let you know that they’re there.

For what it’s worth, Stephen Tanzer gave this wine a 92 rating and I’d pretty much agree with him on the ballpark. I loved it.

Yep, I’d happily drink it again. If you find some, give it a try.

Bought for $34.95 USD at my favourite wine shop in Portland – Vinopolis Wine Shop.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.
3 comments

2005 Ken Wright Cellars “Angela” Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District AVA

05022009What can I say about this wine? Well, here we go: Holy crap! This is a bloody tasty bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. I’ve been looking for a bottle to blow me away lately. I’ve had some good wines… but nothing with that “Wow” factor. This bottle, from 300 cases produced, did that… effortlessly.

I picked it up last year at one of my favourite wine shops, Vinopolis in Portland on sale for ~$45 and brought it home to my little cellar. It’s from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA Ditrict south of Portland – an area that turns out many of the Pinots that have really grabbed my attention over the last few years. It’s also made by Ken Wright Cellars. They’re a winery that’s based in Carlton and have been on my radar for a while now. This is the first wine of theirs that I’ve had in my glass. It won’t be the last.

Wow. This is pure hedonism in  glass. It’s unfined and unfiltered and is a slightly cloudy dark raspberry red in the glass. It has a beautiful nose of ripe raspberry and what I would best describe as a cedar forest earthiness. A sip is when this wine  really lets you know what’s going on. There’s an “I just licked raspberries off a cedar plank” thing going on – it literally smacks your taste buds with a bunch of ripe raspberry juice, a bit of citrus, herbs and an earthy cedar edge.

Is it good? Do you really need to ask? Seriously. OK… YES, it’s bloody wonderful.

Get some if you’re lucky enough to find it.

~$45 at Vinopolis in Portland last year.

4 1/2 stars

3 comments

2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Wine folks talk about their wines and the value of social media

So, today Graham and I headed to the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival with the aim of searching out folks we knew were using social media to promote their wines. From our experience using Twitter, Facebook and Flickr we were aware of at least 5 wineries/winemakers at the Festival who do so – Bradley Cooper (of Township 7 and Black Cloud wines who tweets under @Bradinator, @Township7 and @BlackCloudWine), @stoneboat (Tim Martiniuk of Stoneboat Vineyards), @dfwinery (Crystal Froese of Dunham & Froese Estate Winery), @sokolblosser (the Sokol Blosser Winery from the Willamette Valley in Oregon) and @TinhornCreek (we spoke with Sandra Oldfield who is the winemaker and director of operations of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards).

Here’s what they had to say:

6 comments

2008 – My Favourites in Wine and Music

It’s the time of year that the “best of” lists make their appearances. Despite what some folks may say, these lists are pretty fun to put together and it’s always good to hear what others liked the most in the past year. What better thing to do on a snowy Saturday than to sit down and make my list? :)

Music and wine are a natural match. I’m a music freak/I’m a wine geek. Almost every memorable bottle of wine I’ve had over the years was drunk while music was playing. With that bond in mind, I thought for fun that I’d put together a list of my most memorable albums of the year and pair them with the wines I loved most in 2008 (in no particular order and based only on full bottle samples).

mgmt12000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin paired with Oracular Spectacular” by MGMT
I’ll lead off with this one because they were both my top choices for the year. The wine was memorable in a way no other matched and the album still gets regular play. There’s more going on with both than you get at first taste or listen. They both just get better as you go. The wine was, in a word, stellar. The album had standout tracks such as “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” – great stuff.

tvontheradio2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz paired with Dear Science,” by TV on the Radio
What can I say about these two?.. This was what I popped open on my fortieth birthday and TV on the Radio have put out three of my favourite albums. Both have layers and layers and make you think as much as they are just plain good. The more you taste the wine, the more it comes alive – the same goes for the album. It requires multiple listens to worm its way into your consciousness… and I’m glad it did. Standout tracks include “Halfway Home”, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose”.

boniver2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley paired with For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
This is one of my favourite Washington State wineries, owned by a cantankerous and interesting guy, Larry Krivoshein. I bought this wine at his tasting room in Walla Walla and really liked talking and tasting with him. Both the album and the wine are the work of solitary guys in relatively remote locations – Justin Vernon in a remote Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter and Larry down in Walla Walla (seriously, do the drive some time). Both of them doing it their way. In 2008 they both put out products worthy of praise and enjoyment. Standout tracks on the intimate and beautiful album are “Skinny Love”, “The Wolves (Act I And II)” and “Blindsided”.

m831997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico paired with Saturdays = Youth” by m83
Both the wine and the album had many layers… Hell, the wine was in the running for my wine of the year. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the Amarone.. and this is a helluva’ bottle of the Amarone. The wine was absolutely seductive – with raisins, plums, cherries, brandy and spice in its flavours. The album? Amazing. m83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, pulls off stuff you wouldn’t think anyone is trying these days. It’s symphonic in parts, with a sense of pop melody that leaves many of the songs in your head long after you’ve given it a listen. It’s also a “grower”, which is a good thing – it’s one of those albums you like more with each listen because you’re getting more from it. Strong stuff. I’d say it’s in my top 3 albums of the year. Tracks such as “Graveyard Girl”, “Kim & Jessie” and “Couleurs” help show why this album made my list.

elbow1999 H. Billiot Millésime Champagne paired with The Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow
Classics… that’s what both of the wine and the album strike me as. The Billiot is amazing… and to me, is what a Champagne should be – toasty, complex and sexy, with an everlasting finish. The flavours were all about baked apples, along with some peach, honey and ginger spice. Onto the album – Elbow is one of those bands about whom I constantly marvel they’re not more popular. The singer, Guy Garver has an amazing voice that sounds like Peter Gabriel on a bender… and they consistently record strong albums. Great songs on the album are “Grounds For Divorce”, the cheery, hopeful and amazing “One Day Like This” and “The Fix” which just begs to open a British gangster film. I may have listened to this more than any other album this year.

fleetfoxes1998 Castello di Verduno Barolo, Massara paired with Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes
Both of these choices were unexpected finds in 2008. I stumbled on the wine while having lunch in Verduno, Italy. It may have been the setting, but I loved this wine. The Marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers led to a sexy cherry brandy finish. Likewise for the album. At first it struck me as too softly harmonic and folksy (very Simon & Garfunkel-y)… but the more I listened to it, the beauty of the music won me over. It’s a mellow-day album that will leave you in a better mood for having heard it. I can’t say there are standout tracks. It’s a complete and round achievement that stands as an album.

hercules2005 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley paired with Hercules and Love Affair” by Hercules and Love Affair
These choices represent the good-times party choices of the year. If you’re at a party and drag these wines out, anyone who likes wine (especially a great Zin) will love them… and the album will get their booties moving. Both the Mazzocco Zins are made in that crushed blackberry syrup and briar style with balanced structures and finishes. Winemaker Antoine Favero does a great job there. I think they were my favourite Zins of the year – and that’s saying a lot. The Hercules album has the fantastic tune “Blind” that Pitchfork chose as their track of the year. I have to admit, it is pretty bloody good.

neonneon2006 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner” paired with Stainless Style” by Neon Neon
Both of these choices are just plain unique and rock n’ roll. Dave Phinney heads a small (when we visited last January, there were 4 people doing it all) operation that turns out phenomenal wines. I first tried this wine in their offices and then gladly took one to enjoy that night. Graham’s review noted, “the Prisoner has a vibrant blackberry and ripe plum on the bouquet, which opens into briar and with some dark chocolate in the mix.” Loved it. Neon Neon grab you right away with their brand of tense early-80’s musical nostalgia and take it from there. It’s a lot of fun for someone who actually became an adult in the 80’s. I loved the tracks “Dream Cars”, “Belfast” and “Michael Douglas”.

lykkeli2001 Damilano Barolo paired with Youth Novel” by Lykke Li
I loved this wine… it was one of my finds at the Vancouver Wine Fest and was helping me set up for my forthcoming trip to Piedmont at the end of March. Like I wrote back then “…it’s a complex mix of brandied cherry, plums, leather, tar, and spice along with a violet-floral thing going on.” This family-owned winery located near the town of Barolo consistently turns out some of the best values (and wines) from the Langhe. Production on the album is provided by by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Björn and John and are just plain catchy – with Lykke’s sexily fragile voice. Standout tracks are “Dance Dance Dance”, and “Let it Fall”.

cutcopy2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County paired with In Ghost Colors” by Cut/Copy
An amazing wine and an equally impressive album. The Seghesio Zin was tapped by the Wine Dictator as their #10 wine of the year and given a hefty 93 points. I can’t disagree with them much. Personally, I enjoyed the Mazzocco Zins more, but I also loved this wine. We’ve gone through 6 bottles in the last while. It’s got ripe and juicy blackberry fruit long with a form and tannic backbone showing a brambly and spicy finish. Wow. The album is also a “Wow”. I loved it the first time I heard it and have listened to it countless times since then. It’s another 80’s-influenced wonder, is funky as Hell and makes you want to shake your ass. I’m still digging tracks such as “So Haunted”, “Far Away” and “Hearts On Fire”.

frenchkicks2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough paired with Swimming” by French Kicks
I’ve drunk a helluva’ lot of this wine this year. It’s amazingly diverse in its food pairings and is mouth-wateringly tasty… and it’s the wine I ordered on my first date with Candace in 2008. We still drink it regularly. It’s got lots of tropical and citrus fruit, with a crisp backbone of acidity. It’s also a pretty amazing deal at $21.99 here in BC making it my value wine of the year. The album. I loved it. It’s one of those albums you put on and like pretty much every track. I’ve listened to it a tonne this year while preparing dinner, driving and working. It stands pretty strongly as an album, but also has great tracks with chiming guitar like “Sex Tourists”, “Abandon” and “Love in the Ruins”.

lsp2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley paired with The Age of the Understatement” by The Last Shadow Puppets
OK, last on the list, but certainly not least… I grabbed this bottle on a trip down to the Willamette Valley last year and had been saving it… for a Pinot craving. I popped it open after Candace and I visited Portland in October and it was all it should have been – blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. The album? Again, I loved it. It’s a very stylish side project from the Arctic Monkey’s singer, Alex Turner and  good friend of his, Miles Kane, the guitarist of the Rascals. What they came up with is a stylish and catchy sound that’s like a 60’s garage band that has developed a sudden taste for martinis. I personally think it’s a crime that the amazing tune “My Mistakes Were Made for You” wasn’t the theme for the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”. Other good tracks are “The Age Of The Understatement”, “Standing Next To Me” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore”.

Honourable mentions for wines in 2008 (based on me just really likin’ them):

5 comments

2006 Cristom “Mt. Jefferson Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

To celebrate Hall’o’ween and the site being named one of Google’s top 100 wine blogs, I thought I’d do what?.. Yep, you guessed it – try another wine. :)

I picked this up on our recent trip down to Portland at the stupendous Vinopolis Wine Shop around the corner from Portland’s Ace Hotel. It was Oregon, so of course it’s a Pinot Noir.

It’s had some time in the decanter and is starting to open up. The nose is a mix of sour cherry, berry and spice. The flavours are a juicy blend of all that cherry and spicy berry fruit the nose was hinting at, along with an interesting earthy/vegetal edge to the long finish.

The wine comes across as a bit boozier than its 13.5% rating suggests, but I don’t have a problem with that. Overall, the balance is there to round it out and nothing really seems to be where it shouldn’t. It’s a tasty wine; and a very good one at that.

Did I absolutely love it? Kinda’. Would I buy it again. Yep. ‘Nuff said.

$27 at Portland’s Vinopolis Wine Shop.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

This past weekend, Candace and I made a trip to one of my favourite cities – Portland – for a weekend away. Of course, while we were there, I made sure we tried a few of the local wines; Pinot Noir being at the top of the list. I’ll get into what I tried in another post, but needless to say I brought a few bottles back.

Last time I was in Oregon, this wine from the hills near McMinnville made its way back – stowed away in my luggage. It’s been avoiding the corkscrew since, but my recent trip made its consumption inevitable. I popped it open tonight to have with some tasty sausage. I remember it as being pretty full-bodied, so I was thinking it could stand up to the food… and I was right.

This is a blend of Lange’s “Terroir Series” single-vineyard wines and it is planted firmly on the deep and dark side of the Pinot fence. In the glass, it’s a deep and dark red. A big ‘ol sniff lets loose a bunch of blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. A sip gives up juicy dark berry and cherry fruit along with the chocolate and spice the nose hinted at long with black tea. This leads to a softly tannic and juicy finish.

This is a heckuva’ tasty wine folks and really helps cement Oregon Pinots into a place near the top of my wine loving list. If you’re in the area, pay them a visit. If you can find it in a store, go for it. Yum.

$40 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

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