Tag Archives: Oregon wine

Memorial Day and rose

Memorial Day and rose 2016

rose 2016This year, as we celebrate the blog’s ninth annual Memorial Day and rose post at the traditional start of summer, we have much to enjoy. Not only have the hipsters and the Hamptons elite embraced rose, but so has Big Wine – Dark Horse, an E&J Gallo label, has released a dry rose, something I don’t remember Gallo brands doing very often (though the wine isn’t quite up to this post’s standards).

So let us rejoice. The rest of the wine world might be going to hell in a hand-basket – premiumization, consolidation, Millennialization and all the other -ations that have taken so much fun out of wine – but rose remains cheap and delicious and widely available.

This year’s recommendations are after the jump. You should also check out the rose category link, which lists eight years of rose reviews. The blog’s rose primer discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. Vintage, in fact, is especially important this year; I didn’t see as many 2015s on shelves as I should have, and there seemed to be more older wines. In rose, older does not usually mean better. Continue reading

winereview

Expensive wine 85: J. Christopher Dundee Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir 2012

 J. Christopher Buying pinot noir may be the most difficult thing in wine. It’s expensive, and since there are so many styles, you’re not sure if what you’re spending all that money for will be wine that you want to drink. Which is where the J. Christopher, an Oregon pinot nor from the Willamette Valley, comes in. It does everything an Orgeon pinot is supposed to do, and it’s fair value for the price.

The J. Christopher ($39, purchased, 13.8%) is, if not spectacular, well made and well put together. Look for fragrant black cherry fruit, some much welcome savory herbs, a bit of minerality toward the back, and just enough earthiness so you can say the earthiness is there. It’s not as fruity or rich as as California pinot noir, and it’s not as subtle as red Burgundy, but it is interesting and enjoyable.

Pair this with traditional pinot noir dishes, whether roast lamb or grilled salmon. It’s probably not going to get much better over time, so drink now.

winereview

Expensive wine 84: J. Christopher Dundee Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir 2012

 J. Christopher Buying pinot noir may be the most difficult thing in wine. It’s expensive, and since there are so many styles, you’re not sure if what you’re spending all that money for will be wine that you want to drink. Which is where the J. Christopher, an Oregon pinot nor from the Willamette Valley, comes in. It does everything an Orgeon pinot is supposed to do, and it’s fair value for the price.

The J. Christopher ($39, purchased, 13.8%) is, if not spectacular, well made and well put together. Look for fragrant black cherry fruit, some much welcome savory herbs, a bit of minerality toward the back, and just enough earthiness so you can say the earthiness is there. It’s not as fruity or rich as as California pinot noir, and it’s not as subtle as red Burgundy, but it is interesting and enjoyable.

Pair this with traditional pinot noir dishes, whether roast lamb or grilled salmon. It’s probably not going to get much better over time, so drink now.

winereview

Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Anne Amie winemaker's selectNothing illustrates the foolishness of the three-tier system more than the Anne Amie winemaker’s select. This Oregon producer isn’t especially big, and only has distribution in 39 states. Which means that those of you in the other 11, including Pennsylvania, can’t buy it.

Which is a shame, because the Anne Amie winemaker’s select ($24, purchased, 13.6%) is a steal, perhaps the best pinot noir at this price I’ve had since I started writing the blog. If nothing else, it is varietally correct. To find a pinot that tastes like pinot at this price is the equivalent of my beloved Chicago Cubs winning two or three World Series in a row, and they haven’t won one in more than 100 years.

And there is much more than varietal correctness. This is a beautiful and delightful Oregon-style pinot with zingy red fruit (very red cherry), a touch of bramble and blackberry on the nose, soft and relaxing tannins, and more oak than I thought. This wine is still very young, and the oak should fade into the background over time, letting the fruit show a little more. It also shows how a talented winemaker can work with a warm vintage to produce a balanced wine.

Highly recommended (though the price may be higher elsewhere), and another reason why Anne Amie is one of my favorite producers in the U.S. I just wish more people could buy its wines.

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Mini-reviews 80: Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau, Planet Oregon, Vistalba, Leese-Fitch

Drouhin Beaujolais NouveauReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month (though it posts today because of the holiday):

?Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): Better than the last couple of vintages of this French red, in which it tastes more like wine than grape juice. But it’s still too soft and too full of that off-banana flavor that marks poorly made Beaujolais Nouveau. One day, perhaps, these wines will again be worth drinking, and I’ll keep trying them to let you know.

?Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($20, purchased, 13.4%): There’s nothing really wrong with this Oregon red, other than I expected a bit more than it delivered. Look for lots of red fruit with some earthiness, but it’s light and too simple for $20 — even for pinot noir.

?Vistalba Tomero Torront s 2014 ($14, sample, 13%): This Argentine white is more sauvignon blanc than torrontes, with too much citrus and not enough of the soft white fruit that makes a dry torrontes so enjoyable. Having said that, it’s not unpleasant; it just doesn’t taste like torrontes. Given that, the price is problematical.

?Leese-Fitch Chardonnay 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Solid and dependable grocery store chardonnay from California that follows the same template every year — just enough green apple fruit, fake oak, and heavy-ish mouth feel to taste the way it should, and consistency is a virtue when you’re standing in front of the Great Wall of Wine on your way home from work.

wine closures

Chehalem, pinot noir, and screwcaps

chehalem pinot noirScrewcaps, say the purists, don’t let wine age. Harry Peterson-Nedry has a PowerPoint presentation that says otherwise. And who says Microsoft products are useless?

Peterson-Nedry is the co-owner and long-time winemaker at Oregon’s Chehalem Wines, where screwcaps have been used to close pinot noir, chardonnay, and its other varietals since the end of the last century. As such, Peterson-Nedry, a former chemist, has tracked more than 15 years of wine, complete with data, charts, and graphs. Or, as one of the slides last week mentioned: “absorbents at 420 nanometers.” In other words, a rigorous, scientific look at how well Chehalem’s wines aged under screwcaps.

The result? Quite well, actually, if different from the way wines age with natural and synthetic corks. And, if we didn’t believe — or understand — the science, we tasted three five-wine flights of Chehalem labels — the winery’s $29 Three Vineyards pinot noir from 2009 to 2013, the same wine from 2004 to 2008, and Chehalem’s stainless steel $18 Inox chardonnay from 2004 to 2014. Tasting made believers of us all, even those who may have been skeptical about Peterson-Nedry’s research.

The highlights from the slide show and tasting (without too much science) are after the jump: Continue reading

winetrends

Oregon and pinot noir

oregon and pinot noirOr, how a state that everyone laughed at when it first started making wine has turned into one of the best regions in the world for pinot noir. That’s the subject of a story I wrote for the Wine Business International trade magazine. Given Oregon’s success over the past 30 years, and how little too many consumers still know about the state, and it’s worth noting the story’s highlights about Oregon and pinot noir:

? Oregon’s lesson for other states that want to be something besides a winemaking curiosity? Don’t be afraid to zig when the rest of the wine world is zagging. In this case, it was growing pinot when everyone else said it couldn’t be done, and not accepting the conventional wisdom that said they should do what California did. “The people who came to Oregon in the first place were pioneers, not just because it was a new region, but because they had a different spirit,” says Thomas Houseman, the winemaker at the 15,000-case Anne Amie Vineyards, who worked for Ponzi Vineyards, one of the state’s first producers. ?They really didn’t have an idea about what they wanted to do. They just figured it out as they went along. And that’s still part of Oregon.”

? Legend says that a group of growers smuggled the first pinot cuttings from Burgundy in France, home to the world’s greatest pinot noir, to get around federal regulations. Ask about the legend, and you get a lot of winks and grins.

? Pinot noir isn’t the only grape Oregon’s producers do well. Its pinot gris, fruit forward and crisp, puts most of the rest of the world to shame, and I have always enjoyed Oregon sparkling wine. Ironically, chardonnay has never fared well, despite the state’s favorable terroir, but producers are making another effort with the grape, and have enjoyed some success.

? Price is also an important part of Oregon and pinot noir. My pal Wayne Belding, MS, a wine educator and reformed retailer, says that “at $50 and $60 for the top-end wines, they provide value not seen with pinot noir anywhere else in the world. There’s a common style, delicacy and nuance. They aren’t trying to make powerhouse wines. ?

Want Oregon wine suggestions? Use the search box on the right side of the page and type in Oregon.