Oregon wine update

image And it’s mostly good news, if my experience yesterday at a 20-winery tasting in Dallas is any indication. Oregon is best known for its world-class pinot noir and chardonnay, and there was plenty of that on hand. But the state’s producers are working with a variety of other other cool climate grapes, including and especially German varietals.

That said, the 2006 harvest had its problems. I tasted a surprising number of flabby and uninteresting wines, including too many that were overly alcoholic. That almost never happens in Oregon. I was told that this development has more to do with the difficulties in 2006 (not enough sun, too cool) than with any style shift. I hope so. Oregon is famous for its accessible, fruit-driven wines, which are a welcome relief to so much that comes out of California.

Here are some of the highlights from the tasting:

? Airlie Winery Muller Thurgau 2007 ($10): Oregon wines have increased in price as they have become more popular and as real estate has become more expensive. This sweetish white, made with a German grape, is a welcome exception. It’s floral and refreshing, and a huge value at this price.

? Montinore Estate Gewurtztraminer 2006 ($13): A terrific balance between fruit and acid, with an almost orange-like freshness. Another terrific value.

? Adelsheim Vineyard Willamette Valley CH 2006 ($22). An unoaked chardonnay that combines French style with Oregon fruit. Think of a richer, less austere wine from the Macon. I liked this a lot, even at this price (though the winery’s David Adelsheim did get a chuckle when the Wine Curmudgeon suggested that $13 was a better price).

? McKinlay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Estate 2006 ($40). This is the kind of pinot that made Oregon famous — a touch of candied fruit on the front, but a long, lingering finish that includes a Burgundian earthiness. Yes, it’s pricey, but so is a lot of much more poorly-made pinot.