April 7, 2011

Oregon Wine Tasting!

Wayne’s Way Cool

Wine Tasting


Saturday, April 9th


Featuring Wines from Oregon

From SMALL family wineries

Brought to Us

By a Mainer

Who has moved to Oregon

Wayne Clark

A Wine tasting featuring small Pacific Northwest wineries you likely have never seen before – and certainly wines that have never been sold in Maine before today.

Wayne Clark has been a customer and became a friend over the years. He moved to Oregon a couple of years ago and on his return trips he’d bring these treasures from unknown wineries in Oregon. I loved the wines. He started asking me how to get them in Maine. So, I put Wayne and Ned Swain of Devenish Wines together.

Let’s just say Wayne knows his way around a good bottle of wine AND he knows how to avoid a poor bottle as well. Life is too short to drink bad wine is a motto that Wayne and I share along with Ned from Devenish Wines.

Wayne is a former full-time Maine resident. He now lives in Oregon, but he still has a home here and he returns often……and he wanted some of his favorite unknown Oregon gems to be available in Maine. His ORWA (Oregon and Washington abbreviated and merged) wine brokerage is bringing wines from small family wineries in Oregon and Washington to Maine, with distribution handled through Devenish Wines. For more information, visit the ORWA website at orwawine.com.

This is what Wayne does in his own words:

“First, what is this all about? When I moved to Oregon, I knew very little about Oregon wines. I remember sitting in a place called Oregon Wines on Broadway, which had about 16 wines on “tap.” I was blown away by the depth and breadth of them, and how very good they were. Then I discovered that I was only about 35 minutes from wine country. I spent many weekends exploring. Imagine Napa at a kinder, gentler time in its history. You’re on a country road, and then there are several blue signs at an intersection. Along with easel signs: “Tasting Today”. Heaven.

Pinot Noir is the signature grape in Oregon, and what it is NOT is California Pinot. The highest expression of Pinot Noir in Oregon is an elegant, silky wine with a balanced alcohol content. The wine may be bigger or smaller, lean to black fruits or red berries, be lighter or heavier, but the best ones are silky and elegant. Burgundian, if you will.

I came to have a real yen for the smaller, family owned wineries. In fact for our business model, if we visit a tasting room a couple of times and haven’t met the owner or the winemaker, we’re not likely to include it in our portfolio.”

The Wines:

The Whites:

Illahe Vineyards is a small producer in Upper Willamette Valley.

Wayne and Kim found Illahe at the end of a long weekend of tasting this past Thanksgiving Weekend (the other major tasting weekend in the Willamette Valley). It is at the far southern end of the upper Willamette Valley, and the approach is spectacular, through seeming miles of vineyards, then up a long, curvy road through the vines to arrive at the hilltop winery. Not usually open, a makeshift tasting room had been set up in the building. Our palates were fried, but we liked what we tasted. We were met in the driveway by Logan the black lab, and at the door of winery by Lowell Ford, the long-time farmer for the family property. He explained that “Illahe” is a Chinook word describing “place”. His son Brad is the winemaker, and the National Sales Manager is Bethany, Brad’s wife.

We wanted to taste the wines again with fresh palates before including them in our portfolio, so we called Bethany. She agreed to meet us on a Sunday afternoon and pour them all for us. At 8 months pregnant, no small feat!

Illahe Viognier 2009 (Oregon) $15.99Brand new to Maine. This is how I prefer Viognier – lower in alcohol, refreshing and delicious. This is a grape that is not commonly grown in Oregon. This is a very aromatic wine – citrus peel, citrus fruit, honeysuckle, melons and pineapple. This is juicy due to its nice acidity. Flavors of citrus that lean to grapefruit, honeysuckle and tropical fruit. Nice, clean, long finish. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. LIVE-certified Salmon Safe vineyard. Wine Enthusiast, “Best Buy,” 91 points

Illahe Gruner Veltliner 2009 (Oregon) $15.99Brand new to Maine. Why not an Oregon Gruner? Another grape that is not commonly grown in Oregon. This has nice minerality. Wonderful fruit – pineapple, melon and just a hint of grapefruit. Hints of black pepper. Stainless steel fermentation. 0.3% residual sugar – so it is bone dry. LIVE-certified Salmon Safe vineyard. Wine Enthusiast, “Best Buy,” 90 points

Illahe Riesling 2009 (Oregon) $15.99Brand new to Maine. This is a bone-dry Riesling (it’s only 0.5% residual sugar). This might be Illahe’s driest white. Aromas and flavors of honey and apples. 90 cases made. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Made from 2 clones of Riesling, one of which entered Oregon in the ‘70’s. Brand new to Maine. LIVE-certified Salmon Safe vineyard.

ArborBrook Pinot Gris Croft Vineyard 2010 (Oregon) $15.99 – This is a beautiful example of a hand-crafted wine from a small producer in the coastal range of Oregon. The grapes are from the Croft Vineyard. This has bright, fresh aromas of pears, tropical fruit, subtle lemon, honeysuckle and minerals. This has flavors of pears, white peaches and apricots, minerals and vibrant acidity. 100% Pinot Gris. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. 450 cases made. All organic farming, “Salmon Safe.” 20 year-old vines. Food pairing – fish with a white wine sauce, mussels, albacore salad, ham, quiche. Brand new to Maine.

The Reds:

Dewey Kelly Pinot Noir 2007 (Oregon) $16.99 – These are Wayne’s notes about the winery and wine.

“The Dewey Kelley label is actually Dewey’s second label. He makes Ribbon Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir that is premium priced and quite nice, but honestly I like the Dewey Kelly better at the price point.

I discovered this small (~1,100 cases) operation by accident. I was out solo on a Memorial Day weekend, which in the Willamette Valley is when many places are open for tasting that aren’t usually open. It wasn’t on my itinerary, but I was intrigued and turned in by the easel sign. I bumped half a mile up a wet dirt road, so rough that my GPS bounced off the dash and hit the floor and broke. My reward was a pole building with an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven and Dewey himself. The makeshift tasting room was pure Willamette Valley: unpretensious and fun. Dewey also makes a dessert wine that is killer, but we’re not going there yet.

This vineyard has been producing fruit for a long time. Dewey is both farmer and winemaker, and he still holds onto his day job as well. He holds his wine a bit longer than most. While many vineyards are sold out of their 2008s and are pouring 2009s, he won’t release his 2008 until Thanksgiving 2011. Given the stellar year that 2008 was, I can’t wait.

Ribbon Ridge is one of my favorite AVAs. It’s the smallest in Oregon, and it differs significantly from Chehalem Mountains, which it borders. The marine sedimentary soil is younger, and less disturbed by faults and floods. The Chehalem Mountains block severe weather from the Columbia Gorge, and the Eola Hills to the south block the cold winter marine winds of the Van Duzer Corridor – a pass through the Coast Range to the Pacific.

2007 Pinot Noir

This is a light, bright wine, with pleasant red fruit and an elegant finish. 2007 was to put it mildly a challenging year. Some have called it a winemaker’s year, because it separated the men from the boys, so to speak. Late season rain had people guessing when to harvest. Those who waited were rewarded with riper fruit. Even the best 2007s didn’t really come into their own until they’d been in bottle about 6 months. With much longer than that, Dewey’s are very nice.” Brand new to Maine.

Illahe Pinot Noir 2008 (Oregon) $22.99Brand new to Maine. Light and spicy, with a cinnamon note ringing in the ears of the raspberry and cherry fruit. Long, delicate finish. Drink now through 2016. 1,500 cases made. LIVE-certified Salmon Safe vineyard. Wine & Spirits, 92 points

ArborBrook Pinot Noir 2009 (Oregon) $39.99 – As beautiful as their Pinot Gris is, their Pinot Noir is as well. The highest expression of Oregon Pinot Noir is an elegance and silkiness that you just don’t get in the bigger, higher-alcohol California Pinot Noirs. This is one of the best examples. The grapes are from the Chehalem Mountains AVA (American Viticultural Area). Aromas of black currants, dark, ripe raspberries, black berries and leather. Firm acidity and a juicy mouthfeel. This has flavors of black cherries, plums, currants, anise, cola, subtle oak and a hint of the forest floor. 100% Pinot Noir from the Dijon 777 clone. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak and 70% of the barrels are 2nd and 3rd year. 536 cases made. Food pairing – roasted or grilled game, duck, steak au poivre, grilled Portobello mushrooms, meals with a wine reduction sauce. Brand new to Maine.

Angel Vine Zinfandel 2008 (Washington) $21.99 – These are Wayne’s notes.

“I met Ed Fus and two of his angels at Carlton Wine Cellars, a winemaking co-op where he turns Washington grapes into Oregon wine. I had tried one of his Zinfandels at a restaurant some months earlier, so when I saw the name I had to check it out. A side note: Ed’s label was originally Three Angels (his wife and two daughters), but a trademark challenge from a much bigger California winery caused him to change it to Angel Vine. Ed is a director of LIVE (Low Input Viniculture & Enology), which certifies sustainable practices.

2008 Columbia Valley Zinfandel

Columbia Valley is the largest AVA in Washington. These grapes were from the sub-AVAs of Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, and Wahluke Slope. It was barrelled in a mixture of mostly second-use French and Hungarian oak for 18 months.

This is everything you want in a Zinfandel. The secret is a bit of Primitivo and Petit Syrah to balance it out and add some oomph. It’s fruit forward, and has noticeable but not overwhelming tannins, nice raspberry and blackberry notes, and spice. An approachable everyday wine. Brand new to Maine.

No comments: