April 28, 2012

Pacific Northwest Wine Tasting with Wayne Clark and Devenish's Ned Swain

Wayne & Ned’s 
Way Cool
 Wine Tasting II
Saturday, May 5th

Featuring Wines 
from Oregon & Washington
From SMALL family-owned wineries
Brought to Us By a Mainer, Wayne Clark,
Who moved to Oregon

10% off the price of all tasting wines!

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

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 over Thanksgiving 2010 (one of the two major tasting weekends 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 Gruner Veltliner 2010 (Oregon) $15.99 –Why not an Oregon Gruner? A grape that is not commonly grown in Oregon, but that is well-suited to Oregon’s climate and Illahe’s soil.  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. 

Illahe Riesling 2009 (Oregon) $15.99 –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.  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.

The Reds:

Red Hawk “Grateful Red” Pinot Noir 2009 (Oregon) $17.99

Red Hawk Red 2009 (Oregon) $17.99 - Blend

Dewey Kelly Pinot Noir 2007 (Oregon) – 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.”

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.

Angel Vine “The Hellion” Primitivo – Petite Sirah 2008 (Washington) $24.99 – We tasted a wonderful Zinfandel from this winery in April when Wayne was here.  It was a HUGE hit at the tasting.  Ed Fus made a very limited amount of this blend (9 barrels).  Ed is devoted to making great Zinfandel and its cousin, Primitivo.  This is a delicious tribute to the Italian field blends that have been popular in California since immigrants brought vines with them.  It’s full, ripe and drinkable with spice and smoke under its dense fruit.  Everything is balanced.

The Dessert:

ArborBrook “Sydney” Semillon 2008 (Washington) $22.99 – This is golden and honeycomb in color.  This is a Sauternes-style wine with ripe honeysuckle and pineapple aromas.  This has flavors of pineapple, candied orange peel, starfruit and more tropical fruit flavors.  It has a silky, soft mouthfeel with a long finish.  The grapes are picked in late November.  From the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA in Washington.  Fermented for 60 days in oak barrels.  Barrel-aged for 18 months in 50% new and 50% 2nd use French oak barrels.  All organic farming, “Salmon Safe.”  .  Food pairing – foie gras, blue cheese, nuts, dried fruit, pear or apple tart, grilled pineapple with white pepper caramel sauce, poaching Asian pears in and serving over vanilla ice cream.  94 points, Wine Enthusiast

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