Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 19

19 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Well, well. We appear to have ourselves an Advent “Battle of Oregon” this year… of sorts. After the current favourite for “2018 wine of the calendar” made its presence felt a mere two days ago, another iconic Oregon Pinot Noir comes out swinging. The present bottle, the 2016 Cristom Vineyards Mt. Jefferson Cuvee, keeps taking the crown in an annual Wine & Spirits poll to identify the “#1 Pinot Noir in America’s Best Restaurants” (five wins in total). However, most fascinating to me is that this wine represents a very different vinification philosophy from the Ken Wright approach from Day 17. Wright bottles a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from 13 different sites in the northern Willamette Valley. His overriding goal is capture the unique character of each plot. At Cristom, however, blending reigns supreme. Although the winemaking approach is informed by a traditional Burgundian ethos, grower and owner Tom Gerrie and winemaker Steve Doerner believe that the Willamette shows best when grapes from different sites are woven together into a tapestry, as opposed to enjoyed as single strands.IMG_2469

Steve Doerner had previously spent 15 years crafting world class Pinot Noirs with Josh Jensen at Calera, on remote Mount Harlan in California. Although this collaboration was fruitful, Jensen, a staunch advocate of site specificity much like Ken Wright, retained ultimate control over the winemaking. Doerner began to tire of working in such an isolated, lonely locale and was unable to persuade Jensen that blending could afford possibilities that single vineyard wines could not. As he told wine historian Paul Lukacs, “I just liked the idea of making something better, something more complete, than any of its components”. Doerner found the freedom he was seeking when he moved to Oregon and began working with Tom’s father, Paul Gerrie. The Gerrie family considers Doerner to be a blending ninja, a man able to sculpt characterful wines using grapes from all five of Cristom’s estate vineyards as well as quality sites from nearby in the Willamette Valley. Doerner makes the entry level Mt. Jefferson Cuvee first, tasting wines from the different plots and then synthesizing the finished wine using a non-obsessive, intuitive approach based on his tasting instincts alone: “I don’t agonize over it at that point. I just try to make the best I can.” Cristom does make site-specific bottlings, as the market is of course enamoured with terroir, and the Gerries are understandably proud of their estate vineyards. However, each year’s blend is the first priority, with consistency from vintage to vintage the final goal. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 17

17 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

I can often tell how much I like a wine by how many notes I take.  Even when it doesn’t hit me at first how much I am taken by a bottle, I’ll suddenly look down and a whole notebook page is filled up of musings and guesswork and random sensory impressions, the various threads through which I eventually try to sort out the essence of the wine and how it speaks to me.  On blog days where the bottle doesn’t have much to say, or doesn’t quite spur the imagination, the pen moves very slowly.  Tonight I have three pages of notes in about 30 minutes, and I had to stop myself from writing more so that I could post this early enough for people to actually read it.  This was the first bottle in Advent history that had me autonomically exclaim “WOW.”, reflex-like, as soon as I opened the bottle.  I had never had a Ken Wright Pinot Noir before, but I was very well aware the level of quality it represented.  For my first bottle to be his 2015 Shea Vineyard, from the now-famous plot that he almost single-handedly put on the map, can’t be more perfect.  Welcome to the last week of the calendar, which almost surely can’t get better than this.

IMG_9452

Ken Wright was first exposed to wine as a waiter and student in Kentucky, and the regular staff tastings at his part-time job soon led to a complete change of vocation and an enrolment in the prestigious UC Davis viticulture program in California.  He spent close to a decade in the state honing his craft, but a single visit to Oregon in 1976 convinced him that his destiny lay there, where he felt North America’s pinnacle expressions of Pinot Noir could be made.  He loaded up his family and all his earthly belongings and founded his first Oregon winery in 1986 (Panther Creek Cellars, which still exists today, though Wright has since sold it), then his eponymous winery in 1994, which focuses entirely on single-vineyard expressions, mostly of Pinot Noir, from 13 different vineyard sites.  Shea Vineyard, the home of tonight’s bottle, is in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the northern part of the Willamette Valley, a sub-AVA that Ken helped define and create (along with five others) back in 2004.  Ken also established his winery’s tasting room in the heart of the small town of Carlton, echoing his belief in the power of site for his grapes by connecting his business directly to their land of origin.  His was the first winery to take root in Carlton, and it has now been joined by a large tasting room in the town’s old train station. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: Cloudline Pinot Duo

2 03 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

FullSizeRender-245

OK, yes, I totally had a glass of the PG before taking this picture.

The flourishing Pinot Noir vine of Oregon’s wine history is largely rooted in a man named David Lett, the founder of Eyrie Vineyards, the first person to plant Pinot Gris in the United States and the trailblazer who cemented Oregon’s place as a safe haven for Burgundian varietals.  Known as Papa Pinot, Lett entered his 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir in a prestigious 1979 blind tasting competition in Paris called the Wine Olympics, which featured hundreds of entries from around the world.  Absolutely nobody outside of Oregon in 1979 thought of it as a wine region, let alone a globally competitive one, but that started to change when the Eyrie Pinot placed in the top ten, beating many top Burgundies along the way.

One person who noticed the result was Robert Drouhin, third-generation head of Burgundy’s renowned Maison Joseph Drouhin.  The following year, unbeknownst to Lett, Drouhin set up his own Burgundy/Oregon rematch, pitting Eyrie Vineyards blind against a field of some of his top wines.  The Eyrie Pinot came in second in the group, just a hair behind Drouhin’s legendary 1959 Chambolle-Musigny.  As if that wasn’t feather enough in Oregon’s cap, Drouhin then proceeded to buy the cap too.  He visited Oregon, noted that its cooler, more temperate climate was a more welcoming environment for Burgundy’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than neighbouring California, had his daughter Veronique come work harvest with the Letts and others in 1986, then purchased land himself in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills to grow the Pinot that had impressed him so much. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Boedecker Cellars Stewart Pinot Noir

3 08 2011

Just smell this wine once...then keep on smelling.

Oregon!  By now you know that Washington State, especially Washington State Syrah, has a big piece of my wine-loving heart, but my affections actually spread further across the Pacific Northwest, even though Oregon’s wine scene is considerably different from its northern neighbour’s.  Most of Washington’s wines are grown in the southeast part of the state, which is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain range and is almost desert-like:  dry and hot during the day and quite a bit cooler at night.  The heat allows thicker-skinned, warmer-weather grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to ripen fully, while the nightly colder spells give the resulting wines a little restraint and keep them from becoming alcoholic fruit bombs.  Oregon is totally different, with a climate that more closely resembles what you’d expect from the northern Pacific coast (and I lived in Victoria BC for three years, so I know):  cooler, more continental, less sunny and quite a lot rainier.  The big powerful red grapes would struggle to ripen fully here, but their more delicate, thinner-skinned, colder-climate brethren absolutely thrive, especially Pinot Noir.  In my (only partially-informed) opinion and (fairly limited) experience, I would venture to say that Oregon has more promise as a Pinot Noir region than anywhere else on Earth other than Burgundy, France, the grape’s ancestral homeland — it’s better suited for the grape than established Pinot zones like California; more impressive than other up-and-coming areas like Central Otago, New Zealand or Yarra Valley/Mornington Peninsula, Australia; and more intriguing than long-time European growing zones like Germany or Austria.  Oregon has only been noticed as a serious wine region in the last 50 years, but its affinity for Pinot Noir has seen it gain an astronomical amount of international respect in a very short time.  It has since started branching out with some of the white grapes from Alsace, France (Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc), but Pinot Noir is its meal ticket and its justified claim to fame.  I’m not a huge Pinot fan, but (possibly because I don’t find myself drinking $150+ Burgundy all that often) Oregon’s renditions of the grape are probably my favourite. Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: