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Dundee Hills Wine Experience

August 28th, 2010

What a contrast of tastings I had this week!

After the Italy in the Valley unpleasantness, the Dundee Hills tasting was well organized and enjoyable!

The Dundee Hills tasting was held in a space that was new to me:  the Leftbank Annex, near the Rose Quarter.  It was an airy great space for this type of event, roomy and well lit, even with a little room upstairs to separate wines for a press tasting.

On entering the event, you got a Riedel Burgundy glass, a paper spit cup, and a sheet detailing who was pouring.  They arranged the group well, too: newcomers were grouped together on the right; pioneers were arranged on the far left and the remaining wineries in the middle.

Upstairs was reserved for press, to give us a place away from the crowds to taste.  Only one wine from each winery was there, but it was a nice opportunity to taste quickly, and they gave press a handy booklet in which to write notes.  Well done!

Food was limited, but tasty, especially the small fingerling potatoes split and stuffed with mushrooms and cheese.

There were a lot of people there, but it did not feel crowded.  You could still get to the producers to talk and ask questions.

You could taste the similarity across all the wines, no matter which vintage or winery.  There was a pleasant black cherry core in each wine, linking them together.

The wines that I liked best are below.  Please remember that wines change day to day and this is just a snapshot of what I tasted Thursday night.  The 2008s were very tight and need time to unfold.  Some of the 2007s were very nice as well.  And a number of older wines appeared around the room.  I did not taste the Eyrie 1977 Thursday night, but I have tasted that wine many times before, and as recently as 2 years ago.

Archery Summit

Red Hills Estate Vineyard 2007   $85

This wine showed more black fruit that the classic black cherry and showed very good depth and length.  It reminded me of the great evolution these wines have seen in the last few years.  Gone are the over extracted, oaky wines; now we see much more fruit and finesse.

Argyle

Spirithouse Pinot Noir 2007   $60

A nice depth of black cherry fruit supported by acidity. Very long length.  An attractive wine that doesn’t shout, but sings.

Ayoub Wines

Ayoub Pinot Noir 2008   $52

The surprise of the tasting for me.  A very new producer, and a lovely wine showing a very good depth of black cherry fruit, supporting acidity, and very silky texture.  The wine showed some complexity, concentration and length.  I want to follow this guy….

DePonte Cellars

Baldwin Family Reserve 2007   $70

A great example of an ’07: very nice depth of flavor with a lovely richness mid palate, followed by long length.

The Eyrie Vineyards

Estate Pinot Noir 2008   $28.75

A leaner style, but lovely black cherry fruit with supporting acicity, and long length.  It is tightly wound and needs time to develop.  I heard that winemaker Jason Lett said of this wine that it was a color (darker)  his father would never have recognized!  It shows nicely now, but will age beautifully.

Lange Estate Winery

“Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir 2008     $40

This wine showed a bright back cherry core of fruit, strong acidity and good mid palate depth with nice long length.  Tight now, it needs time to unwind.

Westrey Wine Company

Oracle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008    $28

Another lovely and tight 2008, showing a lovely depth of black cherry fruit, supporting acidity, a full palate, and long length.  Needs time in bottle.

I also tasted a lovely 1999 Pinot from Westrey, but I did not write down the vineyard.  When I asked co-owner Amy Wesselman if she brought the 1999 because she hopes this vintage will mirror that late one, she laughed and said yes!

The other wines I tasted were not bad; just not my favorites and there too were many of them to write down.

Dundee Hills, Oregon, Oregon wines, Pinot Noir

Italy in Oregon

August 26th, 2010

I made the mistake of going to Italy in the Valley, an event showcasing the Italian varieties made by Oregon producers.  Last year’s event was pleasant, but there were only 3 wines of the 15 or so that I liked.

So this year, with 26 wines to taste, I was anticipating an interesting afternoon.

What I got was a mosh pit, no spit cups, chunky stem-less glasses with which to taste, and a run on the advertised pork sandwiches, leaving an uninspired vegetarian version.

The sheet describing the varieties had many errors.  Who would describe Sangiovese as tasting like strawberries?  Black cherries and leather, yes, but strawberries?  And for Lagrein, one of my favorite varieties, they list it as a blending agent with Pinot noir!  Where?  None of the wineries I visited in Alto Adige used Lagrein in their Pinot noirs.  So where?   Since when is Vermentino grown in Piemonte? Well, miniscule amounts of Favorita are indeed grown, but they are not made in much quantity and not very well distributed in the wine world.  The folks who wrote this list put it as a major variety grown there.  I don’t think so.  Tuscany, yes, particularly in Bolgheri and the Maremma.  Sardinia and Corsica, yes.  And in France, Vermentino is known as Rolle and is grown throughout Provence.

Getting to taste the wines took major effort.  You had to push through hordes of people to get to the tables, taste quickly, and spit on the grass as no spit cups were in evidence.  And since there were so many people, it was next to impossible to engage a producer and ask questions.

So what wines did I like?  More than three wines this time.

Marchesi Vineyards

Dolcetto 2009

Showed a bright cherry flavor, with great acidity and personality.  But at $25 a bottle, I could get a Piemontese version cheaper.

Ponzi Vineyards

Arneis 2009

Always a favorite, this wine showed bright apple notes, fresh clean acidity and a touch of almond.  Good depth of flavor and some length.

Remy Wines

Lagrein 2007

One of my favorites at these tastings, and also generally, this wine showed nice leathery and berry notes with its tannins under control.  Crisp acidity kept it nicely taught.  And Remy brought down her price for this, which used to be a princely $60/bottle. Now retails for $48.  Still high, but not outrageous.

Tartan

Dolcetto 2006 and 2007

Both showed very nicely, with bright cherry notes and fresh acidity.  The 2006 had a bit more body of course, but both wines showed well.  And slightly better priced at $22,

Troon

Vermentino 2008

Maybe Troon’s best wine.  This southern Oregon beauty shows bright citrus flavors, supporting acidity and nice length.  Very pretty wine.

Viento

Barbera 2007

Nice dark cherry flavors, and a slightly rustic but pleasant style.  The amount of oak used was judicious, and the whole package was a very nice drink.

Italian varieties, Oregon