Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.
I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.
Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!
The Quiet Time
My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.
Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.
The Scenic Route
We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.
Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…
Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.
So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.
12 Days of Wine
Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.
Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.
in the Yakima Valley, we wanted to catch up with Barbara Glover who heads up
Wine Yakima Valley. She had put together
an amazing tour for many of us in the Wine Media for the conference held in
Walla Walla in Oct 2018. The tour gave
us an in depth look at this region and was the reason we decided we needed to
return to learn more.
a couple of morning interviews and Barbara was kind enough to squeeze us in
last minute. Now…where to meet? Barbara made a call and set us up to meet at
Stems in Yakima.
Stems is a wine & gift shop, so we had a backdrop of shelves of bottles of Yakima Valley wines for our interview with Barbara.
who runs this shop was generous in letting us use the space and we had great
conversations on the area. We found a
couple of bottles that we were not able to find elsewhere to take along with
are in Yakima, this is a great place to pick up a bottle and gain some valuable
information from Brad on the area! It’s
also a pretty great spot to pick up gifts for fellow wine lovers!
We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.
The White Wines
When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.
White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.
This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.
And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.
You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.
2939 Grand Avenue Los Olivos, CA 93441 Ph #: 805.693.5100 Open daily 11am-6pm No reservations. First-come, first-serve. Closed only on Christmas Day
White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.
Spier Wine Farm
This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…
More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)
You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.
Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/
White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño
We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.
The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.
Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.
The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.
Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.
The Red Wines
When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.
Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese
We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.
Sangiovese? Think Chianti
This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?
The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.
They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.
Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015
This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!
Don Miguel Gascón Wines
This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.
The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.
This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.
Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon
If you have visited our site before, you know we are big fans of Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery. He helped to put Ballard Canyon and their Syrah on the map. He was instrumental in founding the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County.
Michael’s background is in geology and he is an invaluable resource for discussing the soils of the entire Santa Barbara Region. He is passionate about the region and it’s wines, most especially the Syrah from this little corner of the universe.
This wine is all Estate grown fruit that is aged 22 months in 33% new French oak and 8% new American oak (the rest is neutral oak).
Aromas, flavors and pairings
This wine was the biggest we served at 14.9%. With a complex nose, we set out scent jars of blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper corns, leather and earth. We paired this with our favorite bite with syrah, bacon wrapped dates.
If you want a bottle of this wine, or to taste his other wines, head to Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. You can find the tasting room at the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Ave next to the Los Olivos General Store. Grab a tasting and a sandwich from next door and sit at a table in front in the shade, behind the historic gas pump.
It was a fun evening and hopefully everyone discovered a new wine that they enjoyed! We got up today to 85 dirty glasses! I have a new appreciation for tasting room staff who deal with this, and then some, daily! Was it worth it? Damn straight! We got to explore the world with wine while sitting in the living room with friends. What could be better?
met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima.
As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my
end of the table and introduced himself.
We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted
with him, with attest to that.
been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years. A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa
and then came to Washington in 1996.
Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his
spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co
Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning
everything about this areas soils and climates.
His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.
that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville. The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du
Brul Vineyard. It was planted by Hugh
and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001. Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and
the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.
mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area. Yes, that was plural climates. When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they
have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site.
“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.
Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard
is recognized as one of the top in the state.
Part 1 – Overview and comparisons
Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine
Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s
and some of the surrounding area. She then
turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the
wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a
comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils
and geology within this region.
Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard
continues with details on the soils and top soils. They don’t have clay here, the soils here are
gravel or sand. As they don’t have clay,
they don’t have phylloxera. They are
also in a rain shadow. We zoom in and
begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be
driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla
Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley. She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard. They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard. They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard. Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east. We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.
Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine
grape would be red if it could. Every
grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of
Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”
Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain
In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul
ending in Red Mountain. This hill is an
extension of Rattlesnake Ridge. Red
Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in
blends. This is a southwest facing
slope, not an entire mountain. It is one
of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there
always ripens fully.
a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides
help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water
management. (She goes into some great
details on why this is so)
While enjoying our afternoon, tasting the wines and getting set for Flavor Camp, I peeked around the side of the winery, where work continued. We were deep into harvest and cleanup was happening outside the winery, behind where the tables were set out for dinner and wine was being poured. I always lean toward the backstage (I am a Stage Manager after all), so I snuck around the side and found a couple fellow wine writers peeking as well. As luck would have it, David O’Reilly, owner of Owen Roe, had spied us, and offered to give us a tour inside the busy working winery.
Full Fermentation Bins!
was full of bins filled with fruit that was fermenting. Pulling back the tarp, that was spring
clamped on as a lid, we looked in at the berries (grapes) that looked
remarkably like blueberries (as someone noted).
informed us that this was a whole berry ferment. They don’t use a crusher to crush the
berries, the weight of the berries pressing down on each other does that work
The room was filled with these white bins full of berries fermenting. Someone asked if this was like a carbonic ferment. Well….carbonic fermentation (as David explained) is a whole berry fermentation like this, but….it is done in an enclosed system with CO2. They do this with the Cinsault that goes into their Sinister Hand Blend. He pointed out the room in the corner, their cold room. The carbonic masceration, does with the Cinsault, what is does with Beaujolais Nouveau, it give the wine a fresh fruit note.
So many Stories
You know I love a good story. While David O’Reilly told us the tales of the winery and the vineyard, I dug a little deeper to find the inspiration for the name of the Winery and beyond that, of the Sinister Hand wine that David mentioned to us and that I got to taste later.
Behind the Name Owen Roe:
Owen Roe O’Neill was a seventeenth century Irish Patriot, who dedicated his life to upholding the highest principles of political equality and freedom. His commitment to great things makes him an ideal model for us at Owen Roe, for we share his dedication to principle in our work to produce the wines of Owen Roe. At Owen Roe we do not compromise: only the best is good enough.
Courtesy Owen Roe Winery
I reached out to Taylor at Owen Roe and she told me that David O’Reilly had spent his first 14 years of life on a farm in Ireland. His family then moved to British Columbia and he fished and raised vegetables and grew up living off of the land.
The name on the Label
A letter written in 1649 by O’Neill was found in David O’Reilly’s family castle, but because the letter was written in Spanish, O’Neill penned the signature with his Spanish name. David cut out the letters from the document to create Owen O’Neill’s signature. O’Reilly is related to O’Neill through marriage.
Courtesy of Taylor Boyle Wine Club Manager at Owen Roe
The story of the Sinister Hand
THE STORY BEHIND THE LABEL: Long ago, pre-dating the 11th century, the families that became modern day O’Neills and O’Reillys were feuding over the land that became their ancestral home. To settle the dispute, a competition was organized and several rowing teams agreed that the first to touch the land, after rowing across the lake, would become ruler of the land. O’Neill’s boat was falling behind so a member of the crew grabbed his own sword, cut off his hand and threw it ashore, and touching first, winning the title to rule the land. The island fortress on this land can still be visited on Lough Oughter in County Cavan.
Dipping into fermentation
David opened up a bin that was about half way through its ferment. You could feel the heat. The bin was sitting at about 32 ° C that would be about 85 ° F. David explained that with Interns in the winery from all over the world, they use celsius temperature and metrics here (easier than teaching another language!).
We looked in another bin and you could see some skin separation. The color was also leaching out of the skins into the juice adding those wonderful phenolics that make red wines so tasty and interesting.
When asked about regulating temperature, David said that they regulate the ambient temperature in the winery. We had arrived at the change of seasons, when the daylight temperatures tend to plummet. Often it is actually too cold for fermentation in the winery. They do have their cold room in case a fermentation gets running too hot. They typically keep their fermentations at around 80 ° here and let them do a nice slow 2 week fermentation.
Jackie Evans, Winemaker
We met Jackie Evans, the winemaker here at Owen Roe, as she was making her rounds adding nutrients to keep the fermentations on track. They had their lab where they check levels and add nutrients to be sure the fermentation does not get stressed. This avoids stuck fermentations. As David puts it “Band-aids are easier than mouth to mouth resuscitation.”
in the evening the crew would be in for punch downs. I had planned on trying to get back in to see
that, but the wine, the food, the conversation, and that sunset…well, suffice
to say, I got distracted.
None the less, we did go on to do our Flavor Camp which included a vineyard tour with David. You will see that coming up next!
Visiting Owen Roe
Owen Roe has 2 tasting rooms, one in Washington at the Union Gap Vineyard that we visited, as well as another in Newberg Oregon (they make wines in the Willamette Valley also)
Washington Tasting room
Open Daily from 11-4 in the Yakima Valley, they do require reservations for more than 8 guests.
They also offer Barrel Room Tastings on the weekends started each day at noon. You can reserve this for a fee on their reservation page. It includes a tour, private tasting, an expanded flight and a cheese and charcuterie platter.
The Union Gap Vineyard and tasting room can be found at 309 Gangl Rd in Wapato WA 98951. 509-877-0454
Oregon Tasting Room
Again open daily from 11-4 their tasting room off Hwy 219 outside of Newberg requires reservations for more than 6 guests. You can bring snacks, or contact them ahead of time and they can have a snack plate ready.
Here they have a Cellar Table Experience that you can reserve to do a more private tasting geared toward your palate. Contact them ahead of time to set this up.
The Willamette Valley tasting room is located at 2761 E 9th St. Newberg OR 97132. 503-538-7778
More to come!
Watch for our vineyard tour with David O’Reilly, coming out soon!
We returned from WBC18 with so much content on Washington Wines and beyond! Tons of great photos and footage and stories from amazing people and wineries. We will break it all down and give you the in-depth stories, but the week was so exciting I wanted to give you the sweeping overview (Complete with lots of photos!) of the stories you will see coming soon!
So I did make it to the airport in Portland! While Michael got a couple extra hours of sleep due to our cancelled and re-booked flight, I sadly did not. Whatever, it’s vacation right? Sleep is overrated. We got on our tiny little flight to PASCO the Tri Cities airport that sits between Yakima and Walla Walla and were seated at the back of the plane. We noticed the plane was pretty empty and inquired about re-seating. The flight attendant informed us that we were seated to provide ballast. LOL!
The flight, new friends and Wine!
As it turned out, there were other WBC attendees on the flight, so we made friends! Jennifer of Beyond the Corkscrew sat with us and we enjoyed complimentary wine from Horizon Air from Sagelands Winery. They are part of the Precept Wine Portfolio and say Sagelands “embodies Washington State’s wine making legacy by sourcing the finest grapes from the four corners of the Columbia Valley and handcrafting them into wines of outstanding quality and value”. From what I can gather on their site, they are a larger winery sourcing grapes, but….I appreciated the bits on their winemaker and the vineyards they source from and their soils. Feel free to use the link and check them out. Michael had the Cabernet, I had the Chardonnay and we toasted with Jennifer to a fine start to what would be a full weekend of wine!
Sagelands Cabernet Sauvignon
Alaska Air regional wine selections
Moutain View from the Plane
Wine Yakima Valley
We spent a little bit of time at the airport, before our host from Wine Yakima Valley arrived to pick us up. There was also a Red Mountain Tour leaving from the airport. I will have a piece or two (or three) on this pre-conference tour. Barbara with Wine Yakima Valley did a phenomenal job setting this all up. So you get the overview! They had snacks for the drive…
Yakima Valley Cheese Plate
…it included some local products, a bit of a tussle to get them out of the plastic wrap but…and then we were off for the hour ten minute drive to Owen Roe Winery for Flavor Camp. Patrick our driver regaled us with stories and details of the area along the way.
Owen Roe Winery
We arrived early at Owen Roe and were greeted with wine, I managed to get a winery tour with Owner David O’Reilly and then Flavor Camp! Yeah, you’ll have to wait to hear about that. The evening ended with Dinner with a spectacular view and many Yakima Valley wines, with Winemakers pouring.
Elephant Mountain Vineyard
The next morning we were up for breakfast and a fly-over seminar, with Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars and Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville to give us the layout of the Yakima Valley so we could connect with the landmarks we were passing as we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard. We met Joe Hattrup, who owns the vineyard., tasted some of the varieties fresh from harvest and then tasted an assortment of wines made from the grapes sourced from this vineyard. Of course they kept us fed, today with a great Mexican food truck to enjoy with the wine and the astounding views.
Walla Walla pre-conference wine education
We came in hot to Walla Walla, dashing from the van right into our first session which was with Dr. Loosen USA on riesling. We had a moment to check in and then off to our second session on the Wines of Uruguay (which was really fascinating and delicious).
Dr. Loosen tasting
Wines of Uruguay
Dr. Loosen Wines
Our dinner that night was at Cadaretta’s glass house. This trip actually took us across the border into Oregon, as the Walla Walla AVA is a cross border AVA. The views were amazing, dinner and the wines were delicious and Kris Middleton of Cadaretta was kind enough to take some time to speak with us. (Yeah…more on that later)
Cadaretta Glass House
Maple braised lamb shank with black truffle risotto
Caderetta Dinner menu
And the conference begins!
The conference…well it’s really fast paced. The Conference Opening ran right into the Introduction to the Walla Walla Valley (and more stories to come from the 4 women winemakers from name the winemakers with links to wineries who introduced us to the region), then a session on Wine Bloggers vs Wine Influencers which took us into lunch sponsored by Cascade Valley Wine Country
Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference
Michael and I then split, Michael did a wine discovery session with Rias Baixas and I did one with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC. We met up again for the Keynote speaker and then went right into Live Red Wine Blogging. What is Live Red Wine Blogging you ask? It’s like speed dating for wine tasting and it’s chaos. You will get the rundown on that later or feel free to jump onto twitter and check out my notes that I did as we went along, the red tasting starts here.
This is by far my favorite part of the conference, you get a colored tag at the top of the conference that is matched up to a group. You all get in vans, buses, cars, limos….and they drive you somewhere. You don’t know where you are going until you arrive. We arrived at Doubleback Winery and were treated to an amazing dinner by Andrae’s Kitchen with wines from Doubleback Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. The winemakers joined us and spoke (we sat with Trey Busch winemaker for Sleight of Hand). The atmosphere, food, wine and company were wonderful.
The conference is full of post evening parties, some sponsored by wineries, some just gatherings. I attended one with Fullerton Wines (thanks Matt) and then another wine filled spectacle by the Drunken Cyclist where everyone brought a bottle to share.
Fullerton Pinot Noir (they also have another brand called Three Otters)
Conference Day 2
The second day of the conference kicked off with the announcement of next years conference which will be held in New South Wales Australia! Followed by breakout session on writing, media, video etc…
Lunch in Walla Walla
Lunch this day was sponsored by Visit Walla Walla and you signed up for lunch in a downtown tasting room. We visited Gard Vintners where we sampled wines, enjoyed a box lunch as well as grapes from the vineyard and apples from the property.
The table full of writers for lunch at Gard
Gard Wines Bottles
Grapes fresh from harvest atGard
Bubbles or Bodegas
Michael and I split up again, he attended a session with Bodegas LAN of Rioja and I did a tasting a pairing session with Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, who I had an opportunity to chat with as I sat next to her the previous evening at dinner. She set up a pairing seminar with Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines. Informative, beautiful and delicious, this was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Gloria Ferrer Tasting
When you think of wine, you can’t help but also think of cheese! Cheeses of Europe gets this and sponsored a session of cheese pairings hosted by the Cheese Twins Michael and Charlie Kalish (you might know them from Chopped or The Great Foodtruck Race. Entertained and full of cheese we had a break before Lightning Talks and the Live White and Rosé tasting.
The evening ended with the final dinner, where we met two winemakers Chris Loeliger of Truth Teller Winery and Tim Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery . And yes, we look forward to followup conversations with both of these gentlemen and bringing you the stories of their wineries.
We had also set up for a post conference excursion through the Columbia Gorge. (This is where Michael parking at the Portland Airport comes in). We traveled to the Columbia Gorge, stopping on the Eastern end at Maryhill Winery where Cassie and Amie had us all set up for a tour, tasting and lunch. The views here are tremendous and we were really spoiled with the in-depth tour. We will have plenty of video to share with you on this behind the scenes look.
After Maryhill were driven west and south to the Oregon side of this AVA for a tasting, tour and dinner at Cathedral Ridge Winery. This place has spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We met owner Rob Bell (hmm…is he any relation to me?)
Cathedral Ridge recipes
Finally they drove us back to Portland. Where we picked up “Nuit” our plug-in hybrid Kia Niro and we were off to spend an evening luxuriating at the Hotel Monaco downtown.
The Adventure home
Our adventure continued! We were up early to head to Voodoo Donuts!
Box of Voodoo Deliciousness
The Oregon Coast and Applegate Valley
Then hit the road to the Oregon Coast. It was foggy, but we could hear the ocean and explored some lovely seaside towns.
Fog on the beach in Oceanside Oregon
fog in the mountains
We drove the coast for a bit then headed inland to the Applegate Valley, hoping to catch some vineyard shots before sunset. While we didn’t catch much, it was quickly made up for by the fabulous YURT we had booked! Sunset View Yurt is amazing, great views, terrific people, a modern Victrola and a beautiful collection of music. We enjoyed a bottle of Johan Drueskall Pinot Gris which is an orange wine. We packed this with us especially to enjoy on this evening, giggling over our Johan in a YURT and then soaked in the hot tub under the stars (well, clouds, but it was lovely anyway!).
The Sunset Yurt
Sunset Yurt and Johan Wine
The Victrola and just a few of the records
Our hosts Kathleen and Richard gave us tips on sites in the Redwoods and we headed southwest again to Jedediah Smith Park to visit the Stout Grove. Redwood groves are sacred sites, it’s like walking in a Cathedral. I really think they are Ents (any Tolkien fans out there?). Being among them you are forced to slow down. Their size and age put the universe into a bit better perspective. After soaking up loads of energy here, we continued to the California Coast where the sun was out! We traveled a bit of the coast, then back through the Redwood Forest and then finally to the freeway to get to Sacramento for our final evening of our trip.
Tahoe and the drive home
Our last morning had us up before dawn and heading to Lake Tahoe, soaking in the scenery and then on through the outskirts of Yosemite to Mono Lake, through park territory there and finally out into the desert and home to Las Vegas.
It was an epic trip and I can’t wait to get into all the details with you!
It’s a play on words and a bit of an inside joke on the label. Note the rain, the umbrella, the boots… Tour Rain speaks to the Touraine region of France as well as to Oregon Climate and Tourists. The ladies on Leah’s labels may look the same, each is really individual. It’s all about the details, just like her wines.
2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge
2016 Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge
Leah was graciously pouring us through her entire lineup and sharing so much information on her wines and philosophies.
“This is actually the first red that I made it’s a blend of Gamay and Cab Franc. It’s based on, or inspired by wines from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley around the city of Tours. It’s a little play on words. You’re in Oregon, you know, you might encounter some rain and Oregonians, we know don’t use umbrellas, that identifies a tourist, so we are being a little tongue in cheek, a little whimsical.
But not tongue in cheek about what’s in the bottle. For me, the Touraine, especially Clos Roche Blanche were my wines that I would always take to a dinner party. Clos Roche Blanche particularly was 40% Gamay, 60% Cab Franc and anytime I would go to someone’s house I would either grab a Morgon Beaujolais or I would grab a Touraine Clos Roche Blanche, because, it goes with everything, roast chicken, pasta, you name it. It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s got great acidity, amazing fruit. I wanted to make Oregon’s first version of that kind of wine, that blend.
So this is 40% Gamay Noir from Haviland Vineyard which is in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor. And the Cab Franc is from the Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. And that’s the same vineyard where the White Cab Franc is from and it’s farmed by Herb Quady of Quady North.
You get a lot of those bramble berries, I love that fruit character to it. Gamay always has that white pepper on the finish. Just the two together I think are just really so complimentary.”
We spoke before of Herb Quady and Mae’s Vineyard with the Blanc de Cab Franc. That vineyard is in the Applegate Valley.
Havlin Vineyard sits in the Willamette Valley in what will soon be the Van Duzer Corridor AVA (this AVA is just waiting for final approval). The area is known for it’s marine soils, and the corridor’s diurnal shifts in the summer due to the marine breezes. On her site, Leah says “Planted in 2011 with cuttings from Seven Springs Vineyard, this site has a south-west aspect planted in Dupee soils, which is a down slope Willakenzie soil series. This vineyard is dry farmed and LIVE certified.”
From the Winemaker
Here are some extra notes on this vintage from the winemaker on her site. Leah’s descriptions are so lush and vivid they must be shared.
“Perhaps the prettiest profile of our red wines (and especially the gorgeous color!), this blend is always a lovely balance of floral, red fruit, and a hint of pepper and sweet wood – with aromatics of ripe cherry, raspberry, cassis, hibiscus, rose petals, cedar, cigar box, vanilla bean, black puerh tea, and pink peppercorn, and then flavors of bing cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry, cocoa powder, clove, and roasted bell pepper – this wine has bright acidity and is juicy with rich, soft tannins – it’s light, lithe, flirty and bright. Enjoy slightly chilled (cellar temperature/58-64° F). Serve with pasta; spicy, rich Asian dishes (noodles); smoked salmon; charcuterie and cheese boards; beet salad; brick oven thin, bubbly-chewy crusted pizza; and skewers/kabobs.”
Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker, that’s what it reads on her business card.
Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker
I had heard about Leah Jørgensen. There was a post of a great wine label on Instagram by a fellow wine writer, talking about this White Cab Franc. Yep, you read that right, White Cab Franc. I then saw her name as one of the winemakers that would be at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills that we were planning to go to during our trip to the Willamette Valley, and I was anxious to taste this wine and talk with her about it. I had no idea how enchanting her wines would be or that we would spend a fascinating hour talking with her, not just about her wines, but about the vineyards she sources from and the ancient seabed that lies beneath the top soil in the southern part of Oregon.
We are not alone in finding her fascinating; She was named one of “15 Women in Wine to Watch” by FOOD & WINE (March 2018) and her wines have been well reviewed by Wine Enthusiast on numerous occasions. She is putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.
A little bit about the Pirate Princess and Winemaker
Leah was previously a representative for a wine distributor in Washington DC. She worked with embassies, providing them wines from a portfolio she managed. She is partial to the Loire Valley and many of her wines (most) are influenced by this love.
She comes from a family that has always been passionate about wine. Her mother’s family has been making wine in Italy since the 1700’s, Her grandfather’s family made barrels in Austria. Her father was raised on a farm outside of Eugene and her cousins own the fisherman’s market in Eugene, and are fishermen who run boats that go up to Alaska. So creating great wines that pair with shellfish…well, that’s really in her blood.
We spent a bit of time at the Uncommon Wine Festival talking with Leah. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. Conversations with her, you just don’t want them to end. As a result, we have a collection of 7 videos from our interview with her, discussing soils and climate in Southern Oregon, the grapes she uses, the influences of the Loire Valley and several of the wines she was pouring that day including her Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, Rosé of Cab Franc, her “Tour Rain” blend and her Malbec.
Leah Jørgensen on Southern Oregon and it’s soils
So we begin our conversation with her speaking about the Southern Oregon Soil series and how the Loire Valley influenced her wine making.
“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley, just like the Willamette Valley is not Burgundy. We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals. With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils and blue schist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago. So mostly when we talk about Oregon Wine and soil series, we are often talking about the Willamette Valley and the Missoula flood, and the influence of the Missoula Flood which happened about 17 million years ago, so now we are talking about really ancient 250 million years ago. The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World. When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley. So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley. That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right? I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish, because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories. So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, (in the Loire Valley they call it Côt), Sauvignon Blanc.”
This is just the start of our conversation with Leah. We went on to learn about the grape varieties and how they grow in southern Oregon, and then we talked about each of her wines as we dipped our nose in the glass and tasted each.
The brains and the brawn, the science and the passion…the perfect pairing for making wines. Ross and Bee consider themselves to be a “true yin and yang team.”
Ross & Bee Maloof exude joy when you speak with them. They are truly excited, bubbling to tell you about these wines that they are so passionate about. And it’s contagious. When we spoke with them at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, they were multi-tasking, pouring glasses and keeping up multiple conversations at the same time.
Their story, while not easy, is kind of dreamy. Bee is an aerospace materials engineer, rooted in science, while Ross comes from a hospitality background, running Food and Beverage programs on the east coast in Phili. Ross had this urge to get into production and got into wine doing an internship with Brianna Day of Day Wines. Brianna runs Day Camp, a wine cooperative and home to 11 small producers, one of which is now Maloof.
In 2015 they made a single barrel of wine, while living a bi-coastal life, just coming to Oregon for harvests.
“Ross: In 2016 I had left my job in Philadelphia and I lived in a tent behind the winery from the middle of July through Thanksgiving and Bee came out for a really good portion of that too. She took all her vacation
Bee: and I’d been saving it for years and years and years
Ross: Spent it all
Bee: In a tent”
So they spent the harvest in a tent behind the winery to fund their first vintage. At this point, they decided to make a go of it. They returned to Phili, packed up the stuff they didn’t sell, put the dogs in the car and did a 33-day drive across the country, with stops along the way to visit family.
This year they will be doing their 4th vintage, but they have only been full time residents since last May.
They focus on white wine, making 6 or 7 wines each year, with only one being a red wine and even that wine is typically 30% white fruit. Their style is
“Bright, snappy, low alcohol, high acid white wines.”
As we got into tasting the first wine Bee gave us a disclaimer.
“Bee: This first one is our possibly, I don’t want to say our most boring, because it’s very classic. (But) It’s going to get weirder going forward.
2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling
Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling
“Bee: This is our 2017 Riesling, it’s from a really cool vineyard at the top of the Chehalem Mountain Range, kinda just down the road, the Nemarniki vineyard and it is run by a female farmer, which I’m always a big proponent of. She and her 3 legged mastiff dog, Babe, basically make the best fruit on Chehalem Mountain, it’s so good. We fermented this super classically, low and slow over the winter, in large format neutral oak puncheons, so 500 liter puncheons and then we bottled in the spring. And you’ll notice there’s a little sparkle to it, a little frizzante.”
A couple of extra notes: Nemarniki is Dry Farmed, LIVE Certified, sits at 850 feet and the soil here is Loess. The alcohol sits quietly at 10.5%, and it runs around $18 a bottle.
They suggest spicy pizza (they actually will suggest a type of pizza to pair with any wine. Pizza is kinda their thing), or Asian dishes with lots of umami. They refer to this wine as “Stone-fruit moon juice”, which is an apt description.
2017 “Where ya PJs at?
Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?
“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé. This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine. So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration. Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling. And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”
The Pinot Gris came from Johan Vineyard which will be in the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA when that is approved and the Riesling, like the Riesling above came from Nemarniki in the Chehalem Mountain AVA. Soils at Johan are silty loam and Nemarniki is loess.
Which pie to enjoy this wine with? They suggest a white pizza or “a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusack movie”
This wine sits at 11.5 alcohol and will set you back a whopping $21 (do it if you can)
2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer
We moved onto the final wine they were pouring on this particular day.
2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer
“Ross: So this last one is our Gewürztraminer. This is from Beckenridge vineyard, just outside of Eola-Amity Hills. The vines here are turning 40 this year. They are own-rooted so really old vine Gewürtztraminer for Oregon. It’s a really lovely little place. We take this fruit and ferment it fully dry on the skins which ended up taking about 23 days. So that’s 23 days skin contact before it was pressed off to neutral oak for the winter and bottled in the spring.”
This wine is from Beckenridge Vineyard. The vines here are own-rooted and dry farmed and they are LIVE Certified. The elevation is 650 feet and the soil is Jory.
On their site they describe this wine as “rose petals and black tea” and “A brooding copper color, with nourishing aromatics of flowers and cheering alpine herbs”. The alcohol goes up another notch to 12.5%, which still sits on the low side in the universe as a whole, and runs $20. They suggest pairing this wine with root veggies and alpine cheeses, oh, and Pizza…always with pizza.
As I noted the rich color of the Gerwürztraminer, Ross filled us in on their approach to this wine:
“Ross: Yeah, so essentially if we kinda think about wine in the binary of white and red, white wine you are typically pressing the grape and separating the solid matter out of the equation and just fermenting the juice by itself and that’s why white wine is bright and acidic and easy to drink. Whereas red wine, you crush the grapes and you leave all that solid matter, the skins, the seeds, the stems sometimes, you leave that in and even kind of reincorporate it. I think of it as steeping tea. The skin of the berry is really where all the pigment is, that’s why even with table grapes, if you go to the grocery store and you buy red grapes, if you cut one open it doesn’t bleed red onto your counter it’s white on the inside, which is why Champagne is crystal clear and it’s made of Pinot Noir. As you increase that steeping time that contact time with the solid matter, in the fermentation, you get more color pigmentation. So if you take white grapes and do the same thing you would normally do for a red ferment, you end up with this copper hue. But what you also end up with is a white wine that has more phenolic bitterness or drive complexity and tannins. So things that you might more often associate with a red wine. There are a number of wine cultures in the world that have been making white wine that way forever. The Republic of Georgia, parts of Slovenia, north eastern Italy, make their white wines, the same way they make their red wines. That’s just the tradition and how they make it.”
This wasn’t the first reference to Georgian wines we had heard today and finding these “Orange Wines” made the day pretty unique.
Other Maloof Wines
They were not pouring their Syrah on this particular day, but I asked about it. It was two weeks from bottling at that time. In 2015 they did a classic Syrah/Viognier blend. This year though, it would be Syrah/Marsanne. It was planned to be a Syrah/Marsanne/Roussanne but the Roussanne was lost to a frost.
In addition they have a sur lee aged Pinot Gris that they sold out of earlier in the year, but they will be bottling again next year.
How to find them?
Yeah, not online, at least not yet. Watch for them to get that set up in the spring of 2019. In the mean time they are distributed in Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Check out their distributor page here. http://rossandbee.com/find-wine/
Joyful Noise…it’s the sound of family and friends coming to table, chairs being pulled up or maybe milk crates, scuffling with a cacaphony of conversation, squeels of children being hoisted up onto seats, clanking of dishes as they are passed, the clinking of glasses and laughter. That is the inspiration for the name of this winery.
“Deven grew up in a large family in one of those places that there was always another chair, whether it was an upside down milk carton type of thing or something they always figured out another chair at the table and it’s that happy chaos Joyful Noise.” Calli
We had the opportunity to meet Deven & Calli of Joyful Noise at the Uncommon Wine Festival held at Vista Hill Vineyards in July. This great festival features smaller wine producers and is the place to catch up and coming labels in Oregon.
Deven & Calli with Joyful Noise
The Journey to Wine Making
Deven says he lucked into wine when he went to school in Eugene and started tasting wines at King Estate.
“right around harvest in 2011 I was looking for something new to do, and everyone I asked for a list of who I should go talk to and who should I try to go work for Rob & Maria Stuart were always on that list. So I was lucky enough to hop in for harvest worked a couple weeks and decided that’s what I wanted to be. Got to bounce around a little bit and see some other styles, but as soon as a job at R. Stuarts came back open, I went straight there.” Deven
A Joyfull Noise
2015 Joyful Noise Lazy River Pinot Noir
Joyful Noise currently makes just one wine and the 2015 Lazy River Pinot Noir that we were tasting was their second vintage. They make one ton of Pinot Noir from Lazy River vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The Vineyard is owned by Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin. (These look like really fun folks, go ahead, visit their website, https://lazyrivervineyard.com/about-us/)
The part of the vineyard that these grapes are growing in is between 450 and 500 feet in elevation.
“This happens to be 100% Wadenswil on 101/14, high elevation of Lazy River, so it’s kind of right at the crest of the hill. A little band of Jory soil actually goes through vineyard, so not common for Yamhill but part of the makeup. So really shallow soil, really really dark dark fruit, coming out of the press it almost looks like Syrah it is almost black. So big big tannins, we try to soften those up a little bit, so de-stemmed into a 1 ton fermenter and punch down a couple times a day. Wild yeast starts so we make Pied de Cuve* (see explanation at the bottom) at the beginning of the year from vineyard samples. If we like the fermentation and how it is starting we will pitch that into the fermenter and let it go with that.” Deven
Deven spends his days working for Rob & Maria Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville, and he makes this wine there. In addition to the Pied de Cuve they also have a cultured yeast strain from R. Stuart & Co. Four or 5 years ago, they had a wild fermentation that they really liked. They send it out to a lab in Hood River who broke down the yeast strains into the 3 dominant ones and now yearly cultivate this yeast for them.
“Part way through the fermentation we will délestage the wine so it’s kind of like a rack and return to get some of the seeds out. We like the tannin but we want the skin tannin more than the seed tannin. So about 7 brix those seeds start falling out to the bottom so we can basically use like a 3 inch hose almost like a vacuum to pull them off the bottom of the fermenter take the juice away let the juice cool down and put it back. And then it ages in two neutral French oak barrels and one new French oak barrel. So 33% new.” Deven
When it comes to barrels, Deven is pretty specific on what he ages his wine in. The barrels are from Tonnellerie Claude Gillet. These barrels have a softer tone, so instead of vanilla and bourbon you get more cinnamon and baking spice. Plus it’s a small family cooper, with people he really likes. You can see their process on their site at tonnellerie-gillet.com http://www.tonnellerie-gillet.com/our-tradition/index.html
The Lumpkins at Lazy River are getting ready to plant Chardonnay up behind the block of Pinot that Devon pulls from and have pulled out the fir trees that were there last year. So future vintages will be influenced by a little more breeze and a little more warmth. It will be interesting to see how the effects on the wine.
When asked what the most important thing about his wine is to him..
“That people have fun and enjoy it. It’s supposed to be drank with friends, have it on the table somewhere, have a dinner party, If it needs to be the excuse for fun and people over than that’s what it should be”
Pied de Cuve* (the explanation)
“Basically we take Vineyard samples (clusters of grapes used to test sugar and acid prior to picking) keep them outside the Winery, and allow them to start fermenting. If we like what we see, that is what gets pitched into the destemmed fruit to start the fermentation.”
If you happen into Tina’s in Dundee, you will find it on the bottle list.
Michael and Dawn Stiller and Dwight and Karen McFaddin own and run this classic Dundee restaurant that opened as the first fine dining in the area in 1991. We ate here with friends on our first trip to the area.
Jesse Kincheloe is the chef/owner of Valley Commissary, which is a little lunch and catering spot right in the middle of the granary district parking lot in McMinnville. He grew up in Healdsburg in Sonoma. They serve Lunch and Brunch leaving nights free for time with family.
Jim Fischer II and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn
These two…they finish each others sentences. Case in point
Jim & Jenny
This is our 2017 White wine blend (they say in almost stereo)
our field blend of 6 different grapes from 3 different vineyards
Wow that was really in sync!
I’m like, wait, do we really both need to say this in stereo, it’s too weird.
You go, you go
No, no no
It would be better if you went back and forth
Oh my gosh
Well that’s kinda how it goes
You take the first line of the script…
LOL! They are a team and they bounce comments and ideas off each other in rapid fire. As entertaining as they are…they also are making some “stand up and take notice” wines. Wine Enthusiast just put them in the 40 Under 40 lineup. Check out their photo from the Wine Enthusiast Photo Shoot, it really sums them up.
Fossil & Fawn – the origin story
A little background on Fossil & Fawn. Jim grew up on a vineyard in the Eola Hills, that would be the vineyard he and his father manage together to this day, Silvershot Vineyard. Jim’s father, Jim Fischer Sr. and his brother Bill started a nursery in 1999 with cuttings from neighboring vineyards, they planted in 2000. They originally named the vineyard Crowley Station Vineyards for the historic railroad station at the foot of Holmes Hill, but renamed in 2016 for the family horse who had roamed the vineyard before the vines were planted. The vineyard soil, is old ocean floor littered with fossils which is the “Fossil” part of the name. The fawn part comes from the deer who roam the oak savanna that surround the property.
Jim speaks of his father as always needing a project. When Jim was a child it was roses.
“in the summertime it was my job to take care of the roses. He had 100 rose plants. And so I’d have to go outside and dead head 100 different rose bushes all summer long, so if I never have a rose again I’m happy, it’s okay with me.”
“That being said, now we just replaced 100 roses with 1000 grape vines. So it’s a different thing.”
They started making wine in 2011. The idea was a vineyard specific wine from the family vineyard, to show to potential fruit buyers. Soon they figured they might as well make it an official label and then it had a life of it’s own. They culture yeast from the vineyard and make wines with as little input as possible. This is not to make a big stand for natural wines, it’s just because this makes wines they like to drink.
So with a table lined with people bearing empty glasses at the Uncommon Wine Festival held at Vista Hills Vineyard back in July, they began to pour and dive into their “Uncommon Wines”.
Fossil and Fawn 2017 White Wine Blend
Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon White WIne (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)
The first wine was their 2017 White Wine Blend. As Jenny mentioned above, it is a field blend of 6 different grapes from 3 different vineyards. Jim calls it their nod to a style of wine from Austria, specifically Vienna called Germischter Satz.
So this is predominantly from one vineyard here where they have what I would call a bunch of kooky varieties, very uncommon white wine varieties, for example…
A very technical term…(Kooky)
For example, in the Willamette Valley to my knowledge there are 14 plants of Kerner, which is a German grape and that makes up 3% of that wine. All 14 plants of Kerner are in there. And so there is a collection of unusual things, Also a collection of not so unusual things. 50% is Riesling which is fermented in an egg shape vessel. And the next is 20% Savagnin Rose, which is a relative to Gewürztraminer.
Which is also in there
Which, Gewürztraminer is in there at 15%. It is 6% Fruilano, 6% Melon de Bourgogne and 3% Kerner, those 14 plants. So the Riesling as I mentioned is fermented in egg the other 50% was fermented on it’s skins for about 4 days and we pressed off and then it went into a mix of Acacia wood barrels and French oak barrels, totally unfiltered native yeast fermented, we use that yeast that exists naturally on the skins of the grapes to carry out the fermentation. We wanted to make something that was dry but rich and textural but aromatic, something kind of fun, food friendly, very summery.
This wine on their website, they give they name “aka Gewürvigtocloninger”. It comes from 3 vineyards, from 3 different areas of the Willamette Valley. This was the first wine that they sourced from outside their home vineyard at Silvershot. On a map these three vineyards form a triangle of sorts with 30 to 40 mile drives between them, so they span a pretty large area. Beckenridge Vineyard is located just outside Dallas, Hanson is east of Gervais and Omero is outside Newburg in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Beckenridge is probably best known for Weddings. In fact when you visit their site, that is all that you find. But…that beautiful venue is surrounded by vines and they do actually produce grapes, which would be the Gewürztraminer in this blend. At Hanson they are cultivating an eccentric bunch of grapes. In addition to Pinots Noir, Gris and Blanc, they have Gamay, Auxerrois, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, yeah, yeah you say, so exotic, but wait there’s more, they are also cultivating Marechal Foch, Leon Millot and Golubok! 10 points for any of those varieties you are familiar with! They provide the Riesling for the blend. The Omero vineyard in Ribbon Ridge provides the remaining oddities, the Savagnin Rose, Fruilano, Melon de Bourgogne and Kerner.
They produced 110 cases of the White Blend and the suggested retail price is $20. Yep, you read that right…$20. I happily own a bottle. Some day later this year you will get a pairing note. I will say that his description is on the nose, summery is the perfect description.
2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Fossil & Fawn 2017 Oregon Rose (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)
The Rosé is 1005 Pinot Noir and comes from a small portion of the vineyard that was planted in 2003.
” It specifically comes from one small portion of the vineyard that my friend Greg helped us plant back in 2003. Greg loved cats. He unfortunately passed away a few years ago, so it’s a bit of a tip of the hat to Greg being that this is the first wine that came from just that one portion of the vineyard. We put some kitties on the label as a little thank you for Greg for helping us out with it. And like the white wine, native yeast fermented in barrel. This is a very different style of rosé than others that you might try. This a little bit richer a little bit fuller. There’s this little kind of very very slight bit of effervescence to it. It is very rocky and chalky and mineraly, that I attribute to growing into this very very harsh material.”
These vines are own rooted Pommard and Dijon 777. On their site they talk about picking the fruit on a perfect autumn day — cool and damp in the morning with sun slowly burning off the clouds. ” (how glorious is that)? They destemmed and soaked the grapes on skins for 24 hours then gently pressed, racked into neutral oak and fermented with native yeast. Malolactic fermentation completed in the barrel, so this wine has a richer mouth feel. They just made 89 cases of the Rosé. And again…it retails at $20. You can watch for a future pairing with this wine also.
2017 Do Nothing
Fossil & Fawn 2017 Do Nothing Mondeuse Noir (photo courtesy of Fossil & Fawn)
Do Nothing started in 2016, the idea being that they would be as hands off as possible. The 2017 is 100% Mondeuse Noir from the Omero Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA.
“I mentioned native yeast and lack of filtration? This is the apex of that very hands off approach.
This is a nod to the very traditional way wine has been made for eons, specifically in places like Georgia. The country, not the state.”
They believe this is the first time Mondeuse has been released as a single variety in the Willamette Valley. The grape itself is native to the Savoie in France.
“we call this “Do Nothing” because the fruit we pick full cluster stem on the whole bunch, throw it into a bin, seal it, put on the lid, seal it, and then walk away. We don’t do any punch downs we don’t even check on the fruit, we don’t look at it for 3 weeks. At the end of 3 weeks we take off the lid dig out the fruit with a shovel into the press and then squeeze it. The juice comes out, we take that juice, it goes into mix of older Oregon and French oak barrels where it ferments very slowly. So at that point our cellar is probably the high 40’s temperature wise, so it ferments over the next 5 months, in our very cool cellar. And then we bottle it without any filtration or fining and this is designed to answer that riddle of “what do you do when it’s warm out and you want a chilled red wine? Well this is a red wine that is designed to be chilled. So very low alcohol it’s 11% alcohol, it’s tannic so it has some nice structure to it, it’s a great food wine it’s just really something super totally different.”
So that 3 weeks that it sits on the skins is called “carbonic maceration”. You might have heard of this with the wines of Beaujolais. This kind of fermentation starts without the yeast, inside each grape, then the grapes burst and they yeast takes over for the remaining fermentation. Now typically the maceration process short, this is an extended maceration…I’m getting really geeky…if you are interested in this fascinating subject there is a great article on VinePair you should check out.
The Do Nothing they kindly made a bit more of, with 215 cases. It’s still incredibly $20 a bottle, that is, while it lasts.
This is their flagship wine. In 2011 they produced just 2 barrels and now 8 years in they make 191 cases. The wine comes from Silvershot Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, the vineyard that Jim grew up on. This is own-rooted Pommard, Dijon 114 & 115, Espiguette 374 as well as some mystery clones. This is a mix of their Pinot parcels. 70% of the fruit is destemmed and then fermented in open top fermenters. The rest is whole cluster fermented. They ferment with the pied-du-cuve of wild yeast from the vineyard. Since they do not yet have their own winery, they make their wine at a shared facility in a tricked out 100 year old barn. This wine does contain a little Chardonnay from 30 plants that were mistakenly planted in with the Pinot. They co-ferment, and did some foot stomping until fermentation was complete. They barreled in neutral French Oak for 9 months. It is unfiltered and unfined.
This wine was made to honor the work that Jim’s dad does in the vineyard. This was the start.
They made 191 cases their Pinot Noir this year and it will set you back $30 a bottle.
They also do a Pinot Gris that is from Silvershot. Sadly they were not tasting it on this day. That wine is an orange wine, (a white wine made in the style of a red wine). Follow the link and read about it. I would be tempted to order a bottle, but…they do not, as yet, sell online. But you can find them locally in Oregon! And there are a few distributors carrying them in their portfolios. If you are going to get some, I suggest you do it fast. I expect that they will be selling out quickly.
We met Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, and had a chance to taste his wines. The Uncommon Wine Festival gave us an “uncommon” occasion to meet and speak with several newer winemakers, who have smaller labels. It was an opportunity to taste many interesting wines and hear the stories first hand of how they were conceived and made. This was the 9th Annual event, but it was Ryan’s first time at the festival.
A little bit on Esther Glen
The name comes from Esther and Glen who came to the Dundee Hills in the 1960’s to start their holistic farm and be self-sustaining. In 1970 Craig Rathkey came to Esther Glen. He was farming with a 1950 Vintage Formal Cub tractor and a 1948 John Deer “M” tractor. He restores old tractors, as well as antique clocks. In 2015 Ryan Pickens met Craig Rathkey and now Ryan makes wine with the sustainably farmed grapes grown on the vineyard. The Estate is 15 acres located on the Willamette Valley Floor across the street from Sokol Blosser.
Ryan Pickens, the winemaker
Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens
Ryan put his Marketing degree to use working for the Benzinger Family in Sonoma, CA selling wine. It was there that he learned about sustainable and biodynamic farming. Talking with the Benzingers, he got the itch to work on the other side of wine, in production. He started with a harvest internship and was hooked.
“That was in 2012 and I haven’t looked back since. I went to New Zealand, Germany, Australia, during that time also, trying to find which wine I wanted to make for the rest of my life, and Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are those three and Oregon is that place, that I’ve really found my heart, so I moved here in 2015.”
He does still work full time making wine for somebody else, so this is a side project.
“Yeah so this is just so fun, and I feel so blessed to be able to do this. I never thought that I would actually be able to start my own label.”
We tasted the two wines that Ryan was pouring, the 2017 Pinot Gris and the 2016 Pinot Noir. Both are own rooted.
Esther Glen_Wine Bottles
2017 Esther Glen Pinot Gris
This is the 2nd vintage of Pinot Gris for them, they are just getting started. The 2016 is sold out, so not so bad for their first vintage.
The nose is bright with meyer lemon and the then a little softer on the palate. This wine retails for $18.00
2016 Esther Glen Pinot Noir
This is the first vintage of Pinot Noir for them. It is a mix of Pommard, 777, 115 and 667. It is aged in 20% new oak.
“(I was).. Trying to capture, so when I moved here this forest floor, this mushroom characteristic, that everyone was talking about, and happy to see that this is starting to blossom out like that .”
There was definitely forest floor on this wine as well as leather and cola on the palate. This wine retails for $28.00
On Sustainability and holistic farming
Coming from Benzinger where they farm biodynamically and then at Esther Glen where that was the original idea of Esther and Glen, the grapes here are farmed sustainably. Certification will come eventually, but it is a process and a cost and the vineyard and winery are young. Regardless the idea of holistic farming is important to Ryan.
“Yeah, so you want to give back to the land you know, who knows if we are going to be there for 10 or 20 years, but we want to make sure that that land is ready for the next person coming around. So really you’re just taking care of it for the next generation.
Esther Glen does tastings by appointment only and you can reach them by phone at (503)583-0970 or email them at [email protected]
You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs. So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram