12 Days of Wine Day 11 – Johan

Johan Grüner Veltliner 12 Days of Wine Reveal

What wine list of ours would be complete without a bottle from Johan.

The Van Duzer Corridor

View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon's Willamette Valley
View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon’s Willamette Valley

The Van Duzer Corridor is one of the newer AVA’s in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The TTB approval of the AVA happened in December of 2018 (7 years after they started the process). So what is this corridor and where is it?

The Van Duzer Corridor AVA map courtesy the Oregon Wine Resource Studio
The Van Duzer Corridor AVA map courtesy the Oregon Wine Resource Studio

1st, this is a nested AVA lying within the larger Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. It is in the southern part of the AVA, north of Salem. Encompassing 59,850 acres, there are but 1,000 acres planted to vines. The soil here is marine sediment. It is named for the area 10 miles to it’s west, the actual Van Duzer Corridor, where there is a drop in the coastal range that funnels cold air into the interior. This happens daily at around 2 pm. The breeze, or should I say wind (it often gets up to 8 mph) does a couple of things. It cools things down and it dries out the berries, keeping them free from mold and fungus (think the Mistral in Provence). It also forces the berries to protect themselves. To do this they thicken their skins and tend to grow smaller and fewer. This gives you more tannins and anthocyanins (which give you color). Lower yields, smaller berries, thicker skin…this all means more flavor.

Johan Vineyard

I have a great love for the wines of Johan. If you know me, you are probably surprised that this was not a Pet Nat! (I do love their Pet Nats). But today we dive into their Estate Grüner Veltliner. But before we get into that…a little on the vineyard.

  • The vineyard road at Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley's Van Duzer Corridor AVA
  • Vines at Johan Vineyard
  • Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack pointing out the mushroom innoculation on this stump at Johan
  • A cowhorn at the biodynamic Johan Vineyard
  • Views from the tasting room at Johan

Johan Vineyard is 85 acres certified biodynamic. More than that, the winery is certified biodynamic. A holistic approach is important to them here. We walked the vineyard with Jack when we visited and saw the compost heap, and the oak stump innoculated for mushrooms. They have a garden and their wines…most lean toward that “natural wine” style, with many deliciously unfiltered.

For more on Johan you can catch a couple of our previous pieces

Now onto the wine

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner can be an underappreciated variety. Hailing from Austria, this grape can often trick people in tastings. That is until they get to the finish where white pepper is the give away. These wines can be citrus, or herbal, lean or full. Flavors as well as textures can vary dependent on climate and style.

In Austria white wines dominate, much of that due to the climate and Grüner is the definite leader covering about a third of the vineyard acreage.

2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

The grapes are crushed and destemmed, then barrel fermented through primary and malolactic fermentation in puncheons and aged 10 months sur lie (that’s on the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom). They do not stir the lees. It sits at 13.6% abv and runs $34.99.

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner
2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

They look to make this wine rich and exotic, choosing to pick appropriately and going through malolactic and sur lie aging to increase the texture.

It should be noted that white wines from the Van Duzer Corridor have a few things in common. They tend to have bright fruit and acid that is compimented by weight and texture. The Oregon Wine Board also notes that you will often find Iodine and Nori characteristics in these wines.

The Tasting

Exotic and rich…lime, lemon, herbs, white pepper, poprocks, nectarine, ginger, honey are all typical aromas and flavors for Gruner.

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents
Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents

This wine was a deep golden color in the glass. The first thing on the nose was bruised apple, then white flower and nectarine. It exploded out of the glass and bottle when it was first opened. It perfumed the air for a several foot radius around the bottle and glass. Then it quickly became shy, making me search for aromas. The acids were firm and the wine had a depth of texture.

The Pairing

We paired this with camembert cheese and found that it brought forth the floral notes. It was lovely with our asparagus risotto. This is one of those rare wines that can pair with asparagus! We also tested it with a split pea soup and found it was less exciting. Perhaps a lighter style of Grüner would have worked with this. I did struggle to find that signature Grüner white pepper on this wine. On a second pour tropical notes came forward and it opened again in the glass with rich warm baked apples.

Other pairing suggestions

Grüner can pair beautifully with Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets quickly fried). It also pairs well with fried chicken. In addition it is one of those rare wines that will pair with artichokes! Try it with cauliflower, trout or gnocchi!

Noooooo….Only 1 day left!

Thank goodness there is Christmas to cheer us after tomorrow! Otherwise what would we do? The sadness as the 12 days comes to an end would be unbearable! Come back tomorrow!

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Soupe aux choux and a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

“On the fourth day of wine my true love pulled out of the cellar for me, a Grüner Veltliner from Illahe.”

Illahe Vineyards

ILLAHE, pronounced Ill-Uh-Hee, is a local Chinook word meaning “earth” or “place” or “soil”

From the Illahe Vineyards site

This summer we visited Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  Illahe is located in the southern part of the Willamette Valley west of Salem.  They are within the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. 

If you want more details on the AVAs and proposed AVAs in the Willamette Valley, you can check out our post https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/oregons-willamette-valley-avas-a-primer/

We spent a morning at the vineyard with Lowell Ford who owns runs the vineyard with his wife Pauline.  Their son Brad Ford is the winemaker and the force behind the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA.

Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA
Illahe Vineyard in the proposed Mount Pisgah/Polk County AVA

Sitting on the patio in front of the winery you look south down the slope and  across the vineyard.  They sit between 225 and 440 feet here.  They get earlier budbreak, as they are a warmer site than most in the Willamette Valley, but they also get the Van Duzer winds which cool the vineyard in the evening and give them a long growing season.

Illahe 2017 Estate Grüner Veltliner

While they primarily focus on Pinot Noir (and we look forward to a future post telling you all about those, including teaser their 1899 which is made) , they also grow Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier, Langrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.  Today we will focus on the Grüner that we picked up when we visited.

Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner
Illahe 2017 Grüner Veltliner

I reached out to Kathy, who runs their tasting room and had set us up for our visit and interview and she kindly put us in touch with Brad the winemaker.   Brad responded with this great description of the wine, followed by a simple seasonal pairing:

The 2017 Illahe grüner veltliner introduces itself with light but dense aromas of dried peach, honey crisp apple, and fresh cedar board. This wine is fermented partially in acacia barrels which offer herbal flavors and a complex texture. The palate also contains flavors of red grapefruit, graham cracker, and white nectarine. The balanced acid and strong mouthfeel create a beautiful wine ready for drinking or aging.
A nice, simple pairing for the gruner in the wintertime is a soupe aux choux, or cabbage soup. The lightness and fattiness of the soup pair well with a white wine like gruner. I like a homemade chicken broth and homemade sourdough wheat bread for the croute. Of course, a little pinch of classic gruner white pepper on top of the soup is the kicker.


Brad Ford, Winemaker Illahe Vineyards
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup
Illahe 2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Cabbage Soup

Soupe aux Choux

Some refer to this as “Old Shoe Soup” (that would be Brits who were poking fun at the French words).  This is a simple Cabbage soup.  I searched through a few recipes and then adapted one to fit. 

Here is the link to the recipe I based my soupe aux choux on https://www.thefrenchcookingacademy.com/cabbage-soup/

For my Soupe aux Choux I deviated a little from the recipe, with turkey stock from Thanksgiving, using bacon I had on hand and adding some par boiled potatoes left from the tartiflette I made earlier this week.

Tastings and Pairings

Michael was a bit skeptical of “cabbage soup”  I reassured him, letting him know there was bacon in it.  Regardless he requested a back up of fish and chips for lunch.  So we paired both.

He was pleasantly surprised at the soupe aux choux and finished off most of his bowl.  The fish and chips we found only paired with the addition of tartar sauce.

Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips
Illahe2017 Estate Gruner Velthiner with Fish and Chips

We found the wine needed to open a bit and warm to let out the nose.  I did get honey crisp apples, a hazy bit of white pepper and wet stones on the nose.  Later I noted something woodsy which…hmmm okay we can call it cedar board.  On the palate I got a tartness which yes, reminded me with the bitter notes in the background of pink or red grapefruit and then under ripe apricots.

The soup was light, but warm and lovely and was perfect for the pairing on this cloudy day, to enjoy as the early afternoon sun peaked through the clouds and my windows.  The croute which was sour dough baguette was topped with gouda which for me kicked the flavor up a notch and gave the Grüner even more to play with.

To visit Illahe:

To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.

We will have more on our visit with Illahe in the future, including our visit to their beautiful cellar and discussions on their 1899 Pinot Noir.

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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Fish tacos and wine?

Fish taco with cod, avocado and slaw

I was searching for an easy dinner and wine pairing, and I got a hankerin’ for fish tacos.  And where do I go to find a wine pairing for fish tacos?  The first place that came to mind was Wine Folly.  Madeline Puckette always has great easy wine advice that is clear and fun.  Recently I came across an article where she paired 2015 food trends with wines.  So I searched it out and found a pairing suggestion for fish tacos.

Madeline suggested pairing with a Sauvignon Blanc or if you wanted to take it a little further, with a Gruner Veltliner or a Verdejo from Spain.

The Wine

So off I went to find the Gruner and Verdejo and see which I liked better with fish tacos.  I ended up with a 2013 Gruner Veltliner from Winzer Krems in Austria and a 2013 Palma Real Rueda Verdejo from Spain.  And…these didn’t break the bank, coming in at around $14 each.

Gruner Veltliner and Rueda Verdejo

Gruner Veltliner and Rueda Verdejo

The Fish Tacos

Now on to the fish tacos. I found a recipe and then ad libbed with it.  I picked up some cod, cut it into strips and marinated it in oil, lime juice, lime zest and garlic.  It marinated for about 1/2 hour and there are two things I would do differently next time.  First, I would marinate longer, overnight I think would be great.  Second, I used coconut oil which congealed as it marinated.  In the future I would use organic canola (which I couldn’t find at the store that day).  While that was marinating I made a slaw.  Honey, vinegar and olive oil whisked together and then drop in some slaw blend.  Mine had carrots, purple cabbage, green cabbage and broccoli stems.  If you are making this same day you can leave it on the counter, or you can make it ahead and throw it in the fridge overnight.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees, put the fish on a sheet pan on parchment and wrap your tortillas in foil (or in a damp towel on a plate, which is what I like to do) and toss them in for 8 to 10 min.

lime marinated cod

Cod marinating in Lime Juice & zest, oil & salt

sweet and tangy slaw

Red & Green Cabbage, carrot and broccoli stem slaw with honey, oil and vinegar dressing

When you pull them out, put a piece of fish on the tortilla, top with a sauce if av0cado and finish with the slaw. Voila!  Fish Taco!

I did a rice with cilantro, lime juice and a little butter on the side and some chips and salsa.

Both wines went well.  The Gruner had a little more sweetness and was a little rounder with the fish tacos, where as the Verdejo had a little more pronounced acid.

Fish taco with cod, avocado and slaw

Fish taco with cod, avocado and slaw

Regardless, it was a tasty and fairly quick dinner with a happy pairing.  This is quick and easy to cook at home, but….keep in mind, fish tacos are a great food truck find.  So stash a bottle of Gruner or Verdejo and the next time you see a fish taco food truck, pick up and few and dash home to try the pairing yourself!