Alaya Talks Up Oregon!

Oregon Pinot Noir–Boutique Style
By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist

Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest ColumnistI am an Oregon Native. Yes, I know…we are truly a rare breed these days. It may seem only natural that I would find myself in the wine business, as I grew up along with our wine scene. I have always been drawn to the outdoors, and the way things work within natural systems. In parallel, I have been called a sensual person, with a lust for finding and honoring the joys that life offers. The evolution that is wine (grape growing to winemaking to savoring) holds complete intrigue to both my scientist and my sensualist. As Oregon is now well established, and world renowned for our production of high quality wines, especially great Pinot Noir, I find myself, now in an excellent business. We honor our fertile land, and all of its ecological magic; we have friendly, no-nonsense people, who still tell stories by the campfire and are leading the nation in sustainable agriculture; and we possess a smart approach to a cutting-edge food scene, based on the farm-to-table formula. We are still writing history.

So much of what makes Oregon wine, namely Pinot Noir, charming lies in its ability to express terroir. A place holds history, it will tell the story of its origins, if you listen. Oregon is full of stories, isn’t it? Think of our history; an iconic destination in the Pioneer days, Oregon has always been known by outsiders as rugged, with fecund landscapes, and the undeniable sense of possibility. Modernly, we are marked by figures that have shown academic, athletic, culinary, and environmental innovation. Now, more commonly, we see great innovation in the production of wine. It’s no secret that Oregon grows the Pinot Noir grape well. It’s also fairly celebrated in the wine world that Pinot Noir expresses its roots well. But what’s exciting is that each individual Pinot Noir vineyard site in Oregon offers its own very distinguishable character. Oregon is marked by a colorful geologic history, an array of weather systems, and a team of viticulturists who care to let their grapes grow as close to naturally within their land space as possible. We don’t just have the category “Oregon Pinot,” we have Momtazi, Shea, White Rose, Seven Springs, Meyer, Stermer, Anden, Deux Vert…You get the idea…Pinot. Each place has such an outstanding character, prized for different reasons, and quite a recognizable face within whatever bottling they are present.

Like some of the great single-vineyard Cabernets of California, Oregon is making waves with its single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. These wines are often the wine-maker’s personal ode to the land; to deliver unique, interesting if not geeky wines that are pure descendants of one little place and time; vineyard natives. Small in production, these wines have become anticipated worldwide. They carry a certain panache; brazen enough to show their rugged origins, to express themselves without much outside influence, to tell a true story that helps them to stand out–oh yes, those of us that wish we lived our lives as fully, just yearn to get our hands on them, and begin feeling wild, vicariously, through our glass. Available, often times, only for a few months out of the year, single-vineyard designate Oregon Pinot Noirs are worth the wait, the effort, and the price. If you are a serious buyer, travel Oregon, start with the Willamette Valley and sample its bounty. Find your coveted bottlings, visit vineyards and develop a sense of place as you try wines produced there. Then join the wine clubs of those producers you feel passionate about, and get on their futures list, this will ensure you an annual taste of their expression in a bottle.

Hot Pick

2004 Ayoub Pinot Noir2004 Ayoub Pinot Noir Willamete Valley, Oregon

I decided to open and decant my last bottle of Ayoub’s first bottling, his 2004 Pinot Noir, for my birthday. Like any pinot that Josh Bergstrom makes, this one is brawny, highly structured, and storm-proof. This wine is built-to-last, and I knew that air would serve it well, as it’s only 4 years into its progression.

Garnet in hue, showing just a touch of age, the wine looks like my birthstone; how appropriate. In the nose I get a lot of plum, some cassis, and a bit of wild huckleberry and licorice root. What’s really noticeable and fun, is the Mexican hot chocolate note. This draws you in, and soon after, you are greeted by game; bloody lamb, and earth; clay, iron, and morel. Flavors mirror the nose, lots of plum and licorice, with the added joy of strawberry-rhubarb pie-mix. Very earthy in taste, backing up the brawn of the structure, I taste ginger root, fossil-rich alluvial clay, and wet moss. Delicious now, would keep progressing over the next 6-8 years.

To think Mohammed “Mo” Ayoub released this as his first effort, humbly and enthusiastically 2 years ago. Quite a stunning first release, and one that definitely put him on the map as someone to watch. A one-man viticulturist and now winemaker, who lives and grows grapes near Dundee, travels the world for business, and manages to make phenomenal Willamette Valley Pinot right away, all while smiling and selling his efforts…now that’s someone I want to support!

This pinot didn’t need a food accompaniment to taste great, in fact I sipped it after returning home from a sushi dinner as my dessert. But were one to pair it, I would recommend a nice Lebanese spiced lamb and rice dish, with hummus and fresh, hot pita bread. One could also easily enjoy an oily piece of smoked salmon, with an array of ripe sheep and goats milk cheeses, and some marcona almonds. AW-P

Ayoub Wines

Alaya Wyndham-Price

Visit Alaya Daily at www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Latest News & Reviews

Grapelive Latest News, January 2008

This is a great time of year to catch up with your reading and spend some quality time with your favorite wines, or explore a little and find something new. These storms out west have given me a lot of time to sort out some of my tasting notes and I’m working on a “Best of 2007” list and I should have that out shortly. In the meantime, I’ve been lucky to have had some interesting new wines come my way and I have a few reviewed at rated below. Pinot Noir again, I know I always seem to be tasting Pinot, but that is because it is what is hot and it seems to only get better and better. If you are getting tired of Pinot you should investigate the wonderful Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire Valley in France, especially the 2005 vintage as these wines are fantastic. Try a Chinon or a Saumur Champigny, and enjoy the spicy goodness and elegant easy nature of these underrated wines, I like Philippe Alliet, Jogeut and the Clos Rougeard wines from this region. Then there is Piedmonte, Italy with its tasty Barbera and Nebbiolo reds that are pure and terroir driven wines, just stay away from the 2002 vintage and you’ll be fine. Top wines from there include La Spinetta, Bruno Giacosa and Vietti, so go explore. As for white wines in winter, I go for Alsace and Riesling, German Riesling, Italian Gewurztraminer and White Burgundies. Back to Pinot Noir, and close to my home, there are some amazing wines coming out soon from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I’ll tell you about those soon.

s5002103.JPG2005 Silvestri Pinot Noir Carmel Valley

This is the winery owned by famous film composer Alan Silvestri, of Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Polar Express, which got the Academy Award for best original song. This Pinot has very ripe flavors and still retains high acidity, which makes the balance here pretty nice, but it really shines with food and comes alive with richness and terroir! Black and red fruits burst out on the palate framed with apple peal zestiness and spice notes. The plum and cherry are savory and long in the mouth with hints of raisins, forest brush, lavender oil and liquor. The finish is tangy with classic Pinot groove and subtle oak. This is not a shy boring wine at all, but don’t forget to have with food, or you’ll miss the magic!
90 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Russian River

Wow, I may have a new favorite Russian River Pinot here, and trust me you’ll love this wine, as it has it all and then some. This ranks right up there with Rochioli and Kosta Browne, so find some quick, because there is only 200 cases of this. Lush textures make your mouth water and the layers of fruit give big smiles on this near perfect wine. There is rich cherry, raspberry, currant and cola bean gracing the palate and lingering on the smooth long finish. Great oak toasty notes hint at vanilla and mocha with out being overly aggressive or out of place. This is a top flight wine that deserves lots of attention. 96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002101.JPG2006 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir Rio Vista Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

This might be the best value in Pinot going these days, a real world class wine at under $50 retail. These guys are good, I mean really, really good at making Grand Cru style Pinots, and this one lives up to the hype. Rio Vista gives thick and dark wines, but they always get an added dimension of purity and elegance from this site. This wine is soft and perfumed with great depth and balance making it great all ready. I must say this vintage has less acidity and is creamy, so maybe you’d want to drink it young. There is plenty of violets, rose petals and blueberry up front, with pure cherry and plum fruits. This beautiful wine is lusty and sexy all the way to the long savory finish. 95 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Carneros

This wine is bigger and more blooding than its sibling from the Russian River, making a huge impression and bolder statement. This Pinot has power and intensity with blackberry, cherry, plum and cranberry fruits leading to layers of spice, licorice and mineral notes. This might be the most complex and interesting Carneros Pinot out there! Since 2002 Donum Estate has been a stand out and this wine is by far the greatest effort to date and I can only see things getting better! This wine can go a long time, I see some cellar time giving big rewards, but don’t wait a minute to get it! 94-96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002102.JPG2003 Tangley Oaks Merlot Napa Valley Lot 7

If you like Silver Oak or Australian reds you will love this Merlot, and at $20, you’ll really love this wine. With sweet American oak barrels giving lots of vanilla cream, coconut oil and caramel this lush Merlot feels big and smooth with cherry and plum fruit. The wine gets richer and expansive on the palate giving subtle chocolate, sage and smoky spice. The fruit comes on strong at the finish make this an impressive wine. 88 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines


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2005 Chateau Puligny-Montrachet Clos-du-Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet White Burgundy

This is awesome Chardonnay and a terrific value, no doubt this normal Bourgogne is fantastic stuff with sublime flavors and purity. What more can I say? Well mostly I can tell you to find it and buy cases of it! At about $30 or so bucks this wine destroys many wines at three times the price. Beautiful in every way this white has perfume, body and elegance with white flowers, fresh lemon, delicate pear and lovely minerality. With a dose of apple pie and hazelnut in the background, this beauty has style to spare and a long zesty finish. This is what Chardonnay can and should be, a regal and noble wine that has it all. This might be hard to find, but press your local merchant to look for it. ($28-35 Est) 93+ Points, grapelive

Imported by Beaune Imports, Berkeley, Calif.

Bouchee Wines

Grapelive Hot Picks! Dec. 7th

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2005 Ryan Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

Peggy Ryan has the touch to make pretty and lush wines that rewards those lucky enough to get her wine! This may just be her finest effort from this famed vineyard, with big and powerful flavors delivered in a velvety and balanced way. This Pinot just gets richer and deeper with air in the glass and is hard not to love right away with lots of complexity and style. There is cool raspberry, dark cherry, sweet plum and lots of rose petal and spice too. The wine has some very interesting crushed stones, toasty oak and a finish that is long and vibrant making you wish there was lots more of this wine in your glass and in the bottle! 93 Points, grapelive

*New Release

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Loimer Pinot Noir “Terrassen” Kamptal, Austria

So cool and so rare, I had to buy a bunch for myself, and then to my surprise it kicked ass! This is an intense and complex wine and very juicy to boot. Lots a fresh flowers, roses, violets and wild flowers give perfume with a strong grenadine and strawberry essence. the wine picks up depth and focus on the palate with clear and rich cherry and red berry fruit and a lush plumy texture. The wine has a sexy earthiness with a mushroom and mineral touch as well, which gives a Burgundy like feel, but this is a unique gem that is a no brainer if you can find it! Finished in screw-cap and very modern in packaging, this Pinot is a winner and a fresh terroir to talk about. 92 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

*And is only available in select markets

Hot Picks Dec. 2nd

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2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge (Rhone Style Red) Paso Robles

This amazing Chateauneuf-du-Pape styled red is rich, lively and full of fruit and texture with super balance and focus. This is one of the best red wines for all around quality out there. All red drinkers will find something to love about this wine, and I rate it as one of the top wines of the vintage period! This wine has power, depth and class with lovely perfume and a super long finish and is a wine that goes beyond the varietal and showcases the purest nature of terroir. There is lots of plum, black cherry, bramble berry and grenadine flavors up front with smoke, cassis, pepper and spicy oak notes in the background. The wine uses the best of its make up to be everything to every person with a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other Rhone grapes that all add to the pleasure here. Finally Tablas has full-filled its mission, we have now the American Chateauneuf that is not a copy but a true expression on that theme! ($45-49 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

*Just being released

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Willowbrook Pinot Noir Morelli Vineyard Russian River

This lovely and round Pinot is totally enjoyable and lush in fruit and full in body. There is lots of raspberry, and a big burst of cherry fruit with toasty sweet oak giving creamy vanilla which make this a modern wine, but with classy style all the same. There is a background of spice, cola and mocha that just add to the tastiness! I really enjoyed this Pinot, the only problem is finding it again, as it is very limited and hard to find. Check good old Google or your local wine merchant. The winery only makes a tiny amount sadly, but they do produce a another couple of single vineyard and estate Pinots. 93 Points, grapelive