2019 Grochau Cellars, Melon de Bourgogne, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2019 Melon de Bourgogne by John Grochau at Grochau Cellars is wonderfully tart, crisp and low alcohol, very much like its cousins in Muscadet with a burst of quince, lemon/lime, unripe peach and apple fruits and a fresh sense of mineral, wet stones, subtle lees and citrus blossom, it is kind of like an Extra Brut Champagne minus the bubbles, in a good way and obviously a nice choice with oysters. The Melon de Bourgogne grapes for Grochau’s version comes from the Stavig Vineyard located about 15 miles away from Portland in Happy Valley, kind of off the beaten path, but proving remarkably well that it is a great spot for this varietal. The vineyard is set on an ancient riverbed with intensely rocky soils and with some volcanic overlays. The rocky composition reminds Grochau of Muscadet’s gravely soils in the western Loire Valley, not far from the cool Atlantic. Very interesting, John used two different vessels for his Melon fermentation and aging, this included two concrete eggs and three 500 liter Acacia wood puncheons. He notes that each one had its own textural imprint on the wine, which feels more and more rounded as it warms in the glass and the wine was aged Sur Lie (on the Lees) for 8 months before bottling, which as mentioned gives a hint of dough, nuttiness and brioche like a Champagne.
John Grochau founded his Grochau Cellars after retiring from a career in cycling, where he once toured vineyards in France and fell in love with wine, after which he pursued his way into wine through restaurant experiences in his native Portland, often helping out at harvest in the nearby Willamette Valley, going on to become a Pinot Noir producer of note in 2002 and still is making them today. Grochau credits Doug Tunnel as an inspiration and was mentored at Doug’s famous Brick House Vineyards and learned the benefits of sustainable viticulture with the use of biodynamic and organic farming, which he exploits in many of his vineyard sites that supply grapes for his label. Beyond the critically acclaimed Pinot Noir, Grochau hand crafts an interesting collection of alternative wines, including this Melon de Bourgogne that comes in at under 12% natural alcohol, as well as Pinot Blanc, Gamay and Tempranillo to name a few, all of which are showing promise and potential. Plus, there is even more rare stuff too, like Grochau’s Sparkling Riesling, their briny Albarino and a Burgundian like Brick House sourced Chardonnay. I’ve been a fan of what Grochau produces since I first tried his Pinots about a decade ago and I love his basic Commuter Cuvee for its purity and value, as well as his impressive single vineyard collection of Pinots, especially his Zenith Vineyard Pinot, as well as the Twelve Oaks Gamay Noir, which I highly recommend trying!
($20 Est.) 90 points, grapelive