Grapelive Special Report: Some New Oregon Beauties
“While Oregon remains a great source of great and long-lived Pinot Noir, it’s no longer a one trick pony! There is an amazing array of wines to chose from in the Willamette made from varietals you’d maybe not expect, these include Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Friulano, Riesling and especially Pinot Blanc, just to name a few. It’s a very exciting time to be an Oregon fan, the latest vintages have been extraordinary!” -Kerry Winslow, grapelive
New Oregon Wines to Look For
2016 Bow & Arrow, Sauvignon Blanc, Union School Vineyard, Willamette Valley.
The Loire inspired Bow & Arrow Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Union School Vineyard in the warmer Southern side of the Willamette Valley is a ripe oak aged example that Scott Franc fermented in large format French oak puncheon and aged in his cellar for 10 months. This is an example of rich and detailed Sauvignon that gives a nod to some of the more classic versions from places like Pouilly-Fume or the Cru Sancerres like those of Gerard Bouley, it’s one of the best, if not the best SB I’ve tried from Oregon. Bow & Arrows winemaker Scott Frank, who worked under the legendary John Paul at Cameron Winery, says the Union School was the first site they got Sauvignon Blanc from and turned out to be perfectly suited to make his traditional style of Sauvignon Blanc, and even though not much in vogue these days this richer and oak influenced wine gets your attention white delicate floral tones and textural mouth feel adding quinces, lemon/lime and fresh picked stone fruits along with leesy brioche, sweet French oak and round melon notes. While dense and with a medium/full body there is still plenty of lift and persistence here with a heightened sense of acidity and vitality of form, this was put together with exceptional care. There is a lot to love in this Sauvignon Blanc, it is very entertaining and has real serious substance to it, and while not Dagueneau, it is a thrill for the money, in fact it’s a steal for the quality, and better yet it has potential to age well too, I bet it gets way better with a few more years in bottle, best from 2019 to 2026.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Westrey, Chardonnay, Oracle Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and very Chassange like single vineyard Chardonnay, crafted by talented winemakers Amy Wesselman and David Autrey, hence the name Westrey, from the Dundee Hills’ Jory (volcanic) soils of the Oracle Vineyard, it’s a lovely expression of place and class with subtle oak nuance and a refined medium body. This Westrey Oracle Chard is cooly crisp with fine mineral tones and delicate layers of fruit along with modest alcohol that adds to that Burgundy like feel, it has a nice acidic lift and gains a lovely textural presence in the glass while staying vibrant and graceful throughout it’s length. Layers included on the palate include an array of citrus and tangy apple and pear fruit along with a steely form and structure along with hints of hazelnut, wet stones, saline and a light cream note, as well as golden fig, a dusting of backing spice, lemon curd and lime blossom. This vintage was a nice surprise, it’s maturing well and it’s my favorite from this winery, and while I don’t get that excited by Oregon Chardonnay normally, this wine really impresses for it’s quality and value. This worth looking for and it’s ready to enjoy now, it’s in a good spot, best between 2018 and 2022.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2008 Montage Vineyards, Pinot Noir “The Etzel Family Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Montage Vineyards is a value wine producer from California based in Malibu, where they have some vineyards, but they got their start being a Negociant, buying lots from quality wineries and selling them on under their own label at reasonable prices. The multiple regional fruit sources led to the name Montage, they first got Pinot from Beaux Freres, one of Oregon’s best wineries, adding some lots from the Sonoma Coast and other regions. The Etzel Family Vineyard Pinot 2008 is an elegant and ripe Pinot, which for ten years old is remarkable fresh and with delicate sweet fruit and subtle smoky French oak, it isn’t quite up to the pedigree of the official Beaux Freres, but this declassified single vineyard, Upper Terrace, was crafted using Dijon clones 115 and 667 from the Upper Terrace of the Beaux Frères Estate. This 5 barrel lot was 100% de-stemmed, with a gentile pressing and with all native yeast fermentation, employing the classic Burgundy style reductive winemaking, it was aged on the lees for 18 months in 25% new French oak barriques. Absolutely a steal at $25 at release, it will be a tough find now, sadly I didn’t get a couple of cases, it shows wild strawberry, cherry and dusty raspberry fruits as well as light minty anise, silky tannins and refined acidity, which matches what you’d expect in such a vintage, it almost has a subtle Grenache like character, which is funny as I know there is Grenache planted up there in the Beaux Freres Upper Terrace! Not as deep or layered as I would have hoped, this is still a lovely wine and easy to love, drink up it’s at it’s peak.
($25-35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Bianco “Giovanni” Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Oregon is without question the newest hot spot for Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco), yes you heard correctly, not Pinot Gris, which can be a nice wine here obviously, it’s Pinot Blanc, which in recent vintages has proven to rival top offerings from Alto Adige and the great wines of Alsace, that stands out and this Carmeron 2017 Dundee Hills Giovanni (Pinot Blanc) is a piercing example of this varietal. Absolutely vibrant and electric on the palate with zingy lemon/lime, white peach, loads of Asian pear and green melon notes it adds wet stone, a fine mineral streak and light garden herb and spices. Made by John Paul, the Oregon legend who has some affection for Italian wines, crafts this light white that is wonderfully expressive, unlike the grape’s reputation of serene dullness this stuff is magic and vivid from start to finish, with air it adds a touch of texture, but stays refined, vibrant and virtually weightless, even though it clear has extract, in fact it feeling like a dry Resling in it’s energy, which to me is proof of awesomeness. According to Paul, the briskly dry Pinot Bianco (given the nomer “Giovanni”) is fermented in stainless steel, typically in three different lots with appropriate aromatic yeasts, and bottled in its exuberant youth in the early Spring, it’s also very low alcohol, coming in at just 11.7%.. It’s perfect for Summer with it’s refreshing juicy acidity adding a cool and crisp sensation, drink up.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Oh, wow, this 2016 Cameron Ribbon Ridge is something else, it has a crazy first impression that goes between a Joguet Chinon (Loire Cab Franc) and an old Beaucastel Chateauneuf! That quickly ducks away and a pure Nuits-Saint-Georges like Pinot Noir comes through, it is somewhere between Domaine(s) Maume and Chevillon in reference, in other words it’s an intense Oregon Pinot from John Paul at Cameron Winery with loads of dark blooding fruits, mineral tones and a leathery/earthy charm. A hint of brett just adds to the old world seduction in this way over delivering wine that comes off Alan Foster’s Ribbon Ridge vineyard site, plus Armstrong Vineyard, with it’s vineyard that was recently converted to dry-farmed grapes, these are set on the AVA’s unique Willakenzie soils, formed by ancient marine sediments as well as some gravelly loams. Both this Ribbon Ridge AVA and the Dundee Hills AVA are both native yeast ferments with the wines aged for nearly 2 years (between 18-24 months as per normal here at Cameron) in a mixture of French oak barrels varying from new to completely neutral and bottled without filtration or fining, pretty classic Burgundy style winemaking as is John Paul’s way of things. Layers of black cherry, racy currants, plum and dusty blackberry fruits dominate the palate along with rose petals, meaty notes, exotically earthy dried porcini, minty anise, cedar and a hint of balsamic as well as bright acidity and a firm frame as you’d expect in a young Cameron Pinot. With more time and air you find wild strawberry, lavender and kirsch, but to get your kicks and the best rewards you’ll want to have plenty of food with this one, duck confit or breast, or game hen would be excellent choices, otherwise robust cuisine options would be preferable. This is another killer value from a top Willamette producer, drink over the next 5 to 10 years, even in this ripe vintage this wine shows focus and at 13.5% natural alcohol it does not lack for balance or complexity, I love it.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir, Hughes Hollow Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The rather exotic Hughes Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir from Bow & Arrow is amazing stuff, it at first is tight and iron laced that in a way reminds me of young Nebbiolo, but a few swirls brings an exciting array of classic Pinot aromas and flavors out and with further coaxing in the glass a powerful sensation that you are tasting something other worldly. Scott Frank, winemaker at Bow & Arrow, has done some thrilling wines from this unique north facing 30 year old site, and this 2015 is impressive. Hughes Hollow Vineyard, located in the South Salem hills, on Jory and Nekia soils at about 675 feet up, now farmed all organic was a place Frank wanted Gamay from, but had to take Pinot grapes as part of the deal, and mercy be, what deal it has turned out to be, especially as at first it wasn’t even given a name! This vineyard, fast becoming a favorite of mine in Bow & Arrow’s lineup, has it’s own personality, the vines here are own rooted and have been dry farmed from the beginning which adds to the intensity of form and with a vintage like 2015, ripe flavors, a savory bite and crisp acidity dominate. It bursts from the glass marked with the volcanic mineral and spice along with dried roses, tangy strawberries and minty herbs (stems?) before gathering it’s forces for a medium bodied, but powerful palate of black cherry, plum and briar laced raspberry along with cinnamon, black tea, earthy leather/porcini and lavendery incense. This is a gripping Pinot, with a firm structure with young Vougeot like tannins and the length is heavenly and long adding the vintage’s sweetness that offsets the rustic nature of this unpolished wine, this really sexy stuff, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive