Grapelive: Wine of the Week

chatchat1.jpg2007 Chateau Chateau “Skulls” Grenache & Mataro (Mourvedre) Barossa Valley, Australia

(By Chris Ringland)

This sweet and smooth fruit filled wine is easy to love and has a rich palate with lots of raspberry, plum and grenadine fruit. This wine is a blend of vineyard sites and is made from a hand picked selection of barrels to create this cuvee. The Mourvedre adds a gamy essence to the ripe sweetness of the Grenache making for a balanced and interesting wine. Chris Ringland has hit a homerun with his Chateau Chateau line, and this wine is a winner for sure. This wine opens up with a clean candy like bouquet, kind of like cotton candy, Jolly Rancher and with hints of cherry liqueur leading to a palate filled with fresh berries, spice, grilled sweet meat and subtle lavender oil. The wine finishes with a mouth-filling creaminess and lingering fruit pie. This wine has not been released yet and I was not able to get pricing, but you can check with The Grateful Palate for more details and see there other wines in the Chris Ringland Chateau Chateau line up. ($TBA Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

The Grateful Palate

Grapelive Lastest

glkw1108.jpgIf you like touring the wine country, this is a great time to go, when things are slow and the weather is great for tasting. With the economic crisis and terrible job situation even the high end wineries are feeling the impact and are opening up their cellars and it is a good time to take advantage of this to see and taste these wines that are hard to get. Plus you can get into most of the super restaurants that are very hard to get into during the summer months, especially in Napa Valley. I am thinking that Santa Barbara may just be the spot to visit myself, with great wineries close by and warmer weather, plus an exciting nightlife Santa Barbara is a fun place to visit. Downtown Santa Barbara has the Wine Cask Restaurant and Jaffurs Winery so you can even do it on a day trip or a quick weekend get away, and if you have an extra day you can check out Melville Winery about 45 minutes North of S.B.

Hey, I just got news that one of my favorite winemakers has just released a couple of new wines and I am planning to get on to them real soon. Richard Alfaro, Alfaro Family Vineyards is releasing his estate 2007 Chardonnay’s and I am really looking forward to getting my palate on them, especially the new Lindsay-Page Vineyard as the last vintage was sublime and 2007 looks to be another fine wine. Richard just created a buzz here and in the Santa Cruz area by planting a plot of the Austrian grape, Grunner Veltliner! This wonderful grape produces a white wine of quality and goes great with food, I am all ready to drink it up, but sadly these vines will need about 3 years to get started, but I’ll be waiting!

My random thoughts, Oh, I just re-tasted the 2006 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, and it is even better than I thought it would be and still think it might be the wine of the vintage. I was hanging out with Jacques Melac of Carmel’s Rancho Cellars and noticed a tiny amount of this Pisoni in stock still… Plus he turned me on to some great values on some new wines he is stocking, a couple of these were from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant (Importer) you can see them on my reviews page So if you are looking for great small estate wines that offer great value you can check Jacques out at Rancho Cellars either online or if you get to Carmel you should stop by, he has just added a deli counter offering many gourmet sandwiches and tasty bites made by his Chef wife, Janet Melac. They are also doing take out, so now you know what I’m eating for dinner when I’m in town! Last but not least, I hear from my friends at The Wine Spies that sales are going great these days as they give huge discounts daily on some fun selections, good job guys, keep it up.

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

corison04.jpg2004 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard (Reserve) Napa Valley
Celebrated winemaker Cathy Corison has been crafting stunning Cabernet for more than 30 years and her resume includes Chappellet, Staglin, Long Meadow Ranch and York Creek as well as her own limited production label. Her Napa winery has been using the same blocks of Cabernet vines for 20 years and provide her with fantastic fruit of great quality and uniqueness. This vintage of Kronos is one of the finest I’ve had of her wine and I think is better than her famed 1997. The fruit is pure and complex with blackberry, currant and plum, leading the way on the palate aided by touches of cocoa, cedar, licorice, tobacco, backing spices, sage and famed by sweet toasty vanilla from the subtle and pretty French oak. ($125 Est.)

94 Points, grapelive

*Available by special order at RANCHO CELLARS 

call 831-625-5646

Grapelive Latest: Searching Out Values & Tasting Some Greatnes

kenandme.jpgEven though I’ve had some amazing opportunities this month with two stunning tastings that had a vertical retrospective of the late great Didier Dagueneau and a horizontal of the famed Oregon Pinot master Ken Wright’s (seen with me left) line of a single vineyard Pinot Noirs, it is the value wines that now take center stage. The global financial crisis is having a serious impact on the economy and is very scary indeed. As it was famously said; “it is the economy stupid”, even in the wine world, which usually holds its own during slow financial times, though this downturn is massive and I have noticed a big turn to sub $20 a bottle wine. So I’ve made a point of featuring some super wines that don’t break the bank and still leave you with a big grin after a glass or two. Some of my favorite value wines come from the Rhone Valley and other Southern France areas, as they offer ripe and richly flavored wines that are solidly made and easy to love. Then there is South America with wonderful wines coming from both Argentina and Chile, with Malbec and Syrah wines impressing lately.  Then there is Spain and Italy for values, with even the Islands of Sardinia and Sicily giving wines of top quality at everyday prices, including one of my favorite wines, the Cannonau di Sardegna made from old Grenache vines. That said, top end wines are still doing well and the blue chip investment wines from the top domaines and chateaux are still looking to be solid bets and prices have even gone up on California Cabernets…

For some good value selections check out my latest REVIEWS

pursang.jpgIt was a very sad day a little over a month ago when the news came in that Didier Dagueneau had died in a single engine plane crash in his native France. Dagueneau was renown for perfecting bio-dynamically made Pouilly-Fume to the point of beyond perfection, making some of the great wines ever produced from his loved Sauvignon Blanc grapes. He looked and acted something between a caveman and a rock star, but was a driven and intense character that was never shy when it came to his self believe and or views on winemaking. His wines are a true reflection of his terroir and his personality! I never got to meet the man, but I have been luck enough to taste his artwork and I can tell you he was an artist and that his wines are totally unique in flavors and are almost impossible to fairly review or relate to you. They are such different animals each vintage and taste like no other Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tried, as they are pure and true to vintage and terroir completely. His top two wines from his Loire Valley vineyards, the “Silex” and “Pur Sang” though signed by the same artist seem very different wines and go a long way to showcase the slightly different soils and climate, even though the sites are not so far away as to make one think there would be such a difference. I found the “Pur Sang” to have a smoky citrus and liquid mineral note, while the “Silex” showed an earthy quince and stone fruit quality. All the wines I tasted all showed something special and it was a once in a lifetime event to try some 15 wines, from 1994 to 2006. In my notes I had extra special stars for the 1999 Pur Sang, 2001 Silex, 2003 Pur Sang, 2005 Silex and the near perfect 2006 Pur Sang.

wrights.jpgThe only slight blemish on my Oregon adventure in September was that I missed catching up with the godfather of Oregon Pinot Ken Wright, so I was glad to put that right last week when Ken Wright was pouring his full line up of Pinot Noir at a special tasting of new world Pinot Noir in San Francisco. I had met Ken before and have always held him and his wines in high esteem, in fact his energy and passion during a seminar a few years ago helped me understand his region and gave me an extra insight and affection for the Willamette Valley and its wines. At this tasting, Ken was engaging and patient with me, explaining each vineyard in detail and what he likes best about each site and what special characteristics they impart on the finished wine. I am grateful he took the time and gave me his full attention, it is a rare thing at these tastings and it is the extra special effort that sets him apart. All this focus and intensity goes into each of his wines and I can honestly say it makes a great difference. Wright showed his 10 different single vineyard Pinot Noirs, all of which highlighted their terroir and were each unique. His line up of 2007 wines are going to be released between now and December and do show the vintage’s more Burgundy like profiles with higher acid and delicate fruit. These are more a winemaker’s vintage than the blockbuster ripe 2006 wines were, but should be very enjoyable for true Pinot lovers. The wines are young and will fill out over the next few years, though there are a couple that are easy to enjoy now, especially the up front and fruit driven Shea Vineyard and the lovely and textured McCrone Vineyard, both of which impressed me a lot! Others to stand out were; the Nysa Vineyard from the Dundee Hills, the Savoya Vineyard from Yamhill, and the Carter Vineyard in the Eola Hills area, all of which are lovely wines that should gain with a little cellar time.

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

rochpn06.jpg2006 Rochioli Pinot Noir Estate, Russian River Valley

One of my personal favorites, this wine does not disappoint and is a classic style Pinot Noir from this region with flavors and characters that remind me why I fell in love with this wine back in the early to mid nineties. This vintage has fresh grapey fruit and mid weight, it really did take me back in time like an old friend remembering the good old days. This Pinot shows crisp focus, lovely flowery perfume and a warm emotional exciting palate of raspberry, cherry and plum fruit. The acidity is zesty and really keeps this wine lively and balanced with a subtle pure velvet texture. There is a beautiful subtle French oak note that gives a certain vanilla and cream essence, but doesn’t take away any of the pretty fruit, rose petal, spice and light mineral element. I seem to smile and think of wild flowers and strawberries while sipping this Pinot and for that I’m happy and content. (Est. $55-65)

94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Lastest *Value Pick

delas.jpg2006 Delas Cotes du Ventoux (Rhone Red) A.C. Cotes-du-Ventoux

This country style Cotes-du-Rhone blend is like a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape with racy red fruit, earth and spices. This red has mid to full body with smooth tannins and good depth, making it an unbelievable value. Plumy on the palate with cherry, truffle, pepper, with hints of kirsch, crushed rock and lavender oil. (Est.  $12) *Value Pick!

87-89 Points, grapelive

RANCHO CELLARS

Grapelive Latest: Wine of the Week

sangio06.jpg2006 Casanova Della Spinetta Il Nero di Casanova Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy (By La Spinetta)

This is a great wine and at a super price, with beautiful dark color and bursting with lively fruit. This little Sangiovese has enough stuffing to impress Brunello drinkers and will blow away Chianti fans completely! La Spinetta has long been one of my favorite wineries and as much as I like their big Barbarescos and their Sezzana also from Tuscan, this wine is one that I buy by the case and am never let down. This red has blackberry, cherry and tangy plum fruits with hints of smoke, spice, kirsch, strawberry and mountain herbs, a full palate and good depth and length. The fruit is very impressive and the wine is vivid and mouth filling leaving deep purple stains on the rim of the glass and maybe your teeth!  (Est. $22-26) 90-91 Points, grapelive

Imported by the Henry Wine Group

*Can be ordered from RANCHO CELLARS

831-625-5646

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

aw2000champoux.jpg2000 Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard (Cabernet Blend) Walla Walla, Washington State
It is so nice to get to try mature and fully developed wines, especially when they are as beautiful and deep as this wine is right now! Chris Camarda, who has been hailed as a master by the likes of Robert Parker and others, continues to shine today for his talents. But, going back in time even proves they praise and I am telling you this wine is fantastic and makes me ask the question, why do we buy young tannic wines when we can drink wonderful aged gems like this. The 2000 Champoux is lovely and complex with lush textures and darkly colored with smooth rich tannins. The fruit is still focused and clear leading with blackberry, currant and plum flavors on the palate. The nose is smoky and spicy with hints of liqueur and flowers, and the body is full, but still remarkably fresh and lively. This wine is much more friendly and charming than most 2000 Bordeaux(s) especially Lynch-Bages and Cos D’Estournel, I mean it crushes them and drinks better than even Mouton! Trust me I’ve had the 2000 Mouton at least 3 times and it was never even close to this good! (Est. $65-80) 94 Points, grapelive

*A few bottles available at RANCHO CELLARS click or call 1-831-625-5646

Grapelive Latest: An Oregon Tale, Willamette Valley

glkwserene.jpgGrapelive: Oregon Trip Report *Updated With Reviews


THURSDAY, 9/11/08: Dundee Hills

I new it was going to be tough to pack this adventure into two days, so I tried to be careful not to do too much or schedule myself silly, as I wanted to relax a bit and really see the Willamette Valley in the best light possible. And I can tell you, I did just that, in fact it was nearly perfect in everyway. The weather was maybe the best of the year, as we were told by many of the locals, with hot sunshine each day and a light breeze keeping things in check in the vineyards. Driving around got some getting used to, but once we got the hang of it, finding places was not too difficult, though I did get us off course a few times, damn MapQuest!

I was playing sidekick and navigator for my friend and winemaker Jennifer Pandol, who makes a wonderful Pinot Noir herself from the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was here to get the story and learn about the terroir, Jenny was here to do the same, but also to see family and relax a bit before her harvest/crush madness. We both learned a lot and came away excited and very impressed with what we saw and tasted.

For the first day it was all about the red hills of Dundee, now known as the “Dundee Hills” and tasting wines that highlighted this area’s unique terroir profile. The Dundee Hills are home to some of the best of the best, plus an amazing array of small family producers. The big guns here are Domaine Serene and Archery Summit, I flipped a coin and it came up Domaine Serene, so that ended being the first stop. At this point, I would like to mention that I owe a big thank you to Tom Elliott of Northwest Wines, as he was my go to guy to set up most of these appointments, so Thank You Tom. Northwest Wines brokers mostly Oregon and Washington wines in California, and they do a fantastic job of promoting the region. Now, it was time for my Pinot quest.

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s5003133.jpgDomaine Serene
With beautiful vineyards and pine forests in the background, Domaine Serene certainly is a wonderful setting to get your feet wet and dive into Oregon Pinot Noir. This is a luxurious and expensive villa with everything done with class and elegance, but as with most places in Oregon there is a cozy laid back air and Tara showed us their wines with ease and good humor. We started with their 2006 Clos du Soleil Chardonnay, which was full of character and flavor, with peach and pear fruit, hazelnut and elegant balance. Then it was a selection of their famed Pinot, the 2005 Evenstad Reserve and the 2005 Jerusalem Hill, both of which were great. I gave the Evenstad the nod as my favorite now, and Jenny gave her affection to the Jerusalem Hill. Both were lush, rich and full of texture and showed deep red fruits with fine creamy oak notes. The tasting finished with the 2004 Rockblock Syrah from the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon. Sourced from the Del Rio vineyard, this wine shows a pure Syrah nature with black and blue fruits, cassis, mocha, game and spices. This was a great way to start the day and my first tasting ever in Oregon.

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s5003123.jpg2005 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir “Evenstad Reserve”, Willamette Valley, Oregon
One of my favorite wines year after year, the Evenstad Reserve gives lots of pleasure and is an amazing Pinot Noir most every year, with the 2005 not letting me down, in fact it surely proves the quality in even a tough vintage. This wine shows sweet smoke, wild flowers and raspberry on the nose and lush red fruits on the palate. This s a deep and complex wine that allows instant enjoyment, but keeps you entertained with the changing layers. Red plum, strawberry/rhubarb, and round cherry fruits, mineral and spices, and a long creamy finish with beautiful French oak shadings. 94 Points, grapelive

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Domaine Serene Winery – Tara Shepersky
6555 NE Hilltop Lane, Dayton 97114
503-864-4600

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s5003145.jpgDe Ponte Cellars
Down the hill from Domaine Serene and in the shadow of Domaine Drouhin, De Ponte is a small family winery and farms the Rudolf Steiner way, purely Biodynamic. This friendly and warm place produces some very good wines and I can recommend them as a great value as well. Their line up was all good and offered a fun selection. To clean the palate, we started with the 2007 DFB Estate Melon; Melon is a rare Loire Valley grape that makes a fresh and light white wine. Their version has zesty apple and lime fruit and tangy acidity, perfect for hot days and or seafood. I also liked their pink wine, a 2007 Rose of Pinot Noir that has flowers, light cherry, watermelon and fresh citrus. Then it was back to Pinot, and Suzanne poured us three, a light Smokey 2006 Clay Hill (their second label) Pinot Noir that had lots of fresh cherry fruit and sweet oak shadings. Then the savory and rich 2006 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir, the flagship wine, which was full-bodied, big and round with layers of fruit and good depth. As a special, we also got to taste the Burgundy like 2004 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir that was packed with dark fruit, truffle, mineral and classic Pinot flavors, hands down our favorite and the most interesting.

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s5003142.jpg2004 De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Thanks to De Ponte Cellars for letting me try this library wine from the classic 2004 vintage. This Pinot is very compelling and super interesting with lots of Burgundy like intensity and style. There are layers and layers here and the wine changes greatly with air and is a stunning wine. This Pinot shows truffle, earth, spice and deep flavors and subtle quality oak notes with a full array of dark and red berry fruits, plum, tangy currant and a smoky sweet finish. No question this wine is still a baby, but it is all ready drinking great and should do so for many more years. 93-94 Points, grapelive

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De Ponte Cellars – Suzanne Baldwin
17545 Archery Summit Rd. Dayton 97114
503-864-3611 offices
503-864-3698 winery

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s5003169.jpgStoller Vineyards
The Stoller family spared no expense to build an award winning green design winery and the first winery to be Gold LEED certified. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) The Stoller’s believe in a sustainable work place, and their winery is all done to the highest standards and seems very well thought out. We were very impressed with Kenny Stoller as he led us on a tour of the facility, as he explained each area and the family goals with energy and patience. I had tried a few Stoller wines prior and had been impressed and nothing changed my views after tasting their solid line up of current releases. The highlights from Stoller included; the 2007 JV Chardonnay, an un-oaked gem with fresh bright apple and pear fruit with crisp citrus that was both rich and refreshing. And the 2006 SV Pinot Noir (red label) that was powerful and at the same time elegant with rich red fruits, wild flowers and big round body. I also want to Thank Mitch, as she made us feel very welcome and was especially good at explaining the wines we tasted.

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s5003156.jpg2006 Stoller Pinot Noir SV, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Deeper and richer than the lovely 2005, this wine seems to have it all with ripe intense dark fruits and lush textures. This bold wine shows dark cherry, brambleberry, sweet plums and liqueur with wild flowers, rose petals, incense spices and smoky sweet vanilla oak shadings. This is a fun and serious Pinot that drinks great now, but should smooth out and get even deeper over the next 3-5 years. 94 Points, grapelive

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Stoller Vineyards – Kenny Stoller
15151 NE Stoller Rd
Dayton 97114
503-864-3404

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Dundee Bistro and Ponzi Wine Bar
(next door)

This upscale Bistro in the little hamlet of Dundee offers a great selection of plates and the wine list is amazing, I am very grateful to my friend Christine Baker for giving me the heads up on this place. We especially enjoyed the claims in a Pinot Gris and garlic broth, in fact we keep the broth through out lunch to dip our bread in, sending the busboy away many, many times with out that bowl! I had a lovely 2007 Ponzi Pinot Gris that was lively and pure with green apple and cool citrus notes, very nice. My curious winemaker friend opted for a rare Dao white from Portugal that opened with a sherry note, but really got some life after a minute in the glass turning rich and flavorful. Next to the Dundee Bistro is the Ponzi Wine Bar and tasting area that had a great selection of wines for take away and to taste from the Willamette Valley. Ponzi has long been a favorite of mine and their Reserve Pinot always impresses me with depth and flavor richness.

Ponzi Wine Bar
 100 SW Seventh Street, 
Dundee, OR 97115
503.554.1500

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*Grapelive Notes
The Dundee Hills “terroir” flavor profile seems clear and distinct to me, I find lots of sweet red cherry fruit, red berry, strawberry/rhubarb and baking spices (like maybe nutmeg) giving way to creamy textures. This may come from the Red Jory Soils and to a lesser extent climate factors. The dirt here is red in color and high in iron and minerals, which make it different from other areas in the Willamette.

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FRIDAY, 9/12/08: Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill County

s5003220.jpgThis was an exciting day, as I’ve been a big fan of the main three wineries we planned to visit and I was finally going to walk and taste the famed Beaux Frères Vineyard in person. To me Beaux Frères, is like a top Grand Cru Burgundy comparable to Domaine Romanee-Conti, or better yet Domaine Comte Georges du Vogue makers of the great Musigny & Bonnes Mares. But first we were headed to Penner-Ash and then Shea Vineyards; it doesn’t get better than this! After finding the right road leading to Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill County things were all right in the world, with beautiful sunshine and views of wild blackberries and hazelnut orchards. This is pretty country and very peaceful, with stunning vistas across the valley with the impressive Mount Hood in the background.

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s5003219.jpgPenner-Ash Wine Cellars

Lynn Penner-Ash makes some of the finest Pinot Noir period, and I have always been a fan since I first tried her wine some five or six years ago. Lynn went to Davis, did some time in Napa, then headed north taking the winemaking role at Rex-Hill Vineyards before creating her own label. In 2005 she got her own winery up and running, as well as sourcing her own estate vineyard, the Dussin Vineyard. Since then things have only got better she continues to showcase her talent and gather acclaim worldwide. In fact, recently she was hired by a “Cult” Napa Valley producer to make a special Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for them to partner their highly rated and priced Cabernet Sauvignon!

Natalie gave us the tour and told us all about the place, Natalie runs the front of the house and is a wonderful guide with great stories and a good sense of humor. The best story she told was of how the winter rains flood the lower driveway to the winery, which hits about a mile up on a hill, with the raging waters too deep to drive through for up to two weeks at a time. No problem for Natalie, she puts her laptop and cell phone in her backpack and canoes across the river of water and then hikes the mile trek to the winery and office each day! I think she needs a raise Lynn, don’t you? That is the real pioneer spirit, and shows some of the down to earth nature of the Willamette Valley that comes through when you get to know people here.

Did I forget to tell about the wine? Well, I’ll fix that now, as this was one of the best line up’s of wine by a single winery that I’ve tasted ever! We started with a lovely Rogue Valley 2007 Viognier, which was a classic in flavors and purity with honeysuckle, spice, apricot and peach. Then we were treated to five fantastic Pinot Noirs, four of which were single vineyard wines that showed each terroir well, and the fifth was the flagship wine of the Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, the 2006 Willamette Valley. Included in the single vineyard selections were: the 2006 Dussin (Estate), the 2006 Goldschmidt (Dundee Hills), the 2006 Carabella (a vineyard Lynn advised on) and the 2006 Seven Springs. The 2006 Willamette Valley is drinking great all ready and should age great too, with amazing layers and complexity it won out in the end as our top choice, even though I was torn between the Seven Springs and the Dussin as well. Really they all were top notch and rival top Pinots from anywhere. After the Pinots, Natalie poured us the dry rose of Pinot Noir, the 2007 Roseo, which was a delight and I made sure I got a bottle before heading out.

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willamettepinot_sm.jpg2006 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
This lusty dark Pinot Noir has to be one of the best Pinots in the new world and a world-class wine. This multi vineyard cuvee delivers all the ingredients for an amazing wine, and is sourced from only top sites that all add to the success of this Pinot. Lynn Penner-Ash is a proven master with this grape and region and this wine showcases all of her greatness to perfection. The wine is deeply layered and unfolds with lush fruit and textures. The 2006 vintage is a blockbuster and shows the darker nature of the Pinot with lots of black fruits, plums, blackberries and a medley of red berries and black cherries. The wonderful wine is perfumed with violets, wild flowers and roses leading to a thick palate of fruit and touches of smoke and spices, finishing with lavish, pretty toasty oak. Wow, without a doubt this is an awesome wine! (Est. $48-50) 95-96 Points, grapelive

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Penner-Ash Wine Cellars – Natalie Sigafoos
15771 NE Ribbon Ridge Rd, 
Newberg, OR 97132

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s5003256.jpgShea Wine Cellars & Shea Vineyards
Dick Shea is the man behind the legend of Shea Vineyard, Oregon’s most famous vineyard. The Shea Vineyard has graced the label of some of the greatest wines of this region and has the top winemakers in the Willamette and even California begging for this fruit. Mike Etzel (Beaux Frères), Ken Wright (Ken Wright Cellars), and Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner-Ash Wine Cellars) are just a few of the Oregon winemakers using these grapes to make amazing Pinots, and then there is the Californian wineries: Loring, Pali and Auteur as well. The Auteur 2006 Shea was utterly amazing and as close to perfect as Pinot gets. I would also compare Shea Vineyard with the Pisoni and Garys’ Vineyards (Santa Lucia Highlands) here in California, or even maybe also similar to the Melville Vineyard (Santa Rita Hills).

We found Shea Wine Cellars and met up with Drew Voit, Shea Wine Cellar’s Winemaker, who I am grateful to for taking so much time out of his day to show us around and answer a massive amount of questions. Drew is a great guy and was kind, with a bright smile and lots of passion for his work. He has also consulted with Domaine Serene and really got their Chardonnay program to the next level. Here at Shea, he has the pick of the place and gets the most interesting selections for their line up of Pinots. Shea has lots of different sites on the vineyard, in fact Shea Vineyards is in reality two separated vineyards, and they have most clones planted. They use different blocks to blend into their main wine, the Estate Pinot, and then they have single block wines as well, and sometimes they produce even single clone wines like, the Wadenswil (a Swiss clone) and the Pommard (French clone).
As we walked through the vines at Shea, it was hard not to feel content and at peace, as it is a special place, I even mentioned my thoughts to Drew who agreed with a knowing grin.

Drew is very excited about the Chardonnay at Shea, and after tasting it I can see why, this is great stuff and a heady wine with bold richness and sublime balance and texture. This was the 2006 Estate Chard, which even though a hot year by Oregon standards showed focus and bright flavors with apple, pear and white peaches along with hints of fig, lemon, clove and vanilla. This is a very complex and layered wine that has class and body that are more Batard-Montrachet like than some quality California Chardonnay. Then we dived into the Estate Pinot, the 2006 vintage, which was extremely ripe and bold at first, but opened up nicely into a balanced and deep wine with lots of plum and dark fruits all held in with pleasing toasty oak. I can’t wait to get back to Shea and taste from barrel and see how the Chardonnay ages, plus after 2009 Drew is planning to due his own label and that will be really fun to keep up on. Shea was planted first in 1989 and they started producing their own wine in small amounts in 1996, and now are par with the worlds best, congrats Dick, you have a awesome place and make super wines.

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s5003244.jpg2006 Shea Vineyards Chardonnay “Shea Vineyards” Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Watch out Burgundy, Oregon has your whites in their sights now and they are on target! This has the beginnings of a Batard-Montrachet beater, with solid structure and intense fruit. This Chardonnay shows pear, white peach, apple, fig and hazelnuts in beautiful layers. The texture is rich and creamy with plenty of soft sweet oak, but there is vigor and life here too. A hint of lemon goes well with the brioche and vanilla on the finish. (Est. $45-50) 93-94 Points, grapelive

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Shea Wine Cellars – Drew Voit, Winemaker
12321 NE Hwy 240, Newberg, OR 9713

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img_1615.jpgBeaux Frères Winery

Michael Etzel came to Oregon, liked what he saw and bought and took on a hog farm. This was 1986, and he only had a slight connection to wine, though an expert one, he had the famous wine critic Robert Parker as a brother in law. I guess Parker liked what he saw and became a full partner in the pigpen, soon to become vineyard. Michael hand planted Beaux Frères Vineyard in 1988 to 1990, all 23 acres, and took part-time work in the cellars of Ponzi and others to learn about wine. From bacon to Grand Cru in 10 years! In 1994 Michael produced one of the greatest Pinot Noirs in the new world and has never looked back. I was lucky to have tried that vintage recently and was amazed by what I was tasting, and I became a believer again. I remember the joy of tasting Beaux Frères from the 1998 and 1999 vintages and thinking of someday going to this place, and today was going to be that day! The Beaux Frères Vineyard and the newer Upper Terrace Vineyard at Beaux Frères are both farmed biodynamic and much love and respect is given the land, and they feel this connects them spiritually to the place and makes much better wine.

img_1616.jpgKurt Johnson, Beaux Frères Sales Manager and his boxer Jackson lead us on a march through the vineyard and told us the tales of this stunning site. Michael greeted us warmly, then went to sell metal scraps with his assistant winemaker Grant in tow, but Kurt and Jackson put on a great show and we were in no way disappointed and I really enjoyed my game of tug of war with Kurt’s dog while he talked about Beaux Frères’ past and future. Kurt also let us know that Ribbon Ridge and especially Beaux Frères produces darker and more intense fruit profiles, this might be from the sedimentary soils here, it seems all of the Yamhill-Carlton region is set on ancient seabed. I also learned that the original vineyard was and is planted to the Wadenswil (Swiss clone) and the Pommard (old French clone) giving me a new insight on these Pinot clones, both of which are not so popular in California, but make wonderful and complex wines here. He also let us know the newer vineyard the Upper Terrace that Michael planted modern French clones like 113, 114, 115, 667 and 777 as well as a tiny plot of Grenache, yes I said Grenache. Well, that is crazy I thought, but I got have one; I mean I really need this wine! So I bought one, and took it away with me. (I drank it later that night, I could not wait…)

Beaux Frères does three Pinot Noirs normally, a Willamette Valley from purchased fruit and the Beaux Frères Vineyard Estate Pinot and the Upper Terrace Estate Pinot, plus that crazy Upper Terrace Grenache mentioned above. We able to try the 2006 Beaux Frères Estate Pinot Noir, which never regularly gets poured, but they had sold out of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, oh too bad! So, after all the build up how did it taste? Well now, even though I have had the 2006 earlier and rated it way up there close to perfect, this wine did not let me down. Let’s just say with only a tiny sip and sniff, I was in heaven, as this is a great and almost perfect wine. In fact I was so utterly convinced I gave my winemaker friend the rest of my glass! Amazing is all I can say now, the dark rich fruit and sublime smoky oak notes frame it perfectly and the depth is compelling all ready, even though it should be a wine for the ages. Maybe, just maybe, we had saved the best for last, at least I think so. It was a great moment to live, Beaux Frères is an important place and one of the Grand Cru sites in the new world, and it was fun to catch up with Kurt, oh yeah, I had met him before when he had been with Etude in Napa Valley and more recently when he was down showing off Beaux Frères in California this last March. People do make a difference and Kurt is one of the good guys in this business and it great to see that nice guys make good in this world.

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s5002236thumbnail.jpg2006 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir “Beaux Frères Vineyard” Estate, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon
I originally tasted and reviewed this wine in March 2008, and though it was one of the best Pinots I’ve tasted and compared it to the great Burgundies, and now I am even more impressed. Mike Etzel has crafted a fantastic wine, even if he thinks the 2006 vintage is over hyped and not typical of Oregon. This wine compares to the great Burgundy vintages like 1990 and 1999, with huge fruit and power. That said the wine is opening up nicely and has lovely perfume and sublime depth and balance. I could rave on and on, but I guess I should say it s close to perfect. The fruit is dark and lively with blackberry, plum and currant mostly with only a hint of cherry at this stage. Pretty smoky sweet oak toast frame this wine perfectly. This Pinot Noir is one of my all time favorites. (Est. $75-80) 96+ Points, grapelive * Tasted at Beaux Frères, September 2008.

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Beaux Frères   – Kurt Johnson, Sales Manager
15155 NE North Valley Road   Newberg, Oregon 97132 USA
Telephone: (503) 537-1137   Facsimile: (503) 537-2613   e-Mail: info@beauxfreres.com

*Grapelive Notes:
The Yamhill-Carlton District and Ribbon Ridge area in the Willamette Valley form sort of a horseshoe shape of raised ancient seabed and produce wines of slightly darker color (in general) and more intense dark flavors, led by blackberry, plum and briar notes. Though most Oregon wines have good acidity, it seems that the Yamhill-Carlton have more tannins which would lead me to believe that they might have aging advantage. It is something I’ll keep exploring, for sure.

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Grapelive: Oregon Tale, Portland

s5003097.jpgWalking Portland on a hot Indian summer day is a big deal, and I enjoyed it to the fullest taking in the sights and sounds of this cool and thriving city. Of course there was a stop at Powell’s Books, though it really does require maybe more than a single afternoon to browse! I think a month! Then just wandering around the Pearl District before lunching at Clyde Common, a chic restaurant and whiskey bar that serves up fresh and interesting dishes all of which were awesome. This was also my start to Oregon Pinot mission, with a glass of the brand new 2007 Broadley Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. A very nice easy wine that went great with the flavors of my dishes, with soft juicy cherry and raspberry fruit and round full mouth feel. So, I was off to a good start and went heading for more. A long walk up Burnside in the warm, well it might be better if I said hot, sunshine ended at Zupan’s Market, a great place to take in all the goodness of the produce and wines from the local area. Alaya Wyndham-Price, wine writer and now on screen wine expert, led of through the selections and gave of a turn of her cellar. She puts on food and wine events for Zupan’s and the cellar looks to be a fine venue indeed with lots of fantastic wines all around. So if you get up this way be sure to check it out, you’ll be very happy you did.
With all the great bistros and brewpubs, Portland has one of the best food and drink scenes I’ve ever come across, lucky me I didn’t have to decide on a place for dinner, that was planned by friends and it turned out wonderfully. We ate and drank and laughed in total bliss and were treated like royalty the entire time, all this heaven was at Clarklewis Restaurant. To say the food was great is just not enough, and to tell you the service was fantastic would still not cover it, as this place just has it all and is relaxed and casual to boot. The open space and see everything floor plan adds to the whole experience, especially when you see the raw and beautiful ingredients being prepared by engaging, joyful staff. Then there is the wine list, where you can find a fine array of interesting selections by the glass and bottle, from around the world and up and down the Willamette Valley. Oh, by the way, the wine pricing up here is more than fair and we took advantage of that and drank in some super wines. The highlights were the 2005 St. Innocent Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, which was full of dark fruits, pleasing earth, lavender and subtle oak notes all of which matched up with the cuisine perfectly. Then there was the 2006 Wahle Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, that was floral, bright fruited and plump, round with a creamy sweet finish that was a good distraction between courses, and I thought it was a very fine wine.
After the chef’s meal, served family style, all a blur now of frenzied feeding and grunts of joy, I mean how else can I explain the overwhelming pleasure of the meal given to us, we took to their bar for the medicinal effects of exotic liqueurs and the sublime Stumptown coffee, roasted in Portland. These worked well to settle the stomach, maybe too well, as we then decided on another bottle of Pinot to finish the night! The wine was the juicy and fruit filled 2006 Patton Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, which started out a little much, but opened into a very nice wine indeed, with black and red fruits delivered in layers of texture, sweet oak and it finished smoothly. This was a day and meal to remember and this was just my first day in Oregon.

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