2018 Bow & Arrow, Gamay Noir, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The taut and stubbornly grippy 2018 Bow & Arrow Johan Vineyard Gamay takes it own sweet time to open up and patience, while difficult, will be needed to full discover this reductive and natural styled wine, but once in the mood it really gets on with the program and brings some good game with layers of black cherry, earthy currant, crushed violets, snappy herbs, loamy notes and brambly spices in a lean, crunchy and mineral crisp medium bodied wine. Actually, day two brought a night and day expansion of flavors, texture and made this Gamay really shine, the time to open up revealed this wine’s true personality and it metaphorically went from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan in the glass with those hours proving critical to its enjoyment and it gained confidence, aromatic quality and poise with every sip. Scott Frank’s urban micro winey, Bow & Arrow, which was founded in 2010, based in Portland is a Loire Valley and old world “natural” inspired label that hand crafts small lot wines from organic vineyard sites throughout the Willamette Valley, including some unique rarities and some cool playful quaffers, but with serious intent, like this one perfectly showcases. I am a longtime fan of Frank’s Bow & Arrow wines, especially his awesome Rhinestones cuvee, also sourced from the Johan Vineyard, that is close to an Oregon version of Cheverny (a Loire Valley appellation) like blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay with loads of vibrant whole cluster character, it is one of my favorite alternative Willamette wines. Frank, who spent some time working under the legendary John Paul of Cameron Winery, has taken his own path and has created an underground following of counter culture wine drinkers that are looking for value priced artisan wines. The Johan Vineyard, a certified biodynamic site in Rickreall area of the Willamette Valley, is largest source of fruit for Bow & Arrow, farmed by Dag Sundby and Dan Rinke, who make their wines and provide grapes to some top notch producers, it is set on Helvatia and Santiam soils which were formed by glaciolacustrine deposits over silty loams and clayey alluvium with high acidity and is mineral rich and influenced by the Chehalem range that gives the wines from here a distinctive (terroir) personality.
This dark garnet/crimson and ruby edged Johan Gramay was all hand crafted with non intervention methods and spontaneous fermentation with a semi carbonic style with lots of whole bunches being used with gentle maceration(s) and only seeing old well seasoned French oak barrels for aging. The Loire Valley grape varieties like Melon de Bourgogne, a famous white grape known best as the its use in Muscadet, a salty dry wine that goes great with oysters, Chenin Blanc and Gamay, like in this one, have been in the Willamette Valley for many decades, but have been brought to attention of many new wine drinkers by Bow & Arrow, as well as a whole new generation of winemakers that have emerged on the Oregon wine scene in recent years. Oregon certainly leads the way in American or new world Gamay offerings with an amazing array of examples like Bow & Arrow along with notable efforts by Brick House, Love & Squalor, Evening Land’s Salem Wine Company, John Grochau’s Grochau Cellars and Grant Coulter’s Hundred Suns to name a few that should be on your radar. Those that like Cru Beaujolais will be well served by exploring these Willamette Valley Gamay wines, again I high recommend Bow & Arrow’s two single varietal versions, which includes this Johan, along with the Rhinestones, all of which are awesome bargains too. Frank also notes that 2019 looks like one of the best ever vintages for Willamette Valley Gamay grapes, so I suggest, if you can’t find the 2018s, to keep an eye out for them as they have just started to hit the market, including the regular Bow & Arrow Gamay bottling, which I also bought directly from the winery and will open soon. Most all of Scott’s red wines showcase a more savory style and are less fruity with an energetic high acidity profile, as this wine clearly displays and made to be enjoyed with food which benefits them greatly. The 2018 Johan Vineyard Gamay Noir is fully ripe, but at 12.5% natural alcohol it drinks very easy and while it is tight now, it should age well for five or more years. If you haven’t had Bow & Arrow yet, I suggest you do so as soon as possible and be sure to get, as mentioned, their Rhinestones, the Johan Melon white, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and the cool Air Guitar red, an Anjou style made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Gamay(s) wines.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive