April 20, 2011

Experimentation in Oregon Wine Country

Yesterday afternoon was spent driving around the Willamette Valley stopping at several wineries. By the end of the day I was worn out and uninterested in trying another Pinot Noir. What kept me going through the day though was some unexpected wines that showed both the growing diversity of the wines here, and the willingness to experiment and take commercial risk on the part of wineries.

Some wines I knew about, but was taken aback by their quality and interest. Adelsheim, and Oregon wine pioneer, who is celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year, is producing on their estate one of the best Oregon Syrahs I've had. The nose was meaty and spicy, but not overwhelming, with a real juicy palate and clean finish. I was happy to see an Oregon Syrah that was approachable but also complex and balanced.

Another Oregon pioneer, Erath, now owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle, is producing a white Pinot Noir. This seems to be the latest trend; thought they were not pouring it in their tasting room while I was there, I knew that Anne Amie was also making a white Pinot Noir. This is a total geek wine - a full and rich white with great fruit and zippy finish.

Anne Amie's lineup is impressive beyond their white Pinot Noir. Their Riesling is coming from well established vines, and has a intense nose. I'm so glad to see this variety gain traction here, with several producers offering great examples including Brooks and Tristaetum. What was really surprising at Anne Amie was their set of "Stickies", a pair of desert wines made from Muller-Thurgau. The two wines are made in different styles, a late harvest sweet wine full of orange marmalade, and a fortified oxidized wine with nutty honey aromas. Both are great and unconventional wines.

My hat's off to those producers pushing the envelope. I look forward to finding more jems.

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