Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wonderful Willamette

I'm out in McMinnville, OR for the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, or IPNC. I only signed up for one of the official events - the tasting "walkabout" which takes place tomorrow. But I've managed to stay pretty busy with visits to several wineries. Rather than breakdown all 15 wineries I've visited since Thursday, I'll give you the highlights of who you need to look for and ask for at your local wine store:

Montinore - They make a lot of widely available Pinot Noir. Moreover, they have some of the most budget friendly among good Oregon Pinot Noir. Their entry level "red label" can be found in many places and will cost somewhere in the low $20s. It's a classic light bodied Oregon pinot filled with bright cherry notes. They also make a lovely port that is only available at the vineyard. So visit The Willamette Valley already!!

Anne Amie - Been meaning to visit for years and finally made it there this trip. One of the few making a white Pinot Noir. I know there are many that consider this a gimmick, but if so, it's one I happen to like a lot. Imagine a white wine with a thicker body red berry notes on the nose and palate. Interesting, no? They also make a very pretty and unique late harvest Muller-Thurgau.

Winderlea - Cool space, beautiful views and excellent Chardonnay. I am particularly fond of their 2009 Chardonnay which should cost around $25-$30 at retail. Clean, bright, green apple palate with some candied notes and a hint of spice due to the neutral oak. Better than most subpar, over oaked and overdone CA Chardonnay.

Le Cadeau - I could write several postings just about Le Cadeau. Best views I've seen in The Willamette Valley. And the best thing about them - they have a great deal of distribution in the Northeast. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of their 2010 Pinots were my favorites - the 2010 Diversite and the 2010 Equinoxe.

Walter Scott Wines - I cannot say enough good things about this new winery. The founders, Ken and Erica, are as warm and friendly as they are talented. I genuinely enjoy everything they make. Based on the barrels we tasted today, I am waiting with baited breath for their spring bottling. In the meantime, I'll have to bide my time with their Holstein Pinot Noir as well as the Dumb Ox and Combe Vert Pinots I picked up previously that have since sold out. Dumb Ox is one of my absolute favorite Pinot Noirs. The acid, alcohol and tannins are in perfect balance and the palate is a cornucopia of berries, earth, spice and meat. Moreover, I need to give Ken credit for turning me onto Oregon Chardonnay. I was never a big Chard fan, but neutral-oaked Oregon Chardonnay has become a new favorite of mine. I think we're going to be seeing more and more good Chardonnay coming out of Oregon - especially if Ken and Erica accomplish everything I think they will.

I've been looking forward to this trip for months because The Willamette Valley is one of my favorite travel destinations. I love the wine and the landscape, but above all I love the sense of community out here. It seems as though all the winemakers know, as well as, respect one another. I have never experienced this much admiration amongst winemakers (and chefs and waiters) in any other region I've visited.

I sincerely hope this region never becomes what Napa has become, but in case it does, get out here soon. And by soon, I mean now! Oregon is just as lovely in August and September....

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just a Typical Trip to the Wine Store...

'Twas a dark and stormy Saturday night when my friend, Sharon, and I visited a local wine store, Shopper's Vineyard, in pursuit of a bottle of Schild Shiraz.* I've introduced several people to Schild because it is a juicy, berry filled, medium bodied crowd pleaser. It pairs with a lot of foods and unlike a lot of Asutralian Shiraz, it is not unbalanced due to a high degree of alcohol. 

Having picked up the Schild, we were browsing the rest of the store when the manager, Steve, came by to see if we needed help. Sharon remarked that I was "in the zone" and this sparked a conversation between the manager and me. Turned out that Steve was the wine buyer for the store and he had a diploma from the WSET, the organization I received a certificate from. After a lot of intense discussion, Steve recommended a few Italian wines for me: Statti Mantonico 2009 from the Calabria Region and Ceppaiano Tenuta Di Ceppaiano 2009 from Tuscany. 

Mantonico is a white varietal I'd never heard of and Ceppaiano is a label I'd never had, but Steve clearly knew what he was talking about.  Plus, I always love learning about new varietals so I was excited to try to Mantonico.  As advertised, both wines were great.  The Mantonico was light, refreshing and elegant.  It had some lush notes of honeysuckle and peach, but it was not overly fruity or sweet.  On the other hand, the Ceppaiano Tenuta from Tuscany was big, bold and rich with notes of cooked fruit and smoke.  And at $15, a lot cheaper than most Super Tuscans.

One of my favorite things about wine is there is so much choice and always something new to learn.  Classes and tastings are a wonderful way to learn, but a helpful manager or wine buyer can be just as educational.  Explore new stores or ask new questions at your current stores.  If you end up taking home a Mantico, it will be well worth it. 

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

*One final note:  Schild Shiraz 2008 has since become controversial because Schild produced an additional 5,000 cases of 2008 after they received a Top 10 Wine Spectator ranking (an illegal practice in some wine producing regions).  However, I believe the wine holds up - especially for $18 a bottle.