With Monday being Memorial Day, it feels like I have been playing catch all week. Typically by Tuesday and at the latest of Wednesday, I have the newsletter structure in place. Here I am Thursday morning struggling on who to write about, and I am torn. There were two tastings recently that stood out to me. Both tastings were with a small group. The focus was on the wine along with the person pouring, with very little social chatter occurring. Don’t get me wrong, sociable tastings are great! There is something special when the wine speaks for itself to distract the whole tasting.

I am going to try something a little different this week. There is a chance this runs into next week for part 2, but I want to talk about both wineries without revealing who they are until the end. Think of it as getting on a plane knowing the destination city, but not the actual destination.

For the first winery, I picked up a couple of bottles when I noticed a Pinot from the Nysa vineyard. It isn’t every day you see a Nysa, and I immediately snatched it up. When I opened it up this 2017 on February 3rd, I enjoyed the slightest bit of funk on the nose and mid-palate with a bit of bright red fruit. The funk was coming in through and through in the most joyous of manners.

One of the comments on that IG post was, “You’re so going to REDACTED with me, and you will lose your mind!!” Fast forward a couple of months, the date and details of the tasting were all worked out. We would be blind tasting a six-year vertical of Pinot from the Elton Vineyard. I just about lost my gourd when I heard those details. Most of the time, you know nothing about the wines. In this instance, we know the vineyard, the winery, and the varietal. The only unknown is the year.

I am sure you understand the excitement over the six-year vertical blind portion, but let me share with you why I was excited about the Elton vineyard. Let’s go back a little bit. I had a friendly conversation with a Southern Oregon winemaker and got invited to Elton vineyard late on a Sunday afternoon during the rainy season. The winemaker is close friends with the owner of the vineyard, Betty. I hadn’t heard of Elton, and of course, I had to do a little research.

The vineyard has a myriad of sculptures along with a koi pond and two gazebos. It’s a 1.5-acre garden. It has to be fabulous! The winemaker, Devey Elise, did everything in her power to get me to come out that Sunday afternoon, but I couldn’t. I am determined to visit Elton vineyard this year and also to visit Devey in Southern Oregon.

The day of the tasting finally arrived on May 16th. To say I was excited is putting it lightly. Sitting in the room with five other people and the co-founder, Greg, of REDACTED made my day. Sitting in front of us were six blind pours. All we need to do is correctly identify the years. Not a problem, right? I made a bold statement before we started, “We all should be able to pick out the 2019!” I could tell Greg was having a blast already. I know I would be if I were in his shoes.

Wine #1
On this nose, I got bright red strawberry with an entry to wake you up. I felt like the alcohol was on the upper side, around 13.8. Tannins were showing themselves a bit, but not in an overpowering manner. My guess, 2019.

Wine #2
It had a little lighter body to it. There was great acidity and zero tannins. My guess, 2014.

Wine #3
Beautiful funky nose, great acidity, hints of tannic structure, along with some great spice. My guess, 2017

Wine #4
I messed up a little with socializing about the wine a bit and didn’t take the best notes on this one the first time around. I jotted down low acid, big spice finish in a hurry because some people were already done. Sigh. My guess 2016

Wine #5
Lovely bright nose along with excellent acidity levels. The palate and finish were these big deep dark fruits I adored. My guess 2018

Wine #6
All I wrote was classic 19. I was for sure this was the 2019, hands down. Now I am wondering what does “Classic 19” means. It stood out to me big time!

If #6 was a 2019, there is no way #1 could be a 19 as well. Revisiting #1, I changed my answer to 2017, which means #3 can’t be 2017. Okay, ok, whatever. #3 is a 16, and the level of self-doubt seepy into every crevice of my being is starting to take over. I will not bore with you the number of times I changed my answers, plus it is confusing as all get out.

My final guesses ended up being:
Wine #1 – 2017
Wine #2 – 2014
Wine #3 – 2016
Wine #4 – 2018
Wine #5 – 2015
Wine #6 – 2019

Here are the actual correct answers:
Wine #1 – 2016
Wine #2 – 2019
Wine #3 – 2014
Wine #4 – 2018
Wine #5 – 2017
Wine #6 – 2015

I got one wine correct. Holy Toledo Batman, I need to get my crap together and study wine way more! I’m heading down to Fred Myer to buy some spare time as soon as the newsletter is complete for the week. I was fortunate to get one wine correct. A couple of others in the group also got one wine right. One person got two wines!

A couple of days after the tasting, I reached out to Devey, the southern Oregon winemaker, and let her know I tasted through a vertical from Elton. Here is her response, “Ooooo! That’s Isabel’s wine, isn’t it?” I answered with, “Yes :-)” Devey’s reply still puts a smile on my face today. The level of detail people remember surrounding wine will never stop fascinating me. “She’s made some chard’s from Betty’s vineyard as well…I tend to drink her older vintages because she picks early for higher acids, and the structure is amazing. She did some Elton wines for Willamette Valley as well. We had her ’15 Elton chard…it was fantastic! Which vintage did you prefer?”

The one vintage I thought for sure was 2019 ended being the 2015. I was blown away. I let Devey know this, and her response was, “So basically any ’15 Isabel made is gold right now lol…good to know!”

I hope you have enjoyed something a little bit different this week. It wasn’t exactly a blind tasting, but it is the closest thing I can do with words to share the experience. I probably should do the grand reveal and let you know who the winery is. It is Lavinea. Greg, the co-founder, has over 25 years of experience providing leadership in the wine world. In 2012 he was president and CEO of Evening Land, where he worked with Isabelle Meunier. Isabelle’s 2012 La Source Pinot Noir was #3 for the 2015 Wine Spectator wine list.

I thoroughly enjoyed the wines I’ve had from Lavinea and looking forward to diving into the other labels later this year. When you make a reservation with Greg, please let him know “A.J. sent me.”

With Gratitude,
A.J.

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