It is strange what memories stick with us over time. I lived in Missouri until the age of 9. I remember there was a radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey, who used to tell mesmerizing stories. I remember on countless occasions sitting in parking lots of a grocery store, the mall, or Wal-Mart listening to the story of the day. Some stories were fabulous, others were good, and on rare occasions, some would be meh. Meh wasn’t even a word I knew in my pre-tween years. What always stood out to me was the ending to every story was, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Last week I left you with the teeniest of cliffhangers, and whatever you do, please don’t compare this to anything Paul Harvey created back in the day. He is the master of storytelling cliffhangers. If you didn’t read last week’s newsletter or need a “What happened on Shameless last week” type of recap. I mentioned two tastings I attended with a small group where the wine and the person presenting the wine were front and center. Last week focused on my inability to choose the correct year of a six-year blind tasting vertical of Lavinea’s Elton Vineyard Pinot.
Like last week, I will describe the tasting but not reveal the winery until the very end. There might be some dead giveaways along the way for this one if you have been a long-time reader. If you guess who the winery is before the end, don’t be afraid to brag by clicking the reply button to tell me you figured it out.
The group for this tasting was five people, including myself. If you remember, a couple of weeks back, when I wrote about Bryn Mawr, I mentioned sitting down with Karyn tasting through a nice flight. I asked Karyn if she had ever been to REDACTED. Her response was, “No, but I will make sure I get it on my list of places to visit. Your recommendation of Abbott Claim was spot on and was spectacular!” There was more discussion of Abbott Claim, but I have to keep my tangents to a minimum. Karyn and her husband, Egon, were in attendance for the tasting, along with a couple of people from our little wine tasting circle. One person had been here before, Monica, and wanted to come back. The other person, Eric, heard me talk about this winery so much. To say his curiosity was piqued is an understatement.
I have to diverge a bit and talk about the weather on the day of the tasting. Why? Well, it was Memorial Day. Throughout pretty much the whole US, everyone is celebrating the start of summer with HOT days. People grill out hot dogs and hamburgers, and it is the official start of summer. For us Oregonians, the official onset of summer is July 5th. I mentioned this because it was a freakin hot as patootskis on Memorial Day. I was a little worried about the tasting and the heat with the tasting being in a tent.
Eric and I carpooled to the tasting. We got there early and had a chance to chat with the winemaker a little. I have this ongoing conversation with him about barrels. Back a couple of months ago, we started talking about the differences between loose and tight-grained barrels. I brought this subject up to a sommelier at Domaine Serene. He brought to the conversation that he recently saw this winemaker and mentioned this oblong, cigar-ish shape barrel currently being used for the Chard. Looking at the time, I noticed we had a solid 10 minutes before everyone else showed up. So I had to ask, “Can I see this cigar-ish-shaped barrel?” Without hesitation, Eric and I followed the winemaker into the barrel room. The excitement and enthusiasm the winemaker brings to the table is nothing short of contagious.
It was getting close to the time for the others to show up. The winemaker shows us to the tent. Stepping inside, there are hardwood floors, a table with glasses all set up, and an AC unit to ensure we don’t die from the unusual Oregon heat. Looking around and figuring out which seat to occupy, I blurt out, “Wow, this is nice!” The winemaker’s reply is something like, “Yeah, this is where I sleep during harvest.” I can see how “awful” this would be during harvest with a little wood or pellet-fed stove for heat.
Side note, I have a pretty good feeling he doesn’t sleep in the tent alone. I can also imagine how exhausted he is when sleep finally does occur. Still, I can also see some fantastic stories and bonding transpire with other winemakers in this space. It makes me think of the days of sleeping in AC tents while in Kuwait. Oh, the stories.
I sent a text to Monica and Karyn asking them to let me know when they arrived. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to find us in the tent or not. So the winemaker, being the gracious person that he is, went outside to greet them.
With everyone gathered around the table, the winemaker poured some proper Champagne from Larmandier-Bernier, and the tasting began. The team for this winery is small but super intimate. It is the winemaker and a wife/husband power team. The three met while the winemaker was assistant to a winemaker to a big-time winemaker here in Oregon. I would tell you who, but that might give away too many details. Remind me towards the end of the story during the reveal, and I will tell you who the big-time winemaker is. This winery’s three-person team has traveled to other wine regions outside of the US, including Champagne. The Sparkling being poured stood out to the team during one of their trips.
Knowing the winery for a little bit, I realize they will harvest grapes from their Parrett Mountain vineyards this fall. I had to ask the question, “Are you going to make a sparkling?” Going off of my memory, the winemaker’s response was something like, “I don’t think 2021 will be a vintage to start the program.” Reading in between the lines BIG time, there will be bubbles three or four years down the road. If I am mistaken, I am pretty sure I will get an email telling me, “No, we are not doing sparkling.” In which, I will have to update the newsletter and tell you, “I was sadly mistaken in my newsletter last week. There will be no bubbles for REDACTED.”
Speaking of bubbles. I am doing an Oregon Bubbles / Sparkling report coming out in September. I am so freaking excited!!! I currently have a list of over 30 wineries producing Bubbles in Oregon. This will be fan freakin-tastic, and what is it about Bubbles that gets us so excited?
The tasting, oh yes, the tasting!
After Bubbles, we had the 2018 Chardonnay from the Seven Springs Vineyard. I absolutely freaking love this Chard! It is wild, feral, and the loose-grained barrel it sat in for many months couldn’t tame it one bit.
I had a sneakin’ suspicion we would be trying the 2019 Chardonnay as well, and I was right! I was so excited to get a sneak peek before its release in the fall. My impression of the first sip was, “This is not like the 2018. It is different. I am not sure what to think at this very second.” Then, the winemaker chimed in with, “You can taste the reductiveness.”
Let’s talk reductive for the teeniest bit. You have heard me talk about the Black Chardonnay method, where the grapes are pressed super hard. As a result, a crazy amount of oxygen is brought into the process, turning the grape juice almost black for a while before turning back to its golden color. Reductive is the exact opposite, in my opinion. The winemaker does everything in his / her power to ensure there is very little oxygen introduced during the winemaking process.
Thinking back on a podcast with the winemaker at Bryn Mawr, Rachel, she was asked is, “Is wine art?” I won’t dive into Rachel’s thoughts, but hands down, wine is an artistic expression on many levels. One of those expressions comes through with the winemaking process. The reductiveness of the 2019 Chard is a creative expression. I need to revisit this bottle again during the Fall release. I was taken off guard expecting something like the 2018. I don’t feel like I gave it the proper attention with my preconceived expectation.
Next up with the 2019 Rose, and I always, always, always love to watch other people’s faces when they see this Rose for the first time. With 4 to 5 days of skin contact, this Rose is dark in color. It is far from your standard salmon color. Everyone enjoyed it, and the high acid on this is an expression the winemaker puts on it to ensure it will age for a bit.
Sitting in the tent with the winemaker and four other people is nothing short of spectacular for me. I know there can be a notion that sitting with a winemaker is intimidating. I totally get it on many levels. There is something about this winemaker, though. Maybe it is because I have known him for a little bit, but I feel it is his nature to be a person who enjoys sitting with customers talking through the wines. As I mentioned, they have some vines on Parrett Mountain, and maybe one day, they will have a tasting room. The winemaker wants to keep a close connection with the customers. He wants to sit down, have conversations while getting to know you. If you were to look up the word arrogant, this winemaker is the exact opposite of that definition.
While sitting in the tent, we had some small visitors of the flying kind with stingers. Some of us ignored them, and others were like, “eek, nope, this sucks!” The winemaker watched, observed, and was ready to remove the wasps from the tent to release them back into the wild. Think about that for a second. When a wasp comes into our house, most of us grab a shoe to smash the ever-living crap out of it. An artist of wine understands the importance of nature in the vineyard. Wine is a result of nature. I have been diving into biodynamic farming, and wow, what a fun rabbit hole. I asked the winemaker how the Parrett mountain vineyard was getting farmed. His response was, “Jessica Cortell is managing the vineyard.” If you know Jessica Cortell, nothing else is needed to the conversation. She does tremendous work in the vineyard and is a fantastic person!
The next wine in the line was the 2017 REDACTED Pinot. It is a combination of a couple of different vineyards and is gorgeous. It has an outstanding balance of dark and bright fruits mid-palate and the slightest of spice on the finish.
I was very excited for the next pour, which was the 2018 Luminous Hills Pinot. This vineyard is higher in elevation, and I adore the heck out of it! If you enjoy a nice dark fruit Pinot with slight tannins and a blossoming spice finish, this is the Pinot for you!
As the winemaker was stepping out to get some other pours, I want to share with you a small conversation with a proprietor of the winery. She is currently living in Kentucky and was in town in early Spring. Sometime last year, she emailed me after I did a newsletter on Jesus Guillen Olvera. She had never had any of his wines and asked if I ever got the chance to pick up a bottle for her. Back in December, Dobbes was doing a tasting with Jesus’s wines. I had to attend and picked up a bottle for her. When I found out she was in town, I coordinated with her to drop off the bottle and pick up some bottles from my overindulgence Spring shipment. I mentioned they should send out more emails to their list in talking with her, but she doesn’t want to bombard her list with emails. I tried to persuade by saying one email a month wouldn’t hurt at all. To appease me, she kind of agreed, but deep down, she doesn’t want to send emails just for the sake of sending emails. I respect this mentality big time, and it says a lot about the brand itself.
Earlier this month, an email did go out, and they bragged a little on some scores they received. If scores are your thing, take a gander.
2018 Seven Spring Chardonnay, 96 points
2018 REDACTED Pinot Noir, 94 points
2018 Nysa Vineyard Pinot Noir, 96 points
2018 Luminous Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir, 96 points
2019 Rose of Pinot Noir, 92 points
When the winemaker came back into the tent, he presented us with a four-year vertical of their Nysa vineyard Pinot. Wowsers! What a treat. More than a handful of you reading this already know the winery I am talking about this week. You already know how much I adore the heck of them. To show up with a four-year vertical is an unimaginable surprise. We started with the 2016 Nysa and went to the 2019 Nysa. I seriously wanted to stay in the tent for the next three hours and hang out. I was in pure bliss. All of them were stunning, but let’s call out the 2019 real quick. Typically, the Nysa Pinot isn’t released until the Spring, but the winemaker thinks it is ready now. I couldn’t agree more. It was great! I am curious to see if it gets an early release in the Fall this year.
Two plus hours flashed by like a heartbeat, and finishing with the Nysa Pinots was absolutely marvelous. Who knows how long I could sit down with Andrew and the wines he makes at Audeant? Throw in Teal and her husband Dan from Kentucky into the mix, and I think we would have an all-day event on our hands. When I think Oregon Wine, it is a feeling of good people driven to share a spirit of kindness and warmth while making wine to blow the socks off your feet. For some of you, the newsletter this week is no surprise. For others, I hope you make an appointment with Andrew to try his wines and share an experience of what Oregon Wine is all about.
Audeant – May they dare, may they venture, may they risk
Also, when you make the appointment with Andrew, let him know “A.J. sent me.”
PS – The big-timer winemaker I mentioned earlier is Maggie Harrison from Antica Terra.