Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last but not least from our Oregon trip: Brick House Vineyards and The Eyrie Vineyards

You usually need an appointment to visit Brick House Vineyards and when we called the winery, it was already late in the afternoon and we were just hoping to have an appointment for the next day. Therefore, we were surprised to be invited to come right away. At the winery, we were warmly welcomed by Alan Foster, an artisanal cider maker who now works at Brick House and casually sat around a farmhouse table to taste the latest estate productions.

Brick House Vineyards

Tasting with Alan Foster

We started with the Chardonnay, made from estate grown fruits. The wine is certified organic, fermented with native yeast, aged in used oak barrels, and bottled without filtration. I particularly liked the 2008 Brick House Estate Chardonnay with its nose of pear and stone fruit, smooth and creamy mouthfeel, and mineral finish.

Then we moved to the 2008 Brick House Boulder Block Pinot Noir. The fruit comes from a volcanic hillside that greatly differs from the nearby sedimentary soils that characterize the Ribbon Ridge appellation. Columbia river basalt rocks can be found between vines throughout the parcel. These volcanic boulders are particularly good at retaining moisture and warmth during the growing season and it is usually the last block to be harvested. The cuvée is all Pommard clones — originally from cuttings imported in the 1940's from Château de Pommard — and sees more new oak than the other reserve Cuvées. The wine had a fragrant, spicy nose, a rich, fruity palate almost liqueurish, leaving a lasting earthy finish.

Basalt rocks from the Boulder Block parcel and the 2008 Brick House Boulder Block Pinot Noir

The next wine was the 2008 Brick House Evelyn's Pinot Noir. For me, it had an even stronger spicy character and a longer finish. The cuvée is named after the mother of winemaker and founder Doug Tunnell. It is a blend from selected barrels and a very limited bottling built for long-term aging.

My husband had heard that the winery was making some gamay and asked about it. The current vintage had been sold out for a while but Alan let us taste a barrel sample of the 2010 vintage. There was no banana, candy, or bubble gum quality in the wine. Instead, it had some good depth and structure with some of these aromas of tobacco and black fruit that could also found in some of the best Crus of Beaujolais.

We were also lucky when we arrived at Eyrie Vineyards' historic winery in downtown Mcminnville. The previous visitors were still in the barrel room when we arrived and we were able to continue the guided visit of the wine facility.

The Eyrie Vineyards

The history of Eyrie is now well known but still fascinating. In 1965, David Lett — locally known as Papa Pinot — came to Oregon from California with 3,000 vine cuttings and planted the first Pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley. One year later, he founded The Eyrie Vineyards with his wife Diana and produced his first vintage of Eyrie Pinot Noir in 1970. Then in 1979, the winery suddendly caught the attention of the international wine community as the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir successfully competed at the Wine Olympics held in Paris that year. This instantly put Oregon on the map as a world class Pinot noir producing region.

Lett's original plan was to build a winery on the hillside overlooking the estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills but he found no bank to loan him any money. So he ended up refurbishing an old poultry plant in McMinnville. Many years later, his son Jason Lett is still making wine in the original building with even a few barrels from the 1970 vintage still in use. The mold that grows on the walls is part of the cellar's natural environment and is thought to play a positive role during the winemaking process.

The barrel room and the mold on the walls

Here are some of the wines we tasted:

2007 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir: from the four estate vineyards in the Dundee Hills. The youngest vines were planted 19 years ago. Aged in mostly neutral French oak. Fresh nose of griotte cherry, tasty, well balanced, lively finish.

2008 The Eyrie Vineyards BlackCap Pinot Noir: made with organic fruits from the Dundee Hills and Carlton-Yamhill appellations. The vines are 20-year old and own-rooted (non grafted). Dark color, more earth and spices than fruit, concentrated.

2006 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Original Vines: from Eyrie's original planting, 40-year-old vines grown on their own roots. Aged nearly two years in used barrel, bottled without filtration or fining. Sweet nose of wild berry, creme de cassis and spices, great texture, absolutely delicious!

2006 Eyrie Pinot Noir Reserve Original Vines

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Oregon Trip: J.K. Carriere Wines

Founded in 1999 by owner and winemaker Jim Prosser, J.K. Carriere has recently moved to a brand new facility on Parrett Mountain near Newberg in Yamhill County. Before founding J.K. Carriere, Jim Prosser worked for eight producers in four countries including: Erath, Domaine Drouhin, Brick House and Chehalem in Oregon; Villa Maria in New Zealand; Tarra Warra and T'Gallant in Australia; and Domaine Georges Roumier in Burgundy. The name J.K. Carriere corresponds to the combined names of his grandfathers J.K. Prosser and Paul Carriere. Being severely allergic to wasps and nearly killed by them twice, he chose to prominently feature one of these insects on his bottle labels.

The new facility has steel culverts embedded into the ground to create naturally temperature-controlled barrel caves

In the summer, the tasting room is conveniently open Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm. Otherwise, you need to make a private appointment to visit the winery.

The wines we tasted:

2009 J.K. Carriere Glass White Pinot Noir: whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented to absolute dryness at low-temperature in older French oak barrels. Lees from a Chardonnay fermentation are stirred during aging, following a 100-yeal-old Champagne Rosé technique to strip color and broaden an earthy mid-palate. My notes: beautiful salmon color, citrus aromas, dry and mineral on the palate with some roundness, fresh and crisp on the finish.

2009 J.K. Carriere Glass White Pinot Noir

2007 J.K. Carriere Chardonnay Willamette Valley: a blend of two vineyards: Temperance Hill in the Eola Hills and Maresh Vineyard from the Dundee Hills. Whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented at low-temperature with wild yeast in older French barrel. My notes: deep golden color, crisp and dry, more mineral than fruity.

2008 J.K. Carriere Provocateur Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: Provocateur is French for troublemaker. A blend of seven vineyards: Temperance Hill, Anderson Family, Black Walnut, Shea, Gemini, Momtazi, and Sheppard. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations in open-top stainless steel tanks. Barrel aged for 17 months in French oak, 4% new. My notes: attractive Pinot nose, dusty spice aromas, well-balanced, light on the finish.

2007 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: a Willamette Valley blend that includes 21% Shea Vineyard for ripe dark fruit, Temperance Hill for old-vine complexity, Eola Hills for centrist cherry, Gemini Vineyard for moving red, Momtazi for hi-tone and spice, Black Walnut for earth, and Anderson Family Vineyard for savory and structure. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations, 100% barrel aged for 18 months, 21% new. My notes: richly flavored with notes of mint, eucalyptus, citrus, and licorice, medium-bodied, well-balanced with a nice, long finish.

2007 J.K. Carriere Antoinette Pinot Noir: Antoinette Carriere was Jim Prosser's Canadian grandmother. The wine is made from the five best Temperance Hill vineyard barrels, sourced from 28-year-old vines growing at high elevation. Small-lot wild yeast fermentations, barrel aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new). My notes: denser than the Willamette Valley blend, complex aromas of wild berry and pepper with mineral notes. Needs time to open up, very long finish, age worthy.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Oregon Trip: Dinner at the Painted Lady Restaurant

The Painted Lady Restaurant is located in a refurbished Victorian house (the painted lady) in downtown Newberg. The chef and co-owner, Allen Routt, cooks seasonal dishes using fresh locally-sourced ingredients including local fish, berries, and hazelnuts. He opened the restaurant with his wine Jessica Bagley in 1995 after working several years in Napa Valley and then Las Vegas.

The Painted Lady Restaurant

The evening of our reservation was warm and breezy so we decided to sit out on the deck, a more relaxed setting than the elegant dining room inside. We chose the four-course meal which ended up being the best food we ever had in Oregon.

Alsatian Onion Tart with Bacon and Veal Sweet Breads

Seared Diver Scallop with Braised Endive and Grapefruit Supremes

Hazelnut Crusted True Cod with Viridian Farm Pea Ragout

Rabbit Roulade with Pancetta, Butted Savoy Cabbage and Medjool Dates

Chocolate Tart with Local Hazelnuts and Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

That night, the restaurant offered wine pairing with the menu but the wine list also included some older Pinot Noir vintages that were very well priced. So, after getting some advice from our extremely friendly and knowledgeable waitress, we ordered the 2001 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley with our meal. We were not disappointed: the wine was ready to drink with a complexity of aromas that went fabulously well with the food. And our plans for the following day were made: we had to visit the J.K. Carriere Winery.

2001 J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Our Oregon trip: The Beaux Frères Vineyard

In 1986 while on vacation from Colorado, Michael Etzel found an 88-acre pig farm for sale in Yamhill County, Oregon. The place looked like a promising vineyard site so he decided to purchase it with the help of his brother-in-law, Robert Parker, Jr. The following summer, he moved to the farm with his family and became a vineyard manager, planting Pinot Noir and slowly converting the old pig and dairy farm into a prime vineyard property. Eventually, The Beaux Frères Vineyard (which means brothers-in-law in French) was established in 1991 thanks to the addition of a third partner, Robert Roy.

Michael Etzel's winemaking philosophy is to follow a minimal intervention approach using small yields and healthy fruit. The vineyard is planted with tightly spaced vines to keep yields low. The grapes are harvested when they have reached physiological maturity. The fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts. The wines are aged in French oak for 10 to 12 months and the percentage of new oak utilized is based on the strength and concentration of the vintage.

The Beaux Frères Winery

Replanting in the vineyard due to Phylloxera damage

When we arrived at Beaux Frères, we were welcomed by Rebekah Bellingham in charge of the tasting room and the winery tours. It was very nice of her to take us on such short notice. Here is what she had available for tasting:

Rebekah Bellingham at Beaux Frères

The wines we tasted

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: formerly known as the Beaux Frères Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir, this is a blend of fruit from different vineyards. Less new oak is used than for the Estate Cuvées. My notes: light red color, fragrant nose with notes of citrus, medium-bodied and round on the palate, well-balanced.

2008 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: while the 2007 vintage was characterized by moderate temperatures during the summer and rain storms during the last few weeks of the vintage, 2008 was on average warmer, with a cool summer followed by hot days and cold nights in September. My notes: more sweet cherry aromas, fuller with more power but less refined than the 2007.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Beaux Frères Vineyard: the vines of the 22 acre Beaux Frères Estate Vineyard were planted between 1987 and 1990. The vineyard is a mix of Pommard and Wadenswil clones. Although it is not certified as either organic or biodynamic, it is being farmed using biodynamic principles. My notes: medium red color, a hint of fruit but mostly spices, black pepper, rich and full on the palate, young.

2007 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir The Upper Terrace Vineyard: the Upper Terrace is made from a ten acre vineyard purchased in the late 90's. The site is similar to the Beaux Frères Vineyard in elevation and its sedimentary soils. It is surrounded on all sides by a forest of old fir trees. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to Dijon clones, as compared to the Estate Vineyard, which is planted to Pommard and Wadenswil clones. It is farmed using the same sustainable principles as the Beaux Frères Vineyard. My notes: still tight and young, concentrated, earthy, licorice aromas, very long finish. This is a wine that should age beautifully.

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