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The Eyrie 2000 Marguerite Pinot Noir: Wine to be grateful for

Drinking Eyrie 2000 Marguerite Pinot Noir

In the year 2000, one of the founders of a U.S. American wine region celebrated the birth of his first grandchild by creating a special cuvée of Pinot Noir from the best of his vineyards. He named the wine Marguerite, for his granddaughter.

A large part of my admiration for wine rests in the way heritage, creative expression, agricultural abundance, and dedication all coalesce, dancing together in one bottle–the glass poured, then, also bringing together the best of our senses with our intellect. In the most beautiful wines the power of such intersections shine lit from the glass–unspoken and alive on the palate, enlivening too the heart of the person enjoying.

The Eyrie Marguerite

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In the year 2000, in recognition of the birth of his first grandchild, Marguerite, David Lett reserved a special Pinot Noir cuvée from the best of his vineyards. This year, Jason Lett released the wine.

The Eyrie Vineyards Marguerite carries an elegant and beautiful nose atop a delicate palate. It’s a wine that rests in subtlety, that does not exert itself but instead opens over time, gaining richness and life over the second, and on into the third day.

The wine dances with homemade beef and mushroom broth, caramelized peaches, and spearmint coupled by accents of rose petal, blueberry bramble, and herbal lift on a frame of easy reverie. This is a wine that rests in this world and reflects easily into the next. It does not concern itself with tradition, yet arises from it. It knows itself too well to convince you. The love is already there. It was made from it.


Thank you to Jason Lett. This is one of the wines I give thanks for this holiday season.

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Tasting Origins: Original Vine Pinot Gris, Eyrie Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon

In 1965 David Lett planted what would be the first Pinot Gris vineyard in North America, 160 cuttings placed in the ground on their own roots in the Willamette Valley. Today those vines still give fruit, and serve as the source material for all of Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris vines.

Jason Lett and I spoke recently about these grapes in particular. “Dad had done cuvée from the original vines, and they were delicious” but Eyrie had never sold such bottlings separately. Jason had wanted to find a way to pay homage to these original vines, however, and so in 2008 started playing with the fruit. He’s produced two different styles of wine with bunches from the original vines. One, a Ramato style, with the fruit fermented on skins for an extended period, then left for extended élevage as well. The other a sans soufre bottling meant to keep the wine as close to the juice of the vineyard as possible. Yesterday, I opened a sample bottle of the 2011 sans soufre.

Drinking the Eyrie Vineyards 2011 Original Vines Pinot Gris

Eyrie Original Vine Pinot Gris 2011

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The wine evolves in the glass. At first opening it offers the tang of carrots and tomato leaf fresh from the garden, an herbal lifted nose and palate. The wine uncurls over the course of the day–lofted, fresh aromas, apricot and plum, just cut button roses, bread with light honey lifting from the glass. The palate moves as well. There is a stimulating vitamin buzz through the mouth carrying into a long soil and saline finish. The flavors offer lilies with their greens, fresh bread and grain with hints of butter, and the groundedness of coffee. The overall presentation is fresh, delicate while lively. I admire this wine both for its history and for its interest.


Thank you to Jason Lett for extending this wine to me.

The Original Vines Pinot Gris bottlings from Eyrie Vineyards will be released later this Spring. (I have a bottle of the 2009 Ramato as well and have been reluctant to open it, the gift of irreplaceable treasure. Though I can’t wait to view its copper color.)

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Preparing for IPNC 2: Visiting Eyrie Vineyards Winery

Visiting Eyrie Vineyards Winery

the oldest vines in Willamette Valley, the South Block planted in 1966

beginning with a surprise–blind tasting 2989 Pinot Gris: nutty, (pleasing textural) oxidative notes, dried apricot

the Black Cap label, as Jason Lett explains it, is all about getting off the farm to see what other wine makers and farmers are doing; the Eyrie label is all about doing the best with the Estate’s own fruit

Mr. Dr. Who, Jason Lett

from left: fruit from the entire Eyrie estate; fruit only from the South Block original vines; fruit from Eyrie’s highest, Daphne Vineyard, all 2009

the Black Cap Pinot Noir blend 2009

Original vines, South Block Pinot Noir, 1980

the time machine–library bottles served in the tasting room

Eyrie Vineyards started with 30 new oak barrels. They still use 12 of those original barrels (they do repairs and replace the bands).

In going through the barrels of South Block Reserve from 1975 through 2007 (David Lett’s vintages of that presentation), barrels that were overly oxidized were lost. Those that showed oxidation but in a way that offered still interesting insight into the site were kept and blended together. 2011 juice was then added, and the remaining pressed grapes were sent to Portland to have custom brandy made with them. The wine was then fortified with the custom brandy to make a complete horizontal blend South Block Pinot Noir dessert wine. I did not spit this wine.

little barrels are kept in the Eyrie cellar to age wine made by the Lett daughters

an Eyrie Chardonnay dessert wine includes every vintage of South Block Chardonnay from 1970 through 2006. Juice from 2009 was added, and brandy made with the same fruit, then used for fortification. As Jason explains, we’re used to having wine blended from grapes in the same year over various vineyard sites. The dessert wine shows the South Block site over a long expanse of time. I did not spit the Chardonnay either.

the dessert wines will be bottled in the 500 ml clay Grolsch bottles. Since these bottles are not recyclable Eyrie will include the Grolsch closure with the bottle so that it can be reused.

the auger David Lett kept in the back of his car so he could take soil samples, as he toured Willamette looking for the right vineyard site.

“My father started this business. For a long time, Pinot Noir just ran through his veins. It was an incredible act of bravery, and generosity on his part to turn the winery over to me. It came after ten years of various changes at the winery. But then he said to me, “Jason, here are the keys. Don’t screw it up.” He was so deeply dedicated to his craft that for him to hand that over to me is a deep honor. At the same time, one cannot be too over awed, or you will get stuck in a mold and not move forward. What dad did was all about new direction. I want to keep tradition moving forward, while also keeping that tradition of trying new varieties, and new wines moving forward too.” -Jason Lett

Thank you to Jason Lett. Thank you to Diana Lett.

Thank you to Annica, and to Jacques!

I’m so grateful.

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(How Plum Wine Got Me There, Or, More Appropriately:) Discovering Eyrie Vineyards: 2009 Pinot Gris, 2007 Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve

Growing up the only exposure I had to wine occurred during our family’s once a month dinner outing to the now defunct Hong Kong Chinese Food Restaurant in midtown Anchorage, where we spent our winters. The same waitresses worked there for the several decades the business stood. Every visit they would happily greet us, sit us at a large round table (with a lazy-Susan in the middle that fascinated me), and bring my mom a glass of plum wine. It was her occasional treat. As a result, my wine exposure didn’t really begin until my late teens when my dad announced he’d be drinking a glass of Pinot Noir a day. The doctor had told him to.

My wine education, however, started with a succession of three moments I remember distinctly because of how they changed me. The first occurred when a friend brought me a bottle of good Chianti Classico for an early-20s birthday. It was the first time I realized red wine could be good. The second arose when my sister Melanie took my sister Paula and I out to dinner at the end of a long commercial salmon fishing season and ordered a high price bottle of Brunello. It was the first time I realized I could love red wine. The third, thanks again to Melanie, occurred when she opened a bottle of Eyrie Pinot Noir and told me their story. Listening to David Lett’s story of taking a risk by leaving California and planting in the Willamette Valley before anyone else had dared, then tasting the wine that resulted–it was the first time I realized by wine I could be enthralled. In this way, Eyrie Vineyards instigated my deeper passion for wine knowledge and wine tasting combined.

Eyrie Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris

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In the late 1960s David Lett moved from the Davis area of California to Oregon, convinced it was the place to grow the cooler climate grapes of the Pinot family. After a year or so of looking for the right spot he settled in the Willamette Valley to begin cultivating the vines that would later transform the area into one of the highest regarded Pinot Noir regions in the world.

In the midst of introducing Pinot Noir to the valley, Lett also stood as the first to plant Pinot Gris in North America. Pinot Noir’s lighter sibling is now the second most planted variety in the Willamette and has spread to other areas of the United States Western growing regions as well. 1970 marked the first release of Eyrie’s Pinot Gris, the first to be bottled in the United States.

Pinot Gris shows as a grape of subtlety that is on the one hand seen as readily approachable (if for being inoffensive), but on the other hand sometimes boring because of it. It’s a reputation that winemakers of the Willamette Valley have worked to transform. In the midst of this transformation stands Jason Lett, second generation wine maker of Eyrie Vineyards. Alongside others of the Willamette Valley, Lett has worked to understand the best of the grape, and encourage the public to see its value. In his book, The Great Wines of America, Paul Lukacs credits Eyrie with opening the new standard for quality American wines of this varietal.

The 2009 Eyrie Pinot Gris shows a well-balanced combination of yellow skinned stone and orchard fruits along side the spice of citrus zest and grounding chalk minerals. The wine has an impressive range for its subtlety. It carries hints of smoke, and dried beach grasses alongside brightening acidity. This is a wine to drink with ease and attention both–it offers a story of features, while being readily drinkable.

Interestingly, David Lett remarked that he preferred drinking his Pinot Gris alongside salmon. I’d be thrilled to try but imagine it as most appropriate with the lighter flavors of a King, rather than the hardiness of a Sockeye. This wine made me crave ceviche.

Eyrie Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay

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Jason Lett continues the Eyrie philosophy of low intervention. His focus is on maintaining a healthy vineyard well-balanced too with other plant life and animals on site. The property readily includes wild hawks building their nests high above the vines–the source of the label name, Eyrie (the name for the nest of a bird of prey)–visiting vine tenders as they work.

Lett also describes how he keeps ground cover plants among the vines, such as simple grasses. The effect of having other plants growing with the vines is that they absorb the water from regional rains so that the vines have to root deeper to find their own fluids. As Lett explains, without this ground cover the vines become more water logged, thus diminishing the flavor of the grapes. Most fascinating, it would also appear that the focus on the balanced vineyard has helped to ward off disease bearing pests. Gratefully, Eyrie vines remain healthy even as some vine diseases have moved their way into Willamette Valley.

Eyrie’s Chardonnay is known for having incredible aging potential with vintages as far back as the 1970s still showing focused interest. Jason Lett describes himself not only as the president and winemaker of Eyrie, but also the curator of their wine library. The process of curating their extensive library includes thorough testing of each bottle that leaves the premises for tasting. As Lett expains it, older bottles are tasted and examined for flaws, and then reassembled to ensure high standards. Older vintages of the Eyrie Chardonnay have been highly praised by some of the best palates in the industry both for their quality and their incredible sustainability in the bottle.

The 2007 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay showcases a wonderful combination of ripe pear and melon alongside citrus and and crisp apple. The richness is complemented by hints of smoke and smoked meat, while the citrus and bright acidity are accented by touches of wild flower honey. I hesitate to gush too much, lest you not believe me, but my first thought in tasting this wine was to wonder why I hadn’t been drinking it all along, for years. There are yeast notes, pleasing minerality, and medium high acidity here.

It’s a wonderful wine.

Eyrie Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Original Vines Reserve

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The Original Vine Reserve ushers from those same Eyrie vines planted in 1966 by the Lett family. The rich flavors here carry excellent balance with concentrated aromatics, that shows as more delicate on the palate. The complexity here is lovely with dried red fruits on the nose opening to brighter flavors in the mouth. Hints of violet and black cherry on the nose grounding to red cherry and fig in the mouth. There are earthy mushrooms, touches of tobacco, and dried green herbs showing here, again with more dried aromas that open to fresher flavors. I love the smell of this wine. The texture in the mouth is smooth, with a pleasing range of palate complements. There is certainly great aging potential here, and the wine is also drinkable now.



To read more by me on Eyrie Vineyards 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, and their sustainability practices:

Or, about their Pinot Blanc:

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Considering Biodynamic Red Wines from Paolo Bea, Chapoutier; and Natural wines from Quintessa, and Eyrie Vineyards

Monday here hosted a comics-based examination of biodynamic practices in relation to wine. Following are reviews of four very different red wines from four different regions. The first two are made using biodynamic practices, and the second two are made using non-petrochemical practices.

Paolo Bea 2007 Umbria Rosso

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The complexity on this particular Paolo Bea was astounding. The tannins here are higher than on any other wine I’ve tasted. As such, it demands food (fatty salami is perfect) to help bring out the flavors, and time with open air on it. Without food the tannins make this Rosso a challenge to drink, with food the fruit is rich and lovely, accompanied by herbs. That said, I very much enjoyed drinking this wine, even with the challenge. The textures were rich, not only because of the tannins, but because of the dense sediment within the glass.

Paolo Bea is thoroughly invested in biodynamics, working a farm with grapes as only one small part of the overall estate. He is known too for saying that filtering a wine removes its soul–one is meant to experience what the grapes have to offer complete. Skimming reviews and articles on his work you’ll regularly see his wines described in this language too, as having soul with the import being that the metaphysical quality is somehow extra to what other wines would seem to offer.

Bea’s wine making practices are also manageable partially because of his focus on economy. His goals are to produce only as much wine as he can sell, rather than to push for making extra money, and also to make only wine he loves. What Bea loves is to allow nature to do its work, rather, as he puts it, than trying to dominate it.

To add to the interest of this particular Bea wine, it’s a Sagrantino blend, bringing in Sangiovese, and a touch of Montepulciano. Sagrantino is indigenous to the Umbria region where Bea grows and makes his wine.

M. Chapoutier 2005 Crozes-Ermitage

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At the end of a hard day I decided to pick the one wine I knew that would pull me in and occupy my attention with joy. I turned to this Chapoutier. The 2005 Crozes-Ermitage has just enough age on it to bring out the complexity and richness of the Syrah, but has at least 15 years more aging potential in the bottle. The flavors here bring together rich fruits, spice, and earth, with a smooth texture.

Chapoutier is known for his biodynamic commitments. He helped start a wine-focused biodynamic certification program in Europe, and freely offers critique of other biodynamic programs and their perceived limits.

The quality of Chapoutier’s wines is reliable, over a range of price-points. Currently his name carries a large presence in the wine world as he is regularly seen commenting on the current state of various areas of the Rhone, and also working with other wine makers to develop new projects.

** Post Edit for Clarification: Vineyard Practices Contrast

The first two wines mentioned in this post draw strongly on biodynamics as a system. The following two American wines utilize *elements* of biodynamic practices without carrying certification, and while allowing other non-petrochemical practices that they believe best suit their purposes. If you are interested in certified biodynamic wineries within the United States, consider the list linked at the end of this post from Wine Anorak.


Quintessa 2005 Rutherford Red Wine

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Quintessa is a beautiful estate in the Rutherford district of Napa Valley. Their Meritage red blend begins with a base of Cabernet Sauvignon, and brings in various amounts of other Bordeaux-style blend grapes, namely, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and/or Carmenere, depending on the vintage.

Quintessa’s estate utilizes biodynamic practices, without showcasing certification, focusing on diversity of plant life on the property, and the advantages of animal composts.

My sister and I visited Quintessa Estate in 2008 taking a private tour of the vineyards, and winery. They offer a barrel tasting coupled with a tasting of the vintage the relevant barrels then blend into, all alongside food pairings created by a Napa area chef. The experience was a treasure, and led to drinking this particular bottle several years later.

The 2005 Quintessa is perfectly aged now. It shows an interesting blend of both dried and fresher fruits, with earthy elements and a pleasing briny quality. Though the sardine reference might seem unusual, here it offers savory and briny elements that make the wine refreshing and nicely balanced, while still carrying the fuller qualities of a Meritage wine.

Eyrie Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir

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Eyrie Vineyards helped start the Willamette Valley wine region. In the 1960s David Lett brought Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris to the valley becoming the first to plant the former in the region, and the first to plant the latter in North America. Their wines bring with them consistently good quality, and I’ve become a fan of each of their grape varietals.

Jason Lett now continues the Eyrie project his father started, as well as his own. Eyrie is known and respected for its biodynamic practices showing a small but functioning farm with a range of animals (I particularly enjoy seeing how the Lett’s reference their chickens with a fondness), and other plants.

The 2008 begins with a lot of wet leaves and forest floor, and opens into a balanced range of red fruit with the spice of hatch chile, and hints of smoked bacon that surprised me. The wine is pleasantly rich flavored while medium-light bodied. I enjoyed it on its own but would be happy to drink it alongside cedar-plank or grilled salmon.

*** Post Edit: Jason Lett, the President and Wine Maker of Eyrie, has clarified that their vineyard is not strictly speaking biodynamic. My inclusion of Eyrie and Quintessa was purposeful–that though they do not showcase biodynamic certification, they do follow important aspects of biodynamic practices. As Jason Lett clarifies, they have developed “a strict set of practices all [their] own.” In other words, while the Eyrie approach strongly overlaps the focus of a healthy environment seen in Biodynamics, they part ways when it comes to the treatments mentioned on the last page of the Biodynamics comics shown here Monday. My view of these ideas is that one can share overall purposes without having to strictly follow entirely identical practices. In other words, cow manure buried in a horn in the ground might not be the only way to fulfill our goals of a healthy environment. Thanks for responding, Jason!


For a good, though partial list, of biodynamic wine makers check out Wine Anorak’s list here: .

Again, it is good to note that some wine makers have biodynamic practices without certification. There are also wine makers that draw on biodynamic practices to develop a non-petrochemically based practice their own. In this way their goals of creating a healthy environment may be similar without the practices being entirely the same.

If you’re in the United States, for a good source of biodynamic wines online check out the following retailers:

Out of NYC

Italian Wine Merchants:

The Natural Wine Company:

Out of SF



Friday will take a look at how orange wines are made. Then next week we’ll review first some biodynamic orange wines, and then later in the week some other orange wines.

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A North to South West Coast Pinot Noir Tasting

My apologies for the slow down in posts last week. Mid-week my laptop quit working and it took until the weekend to get it sorted out. i yi yi. Thankfully the fix wasn’t too expensive, as I wouldn’t have been able to replace my computer. This is just a tiny homespun blog, after all. I’m grateful to have it working again. There is a lot of writing to catch up on.

Hope you’re all doing well!


Developing a Pinot Noir Tasting

As I posted about a month and a half ago–Victoria, Australia reinspired my devotion for Pinot. The wines are so full of life and liveliness in Victoria that Pinot Noir often carries a wonderful vibrancy and tension, with freshness and just a touch of surprise that I appreciate.

Returning, then, to the United States, I decided to design a Pinot tasting with North American wines, focused on finding and sharing examples from here that offer such interest. The goal behind the group of 25 wines tasted, then, was to gather a range of wines banding around a focus on vibrancy, tension, and acidity. The selections were based either on previous experience with the wines, or recommendations, as well as availability. Many were provided by samples–the complete list of samples versus purchase appears at the bottom of this post. There are of course a wealth of other wines that could have also been included.

Tasting North to South

A couple weeks ago several of us got together to taste through the 25 Pinot Noir wines from the West Coast of North America. The other tasters were winemakers that work with Pinot. We did not taste blind out of an interest in considering the specifics of the wines’ vinification, soils, and climate.

Following are notes on the wines from the tasting. Each of the wines were tasted first with the group, then again the next day, and for a final time on the third day.

The top stand out wines from this tasting as a whole were the Eyrie 2010 Original Vines Reserve, followed closely by the Eyrie 2010 Estate. Three more stand outs were found in the Big Table Farm 2010 Wirtz Vineyard, Wind Gap 2011 Gap’s Crown, and the Brewer-Clifton 2010 Sta Rita Hills.

Okanagan, British Columbia

Black Cloud 2009 Pinot

Representing the Okanagan, we were unfortunately able to access only one wine. Okanagan is an area of growing interest that produces what some consider to be the top Pinot Noir of Canada. In June of this year, the Wine Blogger’s Conference will be hosted in the Okanagan, so expect to see a wealth of online traffic about the region later this summer.

Black Cloud 2009 Altostratus, Remuda Vineyard, 13.2%
The Black Cloud Altostratus comes in with a pomegranate and fig, lightly toasty, and ripe, pretty nose. The aroma moves back and forth between ripe scents, and underripe scents, a phenomenon that follows in the palate, as the wine drinks as though it came from both an early slightly-green pick and a later riper one. There are concentrated flavors of dried berries and musk here alongside more woody, and lightly medicinal ones. The wine brings a strong mid-palate focus, with slightly rough tannin, and good moderate acidity. I am interested in tasting further vintages of this wine, as the 2009 was a rather compressed vintage for the region, which may be showing as a challenge here.

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon Pinots

The Willamette Valley was the big winner, with the group generally pleased by the overall quality of each of these wines. In each case, the Willamette wines also simply became more alive over the three day tasting period, with more lush and pleasing flavors and greater liveliness.

Cooper Mountain 2010 Reserve, 13.5%
The Cooper Mountain Reserve offers the nice tension of older vines alongside great acidity. The nose is floral and dance-y also showing both fresh and dried strawberry, and rhubarb, as well as a touch of funk. The palate comes in juicy and lean giving more elemental flavors starting with a rich opening, an ultra-light mid-palate, and a long finish. The wine was a bit simple upon opening but the flavors relaxed, becoming more lush with air, and drinking beautifully on day 3.

* Big Table Farm 2010 Wirtz Vineyard, 13.1%
Big Table Farm‘s Wirtz Vineyard 2010 is a beautiful wine, and yummy. The aromatics are a nice blend of Italian herbs, berry, rhubarb and spice all lifting from the glass. On the palate a vibrant mix of green bean freshness and orange plus grapefruit zest accent red fruit and pink flowers. This wine is full of life and just kept getting more lively into day 3.

* Big Table Farm 2010 Resonance Vineyard, 12%
The Big Table Farm Resonance Vineyard started much more muted compared to their Wirtz, but techno-danced its way from the glass by day 3, full of vibrancy. The wine carries a wider nose focused on red berries, red flowers, and cardamom. The palate follows, offering a smooth, lush texture. While it opened less fresh on day 1, the aromas and flavors of this wine became more vibrant and complex as it stayed open. I’m impressed by its vibrancy with air.

* Eyrie 2010 Estate, 13.5%
The Eyrie Estate gives a wonderful combination of lean structure, and rich flavors making the wine feel both refreshing, and compelling. The nose gives more than just red berry and rhubarb, offering herbal notes and just enough vineyard sweat and garlic to bring intrigue. The wine has a pleasing sandwash silk texture, and a long lean-line finish. The sexiness on this wine just kept increasing into day 3. I am a fan.

** Eyrie 2010 Original Vines Reserve, 13.5%
The big winner of the tasting found itself in the complexity and focus of Eyrie’s Original Vines Reserve, drawing entirely from the original plantings from the mid-60s. The Reserve is vibrant and full of life in the glass, giving smooth tannin, a lean body, full of rich flavor, and a long finish. The nose comes in musky, and fresh at the same time, showing porcini reduction, grapefruit zest, red and pink flowers, pomegranate, and dried black cap raspberries, all beautifully integrated. On the palate the flavors follow with a pleasing spice and light menthol lift. This wine comes together through beautifully integrated elements, and a pleasing, well-knit complexity of flavors.

* Antica Terra 2010 Willamette Valley, 13.0%
The Antica Terra gives a great example of desirable focus with rough hewn edges. That is, this wine does well at showing a winemaker’s focus coupled with the willingness to let the wine be a touch feral and of its own mind. The nose gives scents of small berried, concentrated red fruits, with hints of greenery, and just a touch of fuminess. The palate carries a textural focus giving rhubarb, strawberry with light graphite, spice, and a little bit of pleasing stink. The Antica Terra has power without being overwhelming, though it does also present as just a touch hot in the mouth.

Northern California with Ant Hill Farms

Ant Hill Farm Pinots

For Northern California we tasted through the smallest bottlings from Ant Hill Farms 2011 Pinot Noirs. Ant Hill Farms focuses on small sites as well where they have hand’s on connection to the farming. What is common through the Ant Hill Farms wines is an enlivening mineral tension.

Ant Hill Farms Mendocino 2011 Comptche Ridge Vineyard, 13.2%
The Comptche Ridge bottling from Ant Hill Farms is an ultra lean wine with a focus on mineral tension, and a long finish. The nose brings together bay leaf, herbal earthiness, and a touch of aspirin lift, moving into lightly sweet red fruit, light cocoa, and notes of lime on the palate. The flavors here give ideas of sweet (but not sugar) fruit but with a lean focus and a long drying finish.

Ant Hill Farms Anderson Valley 2011 Demuth Vineyard, 13.1%
The Demuth Vineyard needs time to open, as the wine presents as closed right now. That said, there is a great juiciness and tension here that I believe will offer more flavor later. What the wine does give now includes red fruit, dark chocolate with stem chewiness, light brazil nut, and a refreshing methol lift rolling into a long fresh finish.

Ant Hill Farms Anderson Valley 2011 Abbey-Harris Vineyard, 13.4%
Where the Abbey-Harris Pinot from Ant Hill Farms starts as red methol and cherry, it opens into cardamom and bergamot, with leafy notes and hints of copper. The wine starts simple but offers more complexity with air showing graphite and red berries on the palate, chewy stemmy notes, and nice tension coming from an enlivening minerality, and long finish.

Sonoma County

Sonoma County Pinots

With the wealth of Pinot Noirs made in Sonoma County we focused on bringing together a few labels that connect through winemaking experience and site.

* Verse 2011 Pinot Noir Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros, 12.9%
The Verse 2011 gives spiced red fruit and a light tang on the nose, rolling into a juicy raspberry full plant expression–berries, pleasing seed crunch, and bramble with leaf. The flavors are lush, deepened with elements of white sage, pink flowers, and blueberry leaf, followed by a lightly briny finish. The texture here is smooth, giving a light graphite reduction, and a drying finish.

Vivier 2011 Sonoma Coast, 13.5%
Vivier‘s Sonoma Coast Pinot blend draws from fruit off of all three of his vineyard sites–the Terra di Promisio, Sun Chase, and Gap’s Crown. There are nice layers of fruit here but the palate comes in a bit wider than I prefer (and more so than on either his Sun Chase or Gap’s Crown single vineyard bottlings). The wine opens initially with a bit of funk on the nose that blows off to reveal strawberry, with blueberry leaf, and touches of aspirin. There is a broad mid-palate here, with a long breadth of flavors through the finish.

* Wind Gap 2011 Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast, 12.8%
Carrying an herbal and earthy focus, the Wind Gap Pinot is all about minerality and leanness in a way I enjoy. The wine shifts away from fruit flavors instead bringing in raspberry leaf, with some red berry rolling through juicy, with accents of tomato leaf, cumin, and graphite on a long textural finish. There is a great enlivening tension here throughout that vibrates in with almost electrical-metallic accents I enjoy.

Boheme 2009 Stoeller Vineyard, 14.3%
Boheme Pinots are each made from vineyard sites managed through hand’s on farming by the winemaker. The Stoeller Vineyard sits at 1200 ft elevation ultra close to the coast showing focused fruit, and its coastal elevation influence. The wine offers a lovely experience of drinking Pinot pie–giving cooked fruit, baking spice, and pie dough all together along with sea air freshness, and a juicy tingling finish.

* Boheme 2009 Taylor Ridge Vineyard, 14.5%
The Taylor Ridge Vineyard was my favorite of the three Boheme Pinots, offering a pretty example of its style, also showing well over the three days. This wine is all about breadth, lightness, and a long finish, showing a little broader than the Stoeller, without being overly broad. The flavors include cooked fruit and spice, opening into more floral elements over the three days, with polished sand tannin and a lot of juiciness leading into a long finish.

Boheme 2009 English Hill Vineyard, 14.7%
The English Hill Vineyard is the furthest inland site for Boheme Pinot, giving a slightly warmer red fruit expression on the palate in comparison, and red fruit and flower on the nose. The wine has the widest palate presentation of the three, with ultra clean lines of flavor, and lean tannin. The finish brings in herbal and dried grass notes rolled through with cocoa.

The Central-Coastal Stretch

Central Coast Pinots

Calera 2009 Mt Harlan Ryan Vineyard, 14.1%
The Ryan Vineyard shows the incredible throat tension generated by a bit of limestone and elevation on the vines. The wine has an aromatic focus followed by a perfumed lift in the mouth. It comes out all fig and date mince meat with cocoa and nutmeg. The wine couples both a dryness and slippage in the mouth giving a sexy, lush texture leading into a drying lightly salty finish full of tight lines. This wine is a bit of a challenge while enticing at the same time, like going out with a New York woman after life in a small town for several years.

* Presqu’ile 2010 Rim Rock Vineyard, San Luis Obispo, 13.0%
One of the most intriguing of the wines in the tasting, the Presqu’ile Rim Rock gives a strong textural focus riding on a core of pliant, dark, round fruit that then moves with the flavors of the Southwestern United States–jalapeno on the nose, hatch chiles on the palate, dried black bean and mole–alongside orange oil, cocoa, red berries, and light caramel. It’s both yummy, and strange, not your typical Pinot Noir. I enjoyed it.

Nagy 2009 Santa Maria, 14.5%
The Nagy 2009 opens with a reductive funk that blows off and gives over to light red cherry, and light green pepper. The palate keeps some reductive elements accenting cocoa, cherry, and mint palmed by hot peppers and black tea on the finish, all touched through with fine cord textural tannin. Give this wine some time in the bottle, or some air to open up.

Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara County

Bien Nacido Pinots

Chanin 2010 Bien Nacido, 13.7%
The Chanin Bien Nacido gives sweet red fruit and a touch of funk on the nose, followed by a candied red fruit expression on the palate. The alcohol comes in as hot on this wine showing primarily in the finish on top of a core of tension. I would be interested in tasting other vintages from Chanin as the 2010 drinks like it was a challenging vintage that didn’t quite come together in bottle.

The Ojai Vineyard 2010 Bien Nacido, 13.0%
Offering kirsch accented by notes of rainwater, and lightly candied powder accent on the nose, the Ojai Bien Nacido carries into lightly dusty soil, cooked cherry, and light green chili on the finish. The wine has a singular focus throughout its presentation that remains consistent through the three day tasting period.

Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County

Santa Ynez Pinots

Pence Ranch 2010 Weslope, 14.5%
2010 marks the first vintage for brand new vines for Pence Ranch, its vineyards growing just outside the Eastern boundary of Sta Rita Hills AVA. The Weslope portion of the vineyard grows in Western facing sloped clay, taking the brunt of the ocean winds the Santa Ynez Valley is famous for. The wine offers a terra cotta spice and raspberry leaf focus with hints of smoke, white clay, and metallic elements, all coming through a lush texture, good juiciness, and a long finish with good tension.

Pence Ranch 2010 Uplands, 14.5%
Where the Weslope portion of Pence Ranch rests in deep clay, the Uplands grows in finer grained mixed loam, with protection from the wind. The vines of both sites are the same age, just coming online for harvest with the 2010 vintage. The Uplands bottling shows more leafy and peat aromatics giving a light smokey element with medicinal accents in the mouth. This wine is all about the acidity, and smooth while grip-able texture. It is a touch hot on the finish.

Pence Ranch 2010 Estate, 14.5%
The Estate bottling from Pence Ranch brings together a blend of both the Weslope and Uplands sites combining the clay and peat aspects of the two, alongside smoke and cherry, with spice notes. There is a juicy mid-palate here followed by a juicy, focused, lightly reductive finish and tight lines throughout. The Pence Ranch wines are worth watching over the next several years–they drink with the elements of young fruit that is perhaps less focused now and will likely show more complexity with age. Considering how new the vines and project are, the wines still seem to give a (albeit young) sense of genuine site character. I’ll be interested in seeing how future vintage releases taste.

* Brewer-Clifton 2010 Sta Rita Hills, 14.7%
The Brewer-Clifton 2010 Sta Rita Hills was a crowd pleaser with its fresh ripe red berry focus touched by sweaty red tropical flowers, fresh sea water and air, touches of terra cotta, and hints of green chili heat. The wine had a nice long mineral line throughout with good stimulation, a pleasing balance of tongue pinching tannin and real juiciness and a lightly powder-touched finish. This wine shows off subtle, fresh complexity.


Black Cloud, Cooper Mountain, Eyrie, Ant Hill Farms, Verse, Wind Gap, Boheme, Chanin, The Ojai Vineyard, and Pence were all provided as samples.

Vivier, Calera, Nagy, Presqu’ile, and Brewer-Clifton were purchased.

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Giving Thanks for the Closing Year: Favorite Moments of 2012

Opening to Receive by Giving Thanks

A friend told me recently that she believes the best way to prepare one self for receiving good is to reflect on all the good you’ve received before. What a lovely idea. Here are some of my grateful moments from 2012. There are so many more I could just keep posting.

A trip to LA and Malibu included a wealth of incredible wine

In the early part of the year I was lucky enough to spend time with friends drinking utterly incredible wines, a lot of them favorites from older vintages. In Malibu a friend and I got to open this 1996 Bea. It was in the midst of a 1995 Chinon, a 1975 Pepe (both remarkable wines), Selosse Brut (so brilliant), and others, but the Bea took my heart and never gave it back. His wines are brilliant aged. What a treasure.

In Fall 2012 I closed my teaching career in philosophy

Fall 2011 became my last semester teaching philosophy in Arizona. I resigned in October 2011, but the last day of my contract was January 6, 2012. I stepped into the new year, then, finishing my teaching obligations, turning towards a whole new path. As grateful as I am for my time there, I am also grateful to be done. The biggest blessing came in my classes that final term being among the best I ever facilitated. The two sections of Intro to Ethics both had excellent students that helped me learn the material at a deeper level. What a gift. In Sci-Fi and Society (the other class I taught that term) we were all required to show up dressed as ourselves in alternate universe and then to remain in character through the entire class. I arrived as a Sci-Fi Writer’s Muse, a presence that helped inspire parts of the noble series Dr. Who.

Our sweet Briland opened my heart far more than I ever expected

Rachel, aka. Jr., asked for a hamster in 2011. I was resistant to the idea not wanting another live-thing to take care of. But Rachel was brilliant at helping Briland, her hamster, get comfortable so that he spent lots of time out of his cage playing, and eating treats beside both of us. He softened my heart in a way I didn’t realize it could. Dear Briland spawned a whole comic series, became the mascot of the local veterinary hospital, and made me appreciate the importance of life, no matter how small, in a way I never imagined until I met him. He died in the middle of 2012. I still miss him everyday.

The Rapuzzi family shared an incredible lunch with us

April 2012 included an 8 day tour of Colli Orientali del Friuli. The Rapuzzi family had our COF2012 group for lunch, sharing an incredible selection of their older wines. Thanks to them the world still has Schioppettino–Dina and Paolo Rapuzzi had a big hand in helping to preserve many of the varieties indigenous to Friuli and are credited with rediscovering and then saving Schioppettino.

We spent the first week of April in Friuli

A vineyard in Friuli

Serena and Cristian poured their first Schioppetino vertical for us

Serena and Cristian of Ronco del Gnemiz had us for a vertical tasting of their Schioppettino, explaining it was the first time they’d done so. They’re best known for their white wines, but their Schioppettino is some of my favorite. I am so grateful for our time with them.

Angela and Jason Osborne poured her first full vertical of Grace

In June, I met Steven Morgan of Tribeca Grill during a visit to New York City. He toured me through the impressive cellars of the restaurant and then opened a Schioppettino for us to share while we talked. After conversation about education, comics, superheroes, wine, friendship, and travel, he suggested I reach out to Angela Osborne of A Tribute to Grace, saying he thought I’d like her and her wine. That very night I emailed her. A week later she had my friend Katherine and I over for dinner with Angela, her lovely husband Jason, and the first full vertical tasting of Grace they’d hosted. We stayed for hours. Steven was right. I loved her, and her wine.

I returned to Naknek after a decade away

At the end of June, after a decade away, I returned to the waters of Naknek, Alaska where I grew up commercial fishing with my family–the area of Bristol Bay hosts the largest wild salmon run in the world, and one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world. As Rachel does every year, she spent her summer there visiting cousins, her Grammie and Bobba, and her Aunties and Uncles. This photo shows five cousins–Oliver, Mari, and Rachel on the shore, Ecola and Ceara, my Auntee’s daughters in the water.

I didn't die eating oysters with Stephan Vivier

A couple of years ago I discovered a shellfish allergy by having a bad reaction to prawns. I didn’t know what other seafood I was allergic to, however, and so dealt with it by avoiding shellfish entirely. The reaction was too uncomfortable to risk it. In July, I met with Stephane Vivier to taste his Pinot Noir wines. We had a lovely time visiting. I loved his rose’ and Pinot, and thoroughly enjoyed our time. When he asked if we should have lunch and start with oysters I decided to risk it. My thought was–this entire experience is so lovely, if I do die by shellfish, I’d be quite sorry for Stephane, but such a happy time would be the perfect way to go. And if I don’t, it couldn’t be a better time to find out I can still eat oysters. It turns out I can still eat oysters. Vivier wine, then, restored one of my favorite foods to me. The experience has inspired me to go on since and test other shellfish too–it turns out I can eat crab (thank god!), and also scallops (thank god again!).

I spent my summer visiting some of the people I admire

I count myself deeply lucky. I have gotten to spend my time with some of the people I admire most in wine. Here from left: me, holding Ryan and Megan Glaab’s baby boy, Randall Grahm, George Vare, Abe Schoener

I lived for a month below the oldest vines in Willamette Valley

In July, I traveled to Willamette Valley, Oregon and was lucky enough to live for a month at the base of the oldest vines growing in the Willamette–Eyrie Vineyards South Block.

My sister charmed Jacques Lardiere

My sister traveled south to attend IPNC too and while there charmed Jacques Lardiere, the just-retired winemaker of Jadot. What a treat to meet him, and to concentrate hard enough to understand his talk on biodynamics.

My sister and I spent time tasting with Maggie Harrison

With Melanie flying from Alaska to attend IPNC I did what I could to schedule time after for us to also meet two of her favorite winemakers. We were able to have time with Maggie Harrison, of Antica Terra, and also Jason Lett, of Eyrie. Melanie told me after those two are like rock stars for her. I agree.

Fulgencio was generous enough to tell me his story

Someone asked me to pick the single most important event I lived this last year. That sort of question is a kind of metaphysical quandry I find almost impossible to answer. That said, the most moving experience I had was meeting Fulgencio, a vineyard worker in Oregon and then to have him trust me enough to share part of his life story with me. The experience was overwhelming. Then, as if listening to him hadn’t been moving enough, at the end he thanked me it, explaining it healed him to be able to share his story. To share in that kind of intimacy with someone, and to have it marked as life changing by both people… I can only explain the importance of such an experience by saying plainly it’s why I believe any of us are here. Such connections, in my experience, are the meaning of human life.

I spent the year following Ribolla from Friuli through California

One of the lucky projects of 2012 turned out to be following RIbolla Gialla from Friuli all the way back to California, its unlikely North American home. I love this grape. Following its story has also introduced me to a wealth of incredible people–George Vare, Dan Petroski, Steve Matthiasson, Ryan Glaab, Abe Schoener, Matthew Rorick, Robbie Meyers, Nathan Roberts, Chris Bowland, and others. Here the Vare Vineyard is being harvested by a crew directed by Steve Matthiasson.

Paul Draper took time to meet with me

Somehow this year included a wealth of visits with icons of wine, including a number of people that truly helped make American wine what it is today. Among them is Paul Draper. In September, Paul took the time to share several hours with me talking through his history and views of wine, as well as tasting the current wines for Ridge. I often joke that my parents are such intimidating people I am rarely intimidated. Paul Draper stands as such an important presence in the history of California wine, I have to admit I was utterly intimidated to go meet with him. That said, he is known for being down to earth, and quite generous in his willingness to share information and insight with people.

His dog is adorable

And he has an adorable dog.

Scientist Legend Carole Meredith, and her equally brilliant husband Stephen Lagier met with me

My final wine interview of 2012 was with two people I hold deep respect for. Carole Meredith is a genuine legend of science. Thanks to her we know the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, and many others. She helped find the origin and originary plant of Zinfandel and Primitivo, thus also helping to boost the local economy of Croatia due to their increase in tourism since (I kid you not–Zinfandel originates from Croatia). Stephen Lagier, her husband, is equally brilliant with a history of having researched chemical changes in vines due to vineyard practices, then going on to a long career in winemaking. Together they now live on Mt Veeder where they grow and make their Lagier-Meredith wines.

I spent the holidays with family

Jr and I closed the year in Alaska. We were able to spend the Christmas holiday in Anchorage, where my parents, and the families of all three of their girls were together at Christmas for the first time since 2006. Christmas Eve we spent with our closest family friends, the Meyers. Here from left: me, my sister Paula, my sister Melanie, and Robyn Meyer–she grew up with us like a sister. Jr and I now spend the New Year holiday in Juneau with Melanie’s family.

Lots of love to everyone! I am so grateful for all that 2012 brought (including all the stuff that felt like total bullshit–hardships hold sometimes the deepest blessings), and more grateful we can now turn in to 2013. May we all be blessed. Amen.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to

The Power of Images for Winery Marketing: A Response to Steve Heimoff

A Response to Steve Heimoff: Considering his Original Question

Steve Heimoff asks, what are the implications for wineries as social media shifts away from words, more towards images?

I want to take up Heimoff’s ideas on this topic in order to consider briefly how wineries can leverage the power of images for their own marketing goals. To do so, I’ll first consider aspects of Heimoff’s account, then show where I think his analysis points to ways we can go further in recognizing the power of images.

click on comic to enlarge

In his post from September 5, Steve Heimoff considers what he sees as the shift in social media from primarily word based communication towards more visual based sharing. As Heimoff describes it, social media forms such as Facebook (and I assume also blogs) had initially been more text driven, but recently have changed to become much more about image sharing. This shifting phenomenon Heimoff sees repeated too via sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

In describing the movement from words to images, Heimoff wants to ask whether the change will impact wineries marketing plans, and whether visual based forms of social media can really help wineries’ wine sales at all.

To consider the question, Heimoff first asks whether or not any particular product being sold is in itself a visual product. As I read Heimoff’s post, the idea here is that if a product is primarily visual (like fashion, or art, as examples), then it should be easier to sell that product via visual imagery (I don’t think this is at all an obvious claim, but I’m going to ignore that here to focus instead on a different argument). To clarify, claiming a product is primarily visual does not foreclose the possibility it is also delivering other ideas, it is just asking what the driving aspects of a product are. So, as a different example, while a novel might need smart design on the book cover (a visual element), the value of the novel itself is more primarily found in the ideas and story within the novel (the text). His point in exploring this idea is to state that wineries’ apparent product (that is, wine) is not something that is primarily visual. So, in other words, the label of the wine may be relevant to how a consumer responds initially to a wine, like the cover design of a book. But wine is not primarily about the label on the bottle, it is more importantly about the wine inside the bottle. As the argument goes, since wine is, apparently, not a visual product it will not readily sell via visual-dominated marketing or visual-dominated social media presentation.

If wine is not a product with an importantly visual element, what is it? According to Heimoff, wine is not a product with image-driven sales (like Lanvin’s hard to walk in but still really gorgeous high heels might be), but is instead an item dependent on data for sales. In Heimoff’s view, to readily purchase wine consumers need data on the wine not just a picture of a bottle. Here Heimoff considers the effect of something like the image of a cute dog on a consumer. The dog may trigger an “Awww” response, as he puts it, but in his view triggering that feeling isn’t doing the work of building a relationship with the person that happens to think the dog is cute. When considering what kind of images a winery might post online he doesn’t go far beyond the possibility of an image of their wine bottle, or perhaps of their winery. At that level of sophistication, it seems easy to agree with Heimoff that a picture of a bottle of wine isn’t doing a lot to deliver data to a consumer. The bottle of wine photo doesn’t do a lot to give consumers data they may want.

What data does Heimoff see as relevant? The relevant data, according to his account, includes information like, a wines’ grape types, its flavor profile, the cost of the wine, and perhaps the origin of the grapes, but as he describes it what that data offers is a kind of consumer assurance of the role the wine will play in the consumers’ life–that is, whether they’ll like it. The point Heimoff wants to make, however, is that what wineries are trying to do through this data and assurance combo is build a relationship with consumers, a relationship that over time will help sales.

Heimoff has more to say on the subject than just these points, and I certainly recommend reading his post directly. You can find it here:

However, what I’d like to respond to is Heimoff’s analysis of the word versus image dichotomy and his implicit assumption that the imagery operating in social media is not effectively enough delivering the data consumers want and/or need. In doing this I want to assume that Heimoff is right about the point that consumers need or want data as a way to understand what they are buying, though I think what we mean by data could be further considered. I also want to agree with him in the idea that wineries need or want to build relationships with consumers as a way of supporting sales. I’m going to assume that effective marketing is partially about building such relationships (though I think it’s also about triggering a spontaneous purchase from a consumer). Where I’m going to try and push Heimoff’s account further is in considering how the visual can actually work to build this relationship and share the data Heimoff is looking for.

A Response to Steve Heimoff: The Power of Images, and the Role of Marketing

Let’s go ahead and assume Heimoff is right that social media has become far more visually driven, and from that perspective reconsider his question. What is the implication for wineries?

click on comic to enlarge

Heimoff is right. Images operate differently than text does in making contact with a consumer. Where Heimoff’s account can push further, however, is in his consideration of what imagery has the power to do.

People involved in marketing, as wineries certainly are, can never under estimate the importance or power of the visual in selling their product, whatever that product happens to be. To put it another way, marketing is generally dependent on visual elements, and has been since before the introduction of social media, or even print media. Signs and billboards are a simple example of our dependence on the visual for quickly delivering a consumer response. With print media, the introduction of print advertising and associated simple imagery can be seen. In social media the potential marketing for the visual expands to include moveable icons, or even videos. Behind each of these forms is the presentation of a kind of brand through which a company, person, or product builds their longer term relationship (or not) with consumers. In each case, the visual elements act to give consumers at least two things, which I’ll name in a moment.

The challenge to Heimoff’s account rests in his implicit assumption of text and imagery being a simple dichotomy. In this view, words operate to deliver information as text, on the one hand, and images act like the image of the dog I quickly think is cute, or of the ever-enticing Lanvin shoe I can’t stop thinking about (god, I love the combination of leather, a stiletto, and a smart ankle cuff), on the other. That is, from this perspective, images are not assumed to deliver information in the same way that text does.

click on comic to enlarge

Here’s the point: the sort of data communication that Heimoff is looking for, and assumes will build a relationship with consumers for wineries is possible through visual forms. The visual turn in social media has profound implications for wineries. That is, visual marketing can be effective when it accomplishes either of the following two goals (and I’m sure there are other potential goals to seek here too. I’m choosing to focus on these two simply to make the point that the visual is thoroughly relevant for wineries).

First of all, it is possible for images to either implicitly or explicitly deliver information that lets consumers know if they want the product or not. In the case of wine, one example occurs by sharing tasting notes through visual elements rather than only textual ones. The visual can also be blended with text. The comics I have been imbedding in this post are an example of a way to do this. The feedback I’ve received from readers, both general consumers, and consumers from within the wine industry, is that these wine comics make the flavor profile of the wine, and therefore the experience of drinking it, more accessible than a simple listing of taste components. Even if in a bare sense the information presented through the comic is remarkably similar when listed out as mere descriptors to the information given in a textual tasting note, the shift from textual to visual presentation turns out to be important. That is, the form of presentation of information has a significant impact on the reader, and information can be delivered in visual form. The reality of such impact I believe reaches to the second possible way to harness the power of visual imagery.

The feeling response Heimoff points to through his example of the cute dog picture is, I believe, important. Marketing has the power to trigger spontaneous purchases, or sudden interest, as well as develop longer term buying relationships with consumers. Understanding that imagery doesn’t just deliver information but also triggers feelings that matter, with those feelings leading to choices people make, including choices of what to buy, is foundational to marketing and has been since long before the advent of social media.

click on comic to enlarge: this comic drawn for Talia “I’ll Swirl Anything” Baiocchi

In this way, the apparent shift in social media to focusing on the visual is something that has profound implications for wineries, but also too for all of us, as we strive to re-imagine the ways we communicate with each other, visually or otherwise.


Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews began in mid-2011 as a primarily comics based wine blog, and has expanded to include more writing, and also photography. The comics shown throughout this post are just a few examples of images that have previously appeared as a wine review feature throughout this blog, and are all hand drawn by Ms Wakawaka herself.

Thank you to Steve Heimoff for his post.

Thank you to Julie Ann Kodmur.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to

Willamette Wine 3: Domaine Drouhin

Eyrie Vineyards was the first to plant Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley, establishing their vines in 1965, with 1970 as their first vintage. In 1979 an event affectionately known as The Wine Olympics was staged with 330 wines from 33 countries were evaluated blind by experts from ten different countries. The 1975 vintage of Eyrie Vineyards Reserve finished in the top ten. With that, Oregon wine gained notice.

In 1980, Robert Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy organized a rematch, again with blind judges. There the same Eyrie 1975 Reserve placed second, losing to a 1959 Chambolle-Musigny Drouhin wine by only 2/10s of a point.

By 1980, Willamette Valley was already producing world class wine. Eyrie was the winery to garner this particular Olympics attention, but others in the area were established and producing good quality Pinot Noir, helping to establish the quality of the region as well.

After the results of the Wine Olympcs, and already familiar with Oregon from a tourist perspective, Robert Drouhin began visiting the wine regions of the state more readily, becoming friends with David Lett of Eyrie, David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, and others. In 1987, the Drouhin family purchased land at the top of the Dundee Hills, above the Original Willamette plantings established by the Letts, and near other already established vineyards as well. The land purchased by Drouhin, however, was not planted with vines at the time. The site became Domaine Drouhin.

Visiting Domaine Drouhin

the Domaine Drouhin winery was built into the hillside to take advantage of both the natural insulative qualities offered for helping to keep the cellars cool, but also to effectively design a four story (three winery stories plus fourth hosting level) gravity fed winery. In the late 1980s, when the facility was built, it was one of the first gravity fed wineries in the United States.

Filling barrels on the cellar level (third from the top)

aging Willamette Pinot

The Drouhin family emphasizes the quality of the wine that was already begun in the Willamette Valley before their arrival. Visiting Oregon, they appreciated the family owned and run business element of the valley, a perspective shared with Burgundy. In choosing to invest in the area, they wanted to continue to rely on the techniques they already understood from their wine making in Burgundy. One of the choices made in the vineyard as a result is to plant rows closer together (with special ‘over-row’ style tractors being required–I wish I’d gotten a picture, these things are ridiculously cool).

In purchasing undeveloped land, it’s impossible to know how well it will host vines. As Véronique Drouhin, the Domaine Drouhin head wine maker, describes it, only time will tell you what you have. But the site was so beautiful, she said they just had to try. The site was purchased in 1987, and planted in 1988. That first year the Drouhin’s purchased fruit to make wine and see what it was like. 1988 is known as a good vintage for Willamette. From a Burgundian perspective, the now-20 year old vines of Domaine Drouhin are still young.

There is a clear house style visible in both the Oregon and French wines of Drouhin with over arching viticulture and wine making decisions in both places being overseen by the same people

Domaine Drouhin offers side-by-side tastings with wines from the wineries in France.

The 2008 Chablis Premier Cru offers focused acidity, with an ultra clean presentation, touches of chalk, and citrus powder primarily offering lemon, with touches of white grapefruit. This wine has medium alcohol, medium+ acidity, and a medium+ finish. (for some reason I also noted “not funny” on this wine. I really wish I remembered WHY I wrote that there. I enjoyed this wine, so I’m not sure the reference but it made me laugh to find the comment later.)

The 2010 Arthur Dundee Hills Chardonnay carries a softer mouth feel, but with still persistent acidity carrying the more vibrant but still focused fruit flavors through to a medium+ finish. The tart flavor is softer here, white also paired with well-integrated white pepper, and touches of chalk.

The 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir offers a nose of dried rose and leaf, with touches of rose oil, a smooth mouth feel and palate of dried rose petal, and light grapefruit zest. This wine shows quenching acidity, and a medium+ finish.

The 2009 Savigny les Beaune Clos des Godeaux has a vibrant berry nose, with an ultra clean presentation of berry and cooked green and dried herbs. There is a nice balance of lifted aromatics with rich earth belly and fresh movement through the palate here.

The 2010 Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin stood out here as my favorite over the tasting, with a berry, and lightly dried berry nose, followed by a juicy dried berry, light bramble rose bush, and well integrated pepper palate. There is a pleasant combination of drying finish with juicy acidity, and a medium+ finish.

The Laurène blend is always aged 3 years, and made from barrels selected after fermentation. The 2008 offers nice high notes with a rounder aromatics than the Willamette Valley Pinot. There is an earthy undercurrent that carries hints of smoke and no heaviness. The palate offers a nice tannin traction, with plenty of berry and dried berry driven movement.

it’s been a good year in Willamette for bumble bees. They were dancing about with the lavender outside the winery.

Thank you very much to David Millman.

Thank you to Ashley Bell.

Thank you to Dan Fredman, and to Lisa Shara Hall.

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Willamette 1: Walk About in the Granary District: Matello, Dominio IV, Remy Wine, Burton Bittman

More on IPNC 2012 to follow. In the meantime, the visits in Willamette Valley wine have already started.


Downtown McMinnville hosts an up and coming winery zone called the Granary District. While Eyrie Vineyards winery has been located since its inception at the edge of the Granary District, several newer locales have opened in the area alongside a recent shift to include a few shops, and food venues plus markets. A few of us were able to do a walk around series of visits to three different wineries in or beside the Granary District, each opened by the label we tasted, and designed to host and support other wine makers as well. Finally, we tasted with a brand new, not yet released wine (drinking from an unlabeled bottle, it turns out, is one of my very favorite things to do).

Visiting the Granary District: Matello Wines, Dominio IV Wines, Remy Wines, and Burton Bittman


Matello Wines

Marcus Goodfellow of Matello Wines

“There are three rules for Matello, when possible: (1) The fruit is from North Willamette Valley; (2) It is non-irrigated; (3) It is farmed by people that own and primarily operate their vineyards.” –Marcus Goodfellow

2011 Pinot Gris, 2010 Chardonnay, 2010 Viognier, 2010 Clover, 2010 Whistling Ridge Blanc Blend

Pinot Noir: 2010 Lazarus, 2010 Homage, 2010 Souris, 2010 Durant Vineyard, 2009 Whistling Ridge



Dominio IV Wines

Patrick Reuter of Dominio IV Wines

“We started with 350 cases, and no capitol, and had to build it from there. We had been in Carlton Wine Maker’s Studio for seven years. It had just opened up. It helps wineries in their incubation stage, and it give us a 3-4 year window when we didn’t have to invest in capitol. But, eventually, we wanted to buy equipment to suit what we were doing, to how we make wine.” –Patrick Reuter

2011 Viognier, 2010 Pinot Noir Tapis, 2005 Tempranillo Tango

2007 Columbia Gorge Syrah You Write in Wine



Remy Wines, Three Wives

Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines

“Remy Wines follow rules–they’re all Italian, single vineyard, and varietal–single grape–wines. Three Wives is to play.” –Remy Drabkin

2010 Dolcetto

2010 Sangiovese

2009 Remy’s Red Blend; 2011 Pinot Gris Ramato



Burton Bittman

Anneka Miller of Burton Bittman

“The wine is named for inspiring strong women on my mother’s and my father’s side. My grandmother Burton never got to go to college, and she dreamed of being a journalist. The name, and the wine is partially for them.” –Anneka Miller

the first vintage: 2010, 595 bottles

waiting for the labels: 2010 Willamette Valley [Coury Clone] Pinot Noir


Thank you to Anneka Miller for inviting us to be among the first to taste your first vintage. I took notes and will be working on a comic of it! I really do love tasting from still unlabeled bottles.

Thank you to Remy Drabkin, Patrick Reuter, and Marcus Goodfellow–further write ups on each to follow. Congratulations on your new spaces in the Granary District!

Thank you to Jason Lett.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to