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The Vineyards of Eyrie

With the 2012 vintage, Eyrie Vineyards bottled separate Pinot Noir cuvées from each of their five vineyards for the first time. They have previously bottled Sisters, and Daphne in select vintages, and consistently offer the Original Vines Vineyard on its own as well.

The warm ease of 2012 in the Willamette Valley brings fruit to the fore of Pinot Noir in a region that readily celebrates notes of cedar and earthiness. It was a year that winemakers easily could have gone for riper, plush styles. For Eyrie, president and winemaker Jason Lett, kept the focus on the vibrant fresh acidity Eyrie is known for, thus allowing the fruit of 2012 to carry liveliness, and show in concert with earth elements, silky texture and ultra long finish.

Refined rhubarb and earth in a mouthwatering and lean presentation describes how I think of the hallmarks of Eyrie Pinot. The combination first drew me to following their wines. Seeing the vineyard designates of 2012 side-by-side layers in fascinating surprises.

Citrus elements lift from the glass in many of these wines, ranging from hints of lime blossom, into grapefruit, and all the way to the nose tickling pith of pomelo. The red fruit includes cherry blossom in some cuvées, and mixed red with white cherry fruit in others. The hallmark rhubarb resonates in some sites with berry fruit, and in others just with cherry.

The great secret of Eyrie wines rests in them staying open for as much as a week, if you can last that long, getting better in the glass as time goes on. The third day sings where the first day is still waking up. I hold high admiration for the life Eyrie shows through in the glass. It’s a shame more wine tastings, or tasting notes don’t allow such time with a wine, to celebrate this side of wine.

The Individual Wines and Vineyards

Eyrie Pinot Vineyard Bottlings click on image to enlarge

In tasting these wines together, it is the energy and muscle that changes most clearly between them. In August, my sister Melanie and I walked the Dundee Hills with Jason, visiting each of the Eyrie vineyards. Following are notes on each cuvée bringing tasting and walking notes together for each.

The Original Vines Reserve

*** The Original Vines Reserve brings such complexity, energy, and pleasing palate tension thanks to those gorgeously knarled, own root vines planted in 1965. The Original Vines Vineyard was the first to be planted by Eyrie founder, David Lett, at 220′-400′ elevation. Hidden mid-hill near the center of the Dundee Hills, the site stands along the bathtub ring of the Missoula flood. As a result, the site shows the greatest soil diversity of the Eyrie vineyards.

Near the top of the hill (where the oldest vines grow, and the greatest varietal variation as well — all the first Eyrie plantings are there) the red volcanic Jory soil that defines the Hills puts a red dust patina on the wines. At the bottom of the slope, in what is called the South Block, it is more of a taupe colored sedimentary earth deposited from the Missoula floods. The vineyard as a whole comes with chunks of Jory coupling alongside sedimentary in a patchwork of color.

The Original Vines Reserve carries lithe ease of strength — neither sinewy nor muscular, neither soft nor too tight. Aromas and flavors bring together rose petal with white cherry, rhubarb and raspberry, and light cedar through a wonderful energizing palate tension, and ultra long finish.

Outcrop Vineyard

* The newest of the Eyrie vineyards, Outcrop Vineyard grows around 250′ elevation planted between 1982 and 2000 by the Eason family, then purchased by Eyrie in 2011. It grows a little under 5 acres entirely of Pinot Noir and stands adjacent to the lower portion of the Original Vines plantings. The Outcrop Pinot brings the most masculine structural presentation of the wines, while at the same time showing the most apparent pink and red berry notes. There is a lot of complexity here with layers of cedar and forest, alongside red cherry and berry, coupled with lime and grapefruit accents. The Outcrop carries an almost sinewy leanness, that expands into incredibly focused length with air.

Sisters Vineyard

*** Sisters Vineyard has consistently offered a beautiful delicacy in its single vineyard bottlings. There is a gracefulness to the fruit from this site that at the same time offers great persistence on the palate. The vineyard itself stands at 200′-360′ elevation, and is the most unique of the Eyrie sites, growing not only Pinot Noir but also a range of varieties not otherwise associated with Eyrie. First planted in 1987, the site originally was known as Three Sisters for its first vines of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Gris. As the varietal collection expanded, the name shifted to just Sisters.

Sisters Pinot is one of those wines I want to enjoy through the course of a day — a languid afternoon with just one bottle. There is so much sapidity here, coupled with floral elements, and that refined rhubarb, all touched by a volcanic patina, and refreshing evergreen accents.

Rolling Green Vineyard

* Up the road, Rolling Green Vineyard was established at 6 acres to Pinot Noir, with a small portion of Pinot Gris in 1988 at 540′-700′ elevation. The sloped site grows from more iron rich Jory soil than seen at the Original Vines site, with worn stones of basalt throughout producing a lean profile of lithe strength, with some of the masculine structure of Outcrop, but more pine, citrus, white and red cherry tension followed by a long saline crunch mineral finish. It tastes like that satisfying moment after a hike, drinking a citrus and cherry margarita on the porch of a cabin in the middle of a pine forest.

Daphne Vineyard

** Established in 1989, at the top of the hill, Daphne Vineyard grows Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier in even darker iron rich Jory than Rolling Green, at an elevation of 720′-820′ elevation. The Pinot Gris from Daphne serves as the core of Eyrie’s Estate bottling. For the Pinot Noir, Daphne vineyard, with its slightly rounder, though still gracefully focused palate has been bottled on its own in select vintages.

Here the vines offer a bit fuller flavor, and exuberance than the quieter grace of Sisters. The flavors come in as mixed red fruits and citrus alongside a touch of cedar and pine cascading into an ultra long, stimulating finish. It’s a wine that can’t help but light you up.

Oregon Pinot Noir

* Bringing together a blend of Pinot from each of the sites, the Oregon Pinot Noir bottling is effectively Eyrie’s Estate Pinot. A little snug on first opening, this wine loves air, showing better with time open. It brings together rose petal with ripe cherry and lime powder accents, on a body of wet rock, light saline, and a red volcanic patina for an ultra long finish with lots of focus.

The 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir is available now. Eyrie is planning a late Fall/early Winter release for the Vineyard designates.

***

Thank you to Jason Lett.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

 

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Respect for Pinot Gris

Pinot gris, aka. Pinot grigio, proves to be one of the most under celebrated of grapes. Thanks largely to a trend towards light touch, or sweet style mass produced wines from the variety, the grape now is often thought of as bland, or lifeless.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, however, disagrees, naming Pinot grigio one of the noble varieties, capable of transporting direct expression of its site through its wine. Travels through Friuli support Stuckey’s view. Heritage houses in the region respect the grape. With the local tradition of Ramato style wines, for example, a little skin contact can go a long way to carrying not only copper toned colors, but richer flavor, and stimulating mineral expression. Or, a little lees time, and greater complexity with richness appears.

In Oregon, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards too believed in the value of Pinot gris, establishing the first plantings of the variety in the new world in 1965, and the first vintage in 1970. In 1976, and then again in the late 1980s, Lett established further plantings of the grape. Lett’s belief was that when grown well, and vinified to allow varietal expression, Pinot gris could produce fresh, flavorful wines.

Eyrie 2012 Estate Pinot Gris

Eyrie’s Estate Pinot Gris consistently offers ridiculous value. Part of its secret rests in vine age, with a huge portion of the fruit coming from vines planted in the 1970s, giving flavor concentration and complexity. Lett’s vision placed Pinot gris as the perfect pairing for salmon, rather than Chardonnay, illustrating Eyrie’s ability to combine flavor with fresh acidity, and mineral length through the variety.

The Eyrie 2012 Estate Pinot gris offers the expressive fruit liveliness of the vintage, with lots of freshness, and mineral crispness at only $15-19 per bottle. It’s sick. Expect fresh melon, accents of lily with greenery, and a hint of rhubarb on tons of crunchy mineral length. This wine is all about palate stimulation, and making your mouth water without gouging your pocket book.

Eyrie 2012 Original Vines Pinot Gris

Eyrie Pinot Gris Original Vines 2012click on image to enlarge

In 2011 Eyrie President and Winemaker, Jason Lett, launched a special bottling of Pinot gris made only from fruit of the original Eyrie Pinot Gris planting established in 1965. It proved to be one of my favorite wines of last year.

For 2012 he continued the project, again vinifying juice from only the original vines for their own cuvée. The wine is aged in old, large wood casks, or tun, remaining on lees for a year, with slow malolactic fermentation to bring a mid-palate creaminess to the intense vibrancy of the fruit.

The 2012 Original Vines proves to be ultra stimulating, offering thrilling acidity and freshness coupled with loads of flavor. The fruit forwardness of the vintage shines here on the wines pink-lightning structure. This wine has definite perspective. No questions asked. Just fresh fruit, mineral-zing truth. I am in love.

If you’re near Oakland, Bay Grape on Grand carries the Original Vines Pinot Gris. It’s a super secret, ultra limited stash so get there quickly and shh…

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

5

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

click on illustration to enlarge

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.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

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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

click on comic to enlarge

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.)

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

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.

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

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

click on comic to enlarge

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

click on comic to enlarge

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

click on comic to enlarge

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.

Enjoy!

***

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

http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/02/15/considering-four-biodynamic-red-wines-from-paolo-bea-chapoutier-quintessa-and-eyrie-vineyards/

Or, about their Pinot Blanc:

http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/01/30/considering-treatment-of-the-grape-pinot-blanc-and-tastings-from-2009/

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

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

click on comic to enlarge

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

click on comic to enlarge

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

click on comic to enlarge

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: http://www.wineanorak.com/biodynamic3.htm .

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: http://www.italianwinemerchants.com/

The Natural Wine Company: http://www.naturalwine.com/catalog

Out of SF

Biondivino: http://www.biondivino.com/

***

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.

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

4

Poe Wines Pinot Meunier from Van Der Kamp Vineyard

Yesterday, Samantha Sheehan, and Shawn Johnson of Poe Wines, and I traveled to the Van Der Kamp Vineyard near the top of Sonoma Mountain in order to pick up Pinot Meunier. Along with just picked Pinot Noir, the fruit has been pressed for rosé.

Following is a look at the beautiful, while obscure variety.

Sam Sheehan with just picked Pinot MeunierSam Sheehan with Pinot Meunier for Poe Wines, September 2014

Years ago a 1er cru Burgundy made me realize wine was special, but a still red Pinot Meunier made me fall irretrievably in love wine. I’ve spent the years since hunting the variety around the world.

Pinot Meunier proves rare in terms of unique bottlings. Its primary home rests in Champagne, where it serves as one of the three legal varieties of the wine, capturing the most acreage of any variety in the region thanks to its easier reliability in cool zones. (Historic plantings of four other varieties are also allowed but uncommon.)

Loading the Pinot Meunier to take down the hillloading the Pinot Meunier into bins to drive down Sonoma Mountain, Sept 2014

Historically in France, Pinot Meunier tended to be planted in cooler areas as a sort of insurance grape, proving able to ripen where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir did not find enough warmth. Thanks to Pinot Meunier budding later, it also buds more reliably than its cousins. As a result, it was at one time throughout Northern France. Today, outside Champagne it remains in small pockets of the Loire, as well as Lorraine along the border of Germany. In France, outside of Champagne, examples of Pinot Meunier are made as either a still red wine, or rosé.

Pinot Meunier can also be found as a still red wine in Germany where it is more often bottled under the names Müllerrebe, or Schwarzriesling.

Shawn checking the Pinot MeunierShawn Johnson getting fruit ready for transport, September 2014

In the New World, Pinot Meunier appears primarily in Australia, Oregon, and California. Historic plantings of Pinot Meunier from the 1860s still produce fruit in Victoria, Australia, being bottled by their owner, Best’s Great Western as an Old Vine wine. Best’s treats the variety as one of its foundational grapes, also bottling a separate Young Vine Pinot Meunier from cuttings planted in the 1970s.

In Oregon, the variety was first established in 1965 when the original vines entered Willamette Valley via David Lett of Eyrie. The still red wines made by only a few producers in Willamette have remained largely under the radar. New plantings have just begun in the Valley, as devotees of the grape have brought a little more attention to the grape type.

Sam and DixieSam Sheehan and Dixie Van Der Kamp, September 2014

California treats Pinot Meunier primarily as a component of sparkling wine, growing it in cooler zones of Mendocino and Carneros. A few very small bottlings of still red wine examples from these sites are also produced.

As one exception, the Van Der Kamp family established the variety on their 1200-ft elevation, 60 acre vineyard-farm in the early 1980s, producing one of the early examples in the state of a still red wine expression. Today they have 3 acres of the variety, planted alongside 22 acres of Pinot Noir.

Martin VanderkampMartin Van Der Kamp, September 2014

Established wine knowledge has it that Pinot Meunier does not age well. However, examples of still red wines from both Oregon and Victorian producers that still carrying vibrancy 20, 30, and even 40 years later would disagree. In sparkling wines, Krug most famously uses ample portions of the variety in its champagne, which is also known to age beautifully.

Pinot Meunier brings higher natural acidity, and more transparent color than Pinot Noir, while also carrying a greater sense of mid-palate fleshiness with flavoral delicacy. In sparkling cuvées, the variety contributes aromatics, apparent fruit, and a sense of body for the style’s acidity. In red wines, both a sense of natural spice, and a light metallic backbone appear.

The inversion layer over Vanderkamp VineyardVan Der Kamp Vineyard, September 2014, morning
(the crazy dark line that shows in the sky between the tree line and the mountains is the morning inversion layer)

As a result of its layered subtlety, the variety shows most beautifully picked with a sense of freshness, with a lighter hand in vinification, and an absence of new oak. Though some producers do make still red wine examples with more work in the cellar and new oak presence, such an approach obscures the pleasantly delicate elements of the variety turning it into a heavier wine.

Thanks to the unique conditions of the Van Der Kamp vineyard, their Pinot Meunier combines the variety’s naturally lifted acidity, with thicker skins and still smooth tannin. The skins offer the possibility of brawn that some producers prefer, while the smooth tannin and juiciness carry the freshness resplendent in the grape.

Putting up prayer flags to mark the start of harvestShawn and Ulysses Van Der Kamp lifting prayer flags to mark the start of harvest, Sept 1, 2014

Inspired by the uniqueness of the Van Der Kamp Vineyard, Samantha Sheehan, and Shawn Johnson work with the Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Meunier for Poe Wines. Last year, they produced a sparkling expression of the variety (still aging in bottle).

They also made a vin gris style rosé in 2013 of both Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. The fresh fruit zing-iness of the rosé proved to be one of the most popular wines of the Poe portfolio. For 2014, Poe Wines again takes the Van Der Kamp Pinot Meunier alongside old vine Pinot Noir to make rosé, pressing the grapes yesterday. The fruit tasted delicious.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing– that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at that moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred. – Fred Rogers

The moon came up tonight like fire behind the trees, almost full, carving a silhouette behind Northern firs of Willamette Valley. Still, it’s not quite visible.

I’ve spent the last two years devoting my self to a life I can barely describe. It came as a response to the realization that for my health it was time to leave a different career I gave everything to. The change in direction? Social media has enabled almost all of it.

I’d studied then taught philosophy, the latter for a university in Arizona. Somehow I found my way to wine. More than wine, though, I found lovers of wine also giving themselves to what they love.

Alder Yarrow now finishes his book, The Essence of Wine, an early culmination of his already impressive work writing about wine via his blog Vinography. He’ll surely not make money from the book. Print media doesn’t have it these days. Yet he devoted his time to ensuring the hard cover version be beautiful, the electronic version clickable.

Fredric Koppel just celebrated his thirtieth anniversary writing about wine, first for newspapers, now his site, Bigger Than Your Head. Mary Orlin launched her background in television and interest in fashion into writing about scents in wine (alongside scents of perfume). Richard Jennings keeps a full-time job while managing to travel near-full time to write about wine internationally. Fred Swan opened his education with a love for Egyptian archaeology, now teaches courses in wine, purposefully keeping up with wines of California.

This last week the annual Wine Bloggers Conference took place. It’s an event it’s easy to be critical of. The agenda sometimes reads, from the outside, unclear. The awards we’re always sure could be awarded differently. Yet, it calls devotees from around North America (and beyond) earnest to discover the region that hosts it, eager to connect with bloggers otherwise met only online. In its origins, Tom Wark hoped to draw attention to, and point out the substance of people writing about wine online.

But people’s lives extend beyond the screen. In leaving academia, I threw myself into, what turned out to be (at least until the last few months), an impoverished prosperity — time spent making almost no income while eating and tasting with some of the finest chefs, and chef de cave, winemakers, and viticulturists in the world. There have been days I’m unsure I can afford the gas to the ten-course meal I’ve been asked to attend. More than the seeming indulgence of the meals or wine though, it’s been the people that have risen from the glass.

Jason Lett in Oregon carrying on the torch of his father, David’s instigation of an entire Willamette industry, while simultaneously accomplishing more than merely a family enterprise. Steve and Jill Matthiasson turning their love for vines and peaches into their business. Even Charles Banks, the investor people love to doubt over the speed of his acquisitions, transforming success in athlete management into an interest in building small wine labels. Throughout these visits or interviews in wine there have been glimmers of a person’s every day life.

I’ve been critiqued recently, and perhaps otherwise, for being obsequious, too willing to thank the people that meet with me. My role, if I am critic, would seem to be to remain distant. Eric Asimov, in his work, makes clear the absurdity of such a view. Ethical limits can be kept, yes, but to be an effective writer, and astute taste-lover of wine, openness is demanded.

Vinny Eng, in his work with both wine and food, and his teaching of wine, or Gwendolyn Alley‘s cacophony of writing, teaching, and wine, both give example of people loving as hard as they can in the midst of their work. Or, there are Jameson Fink, and Jamie Goode, both writers that house the critical acuity to focus on flaws and failings but choose to write about success.

In the online wine community, it is hearts like these lit afire, carving, through their love for what they do, a light around the substance of wine. It is in gratitude I find myself among them.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

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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!

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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.

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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.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.