Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mid-Winter Wine Tasting

Rachel and I went out for a quick wine tasting on Jan 9th and had our usual good time. I didn't take any notes, so I'll just give a quick rundown of where we went.

We haven't been here for a while, but with our new-found enjoyment of sparkling wine, we thought it was time to go back. Argyle has received acclaim recently for their sparkling wines, and we've enjoyed their still wines in the past. Again, I didn't take notes, but recall that we tasted several sparklers and a couple of Pinot Noirs. They don't seem to make the Merlot that we liked so much anymore, which is too bad. We liked most of the sparkling wines, and ended up buying a Brut rosé (yeah, who would have thought that?) and their 07 Pinot Noir reserve which should be very good in a couple of years.

Four Graces:
Just up the road from Argyle is the Four Graces tasting room. We tried their wine last year at the Bite of Oregon and thought it was pretty good. It's owned by absentee California owners and the wine is made by Laurent Montelieu. Again, can't remember exactly what we tasted, but I recall that we tried a couple of Pinot Noirs that were pretty good, along with a Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. The Pinot Blanc was OK, but the Pinot Gris was quite nice, and we bought a bottle.

Walnut City Wineworks:
We then swung south to McMinnville and stopped at one of our favorite urban wineries - Walnut City Wineworks. It is home to at least 3 or 4 winemakers and the tasting room tastes them all. We always enjoy talking to Jennifer, the tasting room manager, who is always wearing excellent scarves. We tasted through a long lineup of their wines, and had forgotten that pretty much everything they pour is quite good. We also met a couple there who owned a local catering company - Ribslayer. They were planning a dinner of some sort and were checking out wines. Apparently they are famous for their lamburgers and mentioned that they'll be cooking at the McMinnville wine event in March. I'll definitely keep an eye out for them. We ended up buying Pinot Noirs from Z'ivo, Walnut City, Robinson, and Carlton Hill.

Carlton Winemakers' Studio:
Our last stop on the way home was the Carlton Winemaker's Studio in (where else) Carlton. We'd been there once before but had been put off by an inattentive pourer who seemed to want to ignore us as much as possible, and it's taken us a couple of years to summon the will to go back. Like Walnut City, the CWS is home to many winemakers, but the tasting room doesn't pour them all the time. Rather, it rotates through the clients, so you never know what you're going to be tasting on any given day. Our pourer today was a little more attentive, but just wasn't all that engaging. We tried wines from Andrew Rich, Robert Brittan, and Montebruno. As much as I try to like Andrew Rich's wine, I guess it just doesn't push my button. It seems well-made, but just doesn't do it for me. Robert Brittan is the winemaker for Winderlea and also has his own label. His 06 Pinot Noir is big, warm, and fruity - everything I don't like about 2006 Oregon PN. However, I liked this one for some reason and we bought a bottle. We also picked up a lovely floral Gewurztraminer from Montebruno.

Another nice day wine tasting, and while we enjoyed it, it all felt somewhat sterile. All four places we visited had good wine, but all 4 tasting rooms are run by staff, not the owners, growers or winemakers. To be fair, Jennifer at Walnut City is great - she knows the wines and is happy to talk to you about them. But at the other 3 places, the pourers all felt like employees, not wine enthusiasts. I guess we've gotten spoiled here in Oregon, being able to meet and talk with the growers and winemakers themselves- people who are passionate about what they do and the product they make. In the end, they are the best ambassadors for Oregon wine I can possibly think of, and we always come away from our discussions with them with smiles on our faces and lots of enthusiasm for their wine.