Dan and I had the chance to do some tasting at the Southern Oregon Wine Association's "gala" last Sunday. It was a nice chance to meet some winemakers and try some local-ish wines...and all for free because I sorta "won" the tickets.
Most people don't realize that Oregon isn't just home to world-class Pinot Noir. In fact, southern Oregon is better suited (as is eastern Washington) to warm-climate grapes like the great Bordeaux varietals and some of California's favorites like Zin and Syrah as well.
Below is the review I wrote. It's mirrored here on the Oregon Wine Blog. Enjoy...
Last Sunday was the perfect day for tasting the wines of Southern Oregon. The rain let up for a bit, making the crossing of the river from SE to SW beautiful and clear. It's a wonderful thing to taste wine from southern Oregon...and even more wonderful when it's brought to my town.
We entered the Governor Hotel and quickly assessed that we were the only 2 people under age 40. Not that there's anything wrong with people 40 and over, but I am constantly amazed at the lack of under-40-ers that show up to these things. All my friends drink wine, and they're mostly in their 20s and 30s. Hmm.
We picked up the tasting guide, surveyed the room, and chose the wineries we'd taste from. It seemed that spending time with just a handful of the wineries present allowed us to actually hear a bit about the different winemaking decisions, vineyard practices, and visions for each bottle of wine poured.
It was enlightening. And discouraging. All at the same time.
Parts of southern Oregon seem quite suitable for Rhone varietals, so many folks had planted Syrah and Viognier. One winery had also planted Marsanne and Rousanne. There were the usual suspects as well...Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo. And there were some slightly more obscure varietals like Petit Sirah (obscure for Oregon), Cab Franc, Albariño, and Dolcetto.
Misty Oaks '07 Cabernet Franc was a solid and inky. They were pouring it, but not selling it. D'oh!
Agate Ridge served up a nice, smoky '06 Syrah. It had a very sweet nose, perhaps from the barrel. Nice medium body and delicate finish. Their whites (Viognier and Marsanne/Rousanne) were reminiscent of the buttery Chardonnays that I don't particularly care for. It probably had a bit to do their barrel-fermentation and the grapes general lack of acid.
Folin Cellars poured out of bottles with glass stoppers. It was fun to get an earful about cork taint! Their '06 Estate Tempranillo was yummy. Nice structure, tons of tannis to stick to your teeth, not as acidic as many Tempranillos. I bet you could cellar this for a few years and find yourself with a gem of a wine!
The '04 Pinot Noir from Henry Estate Winery was dead-on cherry cola. A little vanilla and black pepper as well. Probably our favorite Pinot for the event. The years in the bottle had really allowed the wine to soften and settle. Quite a treat at $30!
Spangler Vineyard's Petit Sirah is always solid. The '06 (which they were out of) blew us away in the past. It was nice to get acquainted with their '07. Lots of white pepper and a surprising amount of fruit for this varietal.
The Dolcetto from Palotai Vineyard & Winery was light and spicy. I bet it'll be a hot commodity for Thanksgiving this year.
Pebblestone Cellars seemed to be the only winery represented using Viognier in their Syrah. The co-ferment the dark Syrah with about 3% Viognier to make the color even richer. The complexity of the color compounds increases when these ferment together. This is an old French secret.
But the big surprise was the Giradet Wine Cellars' Baco Noir. Never heard of it? Neither had we. Full of bacon fat (hold the grease) and blueberry jam, with a long, chocolaty finish, this was my wine of choice. Apparently they smuggled this hybrid grape in years back. And they seem to be the only vineyard growing it in Oregon.
All in all, it was a fun time. I'm excited to see how these wineries and vineyards continue to evolve and experiment. I remember one winemaker saying, "Yah, we tried this or that idea a few years back and then tweaked it the following year." I like hearing stuff like that. People who are still up for some risk-taking, even if it means creating something less-than for one vintage. It keeps things interesting!