Fullerton Wines, from Scandinavia to Portlandia

Admittedly, when I first received the invitation, I was hesitant. I had never heard of the winery before and the idea of schlepping out to Brooklyn on a cold winter’s night was not very appealing…until I Googled the restaurant. With its two Michelin stars and stellar reviews, Aska was very intriguing and seemed well worth the trip to the outer borough.

As we would discover, this Scandinavian restaurant is run by Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius, who truly redefined our notions of a Swedish chef (especially if the Muppet Show is firmly ensconced in one’s brains) and instilled a wonderful appreciation for this cuisine in us.

Getting off the M train at Marcy Street, we walked toward Manhattan, in the shadows of the Williamsburg bridge. After several blocks, we wondered if we were indeed walking all the way back to Manhattan, but finally we arrived at our destination and were ushered to a private room, which was immaculately set for our group.

Once we were all seated, our winery hosts immediately poured us a glass of their rosé and then provided us with an introduction to themselves: The Fullerton’s. It turned out that there was a method to the madness; the Fullerton’s have a direct connection to Scandinavia, which was why they had chosen this vaunted restaurant for the event, coincident with the winery’s debut in the New York and New Jersey markets.

Patriarch of the family, Eric Fullerton was raised in a Danish family and married a Swedish woman. The couple lived in Scandinavia with son, Alex, born in Denmark. A few years later, the Fullerton’s returned to the U.S. and settled in Oregon. Eric held C-level positions within the communications and security industries, but always had a passion for quality wine.

As a young child, Alex watched his parents enjoying wine at home and carried these observations to school – swirling and spitting out his milk, much to the chagrin of his kindergarten teacher – eventually developing his own vinous interest, which was cemented on a father-son trip to Champagne and Burgundy when Alex graduated high school.

In 2010, Alex was graduating from college with a degree in economics, but with no specific plan for a career or his future. He and dad visited Penner-Ash Wine Cellars together and discussed the idea of Alex entering the wine industry. Alex was keen on the idea and before the day was out, he had secured a harvest intern position at Penner-Ash. Dad sweetened the deal, offering to back Alex’s personal wine venture, if he pursued a degree in viticulture and enology, to which he readily agreed.

Alex followed his time at Penner-Ash with a harvest in New Zealand, before returning to the Willamette Valley and Penner-Ash and, later, a position at Bergstrom Wines. During this time, the two Fullerton men began making wine in the garage and scouting for vineyard blocks throughout the Valley. They also planted 400 vines in their backyard.

In 2012, Fullerton Wines was launched as a commercial venture with two separate lines: Three Otters and Fullerton. The Three Otters brand owes its origins to the three otters depicted in the Fullerton family coat of arms and a portion of the proceeds from each bottle helps to support the return of sea otters to the Oregon coast. The Fullerton brand includes its Five FACES line, named for all members of the Fullerton family: Filip, Alex, Caroline, Eric and Suzanne, as well as several single vineyard Pinot Noirs. To date, the winery produces 4,500 cases annually, but the goal is to reach 20,000 cases in the future.

Alex currently sources Pinot Noir fruit from several vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Both the Three Otters and Five FACES Pinots are the products of blending grapes from various vineyards (and appellations) to craft a consistent wine that marries the favorable characteristics from throughout the region. However, he has also identified a number of distinct vineyards that appeal to him as single vineyard wines. These wines are more expressive of an individual terroir and provide nice diversity within the Fullerton portfolio. As the family seeks to expand its production, they will need to identify other vineyards. Looking ahead, Alex noted that he hopes to focus on Eola-Amity Hills in sourcing additional fruit as he is particularly enamored with this micro-climate and the quality of grapes it produces.

As the meal progressed, we got to know Eric and Alex better, both their histories and their philosophies. There was a genuine warmth to this father and son’s relationship as they bantered back and forth, making jokes and good-naturedly teasing one another. In the end, it was clear that Eric has made a huge investment in his son, not just for their mutual love of wine, but because he is extremely proud of him.

While the wine was understandably the focal point of the evening, the 10-course meal was not to be overlooked. Each course was a stunning presentation of food, plate and flatware. Despite the lengthy evening, the food was engaging and not too heavy; only one course included meat and many were vegetarian. Among the more unique offerings were a crunchy snack of bladderwrack seaweed with a blue mussel emulsion; an earthy bowl of lichen served with chanterelles and a mushroom broth; and an intense pig’s blood pancake with rose petals and rosehip jam.

With the wonderful selection of Willamette Valley wines and the expertise of Aska’s kitchen, it was the perfect way to spend a New York night and definitely merited the journey to Brooklyn. It was certainly much easier to get to than Noma!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NB: Food images courtesy of Jared Skolnick.

TASTING NOTES

Three Otters Rosé 2015, Willamette Valley, OR, $18.00
First conceived in 2012, the Three Otters rosé began as a friendly competition between dad and son over which method to use to produce the wine. Afterward, they decided that a blend of the two methods was best and they have continued to follow this format ever since. The wine is refreshing and dry with bright strawberry aromas and flavors along with a hint of fresh herbs, culminating in long length.

Three Otters Chardonnay 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $20.00
An all stainless-steel Chard, this wine lets the fruit shine through unimpeded by oak. The wine is high in acidity, with citrus and yellow apple notes, as well as a nice richness on the palate due to extended lees contact.

Fullerton Five FACES Chardonnay 2015, Willamette Valley, OR, $33.00
This barrel-fermented wine has only a small (9%) percentage of oak and thus the oak is very integrated, resulting in an elegant and beautiful Chardonnay with good acidity and long length.

Three Otters Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $20.00
A really nice entry-level Pinot Noir, this has no new oak, with the wine spending time in tanks and neutral barrels. Sourced and blended from eight different area vineyards, this wine offers up cherry and berry aromas and flavors with a slightly earthy undercurrent. Overall, it is light-bodied, fresh and approachable.

Fullerton Five FACES Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $33.00
This is the winery’s flagship wine with fruit sourced from several key vineyards. A beautiful wine with an intense and concentrated fruit nose of dark cherry, which persists on the palate and is joined by a hint of herbaceousness. It is rich, yet elegant with long length. Among the diners at our table, this seemed to be a fan favorite given the complexity of the wine and its reasonable price point.

Fullerton Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $45.00
The organically certified Croft Vineyard generates less of a diurnal shift yielding ripe grapes, with slightly less acidity than cooler sites. The result is a plushy, sensual Pinot with good black cherry and spice notes as well as some wet leaves in the long finish.

Fullerton Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, OR, $45.00
While sourced from the same grapes as the 2014 wine, 2013 was a more challenging vintage, marked with rains during harvest. Consequently, this wine has higher acidity than usual and more herbal character than the 2014.

Fullerton Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, OR, $60.00
The Momtazi Vineyard is situated within the McMinnville AVA. With its bright acidity, ripe red cherry fruit, lush herbs and spice, and lovely long length, this was my favorite single vineyard wine of the evening.

Fullerton Fir Crest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Yamhill-Carlton, OR, $75.00
Hailing from the old vines in the Fir Crest Vineyard, this wine possesses an extremely intense, heavy and concentrated nose and palate. It displayed some volatile acidity, along with dark red fruit and firm tannins; a steak-eater’s Pinot Noir. This wine provoked an interesting discussion among Alex and Eric since it is a style that Alex doesn’t enjoy, but that Eric would like to replicate for market purposes.

Rose Revolution: Better Dead than Red

World winemakers unite! Admittedly I have Communism and Leon Trotsky on the brain thanks to having just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Lacuna. However, the notion that winemakers are globally uniting to produce rosé wines is not that far-fetched, at least not in terms of the depth and breadth of these wines now being produced.

While drinking pink wine (at least publically) was previously relegated to newbies quaffing White Zinfandel and other sweet blush wines, today’s rosés run the gamut in hue and are primarily dry in style. With a decade of growth in the U.S. market, rosé continues to be one of the U.S.’s fastest growing wine categories in retail sales; the message is clear: Rosé is here to stay. Tweet that!

A recent “Pink Party” hosted by Winebow showcased the importer’s vast portfolio of rosés, which not only ranged in style (from still to sparkling and pale salmons to deep pinks), but also in origin of production.

As the number one producer of rosé worldwide, it is not surprising that the line-up was heavy in French samples, with appellations that specialize in the pink stuff such as Provence and Tavel well represented. Italian specimens were similarly prevalent, most of which hailed from the southern portion of the boot: Sicily, Sardinia, Campania and Calabria.

But, Winebow’s rosé collection is much more widespread than the wine world’s two top producers. In addition to a reasonable showing of wines from the U.S.’ east and west coasts, more unique appearances came from Croatia, Greece, Lebanon and the Republic of Macedonia.

Adding to the diversity, the sparklers were not only comprised of the usual suspects such as Rosé Champagne and a beautiful rose Cava, but also on hand were lovely bubbles from Austria and Tasmania.

And, vying for most unusual wine of the day was a “100% pure rosé sake” produced from heirloom purple rice.

With such a plethora of rosé wines in the market, it can be quite confusing to the consumer to make sense of it all. But, the easiest way to understand rosé is to think about something with which most people are familiar – tie-dyeing. Tweet this!

Such childhood arts-and-crafts projects provide a simple, but effective tool, for learning about rosé production. Armed with white t-shirts, rubber bands and RIT dye, we saw that leaving the t-shirt in the dye bath for just a few minutes resulted in a pale hue, while soaking it for the full hour delivered the deepest color. Moreover, the instructions advised that higher temperatures and agitation further added to the color saturation.

Apply these same principles to winemaking, substituting grape skins for RIT dye and grape juice/must for t-shirts (no rubber bands required) and, by George, you’ve got it. Now you are ready to join the revolution!

Looking for some rosés to sip this summer (yes, I promise it will be summer one of these days)? Here are some of my favorites from the Pink Party tasting:

SPARKLING WINES
Jansz Sparkling Rose NV, Tasmania, Australia
A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with just a hint of color. Citrus, mineral and peach notes.

Juvé y Camps Rosé Brut Pinot Noir NV, Cava, Spain
100% Pinot Noir and medium-deep pink in color. Floral and fruit on the nose with red fruit and herbs on the palate.

Lanson Brut Rosé Champagne NV, Champagne, France
A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Rich and intense with typical yeasty character along with citrus and a hint of red fruit.

STILL WINES
Adelsheim Rosé 2013, Willamette Valley (OR), USA, $25.00
100% Pinot Noir. Herbs with some depth and slight grip on the palate. Fresh strawberries and melon.

Chateau Mercouri Lampadias Rosé 2013, Ilia, Greece
A 50-50 blend of Avgoustiatis and Agiorgitiko. Simply lovely with good fruit and acidity.

Les Vignobles Gueissard Côtes de Provence Rosé “Les Papilles” 2013, Provence, France
Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rolle. Berries and cherries with body and good length.

Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto 2013, Veneto, Italy
Corvina, Rondinella and Merlot. Very fruity with strawberry, raspberry and dried herb aromas and flavors.

Grand Cru Grapevine: Bubbles Born in the USA: American Sparklers (October 2010)

We have had a busy, but productive, fall season thus far. Our wine salon, From Mystery to Mastery, conducted as part of the East End’s first HARVEST Wine Auction & Celebration was met with great success as was Tracy’s Sex, Wine & Chocolate event with certified sexuality educator, Amy Levine, held at the beautiful Coco de Mer erotica and lingerie store.

Tracy will be teaching at the International Wine Center later this month and at NYU for three classes in November. Her session on Italian Sparkling wines, to be presented at the American Wine Society’s (AWS) annual conference is sold out with 90 registrants and only a few seats remain for her session on South African Wines.

In honor of the AWS’ conference location in Cincinnati, OH – what we’ve dubbed, “the other Cin city” and birthplace of America’s first sparkling wine – we bring you the history of Nicholas Longworth this month.

Drink wisely and well,

Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE
CEO: Chief Education Officer 

       and 

Jared Michael Skolnick
COO: Cork Opening Officer 

Bubbles Born in the USA: America Sparkles

America has long had a love affair with sparkling wine, yet, while many Americans would be quick to identify Dom Perignon as an iconic figure of the Champagne region, few would know that they owe a debt of sparkling gratitude to Nicholas Longworth who created the first American sparkling wine – a Sparkling Catawba, in 1842.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1783, this “crazy Jerseyman” stood somewhere between 5′-1″ and 5′-3″ and arrived in Cincinnati in 1804 (one year after Ohio had attained statehood), at the age of 21. After studying law for six months (there were apparently a lot fewer laws back then), he established a law practice.
 

Concurrent with his legal work, Longworth made shrewd investments in land, beginning in 1820. These real estate investments permitted Longworth to indulge in a new passion for horticulture and viticulture, pursuing the latter as a hobby as he began to plant vines along the Ohio River. 

His first attempts were with vitis vinifera, which, having been planted prior to the discovery of phylloxera, not surprisingly died shortly thereafter. Longworth then tried his hand at the American species, vitis labrusca. Specifically, he became interested in the Catawba grape (native to North Carolina), which was hearty enough to withstand the harsh winters of Ohio, planting these vines in 1825. He produced his first wine three years later, declared himself satisfied and subsequently quit his law practice, eventually crafting a sparkling version of his beloved Catawba.

But fortunately, Nicholas wasn’t the only one who admired his slightly sweet, sparkling wines. His wine was enjoyed not only throughout the United States, but also abroad in England and France. It was further lauded by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who immortalized Longworth’s wine in his, “Ode to Catawba” published during the 1850s.

Longworth’s success eventually established him as the “wealthiest man in Ohio.” In fact, “…in 1850 his taxes rated higher than any other man in the United States except William B. Astor…” at an annual bill of $17,000 and, at his death, his wealth was estimated to be $15 million. (Harper’s Weekly)

In addition to being an accomplished wine producer, Longworth was a generous person and used his wealth to help others in his community. He provided work for those in need; built housing above his wine cellars for indigent laborers; and distributed bread to the hungry from his home every Monday morning.

Longworth’s efforts also helped to cement Ohio as a key winegrowing area in the United States. By 1860, Longworth had 3,000 acres of vines and was producing 570,000 gallons of wine, annually bottling 150,000 bottles. During this period, Ohio led the nation in the production of wine, supplying one-third of the nation’s wine and out-producing California by two to one. However, this boom was short-lived as Ohio wine production declined in both the wake of viticultural disease and a loss of labor as Ohioans left to fight in the Civil War.

Yet Ohio was not alone in its pursuit of bubbles. In 1855, Benjamin Davis Wilson, who was to become the first mayor of Los Angeles, was the first to produce a sparkling wine in California. And, across the country, a “champagne” industry was started in Hammondsport in New York’s Finger Lakes region in 1860. Crafting sparklers from Delaware, Iona, Elvira and Catawba grapes, the Pleasant Valley and Taylor Wine Companies set about to establish “American champagne [as] the leading wine of the region.” (Reichl, 14) 

While most of this early success with sparkling wine was brought to an end in the 1920s as America pursued Prohibition, by 1933, “[t]he few surviving Eastern wineries, principally sparkling-wine producers of New York State [namely Great Western and Gold Seal], soon found their bearings again.” (Wagner, 61)

And, only a few decades later, a renaissance would take place, with Jack and Jamie Davies re-establishing a winery at the old Schramsburg estate in Napa Valley, CA. With a focus on quality, not quantity, the Davies’ produced a Blanc de Blancs, which they released in 1967, becoming “America’s first commercially produced Chardonnay-based brut sparkling wine.” (Sawyer) Schramsburg’s reputation was assured when, in 1972, their sparkling wine was poured at the “Toast to Peace” dinner with President Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai in Bejing, China. Their wines have been poured in the White House ever since.

Today, sparkling wine is produced in all fifty states, and, while many of these producers are local in scope, leading American sparklers are found in California, Oregon, New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Massachusetts, and are often national and even international in their reach. Here, many serious winemakers are crafting world-class wines utilizing the Traditional Method of production, with ultra-premium producers focused on estate-grown grapes and the production of vintage-dated wines.


Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization, Nicholas Longworth Obituary, published 3/7/1863.

Reichel, Ruth ed., History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet. Random House: New York, 2006 [Frank Schoonmaker, Return to the Native, p. 14]

Sawyer, Christopher. “The Best of Both Worlds.” The tasting panel, December 2009.

Wagner, Philip M.  Grapes Into Wine, Knopf Press, 1976

  
  

Producer Profiles

Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is “the most visited winery in the United States,” seeing one million visitors annually. The 125,000 acre estate is the site of George Vanderbilt (grandson of Cornelius)’s dream home designed by noted architect Richard Morris Hunt. The Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay from fruit sourced throughout North Carolina and is aged 24-30 months before disgorging.

Chateau Frank
In 1962, Dr. Konstantin Frank established Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, New York and earned a reputation for his Rieslings and “champagnes.” The 1999 Prestige Cuvee is made with 100% estate-grown fruit, a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier and then aged for more than five years. 

Gruet Winery
The Gruet family of Champagne, France established their Albuquerque, NM winery in 1984. The 2004 Blanc de Blancs remained en tirage for a minimum of four years with the last bottles reaching anywhere up to five years.

Iron Horse Vineyards

When Iron Horse’s founding partners, Audrey and Barry Sterling, first saw the 300 acre property in 1976, it was the most westerly vineyard in Sonoma, but the Sterlings knew they wanted to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and that this was the perfect climate in which to do so. The 2005 Classic Vintage Brut is among the most traditional of their sparklers, made from 25% Chardonnay and 75% Pinot Noir and aged for three years. 

Kluge Estate
Kluge Estate was established in 1999 in Carter’s Mountain on the edge of Blue Ridge Mountains in Charlottesville, VA by Patricia Kluge whose dream was to build a wine region. The 2007 SP Rosé, made from 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir, was aged for 21-24 months and won at the Monticello Cup in 2010 and took home Silver medals at both the San Diego Wine & Spirits National Women’s Wine Competitions.
 

L. Mawby
Larry Mawby planted vines on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula in 1973, with his first harvest in 1978. His Talismon is made from estate grown fruit picked as a field blend of Vignoles, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.

Soter Vineyards
Although he is more known for his Pinot Noirs, Tony Soter chose to make a sparkler because he is a “sucker for a winegrowing challenge.” Produced from 100% estate grown fruit, the Soter Rosé is a 50-50% blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and spent at least three years on the lees.
 


Troutman Vineyards
Building on Ohio’s wine legacy, Deanna and Andy Troutman established Troutman Vineyards in 1997. Their Cuveé D, a brut style sparkler made from hybrid variety, Vidal Blanc, won a Bronze Medal at the 2009 Ohio Wine Competition in the Hybrid Sparkling Wine category.
 

Grand Cru Grapevine: Oregon, but not forgotten (August 2009)

As mentioned previously, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Oregon in May of this year, visiting downtown Portland as well as spending time in the Willamette Valley. This wine region is producing spectacular wines and, while we have left the area, the memories of its wines are certainly not forgotten. To that end, we revisit its history and provide you with a brief introduction this month.

Among other travels, Tracy has just returned from Sacramento where she attended the Society of Wine Educators’ annual conference, reconnected with many colleagues and participated in a wide variety of educational seminars. Meanwhile, Jared has completed the last of the infrastructure projects for our educational vineyard, installing several hundred feet of irrigation hose. True to Murphy’s Law, the continued downpour has precluded the need for irrigation this year.

Apropos all of the rain, we have been busy offering our services at a number of bridal showers and, additionally, have created a new theme for bachelorette parties – Aphrodite meets Bacchus & Lady Godiva. If you are planning a wedding celebration, let us help you design the perfect wine-themed event.

On a final note, we will be placing a new order for Schott-Zwiesel titanium crystal and invite you to add to your own stemware collection. You may have seen us strike these amazing glasses against our granite counter-top and held your breath as you expected them to break only to watch them remain perfectly intact. This stemware is available in a wide range of styles from classic to modern and can be purchased for as little as $8.00/stem, plus shipping and handling. We’ll soon add more details to our website, so please check back if you are interested in placing an order, or email us directly for a catalog.

Drink wisely and well,

Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE
CEO: Chief Education Officer

and

Jared Michael Skolnick
COO: Cork Opening Officer

OREGON, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Despite its youth as a wine-producing state, Oregon has become nearly synonymous with quality wine and notably its Pinot Noir. Yet, only a few decades ago, early settlers were laughed at by their peers. In 1966, David Lett was fresh out of UC Davis and determined to plant a vineyard and begin making wine. He found what he felt to be suitable land in the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, founding the Eyrie Vineyard in 1970, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

David was joined by other wine pioneers shortly thereafter, setting the stage for this nascent wine region. Seeing similarity between their terroir and that of Burgundy (heartland of Pinot Noir), they set about crafting wines that emulated these icons while respecting their own unique soils and climate. Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of their success was the investment made by a top Burgundy négociant and producer, Maison Joseph Drouhin, when it established Domaine Drouhin in Willamette in 1988. Today, Oregon ranks as the fourth largest in U.S. wine production and its wines are highly acclaimed both here and abroad.

While wine regions exist in Oregon’s other valleys – namely Umpqua and Rogue, it is the Willamette Valley that has achieved the most fame. Situated only one hour from Portland, the Willamette is divided into six sub-appellations: Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Eola Amity Hills, McMinneville, Yamhill-Carlton District and Chehalem Mountains. Beyond Pinot Noir, the Willamette is also known for its Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and sparkling wines. To a lesser extent, some producers are working with Rhone varieties – Syrah and Viognier, most of which is sourced from the warmer Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.

Unfortunately, Oregon Pinot Noir can be quite pricey, due to its limited, labor-intensive, quality-conscious production. However, among New World Pinot Noirs, they are considered to be among the best. Thus, you will be well rewarded for your investment. At the more affordable end, A to Z Wineworks, WillaKenzie and Anne Amie’s Cuvée A provide good value. If you are feeling more flush and wish to splurge a bit, seek out Elk Cove, Bergström, and Cristom.

Tasting Notes

Adelsheim, Pinot Blanc 2007, Willamette Valley, OR, $22.00
Among the early pioneers, Adelsheim was established in 1971. Its Pinot Blanc shows citrus, mineral and pear aromas. On the palate, it is dry with medium acidity, medium body and notes of citrus and minerality. 

Anne Amie, Cuvée A Amrita 2007, Willamette Valley, OR, $16.00
Named for the Buddhist equivalent of ambrosia, Amrita is a white blend of Pinot Blanc (47%), Muller-Thurgau (25%), Chardonnay (15%), and Riesling (13%). Aromas of tropical fruit and grass give way to a dry palate with citrus and herbal flavors. 1,700 cases produced. 

Jezebel, Pinot Noir 2007, Oregon, $18.00
From Daedalus Cellars, Jezebel is produced as their second label, with grapes sourced from throughout the state for wines intended to be drunk early in their life. This Pinot Noir displays aromas and flavors of barnyard, raspberry and earth. 

Bergström, de Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Chehalem Mountains, OR, $65.00
With a focus on vineyard expression, Bergstrom produces several vineyard designate Pinot Noirs. The de Lancellotti Vineyard shows floral, raspberry and stone aromas and flavors, which combine with an earthy undercurrent that persists throughout its long length. 455 cases produced.

Penner-Ash, Syrah 2006, Oregon, $32.00
Produced in the northern Rhone Valley tradition, this Syrah is co-fermented with 1.5% Viognier. The nose is a mix of plum, berries and floral. Its dry, medium+-bodied palate has a nice, ripe tannic grip with flavors of plum, spice and leather, culminating in long length.

Amity Vineyards, Late Estate Harvest Riesling 2004, Willamette Valley, OR, $15.00 (375 ml)
Owner Myron Redford began making wine in the Eola-Amity appellation in 1974. His late harvest Riesling offers peach, apricot and honey aromas on the nose, joined by developing and floral notes in the mouth. A true dessert wine, it provides significant sweetness on the palate, which is beautifully balanced with vibrant acidity.

Oregon, but not forgotten: A Visit to the Willamette Valley

We had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Oregon in May 2009, visiting downtown Portland and spending time in the Willamette Valley. While wine regions exist in Oregon’s other valleys, namely the Umpqua and Rogue, it is the Willamette Valley that has achieved the most fame. This wine region is producing spectacular wines and while we have left the area, the memories of its wines are certainly not forgotten. Despite its youth as a wine-producing state, Oregon has become nearly synonymous with quality wine. Yet, only a few decades ago, early settlers were laughed at by their peers. In 1966, David Lett was a newly minted UC Davis graduate determined to plant a vineyard and begin making wine. He found what he felt to be suitable land in the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, founding the Eyrie Vineyard in 1970, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

David was joined by other wine pioneers shortly thereafter, setting the stage for this nascent wine region. Seeing similarity between their terroir and that of Burgundy (heartland of Pinot Noir), they set about crafting wines that emulated these icons while respecting their own unique soils and climate. Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of their success was the investment made by top Burgundy négociant and producer, Maison Joseph Drouhin, when it established Domaine Drouhin in Willamette in 1988. Today, Oregon ranks as the fourth largest in U.S. wine production and its wines are highly acclaimed both here and abroad. In fact, Oregon Pinot Noirs are considered to be among the best New World Pinot Noirs.

Situated only one hour south from Portland, the Willamette Valley is home to varied volcanic soils and a cool climate. The Valley is divided into six sub-appellations: Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinneville, Yamhill-Carlton District and Chehalem Mountains. Beyond world class Pinot Noir, the Willamette is also known for its Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and sparkling wines. To a lesser extent, some producers are working with Rhone varieties – Syrah and Viognier – most of which is sourced from the warmer Rogue Valley in southern Oregon. The majority of Willamette’s wineries are open to the public for tastings and sales and readily welcome visitors.

 

Thus, we arrived in Portland, OR on a Wednesday evening, ready for a long weekend of wonderful food and wine. From the airport, downtown Portland is easily accessible via public transportation and, once there, easily navigated on foot, trolley or bus. As a relatively major city, Portland is home to a wide range of neighborhoods as well as museums, historic sites and other points of interest. Due to our limited time in town, our cultural visit was restricted to the Rose (gratis) and Japanese Gardens ($8.00/adult), both of which were beautiful. The Japanese Garden was particularly lovely for its amazing view of Mount Hood.|

East of the city, visitors can escape to the “wilderness” and enjoy white water rafting, hiking and other outdoor activities. We spent a half-day rafting down the Clackamas River (www.riverdrifters.net; $60/adult), which was full of fury with the recent snow melt, but a lot of fun. We then returned to Portland and splurged on dinner at Paley’s Place (www.paleysplace.net), a local favorite that specializes in locavore cuisine, with a wine list to match. We were impressed by the food as well as with the excellent customer service and knowledgeable waitstaff, who not only expertly advised us on our wine selection, but also on the cheese selections at dessert.  

Saturday morning found us at the local craft market (known as the Saturday Market, www.saturdaymarket.org), which is host to hundreds of vendors peddling their wares from candles and clothing to jewelry, pottery and glass art. This outing was followed by a visit to the Portland Farmers’ Market (www.portlandfarmersmarket.org), where we stocked up on local produce, fresh strawberries, smoked fish, artisan bread and a host of other homegrown food. The reason for this latter stop was that, instead of staying at a hotel or bed and breakfast, we had opted to rent a cottage in Carlton while staying in Willamette. This arrangement provided us with a good excuse to buy a few bottles of wine each day to enjoy with dinner prepared on the grill at “home”, without worrying about driving while intoxicated.

 

Carlton, we were told, is the “center of the Willamette universe.” Compared to New York City (or even Portland), it is a very small town, but there is some merit to that statement. Carlton is home to a number of wineries and tasting rooms, along with several restaurants and wine and cheese bar, The Horse Radish (www.thehorseradish.com). Aside from being a great place to stock up on Oregonian and international cheeses, The Horse Radish features live music on Friday and Saturday nights and not just local bands; on the night we were there, the musical duo was from Arizona.

 

Excited to have arrived in the valley, we walked up to the Zenas Wines’ (www.zenaswines.com) tasting room. Zenas produces three of its four wines with fruit sourced from the Del Rio Vineyards in the Rogue Valley and its Riesling with Willamette Valley fruit. The Southern Oregon wines include a Meritage (Bordeaux-style blend), Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Named for Zenas Howard, an early (1856) settler in the Rogue Valley, the winery is currently owned by his descendents.

We then headed out to Anne Amie (www.anneamie.com; $5.00 tasting fee/ $10.00 for the Reserve flight). This property was formally known as Chateau Benoit Winery, but was purchased by its new owner, Dr. Robert Pamplin, in 1999. Dr. Pamplin has been focused on elevating the quality and reputation of his winery ever since and is producing primarily Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc on its L.I.V.E. certified sustainable vineyards. The tasting room is located at the top of a hill and provides beautiful views of the vineyards and Pacific Coast Range.

 

We kicked off the following morning at Penner Ash (http://pennerash.com), which focuses on both Burgundy (Pinot Noir) & Rhone (Syrah and Viognier) varieties. Founded by winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash in 1998, along with husband Ron, Penner-Ash has evolved from an initial 125 production to 8,000 cases annually. Another hilltop tasting room, the vistas are quite incredible as one walks amidst the lush landscaping.

 

From Penner-Ash, it was off to Adelsheim (www.adelsheim.com). Among the early pioneers, Adelsheim was established in 1971 by Ginny and David Adelsheim and several of its labels feature portraits of family members and friends of the winery. The newly renovated tasting room also offers outdoor seating, where one can enjoy a bottle of wine with a picnic lunch (we picked up our lunch ahead of time in Carlton at the Filling Station).

Our next stop was Daedalus Cellars (www.daedaluscellars.com), a small, family-owned and operated winery which specializes in Pinot Noir, but also makes small amounts of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner. Additionally, Daedalus produces a second label, Jezebel, with grapes sourced from throughout the state for wines intended to be drunk early in their life. The tasting room is rather small, but is conveniently located on the main drag (99W in Dundee).

 

Exclusively devoted to Pinot Noir, White Rose Wines (www.whiterosewines.com) was planted in 1980. Its vineyard is a high-elevation sight on top of the famous Dundee Hills, permitting views of Mount Hood in the distance. Owned by Greg Sanders, the winery has developed several different wines, with four of the six wines named for Greg’s children.

 

We capped off the day at Carlton Winemakers’ Studio (www.winemakersstudio.com), which is a joint venture among several different wine producers. Launched in 2002, the studio is currently home to ten artisan vintners and serves as a great incubator for up and comers; past alumni include Penner-Ash, Soter Vineyards and Ribbon Ridge Vineyards. The facility itself is designed to maximize daylight and is produced from recycled and sustainable materials. On the day of our visit, we tasted wines from several producers including Hamacher Wines and Andrew Rich.

The second full day of tasting began at Bergström Wines (www.bergstromwines.com; $25.00 tasting fee). Founded by John and Karen Bergström, the couple’s five children and spouses now co-own the winery with their parents, with son Josh Bergström presently serving as winemaker. Known for ultra premium wines and a focus on vineyard expression, Bergstrom produces several limited production, vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs.

The next stop on our itinerary was WillaKenzie Estate (www.willakenzie.com; $15.00 tasting fee, refundable with $25.00 wine purchase), where we were greeted by co-owner, Ronnie LaCroute, who graciously provided us with a tour. As Ronnie likes to remind folks, “Dirt matters.” Therefore, it is no surprise to learn that WillaKenzie is named for a type of soil that originates from the pushed up sea floor found in the Yamhill-Carlton and Ribbon Ridge areas. Among the larger properties we visited, WillaKenzie is situated on a 420-acre, former cattle ranch and practices sustainable viticulture.

 

We ended our tastings at Amity Vineyards (www.amityvineyards.com), where we met with owner, Myron Redford, who began making wine in the Eola-Amity appellation (the southernmost Willamette AVA) in 1974. Myron has an extremely diverse portfolio at Amity, ranging from his EcoWine® range of organic and sulfite-free wines to the Reserve and single-vineyard wines.

 

SELECTED TASTING NOTES
Anne Amie, Cuvée A Amrita 2007, Willamette Valley, OR, $16.00
Named for the Buddhist equivalent of ambrosia, Amrita is a white blend of Pinot Blanc (47%), Muller-Thurgau (25%), Chardonnay (15%), and Riesling (13%). Aromas of tropical fruit and grass give way to a dry palate with citrus and herbal flavors. 1,700 cases produced.

Adelsheim, Pinot Blanc 2007, Willamette Valley, OR, $22.00
This Pinot Blanc shows citrus, mineral and pear aromas. On the palate, it is dry with medium acidity, medium body and notes of citrus and minerality.

Daedalus, Lia’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2006, Chehalem Mountain, OR, $25.00
After spending 500 days on the lees, along with 18 months in neutral oak, this wine displays aromas and flavors of yeast, citrus and toothpick.

 

White Rose Wines, White Rose Estate 2006, Dundee Hills, OR, $75.00
Produced from 30 year-old vines, cropped at only 1 ton per acre, this wine is very concentrated on both the nose and palate. Aromas of floral and earth give way to more fruity flavors of raspberry and cherry. 198 cases produced.

Bergström, de Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Chehalem Mountains, OR, $65.00
The de Lancellotti Vineyard bottling shows floral, raspberry and stone aromas and flavors, which combine with an earthy undercurrent that persists throughout its long length. 455 cases produced.

WillaKenzie Estate, Pierre-Léon Pinot Noir 2006, Willamette Valley, OR, $38.00
With a beautifully perfumed nose accompanied by a note of fresh raspberries, this wine continues to deliver on the palate with raspberry, earth, minerality and an undercurrent of wet leaves.

Penner-Ash, Syrah 2006, Oregon, $32.00
Produced in the northern Rhone Valley tradition, this Syrah is co-fermented with 1.5% Viognier. The nose is a mix of plum, berries and floral. Its dry, medium+-bodied palate has a nice, ripe tannic grip with flavors of plum, spice and leather, culminating in long length.

Amity Vineyards, Late Estate Harvest Riesling 2004, Willamette Valley, OR, $15.00 (375 ml)
This late harvest Riesling offers peach, apricot and honey aromas on the nose, joined by developing and floral notes in the mouth. A true dessert wine, it provides significant sweetness on the palate, which is beautifully balanced with vibrant acidity.