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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Dundee Hills (4)

Tuesday
Aug142012

Travelogue: Brick and MJ's Oregon Tour, Part Two, Tasting Marathons

Left: The Maresh family from an Arteberry poster circa the late 1970s. Note a baby Jim Maresh! Right: Jim Maresh, all grown up.

By: Bryan Brick | K&L Domestic Wine Buyer

When last I left you we had just gotten pounded a bit by Mother Nature and had already been extremely happy with what we were seeing from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages. The great news is that the rest of this day did nothing to persuade us away from that happiness.  From our wet but enjoyable walk and tasting at Westrey we headed to one of my favorite new wineries in the Valley: Arterberry Maresh.

I had been to Arterberry Maresh once before and sort of had my mind blown by the dichotomy of intensity and subtlety that these wines possess. These are wines to wrap your head around (not to mention the fact that a man as young as winemaker/owner Jim Maresh can be already making wines at this level). His secret, by his own admission, is that he works with some of the best old vine vineyards in the Dundee Hills, first and foremost his family’s Maresh Vineyard.  One of the oldest sites in all of the Willamette Valley, the family originally planted it to Pinot Noir in 1970; this fruit is legendary and not only produces fantastic Pinot Noir but possibly the best Chardonnay in the Valley. Case in point: the barrels of the 2011 Chard we tasted with Jim. Everything was sort of mind-boggling, and you could see how the individual parts were going to make a whole that would be something incredibly special. The levels of density, texture, acidity and complexity in these puzzle pieces were rivaled by few on our trip in either red or white wine. 

We left the barrel room and went upstairs to taste through the current and upcoming vintages of the Pinots. I hadn’t tasted the 2009 Maresh Vineyard Pinot ($49.99) in awhile, and it instantly reminded me of why I was so head-over-heels in love with this wine when it was released.  The delicate but forward nose of wild iris, rosewater, lavender and white cherry is, for me, worth the price tag alone. But wait, there’s more! A silky soft texture glides weightlessly over the palate with flavors of bitter cherry, anise seed, cola, licorice and warm red soil, with a long chain of lovely tannic weight arriving on the finish. This wine is pure class from a vintage that is all about power and extraction. Then we launched into the 2010 vintage wines, which play right into Jim’s style. Vibrant, sassy and plucky, these wines were all outstanding in their own ways but my two favorites were from new vineyards in Jim’s lineup: Gehrts and Weber.  The 2010 Gehrts is a wine that is purely of the soil and the 2010 Weber is sexy, powerful and will possibly be the longest lived of the bunch.

Compost tea at Winderlea.We had to scurry off too quickly from Arterberry Maresh (an ongoing occurrence this trip) to head down NE Worden Hill Road for our next appointment and lunch: Winderlea Vineyards.  Before we set down to a beautiful meal that included a fantastic salad, and I don’t use those two words in a sentence often, with rabbit and fresh cherries, we took a quick look at the vineyards and learned about some of the biodynamic farming practices Winderlea has used since 2008. Believe what you will about some of the mysticism behind biodynamics, the fact is that farming this way has much less negative impact its subjects [the vines] and on everything around them.  While tasting through the winery’s lineup, the 2010 Dundee Hills Chardonnay really struck me as a delicious wine. It surely didn’t hurt that it paired beautifully with that aforementioned salad.  Fermented in 85% oak but only aged in 15-20% new wood, this wine had impeccable energy and framed the zest that the 2010 whites show so well. Butterscotch and caramel notes hide underneath a pear-driven nose as flavors of clementine, chalk and fern fronds unfurl easily on the palate. Both the company and the wines couldn’t have made for a better lunch.

As our fearless leader Tom Elliot began to crack the whip again, we all ran out of the sleek, modern-yet-beautiful tasting room at Winderlea with a mouthful of insanely delicious cookies made by a local caterer and headed down the road to DePonte Cellars.  DePonte wines have long been somewhat a mystery to me personally. I’ve always loved there brisk, racy and varietally correct Melon de Bourgogne, but their Pinots have been a little more elusive. Sometimes I find these wines delicious, with deep set, dark, bass-toned fruit with huge dollops of earth, sometimes I find them to just be a bit muddled and in need of further bottle aging. The wines we tasted that afternoon were in both camps; there was the ripe and ready 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, which was really one of my favorite early releases from the vintage. The 2010, which was already floral and effuse, was in need of time to rectify its spiky acidity and long earthen streak, which are not yet fully integrated into the wine.

By this point we’d probably tasted around 40-50 wines from five different wineries, there were still three more to go and it wasn’t yet 4 p.m. I hit the wall, temporarily, and I think I dozed off for 5-10 minutes in the back of the Hyundai Sonata that we were driving speedily through the valley as we tried to make up time from appointment to appointment. It was shocking how fast that sedan could go on the gravelly backcountry roads of Yamhill County when pushed!

When pulled up to Shea Wine Cellars and Vineyard I let out a stretch and a yawn and got right back down to business. We met Dick Shea, his lovely wife Deirdre and their new winemaker Blair Trathen, who seemed like a thoughtfully talented New Zealander (which there seems to be many of in the Willamette Valley).  Shea may be one of the most famed vineyards in all of Oregon, certainly by the critics’ standards, and it is easy to see why. The level of detail here is impeccable; Shea’s 140 acres in the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA make for heftier, ripe, masculine Pinot, and the fruit is sought after by a who’s who of Oregon wine. It was an intriguing exercise to taste through the barrels of Pinot Noir from 2011 and even more interesting to taste through six of the single vineyard block bottlings from 2010. Easily my favorite of the bunch was the 2010 “Block 7,” which is made solely from one clone of Pinot Noir, the Wädenswil clone. This it made perfect sense to me. I’ve always liked Shea when it is more restrained, throttled back, if you will. The cool 2010 vintage and the feminine, aromatic charm of the Wädenswil clone did just that, leading to a wine with a much more red fruited nose, sexy spice components and a floral pitch that I thought may not be everyone’s favorite, certainly not the critics, but a note that I really enjoyed.

Next we were off to a tasting, dinner and concert at Penner-Ash. But alas, it didn’t really work out that way. The folks at Penner-Ash recently started holding events at their winery, which is a state of the art “green” facility perched high on a knoll with a panoramic view of the Chehalem Valley and the Dundee Hills. Most have gone off without a hitch, but on this night things seemed to be a bit chaotic. Both the caterer and the musician were late, really late. People were filtering in for the show and food, and there was nothing ready to go. Lynn Penner-Ash was giving us a tour and walking us through her wines while all of this was happening, and she seemed to have it all together, whereas I would have been pulling what’s left of my hair out! As people were milling about, we got down to business tasting Lynn’s bold, fruit- driven, modern-styled wines. Sadly, both MJ’s and my favorite wine was one that we’ll barely see, the 2010 Rubeo, which is a very unusual blend of 30% Syrah and 70% Pinot Noir. Sure people are sneaking Syrah into Pinot more and more these days, but few do it with the precision and grace than is found here. These two varieties mesh perfectly to become more than the sum of their parts, creating a versatile, gulpable, yet classy red. Kudos to Lynn and the rest of the staff for keeping it together on what I’m sure was a stressful evening.

At this point we had a decision to make: cruise back to the house, freshen up and come back to the festivities to relax for the evening or try and squeeze in one more winery. What do you think we did? Of course we tried to fit one more in. We headed to the  fairly large facility that houses the NW Company, a large custom crush facility that also owns a historic vineyard, Hyland. We toured the vast facility and were interested in the potential of the project, in fact we found out that we already carry some of the brands that they are responsible for, such as Grapesmith & Crusher. But what really got us excited was the possibility of doing our own custom Pinot Noir for one of our house labels through them. We’ll keep you posted!

Tired and hungry, we were all being a bit indecisive about dinner, but one of us must have spoken up because we ended up at one of the best old-guard restaurants in the Valley, Red Hills Provincial Dining, which resides in a beautifully restored craftsman house right on Highway 99 in Dundee. The food here is rustic, charming and simple while losing nothing in the way of flavor. Every bite I had that night restored some of my will after a long, but enjoyable, day. Then of course I hit the nearest corner store for a six-pack of beer and nursed a couple until I passed out from sheer exhaustion.

Part 3 coming soon with visits to Ponzi, Trisaetum, Tendril and others!

-Bryan

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Bryan Brick

K&L Wine Merchants

Redwood City

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Tuesday
Feb222011

Behind the Wine: Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem

There's a rustic old house on Chehalem's Corral Creek Vineyard, just north of 99W in Newberg, Oregon, tucked behind the crush pad and perched on the edge of Riesling and Pinot Gris vines, where I stayed on my visit to the Pacific Northwest last fall. It's the house where owner and winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry has lived for the last 13 years, though now it's also home to harvest interns from as far away as New Zealand through crush, and it's full of its owner's warmth and hospitality, a wide collection of wine glasses and a big, long wood dining table perfect for big meals and tasting parties.

I was a fan of Chehalem's wines (pronounced shu-hay-lem) long before I visited the winery, always impressed with the sheer verve and complexity from the range, from their entry-level Pinot Noir on up through the single vineyard wines. But it wasn't until I met Harry, a quick-to-smile North Carolina native who still speaks with a gentle southern twang, that I realized the wines were not just Oregonian in style, but very Harry, too--thoughtful and generous, but not in your face.

Watch our video interview with Harry Peterson-Nedry, then read on to learn more about the man, the winery and which wines we currently have in stock.

A special thank you to my friend Karen Petersen, who helped me film this and a number of other videos while I was in Oregon.

Harry is one of the linchpins of Oregon wine, planting the 55-acre Ridgecrest Vineyard back in 1980, the first vineyard developed in the newly-designated Ribbon Ridge AVA. Partnering with Bill and Cathy Stoller in 1990, he started Chehalem and began expanding his vineyard holdings not long after, adding Corral Creek and Bill and Cathy's 175-acre Stoller Vineyards in the Dundee Hills to the portfolio. The different soils and microclimates at each vineyard create Pinot Noirs with distinctive characterisitics--from the big, briary, black-fruited style of the Willakenzie soils found at Ridgecrest to the softer, rounder red-fruited wines from the Jory and Nekia soils at Stoller to the brighter, red-fruited, more tannic wines from the Laurelwood soils at Corral Creek. 

But Pinot Noir isn't Chehalem's only game. In fact, Harry has represented Oregon in the International Pinot Gris Symposium in Germany, is one of the founders of the Oregon Chardonnay Alliance (ORCA) and is a passionate advocate for Oregon Riesling. He says he gets bored easily, which is why you'll also find Pinot Blanc, Grüner Veltliner and Gamay Noir wines from Chehalem properties, to keep it interesting. (The winery's 2007 "Cerise" a Burgundian passetoutgrains blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir,which is sold out here, was easy-drinking and fun, filled with tangy cranberry and sweet strawberry aromas and flavors.) As a consumer, one of the best things about Chehalem's wines is that they are affordable AND good, allowing you to try a wide variety from the winery without breaking the bank.

SHOP

K&L currently has the following Chehalem wines in stock:

2008 Chehalem "3 Vineyards" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (375ml $14.99; 750ml $24.99) From the region's defining vintage so far, this has lovely aromas of ripe red and black fruit, forest floor, bacon and violet, and a polished, fresh palate with plenty of secondary notes underneath, if you can hold onto it long enough to let it evolve.

2009 Chehalem "3 Vineyards" Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($16.99) No innocuous, flavorless white wine, this. Chehalem's Pinot Gris has honeysuckle, mango and passion fruit character galore, built on a bed of slate-y minerality. Juicy, bold and broad.

2009 Chehalem "Reserve" Willamette Valley Dry Riesling ($19.99) The great unsung varietal of the Pacific Northwest, this dry Riesling has lovely lemon marmalade qualities with surprising hints of Ranier cherry to complement the stone fruit and spice. Great acidity and weight. As one of my favorite varietals when aged, I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

2008 Chehalem "Inox" Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($15.99) A figgy, flinty, crisp Chardonnay that easily demonstrates the varietal's potential in the Northwest, now that earlier-ripening Dijon clones have made their way there. I'd easily drink this in place of Chablis.

2007 Chehalem "Ian's Reserve" Stoller Vineyards Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($29.99) A more unctuous, pear and apple-flavored style of Chardonnay, spiked with baking spice and creamy at the core, the Ian's still has the acid backbone that so many wines in this style lack. 

2009 Chehalem "Wind Ridge Vineyard" Ribbon Ridge Grüner Veltliner ($18.99) Staving off boredom for Harry is awfully tasty for the rest of us. This is the second vintage of Grüner from Chehalem and it's spicy, dry, minerally and fun. I love all the white pepper and ginger notes, which complement quince and muskmelon character like a pillbox hat complements a Chanel suit.

LEARN

Read our Q&A with Harry Peterson-Nedry from last March.

Visit the winery's website.

Visit the winery's tasting room in downtown Newberg, Oregon. 

Leah Greenstein

Thursday
Dec302010

Winemaker Interview: Amy Wesselman of Westrey Wine Company

Amy Wesselman among the vines at Oracle Vineyard.

Name: Amy Wesselman

Winery: Westrey Wine Company

Number of years in business: 18

How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?

We focus on crafting elegant Pinot Noir wines, fruit-driven Burgundian-style Chardonnay and crisp, refreshing Pinot Gris. The wines are designed to be balanced and age-worthy, always complementing and enlivening the food with which they are served.

What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?

Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac, Jean-Pierre de Smet of Domaine de l’Arlot, David Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards and Terry Casteel of Bethel Heights Vineyards.

How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?

We farm 22 acres on our own property at Oracle Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Nonetheless, it is the Abbey Ridge Pinot Noir, grown by Bill and Julia Wayne next door to us that wows me year after year. They planted their vineyard in 1977, and there’s just no way to replace the complexity and depth of old vine material. Only seven acres at Oracle were planted in 1977, and we are very lucky to have those in our quiver, but most of our vineyard has been planted since we acquired the property in 2000.

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?

I have always enjoyed wines that allow the fruit to show through first and foremost. Especially now that I farm myself, it is always compelling to try and capture the essence of what you have worked so hard to grow into the form [of] a bottle. One thing I will always remember and continue to apply in my winemaking is a piece of very good advice from Jacques Seysses during the year we interned in Burgundy: if Pinot Noir is not balanced when you bottle it, it will never be balanced. He was all about building structure and balance into Pinot Noir and letting the natural fruit flavor hang on that strong and balanced frame.

What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?

There’s nothing like a “lambsicle” (as my kids call rack of lamb) to go with Pinot Noir.

What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?

I’m pretty much a stick in the mud when it comes to the Burgundian varieties and techniques. I don’t foresee us planting any Tempranillo unless my seven-year-old twins have something up their sleeves.

Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?

For sure. It’s frighteningly common to see winemakers chasing after scores, both here and in Europe. We’re not about making big, extracted, alcoholic Pinots, though that style is what stands out in a line up at a blind tasting. That’s why we generally don’t send our wines off to the critics for scoring.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

Other Oregon wines are fun to enjoy, but I’m personally a big Rhône hound and I love Spanish wines.

Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?

We do have lots of wine in our “cellar”—that’s using the term loosely…it’s really just a big pile in the corner of our warehouse. There’s lots of Burgundy, Rhône, Oregon, Champagne, Spanish, Riesling and old Eyrie wines.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry ?

Well, the recession has been hard on everyone, but we’ve always tried to keep our pricing fair, and I think that has helped us. The 2010 vintage was very small, but quality is very high. I think that will help people catch up on selling through vintages.

For more on Westrey Wine Company, check out our recent video interview with Amy on YouTube.