Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obscure Grape Variety Sighting in Oregon

Signs of intelligent (wine) life in Oregon…

You gotta love those Oregonians. They’re enthusiastic, good-natured, hard working, dynamic and down-to-earth folks with a bent toward individuality. And when it comes to the world of wine, they express all those attributes---especially the individuality!

Sandwiched between the power house producers of California and Washington, Oregon is much more home to small estates and ‘wildcatter’ growers and winemakers who are out to grow and produce good wines rather than volume units.

And that attitude is nowhere more evident these days than in Southern Oregon. Outside of the ocean of Pinot Gris/Grigio (Oregon’s answer to the otherwhere ubiquitous Chardonnay, but enough already), there’s no telling what grape variety you’re going to stumble over down there.

Case in point: I was taking a short break from browsing the tables at the Southern Oregon “World of Wine” event held at Del Rio Vineyards in the Rogue Valley recently, when a wine neophyte acquaintance came running up and telling me about this “yummy, yummy” wine he’d just had, and boy I had to try it and he’d never heard of it before and it was something called GeraldoRivera or TerribleDago or something like that, and YOU HAVE TO TASTE IT!!!

So I lumbered to my feet, took glass in hand and launched back into the sweatbox tent to find said table. It was Crater Lake Cellars and the “GeraldoRivera or TerribleDago or something like that” turned out to be…Teroldego!

Teroldego? In Southern Oregon? Really? Yes. Really. The folks liked the variety, found some, and put a vineyard in. Seemed the sensible thing to do. And it turns out Teroldego does just fine in the warm, dry climate of the Rogue Valley, if planted in sparse soil and kept at low yields. And while it isn’t the best Teroldego I’ve ever had, it’s pretty tasty stuff! Plenty of deep, black fruit, with some nutty almond aromas, a slightly smoky quality, decent acids and low tannins, it’s a great food wine, and not too shabby for sitting around sipping either.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Crater Lake Cellars is also doing a Recioto! Uh huh, you heard me right, an Oregon Recioto. Only it turns out their Recioto is made from Merlot. I didn’t try that one. Maybe, uh, maybe another time. But the more I think about it…

The point is, when you travel through Southern Oregon, be alert; keep your eyes open for new experiences; and don’t limit your expectations to the standards. You just might find a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Winery To Watch: Abacela

One of the most dynamic wineries in the country right now is in the Umpqua in Western Oregon. If you don’t know about it, you should. It’s called Abacela.

Some wineries are very, very good at creating buzz. Some wineries are very good at creating intriguing, exciting and well made wines. Abacela is that exceedingly rare combination that is very good at both. In this case, the buzz is right, and for all the right reasons. Abacela is an exciting place these days, they have a great story to tell, and they have great wines to back it up.

This past weekend I attended the “World of Wine” at the Del Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon. Rather grandiose name, ‘World of Wine’, I thought, when only about three counties were represented, but hey, local pride and all, and there are some exciting things going on in Southern Oregon these days, specifically in the Rogue Valley, the Applegate Valley, and the Umpqua, and I figured it might be a worthwhile evening. It was, for a variety of reasons, and Abacela was one of the standouts.

The folks behind the table were proud to bursting to talk about the brand new gold medal for their Albarino---a well deserved award, by the way---but they also had a rather impressive Rosado made from Garnacha, Tempranillo and Mourvedre, as well as a decent Grenache that signaled better things to come. They had one of their stunningly good Tempranillo reds, the wine that first got them major recognition on the world scene, and it was an impressive wine.

Folks, this is a winery to watch. There’s a great attitude going on here and, although they haven’t quite reached where they want to be on a couple of their offerings, they are striving mightily to get there. And when they do get it just right---as in the Albarino and Tempranillo---they are remarkably good. And from my point of view, it’s so refreshing to see a winery that’s not churning out Just-Another-Chardonnay and Just-Another-Cabernet. They are carving out a niche for themselves, and they’re doing it by focusing on interesting varieties that are particularly suited to their microclimate. And it looks as if they’re having one hell of a fun time doing it.