Dundee Hills 13 years later…

It has been 20 years since tBoW visited Portland and the Willamette Valley in 1993. We made two day trips into the Valley touring McMinnville and the Dundee Hills. Here is a map of the AVAs in the valley. Link here to the Willamette Valley Wineries website.
We visited about ten wineries including Domaine Drouhin, Rex Hill VIneyards, Torii Mor Winery, Brickhouse Vineyards, and Lange Winery.

Drouhin was impressive on both winery construction choices and wines. The winery is set on a hillside to enable gravity flow at each step in the winemaking process. The female winemaker is a family member who, we were told, would not be permitted to act as director of winemaking in Burgundy. The Drouhin wines were pricey.
The setting at Brickhouse was magical. Doug Tunnell, the proprietor and winemaker is an early biodynamic farmer. His vineyards were remarkably cluttered with plenty of weeds and flowers between the rows. We went to Oregon to taste and buy Pinot Noir. At Brickhouse we bought Chardonnay. Even then tBoW was losing his taste for New World Chard, but the palate does not lie. brick-patio-350p.jpgThe Brickhouse chard – his premium Cuve√© de Tonneliere – was thick and oily without the tropical scents and flavors common to California versions. In fact, it was Burgundian. [ed. “Burgundian” is the highest Pinot praise possible].
When tasting wines the setting can significantly enhance and confuse the experience. And at Brickhouse the sun lowering on the horizon surely influenced our decision making. [ed. special thanks to Jean Yates of Avalon Wine Company in Corvallis for the photo]. Our purchases were gone within 5 years and each bottle, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, was memorably good. The Torii Mor products were ripe in the New World style. And Rex Hill seemed too large a facility to make interesting wine…at least those were the conclusions in 1995.
The fact is I rarely drink Oregon Pinot Noir. Or perhaps I do not drink enough Oregon Pinot Noir!calvin01.jpgPricing is too often an issue. Another producer with attractive pricing is Evesham Wood in the southern end of the valley. Their wines seem to be more firm, even stiff like a Calvinist preacher. However, after popping the Lange Winery magnum purchased on that trip I am ready to get re-acquainted with Oregon Pinot Noir.
Lange.jpg1993 Lange Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $70 (in 1995): Purchased at the winery. The wines seemed very well made. The magnum may have been sitting on the tasting room shelf for a year. The sommelier at Josies in Santa Monica pulled a cork that had done its job. The bottom was crusted black leaving a ring 10 cm high on the perimeter. Stored in the tBoW temp controlled cellar since 1995, the tight stained cork promised the wine was at least preserved decently. The color was dark brick red. The nose showed beets at first. There was the tiniest bit of volatile acidity for about 5 minutes. With 20 minutes air the wine began to open. The fruit was perfectly balanced. The beets converted to cherries with plums. The weight was light, delicate, balanced. This was truly exquisite. wineshack.JPGThe fact this was 15 years old testified to what can happen in Oregon. The only issue is price point. The 2006 version is $22. That is a very good price. Winemakers Don and Wendy Lange also have single vineyards at $60 which would have to be very good to get tBoW to break the U20 prime directive. [ed. Dotoré recollects a Lange Reserve was top wine in a 1999 Pinot Noir tasting prompting a new Oregon hunt-a-thon]
This wine experience – busting open a 15 year old Pinot Noir that is outstanding in every way – is especially compelling given the recent belly flop by the two 1996 red Burgundies that anchored the King’s Tasting. The only caveat is whether the fruit that went into this bottling may now be going into the current single vineyards.bonserie06.jpg tBoW did contact Don Lange asking what might be expected of the 1993 vintage in mag. Lange said he had not had it in a couple years but that 1993 was an outstanding vintage. Well, congratulations to the Langes. This was rare and beautiful wine. The kicker? 12.5%
2000 Domaine de Bonserine Cote Rotie Les Moutonnes $50: Syrah wine from the Rhone. Rich and not showing any age. Juicy but no extracted. Quite fruity. Purchased at new Wine Cask in town. Matching it up to 2001 Croze Hermitage reviewed in the August 30 post. Another winner. Nice work from the buyer at the Cask. 13%
salomon undhof.jpg2001 Salomon Undhof Kremser Koegl Riesling Reserve $40: Steve Goldun of Palate Food & Wine [ed. LA’s best and most wonderful restaurant for wine lovers] poured the Austrian Riesling and stopped the show at our table. Given he had been bombing us with glasses, each something new, sometime familiar, this wine stood out like Obama at a Florida bingo tournament. It followed a Vouvray sparkler from Huguet, A Cabernet Rose from Saumur, and a recent vintage Chablis. Deep golden and afresh apricot nose with plenty of acid. It was outrageously interesting and delicious. One of those wines you know as soon as you taste it that you must try it again. Terry Theise Selection. 13%
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2007 Vinho Verde Adamado
$10: Produced by the Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima of Portugal. This is the prototypical Latino summer white wine. Limoncello, lemonade, bright, acidic. THis is delicious wine but not for the faint of heart. If you mostly know white wine as buttery Chardonnay with tropical flavors then you will be shocked when you first sip this margarita mix. I tasted and bought it at Palate in Glendale. It is widely available around town. 10%
rexhillPN06.gif2006 Rex HIll Willamette Valley Pinot Noir $20: Ain’t it great being humbled? tBoW pans Rex Hill for making too much wine to possibly produce anything decent and here it comes. Greg St Clair of K&L [ed. Greg told tBoW to stay at Da Felicin in Monforte d’Alba so ree-speck snap] said this was an honest everyday PN from Oregon, otherwise Oregon wines are not really in the personal rotation. The price is perfect and the wine is…worth another go round. Has that very nice blend of cherry fruit and soft smoke. No barnyard but plenty good Pinot muscle to take it out of the candy store. Very good. My apologies to Rex Hill and congrats on keeping the alcohol down!! 13.5%
sineann-oregon-pinot-noir-2006-150p.jpg2006 Sineann Oregon Pinot Noir $24: Cherry cola, blueberries, pretty ripe. Oregon shows Santa Rita Hills they have not cornered the market on overripe Pinot Noir. tBoW prefers a more restrained and high tone style but this does not exactly taste bad. With all the rich fruit you might consider this the poor man’s Williams Selyem. 14.6%

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