Archive for the ‘Review pinot noir wine’ Category

The Santa Ynez Valley: “A little paradise for wine grapes.”

Main Street, Los Olivos

“Toto, we’re not in Napa anymore…”

I felt as disoriented as Dorothy and her little dog when I landed in the middle of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. I was supposed to be in Wine Country, but where were the sights so familiar in the Napa Valley? Where were the gigantic Tuscan tasting rooms crowded together along the roadway? Where were the high-end restaurants grudgingly serving $200 a plate lunches? Where were the traffic jams?

Instead, I saw the brick-front Lompoc Chamber of Commerce, Circa 1892. It sits across from Sissy’s Cafe, where they make a mean lentil soup.  I saw the Los Olivos General Store, and further up the street was Jedlicka’s Saddlery, where working ranch hands still buy bridles and belt buckles. I saw the pseudo-Dutch village of Solvang, which was, well, weird — but features an antique dealers showroom with one of the country’s finest collections of clocks.

And I tasted some very, VERY good wine.

The Santa Ynez Valley is south of San Francisco, just a few hours north of Los Angeles, and  close enough to Santa Barbara for a nice day trip. It’s blessed with wonderfully moderate temperatures, and if you’re a wine geek like me, you know that the valley runs east-west, splitting the coastal hills and allowing morning fog and cool afternoon breezes to blow in from the ocean. This creates the longest and coolest growing season in California, and when you add endless summer sunshine, low rainfall and well-drained soils, you’ve got a little paradise for wine grapes.

Cool-climate Santa Rita Hills

Our first taste of paradise came at Melville Winery, which nestles in the cool Santa Rita Hills appellation on the west side of the valley. This is where the Melville family and winemaker Greg Brewer craft some amazing estate wines. They’ll tell you it’s all about their vineyard practices, using techniques such as these:

  • High density planting creates really intense flavors in the fruit. Vines must compete for nutrients from the soil and yields are very, very low.
  • Leaves are pulled to expose the stems to the sun. The stems become dry and brown so they can be included in whole-cluster fermentation without adding green flavors to the wine.
  • Their Pinot Noirs see no new oak, which seemed like sacrilege: what’s red wine without oak? But the crafty folks at Melville let the dried wood from the stems act as their “oak.” It imparts that soft vanilla undertone without overpowering the fruit.

Alvin is a great host at the Melville tasting room.

I loved several of their Pinot Noirs, including the Estate Pinot which I’ve reviewed in the past (read about the Melville 2009). My first love was Melville Sandy’s Pinot Noir 2010. It’s made with fruit from a four-acre block planted on very sandy soil, and named after a woman named, you guessed it, Sandy. The nose hit me with sweet raspberry notes, and the palate offered intense dark cherry/berry fruit without weight or jamminess. Yumm…

Melville Carrie’s Pinot Noir 2010 uses fruit from a five-acre block that sits atop an exposed mesa, where the roots have to reach deep into the soil in search of nutrients. This creates the “darkest and most powerful” of their Pinots. I loved the luscious berry compote on the nose, and the rich, textured body of this Pinot. Again, there was plenty of lush fruit and layers of spice, but it was all balanced by good natural acidity.

Sister wineries Dierberg and Star Lane

A few miles further up the road, we found what looked like a big old Midwestern cattle barn plopped down in wine country. It houses sister wineries Dierberg and Star Lane. Between the two of them, they capture the diversity of the Santa Ynez Valley:

  • Dierberg makes Chard and Pinot Noir from vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, which sits further north and eight miles closer to the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Star Lane grows Syrah and Bordeaux varietals in Happy Canyon, otherwise known as the Banana Belt of Santa Barbara County. The owners were so impressed with this warm-climate region that they bought a whopping 8,000 acres — about one third the total area of the Canyon.

Dierberg’s Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay 2009 was an absolute stunner. Delicate and rich at the same time, I loved the bright pear and tropical fruit with notes of pineapple and butterscotch. The palate was lush but the finish was tangy and crisp, showing the great natural acidity that balances this wine. Thanks to aging in large oak vessels that impart just a hint of toast, and minimal secondary fermentation that maintains the natural acidity, this Chard will actually age like a White Burgundy. If you can wait that long to drink it…

Besides plenty of high ratings, Dierberg has the distinction of being served to a bevy of international dignitaries at the 2012 NATO Summit (that was the 2007 Syrah). That’s high praise, indeed.

Star Lane is like the big, bad-ass sister next to refined Dierberg. Their vineyards in Happy Canyon are unexpectedly warm for Santa Barbara County,

The beautiful Happy Canyon

with more degree days and less rain than almost all of the Napa Valley. They’re also among the highest elevation, with grapevines climbing up the lower slopes of the San Rafael Mountains. They can make big reds here, like Star Lane Estate Happy Canyon 2007. Five years after vintage date this beauty is bold, rich and soft. A blend of Bordeaux varietals plus Syrah, it opens with rich creme de cassis and vanilla, following with dark berries, mocha, and a little exotic spice. The mouthfeel is juicy and the tannins are beautifully supple. A few bottles left the winery in the back of my car, and I can’t wait to revisit them with an appropriate meal to match.

There’s more to tell but I’m out of space and out of time. Stay tuned for the final installment of our adventures in the Santa Ynez Valley. Cheers!





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Chamisal Vineyards: Kiwis Invade California!!

Well, not really. There’s just one Kiwi that I know of, but I think he’s made a big impression…

Fintan du Fresne is the New Zealand-born winemaker for Chamisal Vineyards in California’s amazingly beautiful Edna Valley. These rolling hills are situated about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but are a world apart from both. I know — I’ve been there. And I still remember the spectacular view from Jean Pierre Wolfe’s front porch, as vineyards and rolling hills framed a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Only it’s not very distant: Chamisal’s vineyards are just five miles from the Pacific, and Edna Valley is the California AVA that’s closest to the ocean.

Fintan says the ocean defines Chamisal’s wines. If you look at the videos on their very cool website, you can see the marine layer (or fog bank) that rolls in from the ocean and covers the valley’s vineyards most summer mornings. The fog cools down the vines, acting like a giant wet blanket that slows the development of the grapes. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. Cool is actually good, because the longer the grapes hang on the vine, the more complex and intense the flavors become. The result is wines that are delicate but intense — an award-winning combination.

Chamisal also holds a special distinction in this AVA: its vineyards were the first planted in the Edna Valley back in 1973. Chamisal now grows five varietals, and we tasted most of them during a recent streaming live online wine tasting. It was delightful to hear Fintan du Fresne (and his sexy Kiwi accent) talk about Chamisal Vineyards and its wines, the first of which was a stunning example of Fintan’s influence.

Chamisal Stainless Steel Chardonnay Central Coast 2011 is what happens when a New Zealand palate meets California fruit. New Zealand’s very cool climate produces wines high in acid and bursting with lime and grapefruit flavors (drinking some NZ Sauv Blanc is like sucking on a grapefruit…). It’s as far away as you can get from the traditional California style that favors (or at least, used to favor) lots of oak and butter.

When Fintan came to Chamisal, the first thing he did was create a bright, clean, snappy white wine. This is the “no” Chardonnay: no oak barrel aging, no malolactic fermentation, no sur lie aging. He uses a long, cool fermentation to deliver fresh, bright fruit flavors with lots of natural acidity.

But I found this wine surprisingly rich. The nose offered lots of floral aromas and candied fruit, and the palate led with rich tropical flavors. Exotic floral notes crept in behind, followed by a spice note that’s quite unique. Fintan calls this “Chamisal spice,” and says it’s a terroir thing that manifests in all Chamisal wines. I enjoyed this wine, and think it will make a great summer quaffer for all those who want flavor without oak. It’s worth noting, too, that this Chard is from the much-vilified 2011 growing season, which threw vintners and winemakers all sorts of nasty weather curves. Fintan said he actually liked this vintage because it created fruit that was better suited to the stainless style. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gary Farrell, Master of Balance

Wow! We were perusing the wine list at a local wine bar when we saw, “Alysian by Gary Farrell.”

What?? What’s this new name from a winemaker we’ve been following for years?

If you’re a Pinot Noir lover, and you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’ve seen Gary Farrell’s name on some of the top-rated and best-selling Pinot’s coming out of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. The winery he used to own, perched high on a wooded hillside overlooking the river, produced some absolutely classic Pinot Noir that helped define the style for this Northern California appellation.

But we knew that he sold his name-sake winery in 2004, and hadn’t been heard from since…until the non-compete clause was satisfied. So that’s why I ran into “Alysian by Gary Farrell.”gary

And I was I glad I did. I haven’t enjoyed such classic Pinot in a long time.

This wine, the 2008 Alysian Russian River Selections Pinot Noir, is part of Gary’s new project. But it’s not exactly new — over the past three decades, Gary has forged links with all the finest grape growers in the valley, and established a reputation that puts him at the top of his class. So when he wanted to go back to his roots, making small-lot, super-premium wines from  the best vineyards, he just needed to pick up the phone…

In the Russian River Selection, he uses fruit from five great Russian River vineyards, including the Richioli and Allen vineyards. And the style is as classic as the vineyards.

The nose set the tone with delicate aromas of black cherry pie filling and baked caramel. Now I know that sounds pretty rich, but you have to understand the style — you get all these rich “goodies” wrapped up in a restrained, balanced package.

The palate revealed more. My first sip gave me a burst of bright black cherry fruit, and the acid kicked in right behind it. There was no “tooty-fruity, jammy” character — the stellar balance kept all the elements working in harmony.

More flavors jumped up and waved hello as the wine sat in my glass. I got some baking spice, some vanilla, some mocha — but all controlled by that nice, laser-beam acid balance. To me, this is as good as wine gets: intensity without weight.

It’s great to drink a bottle of wine that doesn’t exhaust your palate with too much fruit and alcohol. Now don’t get me wrong — I’m as much of a hedonist as the next guy, and can enjoy a glass or two of a big fruit bomb. But only a glass or two. Gary Farrell’s Pinot could be savored all night long.

Which is what I did. At least until the bottle gave out. Find this bottle, if you can, and enjoy it for yourself. Cheers!


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Cool, Cooler, Coolest Pinot Noir

rrvLots of wine drinkers know Benziger Winery. This family-owned operation that sits on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain has been known as a leader in organic and bio-dynamic winemaking. Their Chard and big reds are the wines we see out there in the market, so I was surprised to receive a set of four Pinot Noirs.

From Sonoma Mountain? Of course not. Pinot needs a cool climate in order to thrive, like the climate in — hey, the appellations on these single-vineyard Pinots are Russian River and Sonoma Coast! That’s two of California’s best AVA’s for great Pinot Noir.

We tasted them recently, while listening (through Twitter TasteLive) to winemaker Rodrigo Soto. He took us through the tasting in a way that really showcased their unique character — their terroir.  We tasted from furthest inland, almost at the eastern edge of the Russian River AVA,  to just five miles from the Pacific coast.

Our first wine was Signaterra San Remo Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009. Not only was this my favorite of the tasting, but it had a unique quality that made this Pinot irresistible. The nose showed tart fruit aromas — rhubarb, cranberry — with a little floral note. The palate started off with red berries, but I was immediately distracted by the quality of the mouthfeel. This wine just glided over my palate. As the berry flavors turned more complex, with some smoke and “meat” coming through, the whole thing was gently seducing me.

Now I know Pinot is supposed to be “velvety,” but this one set a new standard. Winemaker Rodrigo Soto credited 25% whole-cluster fermentation with creating “a different tannic structure.” With this method, an entire bunch of grapes goes into the fermenter instead of (crushed) skins and juice. He said it affects the flavors and the finish, creating the elegant mouthfeel I enjoyed so much.

Moving further west in the Russian River, we tasted Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009. Yields are kept low in this bio-dynamic vineyard and whole cluster fermentation is used again. But the nature of this wine was very different. A cooler climate produces a more austere, earthy Pinot, and one that took longer to open. In fact, when I revisited it the second day I tasted the deep berry and smoke that I’d missed first time around.

The Sonoma Coast Pinots, grown just a few miles from the cold Pacific, were bigger, brawnier, and needed time to show their stuff. De Coelo Quintus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 leads with a nose of black cherries and licorice, and a good deal of natural acid keeps the fruit clean and bright. Rodrigo explained that he tries to maintain the distinctive nature of each vineyard’s fruit by using native yeasts in his fermentation. That means the winemaker can’t alter the flavors through the use of selective yeast strains, and it’s a practice he applies to all his wines.

De Coelo Terra Neuma Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot 2009 is leaner, more peppery and meaty. I got the chalky minerality that Soto looks for in order to “lift up the wines and give them personality.” Acid levels promise good cellarability for both these wines, and Rodrigo guess-timates that coastal Pinots with the acid and tannin structure of these two can easily go seven to nine years.

It was a rare opportunity (and a real blast) to see how vineyard locations just a few miles apart can produce such different wines. Of course, having the winemaker handy to explain his approach sure adds to the experience. Maybe you can stop on down to Benziger and get a first-hand taste yourself. Cheers!


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Amazing Santa Maria Pinot Noir: Lazarre Bien Nacido

adamThis guy is very elusive.

About a year ago I caught a glimpse of his wine in Scottsdale, AZ. There was an Adam Lazarre Central Coast Pinot Noir on the Greene House wine list, and we grabbed it as fast as we politely could and enjoyed the heck out of it.

My attempts to find Lazarre  wine in Ohio were thwarted by a distributor who had it, but didn’t really have it. And then lo and behold, I accidentally hit the jackpot: I found a bottle of the single-vineyard Lazarre Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. And the fabulous 2007 vintage, no less!

To back up a bit, I should explain that Adam Lazarre is a California winemaker who directed some big-production wineries while making some very small production Pinot Noir on the side. He favors the area from Paso Robles south to Santa Barbara, and makes very classic, very pure Pinot from some of the best vineyards in the state.

One of those vineyards is Bien Nacido. Adam says it’s on the “south facing northern hills midway down the Santa Maria Valley.” South-facing is good: that means good sun exposure and complete ripening. He used just four rows of carefully selected vines, and made a total of — three barrels! Yes, just three barrels, which certainly fits my definition of “Small production.”

What Adm does with those three barrels is… not much. He claims he favors “minimalist winemaker intervention,” which means “Just crush, ferment, and jam (it) into the barrel. The strength of the wine lies in the vineyard – as it should be.”

The wine I tasted had all sorts of strength. Remember that this bottle was the 2007 vintage, which every expert and wine-critic-wannabe has dubbed the best vintage EVER for California Pinot Noir. First we smiled at the presentation of this bottle, which is wrapped in leopard print tissue paper. Yes, leopard print… Word has it that Angie Lazarre, Adam’s wife, hand wraps each bottle. That’s gotta be a labor of love. But it also adds a classy, whimsical touch that’s so sexy we all didn’t want to open the bottle. Well… we almost didn’t want to open it…

So it poured out deep ruby red, and the aromas started gushing out of the glass. I got bright cranberry and cherry, with a bit of smoke and spice. I dragged my Pinot-loving friends over for the first taste, and the flavors gushed out too.

Actually, there was a big rush of intense bright fruit that quickly turned deep, warm and velvety. It was weirdly great — a big bang and then a soft middle and lingering, elegant finish. The only thing better was what happened as it sat in my glass. I was eating a feast of grilled tenderloin, dry-rubbed chicken and cedar-planked salmon, so I made my way through a few glasses of the Lazarre Bien Nacido. By my second glass I started to taste dusky caramel and clove with a back-note of minerality. Wow — was that good.

I know that 2007 was a hard vintage to screw up. But Lazarre gave us a wine that’s even better than you’d expect. It’s pure and well-balanced  — bold where it needs to be and elegant when it counts.

So obviously, I’m recommending this wine highly. Your problem will be finding it. If I were you, I’d be on the look-out for any Lazarre Pinot, and grab it when you find it. Cheers!



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Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir: Maybe the Best of 2009


Dianna Lee

I’ve tasted some great wines from the 2009 vintage, and I’ve even tasted some great Siduri’s from this vintage (check out my review of Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2009). But when the winemaker himself says this may be the best there is, you better go find yourself a bottle…

Well, Adam Lee didn’t say the Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 was categorically the best, but it “is one of the highlights of our 2009 Pinot Noir line-up.”

That’s saying a lot.

Let’s start with some background: Siduri Wines is the work of Adam and Dianna Lee, who came to Northern California from Texas to make Pinot Noir. Rather than own land and vineyards, they work with growers in 20 different vineyards from Santa Barbara to the Willamette Valley. Many of these are considered the country’s most prestigious Pinot Vineyards, and Adam and Dianna work to showcase the qualities and characteristics of each one.


Two Garys and three vineyards

Garys’ Vineyard has earned to right to be included in the top ranks of California Pinot sites. It sits on benchland in Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands, where cool marine breezes sweep in from Monterey Bay. As the Garys say, “the cooling fog, afternoon winds and good sun exposure lengthen the growing season, allowing the grapes to hang on the vines longer, developing complex flavors while keeping their attractive, crisp acidity. This terroir makes the Santa Lucia Highlands perfect for growing premium Pinot Noir.”

There really are two Garys? This vineyard is a partnership of two guys with the same name, buddies since high school and now proprietors of not only their namesake vineyard but two other sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands that produce kick-ass Pinot grapes: Pisoni and Rosella’s vineyards. I’ve tasted wines from all three vineyards over the years, and now it makes sense to me: their grapes all show trademark intensity, depth and balance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Win Big when you Submit Your Ideas to Promote La Crema wine!

la cremaIf you’re a member of the professional Advertising/PR/Corporate Communications community, you need to read this. There’s a new concept out there that could put you out of a job…

But if you’re not a card-carrying member of that community, you may think the following is pretty cool.

I recently got a message from the folks at La Crema (you know, that winery that’s part of the Kendall-Jackson family of properties and makes some best-selling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). La Crema wants to create a new video campaign to promote their wines, and they’re doing it with an organization called that “uses crowdsourcing to help brands concept and produce fresh, compelling video content.”

You say, “What the heck does that mean?” The way I read the Tongal website, it means that Tongal solicits submissions from…anyone…for videos to promote selected products. If they choose your submission over all the other entrants, you win $money$!

The way they explain it, “Anyone can submit their ideas and videos on Tongal for a chance to earn real cash for their creative work.”

This could signal the democratization of the advertising/PR business. And in case you’re skeptical, check out the list of clients who are using Tongal’s services. They include Allstate Insurance, Benjamin Moore Paints and Barbie.

Barbie??? Yes, that’s the anatomically impossible doll.

But anyhow… You may want to explore this project. La Crema is looking for videos to promote “The World’d Most InCremable Party.” A total of $10,000 in prize money is being offered for three distinct phases – an idea, video and exhibition phase.  You can submit an entry for any of those phases, so you don’t have to be a budding Francis Ford Coppola in order to apply.

Go to and then click the Projects tab. Scroll down until you get to La Crema and you’ll see the details.

But note that the deadline for submissions for the first phase, “Ideas,” is August 15. So don’t wait too long.

And let me know your thoughts if you participate. This could be the next new Big New Thing! Cheers.


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caleraJosh Jensen doesn’t do anything the easy way.

The first “not easy” thing happened more than 35 years ago, when he returned from Burgundy, France and set out to find limestone in California just like in the Cote d’Or. He finally found a 100-year old limestone quarry on Mt. Harlan, way up at 2,200 feet elevation in the remote Gavilan Mountains in what is now known as the Central Coast.

When I say “remote,” I don’t mean that there’s no cable TV. On Mount Harlan, there was no paved road, no electricity and no telephone service — and there still isn’t!

To create Calera Wine Company, Josh Jensen planted several Pinot Noir (and other) vineyards over the years, and built a multi-level winery into a hillside that allowed him to produce super-premium wine the old-fashioned way. The wines get the gentlest of handling, because gravity does most of the work.josh

When I met Josh Jensen at Phoenix Wines of Scottsdale, he was pouring four of his single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. They couldn’t have been more unique: they were like the four kids in a family that are as different as night and day. My favorite was the Calera Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard 2006. This vineyard is the coolest site on Jensen’s cool property, and the 2006 growing season started out cooler still. But warm temps in mid-summer allowed the grapes to ripen fully and produced an amazing intensity in the fruit.

The nose hit me with black cherries, plum and a hint of spice, and led to a palate that exploded in my mouth. I was amazed at the richness of the fruit, with more plush red berries and licorice. It showed the signature minerality that comes from the limestone soils, but the impression was still soft and velvety, right up to the nice hint of black pepper on the finish.

Did I say I was amazed? This five-year-old Pinot was still very youthful, and showed much more vibrancy than the other ’06 we tasted that day. I guess I’m just a sucker for big and rich…

But all of Calera’s wines are worth going out of your way for. If you can’t find the single-vineyard bottlings, go for the Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They’re just as well made, and great value for the money. Cheers!







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Flowers “Extreme” Pinot Noir 2009


The Flowers Vineyard and Winery website says they’re located in the “Extreme” Sonoma Coast. No kidding.

When I saw this photo on the website, I said, “Holy Cow, why are there rocky cliffs instead of rolling hillsides, and how can they grow grapes there?”

Well, the truth is they can grow as good or better grapes there than anywhere else. The Flowers vineyards are situated on several ridge tops just two miles from the Pacific coast. They’re at elevations above 1,000 feet, so instead of being buried in coastal fog for half the day, like most good Pinot Noir vineyards, these vineyards bask in bright sunshine. They’re still kept cool, though, by ocean breezes, and at night the evening fog rolls in and cools everything down for the night. The Flowers have the perfect “warm site in a cool climate,” an ideal place to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Walt and Joan Flowers discovered these amazing sites pretty casually — they answered a three-line classified ad for land in the Northern Sonoma Coast. These Pennsylvania natives were familiar with Oregon and northern California from regular trips for their nursery business back East.

Wait a minute — their name is Flowers, and they owned a nursery? I’d say they were a natural for the grape growing and winemaking  business, too.

I recently encountered Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009, and I loved it. I didn’t expect the intensity I encountered. It started with the nose: I was hit with loads of baking spice, light cherry, licorice, plum, and even baked caramel. Wow — there’s the whole kitchen sink of complexity, right there.

The palate kept right on rolling, with soft, rich fruit and intense black cherry notes. But it wasn’t heavy or jammy — bright acid lifted it up and waltzed it right through to the supple, lingering finish.

Like I said, I loved it.

I guess that’s what the ridge top vineyards have created — intensity with elegance. The 2009 growing season helped, too. Temperatures were a little cool, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and completely, and be picked with relatively low sugars and complete physiological development.

I hope you can find a bottle for yourself, although I gotta tell you it’s not always easy to find.  Flowers has gotten a boatload of awards and “Best of” ratings almost since the day they started bottling wine, so their supply goes fast.

Here’s hoping you get the chance to enjoy it as much as I did. Cheers!



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More Fun in the Nuthouse from Argyle Winery

Rollin Soles, owner and winemaker at award-winning Argyle Winery

We’re all pretty darn quick to chirp, “2006 was a bad vintage,” or “2008 was a good vintage.”

The truth is, Mother Nature sometimes gives winemakers better conditions to work with, but no individual winery has a “good vintage” unless the winemaker does a good job.

Take the 2008 vintage in Oregon. The word went out very early that it was one of the better vintages in several years, and wine drinkers got their palates set to enjoy some really good stuff from their favorite wineries.

But 2008 was not an easy growing season. Nature through all kinds of stuff at Oregon vintners, including cool spring temperatures that delayed flowering, higher-than-normal summer rainfall, and early October frost. Vineyard managers and winemakers had to make some tough decisions, including how much to thin the crop in order to produce the best quality fruit.

Here’s how Rollin Soles put it: “So, it is an important balancing act to get the crop not too low, and not too high, to ensure proper ripening before the rain starts and doesn’t stop until next July!”

Here’s my point: Rollin made some great wine that year (which I know because I just tasted one), and not everyone else did.

Rollin is the winemaker and owner of Argyle Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He’s got some perspective on good and bad vintages, because he’s been growing and making wine in Oregon since 1987. And he hasn’t just been goofing around. His winery has earned all kinds of 90+ ratings from the big-name wine reviewers; his wines have made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list more often than any other Oregon winery; and Spectator named Argyle “Oregon’s Premier Winery” in 2000.

So yeah, the guy knows how to make great wine, even in a not-so-good vintage. Of course, he’s got some good tools to work with, like the Lone Star Vineyard that produces the fruit for Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008.  The Lone Star Vineyard is in the Eola-Amity Hills appellation, but it sits at a relatively low elevation and its orientation is such that it’s drenched with sunshine from the moment “the first light of day peaks over the Cascade range” until late in the day.

What does this extra radiant heat do? It produces more intense black fruit flavors and good structure. Read the rest of this entry »

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