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Friday Find!

Stay Fresh Forever

Acheive Baller Status

Woodinville Wine Country's Reserve and North of 95

Exploring the Ancient Lakes AVA

A Focused Approach to Taste Washington

A Wonderful World of Washington Wine

Taste Washington 2014

Heart Attack and Vine

Cardiac Hill at Kramer Vineyards

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The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Find, April 18th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this", and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending, we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Twenty two years, that's a fairly long time to do any one thing right? And so Tuesday night I was left to contemplate that idea. I went to the Showbox in Seattle to see my favorite band. The Afghan Whigs, who I've been listening to for 22 years now. Someone, this guy Kevin, gave me a copy of their second release on Sub Pop Congregation on cassette. Remember cassettes? This was in highschool, that was a long, long time ago.  

It so it was that twenty two years later that I stood at the Showbox waiting for the band to take the stage. 


The Afghan Whigs, from Cincinnati, rose up as contemporaries to much more famous and lauded Seattle area grunge acts as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. And while they shared a label, the Whigs sound, particularly as it grew became more and more soulful. This left them out of the grunge spotlight and it's likely why many people missed out on them. Their sound has been described as a mix of 70s soul and R&B alongside rockin' punk riffs. The front man Greg Dulli's lyrics more emotive and provocative than anything that Kurt Cobain, or Eddie Vedder could conjure on their best days.


The bands last album, or so we thought came out in 1998 and Greg Dulli would go on to produce music with the equally outstanding Twilight Singers, as well as tour solo. Since I moved to Seattle I bet I've gone to see Greg Dulli perform at least ten times, whether it was with the Twilight Singers, with Mark Lanegan on their Gutter Twin project or now twice formally and once informally with John Curley as the reunited Afghan Whigs. My favorite of those performances was an acoustic solo show Dulli did at the Triple Door. I went to both nights.


So Tuesday night as The Afghan Whigs (or at least two of the original members) set to take the stage, I took in the scene in the crowd. Things are different now, many of us have children, careers, grey hair, if we've been lucky to keep it. As an older Greg Dulli and John Curley took to the stage they ripped into classic tunes and belted out tracks from the new and spectacular album, Do To The Beast. Greg still has it, The Afghan Whigs still have it, and so do we. Don't get older, get better, stay fresh forever. 



In a nod to both retaining our everlasting freshness as well as to a winemaker whose also quite The Afghan Whigs fan, today's Friday Find is from Renegade Wine Co., the 2013 Columbia Valley Róse. (Renegade is a second label for Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars.) The wine is typically a blend of Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre (full disclosure I forgot to look at the back label we drank it so fast) and it's uber fresh, loaded with juicy watermelon flavors. The wine is ridiculously approachable in terms of price coming in right around $10 mark. If you're looking to establish a house wine at your place for the summer weather, this might be the one.

If you want to learn more about this particular wine and chat with some like-minded folks, maybe even the winemaker, you should consider participating in the Virtual Tasting offered up by Sean Sullivan of The Washington Wine Report. This wine will be featured next week, details can be found here

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Achieve Baller Status in Woodinville Wine Country

Kids these days and their new fangled lingo.


What exactly is a baller? A shot caller, twenty inch blades on the Impala? Maybe. According the Urban Dictionary a "baller" is exactly: a person with swag. Or, livin' large with girls and money. I think perhaps most accurately it's One whose status in society has been earned by one's possession of "game." Probably the kind of person who would roll up into Woodinville on April 25th for two undoubtedly "baller" wine events rolled into one.


Woodinville has become a destination in Washington wine country and an incubator of sorts. Folks come to Woodinville given it's proximity to Seattle and for many of them, it might be the beginning of a love affair with Washington wine. But Woodinville is much more than just a jumping off point. Woodinivlle and it's wineries and wine makers are crafting some of the state's greatest wines. Whether it's one of the state's pioneering wine talents in Bob Betz at Betz Family Winery or if it's the new talents like Kit Singh of Lauren Ashton Cellars, some of the state's best wines are being made along the Sammamish River.

On April 25th, Washington wine fans have the opportunity to taste the best wines being made in Washington, in Woodinville. Two events hosted at the always impressive Willows Lodge showcase the creme de la creme of Woodinville. Reserve, is a tasting of 90+ wines produced by Woodinville wineries. This wine country destination has produced over 75 such wines. Wineries include Bookwalter, Kaella, Convergence Zone and Bunnell Family Cellars. Tickets to this event, beginning at 7pm are $90 and can be had here.


But perhaps that's not quite as exclusive as you'd hope for? Woodinville Wine Country has something for you. North of 95. Serious. Woodinville Wine Country isn't messing around. Eleven wineries will be pouring wines that are among some of the most high scoring, and highly sought after that have ever been made in Washington. Wines like the Baer Ursa 2008 the number 6 wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 from a couple years ago. For $160, remember these are baller wines, so baller prices are going to be the rule of the day. 

You can taste wines from Delille Cellars, Betz Family, Baer, Januik and others. For Steve Griessel owner of Betz Family winery these events allow Woodinville to really show itself. "Washington wines now stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the great wines of the world and it's exciting to see how far we have come. The Woodinville area has over 100 wineries and quality and consumer acceptance is growing in leaps and bounds. The future holds plenty of promise.” 

Whether you fancy yourself a "score-chaser" or not, the Reserve and North of 95 event represent a unique opportunity to try some of the states most sought after and well received wines. If you're a baller, chances are you'll be there. Rumor is Jay Z might make an appearance.



Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Exploring the Ancient Lakes AVA viaTaste Washington

From Marty Sparks



Taste WA is billed as the largest single region focused wine event in the world.  The sheer magnitude of the event cannot be appreciated until you experience it “in real life.” To get ready for this year’s event I followed all the pro tips: I did some research, I made a plan, I created a map and dialed in my game plan.  Then I walked onto the convention center floor and immediately forgot everything!  I wandered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before I snapped back to reality and regained my focus.

Time to execute the game plan: Focus on wines from the Ancient Lakes AVA.  Recognized in October 2012, Ancient Lakes is Washington’s newest AVA or American Viticultural Area. (Naches Heights was recognized in January of 2012 to October for the Ancient Lakes.)  The AVA is located just to the East of the Columbia river covering 162,000 acres that span Grant, Kittitas and Douglas county.  As a reference point, the Gorge Amphitheater is situated on the Western edge of the AVA.

There are roughly 1400 acres of vineyards planted primarily to white wine grape varieties including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.  You will also find some red wine varieties, but these are limited due to the cooler temperatures.  The Cave B estate vineyard is home to some of the older Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the state.

The AVA is unique in a couple ways, it's soil composition. Deposits of clay, sand, silt and Caliche were left behind when floods from the Ice Age drained into the Columbia River. The site is cooler in comparison to some of Washington's warmer growing areas, namely Red Mountain, the Wahluke Slope and even Walla Walla. This makes for a good climatic option for white wine grapes, and Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and perhaps most famously Riesling are doing very well here. It is also an area where we are seeing growers experiment with Pinot Noir though it is far warmer than the Gorge or Oregon's Willamette Valley. Given it's placement along the Columbia River Gorge, the Ancient Lakes also holds the most dramatic views of any Washington AVA. 


 The Evergreen vineyard, owned by the Milbrandt family, is one of the largest and better known vineyards in the AVA.  It is particularly popular for Riesling and might be the source for some of the state's best Riesling bottlings.  The Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling and Efeste Evergreen Riesling both feature grapes from Evergreen.  

The 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling starts out with sweet notes of pineapple and star fruit that are balanced out with some tasty, tart acidic notes of green apple that follow through with a round house acidic kick on the finish.  The 2012 Efeste Evergreen Riesling fires off with more zip on the front end with initial notes of green apple followed by some kiwi, pineapple, tart honey dew melon rind and hints of lemon zest leading to a well structured acidic finish.  Both of these Rieslings were well balanced with just the right amount of heft and a bold streak of acid that leads me to believe they will be great paired with some spicy thai food.
 
Jones of Washington owns two vineyards in the Ancient Lakes AVA.  Their Two Gun estate vineyard covers about 140 acres and is home to Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Pinot Noir grapes.  Rhett Humphrey was on hand to pour their Pinot Gris and rose’ of Syrah both made from 100% estate grown grapes.  The 2013 Pinot Gris was just bottled in February and shows notes of pear, pineapple and peaches along with complimentary tart green apple that brings a dry streak of acidity to the party.  The Rose of Syrah has a touch of Pinot Noir blended in resulting in flavors of strawberry, light cranberry, raspberry and tart huckleberries. This rose is dry and is backed by (what I am beginning to learn is) that familiar Ancient Lakes acidity.


Cave B is another well known vineyard and winery located in the Ancient Lakes AVA.  They were the only winery at Taste WA pouring red wines from the Ancient Lakes.  I spent some time talking with their winemaker, Freddy Arredondo, and he explained how you have to really focus on vineyard location to find the right spots for these grapes to ripen.  I tasted through their extensive lineup of wines including a Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2010 Merlot and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon are both designated as “old vines” and are made from vines that are 25 years old.  The Merlot was showing rich cherries, earthy light menthol spices and some subtle herbal notes of thyme, mint and sage.  The Cabernet Sauvignon had notes of dark currants and earthy funkiness with abundant tannin showing that this wine has years ahead of it.

There you have it.  With over 200 wineries on hand there was plenty to choose from at Taste WA.  It gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the new Ancient Lakes AVA by visiting with several winemakers and tasting their wines.  The acidity and tannins apparent in all the wines I tasted showcased the character for our newest AVA.  The day was also a good reality check to see that there is more going on in the Ancient Lakes than just white wines.  If you enjoy wines with a streak of acidity, I would highly recommend seeking out wines from the Ancient Lakes.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Find, April 4th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this", and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending, we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

#SteelisReal


The bicycle has come a long way and yet it remains largely the same machine it's always been. Two pedals, handlebars, a saddle, wheels and a frame. The racing machines of yesteryear were certainly far simpler than they are today. Fausto Coppi won the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the World Championship on bikes like this 1952 Bianchi Specialissima. The thing probably weighed thirty pounds. My full carbon cyclocross bike weighs like sixteen. These were tough guys, really skinny, but undeniably tough. 


Today's racing bicycles are so new fangled and fancy Fausto Coppi would just roll his eyes. Carbon fiber frames, wheels and even saddles. Hell the 2014 version of the bicycle that will be used by the Cannondale team, the frame weighed one and a half pounds. Carbon bicycles, wheels and fancy bells and whistles certainly let you go faster by cutting down on the weight, but they're not always the most comfortable ride. That's where steel comes in and why steel bicycles today are still in demand.



A time trial bike used by Fabian Cancellara
The steel frame movement has been left to small, artisan hand welded and built bicycle frames. They are works of art in many cases, as beautiful as they are functional. Steel frames offer comfort and durability and have come a long way in terms of their weight. Steel is sexy, it's historic and it's classic. 


Today's Friday Find reminds us that steel is real when it comes to white wines as well. The Inox Chardonnay from Chehalem Wines is to steal a line from their label "Inoxydable is French for stainless steel and Chehalem for fresh, lush Chardonnay." The 2012 Inox is a great presentation of a riper rounder vintage in the warm year of 2012. The stainless steel treatment invigorates this crisp wine and gives it great angularity and freshness. Aromatics of peach skin, apple blossom, lavender and wet stone. The palate is rounded and ripe but again steel comes in with crisp freshness and preserves the wines great acidity. Flavors of apricot and lemon creme and a zippy acidity make this $19 Chardonnay a great wine for shellfish or if you're just feeling selfish. #SteelisReal. 


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Tidbits from Taste Washington 2014

Well, just like that another Taste Washington is in the books, the 2014 version has come and gone this past weekend. The event, now in it's seventeenth year, if my googling is accurate continues to impress with the sheer volume of wines and wineries available for your perusal, somewhere north of 230.
Me, Rick Bakas & Madeline Puckette, really disappointed in my hair in this photo
Unless one plans to spend the evening in the ER trying to sample 230 plus wines is a very,very bad idea and so I typically go into Taste Washington with a specific strategy. It is the largest regional tasting event in America. If you don't have a plan you'll find yourself staring at cupcakes, or oysters and then the next thing you know, it's 5 o'clock and you still haven't moved beyond the first three tables. Once the general public time rolls around it gets mighty crowded in there, particularly if you're near the As. If you wanted to avoid the crowds hanging out in the wineries that began with the letter S through Z and you could almost lay down on the floor there was so much room.

I more or less failed at writing my strategy down when I left the house, which is nearly the same as not having a strategy. As I stood outside talking with Taryn, a friend and fellow wine blogger, which is exactly how I started last year's Taste Washington I was able to recall my strategy more or less. A few wineries I definitely wanted to hit that I hadn't had were Lauren Ashton and Proper and Array, the latter I never made it to, likely because they begin with A and it was very crowded over there. Also, I wanted to spend the first 15-30 minutes with the oysters and the white wines along the back wall. After that try to track down wine blogger and Twitter personality Rick Bakas and maybe arm wrestle him.


Everything more or less went to plan, except the whole Array thing but I've already explained that. Rick is a really nice guy and we talked shop about how to manage caring for infants and still more or less resemble a functioning human being. We never did arm wrestle. I also met the elusive Madeline Puckette of the now world famous blog Wine Folly. She's quite quirky and I think would also make a force to be reckoned with when it comes to arm wrestling.

As to the wine?  I did try a lot of new wines and some were really exciting, favorites included the Lauren Ashton Cellars . All of them. The rosé had a dash of effervescence and the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend was done in a oaky style, however the bright acid really lifted the wine and offered excellent balance. Of the red wines they were all quite good but a 2011 Cabernet that was poured from maybe "under the table" was stellar. This is a relatively new Woodinivlle winery and I got to speak with the winemaker, Kit. The labels are also fantastic, they are scenes from his wife's native Estonia. 

Other new wines that are definitely of note; the Gruner Veltliner from WT Vintners, out of the Columbia Gorge. This is certainly not a common wine but of the Gruners that I've had from Washington and Oregon, this was as good as any. Fruit forward but with good minerality and great acidity. I was really taken by the wines of Bainbridge Island Vineyards. I always make it a point to taste through some of the wines from the Puget Sound AVA because they tend to be higher acid whites or Pinot Noir and after tasting a lot of the bigger red wines that Washington is so well known for, they can offer a great contrast, not to mention help revive your palate a bit. Betsey Wittick is the owner and winemaker and she's doing a nice job with grapes that are grown right there on the island.


Another rosé to be on the lookout for was the Rosé of Carmenere by Bartholomew Winery. Really outstanding, bone dry, lots of juicy citrus and great acid and only $15. The Gilbert Cellars Rosé was once again very well made, they're also changing it up with the labels over there. I also really dug Syrahs from Proper and II Vintners, particularly the Stoney Vine vineyard designate.

My wine of the night (day) though was the Cinsault or Cinsaut, you know, tomato or tomahto from Dusted Valley. This wine was fantastic. Medium bodied and bright, only neutral oak so the fruit really came through, but from the Rocks so it had darker minerality and that "funky" character that this particular part of the Walla Walla Valley has come to be known for. The wine finishes with really great acid to give it an elegance and balance. Nearly like a Pinot Noir. A great wine, very well made but also it's unique in Washington and that made it really stand out for me. The bad news? Only 72 cases were made. Hustle!

I picked up a latte from Fonte, whoa they make great coffee and made my way home via public transit. Careful not to bump into the crowd who clearly did not understand the spit bucket concept. On the bus I met a couple, they were older, who had been coming to Taste Washington every year...from Oklahoma. They were really excited about the Cadaretta wines, and also shared that they had cases of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines from the 1970s at home. They'd fallen in love with Washington wine decades ago and continue to come to Seattle each year to see what's new. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Celebrating the Generations at L'Ecole 41

From Marty Sparks

L’Ecole 41 held their annual release party Monday March 17th at the Space Needle, St. Paddy's Day. But also a great day to celebrate one of the newest releases from this Walla Walla Valley pioneer.  Nine new releases were available to test drive along with the inaugural release of the Ferguson Estate red wine which was the highlight of the event.  The sun even made an appearance to add to the festivities.
photo from L'Ecole 41
The Ferguson Vineyard is the newest estate vineyard in the L’Ecole 41 family.  It is named to honor Jean and Baker Ferguson, the founders of the L’Ecole 41 winery.  The vineyard is located near the Seven Hills estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  This vineyard is situated at an elevation of 1,300 feet with soils sitting on top of ancient lava flows and fractured basalt and is certified sustainable and salmon safe.  The vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah on roughly 18 acres.


Marty Clubb, the L’Ecole 41 Managing Winemaker and co-owner, shared some of his thoughts on the new Ferguson estate blend and the 2011 vintage.  Marty explained the original 2004 Ferguson Reserve was a Bordeaux style blend to honor his wife’s parents Jean and Baker Ferguson.  The original wine was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot sourced from the Klipsun, Bacchus, Dionysus Weinbau and Stone Tree Vineyards.  The 2011 Ferguson is 100% estate grown fruit from the Ferguson vineyard.  The blend is Cabernet Sauvignon dominant with a healthy dose of Merlot and some Cabernet Franc blended in for structure and balance.


The 2011 Ferguson shows notes of dark cherry, cocoa, sawdust and earthy spices on the nose.  The palate features dried cherries and abundant tannins.  The tannin characteristic was consistent with most of the 2011 reds just released by L’Ecole 41.  Marty noted this in his description of the vintage.  The structure, the tannins are certainly a good indicator that these wines have a long life ahead of them. 

From the L'Ecole 41 website about the Ferguson Vineyard: This 42 acre prime piece of ground was strategically selected with an appreciation for the property’s natural strengths. At an elevation of 1,300 to 1,450 feet, the cold air drainage around the site is excellent. Above the ice-age flood silts, the soil is a thin mantle of wind-blown loess overlying fractured basalt. At the highest elevation, the soil depth is only 2 to 3 feet, such that the vine roots penetrate deep into the basalt, providing a complex array of rich minerals. This rock formation is partially exposed, revealing a quarry of fractured basalt which we refer to as The Wall. Mixed layers of multiple lava flows are woven together in a puzzle-like pattern, intersected with deep veins of calcium carbonate leaching deep into the basalt."


Be sure to stop by the L’Ecole 41 table at Taste WA for a sample of the estate Ferguson.  You are sure to be greeted by friendly people and enjoy some fine Washington state wines from one of the pioneering Walla Walla Valley wine families.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heart Attack & Vine: Kramer Vineyards' Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir

At Kramer Vineyards in Gaston, Oregon, young second-generation wine maker Kim Kramer is just beginning to get her bearings on the family's small estate. Her first vintage flying solo as the winemaker was 2010. At only twenty acres, it's not that Kim is in danger of getting lost, but the diversity of the family's site can certainly make it challenging as she tries to get a handle on what's happening in the vineyard. "We have a hilly site, with vines of different ages, clones, root stock, etc. This results in a surprising level of variability in terms of ripeness and varietal expression. It’s kind of amazing to me the differences that you can taste from block to block in the field, but it makes sense."

photo courtesy of Kramer Vineyards
One particular parcel of the family's vineyard is Cardiac Hill, a steep site, originally planted to Gewurztraminer back in the 1980s. "Cardiac Hill has earned that name for multiple reasons. While the hillside is indeed quite steep, it has challenged us in other ways that only contributes to the name." The vines never really took, the fruit set was never quite right and so they were ripped out and eventually replaced with Pinot Noir vines in 1995. The site, however, continued to give the Kramers heartburn (Ha, get it?).  

"It continued to under-perform for years, due to a combination of factors--poor fruit set, vine stress, and that the south end of the block is on a tree line, making it vulnerable to pest damage. The deer especially loved the new shoot growth in the spring, and it wasn't until we finished our deer fence in time for the 2005 vintage that we finally had a large enough yield to justify a single bottling from there. So yes, Cardiac Hill is named for the steepness of the hillside, but it’s also a nod to the stress experienced by the vines, and by us."




The site developed, and its unique character has lent itself to a single vineyard bottling at Kramer Vineyards (about 100 cases per vintage). A vertical tasting of any single vineyard wine hopefully shows both a site's signature and vintage variation, which means the winemaker isn't overdoing anything. A formulaic wine means that too much manipulation has likely drowned out both the vineyard, and the vintage, and what's the point of that?
A vertical (plus one) of the Cardiac Hill wines shows a range of vintage variation. The wines in the vertical included the very cool 2007 vintage on through 11, skipping 2008.  Overall, these were cooler vintages, but the warm 2009 was also in the mix. There were some constants as well, including minerality over fruit and an overall elegance to the wines in terms of their structure and texture. The site's signature is attributed to two factors by the folks at Kramer Vineyards: the soil of Cardiac Hill, which is dense and high in clay, and the fact that the block sits on a tree line, both of which create substantial stress for the vines. "Even without the soil maps, we figured out pretty quickly that this soil was very, very different from what was in the rest of the vineyard. One story that I hear over and over again is how difficult it was to pound the posts into Cardiac Hill—how it took forever, because the soil was so compact." 

2007 Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir
The 2007 is lightly hued and began the tasting fairly muted aromatically. It is displayed very little in the way of fruit, instead exhibiting almost exclusively minerality. The wine was really gaining steam several hours after opening and on day two it had opened up aromatically, showing more bramble berries and spice. Kim was working harvest at St. Innocent in 2007 and so her first hand experience with the fruit then was somewhat limited. At Kramer they picked after the rains, "Those wines were shut down from release up until the last couple of years. They’re really only just beginning to open up, and that has been a beautiful thing to witness."

2009 Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir

The ripest of the wines in the vertical, with a fruit forward character to the wine while it retained an elegance and minerality. Full aromatics, with dusty blackberry and cloves, on the palate a candied cherry note and much fuller and round in mouth-feel than the other wines in the flight. The lone warm vintage from the vertical, the wine was showy without being over the top in terms of ripeness.  Kim is happy with the wine but wonders if with a few different choices it may have turned out quite differently. 

"It was a model vintage, in that everything happened more or less on time, with good fruit set, and plenty of heat. Yet, I wonder what the wines would have been like if we would have harvested earlier. The fruit came in warm, so fermentation kicked off after just a couple of days. I’m trying to look at that as part of the vintage, but now I’d probably try to extend the cold soak. I also should have experimented with whole cluster fermentation, given the abundant crop. The wines, while quite approachable, lack the acidity and structure that is typical of our Pinots, yet entirely appropriate for the vintage. The silver lining here is that if we have another similar vintage, I know exactly what I’d like to do." 

2010 Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir

My favorite of the bunch the 2010 is a very pretty bottle of Pinot Noir. Consistent with the vintage's reputation, the wine is approachable and elegant. Perhaps in contrast to the wonderful 07s, which really grew into their elegance, the 10s were that way almost from the jump. In the Cardiac bottling there's great aromatics; lots of dried violets, complex spicy aromatics and pretty notes of cola. The palate offers up round blue fruits and is really well balanced, the acidity is so pretty. For Kim 2010 was an important stage in her development as a winemaker. 

"In 2010, I worked harvest in Burgundy, for AF Gros/Parent. This was the most significant wine-making learning experience of my life. I learned both the how and the why of Pinot Noir production from a 13th generation producer. Furthermore, the harvest conditions in Burgundy that year were remarkably similar to ours here—cool, damp, and late. I came home, rested for a day or two, and we started picking. There was a great deal of trepidation that harvest, but I felt pretty confident given all I’d just learned, and was very clear on what we needed to do. 2010 is one of my favorite vintages for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in the last decade. When I think about what Oregon Pinot Noir is, and I’m not sure I can articulate it clearly, but the balance, structure, acidity, and the unique Oregon-ness of the varietal expression, is all there."

2011 Kramer Vineyards Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir 

A story about potential, the 2011 is still a little tightly wound, and its acid is serious, real serious. Intense bright fruits, cranberry and red currant and a soaring acidity, I found the 11 to even be a bit astringent.  I have little doubt though that it will likely become a pretty wine. For Kim it was a vintage that, while challenging, she felt equipped to deal with given how much she'd learned in 2010. "Our harvest was over a month late for the Pinot Noir, with very low sugars and high acids. We let the fruit hang as long as possible, but when the frosts started in early November, we were forced to pick. Then, we had the opposite problem from what we experienced in 2009, in that the cold soaks were long because it was so cold outside. I think this contributed to the beautiful color and nice primary fruit in the wines, and helped to keep fermentation temperatures low, limiting extraction of harsh tannin. I share your opinion that the ‘11s need time."
Kim hoping to establish herself as "Queen of the (Cardiac) Hill"
As the vintages go by and Kim develops her voice as a winemaker, the individual blocks of her family's vineyard may provide a measuring stick for her to mark her progress.  "I used to question the logic of a winery of our size producing four different Pinot Noirs, but after working a harvest in Burgundy in 2010, and seeing how small some of those appellations are, I was more determined than ever to continue the work my parents had started. Each block is harvested and made separately. This allows us to learn the nuances of each site from year to year from a production standpoint, and in the cellar. The fact that this is entirely site-driven, and not by our work in the cellar, is what makes it interesting and exciting for us." If these first few years are any indication, Kim is developing into one of the Willamette Valley's young talents to watch out for.