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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hey, Ho, Let's Go!... to the PDX Urban Wineries


From our main man of the mat, guest blogger Lucha Vino:

The Ramones are one of the greatest bands in history rising out of New York City. They came into being at a time when long hair, long solos and elaborate song writing were the norm for rock-n-roll. They challenged the status quo and took the world by storm blitzing listeners with two minutes of fury that often started with Dee-Dee Ramone shouting out “1,2,3,4…”


The Ramones were at their best when they were on the road. And that is exactly where I was last weekend…

On the road investigating the Portland Urban Winery scene. If what I witnessed was any indication, these wineries are about to stomp all over the status quo à la the Ramones in the Seventies.

I was lucky enough to be in town at the same time as Helioterra’s party to celebrate their inaugural Wine Club release. It turns out that I was in for an afternoon exploring some dynamite wines being made right in the heart of Portland. I got to experience the elegant wines from Helioterra, and was also treated to two suave single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Vincent Wine Company.



My prequel to all of this was a visit to Grochau Cellars where I tasted two more single vineyard Pinot Noirs exhibiting some serious style and panache.

The Helioterra party was hosted at The Slate in North West Portland. The space is a Scion dealership by day. By night (and weekend) it is a place for hip new ventures to display their wares. The Ramones would have felt right at home here. It is easy to imagine Joey, Johny, Marky and Dee Dee over-loading your senses with monster waves of rock-n-roll delivered in such furious fashion there is barely time to breathe.

                                             It's so street at The Slate that even the spray cans were graffiti'd on.. 

Anne Hubatch built her career in the wine industry much like the Ramones did, from the ground up. While the Ramones started their career by playing show case gigs at their rehearsal studio in Queens, Anne started her career working in tasting rooms. She progressed from there working with many of the most respected wine makers in Oregon including David Hamacher, Dave Paige, Joe Dobbes and Alfreddo Apolloni before finally striking out on her own to start Helioterra Wines with her first vintage in 2009. We're not sure Anne has even been to Queens.

The Ramones dropped a bomb on rock-n-roll by stripping the music down to bare bones and recapturing the essence of rock. They proved that minimalism does not equal a lightweight result. Anne is doing the same thing with her wines. Stripping away the excess and letting the true character shine through.

Anne’s 2010 wines were on display to celebrate the inauguration of her Helioterra wine club.

Helioterra Wines

2010 Vintner Select Pinot Noir
Anne selects her favorite barrels from each vineyard she works with and selects a blend that will produce a small lot of 50 cases each year. The 2010 shows sweet red berries, light spices and a bit of lemon on the nose with a palate that is similar all resolving into a nice lightly spiced tart finish.

2010 Willamete Valley Pinot Noir
Nice medium red berries that remind me of a mix of strawberry and loganberry with some smoky woodsy underbrush notes and a nice sweet tart finish.

Anne requests that her fruit be harvested a bit earlier than normal in pursuit of her goal to deliver a stripped down version of these wines made from Washington state fruit. This restraint shows through in her Mourvedre and Syrah.

2010 Mourvedre
100% Mourvedre from the Birch Creek vineyard in Walla Walla. The nose shows dark red fruit, pepper and Asian spices. The palate also features the rich dark red fruit character along with nice clove and cinnamon spices that linger on to an awesome spicy finish.

2010 Syrah
Syrah from Coyote Canyon vineyards co-fermented with up to 5% Viognier . This Syrah is subtle yet bold at the same time. It features creamy lush red fruit, light pepper and nice spicy tannins that stick around for a solid finish.

Vincent Wines

Right alongside Anne was Vincent Fritzsche from Vincent Wines. Vincent got his start in the garage and found his way right back to the (Slate) garage again.

He has been making wine for about 10 years and began his personal wine making journey in his garage and hosting neighborhood tastings. Vincent put himself out for scrutiny, listened to the feedback and integrated it into his style. He appears to be poised to take the Portland wine scene by storm.

His 2011 barrel sample from Zenith vineyards lends credence to the prediction that Vincent Wines is on the rise. This Pinot Noir features rich raspberry intermingled with tart floral notes on the nose along with some smoky bramble notes. The palate has similar character along with some nice light notes of all spice.


Last but not least, Grouchau Cellars was my first stop on the PDX Urban Wine road trip. I missed John because he was out riding his bike.

I tasted two single vineyard Pinot Noirs that were both very nice. Grochau is definitely turning out the largest number of wines of the three wineries. He makes a variety of Pinot Noirs and blends. Each one reflects the unique character of their region just like the Ramones never lost the grit of New York City.

2009 Bjornson Pinot Noir
Nice earthy nutty and pine forest spicy nose with a similar palate of earthen spice strawberry & raspberry with a nicely tart light spicy finish.

2009 Zenith Pinot Noir
Lighter red fruits subtle forest floor and some menthol on the nose and finish.

There is nothing wimpy or lightweight about any of these wines. All three of these wine makers are letting the grapes and vineyard characteristics do the talking. You won't find any 5 minute guitar solos or over oaked fruit bombs here. Just solid straight ahead wines that challenge the establishment to get back to basics and kick out the jams.

As I reflect back on these wines, and my road trip, I can hear Dee Dee shouting out “One, two, three, four!
Hey ho let's go!!!”

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