Monday, May 07, 2012

Oregon Wine, the Oregon Way... Seufert Winery

Not far off the Willamette Valley's main drag, more commonly known as State Route 99 West, you'll find the small town of Dayton, Oregon.  You'll never get lost in Dayton, Oregon.  That is to say, you may get lost and end up in Dayton, but if you're trying to get to Dayton and you make it there, you can't really get lost once you're there. It's like four blocks. The whole thing.

One of those four blocks (this may be a slight exaggeration) is home to a small production winery owned and operated, with some help, by Jim Seufert.

Seufert Winery got its start when Jim decided to walk away from a hot shot consulting gig and return to his home state where he could take his interest in wine to the next level.  Beginning in 2005, Jim took his first crack at crafting Pinot Noir as an apprentice at Coleman Vineyards. From that moment things started happening quickly and Jim found himself working with growers to further explore site variation in the Pinot Noirs he was drinking and now making.  Jim's belief (and one I agree with) is that Pinot Noir is an excellent canvas for the expression of place, or terroir.  Part of what makes Oregon Pinot special is that so much of Oregon comes through in it, and by that he means the places, and ultimately the people who are dedicated to the fruit they're growing.

Jim focuses on producing single vineyard expressions in his Pinot Noir.  In the 2009 releases Seufert Winery produced seven single vineyard Pinots, and not the usual suspects either. Some names you'll recognize, like Johan & Zenith Vineyards, but many are not household names. Jim's focused on working with sites that "make a statement" in the bottle and with growers who are doing everything they can to produce excellent fruit. What Jim has done, at least in the three Pinots we tried, is keep the alcohol levels down nice and low in this hot vintage and let the fruit show itself.

The Johan bottling is winning them tons of publicity and it's a very elegant bottle of Pinot Noir, but I was equally impressed with a vineyard I'd never heard of: the Vine Idyl Pinot.  Vine Idyl is a vineyard that Jim began working with in 2007 and it's owned and managed by Chuck Maggard, a gentleman who's nearing 80.  Chuck's site is at 750 feet and that elevation, coupled with his selection of Pommard clone, results in what the folks at Seufert describe as unusually small berries.  The color and flavor concentration produce wines with a real intensity and depth of flavor.

The 2009 Vine Idyl brings on aromas of concentrated bramble berries, signature Oregon in style along with earthen, clove and cinnamon aromatics. Where the wine particularly stands out is in the mouthfeel and balance; it's beautifully done. Elegance and finesse are written all over this wine as it delivers fresh fruit on the palate, with just a touch of that cinnamon making an appearance again.  There is a silken quality to the texture of this Pinot, if this makes sense; it just feels beautiful $30.

The 2009 Horse Leap vineyard is a horse of a different color in contrast to the Vine Idyl and the Johan, it's darker hued for one.  This is indeed a site specific Pinot with dark fruit and loads of earthy funk to the aromatics.  Oregon terroir is all over the nose of this wine.  A darker brooding mare in comparison to the other 2009s but this wine is still very pretty.  Ripe blackberries, dust and barrel spice round out the palate of this Pinot Noir from the far north end of the Willamette Valley. $30

The 2009 Johan is the darling Pinot of this year's release and it's garnering them some serious attention.  Travel and Leisure magazine named it one of 5 Willamette Valley wines you gotta go get. As elegant as the Vine Idyl, this wine is loaded with fresh bramble berries, cranberry and dried violet aromatics.  We see some of that amazing structure and mouthfeel that we found in the Vine Idyl as well.  A medley of bright red raspberries and blueberries and the wine finishes with a touch of eucalyptus. $30

The 2006 Reserve Pinot really shows Jim's range as a winemaker and Pinot handler. This reserve wine is a broad shouldered Pinot Noir. The oak is certainly a factor with aromatics, with ripe Italian plums, spices such as mace, cloves, and cedar alongside a palate of figs, the ripest round fruit, licorice and raisins.

These wines, as well as the 2007 Cuvee, show a real ability for Jim to approach each Pinot very differently. I was curious to know if, with all this variety, there is a style of wine that Seufert is aiming for. Jim said that, "house style or palate has been something we've talked about these last few weeks," but that he hasn't necessarily defined it himself. He has been getting feedback from colleagues within the Willamette Valley that a style is being noted; that the Seufert wines are being described as "pretty, floral" and there's notice being taken about that elegance that came through in some of the 2009s we tried.

For fans of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and or nice guys, the Seufert story is one worth checking out for yourself.  You never know, just maybe you'll find yourself in Dayton listening to Spandau Ballet before too long.


Wonderful writeup! Here is link to an additional website with great info. about Dayton:

John Collins

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