Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Zen and the Art of Winemaking, Portland's Enso Winery

From Lucha Vino

At Enso the name of the game is experimentation.  Ryan Sharp is boldly going where he has never gone before.  He wants to continually try new things and introduce people to things they have never experienced before. When Ryan talks about the wine he is making many of his descriptions begin with the phrase “This is the first time I am trying this...”

The name of his winery reveals much about Ryan’s wine making philosophy.  The Enso is a Zen concept related to expressing a moment in time.  At the completion of a meditation, a person draws a circle to represent their frame of mind at that particular moment. Ryan’s wife is an artist and circles are a significant part of her art.  When researching circles and cultures they discovered the Enso circle.  Ryan felt this was a perfect representation for his winemaking philosophy which lead to the name for his primary label.  Each wine has its own Enso to represent that wine’s moment in time from one vintage to the next.

The Enso Winery and Tasting Lounge opened on the East side of Portland about a year and a half ago. Just two days before the start of production for the 2012 vintage Ryan’s landlord approached him with an offer to expand into 1500 square feet of space adjoining the back half of his Tasting Lounge and production facility.  The timing was tight, but the space means that Ryan has more room to grow (and experiment).  He produced 600 cases of wine in 2011 and plans to triple his production to 1800 cases with the 2012 vintage.

As we walked through Ryan’s new barrel room we tasted through a number of his wines that are still in the barrel and fermenters.

We tasted a 2012 Pinot Blanc that was just done fermenting.  It showed character of grapefruit and pear with some nice tartness.  This wine is destined for the bottle in either February or March.

Next up was a 2012 rose blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Gris and 20% Pinot Blanc.  The nose on this one was super funky (I think Ryan described it as baby poop).  The palate belied the olfactory sensations with robust notes of ruby red grapefruit.

Climbing up into his rack of barrels, Ryan pulled a sample of his Mourvedre that has been aging for about 14 months now.  This wine is already showing an awesome dark and spicy profile.

Then I heard that magic phrase: This is the first time I am trying this... a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  The wine was uniquely smooth and luscious.  This will be a wine to seek out when it is released.

We tasted another first for Ryan, a Pinot Gris Orange Wine (a first for me too).  I learned that an Orange wine is produced by applying red wine making concepts to white grapes.  Instead of limiting the wine’s exposure to oxygen, Ryan is increasing the oxygen contact by oxidizing in oak barrels that are only filled to 80% capacity.

Next we moved up to the tasting lounge and tasted through Ryan’s current releases.  He makes wines under two labels: Enso and Resonate.

The Resonate label is negociant wine he makes with an eye toward unique varietals and blends.  Ryan will taste through up to 30 wines looking for a combination that will make an exceptional table wine at a stellar price.  He has done unique combinations in his blends like Grenache and Pinot Noir or Sangiovese and Barbera.  Part of the plan for the increase in production is the ability to offer the Resonate wines at local markets. I tried the Resonate Rose #2 and Red #6.  Ryan numbers each Resonate wine sequentially.  Once that particular offering is gone it is gone!  So, make sure you stock up if you taste something you like.

The grapes for Ryan’s Enso white wines all come from the Willamette Valley.  Red wine grapes all come from the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington.

The tasting lounge is comfortable and inviting.  It features a large bar and a sitting area.  Ryan supports his neighbors on Stark street by offering local food, wine from fellow Portland Urban Wineries and a couple of local beers on tap too.  You can also order a sandwich from one of the shops down the street and bring it in to enjoy with a glass of Enso or Resonate.

If you live in Portland, or are in town visiting, you definitely need to make time to drop by the Enso winery and tasting lounge.  They are open seven days a week and you are sure to experience something new.


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