Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

Who We Are

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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Oregon with a French Accent: Résonance from Louis Jadot

The Resonance Vineyard has been one of the Willamette Valley's gems for some time. It is perhaps less well known than places like Shea or Temperance Hill,  owing to its small size, but it has long produced wines of intensity and focus and has overtime become synonymous with the name Peter Rosback and Sineann Wines.

The vineyard has long been organic and is certified biodynamic; it was planted in 1981 by the Chambers Family. A warm site in the cool Yamhill Carlton AVA. In addition to the Sineann Wines, there have been well received bottlings from Big Table Farm and Lemelson from fruit from Resonance Vineyard. The vineyard is on its own rootstock and includes nineteen acres of Pinot Noir including the clones Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 777 as well as a bit of Gewurztraminer (one and a half acre)

The wines from this site are always single vineyard bottling material. The Resonance Vineyard fruit reliably produces wines of intense elegance. There's a mineral emphasis, a core of layered fruit and perhaps what makes it stand out the most is the incredible, refined structure. The site is a Willamette Valley original, while perhaps not as old as a handful of plantings by the pioneers, it is certainly among the Valley's founding vineyard sites.

All of these features caught the eye and perhaps more importantly the palate of the folks at Louis Jadot, the famed Burgundy negociant. A winery that has been in operation since 1859 and in the business of vineyard acquisition since 1826. This then is high praise for the potential they see in Oregon and in the Resonance Vineyard. This is a site that has always made notable wines and so in getting their foot in the door the folks at Jadot went straight to one of the Willamette's gems. 

After forty two years heading up the wine production at Jadot, Jacques Lardière decided it was time to retire. However that retirement was short-lived and he was called into service by Jadot to head to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and head up the stateside production. These are the only wines and the only vineyard Jadot has ever made outside of France.  Lardière is producing the wines but also keeping tabs on the vineyard and learning about what makes Oregon so special. The wines are being made at the Trisateum facility initially, but they will likely continuing growing their Oregon presence and footprint.

In the first wine that the Jadot has produced you have a perfect blend of what is purely Oregon with a winemaker who has for a long time made very classic Burgundy. The wine is stunning.

2013 Résonance Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton AVA

This is a really incredible first go at Oregon Pinot Noir by the uber talented Burgundian winemaker Jacques Lardière. This Pinot Noir is ripe certainly but it's richness is not in a rounded character so much as an intensity of elegance and minerality. Aromas of violets, fresh turned earth, crushed stone and clove. The palate is intensely focused and beautifully structured. Freshness of fruit pulsates through the wine's flavor profile, ripe blackberry and hints of fresh fennel around a core of mineral driven, black fruit.  $65

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Syrah Doctrine: Tenet Wines

Washington state has long been a hotbed for Syrah. A wine that the industry will tell you they have a tough time selling. It is perhaps a blessing and a curse then that Washington seems to make the best Syrah in the New World and perhaps outside of certain special pockets in the Rhone Valley, the whole world.

It has been Syrah that while not putting Washington on the map, has raised its profile as a world class wine producer. The grape is still fairly young here with its first plantings in 1986 in the Yakima Valley, at the state's iconic Red Willow Vineyard. The collaboration between wine grower Mike Sauer and wine genius David Lake launched what has become Washington's most important wine grape.

The wines of Cayuse, Betz and L'Ecole have come to be known for their Syrah, and new labels launched in recent years like Avennia, Kevin White and Rotie Cellars have shown their brilliance with Syrah. It makes sense then that the people at Washington's founding winery, Chateau Ste Michelle would look to take Washington's signature grape to the next level with their Tenet Wines project.

In a partnership with some of the most revered names in France's Rhone Valley, Chateau Ste Michelle looked to make the purest expression of Washington Syrah, (along with other Rhone varietals) that it could. Working alongside renowned Rhone winemakers Michel Gassier and Phillipe Cambie, CSM's Bob Berthau wanted to look at making the best Syrah from Washington possible.

The collaboration, rather than starting in the winery began with Gassier in the vineyards. To begin with, cooler vineyard sites were selected. Looking at canopy, crop load, irrigation and other manipulable factors allowed the team at Tenet to end up with fruit that came in smaller clusters, with concentrated, but perhaps less opulent flavors, along with ample acidity.

In the winery, the team looked at adding whole clusters, along with stems and rachis that give the wine more nuanced elements. This was certainly a diversion from the fruit focused wines typically produced by CSM. The whole clusters, along with extended maceration and only neutral oak created some very elegant, albeit powerful wines. The wines, each unique give a glimpse at the contrasts and similarities of Washington and the Rhone Valley.

2013 Pundit Syrah
A blend of Syrah (94%), with only the faintest bits of Grenache, Mourvedre and co-fermented Viognier. This is a wine with bits of whole cluster and a mixture of French and American oak barrels. It's absolutely gorgeous. Aromas of subdued elegance with notes of violet, blackberry and smoke. The palate is fruit focused with elegance and complexity from notes of crushed stone and smoke that mingle with a classically Washington fruit core. The price point on this wine has to rank it among some of the best values in all of Washington. (2014 is the current release) $20-25

2013 Le Fervent Syrah 
As a bit of a study in contrast, in terms of location the Le Fervent comes not from Washington but rather from Gassier's home vineyards in the Costières de Nîmes. The southernmost AOC within the Rhone Valley theCostières de Nîmes have soils similar to the most famous southern Rhone AOC, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The very close proximity of the Mediterranean Sea however cools this site substantially. The wine is less opulent than its stateside counterpart, though the blend is nearly identical. More elements of minerality show up in the aromatics of fennel and turned earth. Rather than seeing any American oak this week is fermented in both steel and older French barrels. The wine offers a fresher palate, with sweet blueberry, turned earth and sage. $20-25

The flagship wine of the Tenet experiment is not Syrah but rather a really well made, higher end Grenache(40%), Syrah (35%) and Mourvedre (25%) blend. This wine is a great demonstration of the quality that CSM efforts can attain. They largely make very good wine, when they want to it is downright outstanding. This is one of those times. Power and elegance interplay with aromas of dried rose petals and violets, garrigue and white pepper. The palate is an interplay of refined structure and opulent richness. Blackberry and cherry flavors with notes of spicy pepper. This is a mouth coating wine that unveils layers of complexity and flavor, and a long, long finish.$65-70 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Home Grown Happy at Matthews Winery

from Julia Esser
We all have more than one happiest day. They range across times, places and categories – adding lighter hues to moments at work, with family, on top of a mountain, or out with friends enjoying a glass of wine. For Bryan Otis of Matthews Winery, one of his happiest days in the newly remodeled Matthews tasting room occurred on June 25th – the day that Matthews launched its first ever Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
If you were to walk in the door of Matthews on June 25th, you would have felt a slightly higher than normal buzz in the air. The new tasting room is brighter (no longer reminding visitors of the “inside of a barrel”) with seating for large or small groups and two outdoor spaces. Amidst all this, on June 25th you would have seen, stacked neatly on a back table, the last few CSA boxes, overflowing with greenery, waiting for their owners to come and claim them. These seemingly unassuming boxes represent something much greater than their simple, elegant appearance – hours of brainstorming, careful growth, constant tending and an effort to extend the vibrant Matthews community into the homes of their greatest enthusiasts.
All of the food in the CSA came from Matthews own Creekside Farm – named for the clear, spring-fed creek that runs through the winery’s property – located just feet from the main tasting room. Creekside has been producing food for over a year, providing flowers to the winery and produce to many local businesses including Sitka and Spruce and Damn the Weather. This year, Bryan Otis wanted to expand the scope of Creekside in a way that speaks to the passion for community shared by the family owners, and everyone at Matthews.
“We make the wines that we want to drink,” said Otis, who continued on to say that, if you enjoy their wines, it makes sense that you would become a part of the Matthews family – as a consumer and a figurative extension of the actual family who runs the entire venture. Creekside and its new CSA program not only expands the family of businesses with which Matthews collaborates and supports, but encourages members of the CSA to bring that family atmosphere into their own homes.
Carefully tended by local master farmer Alex Meizlish, the CSA program currently provides 14 members with fresh produce and locally sourced meats and cheeses, as well as a select bottle of Matthews wine over a span of 20 weeks. There is bread from The Commons, artisanal cheese and dairy products from Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall, as well as local eggs and honey. Each box is carefully curated to provide families or individuals with the opportunity to savor an entire dinner experience – from the preparation to the finale – all accompanied by a phenomenal bottle of Matthews wine.
I tasted my way through several of Matthews most popular wines while enjoying a baguette (The Commons), creamy Fromage Blanc and deliciously salty Herbed Rose Butter (Cherry Valley). I want to especially highlight their flagship Claret, which makes an appearance in each of the CSA boxes.
2008 Columbia Valley Claret
The 2008 Claret has a red, desert clay color and an instant spice on the nose. The palate is dark and fruity with hints of blackberry and plum. This wine has a nice balance between earth and fruity flavors and long finish. It’s a young wine, so can be enjoyed immediately or stored for a number of years without losing any structural characteristics.

The current CSA season is already underway, but if you’re interested in learning more about the farm and current CSA pricing, you can visit Creekside Farm’s page HERE. The current release of the CLaret is 2013 and it’s available for $40 here.