As the holidays are quickly approaching there are ample Northwest wines that are natural go-tos for the occasions that are on the horizon. None of them perhaps more suited than sparkling wine.
Oregon's Argyle Winery got its start back in 1987 in Dundee, Oregon. The winery took shape in what was once an old hazelnut drying facility and set up shop in the heart of Dundee, right along route 99. The "nuthouse" along with the idea of repurposing older buildings would become a major part of the brand's identity. And it is that, along with their sparkling wines that have probably continued to set them apart.
While making outstanding wine is an artform of sorts, Argyle has also decided to throw their support behind the students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Partnering with the school to create a limited edition set of labels crafted by students who were selected by a jury.
From Argyle: "The three participating students were jury-selected from a large pool of applicants to receive an immersion in Argyle’s winemaking process. Each student produced a work that reflects a creatively researched understanding of Argyle Winery and the surrounding Willamette Valley wine-growing community.
'Talking to the people who worked at the winery, I could feel the sense of celebration, innovation and experimentation,' said Subin Yang, one of the three label artists. 'Hearing stories about the science and the experimentation that went into building Argyle’s vineyards and creating its sparkling wine helped me focus my work on the spirit of renewal.'
Sparkling wine like the Pinot Noir that this part of Oregon is so well known for takes a focus on how nature will set you up for the end result you're looking for. Winemaker Nate Klosterman who learned so much from Oregon's sparkling pioneer Rollin Soles has his approach dialed in. "We’re still looking for the same intersection of ripe fruit flavors and natural high acidity that we look for in cooler vintages, however the window to capture this intersection is much smaller, which leads to a very tight picking window. Growing fruit at higher elevation allows us enough of a window to get everything picked in short order in a warm vintage."
Sparkling wine is most famous from the cool region of Champagne, and as many are aware Oregon's Willamette Valley has seen a string of warmer years. How does that shake out for a sparkling wine? "With warmer vintages come riper, more dense base wines. Correct pressing technique is critical to maintain vibrancy and elegance in these base wines. Pressing cold fruit at low pressures for a longer periods of time will allow for much lower phenolic and color pick up, which will improve elegance. In warmer years, we will conduct lower percentages of malolactic fermentation in the base wines than we would in a cool late year to capture more freshness rather than richness. Before disgorgement, the dosage trials will be looking to enhance acidity and freshness more so than richness. This is accomplished by using dosage “vehicle” wines from older sparkling base wines that we keep in barrel rather than still wine chardonnay."
The 2013 Vintage Brut is from a warm even growing season that turned to a bit tumultuous as it wrapped up. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, this wine is honeyed across the aromatics and palate. With plenty of cut apple and a hint of chamomile. If you're interested in grabbing the limited edition pack in time for the holidays you better hustle. It's here.