July 12, 2005

Tasting More New Releases from Oregon

Another tasting at Liner and Elsen, the best wine shop in Portland hands down. Four local producers with the winemakers pouring the wines, no charge. Oregon still has something other wine areas don’t, intimacy. The wines today were mixed, only one really nice white but some delicious, if flashy, pinot noir. But talking with the winemakers, one thing is clear – these wines are made with heart and passion.

Thibaud Mandet from Willakenzie first poured the 2004 Pinot Blanc, a lean, lemony smelling wine but a weird possibly lactic flavor. The 2004 Pinot Gris was better, but still showed little dimension amid the typical alcoholic heat of the grape. The 2002 Pinot Noir Pierre Léon smelled like French oak barrels and tasted a little too much like them too. The 2002 Pinot Noir Aliette was less smoky with black cherry flavors and caramelly oak sweetness. The 2002 Pinot Noir Emery is the biggest aromatically, with a silky texture and a long toasty finish that pleases. Mandet described the vineyard differences for each wine, with the Emery being a blend of barrels. I like these wines despite their style, they don’t necessarily suggest aging well but who knows?

Mark Vlossak was pouring from St. Innocent, talking passionately about the nuance in his wines. The 2003 Pinot Gris Shea Vineyard showed some barrel notes with a yeasty almost beery flavor, very strange to this taster. The 2003 Chardonnay Anden Vineyard showed too much French oak on the nose, though Vlossak suggested a connection to Chassagne Montrachet. There was some mint on the nose, I thought. Overall it seemed a bit raw, but perhaps worthy of aging. The 2003 Pinot Noir Temperance Hill smelled pretty with black cherry flavors and wood spice mixed in, simple but tasty. Vlossak suggested barbecue, which sounded very good to me. And the 2003 Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, this was damn good Shea, which usually gives overly soft, flaccid wines. This smelled broadly but with nice floral elements, and tasted similar with a firm but gentle texture and good length. This is nice Oregon Pinot Noir.

Jay Somers from J. Christopher poured the 2004 Chardonnay "Cuvée Lunatique" that is labeled "no oak/no malo." It was a pretty, clean wine with fat, clean apple chardonnay flavors, perfectly fine but just that. The 2004 Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard was another story, captivating with a lively grassy melony sauvignon aroma and a clean, crisp flavor and lime finish. Terrifically tangy wine. The 2003 Pinot Noir Charlie’s Vineyard smells simple with black cherry notes but tastes nice with big but winey flavors and a nicely chalky texture of young wine. The 2003 Rosso Applegate Valley is a mutt and tastes sweetly fruity in a happy way, but is ultimately tiring to drink.

Finally, the winemaker at Brooks, whose name I forget and who has taken over for the late Jimi Brooks. The 2004 Riesling was nondescript, somewhat neutral wine with little riesling character. The 2003 Pinot Noir Janus was translucent in color but showed lots of barrel in the aroma and flavor, lots of caramelly notes. The 2003 Pinot Noir Rastaban is a hyper barrel selection, afreak show sort of wine, but it’s really interesting for the style. Big wild berry aroma, impressive stuff with large scaled flavors, chalky and gentle tannins but some alcohol on the palate. Not an elegant wine for sure, but delicious. Of course I missed the final wine, the NV Riesling Late Harvest Tethys, but I heard it was sweet and petroly, which sounded nice.


keith said...

They didn't happen to be tasting the J. Christopher Pinot Gris by chance? I had it the other night, along with about 7 other local PG's. This one was hands down the best, most notably for it's huge and long finish.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Good to hear about the gris, but no, Jay wasn't pouring it this day. I've never had his gris before. I've liked a few from Oregon, but many seem overly alcoholic to me. The alcoholic seems to dominate the otherwise nice minerally, spicy fruit aromas and flavors.

keith said...

The hotness has been my experience as well.

Brooklynguy said...

I really like the 03 St Innocent Shea too. To me it's very different from 02 and 04 - and not just because of the intense heat. There is more underbrush and gaminess, which is not unusual for St Inn I think. I love St Inn in general, but I am worried about my half case of 02 Seven Springs - I sincerely hope its a dumb phase now.

Wish I know about that wine store on 22nd a month ago. I was in portland on business and I went instead to Great Wine Buys on Broadway and had a case shipped back to NY. The prices on several wines are worse according to the website. Brickhouse Dijonnais is like 6 bucks cheaper, for example. I've never been to NW Portland though. Next time.