Surfing the web the other day, I came across this piece on Grochau Cellars from last year on NPR’s business program Marketplace.
Grochau Cellars is one of many upstart wineries in the northern Willamette Valley. John Grochau is the man behind the curtain here, a former assistant at Brick House as well as sommelier at the terrific Portland restaurant Higgins. The winery isn’t paying the bills for John, yet. You can still find him working a few nights a week at the restaurant.
But it seems like only a matter of time before that goes away, based on what I’ve tried.
I first heard about John from my neighbors who’ve known him for years, back when they were bike mechanics well versed in tune ups and safety breaks.
The first Grochau wine I tried was a very small production “negociant” wine John bought in bulk and blended for a friend’s wedding. Some went to the wedding, some went to local stores simply labelled as “Red” for about $10. This Bordeaux-blend from eastern Washington wasn’t distinguished, but was pretty nice drinking for the price. Apparently John’s coming out with a larger production follow up soon.
But the main wine for Grochau Cellars so far is the Pinot Noir. At Higgins recently we ordered a bottle of the ’04 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and I have to say this is the most exciting Oregon Pinot Noir I’ve tried in a while. Deep but translucent in color, this has terrific fragrace – perfumed red and black cherries with subtle oak spice and a distinctive mineral note, very well integrated and pretty but wound so that time should only reveal more nuance.
In the mouth this wine is elegant but rich, flavory without heaviness, just the quality I look for in red wine. It’s not so complex as it is pretty, with light tannin and fresh acidity that should hold the wine together for years. The first bottle was emptied quickly, and a second ordered without hesitation. Had I been served this blind, I might have guessed this was from Evesham Wood, perhaps my favorite Oregon producer.
The best part? I think this retails for $24 or so, and it can be found for less. It’s $35 on the Higgins list, which is still quite a deal in top flight Oregon Pinot Noir. 2004 was a small harvest, and Grochau Cellars doesn’t make much wine. But I’ve seen past vintages at major retailers outside Oregon, so it is out there if you do some digging.
More soon after I set up a visit with this exciting new discovery.