November 22, 2006

Visits to Evesham Wood and Bethel Heights

Last Saturday, we ventured down the interstate to visit Evesham Wood in the southern Eola Hills just outside of Salem.

Instead of working all of Thanksgiving weekend, Russ and Mary Raney hold their fall open house one week earlier. When we arrived, there was a nice crowd in the dim but cramped cellar.
How nice to return to where I worked last year, the whole operation noticeably smaller than Belle Pente, the cellar below the family home just as you’d expect in Europe, just as I remembered it.

I was hoping to taste a barrel sample or two from 2005, but Russ only poured bottled wine. Most were from 2004, and all were red now that the whites from these short years are mostly sold.

We started with the 2005 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, which was more together than a couple months ago right after bottling. Terrific wine for $15.

Then the 2004 Pinot Noir, all medium red at most with generally soft textures and ripe flavors. First the Le Puits Sec estate bottling, the most oak marked in a spicy, toasty way. Cherries, strawberries, winey but broad and fleshy.

Then the Cuvee J, an equal blend of estate and Seven Springs fruit. This wine showed a balance of the softer estate fruit and the deeper, more structured Seven Spings fruit. A hint of mint and loam with nice length, very good wine.

Finally the Seven Springs, back on form after what I thought was an overly alcoholic 2003. This was the most compelling wine here, deeper and fully in every way, approachable now as are all these wines but more structured to age. Still, in this ripe vintage, none of these wines is shy and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that alcohols aren’t much lower than ’03. But these wines didn’t show it today.

But wait, one more bottle, a....2005 Willamette Valley Tempranillo. Yes, Evesham Wood has gone round the bend and made a tempranillo. Russ loves Spanish reds and found tempranillo in a vineyard that provides the base of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. So he got a small amount to play with. Half the wine was apparently bottled for a local restaurant, and half on sale at the winery. How’s the wine? Dark in color and needing oxygen to get rid of some bottle stink. Underneath it smells like blackberries and earth but tastes tannic and tight. These grapes weren’t super ripe, but they made a nice wine. I had thought Russ would age it longer before bottling, but perhaps there wasn’t quite the depth for that.

Having enjoyed ouselves, we set out for another winery without quite the crowd. To Bethel Heights, a bit north in the Eola Hills with a nice tasting room, no tasting fee, and no crowd. Did I mention the tables where you can spread out and stay a while? This was a nice stop.

First the 2005 Pinot Gris, a mix of fruit from around Oregon in a clean, screw-capped bottle. This was quite nice, fresh and lively with a light sweetness that didn’t get tiresome. We bought one of these. Then the more barrel-marked 2003 Chardonnay Estate, which seemed clumsy at first but changed to show very nicely, not unlike a good Macon white without quite the precision.

To reds and the 2005 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills, designated properly after the new American Viticultural Area for this region. Again, I initially didn’t like this but it grew on me. Sweet fruit and ash aromas at first, but then more complex spice and wine notes, not confected. Tastes simple and clean, not bad but more standard, I enjoyed this and wonder if it won’t evolve a little bit yet.

A step up was the 2004 Pinot Noir Flat Block Reserve, again lighter like the 2004s at Evesham Wood though not alarmingly so. Pretty aromas with a sense of layering, soft and full on the palate without heaviness. Very nice wine, I have sometimes found the reserves from Bethel Heights too wood-marked, but this is very nice wine and good value for higher end Oregon wine.


Marc D said...

Hey Vincent,
I think it is great that you are making your own wines, from Wahle grapes no less. I hope some day I can try some.

A question on the Evesham Wood Pinot. Is the Eola Cuvee the same as the Willamette Valley Pinot? I have a bottle of the '04 that I haven't gotten around to opening yet. It sounds like this is one for early drinking.

I tried the Bethel Heights Pinot Gris recently also and thought it was pretty good, a little perfumey but good clean flavors. I much prefer the lighter citrusy style of PG over the big ponderous oaky versions.

I enjoyed reading through your blog today. Keep up the good work.

Marc D

Vincent Fritzsche said...


Thanks for the nice words. Let me know any time you're coming this way. I'd be happy to let you try the wine, I'm feeling good about it.

Regarding Evesham Wood, the Eola Cuvee is a step above the Willamette Valley wine. Probably a lot from Eola Springs vineyard in that bottling. They also have La Grive Bleue, the declassified estate wine that's only slightly higher in price and 100% organic. Then the higher end wines.