February 21, 2009

Recent Northwest wines

The other night I had the opportunity to try a variety of wines, among them some from here in the good old Pacific Northwest. They were each so interesting, I must write about them.

First the latest of non-vintage Cameron Chardonnay Willamette Valley, apparently mostly or all 2007 from the great Abbey Ridge vineyard, just younger vines and particular barrels that didn't finish their malolactic fermentation in a timely fashion, leaving them out of other blends. This is pure, crisp, clean, and delicious Oregon chardonnay for around $12. Ridiculous quality for the price.

The only problem with that wine was trying the 2006 Cameron Chardonnay Abbey Ridge right after it. If the first wine was nice music, this bottle made you realize you were listening in mono. One sniff and you're now hearing in full dimension stereo. Clear French oak aromas that will soften with age, this is very fine wine. Apples and pears, lemon curd, hazelnuts, all lithe and lean but rich at the same time, this isn't "white Burgundy" (not should it be), it's just at that quality level, premier cru at least. Dang.

Ok, back to earth, but pleasant earth on the Washington side. First the 2007 K Vintners Syrah Millbrandt, which was surprisingly gamey, floral, and pure smelling, with subtle perfume rather than a blast of jammy fruit and whiskey barrel smells that I find in too many Washington reds. I know, broad generealization. I need to taste more from our neighbor state, especially if there's more wine like this. In the mouth, it's rich but not heavy, with good structure that makes me think of dinner, not cocktail hour. I like this.

Then the real surprise, a zinfandel made in Carlton, OR, from Washington state grapes that's really good. It's the 2007 Three Angels Zinfandel Avery Vineyard, with nice pepper and plum aromas, full flavors but not overly ripe or alcoholic. If I hadn't seen the label, I might have guessed this was Lytton Springs area stuff from California's zin-centric Dry Creek Valley. A data sheet suggests this was picked in early October a little over 23 brix. I'm not sure how it ended up at 15% alcohol as the label suggests, though the wine didn't seem so large. Nice.

Sure enough though, Three Angels has a fatter zinfandel from the Les Collines Vineyard that, according to the data sheet, was picked closer to 27 brix near the end of the same month. Similar three to four week vatting time, but more new oak, more obvious alcohol, and not the interest to me of the Avery bottling. These are real zins though. Somewhere deep in me there's a dream to make zinfandel. It was my first winemaking love, back in California. Tasting these, that dream came alive. Maybe someday.


Dudley said...

Thanks for the reviews on the Cameron whites. Got some of the NV before it was gone as well as the 2006 single vineyard. Gonna have to find a way for you top start a beer blog! Hope you and yours are well.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks for the note. I've posted on a few beers here, and I actually had one last night that deserves a note. Look for it.

Dudley said...

2007 Three Angels Zinfandel Avery Vineyard - Vincent, is this a sign of things to come? Will we see more thick skinned red grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. I recall the Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Erath as a very green edged and thin product. It was a happy day when they ripped out those vines. Cameron is making Tempranillo and now others in Willamette are planting grapes I previously only saw in the Umpqua valley.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Note that the zinfandel grapes were not grown in the Willamette Valley. The Avery vineyard is in Washington state, near Maryhill according to the Three Angels website.

Indeed though, we are seeing thicker skinned grapes in the Willamette Valley. Some tempranillo, such as Evesham Wood's WV appellation bottling (they also do a rose of tempranillo). Some syrah, such as Deux Vert vineyard bottlings in the Yamhill Carlton AVA from Elemental Cellars and Biggio Hamina. Cameron is growing nebbiolo in the Clos Electrique vineyard (no tempranillo, I think). We'll see what else emerges, but don't worry, no one I know of is planting cabernet. Or zin for that matter. Tough climate for either of those.