July 16, 2009

2005 Evesham Wood Chardonnay Les Puits Sec

On this sweltering summer day in Portland, it's comforting to think back to an icy weekend in early 2005. I'd recently concluded a futile job search, figuring out that what I really wanted to do was make wine. I'd been experimenting with small lots of grapes at home, but I realized that I needed to begin working harvest at local wineries to really learn to make wine professionally.

Stuck at home one icy Saturday morning, I figured Russ Raney at Evesham Wood might also be stuck at home. So I looked up his phone number and called him. He didn't know me, and thinking back on it, I can't imagine what I really expected. Sure enough, he answered and I introduced myself, told him about how much I appreciated his wine and asked if I could work the 2005 harvest to learn more about what he does.

Russ is a super nice guy, and he seemed genuinely interested in me. He mentioned there might just be some room for me, that some Europeans who he thought were coming for harvest couldn't make it, but he'd figure out for sure over the next month. Sure enough, I got the job and worked several weeks during September and October 2005.

Looking back, I know I was even luckier than I realized at the time. I didn't work full time and my role in harvest ended a bit sooner than I was hoping, but I learned a ton. Mostly that Russ indeed makes excellent wine, that he treats everything the same whether it's the basic pinot noir up to his most expensive bottling and that he rolled with things no matter what happened, cool and collected. That's crucial for making good wine.

What did I do? I cleaned stuff. I sorted fruit. I did pump overs and punchdowns on fermenting wine. I loaded the press and cleaned it out. I washed barrels and filled a few with new wine. I cleaned everything again and again. It was pretty great.

What did I learn? That I could handle the work. That I enjoyed even the most mundane tasks, mostly. That I wanted to do it again, but somewhere else to learn how others make wine. That I was incredibly fortunate to call on that frozen day and essentially get my wish granted.

Now I have a variety of 2005 wines from Evesham Wood in the cellar. Let's be clear. I didn't do too much to help make these wines. I take a little extra pleasure having some slim connection to them. Really, I'm curious to see how what happened to the fruit and fermenting juice I .

Take this 2005 Evesham Wood Chardonnay Les Puit Sec, from the estate in the Eola-Amity Hills. I remember these grapes being clean and sweet, the juice golden and the wine fermenting in french oak barrels toasty smelling. The finished wine, having spent a couple of years in bottle, is light gold in color with a pungent aroma of pears, lemon candy, toasted nuts and nutmeg. This is nice Oregon chardonnay. The flavors are similar, with a soft and broad texture, ripe and rich but nicely balanced if not particularly edgy. The finish in long and soft, the wine still young and fresh but maybe not something I'd hold to too long given the structure.

Some people tell me they find Evesham Wood chardonnay too oaky. This does show some wood, but I think it's very appropriate for this Burgundy styled wine. Personally, I think this estate chardonnay is a completely underrated wine locally. It's inexpensive relative to the quality, and even in the hot 2003 vintage I thought it was excellent. Contrary to rumor, I haven't heard anything about these vines being replaced with pinot noir. Hope that's true.

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