Where was everybody? I went to the Southern Oregon Wineries tasting last night and didn't see anyone there I know, aside from a couple of producers. There was a good crowd though. Lots of happy tasters, some totally blitzed.
The event featured more than two dozen producers from the Umpqua valley and south to the Rogue and Applegate valleys. There was some pinot and chardonnay, but the typical line up was some mix of viognier, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo and red blends. Overall the wines were hit and miss, with some unexciting but perfectly decent wines amid some pretty exciting, very well made wines. I'll hit the highlights here as I saw them. I didn't try everything, by any means, so if I don't mention producers who were there, it's not necessarily because I didn't like the wine.
From Abacela, the 2008 Albarino was nervy and fresh and the 2006 Tempranillo Estate was nicely structured if a little alcoholic. I can see why this winery has such a cult following. The wines have personality and are generally very true to their varieties, many of which they painstakingly pioneered here in Oregon.
I'd never heard of Folin Cellars out of Gold Hill, but I enjoyed all three wines they poured. First, the 2007 Estate Viognier was true to the variety and fresh. The 2006 Estate Syrah was nicely varietal with meat and gum notes. The best wine for me was the 2006 Estate Tempranillo, nicely varietal with tobacco and berry notes. None of these wines showed excessive oak and seemed relatively restrained. Definitely check these people out and see if I'm crazy or on to something.
Girardet's 2008 Baco Noir was my first example of this grape, I think. It wasn't stellar but a lovely drinking wine with nice acidity and balance. I'd definitely try this again.
Quady North is doing some great things out of Jacksonville. The 2007 Viognier was nice and floral, though this variety can be a little over the top for me outside of the northern Rhone. The 2007 Syrah 4,2-A was my favorite, a low oak, gamy syrah that I've tried before and liked just as much. The 2006 Arsenal (Cabernet Franc) was California huge, and very good in that idiom. By the way, the name comes from guns, not the Gunners of north London. Chelsea fans rest easy. Finally, I had a special syrah bottling that I didn't get the name of. Like the Arsenal, it's not my style, but very nice in the big, rich idiom. Herb Quady manages a bunch of vineyards down south and he's obviously got a nice touch in the cellar too.
Another new name for me was Rocky Knoll out of Medford. I really liked their 2005 Rocky Knoll Claret, with good structure and coil, this wine had a cool profile and seemed nicely balanced and worth cellaring a bit. So many southern Oregon reds can be a bit too softly structured for me, but this was a bit more taut and upright. Apparently from vines planted in the 1970s with fruit that was sold until 2005.
I'd never tried wines from Spangler in the Umpqua Valley, but the Petite Sirah is a nice example of the variety. Dark and dense, perhaps a bit monolithic but you don't drink petite for nuance. This is authoritative, robuse petite sirah and quite good.
Trium has a great label, but again I'd never had a chance to try any wines until now. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was nicely textured with fine tannin and good cassis and mineral flavors, not too soft, just right. Good wine.
Finally, Troon Vineyard from Grants Pass had a bunch of wines and a big crowd. I tried only the 2005 Old Vine Meritage and it was big and rich but obviously well made and without too much polish for my tastes. Some of the cabernet blends at this tasting were just ho hum, a little soft, sort of herbal, but this was serious stuff. Sure enough, Herb Quady of Quady North (yes, part of the Quady family of CA Central Valley wine fame) is the winemaker. Herb seems like the real deal and a terrific guy. I'll have to check out more of these wines.
Events like these always have a downside, especially late in the event hours when I was there. At one table, an obviously drunk, overly made up person came up, poured out a glass into the water pitcher and haltingly asked for "your highest...end wine." The expensive stuff gets you messed up just as easily as the cheap stuff, it seems. I backed away from the table and hoped the producer could cut her off without creating too much of a scene. Talk about a no win situation. Overall, this was a fun event and it looked like there were lots of wine buyers, which had to make the drive home a little better for the producers.