December 06, 2009

Great Biggio Hamina tasting

Friday night at Storyteller Wine Company in Portland, Todd Hamina from Biggio Hamina poured a mess of  wines from 2007 and 2008. First were a trio of 2007 Pinot Noir. The Momtazi was the leanest, fresh and bright but perhaps a ltitle tight still. The Deux Vert was notably more fruity aromatically. Then the Ana the deepest and richest of the three, more fruit with a lovely soil note. I thought this was Pommard clone, but apparently it's all 777. I've written elsewhere that the best 2007s are pretty and fragrant, and have come a long way in the past year. Most I wouldn't think need more than a few years aging, though they should last longer. These wines might be exceptions, where they'll reveal even more with time. Very interesting, cerebral wines these. Delicious too.

Then a pair of 2008 Pinot Noir. First the Willamette Valley, lighter in color than 2008s I've tried from other producers and delicious. That's typical here. Todd uses a lot of stems and ferments cool, and the wines stress perfume and finesse rather than color and fruit extraction. Then the Zenith, the darkest and richest of all the pinot here (still not that dark and rich). Lovely black cherry fruit here and great texture.

Next came two 2007 Syrah from the Deux Vert vineyard, a warmer climat in the Yamhill-Carlton District here in the Willamette Valley. The first was the Willamette Valley Syrah, and I've written it up favorably here. Tonight it tasted like peppered bacon. There's 7% viognier co-fermented in this one. Then the 2007 Syrah XX, with 20% viognier. I hadn't tried this one previously, and I found out that not only does it have so much viognier, it's all from one new Oregon oak barrel. There's serious smoke here, maybe too much right now but this is wine to age I think. Not black and highly extracted wine, rather this is medium bodied, structured and fragrant. If good Oregon pinot has Burgunian qualities, these Biggio Hamina syrah definitely take a local spin on classic northern Rhone syrah. What a treat to try so many different ones in one line up.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting critique of the wines. Thank you....2007 was a difficult year for Oregon reds and pinots in particular. Years like this put the best vineyard practices as well as the experience of the wine makers to the test. The ones who knew what they were doing still made interesting wines but it was certainly not a "gift" year and many wines from this vintage are not moving and are over priced.

My question is if the two syrahs you tasted were estate grown? I live in the Umpqua Valley (transplant three years ago from Sonoma County, Ca. where I spent 45 years) where we have tremendous syrah. I write a weekly wine article and run a wine tour business and syrah is why many people come to the Umpqua Valley. We do pinot too of course - One of our pinots received the top Oregon wine award over Willamette Valley Pinots this year. We have the warmer climate as well as many climates (the land of 100 valleys) so can do so much more then pinot and pinot gris. Always looking for great syrah and always interested in where it is planted!

I tasted at a winery recently where all of wines that have seen any oak at all, tastes and smells of bacon. Type of oak chip is the consensus. In the old world of wine making new oak was used for wines that needed something extra. I must agree. When mother nature gives you great fruit you do not need to add those kind of big oak flavors. Let the beautiful fruit speak for itself with just a hint of that which encourages it to greatness... The trick is there are no tricks! Being able to really honor the fruit and the terroir is wisdom along with knowledge. If you ever want to meet one of the most knowledgeable but more importantly wise, wine makers in the U.S. let me know and I can arrange a meeting. I have yet to talk with wine makers even in France and Italy with the wisdom he possess. Nothing short of amazing and he is right here in the Umpqua Valley! Of course came from Napa and has studied all over the world!

Keep drinking great wine...and Keep writing your great blog.
Yours in wine,
Oregon Wine Country Tours

Vincent Fritzsche said...

None of the Biggio-Hamina wines is estate grown. Like many producers including myself, Biggio-Hamina owns no vineyards but works closely with a few select growers to source fruit. Both syrah came from the Deux Vert vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton District here in the northern Willamette Valley. As you might expect, the grapes aren't prone to get overripe and I'm sure 2007 was no exception. These Biggio-Hamina wines are not typical new world syrah and certainly worth trying if you can find them. The XX is long gone I believe, but there will be an '08 version with 14% viognier, hence XIV.

I didn't mean to suggest these wines were overoaked. Oak chips most certainly aren't used here. In Burgundy, new oak is routinely used on top level wines. In the Rhone, perhaps it's not as common, but that's not to say you don't find it. I think that's a bit of a romantic notion that new wood is used only to give something extra to a wine that needs it. Certainly wood can help mask green characters in lesser ripe fruit. It's stating the obvious, though, to say that new oak is common through the world of winemaking, again not just as cosmetics for lesser wine.

Syrah aged in older oak can give bacon aromas, so it's not simply an element of new oak aging. What's most interesting about the Biggio-Hamina wines, to me, is that the wines are distinct for each site and not overly wood marked.

Anonymous said...

Over oaked is really a personal taste and I have yet to try wines that taste and smell of bacon without that distinct smell and taste being attributed to a type of oak barrel or chip. Of course I have only been tasting wine and traveling to different wine regions for 25 years and there is so much to know and experience I am admittedly still wet behind the ears.

And I am no romantic for sure. In many of the family owned tiny wineries in parts of Europe new oak is not looked upon with the same delight as here in the new world. My experience is it is thought of differently. Since I am most passionate about small non commercial wineries producing wines in a more traditional old world style this is what excites me the most. This does not mean oak and new oak does not have its place of course, I just have had the opportunity to experience many different wines made in very different styles.

There would be little chance of Oregon syrah in '07 becoming overripe for sure. Cool weather syrah can be lovely and I just recently devoted an entire article to the "sweet spot" when it comes to growing syrah! Oregon even in the warmer areas has a difficult time over ripening syrah. One of the reasons it does so well here.
Oh and I might add there are over 100 different soil types found in Douglas County some suggest over 150! Very unique to this area of Oregon and why I live here. The diverse soil certainly adds to the distinction of each vineyards syrah.

Anyway keep drinking great wine. Thanks for the reply.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Give a taste of northern Rhone reds from Chave, Verset, Clape and Jamet, among other. Bacon fat is a classic descriptor and one that comes from the grape if not the soil, certainly not the old foudres the wine is typically aged in. It's often something that comes out with bottle aging, and notes from older wines back when new oak aging was really not in vogue only emphasize how that element comes from things other then barrels and oak alternative. Don't take my word for it though. Check out notes here, here and here. The wines I noted in this initial post show some oak marking, but are much more in line stylistically with wines noted in the links. They are more fascinating for it.

Anonymous said...

I have actually had the pleasure of tasting several wines from the areas you recommend. And will revisit on your recommendation. I am actually sipping a Columbia Crest Cabernet which displays, among other aromas and tastes, smoke and ah yes... bacon fat! To me not a characteristic of the grape or terroir but more from the oak.

Not to get off the subject of Syrah and bacon fat, or Willamette Valley and their ability to make great pinot, of which I am a huge fan ...I understand you are a wine maker and make pinot. And I would assume you blog is to share info and learn? So I hope you will note my offer of introducing you to one of the wisest wine makers you will have the opportunity to meet- still stands. I sure you are aware that the very first pinot ever planted in Oregon was planted in the Umpqua Valley. You can still taste wine from those original vines. Exceptional pinot- floral fruity and feminine with earthy notes, well finessed, great oak balance and for me, very important, the right acid balance. Everything matters in wine and everything shows up on the palate. Experience helps to develop wisdom. I am sure you would agree?
And as passionate as you are about wine and wine making I am sure you are always interested in learning about great wine and talented wine makers?
So offer remains to come to the area and visit with a most wise wine maker, making pinot from the original Oregon pinot vines! Celebrate great wine and the great history of Oregon wine...
Oh and by the way, You do not need to tour with me to meet this and many other talented wine makers producing great wine here in the Umpqua Valley. I am happy to give you the best recommendations for your visit.

Keep drinking great wine,

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Diane, I'm sure you're talking about HillCrest, though unfortunately Richard Sommer isn't around any more. I haven't had the chance to meet Dyson, but I did have the delightful opportunity to taste through the whole line up earlier this year here in Portland. The wines were a revelation, including the basic syrah that had great floral and game notes. I prefered it to the higher end syrah that was more oak marked. The chard was also notable. I wasn't crazy about the pinot. I did enjoy the zin quite a bit. You're right, I make wine and it's a grape I'd like to work with again. It was a love back in my CA days. Other producers in the Umpqua that I've enjoyed include Brandborg, sweet wines from Henry Estate, and the one pinot I've tried from River's Edge. Let me know what you'd recommend, either here or by email. Check the front page of the blog for my address.

SteveMcCall said...

This was a tasting I was very sorry to miss. I enjoy Todd's wines very much, even when I don't enjoy them very much (the '07 XX was too perfumed for me, at least out of the chute, but we've got a couple of bottles laid down to try them after a few years of rest.

In any case, I always appreciate BH's pinots, and wish I'd had the chance to try the '08s.