July 14, 2011

Reading KCole

I'm on vacation in California - non-wine vacation, with family - so maybe that explains my absence. There just isn't too much to write about, what with hiking in the Sierra and playing some golf, drinking cold beer and eating too much, now in the SF area for a few days to see in-laws before a weekend return to Portland.

However, I have been reading. For pure pleasure, I'm reading Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. And for "work" I'm reading Katherine Cole's Voodoo Vintners: Oregon's Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers. I'll review it slightly more formally when I finish it, soon.

For now, Cole is simply a pleasure to read, making Fitzgerald wait or at least share the bedside table. I wasn't sure what she would write about biodynamics, but as I tweeted last week when starting the book, she brings a nice mix of intrigue and healthy skepticism to the topic. The result is a lovely profile of the Oregon wine scene, which in reflection is centered more on biodynamics than I realized. I highly recommend it to any wine geek interested in Oregon, biodynamics, and ideally both.

July 05, 2011

"Everybody's playing in the heart of gold band..."

I've long wondered if that Robert Hunter lyric above was a reference to Neil Young's song Heart of Gold. I do know Edmunds St. John's white wine bottling of that name is a Neil Young reference. It's also absolutely delicious in the 2008 edition I picked up locally not too long ago.

The 2008 Edmunds St. John Heart of Gold is a blend of Grenache Blanc, a classic white Rhone variety, and Vermentino, known as Rolle in France. It is gorgeous. Inspirational even. I'd love to explore white grapes like these in my wine production here in the the Pacific Northwest. Note to self - research who's growing stuff like this within a few hours of Portland.

The wine fittingly has a lovely light gold color. The aroma is similarly golden and something I think wine lovers everywhere could love even if they've never heard of these lower profile grapes. There are aromas of lemons, minerals, pastry dough and the exotic scent of stone fruit flesh and pits. Not quite peach or apricot, maybe something between.

The flavors are zippy and bright, with lemons and a waxy roundness. There's perhaps a touch of heat from alcohol, but it just adds to the body and intrigue of the wine. The finish lingers. I love this wine, and for $15 or so locally, you can't go wrong.

July 04, 2011


I took a drive yesterday to see signs of Pinot Noir flowering in the Willamette Valley, on a beautiful summer afternoon. Usually the Pinot flowers locally in the middle of June, roughly. This year, like last year, is late following a cool, damp spring. Talking with growers over the past few weeks, I heard July 4 as a target date for flowering, as it was in 2010. There were hopeful suggestions of "by July 4, for sure, definitely" to lightly desperate humor: "if not by July 4, then, um, maybe a November harvest?"

Surely not. Conventional wisdom is that harvest might begin 100 days after flowering at a given site. Longer than that you have longer "hang time," the grapes usually benefiting from extra time to develop aromas and flavors, with riper tannin and still, if the weather is cool at night, fresh acids.

Warmer sites and younger vines can ripen a bit more quickly, but 100 days is a nice estimate for thinking of the arc of the growing season. One hundreds days from July 4 is October 12. Last year, I picked from October 8 to October 17. If flowering happens similarly this year, I think it's safe to bet we'll have a similar window for picking, later if possible if the weather holds in October, likely not too much earlier, ideally under dry conditions regardless.

Sure enough, I saw a bunch of flowering inflorescence. I first drove by a couple sites I don't work with in the northern Willamette Valley, but was curious to check out. The first site seemed maybe a third through flowering, the second perhaps half or more in the rows I saw. Exciting.

Then over Bald Peak and down to Ribbon Ridge to the Armstrong Vineyard. I was really hoping to see flowers now. I wasn't disappointed. I drove up and found grower Doug Ackerman at work at the barn and we went for a walk around the property. According to him, there were no flowers the day before, but now flowering was visible in 5 to 10% of the clusters. Surely with sunny, warm weather in store for days, flowering will be quick and even, as ideal as you could want.

Here's a cluster in the clone 667 block. Grape flowers self pollinate, so there aren't dramatic blooms or aromas in grape flowers. There is a musky fragrance if you get up really close though. You can see how some grapes have set and others haven't. An "even" set means everything will set together, so this cluster should have had more flowers by the end of the day and ideally today is in full bloom. That way, the grapes are more likely to ripen together come October.

With flowering under way in such lovely conditions, it seemed appropriate to admire the view.

And a nice moment to celebrate with the most summery of beverages, dry rose wine. Thanks Doug!