Dusky Goose Pinot noir
Delivering on the Promise
by Jean Yates
Every year, Dusky Goose delivers a mesmerizing wine that fulfills all the promises of its past vintages. The Dusky Goose Dundee Hills Pinot noir keeps delivering. Some wines' quality goes up and down from vintage to vintage. Not so "the Dusky" - it flys higher with each year. Popularized by word of mouth alone, Dusky Goose Pinot noir is perhaps Oregon's most sought after wine.
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Dusky Goose Pinot noir
Dusky Goose's flagship wine is their Dundee Hills Pinot noir, a blend of grapes from vineyards in the heart of the Dundee Hills. The winery is surrounded by the vineyards that make up the blend: Arcus, Maresh, Bergstrom, Weber, Ana, Le Pavillon, and Winderlea.
Dusky Goose maintains a low profile and very limited production. The Carters own a, the Dusky Goose Estate vineyard, Rambouillet Vineyard, produced fruit included in the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007vintages of Dusky Goose, and will play an increasingly important part in the wine's composition in years to come. The first Rambouillet Reserve Pinot noir, the 2006 vintage, was released in early 2009. The 2008 was released in January 2012.
Dusky Goose Winery is a collaboration between winemaker Lynn Penner Ash and owners John and Linda Carter. The Carters are completely dedicated to making a small amount of wine that epitomizes the best the Dundee Hills terroir can produce.
Dusky Goose makes wine exclusively from the Dundee Hills AVA, using grapes from Dusky Goose's own vineyard, Rambouillet Vineyard, and Winderlea Vineyard. The Carter family named the wine for the rare Dusky Goose that migrates to the Willamette Valley from Alaska each winter.
Portland's famous Northwest Bistro Paley's Place, calls Dusky Goose one of their favorite Oregon wine discoveries. "Dusky Goose is not Burgundian at all. It's all Oregon," said Kimberly Paley. "Big fruit, lots of style, true to the grape and a real sense of place (terroir)" make this one of Paley's favorite wines. So much so they showcase the Dusky Goose Pinot Noirs at special events across the country, including a James Beard Foundation dinner in 2006. Read more about Paley's place and their food suggestions for pairing with Dusky Goose Pinot noir.
In 2001, John and Linda Carter purchased 13 acres of land in the heart of the Dundee Hills, west of the town of Dundee. The Dundee Hills are located in the heart of Oregon's North Willamette Valley, west of the town of Dundee. The area is now a sub-AVA called the "Dundee Hills". The Dundee Hills are known for their red volcanic Jory soil and their famous vineyards.
The Carters hired winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash and Dundee Hills vineyard manager Andy Humphrey to plan and plant the new vineyard. Their experience makes them them best possible people to develop the property.
Lynn Penner Ash knows the Dundee Hills vineyards adjacent to Rambouillet as well as anyone in Oregon. She made some of Rex Hill's best wines from Dundee Hills' Goldschmidt and Maresh fruit, and continues to make top rated Pinots from grapes sourced in the neighborhood. She grew as the vineyards grew- her skills developed as the vineyards matured. Walking the vineyards almost daily for twenty years, (1988 to 1996 as Rex Hills winemaker, 1997 to date as co-owner/winemaker of Penner Ash Cellars) Lynn has an intimate knowledge of the terroir and the grapes of Dundee.
Andy Humphrey's has in-depth a knowledge of the vineyards around Rambouillet matches Lynn. Search Google for Andy and you'll find his name on the web site of Oregon's most prestigious wineries- Belle Pente, Archery Summit, Lachini, Adelsheim, Francis Tannahill, and Beaux Freres among them. He was vineyard manager for Goldschmidt/Dundee Hills from 1998 through 2007. His own Ana Vineyard lies just south of Rambouillet. Ana Vineyard fruit is used in Beaux Freres Pinot noirs, and in some vintages, Beaux Freres crafted an Ana Vineyard Pinot.
Rambouillet Vineyard is planted entirely in Pinot noir, in a combination of clones chosen by Andy Humphrey and Lynn Penner-Ash.
The Rambouillet Vineyard's first vintage was 2004, and the grapes were combined with Dundee Hills grapes to make the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 Dusky Goose Pinot noir, an increasing percentage of the grapes coming from Rambouillet in each successive vintage.
Making Wine for Dusky Goose -
Lynn Penner Ash's High "Yumm Factor"
I am always very gentle with the fruit," says Penner-Ash, describing her approach to making wine, whether for Dusky Goose or for her own label. "I pretty much let it do its own thing."
Sometimes the red fruit of the Dundee Hills AVA is so high in fruitiness that it tends to dominate the aromatics," she says. "To mitigate that the barrels add just the right amount of spice to complement the fruit."
Even so, Penner-Ash is careful to let the vineyard speak for itself in the wines. "I want to support the lushness of the vineyard, and not overshadow it." It is that lushness that seems to shine through in all the vintages of Dusky Goose.
"There is an incredible dried cherry quality that is unique to that area," she says. "The fruit smells like dried cherry tea, and then moves into a ripe red pear mouth feel. The fruit has a creamy textural feel when it is ready to pick, and in the winery it produces a very focused red fruited wine that is incredibly rich and sweet."
At right above, Andy and Lynn in the vineyard
"People put the (Dusky Goose) wine in their mouth and they say 'Oh my God!' Somehow this site produces wines with an incredibly sweet and rich mid mouth feel. It has a high yumm factor," exclaims Penner-Ash, "I don't know how else to describe it!
Lynn Penner-Ash and Dusky Goose
Lynn Penner-Ash's involvement with Dusky Goose began in 1988 when she began working with the fruit of what was then called the Dundee Hills Vineyard, making wine from the vineyard for Rex Hill. She was approached by Neil Goldschmidt, who purchased the vineyard in 1992, to make a wine for him and his partners John and Linda Carter.
A great deal of attention and thought was put into the vineyard by Lynn and the winery partners. "When Neil approached me about making the wines for Dusky Goose," recalls Penner-Ash, "we walked through the vineyard and talked about the style of wine they wanted to produce. We talked about what each block might bring to the wine, and we picked out what we thought were the best blocks for their style."
While Lynn initially made wine for Dusky Goose from grapes exclusively from the Goldschmidt Vineyard, now renamed Winderlea Vineyard (Goldschmidt sold the vineyard in 2006 and the new owners changed the name), Lynn now works with the grapes of Rambouillet Vineyard, owned by John and Linda Carter. She made a 2006 single vineyard designate wine from the Rambouillet Vineyard, to be released in 2008.
John Carter was born and raised in Pendleton, Oregon, one of a third-generation family of wheat and cattle ranchers. After Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he spent a career in the San Francisco Bay Area, first as a partner in a large San Francisco law firm, then with the engineering and construction firm Bechtel. He retired from Bechtel in 2002, and returned to Oregon, where he has various interests. The Dusky Goose Pinot noir is his first venture into making wine.
Linda Carter was also born and raised in Pendleton, Oregon. Her family goes even further back to the early days of Oregon agriculture, and remains actively involved today as well in the Pendleton area. Linda graduated from Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and received a masters degree from the University of Michigan. Linda also performed in New York with the Jose Limon Dance Company, and other notable modern dance groups. She later headed the dance department at Scripps College in Claremont, California until after she and John were married in 1977, and she relocated to the San Francisco area.
At right above, Linda and John Carter
John and Linda spend their time in Oregon in several places, including Portland, Pendleton, and the Bend area. Their agricultural adventure, and passion, is the Rambouillet Vineyard and Dusky Goose Pinot noir.
The Dusky Goose
The Dusky Canada Goose, Branta canadensis occidentalis, is a subspecies of Canada Goose that breeds only in Alaska's Copper River Delta on the south coast of Alaska and on nearly islands. In the winter, they move south to the Willamette Valley and along the western Columbia River gorge. The Dusky Goose is rare, and has one of the smallest populations of all Canadian geese. One of the
If you want to see a Dusky Goose, they arrive in Oregon and southwest Washington in November or December, wintering over until March or April. In the South Willamette Valley, near Corvallis (where Avalon Wine is located), the Finley National Wildlife Refuge was created to provide wintering habitat for the Dusky Goose. The refuge contains the largest remaining tract of Willamette Valley wet prairie and many wild birds and animals. Occasionally you can even see elk in the refuge.
Winderlea Vineyard (Formerly Goldschmidt Vineyard)
In 2006, the Goldschmidt Vineyard, source for Dusky Goose's 2002 and 2003 vintages, and the source of the majority of the grapes for the 2004 and 2005 vintages, was sold and its name was changed to Winderlea Vineyard. Dusky Goose continues to purchase grapes from Winderlea, and has a long term contract to make Winderlea grapes part of its Pinot noir offerings for many years.