Coeur De Terre, Apolloni, Amalie Robert, Spindrift Cellars
Up and Comer Wineries
Just when you thought the Oregon wine world had settled down a bit, here comes a new group of wineries, chock full of starry eyed winelovers with vision, talent, and most important, guts. It takes guts to invest for 5-7 years before finding our if you have a winner of a vineyard, to hang on through iffy vintages, too much sulfur, and invasions of voles. Here are some of the new wineries we're excited about here at Avalon Wine.
Lisa Neal's name may be familiar to Willamette Valley locals - she's become one of the most successful vineyard real estate agents in the state. And now she and husband Scott are fulfilling their vision with their estate vineyard and winery, Coeur de Terre. Named for a huge, heart shaped boulder they excavated when building an irrigation system in the vineyard, the heart symbolizes their heartfelt commitment to the site, the terroir, and the essence of Oregon wine.
Coeur de Terre just released their second vintage of the Coeur de Terre Pinot noir Renelle's Block 2004 $30.56/$33.95. This wine sneaks up on you. The dark cherry, blackberry and raspberry aromas mix with a little cinnamon spice and some barrel toast, but it whispers instead of shouts. The wine hits your mouth and besides the cherry, cassis, violet and a little spice on the palate, what you notice is how silky it is. The pretty cherry colors and delicate flavors show good concentration without being over extracted. This wine is well balanced and really opens up after awhile in your glass. The finish is long and smooth. This is a finesse Pinot Noir you should get to know.
If Scott Neal has a winemaking mentor, it is surely Scott Shull of Raptor Ridge Winery. While living in Colorado, Scott Neal corresponded regularly with Scott Shull, who was writing a technical column for the Oregon Wine Press. On Memorial Day weekend 1998, Scott and Lisa showed up at the tasting room where Raptor Ridge was pouring wine, with a soil map of what would become Coeur de Terre, plopped it down and asked for advice. The two Scott’s enthusiasm for wine and land was mutual and a fast friendship was born.
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Coeur de Terre-
Heart of the Vineyard
Upon moving to Oregon, the Neals helped with the harvest the next few years at Raptor Ridge as well as at Belle Pente with Brian and Jill O’Donnell. “Scott Neal has a thirst for knowledge about wine and is quick to apply the information he gathers” said Annie Shull of Raptor Ridge Winery.
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Apolloni Vineyards -
Oregon Wine, Tuscan Inspiration
Apolloni Vineyards is the fullfilled dream of Afredo Apolloni, a first generation Italian whose family roots in winemaking go back to the 1850's in the Marche region of coastal Central Italy, about an hour south of Venice. His family continues to grow Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco Sangiovese, verdicchio, and other grapes at their estate vineyard.
“I fell in love with the style of wine being made in Oregon and the great fruit here”, said Apolloni. “No one was making the fresh crisp fruit forward style of white wines that are popular in Italy. I knew I wanted to make wine that was tailored to the local fresh foods of the Pacific Northwest.”
In 1998, Apolloni purchased his vineyard land, a 14 acre plot that has proven to have an excellent microclimate and soil for growing grapes. 2002 saw his first crush. In 2004, the Apolloni Winery was completed, with Alfredo as the full-time winemaker.
The 2005 Apolloni Pinot blanc $12.55/$13.95 shows lush ripe fruit with a tangerine, lime, grapefruit tang on the nose. Smooth and creamy tropical fruit and melons dominate the palate. Good balance of fruit and acids together with a nice mineral finish. A surprisingly full Pinot Blanc from the North end of the Willamette Valley. 100% fermented in stainless steel. M.D.S.
The color of the 2002 Apolloni Pinot noir 02 $25.61/$28.45 is a beautiful dark garnet with aromas of dark cherry, raspberry and a touch of licorice. Light fine grape skin tannins in the mouth carry flavors of black cherry and herbal notes. This is an excellent example of the stellar 2002 vintage in Oregon. This wine exhibits a deft touch at winemaking from someone who understands the elegance and femininity of the Pinot noir grape.
Dena Drew and Ernie Pink's small estate vineyard has only produced small amounts of two vintages, yet their wines are beginning to receive national attention. Amalie Robert Winery is located approximately 15 miles southwest of Salem, Oregon, near Van Duzer and Cherry Hill Wineries, in the Eola Hills. The dry farmed vineyard is currently 21 acres, predominately Pinot Noir. When fully planted, there will be about 45 acres under vine. Although young, the vineyard is already showing signs of producing very high quality fruit that makes Pinot noir with an intriguing expression of terroir.
Three wines are now available from Amalie Robert -- a Chardonnay and two Pinot noirs.
The Amalie Robert Chardonnay Dijon Clone 04 $18.41/$20.45 offers the layered, complex, Burgundian flavors of Oregon's best new Chardonnays. The nose is intoxicating with both fruity pineapple and lemony floral tang and a touch of saffron wafting at the tail. Delightful. The subtle mouth shows ripe apple that carries through with mineral notes. Warming up in the glass brought out a touch of white peach at the back of the palate. Soft and light with a lingering finish. Not too much weight at all. Dijon clone Chardonnay with it’s tropical fruitiness done without oak can be the truest expression of Chardonnay. You definitely taste the crisp juicy fruit of the grape, which is a beautiful thing.
Tanzer just gave 91 points to the Amalie Robert Winery Dijon Clone Pinot noir 04 $33.26/$36.95, and says "...Flat-out gorgeous nose of red berries, yellow rose and five-spice powder, with a chalky mineral element adding energy and lift. Juicy, vibrant and pure, the nicely concentrated flavors running the red fruit gamut (especially wild strawberry), with an earthy note of rhubarb. Wonderfully clean and brisk, but with no shortage of concentration or flavor impact through the finish. Develops a wild, sweet note of underbrush with air. This is strikingly pure, unadorned and pretty pinot."
Amalie Robert's "best" wine is the Amalie Robert "Amalie's Cuvee" Pinot noir 04 $40.46/$44.95. The wine expresses scents of white flowers, graham, earth, and hints of wild mushroom in the nose. Flavors are predominantly black cherry, blackberry, and black currant, with intriguing hints of an exotic perfume of mint, pepper, warm raspberries, and dark cherry. There's a real sense of terroir in the wine, which is made from young fruit. The complexity bodes well for the vineyard, and future vintages, made as the grapes mature, should show increasingly complex flavors.
Amalie Robert made a 2003 Amalie Robert Pinot noir Wadenswil Clone $45, one of two wines in Avalon Wine's June Reserve Pinot noir Club shipment. The Amalie Robert Wadenswil is being shipped with the Shea Wine Cellars Wadenswil 04 $43.16/$48 as a special "Wadenswil Clone Month" Club. Future vintages of Amalie Robert's Wadenswil Clone grapes have been sold to Beaux Freres, for use in their wines, so the 2003 is something of a one-time offering.
Matt and Tabitha Compton own and operate this small winery in Philomath, Oregon, just down the road from Avalon Wine. They make excellent value, ready to drink wines from grapes sourced in the South Willamette. Their first vintage was 2003. They make Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Chardonnay, using sustainable growing practices and striving to preserve and express the varietal character of the grape.
While pleasant and easy drinking, the Spindrift wines also pair well with food, and have balanced, uplifting acidity to complement fine foods.
Spindrift co-owner and winemaker Matt Compton is currently recovering from a serious fall off some winery equipment and we look forward to his recovery, and to more of his lovely wines.
Recently, Spindrift released their Spindrift Pinot gris 05 $12.10/$13.45. In the nose, your find scents of crisp green apple, pear, grapefruit and hints of coconut; flavors are of white peach, pear, bright pineapple, tropical fruit, and there's a streak of lemon zest in the finish. This is a wine that finishes quite dry and crisp, a wine to have with foods like creamy pasta dishes, scallops, and shrimp. It's viscous and mouth coating.
Spindrift's Spindrift Pinot noir 04 $17.95/$19.95 has aromas of red cherry and raspberry with notes of spice. Flavors of red raspberry, strawberry, and cherry finish with spice, tobacco and soft tannins. A lively, uplifting quality and excellent balance makes this a fresh, pretty Pinot noir at a quite reasonable price.
Spindrift Cellars was formerly known as Sahalie- ownership shifted around and Matt Compton is now winemaker and owner of Spindrift. Spindrift is our neighbor, just down the road in Philomath and near our fav 720 Cellars (Chris Heider). Spindrift is another such up-and-coming Indie winery to watch.
Ken & Kathy Slusser grow 40 acres of Pinot noir and Pinot gris on the west side of Salem, Oregon, in the Eola Hills. They're in the same general area as Amalie Robert, Van Duzer, Cherry Hill Winery, and the Temperance Hill Vineyard. They've owned and operated their vineyard for over 15 years, and sell grapes to some of the region's best wineries. They also offer a summer Blues concert series that's popular with local music lovers.
The Kathken Vineyard site is at 700 ft to 900 ft with a south west exposure. Of the 51 acre site, 40 acres are planted to producing vines, 34 acres of Pinot Noir (various clones but predominately Pommard and Wadensvil) and 6 acres of Pinot Gris. All plants are on a Geneva Double Curtain or a Carbonneau "Open Lyre" trellis system, which is a high maintenance system, but Ken believes that, coupled with the vineyard's elevation, is a trellis type that produces optimum quality fruit.
Ken and Kathy offer a few exceptionally reasonably priced wines. In terms of quality for the price, their wines are some of the best.
The Kathken Vineyards Pinot noir Reserve 04 $16.61/$18.45 is simply an extraordinary good buy. Made from 100% Estate fruit, this wine hits all the notes- it's balanced, with very fine-grained tannins, nice uplifting acidity, red and black fruit flavors, and warm cinnamon-clove-nutmeg-white pepper spices that all blend nicely into a wine ready to drink, but with enough structure to handle a few years' cellaring. It's a real nice deal.