Brent and Denise Isenhower's Walla Walla winery is best known for their always grabbed up Isenhower Wild Alfalfa Syrah 03 #26.99/$29.99. This 2003 vintage has just been released, and until the usual high scores are published, we have a good supply. Wine Spectator gave the 01 vintage 93 points and said: "Fine, ripe and plush, generous with its mocha-scented black cherry, raspberry and blueberry flavors that get rounder and more expansive as they linger, touched by the coffee-scented oak. Drink now through 2012. 550 cases made.(HS). Wine Spectator gave the 02 vintage 90 points and said: "Lively, juicy and generous with its bright strawberry jam and blackberry flavors, shaded with white pepper and floral notes as the finish lingers. Tannins are firm and can use some cellaring time. Best from 2005 through 2010. 480 cases made. (HS)".
Brent ages this Syrah in used Burgundy barrels and French oak Puncheons and his oak plan seems to add a twist to the wine that raises above the usual Washington Syrah. Syrah can be rather one- dimensional- there's nothing really wrong with it, but there's no big reason to find it interesting or unique. Brent escapes this trap and the Wild Alfalfa Syrah, while muscular and full bodied, has cascading black fruit flavors, intermixed with notes of lavender, cherry jam, bing cherry, white pepper, new mown hay, mocha, and smoke. Perhaps the vineyard sources help with the full bodied complexity - he sources the grapes for this wine from several sources best known for their association with Cayuse - "The End of the Road Vineyard", and Cougar Hills Vineyard. Vincent Rea Vineyard and Six Prong Vineyard are also in the mix.
Ready to drink, big and juicy, this wine gives lovers of wines like K Vintners and Cayuse another chance to enjoy first Rate Walla Walla Syrah, at a somewhat lower price point, from a very talented winemaker.
Harry Pedersen Nedry, Chehalem Winemaker,
93 point rating from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate heralds
the first releae of Harry Pedersen Nedry's Ribbon Ridge
Winery Pinot noir Ridgecrest Vineyard 03 $53.95/$59.95. Harry is co-owner
and winemaker at Chehalem. Ribbon Ridge Winery is Harry Pedersen
Nedry's private label for a special wine that he is making
from some of the best grapes grown at Chehalem's Ridgecrest
Phantom Hill Pinot - One More Time
We just keep opening bottles of the Phantom Hill Pinot
noir 01 $16.16/$17.95. The wine has so much going for
it. It's the wine originally priced at $35, the one that Gary Andrus
last week's New Releases Article). Seamlessly integrated from
three years of cellaring, this wine offers both finesse and sophistication
Ribbon Ridge Vineyard - First Pinot Receives 91 points
This is a remarkable wine, coming from such a young Estate vineyard (3rd leaf, planted in 2001). It says a lot about the Ribbon Ridge area, that Beaux Freres, Patricia Green, Penner Ash, and now Ribbon Ridge Vineyard are all making exceptional wines from this small, steeply canted valley west of Newberg. Dewey and Robin Kelly purchased their vineyard in 1978, but did not begin commercial winemaking until 2003, making their wine at Carlton Winemakers Studio.
The 60% Pommard-clone fruit provides a juicy foundation of black cherries and purple plum with the Dijon 777-clone fruit adding some brighter overtones of red berries and cherry. Subtle hints of violets add to the elegance of the wine and the French oak gives it a long, toasty finish. The wine is nicely structured and is very drinkable now with six months of bottle age. Drink now through 2013.
Wine Spectator says: "Rating 91 points: "Lithe and generous, a plush mouthful of spicy raspberry, cherry, and a lingering grace note of mint as the finish sails on and on. Beautifully done all around. Drink now through 2013." H.S.
The Ribbon Ridge Vineyards site is located on the shoulder of Ribbon Ridge in Yamhill County in close proximity to Chehalem's Ridgecrest Vineyard, Beaux Freres Vineyard, Brick House Vineyard, Whistling Ridge Vineyard and Patricia Green Cellars. The predominant soil type is Willakenzie clay loam. The entire property encompasses 41.13 acres, with approximately 12 acres cleared and 30 acres in timber. In Spring 2001, nine acres of grapes were planted on ten acres.
Yes, this winery's name is very similar to Harry Pedersen Nedry's Ribbon Ridge Winery. Maybe one of them will change its name a bit to make it easier to tell them apart. And then again, maybe not.
Clone 108 Triumphant - A Long Long Road we've Travelled
Speaking of the evolution of Oregon wines, the Alpine Chardonnay 04 $10.74/$11.95 is not only a beautiful wine, but provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of Oregon's white wines. Used to be, Oregon's white wines largely sucked. No other way to put it. 20 years ago, when I started marketing Willamette Valley Oregon wines, a lot of the whites tasted like fermented green beans (with a touch of compost heap added for frisson). Particularly the Chardonnay, which was made from young vine 108 clone Chardonnay vines brought up from California and farmed by the gospel according to UC Davis. For years I'd sort of shrug and apologize for the state of Oregon's Chards when customers complained. A few producers in Southern Oregon made some decent Chards, but nothing to write home about.
Then along came the Dijon Clone revolution. Chardonnay vines from the Dijon region of France, where weather conditions are similar to Oregon's, were brought to Oregon (some supposedly smuggled in via suitcase from France, thus the reference to "Suitcase Clones" one hears occasionally). Now that the Dijon clone Chardonnay vines have matured, we're blessed with a plethora of really really great Chardonnays made in Oregon. More Burgundian than California butterball, wines like Argyle's Chardonnay 03 $10.45 make the best buy lists of Wine Spectator regularly.
But what happened to all the 108 clone Chardonnay that was planted back in the late 1970's and early 80's? Well, here's where the Alpine Chardonnay comes in- Dan and Christine's Chardonnay, planted 29 years ago, is the 108 clone. And it's just delicious. Was the climate different 20 years ago? Yes. Does comparatively young vine 108 clone Chardonnay just not make that good a wine in Oregon? Maybe. Does old vine 108 clone Chardonnay, cropped at low tonnage (less than 2 tons/acre in this case) make yummy wine? Yes definitely.
The Alpine Chardonnay has a lovely balance of fruit and acidity. 2004 was a hot vintage, and the winemaker avoided the possibility of a too soft, high alcohol wine. There's just enough crisp apple and citrus in the finish to make it a wine to accompany foods like summer salads and grilled fish. The lush pear, apple, white peach, and hints of melon flavors also make it a "summer sipper" that will please the wine neophyte as well as the expert. Nothing is out of balance here, and the age of the vines comes through in the hints of spice and just a touch of mint and cedar in the finish. Maybe the close proximity of mint fields and Christmas tree farms contributes some of the pleasant hints of forest and fresh spring water in the scent and flavor. It's dang good wine for the price, and yes, it's 108 victorious at last (talk about patience!).
Top Rated Rosé by Oregon Wine Report- Viento Sangiovese Rosé 04
Cole Danehauer's Oregon Wine Report's current issue has a section where he rates the best Northwest Rosés. Top of the heap is the consistently delicious Viento Sangiovese Rosé 04 $13.45/$14.95. Made from Washington State fruit, this wine will convert the most ardent rosé hater. The wine received a rarely bestowed "A" rating from OWR. Here's what Cole had to say:
"This is simply an amaazing Rosé -- and completely addictive for its sublime combination of fruit and spice! I have no doubt that this wine would pair well with all kinds of food, since there is plenty of flavor and structure in the glass, but I simply enjoy it by itself as the complete summer quaffer."
"Fantastically luminous rose blossom red color - in different lighting conditions the red becomes almost vibrant with intensity. Light aromas of fresh cranberry and mown grass. Remarkably refreshing flavors of crushed strawberries and cherries are combined with hints of dried cranberry and spice to creat a sensation that is fruity, yet braceingly piquant at the same time. Plenty of acidity gives everything a fresh twang, and the finish offers hints of sweet cherries, yet is completely dry."
Et Fille Wines - Father Daughter Team Produces Pinot
Et Fille Wines is a small, family-run, Oregon winery specializing in pinot noir. Et Fille, which means "and daughter", honors the hand-in-hand, father and daughter team that makes these wines. The winemakers specialize in single vineyard Pinot noirs made from fruit sourced in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Their first wine is the Et Fille Palmer Creek Pinot noir 03 $23.36/$25.95..
A dark ruby color and complex nose of powerful currant fruit show the discerning taster that something special is coming. The wine is big- a hedonistic type of Pinot noir, unctuous velvety texture and powerful sweet fruit. The wine offers a hint of spicy herbs and its alcohol content packs a punch but the wine is balanced and shows complexity and a long finish. This is a lot of wine for the price.
Lone Canary Winery - Affordable Reds With Some Special Twists
Red, Rosso, Rouge—names that describe the color of red, but not necessarily names that describe a wine.
Lone Canary Winery, located in Spokane, Wash, infused its wine offerings using different languages to describe red—Rosso for an Italian blend, Rouge signifying a Bordeaux blend or French style of wine, and Red, for an American-style of blended wine.
Problem is, the public didn’t automatically assume that Russo was an Italian-style wine, Rouge was French and Red was American—most thought it was all the same wine. Winemaker Mike Scott and his business partners, Jeanne and Steve Schaub decided to change the names to reflect more of what was inside the bottle, not just the color.
OTHER WINES WE RECOMMEND
NEW WINERIES ON THE SITE
Olympic Cellars’ carefree, fun Working Girl wines are on a mission to rescue working women everywhere after a long day in pantyhose and pumps! Each wine in the series was created to be distinct, yet affordable and has “her” own unique personality. The wines are made from grapes sourced at the vineyards of Sagemoor, Paul Champoux, Aldercreek and Coventry Vale, in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.
Working Girl wines are
made by women, for women and are destined to become the “Official
Wines of Working Women” everywhere. Proceeds from the Working
Girl series support the Gynocare Fund, a local women’s
clinic that is part of Family Planning of Clallam County, donating
two percent of monthly profits from sales of all Working Girl
Pronounced “szz-eh-jee”; the moment of perfect alignment between three celestial bodies, such as that occurring during a total solar eclipse. Syzygy Wines is based in Walla Walla, Washington. Kelsey and Zach Brettler are the owners, and Zach is the winemaker.
First releases is the Syzygy Red Table Wine 03 $18.86/$20.95. Five vineyard sources and three different varietals produced a very pretty wine with a floral backdrop on the bouquet, bright red and black fruit on the palate and a lengthy, ripe finish.
Syzygy has also released the Syzygy
Syrah Walla Walla 03 $26.96/$29.95. The winery says: "Great Walla Walla
vineyard sources went into our 2003 Syrah and it produced a dark,
meaty, spicy wine – yet one that remains refined and balanced.
Subtle oak influences helped round out the mouthfeel and soften
the tannins, while not overpowering the fruit.
About Jean Yates
Jean previously worked in the computer industry and does most of the work on the Avalon website. She is a passionate photographer and many of the images on this site are hers
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