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New for Summer

on Avalonwine.com

New Wineries
This Month we feature Coeur de Terre, Analie Robert, Apolloni, Velocity Cellars, and J Daan.

New Oregon Pinot Noirs
This month, lots of new 2004 releases including wines from St Innocent, Andrew Rich, Coeur de Terre, Amalie Robert, Bergstrom (2005!), Domaine Coteau, Spindrift, and the page is updated weekly.


Latest Articles & News
·  Oregon Pinot noir New Releases June 2006
·  Oregon's 2002 Vintage -- Wine Spectator 97 Points
New Wineries & Updates
Northwest Gourmet

Indie Wine Festival Finds --
What we liked

For a second year, the Indie Wine Festival 2006 featured 42 "Indie" wineries at a two day tasting in downtown Portland. Indies are defined as producers who made 2,000 cases of wine or fewer for the current vintage (2004) and who are registered as a bonded winery in Oregon. Many fine wines were poured, and we found ourselves drawn for several new wineries and several old faithfuls:

  New "Indies" to check Out, including a few who weren't there but should have been

Amalie Robert Estate
Apolloni Vineyards
Anam Cara Cellars
Coeur de Terre Vineyard
J. Daan Wine Cellars
Kathken Vineyard
Methven Family Vineyards
Matello (coming soon)
    Old Favorites, including a few
who sat out this year's festival

720 Cellars
Aramenta Cellars
Black Cap
Carter Vineyard
Dalla Vina
J Albin
Patton Valley Vineyard
Ribbon Ridge Vineyard
Spindrift Cellars

BBQ Wine

Bergstrom RedBergstrom "Red Wine" 04 $18.00/$20.00
Great value hedonistic fruit bomb of a wine from famed winemaker Josh Bergstrom. It's made from 60% Bergstrom Pinot noir (yes, that incredibly highly rated nectar) plus Cabernet Franc and Merlot to make it even bigger and richer.

Josh makes a hundred cases of this wine or so to sell to Oregon customers for summer everyday drinking. It's made for barbeque, picnics, summer sipping on the deck, made to complement a great steak, burgers, or ribs. Stands up well to many $30+ red blends.

From the winery: "This wine has the color of black cherries with a classic bouquet typical of Bordeaux varietals. Aromas of ripe cherries, cocoa, cassis and pepper give way to a lush mouthful of wine framed with nice acidity and ripe tannins. This wine pairs nicely with barbeque all summer."

Quercus Hyperion Syrah 04 $18.86/$20.95
Another winner from garagiste Michael Beckley- juicy, lush flavors, classic black cherry, roasted meat, toasted coffee bean, and black currant flavors with a nice streak of acidity to keep the wine fresh tasting, with a pleasant finish. Good value.

Michael is one of our favorite little known treasures of Oregon winemaking. He crafts luscious, easy to love wines from Oregon fruit and sells them at prices that make them some of the best values around. Enjoy this lush treat with steaks and ribs throughout the summer.

Splendor Red Wine $15.07/$16.75

A big, meaty yet approachable blend of Washington State fruit: 11% Sangiovese, 47% Cabernet Franc & Merlot, 42% Cabernet Savignon, fruit from Rosa Mystica Vineyard and Alder Ridge Vineyard. Good value.

Nose has sasparilla, cola, sweet red and black fruit, reiterated in the flavors, which include lots of toasty cocoa and espresso bean. Unusual, different, fun. This wine's over-the-top richness reminds us of the bounteous, luscious huge red wines of Sineann and Owen Roe.




Avalon Wine

Under $30 Rarities from Top Oregon Wineries ------

Beaux Freres'
Belles Soeurs Rosé 2005 $18.00/$20.00

For the first time, Beaux Freres is offering their Rosé to the market, and it is a wonderful wine. Made 50% from their tiny block of Grenache in their Estate Vineyard, 50% Pinot noir.

Only about 100 cases were made and we expect our allocation to sell out in a few days.

The aromas of this dry, French-style rosé are irresistible, like a basket of fresh fruit with strawberry and raspberry foremost, accompanied by Ruby Red grapefruit, blood orange, pomegranate, and spring blossoms, for aromatic intrigue. On the palate, the wine is lively and practically dances with mouth watering crispness.

This Rosé is a mouth filling explosion of fresh crushed fruit flavors, the midpalate is loaded with juicy fruit flavors, and the finish is clean and refreshing.
The wine's color is light pink.

The addition of Beaux Freres' Estate grown Grenache to the blend has decidedly placed this wine in a category all its own. Perfect for summer sipping, salads, grilled meats, for parties, or contemplating the sunset.
And it's a Beaux Freres wine made with Estate fruit for $20!!

Congrats Beaux Freres! Beaux Freres Pinot noir Estate 05 - 95 points from Wine Spectator!


Mark Ryan New Releases:
We're Wild about Wild Eyed Syrah!
And "Dissident" is a Steal


Mark Ryan McNeilly makes huge, over-the-top Bordeaux style wines with a distinct Northwest twist. His wines have been described as "a bull rush for your senses"; "balanced attack and grace"; and "Right and Left Bank Bordeaux". The HerbFarm Restaurant, which includes some of Mark's wines in its list, says "his wines show great extraction of color and intense aromatics of dark berry fruit, cassis, leather, and smoke".

Mark Ryan McNeilly, owner and winemaker, Mark Ryan Winery

About Mark

Mark grew up in Eastern Washington and Bellevue, near Seattle. He worked in restaurants while in school in Bellingham, trying Washington and California wines as part of his job. It was a second label Bordeaux from Chateau La Tour (1990) that really provided his"wine epiphany". After that, he became consumed with the art of winemaking, and six years later, he's still intensely focused on the secrets of great wine.

Mark's first wine was made in 1999 with a bit of fruit from famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard in Red Mountain. "I'm a Red Mountain man" he says- "I taste a lot of wine, and keep coming back to Red Mountain. I'm getting my wine act together, figuring out the winemaking end of the business, and then I'd like to own a vineyard."

Mark says Jim Holmes, owner of Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, has visited some potential Mark Ryan Winery vineyard sites with him in Red Mountain. For now, Mark travels two or three times a week during harvest between the Tri-Cities area, where he sources fruit from Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, and Hedges vineyards in the Red Mountain Appellation, and the Mark Ryan Winery, housed in an industrial park in Woodinville, north of Seattle. He also commutes about two hours a day from home to the winery. Mark lives in West Seattle: "I don't want to give up my 206 area code" he laughs; but this summer may bring a move to Woodinville, to be nearer the winery.

Mark is, like many winemakers, a foodie, and his girlfriend's career choice helps. His girlfriend, Megan Dunavant, is studying to be a Sommelier and is currently Sommelier at Cafe Juanita, in the town of Juanita, near Kirkland. Mark says it's one of the best restaurants in the Seattle area.

Off to Mexico next week on vacation, Mark leaves Avalon with three new wines to offer you: all "over-the-top" and characteristic of his boisterous style, priced right, with flavors to make you, as Marcus put it today, "want to do cartwheels over this wine".

Here are Mark's three new releases:

Mark Ryan "Wild Eyed Syrah" 04 $31.46/$34.95
The "Taste Washington" Seattle event last weekend featured several standout wines, and this was one of them.

Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and Hedges Vineyard Syrah fruit from Red Mountain give this big, ripe, mouth filling wine a strong tannic backbone. Acids were also excellent (6.2 gr acidity), giving the wine a clean, refreshing finish, contrasting well with the brambly, dark cherry flavors. There's a toasty meatiness on the nose that's more varietal character than oak. The addition of 5% Viognier (from Kiona Vineyard) brings perfumed orange blossom and exotic floral elements to the nose, echoing pleasantly in the flavors. Mark aged this Syrah in 500 liter Hungarian oak puncheons, double the volume of the usual barrels, tempering the effects of the new oak on the wine. Mark likes Hungarian oak for Syrah, he says it imparts less sweetness and more peppery spice than French oak.

Marcus says; " Wild-Eyed is a perfect way to describe the wine--that's how it left us at a recent tasting. You'll feel the same way when you see the beautiful inky-purple color. Deep dark violets and flower blossoms jump out of the glass and mingle with Asian spice, gamey Syrah and black fruit aromas. On the palate, it's massive black fruit--black cherry dominated--that carries through to the finish and dances with hints of candied ginger, violets, leather, and spicy black pepper. This stuff is awesome. Can you see the eyes getting wild?"
(This is the wine Marcus said he was tempted to do cartwheels over).

Mark Ryan "Dissident" Red 04 $22.45/$24.95

New for 2006. Made from all the "dissident" fruit that wouldn't "conform" to Mark's premium red blends. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, some from barrels that didn't fit into his premium wine blends, and some from experimental vineyards he was testing for future release. Mark says it's approachable and ready to drink now.

Marcus says: "If juice like this didn't fit into Mark's premium red blends, you've got to be excited about the 2004 Long Haul, Dead Horse, and Gun Metal. The Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah blend is as delicious as any good value I've tasted from Washington in months. Big and rich, yet easy to get into right away, the Dissident is a perfect bridge between the sold-out 2003 big reds and the upcoming 2004s. Don't be shy...get a case."

Mark Ryan Viognier 05

A new varietal for Mark McNeilly, as he tries his hand at white wines. It's the first white wine he's ever made, and he put all the care into it you'd expect. The fruit comes from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard -- all 40 cases of it- yes, not even two full barrels.

A bit of a cooler year at Ciel du Cheval produced Viognier grapes with nice minerality and all of the exotic scents and flavors found in good Viognier. The flavors sit somewhere between classic French and New World styles- it's not soft and buttery, as some Viogniers from warm climates can be, but a bit more rounded and fruity than a cold climate French Condrieu, with a nice minerality and clean finish.

The wine shows classic melon, orange, and pear fruit, and the nose is positively redolent with the classic orange blossom and jasmine fragrances. Mark says he had to put this wine at the very farthest, highest point in the winery, to keep from drinking it all before he bottled it. Very limited, and well worth the price for something extraordinary.

Avalon Wine

First of the Major 2005 Pinots:

Bergstrom Pinot noir Willamette Valley 2005 $26.95/$29.95

Bergstrom's Willamette Valley Pinot noir always comes and goes in a flash, so if you want some, now's the time!

The Bergstrom Willamette Valley Pinot noir is the winery's first Pinot Noir bottling every year, a wine meant to please the hedonist and collector alike... at a very good price. The 2005's are beginning to be released, and the best offer racy, uplifting acidity, ripe fresh fruit flavors, and delicious, forward cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry hints. Josh always makes some of the very best Oregon wines, and this is his most accessible, ready to drink, well priced offering.

The 2005 is full of intense, juicy, fresh flavors of red and black fruit, with black cherries and blackberry dominating, hints of strawberry and red cherry adding depth, and a lovely racy acidity offering a fresh, uplifting quality that awakens the palate and calls for another sip. It's everything you could want from one of Josh's wines, with tha addition of the refreshing, crisp "lift" that's beginning to be the word used to differentiate the exciting 2005 vintage.

Caroline Bergstrom says: "May is my favorite month of the year, I get to celebrate my birthday during that month but also experience Spring at its best. Oregon markets are bursting with fresh produce for feasting with friends and family. Back home (France) most markets are just starting to sell strawberries and especially one varietal called the Gariguette (also know as the Rolls Royce of Strawberries)coming directly from the Dordogne region. This berry is intense in flavors and is only sold for a very short period of time. The just released Bergstrom 2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir reminds me a lot of my childhood and of these delicious berries, begging my Mom to make us Gariguettes tartes.



Elk Cove's Finest
Elk Cove "La Boheme" Pinot noir 04 $33.71/$37.45

Elk Cove's most complex Pinot, the La Boheme 04 is similar to the last 5-6 vintages of this famed wine, according to the winery. The nose is full of dark cherry and raspberry, with hints of sweet oak, toasted pecan, tobacco, and milk chocolate. The scents are entwined around a core of earthy, gamey, venison notes that signal its wild, meaty style. Flavors reiterate the juicy dark cherry and berry theme, with anise, earth, and a rich streak of acidity that holds the wine together and encourages its pairing with food. Tannins are firm, not overwhelming, very well integrated, a wine designed for cellaring, so we suggest decanting for a few hours if you drink it in the next few months.

The La Boheme 04 is a big, complex, food wine that continues to add weight and flavors as it opens in the glass. Just a delight, especially for those occasions when the food is something special. We especially like it with duck and Oregon lamb, and it's flexible enough to pair with wild salmon or beef. A real treat.


Lucious, Over-the-Top Styled Pinot gris
Sineann Pinot gris 05 $17.95/$19.95

Light straw in color, Sineann's 2005 Pinot Gris first entices you with a lush fruity nose that turns from pineapple and grapefruit to lime with a faint waft of honey buried in the wonderful citrus aromas. In the mouth think white nectarine, creamy lemon custard, and sweet tangerine peel, with touches of French tart Tatin. Crisp on the palate with mouthwatering acidity, this wine is going to pair with any food from cheeses and appetizers to baked halibut with cream sauce. -ms


O'Reilly's Pinot noir 05,Just Out and THE DEAL

Avalon Wine

Pinot noir 2005 $14.35/$15.95


Here's a pretty fantastic harbinger of the 2005 vintage in Oregon:
O'Reilly's 2005 Pinot Noir!

Winemaker David O'Reilly says: "this is unequivocably my favorite O'Reilly's since I started making it in 1997. I loved the '98 and the '01, but this wine beats them all."

David describes the wine as "unctuous, fruity, and full bodied - an indicator of the 2005 vintage. The wine is fruit forward with a beautiful acidity, a wine that people could stock up on and put away for everyday drinking for the next 5-6 years."

David made the 05 Pinot from fruit sourced from a range of vineyards, including all of his 2005 Kalita Vineyard fruit . Other vineyard sources included the Columban Vineyard, Battle Creek Vineyard, and Amity Vineyard.

For those of you who have stocked up on this wine in past vintages, skip ahead to the ordering page -- you know this is an awesome value in Oregon Pinot. But just in case, the wine opens with a lovely nose of dried lavender, rose petals, and crushed red fruit, with a slight gamey edge. On the palate it's red cherry and and raspberry, with strawberry notes that carry through to the finish. Soft tannins and mellow spice combine with good acidity to make this a superb value. -Marcus Looze, Avalon Manager

Avalon Wine

Other New "Best Value" Pinots of Note:

Pinot noir Reserve 04


Kathken is an established vineyard west of Salem, close to Van Duzer, that has sold its grapes to wineries for quite a few years. Now, they are producing a bit of wine under their own label, and it is quite nice Pinot noir, for a quite nice price. When Ken brought his wines to our store to taste, customers and staff alike appreciated the lively, fresh flavors and attractive style of this ready to drink Pinot. And the price, well, it's refreshing also!

Made from 100% Estate fruit, The Reserve Pinot noir 04 hits all the right 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. A real nice deal.

Westrey Pinot noir Willamette Valley 04 $16.16/$17.95

David and Amy make some great wines, and we're excited to be offering them. Their value priced Pinot is a distinct step above most Pinots at its price in terms of both flavor and style - it's a bit of a serious collector's wine, with obvious Burgundian influences, seen even more clearly in their Reserve and single vineyard Pinots. This couple clearly understand fine cuisine and how to make Pinots that work with and enhance food.

The Willamette Valley is a bright, juicy wine,with scents of sweet red raspberry, pie cherry, and a hint of white pepper. Flavors reiterate the red raspberry and red cherry fruits, and there's an uplifting, refreshing acidity that puts a smile on your face. Hints of fresh crushed black pepper round out the wine and extend the balanced, satisfying finish. Tannins are extremely fine, perfect for complementing food without intruding.

Territorial Pinot noir 04 $16.88/$18.75

We like this wine so much, we're mentioning it again.

Territorial is one of those "Insider" wineries that is now beginning to receive regional and even national recognition. The wines are all made mostly from the winery's own Estate vineyard, and this Pinot, their basic blend, gives a lot of bang for the buck.

The nose has big aromas of red cherry, hints of raspberry with dried flowers, sweet vanilla toast and roasted coffee. Flavors are of juicy red and black cherry fruit, with herbal spice. You’d be hard pressed to find a wine with better balance for the value! The Territorial is a great food wine that would pair well with grilled pork or salmon or farfalle with roasted vegetables.

Avalon Wine

Price Reduction on 2002 Pinot noir
Was $25, Save $5.25 a bottle or $7.23 in mixed case orders

Brandburg Pinot noir Northern Reach 02 $17.77/$19.75
Brandborg is a most promising new winery and this 2002 shows their stuff. Made from Wadenswil clone Pinot from Southern Oregon, the wine has scents of black cherry, blackberry, and black currant. Flavors are of dark cherry, with hints of black raspberry, plum, and sandalwood incense. There's a hint of culinary herbs, mint, and smoke in the rounded, balanced finish. It's unusual to find a 2002 this good at this price, and to boot, it's still available to purchase!

Avalon Wine

Insider Best Values for 2006
Pinots that can Walk a Tightrope


It takes three things to walk a tightrope: balance, balance, and more balance.  You can’t have too much of it.  The same can be said of a good Pinot Noir.  The oak can’t overwhelm the fruit.  The tannins must be present for aging but can't suck your face off when the wine is young. Same with acidity -- it has to be present, but too much, you pucker, and too little, the wine is flabby.  If all these elements are in harmony, it seems like a Pinot can walk a thin cable stretched across a canyon.

It’s easy enough to find well-balanced, delicious Oregon Pinot Noir for $50 a bottle. 

But what about for $20? 

Spring has brought a bevy of new 2004 Pinot noir releases to market. The 2004 vintage is sizing up to be exceptional. Here are new Pinots we’ve come across that exhibit great balance, beginning with a long-time favorite:

Territorial Pinot noir
Willamette Valley 04 $16.88/$18.75

Territorial Vineyards has racked up accolades since its start in 2001.  In 2005, the winery won Wine Press Northwest’s “Oregon Winery of the Year to Watch.”  For the last few vintages, the entry level Territorial Pinot has barely stayed on Avalon’s shelves long enough to justify putting a price tag on it.  So when co-owner Alan Mitchell brought by a sample of the 2004, we were excited.  And it surpassed expectations!

Tasting Notes: Big aromas of red cherry, hints of raspberry with dried flowers, sweet vanilla toast and roasted coffee.  Juicy red and black cherry fruit, with herbal spice.  You’d be hard pressed to find a wine with better balance for the value!  The Territorial is a great food wine that would pair well with grilled pork or salmon or farfalle with roasted vegetables.   

Elk Cove Willamette Valley ’04 Pinot Noir $21.55/$23.95

Elk Cove is best known for their highly rated single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. They also produce a great value entry level Pinot in small quantities that sells out almost instantly. Just released is their 2004 version, a superb example of value Pinot.

Notes: Desert herbs, dried rose petals, white pepper, with raspberry and black cherry on the nose.  Raspberry, fresh and dried cherries dance around the silky mouthfeel.    Very balanced with medium grained tannins, cinnamon and clove spice and toasty dark fruit in the finish. 

Cardwell Hill Estate ’04 Pinot Noir $20.65/$22.95

On the edge of Corvallis (where we are located) lies a new winery, Cardwell Hill Cellars.  2004 is only the second vintage and the evolution in the vineyard is showing.  Aided by winemaker extraordinaire Jim Kakacek, proprietors Dan and Nancy Chapel have begun producing some very tasty, excellent value Pinot Gris, Rose of Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir.

Notes: Dark ruby color, the nose has lovely perfumed red fruit notes and hints of sasparilla, cola, allspice, and dark violets.  The mid-palate is packed with flavors of sweet, rich red raspberry, blackberry, sweet red cherry, toasty spice notes, white pepper, and just a tiny hint of gamey, meaty dark notes. A medium long finish reiterates the cola, sasparilla, and spice notes, along with red and black berries and a nice rich, viscosity.  A more refined, layered offering, and would go well with game fowl, duck, or eggplant parmesan.

Aramenta Cellars ’04 Pinot Noir $$21.60/$24.00

Ed and Darlene Looney own Ribbon Ridge Estate, which is a family farm established in 1905.  Ribbon Ridge is a well known area for Pinot Noir, with wineries like Beaux Freres, Patricia Green, and Brick House making stellar offerings.  In addition to this yummy Pinot, Aramenta makes the Tillie Claret , a great value Bordeaux-style red blend.

Notes:  Medium garnet color, aromatic nose immediately upon opening of red cherry fruit, cranberry, forest, and a hint of cinnamon. Flavors are of red cherry, red raspberry, hints of white pepper, roasted meat, and smoke on the finish. Finish is clean and fairly lengthy.  2004 vintage is rich, even a better deal than the popular 2003. Unusually complex for the price, this wine would pair well with wild mushroom risotto, veal scaloppini, or chicken grilled with sweet Hungarian paprika and a light cream sauce. 

And now that temperatures are warming up around much of the country, here are a couple 2005 refreshing Oregon whites that will help you leap into spring and summer:

Elk Cove Pinot Gris ‘05 $14.35/$15.95
Big tropical fruit and melon inn the nose.  Tons of delicious fruit--bright pineapple, mango, peach, tangerine, and grapefruit.  Medium bodied with bright, citrusy acidity and minerality in the finish.

Van Duzer Pinot Gris ‘05 $15,25/$16.95
The new vintage of this highly acclaimed Gris is refreshment in a bottle!  Light, crisp, with bright peach, juicy green apple and honeyed citrus fruit.  Come on 80 degree days! 

Avalon Wine

Broadley Claudia's 2004 -
Good as their 97 Point (WS) 1994?

Soter declassifies 04 Beacon Hill
& Offers "North Valley" at $33


For Oregon Pinot noir lovers, there's two nuggets of news -

==>Broadley Claudia's Reserve 2004 is certainly the best
since their famed 97 point (WS) 1994 vintage Claudia's;

==>Soter has declassified their 2004 vineyard designate
Beacon Hill Pinot noir
, and are offering a $29.48/$32.75
"North Valley" Pinot, incorporating as part of the wine's blend,
the fruit from their usually $65-$75 Beacon Hill site.

Avalon Wine

Broadley Vineyard
Pinot noir Claudia's Choice 2004 $43.19/$47.99

"Whoa, Nelly!"

So say our notes from a recent tasting of the Broadley Claudia's 04. The wine was stunning, right after opening. A nose of creamy cherry, black raspberry, and black cherry is layered with hints of exotic incense, white pepper, lavender, hot weather herbs (thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint), and toasted bittersweet cocoa and coffee beans. Layers and layers of immensely creamy fruit and creme brulee waft from the glass.

Flavors reiterate the creaminess and complexity - layered black fruit: cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, and loganberry dominate with many spice notes - cinnamon, nutmeg, and anise. The wine slips over the palate like shot silk, ending in long, long notes of berries and toasted oak, with hints of fresh turned earth and a bit of refreshing minerality along the way.

If there's a Claudia's to approach their famed 1994, this is it. In terms of balance, elegance, intensity, and complexity, this wine has it all.

Interesting note about the Wine Spectator notes on the 1994 Claudias- right now, there are three different tasting notes on the Claudia's 94 in the Wine Spectator database- the 97 point note, obviously made blind (since the writer speculates that it must be Burgundy, but could be a North American Pinot noir), followed by two tasting notes, one for 94 points, one for 92 points from Harvey Steiman. The 97 point review is the one that was published in Wine Spectator and that led to its being named one of the Top 100 Wines of the Year at Wine Spectator in 1998. I can only assume that, in the interest of comprehensiveness, WS has included tasting notes from more than one reviewer in its archives.

What I find most interesting is that the 1994 tasting note from Harvey Steiman, WS's Oregon reviewer, is so much lower than the others. His reviews of subsequent vintages of Claudia's are even worse. Frankly, I'm surprised the Broadleys even bother to send the wine. And frankly, the way this lovely wine sells out, even before release as futures, vintage after vintage, the winery either has snookered a heck of a lot of wine lovers, or it was, perhaps, reviewed by someone whose stylistic tastes differ from the Broadley's and their patrons.

Not to stir a tempest in a teapot, just wanted to note that difference makes the world go round, and not everyone has the same opinion of Broadley. Avalon recommend the Claudia's as one of the standouts of the vintage, and suggest it as a cellaring candidate for owners of serious Pinot cellars who want to memorialize the 2004 Oregon vintage with something superb.

Avalon Wine

Soter Vineyards
Pinot noir "North Valley" 2004 $29.48/$32.75

Tony Soter has chosen to not make a 2004 Beacon Hill Vineyard Pinot noir, but to incorporate the grapes into his less expensive "North Valley" Yamhill-Carlton appellation wine.

While a rubber cork is initially offputting, the immediate, lush nose more than compensates. It's essence of fruit here, with bing cherry, Morello cherry, black cherry, black raspberry, a hint of cranberry, and with some time in the glass, wild strawberry, all overflowing the bowl of the glass. The nose says "pure fruit", in a way we usually find in Tony's California Pinots.

Flavors follow through with the same fruits dominating, black cherries and a bit more intense strawberry in the flavor. The texture is viscous and plush, and the wine has an elegant, finely balanced backbone with plenty of acidity to hold the fruit and very fine tannins that provide just a hint of dusty, mineral spice in the finish, especially apparent after some time in the glass.

All in all, this is a dang good value, especially from the tiny 2004 vintage. Tony is to be commended for offering the wine at such a nice price. At under $35, it beats quite a number of same-priced Pinots.

Avalon Wine

New Wine Releases


Popular Shopping Pages
on Avalon Wine

Avalon Recommends

Highest Rated Oregon Pinot noir

HIghest Rated Washington Big Reds

2002 Vintage Oregon Pinot noirs

Oregon Pinot noir Under $20

Oregon Pinot noit Between $20 and $30

Oregon Pinot gris

Northwest Sweet and Dessert Wines

Northwest Ice Wine

Top Indie Wineries -
Unknown Today, Hits Tomorrow

All Northwest wines released within the last month that are still available are listed on our New Releases page. Incuded this month are the lineup of 2004 Pinot noirs from St Innocent, Elk Cove's single vineyard 2004 Pinots, Bergstrom's first 2005 Pinot noirs, Andrew Rich's 2004 Pinots, new 2005 Pinot gris from Coleman and Raptor Ridge, and Evesham Wood's Whites, including the lovely Chardonnay Le Puit Sec 05.

From Washington, Owen Sullivan (O-S) has released their 2004 Red Table Wine, Zerba has new vintages of Syrah 03 and Cabernet Sauvignon 03. Walla Walla Vintners' Csabernet Franc 04 got 90 points from Wine Spectator and it's just a deep, round, smooth plum, berry and mocha monster.

For more new releases, check the first five or so wines at the top of each page of our Shopping Site. The most recent arrivals are usually place at the top of the list for a week or so.



6-6-06 Vitaly Paley of Portlan'd Paley's Place
is guest chef at the James Beard Foundation on June 6, 2006.

Read about Paleys Place and Vitaly's Recipe Pairings with Dusky Goose Pinot noir

REad about Paleys Place


"Portland is sometimes called the Burgundy of the North," Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl wrote last July in an issue of the magazine devoted to produce. "And with good reason, as I found just by walking into a restaurant called Paley's Place." While we're sure chef/proprietor Vitaly Paley was thrilled by the mention in Reichl's "Letter from the Editor," he respectfully disagrees. Paley concedes that the wines from the Willamette Valley are Burgundy-esque, but he thinks the food has more in common with Normandy. Both regions border the sea, and both cuisines emphasize seafood and the apple. Normandy, of course, is the land of butter and cream; in Oregon the number of artisanal dairy producers is on the rise.

France is close to Paley's heart. The French training he received at the CIA, and the year spent with his wife, Kimberly (who now runs the front of the house), apprenticing at the Michelin two-star Moulin de la Gorce, played a key role in his transformation from Juilliard-trained concert pianist to chef. (Jobs in New York at Union Square Cafe, Remi, and Chanterelle helped, too.) At Paley's Place, Paley "draws on the best of Oregon's bounty to infuse each order with haunting beauty," Karen G. Brooks wrote in The Oregonian. Paley has earned four-star reviews from The Oregonian, and Restaurant of the Year nods from The Oregonian and Willamette Week. Pierre Rovani of The Wine Advocate called Paley's Place "a God-send."

-----James Beard Foundation

4-1-06 Dundee Hills Wineries for Association
Over 25 wineries and independent vineyard owners representing 44,000 cases of world-class Dundee Hills wine and 1,300 acres of prime vineyards, have united to form the Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association (DHWA).

Defining the Dundee Hills as “The heart and soil of Oregon wine” the Association highlights the unique relationship between soil, climate and vintners as expressed in exceptional wines.

“The Dundee Hills are the epicenter of Oregon Pinot Noir,” says DHWA President Sean Carlton of Archery Summit Winery. “Our red volcanic soils have long served as an expression of place, and a bottle of wine with ‘Dundee Hills’ on the label now pinpoints that origin.”

Located 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Dundee Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) encompasses a total of 6,490 acres. The hills are effectively an island in the center of the sprawling Willamette Valley AVA. To the north, the Chehalem Mountains act as a buffer to the extreme winds and weather patterns often associated with the Columbia River Gorge. Grape vines also benefit from warmer nights and less frost than adjacent valley floors, and are not subjected to wildly fluctuating climatic influences.

The region’s geology dates back 15-17 million years ago when lava flows from northeast Oregon pushed into the Willamette Valley, covering all but the highest hills with up to 1,000 feet of basalt. The catastrophic Missoula floods 10-15,000 years ago deposited a blanket of sediment on land below the 200 ft elevation, sparing the original red volcanic hills above the small town of Dundee. Today, the 200 ft contour line defines the Dundee Hills AVA.

The unique relationship between volcanic Jory soils, elevation and protective microclimates has consistently proven ideal for vineyards, and the Dundee Hills have produced Oregon’s top Pinot Noirs for decades.

6-6-06 LIVE Holds Annual Meeting
The sustainable certification organization Low Input Viticulture and Enology, Inc. (LIVE, Inc.), held it’s annual event featuring certified sustainable and Salmon Safe wines at Willamette Valley Vineyards on May 26th.  A panel with many of the Oregon wine industry’s leading professionals discussed sustainable certification and its importance as part of Oregon’s message.

Panel moderator was Stirling Fox, LIVE President and General Manager of Oregon Grape Management in Newberg.  He manages estate vineyards for Rex Hill, Bergstrom, Maresh, Chehalem, and more.

Highlights from the panelists discussion included the following:
     Allen Holstein is the executive vineyard manager for Oregon wineries such as Argyle, Stoller, and Domaine Drouhin.  He recently enrolled almost 500 acres in the LIVE program citing that he didn’t have to change many of his management practices and realized consumers appreciate the message of sustainability.  He estimates around 80-90% of the new Dundee Hills appellation will be certified sustainable.

    Jim Bernau, President and founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, added, “Brand Oregon has established a message of environmentally green standards which are recognized internationally by retailers and consumers alike.”  Bernau explained how surveys have shown a body of consumers, growing exponentially, value messages of health and safety.

    Pat Dudley of Bethel Heights Winery has used the LIVE and Salmon Safe message on her wine labels since 1997 and is one of the original members of LIVE. She spoke about how LIVE’s international third party certification sets their wines apart in a competitive marketplace.

    Susan Sokol Blosser, President of Sokol Blosser Winery and long time supporter of sustainable agriculture, stated “we are on the cutting edge of exciting opportunities for marketing and education. LIVE makes us all better farmers.” She continued to speak of how sustainable practices make her feel more connected to the land: “Sustainability goes beyond caring about the insects, beyond the biodiversity, and beyond protecting the longevity of grape plants in the vineyard; sustainability even goes beyond leaving an economically viable vineyard operation for my children.”

    Maria Ponzi, Marketing Director for Ponzi Winery, said “Having the LIVE logo on our bottle of wine means our wines have reached the highest standards in the world.”  She continued with what Ponzi is doing to support sustainability, “Luisa Ponzi [as winemaker] put her foot down and made the decision: our winery will not process one grape that is not certified sustainable.”

    Dan Kent has been the director of Salmon Safe since the program’s inception in the mid 1990's.  He expressed the growing consumer response to unified industries and how the Oregon wine industry has a great opportunity to stand unified as a sustainable industry. All LIVE-certified grapes meet Salmon Safe requirements.

    Toni Ketrenos, the wine buyer for the expanding Portland based chain of natural grocery stores, New Seasons Market, expressed how consumers look for sustainability logos on wines. Even without knowing all or any of the details of what the logos represent, the consumer assumes it means good things.  She encouraged the industry to continue repeating promotion of the sustainable message due to growing consumer interest.

At the Annual Meeting that followed the panel, new LIVE Board members and officers were elected.  The new Board members are Allen Holstein, and Brant Dutton of Dylan’s Run Vineyard who is also a long time LIVE volunteer and supporter.

LIVE, Inc. is a non profit organization providing vineyards and wineries with official certification for using sustainable farming practices based on international standards of Integrated Pest Management. As of June, 2005 the LIVE programs total acreage is 2,258, the program grew 25% from 2004 to 2005 and has acquired 799 new acres since January, 2002.


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