As winter nears and darkness falls at four in the afternoon here in Oregon, wineries release more new wines than any other time of the year.
Every day brings us a new batch of wine samples to taste. We go through many, many wines this time of year, searching for the combination of great flavors and value. If the slow economy has a bright side, its’s that it has held down the price increases we’ve learned to expect. And some of Oregon’s most lauded winemakers offer new wines with lower price points. Add “Indie” wines from some up-and-comers with good prices and something original to offer. All in all, it’s turning out to be one of the best seasons for new Oregon wine releases in years.
I’ll break this into several posts, there are so many wines. Let’s start with New Indies – the smallest, most recently founded wineries:
Ayres Vineyard. Brad McLeroy, former Cellarmaster at Domaine Drouhin. The winery’s in the basement, the wines are darker, bigger, rich, intriguing. Try the Ayres Vineyard Pinot noir Willamette Valley 08 $20.95/$18.86 for the price. For the full on Brad at his best + 2008 Pinot experience, try the Pioneer 08 $37.50/$33.75 and the Lewis Rogers 08 $29.95/$26.95. The Oregonian’s Katherine Cole recommended the Lewis Rogers in Tuesday’s Food section.
Crowley Wines. Katherine Cole also recommended the Entre Nous Pinot of Tyson Crowley on Tuesday. Tyson is just getting started with his new winery, leaving his job at Cameron at a tough time, economy-wise. He made three delicious vintages of his own while still at Cameron, and the wines have that something special that calls out a rising star. Try his Entre Nous 07 $27.95/$25.16, or his Willamette Valley 07 $24.95/$22.45.
Brittan Vineyards. My vote for the best new winery of the year. If only we could talk Robert into making some Petit Sirah as well as his star quality Pinots.
(Here’s a correction about the vineyard, with thanks to William Sweat, at Winderlea.) The Brittan Vineyard is the former Discovery Vineyard adjacent to Hyland in the McMinnville AVA. It’s a magnificent property and Robert has done an amazing job reviving a vineyard that was not in very good shape.
(Re the Petit Sirah reference – Robert was winemaker at Stags Leap Winery for many of their highest rated years and is considered possibly the most knowledgable winemaker on Petit Sirah in the world.)
Crumbled Rock Winery. Gerry Koschal and Julie Steigers own one of the coveted vineyards along Worden Road, higher on the hill than Brittan, and next door to Winderlea and Maresh. For many years, they sold their grapes to Erath. When Erath was purchased by American Tobacco last year, they stopped making their Juliard Vineyard Pinot. Gerry and Julie decided to make their own wine from the grapes. Lucky us. Crumbled Rock’s Old vine Juliard Vineyard Pinot 07, from vines planted in 1988, is beautifully made, and $26.95/$24.25 (Erath’s Juliard Pinot sold for $50+). The winery building is brand new, finished just in time for Gerry and Julie to make the 2009 vintage.
Haden Fig. Erin Nuccio makes wine with Russ Raney of Evesham Wood. His first wines, a Haden Fig 2008 Chardonnay $13.95/$12.55 and a 2008 Pinot noir $19.95/$17.95 reflect his mentor’s style, with darker, more pronounced fruit flavors and spice showing Erin’s touch.
Dang, there are so many more wineries to talk about, butI’ll post this and get the word out. More to come as soon as I feed the dog and clean up the yard from the intense wind, rain, and hail of the last 24 hours. Have you ever had thunder make your house shake? It did last night.