If you plan on including wine in your gift-giving this year – even if it’s for your own stocking – I recommend taking a look at this under twenty-five list. A mixed case of these wines is a great way to help your loved ones forget about the coal you gave them last year.
To help get you started, here is a list that represents some of the best values on our website. I can promise you that the winemakers wlll use the money wisely (trips to Mexico, facials, new work boots). An investment in a winemaker’s mental health is also an investment in the future quality of their work. A win win!
Pinot Noir La Combe Verte 2011
Marcus has written recently about Ken & Erica’s wines and the values are so striking that I have to include one of their Pinots. Their La Combe Verte has the kind of layered complexity that many local Pinots simply don’t possess.
A complex character is immediately apparent on the nose, with savory game notes accenting a spicy black fruit perfume. The rich textures on the palate provide the perfect supporting backdrop for spicy, dark-fruited flavors, and though perhaps still a little closed, this wine gives the sense that it will unfold deliciously over the coming months. It is long and savory with a hint of a meaty note under the brighter red fruit flavors in the finish.
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Over on Ribbon Ridge, Brad McElroy has been releasing some of the most reliably hard to beat values in the entire valley. The 2011 opens with a lovely crushed berry perfume and an intriguing undercurrent of wet earth. Its core of ripe dark red fruits has a supple texture and cuts a wide swath on the palate. Peppery notes combine with hints of mint and black tea on the long finish.
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Bill Holloran might be one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Soft-spoken and a gifted listener, Bill has a talent with both people and wine. His golden retriever inspired me to get my beloved Buffy.
Bill’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is blended with fruit from a vineyard he owns in the Eola-Amity hills, as well as from an older one in the Dundee Hills, planted in 1974.
The 2010 has sublime levels of ripeness and the part contributed by each AVA is deliciously apparent. The Eola-Amity portion is the first on stage with its bright red fruits and ethereal floral notes. On the palate the same tangy red fruits are backed by an unmistakably Dundee Hills-esque richness and dusty earthiness. These two personalities play against each other delectably, with balance the real star here. A fantastic value!
Cuvée Lunatique Chardonnay 2011
The Cuvee Lunatique is Jay Somers’ nod to the racier, more focused side of Chardonnay; it sees no oak and undergoes no malolactic fermentation (this can turn a wine overly soft). Instead, this one leaps from the glass with lemon and green apple aromas that are immediately captivating in their purity.
On the palate it is decisive, not hesitating for a moment before delivering an electric range of ripe citrus and wet stone-like minerality. Juicy but still very vivid, this stuff stands heads and shoulders above most.
Lumos Winery owner Dai Crisp manages the famous Temperance Hill Vineyard. Over the years, I’ve watched him develop the vineyard from mediocre to stellar.
Dai gets some of the best fruit the Temperance Hill Vineyard produces, including some of its oldest Pinot Gris. The best goes into the “Julia.”
After the Julia is poured and sniffing begins, it offers the kind of depth that you rarely find in Pinot gris. First there are the almost vapor-like melon and pear aromas: so intense that a second sniff is hardly necessary. But I go back again, this time discovering a whole new periodic table of minerality that seems impossible to define.
On the palate it provides more awe with just a touch of Alsatian-like creaminess. Notes of sea salt keep the ripe fruit from seeming too sweet and a delicate spiciness ensures that it doesn’t lose it’s edge on the long lemon-tinged finish. Please try this wine!
On the nose there is no doubt to the Cristom Viognier’s identity, with streaks of honeysuckle, blueberries and ripe pear. The palate is sumptuous but never big; kept focused by a lemony fringe from start to finish. As it winds down and notes of crushed rock develop in the distance, I can almost feel the breeze off of the Rhone River as it curves by the town of Condrieu. (I keep my eyes closed, lest I open them and realize that I’m actually on a couch on a rainy day in Alpine.)
Viognier is a grape that I love dearly. Condrieu, the famous French Viognier, is a secret passion of mine. How can you not love the stuff, given its predilection to sumptuous fruit and an enticing perfume. The catch is that these same qualities – which winemakers often try to highlight – can often run amok. I’ve had examples of domestic Viognier that were so soft I wanted to pour them over ice cream or use them to season an old picnic table.
Without acidity, all wines are hopeless; no energy, no mouthwatering zing, they flop around like a dieing fish and are about as fun to drink as warm water. Add to that the too-much-perfume conundrum and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The more elegant versions of Viognier from France’s Northern Rhone Valley (Condrieu is the best, imho) express this perfume in subtle measures, letting it waft gently rather than penetrate. Those wines also have balanced amounts of acidity, giving the wine vibrance and lifting it up, even amidst its sometimes substantial textures.
In this country, balanced Viognier is, quite simply, a rarity. That is why I like this one from Cristom Vineyard. Their estate-grown version, produced in very small quantities, reminds me of those impeccably balanced wines of the Northern Rhone.
Author: Jean Yates