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Italian Inspired Oregon Reds

27 year old Remy Drabkin grew up in Oregon wine country, working Willamette Valley harvests from the age of 13. Moving east at the age of 18, she learned about Italian "house wine" from the Italian American families of Pittsburgh. Making wine on a 100 year old wine press in the basement of an Italian restaurant, she fell in love with varietals like Sangiovese and Barbera. Returning to Oregon, she decided to travel her own path, today making Italian inspired wines in the Pinot-centric Oregon Willamette Valley.

When Remy was a child, Oregon's wine community was small and tight-knit. "There were only about ten families making wine when I was a kid - including the Adelsheims, the Ponzis, and the Letts (Eyrie). They were our neighbors". Remy was "hanging around getting in the way" at wineries by age eight. She worked her first harvest at age 13. Through high school, she was employed after school at Erath.

In the '80s, Remy's mother, Joan Drabkin, managed Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville, the epicenter of the North Willamette wine country community. Nicks was (and still is) the place where the winemakers and their families hang out. Eating at and helping out at Nicks', Remy was exposed to Italian food and wine from an early age. Joan was also the Culinary Director of the International Pinot noir Festival and was involved in its founding. Remy grew up surrounded by foodies and wine lovers.

Falling in Love with Italian Wine

At the age of 18, Remy left McMinnville for Pennsylvania. She moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 to manage the Enrico Biscotti Company, a restaurant and bakery in the heart of the city's Italian American neighborhood. The restaurant is the center of local winemaking for friends and neighbors. Following the Italian tradition, they make their own wine each fall. They use a 100 year old wine press built into the restaurant's basement.

While managing the restaurant, Remy made wine with "a bunch of old Italian men," using grapes shipped from California. They made wine from classic Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Barbera, Alicante, Nebbiolo, "basically anything they could get their hands on." The final wine was a blend of whatever they could get in that vintage - a hearty, rustic Italian style table wine, aged in old whiskey barrels.

"The experience hooked me into Italian varietals" Remy says. I loved that their winemaking was so rustic and traditional. Everything was so basic. They didn't check the Brix, or the Ph. They focused on the craft of it, not the science. The big new investment they made while I was there was a reflectometer (used to measure the amount of sugar, or Brix, in the wine). It was super advanced for them."

When Remy returned to Oregon (after some time in France) she worked for Argyle, running their lab. Various winery jobs led to her own winery, Remy Wines. She has her own winemaking space, and is a one woman show, making about 1600 cases a year of Sangiovese, Barbera, Syrah, and red wine blends.

Italian basement wine plus many vintages of Oregon wine equals Remy, a winemaker whose wines are made with skill and a point of view usually developed at a much later age. She's already making delicious wine, and has a cult following among Willamette Valley winemaking families and friends. It's time to try Remy Wines.

Remy's Wines

Avalon Wine

Remy Wines
Barbera 07
$35.95/$32.36 by the case

(mixed cases OK)

See all Remy Wines

48 cases made

Very small production of Remy's old world-inspired, fruity and supple Barbera.

Aromas of blackberry jam and roasted fruit introduce a lush, succulent wine, juicy and appealing. Red and black berry and cherry flavors are enhanced by hints of smoke and licorice. The finish is clean and refreshing.

The Remy Barbera is such a super food wine - we had it with meatball sandwiches from Corvallis' great Italian deli, Natalia & Cristoforo's. Both the wine and the sandwich were delicious on their own, but the combo was Piemontese ambrosia.

Avalon Wine

Remy Wines
Sangiovese Red Mountain 08
$22.95/$20.66 by the case

(mixed cases OK)

See all Remy Wines

74 cases made

A Pacific Northwest Sangiovese that really tastes like Sangiovese. The wine is made from old vine fruit from Kiona's Red Mountain vineyard.

An expressive, ample wine with red and black fruit scents and flavors. Layers of smoke, dusty black pepper, licorice add concentration and weight. Fresh, uplifting fruit and a hint of vanilla cream on the finish. Tannins are fine and barely present. Very good value.

Remy says: "The Sangiovese is from Kiona vineyards on Red Mountain. I try to make my wines true to the varietal - emphasizing the beauty fruit more than trying to emulate a winery or region."

"One thing I do believe is that certain traditional techniques are employed because they are tried and true. For instance the Barbera was barrel aged for 2 years to integrate that wonderful acid and give it an authentic style. The Sangiovese sees very little oak because I am trying to emphasize the fruitiness of the varietal - but gets a little passive oak to incorporate some of the more dusty characteristics that make Sangio so yummy."

Avalon Wine

Remy Wines
Port-Style Barbera
$21.95/$19.75 by the case

(mixed cases OK)

See all Remy Wines

26 cases made

Beautiful bottle, beautiful wine - juicy & sweet red raspberry with the tiniest hint of pepper and a refreshing finish, this Port-style Barbera based dessert wine was the crowd favorite at a recent Remy Wines tasting. Highly recommended and a great gift.

The Beneficio is made from Barbera grapes (Rosebud Vineyards, Mattawa, Washington) and fortified with Grape Neutral Spirits from Clear Creek Distillery. It is made in a Port-style although Remy doesn't call it a port - "Beneficio" is the name of the process of adding the spirits to the fermentation to stop it.

Remy's Beneficio was barrel aged for 3 years. She made only one barrel.


Avalon Wine

Remy Wines
$59.95/$53.95 by the case

(mixed cases OK)

See all Remy Wines

95 cases made

As soon as the cork popped, the scent floored us. It is a super- perfumed bundle of raspberry, vanilla, fresh saddle leather, and, yes, hints of bread pudding and black plum.

After a lot of swirling and sniffing, time to venture a sip. Succulent. Sweet, deep black fruit flavors (black plum, black cherry, black currant, briar). Tellicherry peppercorn, meaty (as in charecuterie). Unusual. Giant. Creamy, like a rich pudding, but with a tannic backbone and berry style acidity that enlivens the wine. Remy took inspiration from the traditional Italian style - rustic and hearty. She added her own distinct Pacific Northwest twist.

The Remy Lagrein 06 is a bit young. As Adrienne says, this is a wine to age for 5-6 years - something I really want to do, if I can resist showing off my few bottles to friends.

Marcus and Adrienne agree that Remy's Lagrein screams for game sausage - elk, venison, or maybe Oregon lamb. Or perhaps cassoulet. - Jean

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