I sat at Doug Tunnell’s kitchen table on a cold, rainy afternoon last weekend, starting my second decade tasting his Brick House wines. It swept me into memories of twenty-some years of visiting Oregon winemakers. Every year is more rewarding: the latest vintage is always a fresh, new exploration of what Oregon wine is all about. With the heady scent of fermenting grapes as a backdrop, we tried the new 2011 Gamay and 2010 Les Dijonnais Pinot releases.
at right, Brick House on a sunny day
The Gamay noir 2011 was pretty incredible. My friend Robyn and I pushed back in our chairs when we smelled it, knocking me over with its super-fragrant nose. A spice box made of sandalwood filled with cinnamon, clove, white pepper and sweet anise wafted from the glass, drawing sighs and memories of Bali. At first I tasted vibrant fruit – alpine strawberry mixed with an infusion of its spicy scent. With time in the glass, the flavors opened to darker fruit and a hint of smoke. The tannins are like a luxurious Indonesian shot silk pillow – satiny and plush, kept in balance by a rush of fresh red fruit. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such an intense contrast of red fruit with black cherry and berry undertones in Doug’s Gamay. And at under 13% alcohol, we’ll be able to indulge ourselves this Thanksgiving.
It was hard to move on, but we sighed and said goodbye for now to the Gamay, knowing that we were in for a treat. Brick House Les Dijonnais 2010 is my favorite of Doug’s Pinots and his most popular. My memories of “Les Dij” in a decade’s worth of vintages are of a wine that is always elegant and rich, balanced on the head of a pin. It’s my kind of Pinot – classic Oregon, profoundly expressed. The 2010 lives up to its reputation.
2010 Les Dijonnais starts with an unmistakable “Brick House” scent of cherry fruit accented with spice, perfume, and flowers. The first taste is delightful and the wine gets better and better. It opens up with hints of sweet spice, dried herbs, earth, smoke, and minerals. For me, the more complexity the better. And a finish that goes on and on. I want a wine that is memorable – one I crave to have again. The 2010 Les Dij succeeds on all fronts.
Brick House Gamay noir 2011
$26.95 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case* (retail $29.95)
Brick House Les Dijonnais Pinot noir 2010
$44.95 in any 12 bottle order or Build a Case*(retail $49.95)
author: Jean Yates