Oregon & Washington State Wines – Part 1
March saw the latest annual tasting of wines from the Pacific North West. I am going to do a round up of new discoveries from both states. This first part focuses on Oregon. The wines from these wineries will be included in the next editions of Wine behind the label and a new guide, West Coast Wines, which I am working on with our California based contributor Ilona Thompson. Despite the uncertainties surrounding Brexit this was the largest London tasting yet from the two states.
To many people Oregon means Pinot Noir but there is much else beside to consider. The Willamette Valley and its various sub AVAs is the largest producing area. Some excellent wines are also emerging in the south of the state in the Umpqua and Applegate Valleys, while in the north straddling the border with Washington State are the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys and Columbia Gorge. Check out further details here including a list of wineries profiled in Wine behind the label.
Domaine Roy & Fils are located in the Dundee Hills with vineyard holdings there and in Yamhill Carlton. The two partners have a solid background in the regions viticulture, their families were involved in establishing Beaux Frères in 1991. The Domaine label wines are from estate fruit whereas those labelled Maison are vinified from bought in grapes. The 2014 Maison Roy Incline is bottled under the Willamette Valley appellation and is sourced from six separate vineyards. Elegant, stylish and offering an impressive depth of red fruits it is a selection of the best barrels. A fine second label Petite Incline is also released.
Bow and Arrow are based in Portland with a distinct element of the Loire Valley about their wines. They also make Pinot Noir but it is the Loire styled wines that give the small range real interest. The 2015 Melon Willamette Valley is based on the very best from Muscadet. It displays all the mineral and intense green fruit qualities you would find only in the best of its French counterparts. The 2015 Air Guitar Red Willamette Valley resembles some of the best from Anjou. It combines Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with rich intense red fruits and just a slight Loire like leafy character. Gamay Noir and Rhinestones a red blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay are also made. As you would expect minimal intervention is the order of the day with the winemaking.
Golden Cluster is a small northern Willamette Valley operation, producing an eclectic small range with lots of character. Semillon, Syrah, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay are all made. These are joined by a Flora, which is an unusual crossing of Semillon and Gewurztraminer. The 2014 Coury Old Vine Sémillon is from a dry farmed vineyard planted on own roots in 1965 and is named after the original owner Charles Coury an early post prohibition Oregon pioneer. The wine is vinified naturally with indigenous yeasts and gets a four day contact on skins before fermentation. Rich, honeyed waxy flavours are nucely underpinned by green fruits and a fine mineral quality. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Statera Cellars are unique in making only Chardonnay in Oregon. Like the best of their neighbours the wines are naturally and traditionally made with organic practices being followed. Winemaking facilities are in Carlton and they work with three vineayrds. The 2014 Johan Vineyard Chardonnay Willamette Valley comes from a distinctly cool site, which is moderated by breezes from the Van Duzer corridor. Restrained, elegant and with impressive citrus depth an edgy mineral quality holds it all together.
Résonance Vineyard is the Oregon project of Louis Jadot. An elegant and finely structured 2013 Résonance was followed by a more opulent, black-fruited 2014 from the warmer of the two vintages. An edgy minerality is apparent in the wines. Vinification is traditional with around 15 months in barrel, half of which are new. A total of 13 ha are planted in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the foothills of the Coast range of which 8 ha are Pinot Noir the remainder Chardonnay, which is currently only available in the US.