Due Regazze Vineyards (JPB's Vines in Cameron Park, CA)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Oregon Trail

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and a half and I have yet to write a single paragraph on the third largest wine region of the United States: Oregon. Truthfully, it wasn’t an over site or even an honest mistake. I just didn’t have the inspiration. Let me explain.

The biggest reason for not touting the wonderful wines of Oregon is the perception of value. The Oregon wine industry has marketed itself as a region that produces premium wines (which translates to premium prices) where biodynamic farming is practiced. I do not want to delve too far into the discussion of biodynamic farming but it generally costs more. If you are one of those people who go to Whole Foods grocery store and pay $25.00 a pound for chicken that was raised in a barnyard eating nothing but wheat germ and flax seed, then you will appreciate biodynamic farming practices. One of the main reasons for creating this blog was to share information about wines that I felt offered tremendous value. Discovering those values from Oregon has been a challenge.

Probably my second reason for not writing sooner about Oregon wines is I’m just not passionate about the main varietals grown in the region: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This is what the region is world renown for and I will admit they are fantastic. But for my personal tastes, these two varietals are like lineman on a football team; you respect them and you know they have their place on the field, but you don’t pay to see a lineman play (with this analogy think of a bold Napa Cab or Grand Cru Bordeaux as a starting Quarterback). Again, this is just my personal opinion.

That said, I admit it is not fair to my readers to neglect such a beautiful world class wine producing area. I’ve been to Oregon’s Willamette Valley twice and both times had great wines and memorable experiences. Despite the enormous amount of money that has been invested in improving the quality of the wines and facilities, there still is a very non-commercialized feel to the region. You can still go to a tasting room and occasionally see the wine maker pouring his own wine. The customers in the tasting rooms seem to have a genuine interest in wine unlike the weekend bachelorette parties you find in the Napa Valley. Even if the main varietals grown may not be your personal favorites, it’s worth at least one visit to Oregon. But don’t go looking for any great deals.

Below are some suggestions that I feel represent some value to what the region has to offer:

2008 Torii Mor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir- A simple yet elegant example of Oregon Pinot Noir. Owner Dr. Donald Olson started producing 1,000 cases of wine at Torri Mor in 1993. Today production tops out at over 15,000 cases. The wine I tasted is not one of their reserves and generally sells in the mid twenties however I was able to buy at Beverages and More for under $17. Found dark cherry flavor with a background of earthiness that accompanies many style of Pinot Noir.

2009 Erath Pinot Gris-I know summer is hard to think about in the middle of February but drinking this made me think of being out by the pool on a hot July afternoon. The wine opens with a very floral nose with lots of citrus flavor on the finish and can be purchased direct from the winery for under $15 dollars. As an aside, Erath is one of the pioneer wineries of Oregon’s Willamette Valley founded over 40 years ago.

2009 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir-They pretty much had me with their company motto “Aristocratic wines at Democratic prices”. This consortium of wine families each have years of experience in the wine industry and are dedicated to bringing a quality product at an affordable price. They consistently score in the 90 point range with many wine magazines and also were named Best Pinot Noir for under $20 by Food and Wine Magazine. Tasted cherry flavor and had a bit of spiciness to its body as well.

2010 St. Innocent Willamette Valley Chardonnay-I picked up hints of peach and pear on the nose and tasted those flavors as well. The wine is vibrant yet not overpowering and while very drinkable now, could further develop with another few months in the bottle. Priced around $22 dollars but with only 870 cases made, it may be difficult to find at a discount.

2009 Maysara Pinot Noir McMinnville Estate Cuvee- I have not tasted this wine but it caught my eye when it made Wine Spectator’s recommended wines from Oregon list. Most of the wines on the list which scored in the mid 90s are priced anywhere from $60 to $100 dollars. The Maysara was priced at $32. Again hardly a screaming deal but sharing accolades with higher end wines deserves mentioning.

Until next time..


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