Every year about this time I start to anticipate one of the finest events in the country, the IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) held in McMinnville, Oregon in late July. This marks their 25th year and I can hardly wait. Not only is it a fabulous wine experience for guests, the food elements of this event are unparalleled.
Granted I typically work the event for my good friend Anne Nisbet, the IPNC Culinary Director, so I am not out tasting a ton of wine, however this kind of work does allow you to do a bit of sampling along with the long hours so its truly enjoyable work. I was able to spend a bit of time in Portland this past year and I’m looking forward to more trips down south to experience their wine and culinary world in more detail.
Today’s Wine Wednesday column includes two selections from Oregon wineries. One is producing the expected Pinot Noir from that region and the other producing a Zinfandel from Washington grapes. Both are wonderful stories of people following the path…their path…whatever that path is. The third selection is from a destination Washington winery making a Pinot Noir from Oregon grapes. The worlds of Washington and Oregon are coming closer together and leveraging each other.
2008 Columbia Valley Zinfandel – $19
An Oregon Winery focused entirely on Washington State Zinfandel, Primitivo and Petit Sirah, woohoo!
I love this story about angels. And the wine is heavenly as well. A notion I often refer to is that the the “path” is never a straight line and one must open up to wherever the path unfolds. Angel Vine owner Ed confirms this notion in reference to Angel Vine, he says “the path one takes to end up in the wine business is often circuitous, involving a dose of passion, and usually includes a bit of good fortune.”
His path started with his “first angel” wife Laureen and their mutual love of wines. Arriving in Oregon in 1997 to grow wine grapes was the beginning of the first iteration called Three Angels Vineyard in 2001, named for Ed’s three angels, wife Laureen and their two daughters. Located in Eola-Amity Hills, this vineyard, originally planted with Pinot Noir vines, replaced an old cherry orchard overgrown with blackberry bushes.
As the path unfolded the urge to start a winery persisted along with a strong hankering to plant Zinfandel grapes.
In Washington State Zinfandel plantings are scarce (State reports show only 62 acres of Zinfandel are planted). An opportunity to purchase Walla Walla grown Zinfandel arose in 2006 and a plan was set in motion to blaze a new trail and produce Zinfandel and Primitivo wines sourced from premier Washington vineyards.
After much research Ed and family located a selection of Washington grape growers who have both a passion for Zinfandel and sites capable of growing superior fruit. At harvest, the grapes are picked early in the morning and immediately brought to the winery. These are handcrafted wines using modern viticulture practices combined with traditional winemaking techniques in Carlton, Oregon.
With the recognition of five medals from the San Francisco Chronicle & Dallas Morning News wine competitions, the path brought an unexpected turn of events. Another winery claimed a trademark dispute and challenged the brand name, Three Angels. With some legal counsel, Three Angels changed its brand name to Angel Vine.
Angel Vine 2008 Columbia Valley Zinfandel – $19
Released in April of 2010, Angel Vines produced just 420 cases of the 2008 Columbia Valley Zinfandel. The Zin is blended with 18% Primitivo and 6% Petite Sirah and retails for $20. The grapes all hand-picked, are then delivered and processed at the winery location. Half the grapes were sourced from Coyote Canyon in Horse Heaven Hills and half from Stonetree Vineyards in the Wahluke Slope. True to Zinfandel which tends to have a fairly high alcohol content, this wine sits at 15.4%.
2008 Estate Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir – $24
Carlton, Oregon is a special place where quality vineyards and wineries dot the landscape. John Lenyo is the owner/winemaker at Twelve Winery in Carleton and a new tasting room in downtown McMinnville. Twelve is a ‘Spinal Tap’ reference. “If they thought 11 was one louder than 10, then his wines are one up on 11” says John.
I admit I wasn’t a Spinal Tap fan, and didn’t know anything about them. After a little research I found the IMBD website script from the 1984 movie Spinal Tap about the band of the same name, referring to a scene with band member Nigel Tufnel and filmmaker Marty DiBerfi referencing a review of the bands latest album.
Taken from IMBD.com:
“Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.”
All the Twelve wine labels make a reference to the # 12. Whether it’s an abstract shot of a clock at 12 o’clock or 12 ballerina legs or 12 people in a scene. Clever? Kitschy? You decide. Were you a ‘Spinal Tap’ fan? No matter, the labels are cool.
The 2008 Estate Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir is a lovely and lightly focused Pinot Noir overall. It sports a tangy balance with a grip of tannins to the red berry, pink peppercorn and floral flavors. It has an expressive finish rather than a long-lingering one. Great match for many food combinations with its light body and subtle fruit. My music choice while sipping was definitely not Spinal Tap but I wanted to be authentic so I went back to 1984 and put on some Cyndi Lauper “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.
Just back on the heels of a full day tour to Swiftwater Cellars in Cle Elum, I had the pleasure of tasting wine with winemakers Tony Rynders and Linda Trotta. Tony Rynders, long time winemaker for Domaine Serene knows how to craft a delicious Pinot Noir and the upside is he is now crafting it for a Washington winery using Oregon fruit from the Willamette Valley. Swiftwater Cellars makes a host of other varietals and a second label, No. 9, named after the coalmine history of its winery location on the Suncadia property above the bustling little town of Cle Elum.
Swiftwater Cellars founders Don and Laurie Watts have created a destination winery nestled in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, just 80 miles from Seattle. The gorgeous property overlooks the Rope Rider golf course and sits atop the former Coal Mine No. 9, which operated there from 1930 to 1963. The winery features a 350-degree bar with plush seating and two-story stone fireplace, dining the hoist House restaurant and additional private dining and event areas.
My recommendation is to make a visit to this special place, and while it might be your first visit, it definitely won’t be your last. The view and natural surroundings are stunning; the atmosphere is lodge-like and totally relaxing, the amenities are plentiful.
Swiftwater Cellars is hosting the fourth annual Wine in the Pines August 26-28 featuring more than 50 Northwest wineries, a variety of events and celebrity hosts Evan Goldstein, MS and Thirsty Girl Leslie Sbrocco.
Swiftwater Cellars sources grapes from select vineyards in both Washington and Oregon and the Watts family owns Zephyr Ridge, a 300-acre vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills.
2008 Swiftwater Cellars Pinot Noir $55
The nose on the wine is superb. It is full of raspberry, cherry, vanilla and nutmeg. It’s juicy and lively and the berry flavors are offset with plum and tobacco. The wine has complex layers with a nice lingering finish. The grapes are from 100% Willamette Valley fruit (a blend of 6 sub-regions). Only 390 cases produced.