I have been making wine with a handful of friends since 2004 and my passion for wine has never been stronger than it is today. The wine I want to make is so much more than a commodity and what my co-winemakers and I believe is to make great wine you need to start with great grapes. The term "Wine is made in the vineyard" is probably overused, but none the less very true.
The menu that Heather developed for the dinner included Elk, Salmon and Chantrelle mushrooms. These are flavors that to me almost scream to be paired with Pinot Noir and since we happen to live adjacent to a "World Class" wine region the access to high quality, small production wine was more than just a wish.
For the event I brought out five wines that I helped to produce and also four commercial wines as well.
The line-up with tasting notes included:
2004 Chien Fache Yamhill County Pinot Noir-Light colored, almost a rosé in color and very Burgundian in the nose. This is a wine that early on we would chill and serve as a Rosé. With time this wine has become more complex and the bright acidity remains and this wine has a nice balance of perfume on the nose and a good interplay of fruit and acid on the palate.
2005 Chien Fache Dundee Hills-Holstein Vineyard- Pinot Noir-This wine was made from grapes sourced from the vineyard of Allen Holstein. Allen is a long time vineyard manager and has managed properties for Stoeller, Argyle, Domaine Drouhin & Knudsen. His home vineyard is on a great Southeast facing slope in the Dundee Hills. This appellation is know for its red Jory Clay soil.
This wine has big, concentrated black fruit driven nose. The palate shows dark fruit and maybe even a bit of dried fruit (fig and dried currant). Good acidity and a long finish. Unfortunately this was a wine we only made a tiny amount of so today I have about 2 bottles left.
2005/2006 Chien Fache Dundee Hills-Holstein Vineyard- Pinot Noir-2006 was a leaner year than 2005 and this "Cuvee" balances the richness of the 2005 with the bright cherry fruit of the 2006. Great perfume on the nose and a brighter fruit focus that leans towards red cherry and sour cherry. Again a very small production and I might have two bottles of this hanging around as well.
2006 Chien Fache Walla Walla-Ash Hollow Vineyard-Cabernet Sauvignon- A Cabernet that shows what the fuss is about Walla Walla. Good upfront dark cherry fruit on the nose that shows a bit of spice and vanilla as well. A balance fruit driven style that has good tannin and a Cabernet we were very pleased with (this was our first effort with that grape). This wine went especially well with the Elk served with dinner.
2003 Domaine Drouhin-Laurene-Pinot Noir-This was a great bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. The "Laurene" is the reserve wine of DDO and all of their wine is "estate wine" which means they own their own vineyard (100+ acres of top notch Dundee Hills property). The wine had very good balance and a perfumed nose. Red fruits with a hint of French Oak. You could do worse than to have this be your introduction to Oregon-Willamette Valley- Pinot Noir.
2003 Ken Wright-Elton Vineyard-Pinot Noir-Ken Wright is one of the 2nd generation of winemakers that came to the Willamette Valley. Ken has been making Pinot Noir for over 20 years and today he has achieved "cult" status for his line-up of single vineyard wines. The Elton vineyard bottle was a concentrated wine that showed earth and dried rose petal on the palate. Bright acidity and a fun mushroom component that paired well with the bounty of Chantrelle's we harvested.
2004 Boedecker-Stoeller Vineyard-Pinot Noir-This wine is made by Athena and Stewart Boedecker. Their part time wine venture is on the verge of becoming their vocation. The Stoeller vineyard is also in the Dundee Hills Appellation and the Boedecker's got enough grapes to make 50 cases of wine (2 barrels). This wine showed good restraint and a balanced nose of red cherry/raspberry fruit. Good acidity and a nice finish.
2004 Sineann-Resonance Vineyard-Pinot Noir-Last but not least was my favorite wine of the night. This wine made by Peter Rosback of Sineann was stellar. Peter is a self taught winemaker who today has enough reknown to also make wine for Thomas Keller and his restaurant "The French Laundry". I have been buying Peter's wines for years, but when I heard he was making wine for Thomas Keller my respect for him grew even more and I remember uttering that if he is making wine for Thomas then he "Is the Sh**".
Great nose of red and purple fruit, a well balanced wine that showed enough acidity for the Salmon and enough tannin for the Elk. Blueberries with heavy cream on the palate and a very long finish.
Okay, I know these notes were a bit wordy and probably give you more than you want to know about wine but most of the information is there to glean. All in all I was very pleased with how the wine I helped to produce held up in this esteemed company.
All of the commercial wine is in the $40-65/bottle category and wines like the Boedecker Stoeller vineyard are nearly impossible to obtain. The food was fantastic and this was truly a special day of great food and great company. I am glad to have been a part of it.