With the arrival of June you can hear the cheers of joy from Rosé Wine Lovers far and near, “Rosé All Day!” So, it should come as no surprise that with the start of the first Summer month a day would be put on the calendar to celebrate this popular pink wine. Today is National Rosé Day, held annually on the second Saturday in June. National Rosé Day was started by Swedish Rosé house Bodvár to raise a glass to this delightful favorite summertime wine. To ring in the arrival of Summer I wanted to pay tribute to Rosé Day by introducing some Washington and Oregon Rosé wines that I will be enjoying this summer in my favorite place, my backyard and garden.
In April I traveled to the Newberg area of the Willamette Valley for a wine and food experience. While there I was able to pick up five Oregon winery Rosé to sample and enjoy during the Summer months.
Let’s be honest. Pinot Noir Rosé from Oregon is a desirable, eloquent wine that is easy to love. Do not however consider it a singular wine because Pinot Noir Rosé comes in a wide array of styles. Although the majority of the Rosé produced from Oregon is Pinot Noir, the grapes being used from 8+ AVA Pinot Noir terriors ensures that each is unique in color, aroma and flavor. Below are five excellent examples of the diversity of Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé.
After tasting Ayres new 2018 Rosé in their tasting room and talking with winemaker Brad about the vintage, I was thrilled to be able to bring home a Sample of this wine to enjoy this summer. Buoyant and bright, this Rosé showcases the best of a Pinot Noir Rosé with notes of morning dew rose petals, and ripe Spring strawberries on the nose. The same crisp flavors can be found on the palate, with the addition of a pleasant smoke and spice combination that is light as air. If you are looking for a unique Rosé to help you pass those summer days, then look no further than this Estate wine from Ayres.
I was really excited to finally have the opportunity to visit Bells Up Winery in Newberg, after corresponding with Sara Specter and her husband Dave for over a year. When they sat down with me and poured their 2018 Prelude Rosé I knew instantly that I was in for a treat. The deep pink color, almost a translucent red was just beautiful and when I was given a Sample to bring home, I knew that I would be saving this ‘Prelude’ for something special.
This is Bells Up wineries Second Estate Wine release, made with Estate Vineyard Chehalem Mountains AVA grapes. The 2018 Bells Up Prelude is like a sunny summer day picnic in a bottle. All of the flavors of a picnic in each sip, like a blanket laid out with strawberries, watermelon and pink lemonade. A well balanced Rosé with citrus undertones and a dry finish. This musical Rosé was named for Franz Liszt’s “Symphonic Poem No. 3: Les Preludes” and will be a Romantic Era addition to any summer picnic. I’m going to pretend that this is the end of an Opera Aria (and not a Symphony score) and give a loud hearty “BRAVO” to this Prelude.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit Soter Winery in the beautiful Yamhill-Carlton countryside. The setting of the winery was as inviting as the wines being poured and for me their Rosé hit all the right marks. This wine had an amazing sense of place. Both on the nose and palette you get a bright and lovely blend of sun kissed wild strawberries, and cooked bursting open cranberries. Creamy with that sprinkle of sea salt on the tongue, I loved the slight hint of white peach and blink of tartness. This was a smooth and elegant Rosé that enticed me enough to purchase a bottle to enjoy this Summer.
This Sample from ROCO Winery is one that I have not tasted yet but if it is anything like their other wines than I know this will be a special Summer sip. Below are tasting notes from ROCO’s website.
“The aromas remind me of the beginning of a red wine Pinot Noir fermentation. There is a “sweet” blending of cherry blossom scents with delicate fresh Willamette Valley strawberry fruit and a base of early summer treats like rhubarb pie and Royal Ann cherry fruit. The wine immerses you in flavors of raspberry, Oregon strawberry, and Bing cherry. The balance of bright acidity and rich, complex fresh fruit in this wine lends it incredible versatility when enjoyed alone, with friends, and with a plethora of food groups.” – Rollin Soles, Winemaker
In April during the Release party I heard more than one person requesting a case of the Alexana Rosé of Pinot Noir. With only 130 cases left at the start of the Release Party it was a much sought after bottle. Alexana makes their Rosé with whole clusters of fruit that is immediately pressed and stored with barely any to juice contact in an aged barrel of 100% French Oak for 4 months.
Do you know the smell of a Creamsicle Cream Bar on a stick when you are eating it. You get the smell of the orange and cream but also a light wood scent from the popsicle stick from this Rosé, a dreamy aroma. On the palate the Rosé was like tasting honey and citrus soaked edible flowers. This wine was purchased and found a spot my cellar until the perfect warm summer evening arrives.
A wide variety of grapes for making Rosé, from pinot noir to grenache to cabernet franc to sangiovese and more are used by Washington winemakers. As diverse as the grapes are that make Washington wines so desirable, the winemakers attention to every aspect of the Rosé making process, promises a unique Rosé from each of these three Washington wineries.
Always a fan of Canoe Ridge Vineyard Rosé I took a chance when I found some bottles recently at my local store of the 2016 Vintage for a great price. However, like an old flame, past seasons of Canoe Ridge Vineyard Rosé have me reminiscing and as with many other wineries this years 2018 release will soon find a place in my wine fridge.
Many people say drink Rosé young and I agree but these bottles were purchased to expand on the strawberry and watermelon flavors of this wine when incorporated into a Summer Rosé Slushy. I will be writing more about this later this Summer, when it is hot and a refreshing Wine Slushy is just the thing to enjoy outside.
If you are not familiar with Walla Walla Winery Va Piano, then let me tell you that you are in for a nice surprise. I visited Va Piano last month for the first time and came home with 2 bottles of this lovely Rosé and a bottle of their Chardonnay. Looking for more than just Washington Red Wines on this trip I was thrilled to purchase this wine after a wonderful visit to the Va Piano tasting room. Now I do not want to give away too much because I will be sharing more of this visit soon but I had to add this Rosé this list. Intrigued, I hope so!
“Spending time in Nature has a way of nourishing the Soul.” Katrina Mayer
Another disclaimer here, I haven’t tasted this 2018 Rosé from Seven Hills Winery yet. But, don’t let that sway you in adding it to your Summer Rosé list. Seven Hills Winery was kind enough to give me a sample of this years release after I visited them in Walla Walla a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to open this bottle. Truth be told, each year I add several bottles of Seven Hills Rosé to my Summer wine collection. Another disclaimer, I am a huge fan of all of Seven Hills Wines. I hope that you give it a try and wait for a story about Seven Hills Winery to come later this summer.
Tasting notes from Seven Hills Winery Website: In the tradition of the classic French Rosés, ours is delicate and refreshing, pale in color, and bone-dry. Primarily Cabernet Franc, with small amounts of Petit Verdot for additional structure and Malbec for expressive fruitfulness, this wine exhibits flavors of peach, grapefruit, and papaya along with fresh herbs and minerality.
I hope that I introduced you to some new Summer Rosés and that you add a few of them to your summer sipping list. Rosé is such a versatile wine that works with any meal and is perfect for picnics, summer parties and camping. I would love to hear about your favorite Rosé and what you pair it with.
For more information about each of the wines introduced here please visit them at:
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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
“I’m Still Learning.” Michelangelo at age 81!
Life is best experienced when we continually learn new things and broaden our horizons. One of my goals this year was to try and fill in as many of the gaps that I could when it comes to my knowledge of wine, winemaking, and wine regions. When the opportunity arose to attend the Annual Wine Boot Camp put on by Woodinville Wine Country, I knew it would be a perfect way to “keep learning”.
For this blog post I wanted to focus on the first of the four Boot Camp sessions, Decoding Foreign Wine Labels. Foreign Wine Labels have always perplexed me, especially while trying to choose a “just right wine” from the wide selections carried by many big box wine retailers. I really wanted to learn how to decipher these information filled labels. Designed as a practical lesson to help you understand the basics of foreign wine labels, instructor Tanya Morningstar Darling covered the history and origin of foreign labeling, and how to apply what you learn selecting a wine from a wine list or wine store.
Each of the following wines were introduced with an in depth education about how the particular country generally labels their wines. As much as I would love to share all the information I learned about Decoding wine labels, this was Instructor Tanya’s class and I do not want to just copy all the information she provided. So, I wanted to instead highlight the six wines tasted, after all isn’t this the best part, being able to taste each of the wines? The line up for the first session included a impressive array of different wines, each in their own way peaking my interest. These wines, all listed below, are available at Esquin Wine & Spirits locally in Seattle. (https://madwine.com/ )
Before I delve into each of these wines, I have to share how impressed I was with the Instructor Tanya Morningstar Darling, and her enthusiasm for wine and educating others about wine. Tanya expressed things about tasting experiences that I have always felt when it comes to wine, like “What you smell is yours, there is no right or wrong about it”. This says so much because of the four people at my table, we rarely agreed on what we smelled or tasted when it came to tasting the same exact bottle of wine.
Starting a tasting flight off with a Sparkling Wine is always a treat, it helps ready the palate, and gives you something to sip between each of the remaining wines to reclaim your palate. The NV Maurice Bonnamy Cremant De Loire is a Non-Vintage Sparkling wine that drinks incredibly well for a $15 bottle. On the nose you get Apple and Quince with notes of mineral elements floating up with the bubbles. On the palate is was refreshing (especially for 9:30 in the morning), it was fairly dry and actually lacked much fruit flavor, what amazed me was the mineral flavors present in each sip that I previously smelled. I don’t know if I would rush out and buy a bottle of this Sparkling Wine but I also would not put my hand over my glass if someone were to offer me a pour.
One of the first things that struck me was the vintage of this Riesling, a 2016? This added to my continual education that some white wines can age quiet well and this Riesling was an example of this fact. This 2016 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheim Riesling was lovely on the nose with a intoxicating smell of pear and apricot blended with a slight mineral edge. Some in the room said it smelled of petrol, but I could not detect this. A citrus flavor on the tongue, it felt rich but dry and a little salty but still pleasant to drink. A nice introduction to a German Riesling, at $32 a bottle I personally would like to try other Riesling from the same region before investing in bottles to cellar.
As much as I wanted to like this 2017 R. Dubois & Fils Bourgogne Rouge I enjoyed the aroma more than I did the flavor. With the smell of vanilla soaked blueberries and blackberries, smelling this wine made me think of berries that are almost overly ripe in the middle of August. The flavor was very dry and full of ripe fruit but it really lacked a depth that was needed to draw me in completely. For this wine I focused on learning more about the label to help me decode French wine labels. This Pinot Noir sells for $18 a bottle.
The 100% Sangiovese grapes used in this 2016 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino are selected from the youngest Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, also known as the vineyards in the coolest areas. The result is a bright velvety, well-balanced and medium-bodied wine that is crisp, dry and fruity. A plush ripeness is apparent in the aroma of sweet dark plums, spice and fresh cut wood. I wanted to fall for this wine given my previous experience with Sangiovese. Though it had a firm expression, silky tannins, and a flavorful finish, it wasn’t a wine I would be excited to drink. I felt it may have been better when it was first bottled, or would have been better if it was given more time to open up in a decanter or aerator. The wines in this six bottle flight were opened before the session started but not given much time to sit before being poured.
This 2011 Diaz Bayo Ribera Del Duero Reserva presented a powerful 100% Tempranillo punch and an equally strong alcohol level at 14%. I loved everything about this Spanish wine and so did the rest of my table. In full agreement it was our favorite of the first six wines of the morning.
Components on the nose were like a raisin figgy pudding topped with a liquid chocolate sauce. This was a wine to swirl and sniff, and repeat; Heavenly. This ripe Ribera del Duero offered a fleshy sip that sang with an earthy black-fruit flavor, dried prunes and spicy notes that wrapped around your tongue prior to a thick long finish. Available for $19 a bottle this would be a wine that I would stock up on and cellar to enjoy now and over the next five years.
This wine our Instructor Tanya chose as an example of New World Wine with an Old World Label for Marketing purposes. With the Merlot taking a slight lead on this blend on the nose you get Classic pops of cherry, pepper and cocoa. This wine definitely had a story to tell and each grape variety aspired to not be over staged by the others. These Noble Five Red Bordeaux varietals were blended with care and like the end of a play, each grape stepped forward to take their bow before the curtain falls at the finish. I appreciated this wine’s silky balance and how it offered a sensibility toward comfort with its flavor. Strong smokey pepper notes followed an initial introduction of red currants and vanilla, dry yet seamless with layers of structured tannins. A really solid complex blend of Bordeaux varietals. Priced around $30 a bottle this California wine was a nice way to end the Session One tasting.
At the end of the first Session our Boot Camp group made our way to Pondera Winery for a tasting, lunch from Purple Cafe Woodinville, and a presentation by 58 Stars Travel detailing some upcoming Wine Wanderlust Travel Experiences.
As I stated before, I wish I could share all of the information about Decoding Foreign Wine Labels, but after all this was Tanya Morningstar Darling’s class. Tanya has a list of wine education opportunities and upcoming wine study trips on her website, I encourage you to visit https://www.cellarmuse.com/ to learn more.
During the next couple of weeks I will share information and tastings for the other three sessions of this Woodinville Wine Boot Camp. Until then I hope that you visit the websites of those who helped make this session and lunch a success:
All Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog
Ending Oregon Wine Month with a visit to one of my favorite wine producers-Ayres Vineyard & Winery.
The term “Boutique Winery” is a classification that’s often used in today’s wine industry. Some would say that the phrase is becoming too cliché, but for wine enthusiasts like myself I continually find I am drawn to these smaller wineries who work hard to give a localized and “artisanal” feel to their wines. A winery is often considered “Boutique” when their annual production is 1000 cases or less, although no one is likely to demand reclassification if the production exceeds that amount by a few hundred or so. Aside from the “Case Classification” a Boutique Winery is also set apart by having a sense of Family, Community, and personal touch when it comes to the winemaking process. When visiting the Willamette Valley, specifically the Newberg area, a visit to Ayres Vineyard & Winery will deliver a sense of Family, Terrior, and a top notch boutique winery experience.
The idea for Ayres Vineyard & Winery began with a single comment heard on a trip in 1997 by a winemaker in France, he simply stated “I make the wines I like to drink”. Owners Brad and Kathleen McLeroy took those words to heart and began to formulate a plan of their own.
Eighteen years ago Brad and Kathleen along with Kathleen’s parents made the move to Oregon, to begin anew and to start looking for the ideal property to make their winemaking dreams unfold. After arriving in Oregon Brad began working at Domaine Drouhin as a cellar hand, and then worked his way up to Chef de Cave; which is the French term for cellarmaster. During this time in 2000 the McLearys and Kathleen’s parents the McClures, had the opportunity to purchase a 38 acre property near Newberg, Oregon. This location would be the beginning of a homestead for the families, and the start of Ayres Vineyard & Winery.
After an initial planting of Pinot Noir clone 667 more Pinot Noir clones, 777 and 115 joined the vineyard in 2002 along with some experimental plots that included Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot d’ Auxerrois. Soon to follow, Pommard and Pinot Noir clones 113 were planted to help round out Ayres Vineyards. During my tasting with Winemaker Brad, he told me that they do not use the little known grape. Pinot d’ Auxerrois as these couple dozen vines have actually turned into dessert for his kids who eat the grapes right from the vine during harvest time.
The first harvest at Ayres Vineyard was in 2003, and this also marked the first commercial vintage of Ayres Wine. Three years later, in 2006, Brad made the decision to leave his position at Domaine Drouhin and become the full-time winemaker at Ayres. Now 16 years since the first vintage, Ayres Vineyard & Winery has continued to produce wines that catch the attention of consumers and gained accolades from the critics. After being introduced to Ayres wines last year I too became a fan of this family oriented and sustainable Oregon Winery. I was excited for the opportunity to sit down with Brad and do a tasting of some of his newest releases.
Photo from 2018 of what would become one of my favorite Oregon wines.
Are you familiar with the Burgundian Pinot Blanc grape? How about the beauties that are being grown in Oregon? The Pinot Blanc grape is a tough one to always identify correctly in a blind tasting. This versatile grape has the cheeky characteristics of a well produced Chenin Blanc, but also the sleek style of a Chardonnay. There is so much to like about this grape and the wine from Ayres which is made with 100% Pinot Blanc and finished in stainless steel. On the nose you get a beautiful fresh aroma of apples and almonds, like a Charcuterie platter waiting to be enjoyed. A surprising slightly buttery flavor makes you sit up and take notice of this delicious wine, as it introduces flavors that are earthy like a mushroom yet sweet like a marshmallow. At the same time, this wine is crisp and light making it a perfect warm weather wine to sip at the end of the day. Pairing this Pinot Blanc with any white fish or seafood would bring out the layers of flavor already present in the wine.
When you see the words Ribbon Ridge on the label you know that you are in for something special. (Photo from 2018)
Made from the Pommard Pinot Noir grape, this vintage was picked earlier resulting in lower sugar and a welcoming acidity. Buoyant and bright, this Rosé of Pinot Noir showcases the best of a Rosé with notes of morning dew rose petals and ripe Spring strawberries on the nose. The same crisp flavors can be found on the palate, with the addition of a pleasant smoke and spice combination that is light as air. If you are looking for a unique Rosé to help you pass those summer days, then look no further than this Estate wine from Ayres.
“Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their value.” – Rafael E. Pino
This Pinot Noir embraces
all of Ayres’ estate producing clones: 667, 777, 115, 113,
and Pommard, along with fruit from neighboring Lichtenwalter and Armstrong Vineyards. A unique Pinot Noir that in a sip is a snapshot of the Ribbon Ridge AVA.
One of the most versatile Pinot Noirs I tasted while in the Willamette Valley, this 2017 Perspective from Ayres could literally be a wine that pairs well with anything. In those instances where you know you should open a white for your meal but your taste is leaning more toward a red, this is the bottle to open. A beautiful shimmering Ruby color welcomes you as you smell the aromas of bright cherries and marshmallows toasting over a campfire. Brad calls this his “Hand of the field instead of hand of the cooper” wine, and that is so true with the notes of earth and sea salt on the tongue that swirl around in an ocean of cherry and boysenberry flavors. A warmer Pinot Noir with notes of spice but light on the palate with a soft acidic finish. As I sipped this beautiful Pinot, I instantly began to visualize the dishes that I would pair it with and the number of them surprised me. I love when a wine leads you to new discoveries about yourself and how a wine can transform the status quo of food pairings.
The gang is all here in this Estate Pinot Noir, with each estate clone being represented; 667, 777, 115, 113, and Pommard. Brad says that this is about as even of a blend as you can get from the five clones. On both nose and palate you discover hints of blueberry, vanilla infused with baking spices, wood, and the sweet note of tobacco. A wonderful well balanced Pinot that can be paired with a smoky BBQ dinner or sipped alone by the campfire on a summer evening.
At Ayres Vineyard & Winery the Pioneer Spirit is Alive and Well.
Winemaker Brad says this Pinot Noir is made “in honor of the journey of the pioneer” and once you have tasted it’s bold and beautiful flavor you will want to join the ‘wagon trail’ and head to Oregon. A Single clone 667, Pinot Noir that is the darkest made by Ayres. Produced from small berries that have a longer skin to juice ratio, this is a masculine Pinot that could stand against any Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak. Deep and full of the aroma and taste of dark blackberry fruit, earth and clove. A second smell introduces vines swaying in the breeze on a warm summer day and the next sip releases another layer of flavors alive with elements of each vine and smoky charcoal. This wine is simply intoxicating in all the right ways.
To better represent the complexity of this Pinot Noir I am taking the Notes right from Ayres’ Website. “This wine represents the single best fermenter of the 2017 vintage. It is 65% clone 777, 25% clone 667, and 20% clone 115. The fermentation was 30% whole cluster, and this Pinot Noir is the only Ayres wine to have whole cluster influence.” Did you get all of that? Only 100 cases of this 2017 One Pinot Noir was produced and at $79 a bottle it is a much higher price point than the other wines in the flight. That being said this wine will catch your heart with its beautiful jewel tone color and wonderful blueberry aromas and flavors. Smooth and balanced with a fantastic Herbs de Provence, vanilla and tobacco finish on the palate. This wine is a true example of a top shelf Oregon Pinot Noir, made with patience and a true appreciation of the Terrior found on Ribbon Ridge. I cannot recommend trying this Pinot Noir more than to say I would gift it at Christmas to those I appreciate most. Stellar is a perfect word to describe this wine.
I would encourage you to visit the cellar at Ayres for an intimate tasting with winemaker, Brad McLeroy. Ayres is open by appointment only, and tastings are scheduled between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Tastings are $20 per person, which can be applied to the purchase of wine (one tasting per bottle). You can visit their website https://ayresvineyard.com/visit to book a tasting or call 503.538.7450. Ayres Vineyard & Winery is located at 17971 NE Lewis Rogers Lane, Newberg, OR 97132.
(Photo supplied by Kathleen McLeroy.)
Supporting Boutique Wineries is a passion of mine. With so many challenges facing small wineries, from limited production, to distribution and the struggles with marketing, it is clear that boutique wineries succeed with a strong customer base and word of mouth. So, this is my shout out to Ayres and their exceptional wines. Ayres has an excellent Case Club Membership and their wines are available to order by contacting them on their website at https://ayresvineyard.com/contact .
All Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
Continuing to Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with an Introduction to Alexana Winery in Newberg, Oregon.
Alexana Winery began with the purchase of 80 acre property in the Willamette Valley by Dr. Madaiah Revana in 2005. With a love of the great wines of Burgundy, Dr. Revena set out to produce a Pinot Noir that would match those wines from Burgundy. With the perfect location discovered, the story of Alexana Winery, named after Dr. Revana’s daughter Alexandra, began. Dr. Madaiah Revana is a cardiologist based in Houston, Texas and originally lived in Bangalore, India.
Located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Alexana Winery overlooks the 80 acre property and allows for some magnificent views of the vineyards and valley. The building that houses the winery is a three story gravity flow building housing an inviting tasting room, beautiful outdoor spaces and is a perfect setting to discover Alexana’s esteemed wines. On the property the building is LEED-Certified and the vineyards are L.I.V.E. certified, demonstrating Alexana’s commitment to sustainability. Nestled in the Dundee Hills American Viticultural area, the vineyards are planted to take full advantage of the 18 different soil types found on the property, ideal for the Pinot Noir planted there. In the Tasting room an impressive 20-foot bar’s front panel showcases the layered soil, this display is both an educational experience and a work of art.
A 10th Anniversary Vintage, this Alexana Dundee Hills Estate Reserve Chardonnay began the Spring Release Party tasting flight and for me it was the shining star of the tasting. Bottled as a Member Exclusive Wine in which only a limited number of cases were still available at the time of the tasting, this Gold Label Chardonnay is 100% estate grown.
Beautiful floral and honey notes escape from the glass with each swirl, like discovering a broken honeycomb in the middle of a wild flower field, alive with honeysuckle. The first sip of the Chardonnay was like a slice of Buttercream Bundt Cake melting on your tongue, not overly buttery just flawless and creamy. My husband and I both took our time talking about the finishing flavor and what we finally agreed on was that it was like a smooth sip that wrapped around your tongue and finished with a silky wild fennel soft licorice flavor. Just a hint but enough to make it one of the most delicious Chardonnay wines that I had tasted. I completely fell in love with the texture, flavors and balance of this wine. Luckily, I was granted permission to purchase one bottle of this Member Only Reserve Chardonnay. It now sits in my wine cellar awaiting a very special occasion to be opened and enjoyed.
Not surprisingly during the Release party I heard more than one person requesting a case of the Alexana Rosé of Pinot Noir. With only 130 cases left at the start of the Release Party it was a much sought after bottle. Alexana makes their Rosé with whole clusters of fruit that is immediately pressed and stored with barely any to juice contact in an aged barrel of 100% French Oak for 4 months. An eye catching display during the Release Party was a limited number of large format 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir that were available.
Do you know the smell of a Creamsicle Cream Bar on a stick when you are eating it. You get the smell of the orange and cream but also a light wood scent from the popsicle stick from this Rosé , a dreamy aroma. On the palate the Rosé was like tasting honey and citrus soaked edible flowers, a lovely wine that even my “not a big fan of Rosé” husband approved of. This wine also found a spot in my car for the return trip home.
Alexana Winery did a great job with the Spring Release Party, three tasting stations were set up inside and outside the winery allowing guest to walk around and enjoy each wine, mingle and talk before the next pour.
The Alexana 2017 Fennwood Vineyard was the first Pinot Noir of the Spring Release tasting and although it tasted a little young to me, I did appreciate the soft tannins and lasting finish. On the nose it is a mixture of sweet blueberries and strawberries swirled in a soft chocolate cream. On the palate the blueberry flavor is more pronounced like a deep cooked compote that has warm spices added to it. I found this wine enjoyable but thought that it needed a little bottle time to mature.
Alexana’s 2017 Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir is produced with grapes from the much sought after Zena Crown Vineyard located in the beautiful and rugged Eola-Amity Hills. This Salmon Safe Vineyard since 2013 has continued to supply grapes that are continually earning top ratings. In this wine Alexana has taken these popular Pinot Noir grapes and produced a wine that is as beautiful in color as it is in taste. Ruby jewel tones shimmer in the glass of this velvety Pinot. Notes of dark cherry and a sweet light smell of a chocolate covered peppermint patty greet you before the first sip.
This medium bodied Pinot is easy to love with it’s deep cherry and berry flavors and a chocolate sea salt covered truffle finishing the flavor explosion in your mouth. Stored for 6 months in oak this Pinot was less acidic and although it sipped heavier than the Fennwood Vineyard Pinot it felt softer with a longer finish. The length of the finish on this wine calls for a great pairing, like a roasted rabbit stew or a Coq Au Vin. I really enjoyed this Alexana vintage.
Many words can describe this Pinot Noir, however, the one word that came to me right away was; Spirited. This wine seemed to have a mind of it’s own, in color, aroma and flavor it flashed a spirit of uniqueness and independence. Rippling in the glass was a softer red color that proudly glimmered and demanded your attention. Both on the nose and palate this wine had a lot going on with beautiful layers of rich blueberry and spice, along with a peppery wisps that surprised me. Impressively soft on the tongue with a wonderful slightly acidic dryness, led to a promise that this Pinot would be a great wine to cellar for a couple of years. This wine is feisty, spirited and a truly unique Pinot Noir from Alexana Winery.
During our visit to Alexana We definitely considered becoming Wine Club Members, there was so much to love about the wine and the great benefits of a Club Membership. Ultimately we decided to wait but I would highly recommend looking into one of the three club membership packages available; https://www.alexanawinery.com/wine-club
An inviting, educational and delicious experience Alexana Winery should be a must on your Willamette Valley wine country tasting list! With outstanding wines, friendly hosts, and one of the best views in the area, we had an amazing time and will definitely be returning for another wine tasting experience.
To learn more about Alexana Winery: https://www.alexanawinery.com/
Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.
Continuing to Celebrate Oregon Wine Month with an Introduction to Soter Vineyards.
Tony and Michelle Soter both grew up in Oregon, and after a long career in Napa they returned to their home state to start a new chapter of their lives and a new winery, Soter Vineyards. In the mid-1980s, Tony Soter began working as a consulting winemaker in the Napa Valley, assisting leaders in the wine industry such as, Shafer, Niebaum-Coppola and Araujo to name a few. Tony secured deeper roots in Napa when he started his own winery “Etude” in 1982. With “Etude” Tony began to focus on Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. At “Etude” he strived for memorable distinction and authentic craftsmanship. After years of working with Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers and growers, Tony concluded his consulting roles. In the fall 2006, Soter moved from a managerial role at “Etude” to an consulting position, allowing him to focus his attention on Soter Vineyards and getting his family settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Mineral Springs Ranch, the Soter’s sole Estate vineyard today, is a 240-acre woodland and grazing land situated in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Home to 30 acres of Pinot Noir originally planted in 2002, two acres of Chardonnay were added in 2006. These Chardonnay acres are dedicated entirely to method champenoise sparkling wine production. Just east of the charming town of Carlton, Mineral Springs Ranch is nestled on a hill top with magnificent views overlooking the surrounding Yamhill-Carlton countryside. Soter Vineyard’s production facilities and hospitality buildings are located on the property making it a true wine tasting destination.
More than just Vineyards, Mineral Springs Ranch (MRS) is a Biodynamic Farm that sits on 240 Acres which incorporates vegetables, herbs, fruit, bees, chickens, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs and more. Mineral Springs Ranch is insecticide and persistent herbicide free to protect the natural flora and fauna in the vineyard and the nearby watersheds.
The Mineral Springs vineyard is L.I.V.E. (Low Impact Viticulture and Enology) certified, a process in which certain practices are outlawed and certain others are mandatory, all in an effort to create the healthiest vines possible. Sustainability is a mission at Soter Vineyards.
At Soter Vineyards what I loved about the visit was not just the wines and memorizing views, but that they truly make the wine tasting a personal experience. Groups get a private tasting with one of the tasting room staff, either in the main building or in one of the two private cabins.
Our wine tasting was combined another group of three, and took place in the smaller private cabin. It was an inviting setting which allowed you to feel comfortable about asking those extra questions about the wine your were tasting. It is a more intimate wine tasting experience which both an experienced wine professional and those new to wine tasting can appreciate. This is how wine tasting should be, personal, relaxed, and in an welcoming place where you are able to fully appreciate the wines in a gorgeous setting and a wine expert to help guide you.
The one thing that I noticed about certain wines that I tasted during our trip to Willamette Valley was the slight evident note of Sea Salt in some wines. This was a surprise to me but once I learned the history of the land it made more sense. Western Oregon was on the floor of the Pacific Ocean until about about 12 million years ago. Then before that under the sea for 35 million years marine sediment was slowly accumulating in layers forming what would become a bedrock of the oldest soil in the Willamette Valley.
I felt a little bit of soil history was necessary to help characterize Soter’s Rose. Of all is the wines I tasted in the Willamette Valley, this Rosé had the most pleasant sea salt taste. For me this wine had an amazing sense of place. Both on the nose and palette you get a bright and lovely blend of sun kissed wild strawberries, and cooked bursting open cranberries. Creamy with that sprinkle of sea salt on the tongue, I loved the slight hint of white peach and blink of tartness. This was a smooth and elegant Rosé that enticed me enough to purchase a bottle to enjoy this Summer.
Spending time in new french oak, previously used oak, and stainless steel, this Chardonnay benefits from the added layers, and transformed layers. When I tasted this Chardonnay I thought, “okay, this wine has a story to tell.” Crisp summer florals and strong apple aromas did not prepare me for the first sip. I thought with the oak storage that I would get more of the classic richer Chardonnay, but this wine drank smooth and light with an amazing clean finish. The fruit flavor can only be described as golden summer fruit, sun ripened golden apple and light skinned peaches, slightly over ripe. Floating citrus blossoms linger on the tongue, with just a hush of the oak flavor. Soter calls this wine “The finest expression of the Vintage” and I would absolutely agree.
Six month barrel aged, this Pinot Noir is impressively fruit forward with a burst of light Rainier Cherries and wet slate aroma. Each sip introduces a beautiful darker Cherry flavor wrapped in layers of wild mint and peppery minerals with a soft tannin finish. Overall a wonderfully balanced Oregon Pinot Noir that represents a nice introduction to the Soter Pinot Noir flight.
This Mineral Springs Ranch 2016 Pinot Noir is a Flagship blend of all of the 5 clones of Pinot grapes. Pleasantly sharper on the nose with a deep dark blackberries and the delicate profuse clear-blue flowers, the Arp of a Rosemary plant. This Pinot Noir is deeper than the 2016 Yamhill-Carlton with a light pepper cola flavor, and a long mineral driven finish. Light, dry and rich with delicate tannins this Pinot Noir delivered a gentle punch. Extraordinary well rounded, this wine was a definite contender of my favorite sip of the Tasting.
This Mineral Springs 2015 White Label Pinot Noir is Velvet in a glass.
Tony Soter calls the Mineral Springs 2015 White Label Pinot Noir his “Career Wine” and rightfully so. Only 600 cases were produced of this Mystery Heirloom Clone Pinot Noir Vine that was acquired in California in the late 80’s. The grapes of this mystery clone were planted in acreage that has the most sunlight, and the grapes produce a thicker skin. More stress is put on the grapes in this location, but in this case it is a good thing since this Pinot Noir is not bottled every year. As soon as I smelled the first aromas of this wine, my mind automatically thought how amazing this Pinot Noir would be with a Filet Mignon and sauted mushrooms. Lower in acidity, but still amazingly structured, the deep color of this wine is a nod to the notes of dried herb, fresh rain soil, and cardamon soaked cherries. One sip of this wine and you are propelled into a late summer day with dark ripe fruits ready for the taking and firm spicy tannins that leave full jammy layers on your tongue. At $100 a bottle this wine is a little on the pricey side but the tannin structure also leads to this being a good wine to store for future enjoyment.
Soter Vineyards tasting room is open to the public by advanced appointment only, and it is a wonderful experience to try their extraordinary wines and the stunning natural beauty atop Mineral Springs Ranch.
The MSR Classic Tasting allows you to enjoy a sampling of current release wines in a seated, semi-private format guided by a hospitality specialists. They keep the groups small to ensure an intimate and informative experience and the tastings usually last around 45 minutes. Cost is $30 per person, refundable with purchase. This Classic Tasting is availability 7 days a week by advance appointment.
The MSR Provisions Tasting is a culinary tasting experience focused on the art of food and wine pairing. While sampling Soter Winery current release wines, their chef will serve you small plates and delicious bites crafted from the produce and meat grown on their biodynamic farm. The Provision Tasting is availability, Friday – Monday with advance appointment, the cost is $100 per person.
A visit to the Carlton area of the Willamette Valley would not be complete without a tasting at the beautiful Soter Vineyards and Mineral Springs Ranch. You will need to contact the winery to schedule your reservation. Call 503-662-5600 for your reservation. Visit http://sotervineyards.com/ to learn more about this Oregon Winery.
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