Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saginaw Vineyard 2006 Muller Thurgau

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A good way to end the weekend...

Tonight, while I sit enjoying some of my favorite Sunday night television, I am drinking a glass of wine from the Saginaw Vineyard. Saginaw is located south of Eugene, in Cottage Grove, in a very literal off the beaten path area. It is a small family owned winery that gets most of their grapes from other locations. I went there Labor Day weekend when my friend Chris Michaud came to visit.

When travelling to Saginaw, and you turn off the main road, you almost think that you might be driving onto someone's private property, and if you are not careful, you will miss your turn. The tasting room is in a red barn, but the inside is delicately decorated very similar to other small wineries I have been to, particularly a couple small ones in the Tri-Cities area of south-central Washington.

One of the wines we tasted was one that I had not heard of before - which is slightly odd because my parents are HUGE into wine. When I did some research, I learned why it was I might not have heard of this kind before - this particular wine is a Muller Thurgau. Muller Thurgau has sometimes been considered a bit of the bastard child of grape wines being seen as lesser quality and thought of as cheap. This has been particularly true in Germany, where it originated, but the grape has gained popularity in other parts of the world.

The Muller Thurgau from Saginaw Valley is quite enjoyable. Served chilled, when poured it looks a bit darker than white grape juice. I noticed the citrus smell when I gathered a couple whiffs of this wine. When swirled, there is a nice coat that the glass gets, which is slightly slower to run down the glass, yet this wine is far from heavily alcoholic (11% alcohol by volume). I find the taste to also be a bit more citric in nature than some others I can recall. There is a slight flavor of sweet but if you aren't paying attention, you might not be aware that it is there. When you take a sip, you get a burst of flavor, and once swallowed, the taste diminishes, with a very light remnant remaining on the palate.

I was glad that I tried this wine, and I don't know that I would call this a low quality by any stretch of the imagination. I believe that I might have spent $20 for this bottle, and I found it to be well worth it. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to try something a little different, and I would recommend visiting Saginaw Vineyards to everyone who is not a complete snob about where they taste their wine, Scott and Cheryl were very welcoming and will tell you the story of how they came about as wine proprietors.

2005 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir (Estate Grown)

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Should wines be given a second chance?

I pondered this as I sit here after having given a wine a second chance, something that had I thought about it earlier in the week would not have happened. The wine this evening I am talking about is the 2005 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Let me make it clear - I love Willamette Valley Vineyards, and since my time in Oregon, most of my wines have come from there. As a member of the wine guild, I do feel a certain amount of loyalty to them, but, I was quite taken aback when I opened this bottle of wine on Thursday and took a sip.

My most recent post talked about red wines, wines that I didn't like as much, and my writing more about those. I got a response from a friend of the Oregon Wine Blog, the Beer Blog, commenting that we might be less prone to write about wine we dislike for numerous reasons. All the same, I was certain that this Pinot Noir would be the first on that list, but not completely.

I first opened this bottle of wine on Thursday. I let it sit open for about 15-20 minutes while I decompressed from the day. I poured a bit into the glass and was immediately struck by the color. It was a very distinct cranberry-grape color, which I liked. I took the nose on it to really be able to bring about the oak, or something wood (I am not sure what kind of apparatus it is aged in) with some some of the spices. I swirled the wine and noticed the nice coat it gave my glass. Then came the sip...I found my first glass of this wine to be very harsh, very strong, and reminiscent of why it is I am less prone to reds over whites. The aftertaste was lasting and it was almost as though I had taken some cold medicine. I thought it might have been my first sip of something that I did wrong. After pouring more into my glass, I would realize this was not the case. I continued to drink my glass of wine, "You never leave a man behind" is a favorite saying of someone here on the Oregon Wine Blog when referring to glasses of wine. I drank about 3/4 of my glass before I decided I was done with this wine for the evening.

That brings us to today. I think it completely okay to start the week off with a glass of wine or two in my apartment, as long as I am responsible. I decided, almost reluctantly, to give the Tualatin another chance, despite having a white wine chilled (I will write about that one later). I recently purchased a vacuum sealer for wines - it is not responsible of me to put away a whole bottle of wine every time I open one - and used it for the first time when I closed this bottle on Thursday. I opened the seal and poured my glass of wine. The color and coat were the same. The nose seemed to bring out more of a cinnamon scent with the wood, and then I took the plunge.

With a little trepidation, I took the sip and was relieved. The flavor and richness that was on my palate this evening was what I remembered this wine tasting like when I first tried it before. The flavor is one that still lingers, but it is no where near as strong as it was on Thursday. There is just a lite tingle that you feel at the back of the cheeks. While hard to describe, I like the spices that I taste with this wine. And while we sometimes talk about what we are eating or would eat while drinking our wines, I am going to be a little less conventional this evening. As I drink my Pinot Noir, I think that it would go well with some chocolate brownies. The sweet sugar of the brownies would be a good offset with the subtle and after-swallow lite tartness of this Pinot Noir.

I was very happy that I decided to give this wine a second chance, and would encourage others to continue to try old wines, even those that might not have made a good first impression. While I am not saying this is my favorite Pinot Noir, that will come later, I would rank this one in my top 5...for now :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Firesteed 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir

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Firesteed Cellars holds an interesting page in the Pacific Northwest wine book. Formed in the early 90's as an answer to consumer demand for lower cost, quality reds in the emerging northwest wine regions, Firesteed started out as what you would call a virtual winery. Sourcing all of their fruit from other growers, utilizing cellar space at existing wineries, and borrowing spare time from other winemakers, Firesteed started out making an Oregon pinot and an Italian wine. In 2003, Firesteed bought an existing vineyard in Rickreall, OR and now is expanding in a more traditional fashion.

Yesterday we popped the cork on a bottle of the 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir. This pinot is a blend of grapes from 4 different appellations in Oregon. Right out of the chutes, this wine seemed a bit hot in terms of alcohol and it was getting a bit overpowered by the sirloin steak we were eating with it. The wine opened up over the course of the evening and a fruity, jammy nose emerged although the heat lingered on the finish of the wine. While I didn't dislike the wine, I wasn't overly impressed either. Tonight, I poured another glass and the wine has certainly mellowed out. My roommate and I both agree that we like it more this evening than last night, although I think it's a bit flat for my taste.

The saving grace of this vintage is the price -- at around $15 retail, it's quite affordable for an Oregon Pinot Noir. So, while it isn't my favorite, it's a great value wine and if you have those friends coming over who don't appreciate a really good wine, but you don't want to serve franzia or the likes, this may be a good route to go. Keep your eye on Firesteed as well, as they just produced a state best of classification Pinot Gris.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

2004 Griffin Creek Syrah

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This pre-release wine, made available only to Willamette Valley Vineyards Club members, is an outstanding testament to the quality of southern Oregon wines and its fruit forward grapes. Syrah can be a finicky wine to master, in my humble opinion. The bold qualities of this grape make it a wonderful wine to pair with big meals like steak, ribs, or even a roast.

As for the specifics of the 2004 Syrah by Griffin Creek, the nose starts with a great spicy tone, followed by a smooth scent of blackberries and black pepper. When the wine hits the palate a wonderful flavor of black cherries, strawberry jam, and a long smooth finish of spicy black pepper and licorice.

For our own pairing we had a dinner party last night with seven other friends at our place. For the main course we dry-rubbed some pork spare ribs overnight. The rub had a base of brown sugar and cinnamon, with cayanne, chili powder, paprika, ground ginger and garlic, and some thyme and rosemary. The pairing was excellent, the dinner phenomenal, and the company beyond reproach.

If you ever get the opportunity to purchase a bottle of this wine, by some myserious chance, do so without hesitation. The wine is one I won't soon forget.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

2005 St. Josef's Pinot Noir

St. Josef's Winery is one that holds a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of waitressing there when I was in high school, at some of the fanciest events I could imagine. I was thrilled with the amazing food they managed to serve out of the tiny kitchen, and getting to eat in the tasting room while the guests were occupied with their dinners. And one of my most favorite parts of the winery were the owners, two of the sweetest people you could ever meet - Joe and Lilli. I wasn't a regular employee, and only worked at big events when they needed the extra help, but both always welcomed me warmly into the staff for the evening. They have a close hands on style with the winery, and it comes through in their carefully handcrafted wines. As we were getting more into wine, I was always drawn to the St. Josef's label, wondering if the memories I had of the fairytale winery would carry into the wine bottled there. One of my personal all time favorites is the St. Josef's L'Esprit, a wonderful Gewurztraminer. But that's a post for another day.

At the grocery store, Steve and I decided to take advantage of the deal on fantastic looking New York steaks, and wanted to get a good red to go with. We wandered the wine isles for a little while, wanting something that would be as good as the Maryville Syrah we had with last nights dinner. After not being inspired by anything, I noticed the St. Josef's 2005 Pinot Noir label on the shelf with the other Pinots. It's an affordable wine, as with all of the St. Josef's wine, about $8 a bottle. I've wanted to try this one for a while, so in the cart it went.

This is a wine that likes to breathe. Upon pouring, the first taste is a bit flat for a Pinot Noir, but the flavors of cherry and the oak it's aged in are up front at the start. However, after letting the glass open up for a few minutes, the wine just increases in depth. If you let it roll over your tongue, you can taste light raspberry along with rich oak. It's a wonderful ruby red colored wine. The 2005 Pinot Noir isn't a pretentious wine, and it's bottled to enjoy right away. I can see this being a nice comfortable steady red to keep on hand, and plan to.

Update and 2004 Columbia Crest Grand Estate Cab

Here at The Oregon Wine Blog, there are times of the year in which we are limited in our ability to post as a result of the jobs that actually pay us. It is the downfall of our staff pretty much all working in the same industry -- university administration. Being the start of the school year, this is one of those times. Sorry. Things will settle down in a week or two and the posting traffic will pick back up. And, if anyone would like to pay me to do THIS, email me - :)

Last week I was in Bend with some friends, and we cracked open a bottle of wine that I was familiar with previously although it's allure had fallen into a forgotton corner of my palate: 2004 Columbia Crest Grand Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Columbia Crest is another Eastern Washington winery, located in the Horse Heaven Hills of the Columbia Valley (Paterson, WA). Columbia Crest markets under three labels -- Reserve, Grand Estate, and Two Vines. I have consistenly been impressed by the Grand Estate offerings, their middle-tier wines which are available as a quite reasonable price point.

Tasting notes from the winemaker are pretty darn accurate: "Slight spice, chocolate, and hints of coconut and black cherry aromas lead into a subtle and harmonious balance of oak and fruit on the palate. This supple wine trails into a slightly spiced cocoa finish.” The chocolate notes and cocoa finish were particularly prominent for me. It's a very drinkable wine and you can't go wrong for $12.99. Seriously. We bought another bottle the other day and it's nearly gone. While the 2004 is pretty widely available at retailers, the 2003 in my opinion is even better. I haven't seen this on the shelves lately but it looks like it is still available at the winery. Darn it, I want to buy some now.

With that, I'll leave you all to vinification bliss. On a final note, if there is something you would like to see on The Oregon Wine Blog, leave a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

2006 Tualatin Hills Semi-Sparkling Muscat

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Frankly I was a bit surprised when I opened a bottle of this wine this evening and looked at our blog, only to find that none of us had written about this much loved wine. To the best of my knowledge this wine, the Tualatin Estate 2006 Frizzante (site not up-to-date) is a favorite among each of us here at The Oregon Wine Blog.

The wine has been described to me as "Sprite in a wine bottle" but it is really so much more! The amazing fruit-forward qualities of this wine make it drinkable on the hottest of summer days as well as the coolest of winter evenings. This evening just so happened to be one of those record hot summer evenings here in the mid-Willamette Valley. The wine is specifically a mild semi-sparkling muscat. For those who do not like muscat, they may have a hard time enjoying this wine. However, if you can enjoy a sweet wine, you will most certainly enjoy this one. With a great palette of peaches, citrus rind, and orange blossoms, this wine serves as a great intro into the realm of wine for those who have never had the wine experience required to get them started.

If you would like more information about this delicious wine please visit Tualatin Estate's mother company Willamette Valley Vineyards' online store. The price is $15 per bottle and can be found across the Oregon area in many local markets and retailers, as well as a list of local retailers on other locales across the country.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Barnard Griffin 2004 Syrah

Are you looking for a nice syrah for under $20? Barnard Griffin's 2004 Syrah is the wine for you. Barnard Griffin is probably my favorite Eastern Washington winery, located near the Yakima River in Richland. Now, I grew up in Richland but unfortunately was under the legal age for enjoying wine at the time. I'm really digging where the industry is going in the Tri-Cities when I visit my family.

Barnard Griffin buys all of their fruit--and Rob Griffin, the winemaker, attributes much of his success to sourcing great fruit. They produce both tulip labels and reserve wines, and while the reserve are definitely the cream of the crop, tulip label wines are very respectable and reasonably priced.

For the 2004 Syrah, the nose has plum and blackberry notes with rich, full-bodied flavors. The grapes for this wine came from the Wahluke Slope, Columbia Gorge, and Columbia River areas capitalizing on the high heat climate of the Columbia Valley. We cracked it open with a nice steak and next thing we knew, the bottle was gone.

Next time you are in the local wine store, pick up a bottle. Even better, if you happen to find yourself in Richland--stop by the tasting room. They are quite hospitable.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Reds vs. Whites, Good vs. Bad

I feel that I must make the caveat whenever I write about a Reds that I am much more preferential to Whites. This does not mean that I don't drink Reds, but it is harder for me to find a good Red I like and once I do, I remain pretty loyal to it - comparing other Reds to the select few I love.

I had a friend come in from Chicago this weekend and we explored a couple of wineries south of Eugene. When I looked at the wines I purchased over the course of the weekend, I found I bought an greatly disproportionate number of Reds to Whites, about 7 to 2 , and this was very intentional.

I also recently had a conversation with a couple of people, Gana included, and we talked about how we only really talk about wines that we enjoyed here on The Oregon Wine Blog. My rationale was quite simple - we sample a lot of wines between all of the contributors, but we usually only buy the ones we like, hence that is what we log about. I have made the decision that I will also be starting to purchase wines that I might not like as much - others may disagree, which I think is a good thing, or I might turn someone onto a wine that they really enjoy.

In other words, in the next couple of weeks, be on the lookout for some of my posts as I give my insights on some Reds, some from the south-central Willamette Valley, and some that I might not like as much (the later portion will take longer since I currently only have ones I enjoy).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Made in Oregon

Today some friends and I journeyed to Newport to spend an afternoon on the coast. It was a gorgeous sunny day and a lot of people were out enjoying it. One of the places I always stop at while in Newport is the Made in Oregon store. Now, you may think it is a tourist trap - and much of their product line is designed to lure in visitors - but there is a hidden pleasure to the store. They have a fairly extensive collection of Oregon wines, and often are willing to open a bottle off the shelf to taste for customers. Additionally, if you are an Oregon resident like I, you can get a 10% discount to boot!

Next time you are on the historic bayfront in Newport, pop in. You may just find that next liquid gold in a 750 ml bottle.