Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Le Tour de Pinot Stage 4: Airlie Winery

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With a look of content only a belly of greasy spoon breakfast can elicit, he opened the door of his new apartment just like every other time. With a bit of a waddle, he headed towards the living room for what was meant to be an hour of rest and relaxation before the big ride. You know, the kind where you flop into that crevice in your couch that's specifically carved out in the shape of your ass. The tragedy is that the couch flopping didn't happen as intended. At two thirds of the way to blissful laziness, words every mother cringes at the mention of were spoken.

"I don't feel so well."


To the lavatory!

Three minutes later, he exits and like lasers our eyes meet.

"You ok?"

And with a look of grimace and determination similar to that of a cat not wanting to do something you want it to do, he replied,


He pauses to smoothly slide on his sun glasses.

"Let's do this."

In what was perhaps the greatest or dumbest moment of Le Tour de Vino, even gastrointestinal irregularities didn't get between him, his bike, and an afternoon of great Willamette Valley wine. Josh was ready to roll.

With that minor setback behind us, we started on what was our first stop before heading to Airlie Winery. At what has become our regular meeting place, Josh and I met up with our friend Scott at Avalon Wine in downtown Corvallis. While we were going to approach Airlie from the south, Micheal, Andrea, and Craig were planning to meet us there from the North. With our half of the crew ready, we set off in our newly-arrived (finally) Le Tour de Pinot jerseys!

Looking like we actually know what we're doing, we finalized our game plan and set off to Airlie. The ride was supposed to be about 42 miles round trip, but a short cut quickly tacked on around 15 miles or so. No worries. The weather was about as perfect as you can ask for and we made it to Airlie with no further hiccups.

We weren't sure if we had beaten the southbound group until we noticed the Volvo in the parking lot. Le Drive de Pinot? Turns out Craig drove support for Micheal and Andrea, but we can still give them crap about it.

As we walked up the end of Airlie's driveway, seated outside were Craig, Andrea, and Micheal with empty wine glasses in front of them. They were nice enough to wait for us and we then moved to a table by a small pond. Shortly after, Mary Olson (owner) greeted us with a huge smile and an incredibly warm welcome. She also had wine!

Before we get to the wine, however, let's share a bit about Airlie. Established in 1986, Elizabeth Clark (winemaker) produces approximatly 8000 cases of multiple varietals a year. While producing the typical Willamette Valley fair of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Airlie pushes the boundary by also producing varietals such as their "7" white blend, Müller Thurgau, and Maréchal Foch. Airlie's property is located just outside of Monmouth and is absolutely perfect for sipping wines and having a picnic by their pond.

One thing I would like to note before I get into the wine itself is how incredibly warm and welcoming Mary is. Normally when wine tasting, crowds of people jostle for position at a tasting counter and fumble through multiple tasting menus. Not at Airlie. In what was perhaps the coolest take on wine tasting I have seen so far, Mary decided to go from group to group outside and pour wine at their tables. She was like the wine fairy! Not only did she always know what our next wine was supposed to be, but she also gave us the story behind each wine and answered any questions we had. I'm going to reiterate this again, but a huge thank you on behalf of all of us goes to Mary for her hospitality.

While we had the opportunity to try all of Airlie's wines, I'm going to touch on just a few.

2008 - 7
Why 7? Because it's comprised of Müller Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc and Auxerrois. You know, the usuals. I regress, this blend is anything but usual. I also have to admit that I tried it last summer at a wine pairing dinner event and wasn't much of a fan, but this time was different. For me, the key to enjoying this wine is that it holds its own as a phenomenal sipping wine on a hot day. 7 is a tad on the sweet side without any residual bite or lingering aftertaste. As I watch the temperature climb today and take a look at the five day forecast, I have a feeling cases of this are going to fly off shelves.

Scott especially liked it and was his clear favorite of all of Airlie's wines. He also loves himself some Goldfish crackers.

2007 Maréchal Foch
I just spent a good ten minutes trying to type out how to best describe this varietal and failed miserably. Instead, I'll let Wikipedia do the explaining for me:

Marechal Foch (pronounced "mar-esh-shall-fosh"), is an inter-specific hybrid red wine grape variety. Marechal Foch is used to make a variety of styles of wine, ranging from a light red wine similar to Beaujolais, to more extracted wines with intense dark "inky" purple colour and unique varietal character, to sweet, fortified, port-style wines. Wines made from Marechal Foch tend to have strong acidity, aromas of black fruits and, in some cases, toasted wheat, mocha, fresh coffee, bitter chocolate, vanilla bean, and musk. In the darker variants of the wine a strong gamey nose is also often described.

With that out of the way, Airlie's offering is a lighter red, but would pair perfectly with gamey or smoked meats. Others in our group really enjoyed it on its own, but I suggest pairing it to get the full effect. If anything I highly suggest trying it just for the experience as it truly is a very unique varietal.

2008 Pinot Noir ~ BeckenRidge Vineyard
Finally I'm going to point out their 2008 BlackenRidge Vineyard Pinot Noir. While still young, it had me fooled as this Pinot Noir stands up against the best of them. This offering brings forth bold fruit flavors while certainly not crossing into the "fruity" realm. Very smooth and not much tart either. While very delicious sipping by itself, this would easily win over a dinner party.

After trying all of Airlie's offerings as well as taking the the time to do some photo ops, it was time to say goodbye to Mary and hit the road. A HUGE thank you again to Mary for being so hospitable. If you're ever in the Corvallis/Monmouth area, you really owe it to yourself to stop by Airlie Winery on a beautiful day.

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