Three Oregon wineries presented a tasting of their wines last month at the Astor Center in NYC. It was one of the most unusual and interesting tastings I have ever attended. It showed how Pinot Noir grapes taken from the same vineyard could be made into different tasting wines in the hands of three different wine makers. In all, there were 9 wines divided into 3 flights and each of the winemakers produced 1 wine from 3 different vineyards.
After this part of the tasting, each winemaker presented 2 of their wines. They were: Elk Cove Vineyards, Adam Campbell winemaker; Ponzi, Luisa Ponzi winemaker; and Sokol Blosser, Alex Sokol Blosser winemaker and Co- President. They have come together and call themselves “Oregon Originals” because all of their wineries were founded in the early 1970’s in the Willamette Valley and “Second Generation Vintners” because they and their siblings have taken over the running of the wineries from their parents.
Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017 Adam called it a classic Oregon vintage. Made from 100% pinot Gris hand harvested from select hillside vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. The age of the vines is 4 to 32 years. Harvest was from mid-September to mid-October. Harvest sugars were 22.5 brix. They whole cluster press the grapes then the juice is fermented at a very cold temperature in small stainless steel tanks. The wine was bottled in Feb. 2018. This is a light to medium bodied wine with hints of pears, peaches, and apricots with refreshing acidity.
Sokel Blosser Dundee Hills Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018 (777,115 & Pommard clones) Alex said the 2018 vintage was their coolest growing season since 2012 and he believes it will be their best vintage since then as well. The grapes were carefully hand harvested (brix at harvest 19.5), de-stemmed and loaded into the press where the juice soaked on the skins for four to six hours. It was then gently pressed to minimize extraction of tannins from the skins. The juice was divided into multiple stainless steel tanks, one portion was inoculated with natural yeast, and the other with a yeast focused on lifting the fruit aromas within the grape. An extended, slow, cool fermentation took place. There is just a hint of residual sugar (1.5g/l) to balance the firm acidity. This is a crisp refreshing rose’ with hints of melon, white peach and a touch of raspberry.
Ponzi Aurora Chardonnay 2016 Luisa compared this vintage to the 2006, which produced lush, beautiful wines with unexpected elegance and acidity, a stellar vintage for Oregon. The grapes for this single vineyard cuvee were grown on Layrewood soil at Ponzi “LIVE” Certified Sustainable Aurora Vineyard located in on the Chehalem Mountain AVA. The grapes were sorted and whole cluster pressed. The juice settled for 12 hours before going to barrel for fermentation. Using 15% new French oak and cool temperatures, fermentation was completed with primary wild yeast. Malolactic fermentation is 100% complete using native bacteria. Lees are stirred weekly for 6 moths before a fall racking to neutral oak and bottled in the spring of 2016. The wine is aged in barrel for 20 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of lime, lemon and touch of chamomile with a touch of vanilla.
Elk Clove Vineyards 2016 Mount Richardmond Pinot Noir Adam said he hoped the 2016 vintage will be outstanding, like the 2012 and 2014, wines that showed great balance and concentration. The Richmond vineyard sits on Willakenzie soils in the heart of the Yamahill AVA and is 150 acres. The elevation is at 300/500 feet, which allows for early ripening, there are 2,100 vines/acre. The blend includes old vine pommard, and equal parts of Dijon clones 115 and 777. The age of the vines 5 to 23 years and the brix at harvest 23.5. Fermentation is in small temperature controlled steel tanks, hand punched down twice daily and aged in 50% new French barrels for 10 months. The wine was bottled in August 2017. The wine has hints of black cherry, blueberries, boysenberry and a touch of spice.
Pinot Noir Abetina 2016 Ponzi Luisa said this was a stellar vintage for Pinot Noir in Oregon. This single vineyard cuvee is made exclusively from the Abetina 2 block at the “LIVE” certified Sustainable Vineyard. All the fruit was hand sorted and destemmed. Fermentation in small lots with five days of cold soak to increase aromas and color, the peak temperature reached 90 degrees. The fermenters were aerated or manually punched down twice a day for 12-20 days before undergoing a 7 day post fermentation maceration to increase structure and length. The wine is aged in French oak barrels 50% new for 20 months. The wine was racked and bottled by gravity without filtration or fining and was aged in bottle for 5 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, cassis and plum with a touch of chocolate and note of hazelnut.
Dundee Hills, Oregon Estate Pinot Noir 2016 Alex called it a quality vintage. Grapes hand harvested at 22/26 Brix. Some sections harvested based on acid levels and some on higher intensity of fruit flavors. Grapes were hand sorted and destemmed directly into 3-ton stainless steel fermenters or 2.5 ton oak upright fermenters, 35% of the fermentation for this part was done using the Sokol Blosser native yeast program. Gentle punching down 2 times a day. Post fermentation, 25% of the blend was kept on its skins for 30+ days, the remaining portion was pressed off the skins at dryness (10-15 days of skin contact time). The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 17 months (36% in new oak and the rest once used or neutral oak) with minimum SO2 levels. The wine has hints of cherry, raspberry with a touch of spice and soft tannins.
I am now convinced that these three wineries make outstanding Pinot Noir