Thanks to Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications, I was invited to attend the Oregon Wine Trail tasting in New York City a couple of weeks ago. Participating wineries hailed from 19 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) showcasing just how diverse the wines from Oregon can be.
Did you know that May is Oregon Wine Month?
I’ve written a series of posts recapping my experience at the event, where I had the chance to chat with several of the winemakers and winery representatives. My first post featured Golden Cluster; my second post was all about Illahe Vineyards. Today I’m talking about Del Rio Vineyard Estate in Southern Oregon and Patricia Green Cellars in the Willamette Valley!
Del Rio Vineyard Estate – Southern Oregon
Vineyards were first planted in this patch of Rogue Valley during the Pear Boom of the early 1900s, when the valley underwent a rapid growth in plantings, not just of grapes, but of pears, apples, cherries, walnuts, and hazelnuts. While the years during the Great Depression were a struggle for farmers, agriculture revived after World War II.
Now there are 200,000 vines representing 12 varieties and 17 clones on the property. Del Rio makes its own wine and supplies premium grapes to growers in Oregon and California. The estate also boasts the historic Rock Point Hotel, which originally opened in 1865 and was recently renovated. Now it welcomes the public with open arms, featuring Oregon wines crafted from grapes sourced from the Del Rio Vineyards.
I sampled two wines:
2017 Del Rio Vineyard Rogue Valley Pinot Gris (SRP $17) which exhibited the best aspects of Oregon Pinot Gris: a complex aromatic profile complemented by a rich, creamy palate with crisp acidity. A perfect sipping wine or as a pairing with simple grilled fish with fresh fruit salsa.
2018 Del Rio Vineyard Rogue Valley Grenache Rosé (SRP $15) with bright cherry fruit and accents of wild thyme and citrus. There was plenty of acidity to balance the ripe fruit and I found this wine quite refreshing.
In addition to the wines I tasted, Del Rio offers varietal wines and blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlo, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Viognier. They also make an interesting rosé sparkler based on Cab Franc, which includes Muscat and Riesling!
Patricia Green Cellars – Willamette Valley
I was lucky enough to catch Melissa Groshong, who manages distribution for Patricia Green Cellars, for a quick chat about the property and the wines. Named for the winery’s founder, a brave woman who dreamed of making estate-grown Pinot Noir expressing the estate’s unique terroir, the property comprises 52 acres in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of the Willamette Valley.
Patty Green turned her dreams into reality in 2000, leaving her day job to dive head-first into the wine business. She and her partner, Jim Anderson, set their sights on crafting a broad selection of vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs – not an easy task! Of all the vinifera grapes, Pinot Noir has a well-deserved reputation as being among the most finicky and difficult to grow.
Perhaps it takes a unique personality to appreciate the character of Pinot? Jim Anderson puts it this way:
“Being peculiar is hardly a personality trait that one casually puts on a resume, but non-linear thinking, questioning established ideals, going about things in less than traditional ways and, in general, being somewhat odd has the capacity to serve one well in the stewardship of Pinot Noirs.”
Patty passed away in 2017 but her vision for the winery carries on, faithfully tended by her partners and colleagues. The team has always prided itself on a collaborative approach to all aspects of the wine business, driven by a willingness to evolve, adapt, and grow together.
Here’s what I tasted:
2016 Oak Grove Vineyard Dry Muscat Ottonel, Eola-Amity Hills (SRP $18)
I am drawn to unusual white wines, so this dry Muscat was calling my name! The Muscat grape is highly aromatic and well-known for its role in dessert wines. I’ve had a couple of dry versions and quite enjoyed them, so I was eager to have a sip. Hedonistic floral aromas, a bit of orange and musk – the nose was lively and enticing. On the palate it was refreshing and bone-dry. Juicy orange and ripe pear flavors kept honest by a surprisingly tart acidity. This would be a perfect summer sipper on the Triple H days in Miami – hazy, hot, and humid – when I crave a glass of something light and interesting.
2016 Durant Vineyard Dundee Hills Chardonnay (SRP $42)
Only 140 cases of this wine were made, from grapes harvested from south-facing slopes in Dundee Hills subregion. The fruit was pressed into neutral barrels, where the wine rested on its lees and underwent weekly battonage (stirring) for six months. Malolactic fermentation was interrupted at the midpoint and the wine aged six more months in barrel before bottling.
When it comes to Chardonnay, I’m a bit like Goldilocks: some are too ripe and oaky; others too tart and austere. But I truly enjoy the versions that fall right into the sweet spot, between the two extremes. This is such a wine. Ripe apple and pear flavors, a touch of lemon and lime, with just a hint of vanilla richness. Great acidity and length. Melissa compared it to a premier cru Meursault from Burgundy, and I think that’s spot-on. Really lovely wine!
2017 Estate Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir (SRP $37)
Two clones are used: 50% Pommard and 50% Dijon 777. About half the grapes were processed via whole cluster fermentation. The finished wine spent almost a year in barrel, 20% of which was new and the rest second- to sixth-use, imparting only a minimal oak influence.
Quite a full-bodied Pinot, full of lush black fruit and earthy forest floor character. Tannins are right up-front but in balance with the other elements, and the acidity is tart and refreshing. I’d have loved to sit and contemplate this wine over the course of an evening.
2017 Freedom Hill Vineyard Dijon 115 Pinot Noir (SRP $48)
This bottling is 80% Dijon 115 including fruit from all three blocks, all containing 40-50% whole clusters in the fermentation. About 15% comes from the older vine Wadensvil which was fermented with about 60% whole clusters. The Coury and Pommard round out the blend. This wine was in barrel for a little less than a year in around 20% new oak and a combination of once-five times used barrels.
Super-aromatic, with black cherry, white flowers, and damp earth on the nose. The palate was rich with dark fruit, supple tannins, and ample acidity. I found myself wishing for the chance to taste several of these site-specific Pinot Noir wines side by side; clearly each one has a story to tell!
Believe it or not, there’s still more to come. Stay tuned for more of my recap of the Oregon Wine Trail tasting!