Apex II Late Harvest Semillon

In our last Creme' de Cru wine shipment from Willamette Valley Vineyards we received a small 375ml bottle of Apex II Late Harvest Semillon from Apex Cellars out of the Yakima Valley Washington. This Late Harvest Semillon is a sweet, but not too sweet wine. Although not from the great state of Oregon, this wine was sent to me from our favorite Oregon winery as a part of a club shipment.

When I opened the bottle of wine the first thing I noticed was the synthetic cork in the bottle. This small interesting bottle, with a rather faux modern label, had a black synthetic cork. Following the synthetic cork the wine had the typical late harvest thickness. However, upon the first flavor the thing I most noticed was its lack of extreme sweetness like most other late harvest wines. This wine was, as stated, sweet but not too sweet.

Being at a friend's house with her cat has largely blocked my nose from enjoying this wine's nose. However, the sweet flavors have all been experienced. The sweet honey flavor is complimented by a creamy backdrop of apricots and peaches. This sweet wine was enjoyed in the company of friends and a good suspenseful movie. A great warm summer evening wine for the enjoyment of good times with good friends.


Edgefield 2001 Fireside Sweet Dessert Wine

We cracked open some Edgefield 2001 Fireside Sweet Dessert Wine, a zinfindel port style wine, as a nightcap and I must say that I am enjoying it. Edgefield Winery, a venture of McMenamins (famous for their beer and unique properties) is located in Troutdale, Oregon. I haven't been to the estate yet, but it's certainly on the list next time I head over to Eastern Washington.

I'm not a port expert, beyond enjoying drinking it, so I'll just give you the description from their website: "Our traditional Port-style wine is strong, sweet, and "raisiny," expressing quintessential Zinfandel characteristics from which it is made. "

It retails for $19 per bottle and is available by the glass at many of the McMenamin's restaurants in Oregon and Washington. From my experience, it's a good mid-priced port. I've certainly had better (on my shelf) but also had much worse. And, I'm always a fan of local companies so this is a winner.

Celebration Oregon!

Yesterday brought the annual Celebration Oregon! event, an evening to recognize exceptional Oregon wine, winemakers, and chefs. Held on the opening night of the Oregon State Fair, it served to present the winners of the 2007 Oregon Wine Competition.

Desilet, Micheal, and myself decided to check the event out and we were immediately struck by the quality of culinary delights that were present to match the wine that was being poured. A majority of the wineries that entered wine into the competition were present, and many of them had the owner or winemaker pouring. The event felt like a private garden right in the middle of the fairgrounds -- and we tried some great wine.

To start off, the winners:

Best of Show:
Best of Classification:

Gold Medal Winners:

I tried the majority of these wines and particularly enjoyed the Firesteed Gris (released today retail) and the Orchard Heights Late Harvest Pinot Gris. Some other wines of note that I especially enjoyed included La Velle Pinot Noir and Riesling (both bronze medal winners) and Airlie 7 (a silver medal winning white blend--mostly riesling and muller-thurgau).

While Firesteed took the show, the Willamette Valley Vineyards portfolio (including Griffin Creek and Tualatin Estate) had a great night. In addition to their best of classification and two golds above, silver medal winners included the Griffin 05 Cab Franc and 05 Syrah and WVV 06 Pinot Gris and 06 Riesling. Bronze medal winners included the Griffin Creek 06 Cab Sauv, 02 Merlot, 04 Malbec, 04 Viognier, and 05 Tempranillo as well as WVV 04 Chard, 05 Estate Pinot Noir, and 06 Pinot Noir.

WVV 2001 Hoodview Vineyard Pinot Noir

We were in the tasting room at Willamette Valley Vineyards this evening, and convinced Jon (the tasting room manager) to open up a bottle of the 2001 Hoodview Vineyard Pinot Noir--the only single-vineyard pinot they currently have in stock that I hadn't tried. It was good. Real good. A nice nose of leather with a smooth silky taste and a quicker finish.

This vineyard was planted 1990 off Hoodview Road in the Eola Hills. The microclimate at this location favors Pinot noir as it is a warm, southeast facing slope of well drained Jory soil. This soil is 4 to 7 feet deep and dark red from its iron content.

Hoodview is the first Pinot that Jon fell in love with, and while I won't go that far, it's a good bottle of wine.

2004 Erath Willamette Valley Dolcetto

Well hopefully some folks will find this note of worth... Tonight I sat down to dinner with a lovely woman, a stack of ribs, and a bottle of red that I had forgotten about. The woman was my lovely bride, the ribs were her specialty, and the wine was a 2004 Dolcetto from Erath Vineyards.

Upon opening this bottle, a smokey aroma is what first tickles the nose. When trying to place it, Megan suggested that it reminded her of a campfire. This description is spot on. With time, the aroma of an oak barrel came through. Lastly, a hint of bitter chocolate is present, albeit subtle.

Make no mistake, this is definitely a 'big red' that warrents a meal of equal strength. In this case, ribs seasoned with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and paprika coupled with summer squash and green beans made an excellent trio.

My palette and nose rate this red as a worthwhile purchase for a dinner with someone special. Cheers!

Little Miss Muffet meets Ocean Spray

A couple of weeks ago I had Gana and Desilet over for dinner, a themed dinner if you will. You may have read that we went to Astoria a couple weekends ago and got the pleasure of visiting the Shallon Winery (I don't know how to hyperlink things, my apologies for not using that tool). One of the purchases made was a wine called "Cran du Lait" which I thought was French, but I was mistaken. This wine is a mixture of 25% Cranberries and 75& Whey. Yup you read correctly, whey, the liquid remnant of what is left in the process in making cheese. I think I was less surprised that it was whey because of the color of the wine. It has this beautiful strawberry color, without the strawberry taste.

For the dinner with Gana and Desilet, I decided I would use Cran du Lait in all areas of the meal. I got some chicken breasts and used about a cup and a half of the wine as the base of my marinade. I then used a bit of garlic powder, onion salt, and parsley. I was very nervous about what the chicken would taste like - I figured it would be either really great or really bad, especially since I let my meat marinate overnight.

I was incredibly conservative with the seasonings I used and the amount, I simply didn't know how they would react with the wine. I baked the chicken, and it came out okay. I was able to taste a hint of the cranberry in every bite, but that was about it, so when I do this again I would be more liberal both with the types of seasonings and the amount - it's okay to be creative I am telling myself.

To go along with the chicken, I sauteed some bell peppers and green beans in a combination extra virgin olive oil and about a half cup of Cran du Lait. I have to say this was my favorite part of the meal. I really enjoyed the way the bell peppers had a nice flavor to them, like a little bit of a tart kick, but not too much. The green beans had a hint of the cranberry flavor, this I would definitely do again in the same manner.

Sadly, the part of the meal I think was the least appealing was the three cheese tortellini. I over-cooked it which was really the worst part. After the water was drained, I put a hint of extra virgin olive oil and some Cran du Lait for a bit of flavoring. It wasn't bad but the over-cooking of the pasta probably had a worse effect than I would have liked.

When I served dinner I put a bit of Ginger Ale in our glasses and then poured the Cran du Lait. I was less than thrilled with the effect and think that it is actually better by itself without any bubbly, but hey, that is just me. Dessert was a Strawberry Shortcake purchased at the local Safeway (so no real use of the Cran du Lait there, except to drink it with).

So that was my Cran du Lait themed Chicken and Pasta dinner. I think I want to try it next with a fillet Mignon or pork chops, but the chicken is definitely a keeper (with some modifications).

Miscellany and stuff

Today was an eventful day in the wonderful world of wine, in oh so many ways. The backstory is important on this one--I had the stomach flu on Thursday night and Friday so that hampered my tasting ability for today. Nonetheless, we started out at a Bite of Oregon in Portland where I introduced my friend Burl from North Carolina to the bounty of Oregon food and drink. He did a bit of wine tasting, and found a little gem after tasting Hip Chicks do Wine, Airlee, and Eola Hills.

Burl is a fan of big, dry reds so the Eola guy suggested that we stop by Zerba and test out their Malbec. Now, I didn't have it, but Burl gives it two thumbs up, and it won a gold medal in the "other" category at the Bite. Zerba is an Oregon winery in the Walla Walla valley--Milton Freewater to be exact. Now, I think this is sort of a cheating way of calling Washington wine as Oregon (not that there is a darn thing wrong with Washington wine). Anyway, Zerba is getting great reviews so keep an eye on it over the next few years.

After Portland, we headed to Dundee to the Torii Mor winery, a small, super-premium winery that focuses on small lots of handcrafted, vineyard-designated Pinot noir in the Dundee Hills AVA. They have a wonderful tasting flight that includes 2 whites, 3 pinots, and 2 dessert wines for $10. While the Noir's were great, I walked away with a 2005 Reserve Pinot Gris. This gris comes from 4 vineyards, and is fruit-forward with flavors of apple, pear, lemon, and some herb spices. It was great upon tasting, and I'll do a more in-depth analysis when I crack open the bottle. On the way down the hill from the winery, I met one of Dundee's finest in a speed trap on 9th street. Beware, they don't cut any slack there and I have a hefty ticket to show for it.

Next was a stop by the old standby, Willamette Valley Vineyards. Of note there today were the new release of the 2005 Tualitan Estate Pinot Noir and the 2005 Willamette Signature Cuvee Pinot Noir. They haven't had a signature cuvee since 2001, so expect good things from that one!

Is it wine...not really...

So I'll keep it brief tonight and just say that I tried the Dogfish Head Red and White beer that Bob Woodshed recommended on his Beer Blog. I was not disappointed. It's made partly from Pinot Noir grapes, hence the post!

2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Unlike my other contributors, I am not much of a blogger, so I will probably be more of a silent contributor contributing on a more sporadic basis.

For the last couple of evenings I have been enjoying a bottle of 2005 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. I remember obtaining this bottle on my first trip to the vineyard when I became a member of the wine guild. It must be noted that I am preferential to white wines, and generally only drink reds when I "have" to.

I want to talk a bit about this award winning wine. The color of it is one of the first things that I notice. Holding it up to light, it has the appearance of a deep grape red color. When swirled it lightly coats the glass. The nose on this Pinot is not too strong - it enters the nostrils warmly, and has a very light tart aroma. If you don't let it breathe a bit, both in the bottle and in your glass, the first sip can be a bit strong. After a few moments, however, one gets to taste a real full flavor that lasts just for a moment as the wine goes down the throat - there is no real aftertaste, and it is surprising that for such full flavor, it doesn't linger. This could be a good thing for those of us who are not overly huge fans of red wines.

In one of his recent posts, Desilet talked about what he imagined his wine to go well with. This afternoon and now, while enjoying glasses of this Pinot, I imagine it going well with a nice medium rare Fillet Mignon (and I like my meat well done), lightly grilled potatoes seasoned in garlic and rosemary, with asparagus and carrots as the vegetables. This could also go well with a nice lamb.

Sokol Blosser 11th Edition Evolution

A Memorial Day weekend wine tour with Josh, Drew, Steve, and some other good friends (one from Wisconsin who had only loved macrobrew beer before coming to Oregon) brought us to Sokol Blosser winery. Sokol Blosser, located in Dundee Hills, Oregon is a family owned winery and was one of the first to be established in the Willamette Valley. Located on top of a beautiful vine covered hill, the tasting room feels like an elegant tree house with wood ceilings and large windows overlooking the winery. Sokol Blosser has a library of nine different varietals, ranging from pinot noir to Muller-Thurgau, with two blends, Meditrina and Evolution. Sokol Blosser is known not only for the wine and beautiful location, but for the dedication to running an environmentally friendly winery. Solar panels help provide electricity, and the winery boasts a Silver LEED certified cellar, built underground.

What draws me first to Sokol Blosser's Evolution is the label. Most wine bottles have artist rentions of grape vines and swirly text naming the wine, convincing the drinker this wine will be fine and elegant. Not so with Evolution. The butter yellow label has a crafted feel, as if each one was handmade. The questions "Luck? Intention?" are lettered on the front, evoking a playful curiosity in how the simple elegance of Evolution is created.

Evolution is a blend of nine white varietals. Sokol Blosser does not disclose which nine these are - it's up to the taster to figure it out. The nose of Evolution is reminiscient of a drier Reisling, with honey and tropical fruit notes. The front continues the flavor of a good Reisling, evolving into tropical citrus tones of pineapple and mango, and finishing like a clean, crisp Pinot Gris. Paired tonight with asparagus and cheddar stuffed chicken breasts, Evolution held up well to the sharp cheese but did not overpower the light flavor of chicken. Evolution would be wonderful served chilled on a breezy summer evening with a meal of white fish and grilled vegetables. After allowing Evolution to warm a bit during dinner, it becomes smoother and tastes of fresh ripe strawberries.

Evolution is an easy to drink white blend, and will appeal to both crisp white lovers and those who gravitate toward sweeter dessert wines.


Cottonwood Canyon 2000 Estate Chardonnay

With dinner this evening I'm enjoying a glass of 2000 Estate Chardonnay from Cottonwood Canyon winery. Cottonwood is in the Santa Maria Valley in California (yea yea, not Oregon) on the foxen canyon wine trail -- think Sideways as Santa Barbara County and many of Cottonwood's neighbors is where it was filmed. I visited this winery back in March with my aunt, who works there part-time when she isn't doing space rocket stuff for Boeing at Vandenburg...pretty much for the discounts.

The immediate thing you notice about this chard is the color--it is much more golden than most Chardonnay's. It almost has the look of apple juice. There are strong buttery notes on the nose with a hint of lime and some oak. The taste is green-applesque, which could make sense given the apple juice color. The buttery nature of this wine lingers through the finish.

It's a rich wine that paired well with the pork loin roast and potatoes for dinner tonight. While I'm of course an Oregon wine advocate, this is a good drinkable California wine. I think it retailed around $20, although I don't suspect they distribute much out of the county.

1998 Freedom Hill Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards

For those who know me, they know it takes a special kind of red wine to get my taste buds rolling. Today during our trip to Willamette Valley Vineyards I came across one such magnificent red wine, the 1998 Freedom Hill Pinot Noir by Willamette Valley Vineyards. Only a few reds have caught my attention like this red did, and I consider myself a discriminating drinker of reds.

Gana's previous post gave a clear indication as to the service we continuously receive from the folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards, which is one of the reasons all of us The Wine Blog authors are Guild Members of one level or another.

The 1998 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir was selected from the special shelf by our tasting room guide this afternoon for us. We're not quite sure as to why or what the occasion was that prompted such a wonderful and tasty treat but whatever the reason it was well received. The wine has a quintessential dark ruby red coloring. Upon sniffing this wine you receive wonderful aromas of raspberries, cinnamon and spices. I had a harder time identifying the cinnamon but after the second sip it was there. Once on the palate a smoky array of blackberries and cream were present finishing with a long smooth rich finish with a hint of spice. Again, this red is top-notch in my book and has obviously aged well since its 1998 vintage date. Wine Enthusiast too enjoyed their tasting of the wine. So much so they rated this 1998 vintage of Willamette Valley's Freedom Hill Pinot Noir a 91/100. I bought a bottle and cannot wait to pair this with a great rack of ribs, or a well spiced prime rib or roast, or even those lamb chops I've been telling everyone I'll cook. It should make for a great evening of food, wine and certainly friends.


Willamette Valley Vineyards

Today brought a trip to Willamette Valley Vineyards, perhaps one of my favorite wine producers due to their great service, famous Pinot, and diverse portfolio of varietals--all done well. In fact, I'm such a fan, I'm a stockholder (see the bias coming out?) WVV is the largest producing winery in the state of Oregon and was one of the founders of this appellation. They are known for their Pinot Noir's, they have a darn good Pinot Gris (Wine Spectator best buy), a good Riesling, and an up-and-coming Chardonney. For the dessert wine conniosuers, can't beat their semi-sparkling muscat frizzante...marketed under the Tualatin Estate label.

The trip today was to pick up the most recent shipment from the Oregon Wine Guild premier cru, a wonderful wine club that bring a red and a white every other month, with no membership fees, free reserve tastings, and a 20% discount on the shipments plus all wine purchased through the winery. Today's shipment included the 2006 Riesling as well as a 2004 Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc. Of course, stopping by the winery, a tasting was required. For some reason they were opening the really good stuff for us--we got into the 1998 Freedom Hill Pinot and the 1999 Karina Vineyard Pinot, in addition to the standard fare. After the winery, a group of us proceeded to the Vina's for a BBQ, and that is where we cracked open the wine that I'll be reviewing today -- 2002 Griffin Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.

Griffin Creek is the label WVV uses mostly on the bigger reds, as the grapes come from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon so the Willamette Valley label can't be used. This cab is a gorgeous dark red, almost burgundy, and as could be expected from a big red like this had good legs on it. The nose had strong peppery notes, and on the second glass after it had opened up a bit I started picking up some toffee and leather aroma. Upon tasting, it has a warm spicy feel with a lingering finish. After opening up, I detected a jammy fruitiness that could be overpowered by the bold spice if you aren't careful. For the technical details...the wine retails for $35, fermented in 100% stainless and barrelled in 50% new oak. It's 14.6% in alcohol and 886 cases bottled. This is a great wine meant to be consumed with heavy food.

That's it for now--you'll be reading more about WVV in the future though (we have a lot of their wine to drink).

Airlie 2005 Pinot Noir

OK, so first off, let me say that I'm certainly far from a wine expert. I drink what I like, and that is that. I'll also say that I'm loyal to a few particular wineries, for good reason, and I'm sure you'll be able to tell as we progress through blogdomness.

I'm also a strong believer that enjoying wine is as much about the experience, setting, food pairing, and people as it is about the wine itself. As such, I intend on posting about the whole experience surrounding our wine adventures, so bear with it.

Tonight's endeavour was a bottle of 2005 Airlie Pinot Noir--a winery from Monmouth, OR. Drew picked up this particular bottle at a wedding a few weeks ago. We matched it with bbq'd new york strip steaks with garlic pepper, roasted sweet red peppers with olive oil, steamed brocolli with a light lemon and garlic sauce, and grilled chocolate-rum banana for dessert.

My first impression of this wine was so-so. Initially, the nose was a bit bland and while the taste was decent, it didn't seem to be anything too special. It did pair with the steak quite nicely, but I had drunk some Airlie previously and was less than impressed, and I was thinking this wasn't going to pass muster with the high bar of Willamette Valley pinot's. About 30 minutes later, though, we poured the second glass and it was a world of difference.

The coloration is the beautiful medium-red transulcency that you see in a good pinot, and while Airlie says that you should get red cherry and vanilla on the nose I wasn't getting that even on the second glass. I've never been good with that, though. After the wine opened up, I did notice distinct strawberry flavors with a bit of spice, along with your traditional pinot dust.

This is a smooth, drinkable wine that matches well with food. While I was a tad underwhelmed with the initial tastes and the fact that the nose never really opened up, once the wine had a chance to develop a bit I really enjoyed it (and still am as I write). I'd certainly recommend this one, but would advise you to aerate (or decant) it before drinking to really bring out the intensity of the wine.

Making the word "chocoholic" valid!

Who knew that such an indescript little building would house not only some of the most unique wines I've ever tasted, and one of the most colorful and non compos mentis vintners I've ever met. Paul van der Veldt and his winery Shallon Winery of Astoria, Oregon has been operating with doors open to customers 365 days a year for 27 years. Josh, Micheal, Chris and I all took a journey up the beautiful Oregon coast with this winery as our destination.

Being a one man shop Paul knows that it is entirely impossible to compete on any level with the "big boys" of the Willamette, Rogue, and Columbia Valleys here in Oregon. For this reason he has created an array of 6-10 different wines (depending on what he has in stock). The paramount of which I intend to introduce here now. However just as my friend Josh has previously attested to and I will put into different terms, the foreplay leads to the climax so bear with me.

If you walk into Paul's small Astoria storefront he will abruptly interupt the whirlwind paced guided tasting he is in the midst of to tell you to just wait your turn, only to immediately return to the story at hand 900-words per minute and all. Once he is ready for another group of customers, assuming you've stuck it out past the obtruse welcome, the tour begins with an interogation of who you are, what you do, and where you're from. Post-introduction Paul takes you into his backroom, the winery. A one room operation consisting of eBay-esque equipment bought, borrowed, or stolen from various Oregon locations each with a sordid yet colorful history of its own. Once you've endured the explanation of the murals on the side wall, the history of Astoria and surrounding area, and the explanation of the various wine making devices he uses it is time for the tasting.

This is where we'll jump straight to Paul's premier wine, the Chocolate Orange Whey wine. Among the many colorful and scrumptious wines of unthinkable flavors for wines the last to taste is the thick and rich Chocolate Orange wine, the wine Paul exclaims gives validity to the term "Chocoholic!" This wine, made from six different chocolates from four different countries, has no preservatives or any unnatural ingredients. The primary ingredient after the chocolate is whey... What is whey you ask? "Little Miss Muffit sat on her tuffit eating her curds and WHEY." Whey is the after-product of cheese production. After the curds have been pulled for cheese-making the liquid remaining is whey, the world's most nutritious substance per liquid ounce.

The chocolate, whey, and mystery orange flavoring are all added together to make an amazingly delicious wine like no other. I cannot write like this wine like any other wine and talk about flavors or hints of flavors. The name says it all, Chocolate and Orange. What I can tell you about is what to pair the wine with, how to enjoy it, and where to get some of your own. The wine will pair with about anything you can imagine premium chocolate to pair with, especially on some top-notch vanilla ice cream. Or, as Paul's own literature exclaims from item number 20, "on a friend." That too has a story behind it that Paul has scripted to share upon request...

For more information visit Paul in Astoria off 16th street just two blocks from the riverfront, or online at www.shallon.com.



Welcome to the Oregon Wine Blog. This will be a space for us young adult, up-and-coming, nearly snooty wino's can chronicle our experiences, trials, and tribulations living in the heart of Oregon Wine Country--the Willamette Valley.

We'll make posts about wine, wineries, events, trips, food, friends, and whatever else comes to mind.