Oregon Chardonnay Offering Very Strong Value

Today’s Story: Walter Scott Wines

Walter Scott Wines was established in 2008 by husband and wife Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ken comes from a background in wine, which began in 1994 in production, sales, and harvests at St. Innocent Winery. He later moved to Patricia Green Cellars in 2009, coinciding with the first vintage of Walter Scott La Combe Verte Pinot Noir in exchange for harvest labor. Erica, on the other hand, has a background in the restaurant industry and wine education. Her impressive resume includes sommelier and GM for the Ponzi Family’s Dundee Bistro, wine director at one of Portland’s best restaurants Ten 01, and wine director for Bruce Carey Restaurants. Erica has also taught classes for Wine & Spirits Archive, WSET, and the International Sommelier Guild. Lastly I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the youngest member of the Walter Scott team, Lucille who is the daughter of Ken and Erica. She “joined the team” in 2014, the same year Ken and Erica quit their main jobs to focus 100% on Walter Scott.

Walter Scott sources their fruit from a number of growers in the Willamette Valley AVA, with many in the Eola-Amity Hills area around their “home base.” All of the growers are friends of Ken and Erica, who in their words are people they like to sit around a table with while enjoying a glass of wine. All of these vineyard partners practice dry farming without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, while some are also organic or biodynamic. This meshes well with Walter Scott’s goal of producing single vineyard and blended bottlings from old vines that offer clonal diversity from expressive terroir.

In the cellar, Ken practices a more “dynamic” winemaking style in that he never follows a recipe and adapts vintage to vintage. The end goal is to purely let the wines speak for themselves and showcase each unique vineyard site with freshness and purity. Ken only ferments with native or ambient yeasts, minimizes punch-downs or extractive techniques, and remains committed in his attention to detail vintage to vintage in order to seek constant improvement. All of the wines age in French oak barrels, with each barrel a small part of the larger whole.

I previously wrote about the Walter Scott 2018 X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay. To learn more about Walter Scott Wines, view pictures of the team and vineyards, or purchase some bottles of your own, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Bois-Moi Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2020 Bois-Moi Chardonnay is pale gold in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the wine blossoms with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose of lemon zest, white peach, crisp pear, nectarine, flint, oyster shell, saline mineral, and mild oaky spice. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of Meyer lemon, nectarine, underripe pear, green apple, limestone, sage, and raw almond. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Quality is good, and this is much rounder and more plush than the typical Walter Scott Chardonnay bottlings I’ve had in the past. I do wish the intensity on the palate was more pronounced and the finish a bit longer, but this is still quite enjoyable.

Price: $28. This is a really solid price-point for this wine and I’ve gone ahead and purchased more already. While it’s not the most intense or complex and seems ready for earlier drinking, I think that could be due to the vintage conditions and this offers a great fix of Walter Scott while you wait on the 2021s.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, I encourage you to purchase directly from the winery here since it’s still available at the time of this writing. Otherwise, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

A Benchmark Napa Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Stony Hill Vineyard

Stony Hill Vineyard is a highly regarded winery located on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley, and contrary to many properties in Napa they are known for their white wines. The history of Stony Hill begins in 1943 when Fred and Eleanor McCrea purchased 168 acres of land tucked into the slopes of Spring Mountain. The McCrea’s loved French white wines, particularly white Burgundy, so they established their winery in 1951 and released their first wines in 1952 with a focus on Chardonnay. As time went on, Fred and Eleanor planted additional white varieties of Pinot Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Semillon. Until 2009 the estate was fully dedicated to white wines and they released their first estate red wine with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, a sign that Cabernet truly is king in the Napa Valley.

With Fred’s passing in 1977, Mike Chelini who had been assistant winemaker since 1972 took over the reins as head winemaker of Stony Hill. Mike was a dedicated winemaker here for four decades, continuing the philosophy and practices he learned from Fred while maintaining Stony Hill as a premium Napa producer who sold mainly to select clients. The property was purchased by the Lawrence Family (who also own Brendel Wines, Burgess Cellars, Heitz Cellar, and various vineyards) in 2020 and they brought along a new winemaker named Jaimee Motley. Jaimee seeks to maintain the history and winemaking style present at Stony Hill since its founding, though certainly with a new emphasis on the red wine portfolio.

The Stony Hill vineyards are set on steep terraces in the Spring Mountain AVA, and they total about 30 acres. Ranging in elevation of 800 and 1,550 feet, the vineyards receive a plethora of moderating influences and sit on a bed of volcanic mountain soils with limestone underneath. Stony Hill has been certified organic since 2019, and they have plans over the years to come to include more regenerative farming techniques like the inclusion of livestock. The property also has about 15 acres of fallow land, which will someday see more plantings of Merlot and Syrah with new plantings of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Gamay, Petit Verdot, and Chenin Blanc.

A quick note on Stony Hill’s Chardonnay… The Chardonnay here is produced today the same way it was in 1952, with an emphasis on blocking malolactic fermentation and aging exclusively in neutral oak which is often ten years old. This produces a very linear and mineral-driven Chardonnay with good acid that bodes well for long aging in the cellar.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2015 Chardonnay is medium gold in color and transparent in the glass. After about 30 minutes in the glass, this blossoms with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose of crisp yellow apple, lemon zest, white peach, stone fruit, white lily, flint, saline, and brioche. The flavors on the palate are also of medium (+) intensity, showcasing notes of lime zest, white peach, apricot, honey, white florals, lemongrass, stony mineral, and hazelnut. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good quality and in a pretty nice spot right now.

Price: $77. From a pure “value” perspective, these are becoming quite stretched as prices rose over the years. While there’s no denying this is a great Chardonnay with good balance, intensity, and complexity, you can find similar quality for $50 or sometimes less.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it. Unfortunately purchasing options are limited and the best bet may be ordering directly from the winery.

Remarkable Old World Styled Chardonnay From New Zealand’s Kumeu River

Today’s Story: Kumeu River Wines

Kumeu River Wines is a highly regarded family-owned winery located near the town of Kumeu about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from central Auckland, New Zealand. The estate was established in 1944 by Mick and Katé Brajkovich, who immigrated to New Zealand from the small Croatian village of Živogošće in 1937. The Brajkovich family had practice tending to vines and making wine in Croatia, so they used this experience along with their son Maté by working vineyards and orchards in West Auckland until they could purchase their own small vineyard in Kumeu. Though Mick unfortunately passed away in 1949, Katé and Maté continued working their family property known as San Marino Vineyards and produced wines which they also sold. Maté and his wife Melba, whom he met during the late 1950s, had four children named Michael, Marijana, Milan, and Paul and they grew up amongst the vines on the family’s property. This instilled in them a passion for the family business, and they are all involved to this day.

During the 1980s, Kumeu River Wines really started to get its name and justifiable great reputation. Maté moved away from the hybrid varieties that produced rather basic fortified or still wines and shifted toward Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc which were uncommon in the region at the time. Following the 1983 vintage which Michael spent in France, the family business rebranded as Kumeu River Wines and started focusing extensively on an Old World (or “Burgundy”) style Chardonnay. The family started producing their Chardonnay with indigenous yeasts and whole cluster pressing, with the wines seeing extended aging on the lees as well. Accolades came pouring in, and to this day Kumeu River Wines is most famous for this Chardonnay which strikes up there with some of the White Burgundy greats in blind tastings.

Today, the Kumeu River Wines estate consists of 30 hectares (74 acres) though the family sources fruit from trusted growers on another 10 hectares (25 acres). Soil here is dominated by clay with a sandstone base, which makes water holding capabilities fairly strong and eliminates the need for irrigation. All the grapes are harvested by hand as well, ensuring only the highest-quality fruit makes it into the end product. At the end of the day, Kumeu River Wines produces about 21,000 cases per vintage with the bulk of the portfolio made up of exceptional Old World styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Estate Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Estate Chardonnay is pale gold in color. This really starts to sing given about 45 minutes to open up in the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the rather deep nose showcasing notes of Meyer lemon, yellow apple, underripe pear, white lily, flint, popcorn kernel, seashell, mild smoke, and saline mineral. This comes across fairly reductive overall. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of peach, lemon zest, green apple, mango, dried pineapple, crushed stone, wet flint, mild green herbs, and a hint of brine. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly has a few years left, but this is very enjoyable now.

Price: $33. This offers great value, and you might be able to find it even cheaper depending on location. The intensity, complexity, and length here are all great which culminates into a very rewarding wine.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Mineral-Driven Coombsville Chardonnay With a Solid Value Proposition

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

I previously reviewed the 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc and 2018 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot from Enfield.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Haynes Vineyard Old Vine Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV

The 2018 Haynes Vineyard Old Vine Chardonnay is medium gold in color. This really hits its stride after 30-45 minutes in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of mango, dried pineapple, lemon zest, yellow apple, flint, seashell, dried vanilla, dill, and saline mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate offers up notes of Meyer lemon, Asian pear, green apple, dried pineapple, limestone, oyster shell, mild green herbs, and white pepper. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good quality with a beautifully linear presentation.

Price: $50. I think this offers great value, particularly if you can find it slightly cheaper like I did at $42. The intensity here is good but the depth and linearity are excellent for such a young Chardonnay. This is also beautifully balanced. I continue to be impressed by the wines from Enfield.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Bourgogne Blanc of Exceptional Quality at a Great Price

Today’s Story: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

To say Pierre-Yves Colin was a rising star turned legend in Chassagne-Montrachet over the last decade or so might be an understatement. Pierre-Yves started working with his father Marc Colin (the Burgundian legend in his own right) in 1994 and became winemaker until the 2005 vintage when he decided to branch out into his own venture. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey was established by Pierre-Yves and his wife Caroline Morey (daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) and spawned out of a negociant business the couple started in 2001. Pierre-Yves inherited 6 hectares from his family and purchases fruit from carefully selected growers, but there is no question he knows all of this terroir like the back of his hand. When making his wines, Pierre-Yves presses the fruit very slowly and at higher pressures than normal, racks directly into 350L barrels for natural fermentation, never stirs the lees, and diverts his wine by gravity into his cellar. Pierre-Yves’ wines spend two winters aging in the cellar before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Whether it be thanks to the intense attention to terroir, his winemaking practices, or any minute decision he makes throughout the year, there is no question that Pierre-Yves’ wines are something special.

I previously reviewed the 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes from PYCM.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2019 Bourgogne Blanc is pale straw yellow in color with hints of green. I decanted this for two hours but tasted it along the way, since when I had this a few months back it took quite some time to open up in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, Asian pear, crisp green apple, white lily, flint, matchstick, oyster shell, and raw almond. Meanwhile the flavors are of pronounced intensity, and the palate offers up notes of lemon citrus, ripe green apple, a pinch of lime zest, underripe pear, white florals, flint, sea salt, crushed stone minerality, and a hint of white pepper. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very good quality and a good one to revisit in a couple years.

Price: $47. This is great value for top-notch Chardonnay. Intensity, balance, complexity, and length are all quite solid here for the price level and this seems like a good one to have in the cellar. PYCM shows his prowess once again.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

The Pinnacle of Blanc de Blanc Champagne

Today’s Story: Champagne Taittinger

Champagne Taittinger is a well-regarded and rather large Champagne house established in 1932 in Reims, France by Pierre Taittinger. Though the château and property came into Taittinger family ownership in 1932, the estate traces its roots back much further to the year 1734. In that year, Jacques Fourneaux started his wine business in Champagne by working with the Benedictine Abbeys who owned much of the finest vineyard land at the time. Following Pierre’s purchase of the estate from the house of Forest-Fourneaux, the Taittinger family began their incredibly run of producing some of the finest wines of the Champagne region. Pierre’s son François took over the family domaine in 1945, building out the cellars within 13th century chalk pits and expanding the vineyards. From then onward to the start of the 21st century, Taittinger became a Champagne house of the highest quality and of world renown. The estate remained in the family until 2005 when it was sold to the US private equity firm Starwood Capital Group, however the family re-purchased Champagne Taittinger shortly after.

Taittinger is well known for its Chardonnay-dominant wines, especially the Prestige Cuvée bottling of Comtes de Champagne. Today the family estate consists of 288 hectares (711 acres) of vineyards, of which roughly half is planted to Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and small holdings of Pinot Meunier accounting for the rest. Their own holdings make up for about half of the total production, though, so acting as a négociant Taittinger purchases the rest of its fruit from a number of growers with longstanding ties to the house. While the full Taittinger portfolio is rather robust, the top bottling of Comtes de Champagne (which I’m reviewing today) is worth isolating.

The Comtes de Champagne was introduced with the 1952 vintage as a Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) bottling of the highest magnitude. Fruit for this bottling comes mainly, if not entirely, from Grand Cru vineyards and winemaking, including use of oak, is meant to minimize an outside touch. Oak usage is meant solely to impart additive flavors such as brioche and nuts (almond, hazelnut, etc.), and the wines spend eight to ten years in the chalk pits before release. These wines are often said to be the best and purest expression of Blanc de Blanc Champagne, so without further delay…

Today’s Wine: 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne

100% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is medium gold in color with delicate effervescence in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the complex nose offering up notes of baked yellow apple, Asian pear, white peach, lemon cream, crème brûlée, brioche, browned butter, white chocolate, hazelnut, and chalk. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of green apple, lemon meringue, lime zest, underripe pear, white floral, chalk, buttercream, brioche, and saline minerality. This dry Champagne is full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is an outstanding wine with at least another decade of optimal drinking, as it comes across quite youthful today.

Price: $280. Though there are certainly better “values” out there when it comes to Champagne, I think this is of the caliber to be worth its price. It has great complexity, depth, balance, and a long finish while being incredibly youthful and age-worthy. A great vintage for Comtes de Champagne.

Outstanding Napa Valley Chardonnay That Drinks Like Aged Burgundy

Today’s Story: Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena traces its roots back to 1882 when Alfred L. Tubbs purchased 254 acres of rugged land with the dream of turning it into vineyards. Tubbs first planted his vineyards before constructing the chateau in 1886 and bringing in a winemaker from France, and by 1896 the A.L. Tubbs Winery was the seventh-largest in the Napa Valley. This prowess was short-lived, however, when winemaking shut down during Prohibition. With its repeal in 1933, Alfred’s grandson Chapin Tubbs continued harvesting the vineyards to make some wine and started selling fruit to others. He re-christened the winery to Chateau Montelena Winery in 1940 with the name derived from a contraction of Mount St. Helena.

In 1947, Chapin unfortunately passed away and winemaking at Chateau Montelena ceased again two years later. The Tubbs family sold this magnificent estate in 1958 to Yort and Jeanie Frank, a couple who emigrated from Hong Kong after WWII and were then seeking a peaceful place to retire. The Franks did not resume winemaking but rather worked to transform some of the overgrown grounds into a lake and landscaping reminiscent of their native gardens back home. Jade Lake on the property still provides evidence of this today and remains a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary.

The renaissance of this great winemaking estate, however, came about in the early 1970s under the leadership of Jim Barrett. Barrett quickly cleared and replanted the vineyards and brought in modern winemaking equipment alongside a team to oversee the vineyards and production. In 1972, winemaking resumed at Chateau Montelena and within years it would become one of the most important wineries in all of California and at that time even throughout the world. Chateau Montelena today thrives under the watchful eyes of Jim’s son, Bo Barrett.

Arguably the most important event in Chateau Montelena’s history occurred in 1976, though halfway around the world in France. Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, sought to put the best Californian wines head to head with the best French wines and assembled the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 (known as the Judgment of Paris). There were an assortment of red wines and an assortment of white wines, with the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay being one of six Californian whites going against four greats from France’s Burgundy region. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay beat all of the other white wines in a blind tasting and shocked not only the panel and those in attendance but the entire world, cementing California as a winemaking region demanding respect. Funny enough, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars also in Napa Valley won for the red wines with their 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I previously wrote about Chateau Montelena on a few occasions, reviewing the 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Chardonnay, Twenty Year Ruby, and 1995 Chardonnay from magnum which I am revisiting again today.

Today’s Wine: 1995 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 1995 Chardonnay is deep gold in color, beautifully radiant in the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, leaping from the glass in an incredibly complex nose of golden apple, ripe pear, pineapple, orange marmalade, dried apricot, flint, honeysuckle, white truffle, wet stone, a hint of butter, raw almond, and dried vanilla. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, as the palate offers up similar and equally complex notes of crisp yellow apple, pear, charred pineapple, apricot, tropical citrus, dill, white truffle, white pepper, crushed rock, almond, and a touch of brioche. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with still-lively medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish that goes on for almost a minute. Absolutely outstanding.

Price: $90 for 750ml or $180 for this magnum direct from the winery. This is my second time reviewing this wine (first was also from magnum January 2021), though I thought this bottle showed so incredibly well I’m writing about it again. I’m left speechless here, as this is remarkably intense, deep, complex, balanced, and long. Truly on par with some of the greatest white Burgundy I’ve enjoyed, and while my last bottle was incredible this takes it even higher. Insane value here, if you can find an immaculate bottle.

Complex Bourgogne Blanc That Needs a Little More Time

Today’s Story: Domaine Roulot

Domaine Roulot is a renowned Burgundy wine estate situated in the village of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune sub-region. Though Roulot’s history dates back to at least 1830 when Guillaume Roulot registered as a vigneron, the modern domaine traces its roots more directly to a 1930 founding and growing success following WWII under Guy Roulot. Guy came into some vineyard property through his marriage to Geneviève Coche, though he quickly set about purchasing additional vineyard parcels of village and 1er Cru classifications. Unique at the time, Guy vinified and bottled his wines by single vineyard, also mastering the lieu-dit practice of bottling a named vineyard without its own “legal” classification within the larger village. Guy made some of the greatest white Burgundy at the time, even later having his 1973 Meursault Charmes place second for the white wines at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. Sadly, Guy passed away suddenly and far too soon in 1982 and left his domaine in a precarious situation since his son Jean-Marc was in Paris studying acting. Though Domaine Roulot had several winemakers come in until Jean-Marc returned home, it wasn’t until 1989 when he fully took the reigns.

Shortly after taking over, Jean-Marc transitioned fully to organic viticulture and he has not used any herbicides since. Further, any treatments used in the vineyards ensure minimal if any impact on the natural microbial life amongst the vines. In the cellar, Jean-Marc crafts wines based on a philosophy that they should be what he likes to drink, not necessarily what the “modern palate” likes to drink. While many of the wines of Meursault can be rich and concentrated, Roulot’s wines are often described as chiseled, linear, precise, restrained, tense, and transparent. He achieves these descriptors through incredibly rigorous harvesting, very gentle pressing of the fruit, indigenous yeast fermentation, barrel aging for 12 months on lees followed by 6 months in stainless steel, and modest use of new oak of between 10% and 30%. Roulot even minimizes stirring the lees (and mainly does it in vintages of higher acidity), which is a practice more common with producers who like adding richness to the wines.

I previously reviewed the 2017 Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine Roulot.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2015 Bourgogne Blanc is pale straw yellow in color and crystal clear. This shows at its best after at least 45 minutes in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of green apple, lemon, crisp pear, white flowers, flint, gunsmoke, limestone, saline, raw almond, and a hint of vanilla. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate offers notes of green apple, lime zest, white peach, pear, white flowers, dried gravel, limestone mineral, a hint of smoke, and almond. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. The wine seems to hollow out on the mid-palate, and the finish leaves one wanting for a bit more. Perhaps a dumb phase? Nonetheless this is a solid white Burgundy and offers up the classic reductive characteristics of Roulot.

Price: $140 (I paid $66 one year ago). At current market prices I think this struggles in value terms. There are quite a few lesser known Bourgogne Blancs well below $100 per bottle, and I am glad for the price I paid last year. While still an enjoyable wine, I would focus my efforts on the 2014 or 2017 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc if you’re spending the money.

Delicious Ice Wine From One of My Favorite Oregon Winemakers

Today’s Story: Antica Terra

Antica Terra was established in 2005 by Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis, and Michael Kramer, three friends and partners who had collaborated before and dreamed of owning a vineyard together. This being said, vines were first planted in 1989 on the property, an 11 acre vineyard on pre-historic seabed in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Having taken ownership of their new vineyard, Scott, John, and Michael started seeking a winemaker and their crosshairs quickly fell upon Maggie Harrison.

Maggie began her winemaking career at Sine Qua Non (known for $200-$1,000+ bottles of cult Rhone variety wines) working for Manfred Krankl and her expertise was quickly realized. In 2004, Manfred encouraged her to begin her own Syrah project on the side, and Lillian was born (I reviewed two of these Syrahs previously). Maggie worked tirelessly on her passion project wines while still tending to barrels at Sine Qua Non, demonstrating her pure passion for the craft. When Scott, John, and Michael asked Maggie to become their winemaker, she refused profusely though the three friends ultimately convinced her to simply visit the property to offer her opinions of the vineyard. 26 seconds after Maggie stepped foot into the vineyards and observed the fossils, oaks, and vines, “she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.”

The vineyard of Antica Terra is rather intense, both in appearance above the earth and underground for the vines. The vines find home amongst fossilized oyster shells and sandstone with no topsoil, leaving them to struggle for nutrients and in turn producing incredibly unique fruit. Aboveground, the vineyard is strewn with boulders, steep grades, and vines that (due to the soil) appear spindly and frail. Fruit for Antica Terra wines forms in tiny clusters with thick-skinned grapes that are half the size that is typical for their varieties and the canopy of these plants is incredibly sensitive. Maggie provides immense care and attention to these delicate vines, which culminates into unique and immeasurably profound wines. Antica Terra produces four Pinot Noir bottlings, two Chardonnays, and one Rosé. In the 2018 vintage, they also produced their first-ever and incredibly limited ice wine that I’m reviewing today.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here. I also previously reviewed the 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir and 2018 Aurata Chardonnay.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Paraselene Ice Wine

100% Chardonnay; 10.4% ABV; 24.4% residual sugar by weight

The 2018 Paraselene is deep gold, almost amber, in color. Aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing welcoming notes of peach cobbler, orange marmalade, apricot jam, baked apple, honeysuckle, and hazelnut. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers equally inviting notes of pineapple, apricot, orange pith, lychee, squash blossom, and honey. This sweet ice wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. While not incredibly complex at this stage, the wine is incredibly concentrated and rather intense. A delicious way to cap off the evening or as a pairing for dessert.

Price: $100 per 375ml. While this is incredibly expensive on a value perspective, ice wine is a very labor-intensive and expensive product to make and these bottles are incredibly limited. While you can argue there are better ways to spend $100, I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and am glad to have a couple bottles left. If you’re given the opportunity to try it, this is another window into Maggie’s highly skilled winemaking.

Solid Bourgogne Blanc From the Queen of Burgundy

Today’s Story: Maison Leroy

Maison Leroy was founded in 1868 by François Leroy who was a winemaker and vineyard owner at Auxey-Duresses as well as Meursault, Pommard, Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vougeot, and Richebourg. Though François sold his wines through Comptoir des Proprietaires de la Cote-d’Or in Beaune, his desire of enlarging his business led to the foundation of Maison Leroy. When François’ son Joseph joined the business alongside his wife Louise Curteley, the two grew Auxey-Duresses by producing liquors and distilled alcohols alongside the wine and garnered significant critical acclaim during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Henri Leroy, son of Joseph and Louise, joined the Maison in 1919 and further extended the family business by creating a subsidiary to produce eaux-de-vie alcohol near Cognac. One of Henri’s great achievements in Burgundy, however, came through his friendship with Edmond Gaudin de Villaine whose wife and brother-in-law (Jacques Chambon) inherited Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in 1912. Though the domaine went up for sale during the financial crises of the 1920s, Henri convinced Edmond not to sell his ownership and later purchased Jacques’ half in 1942 to cement the de Villaine and Leroy families as equal owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). Henri worked tirelessly at DRC for the following four decades until his death in 1980, having turned the domaine into one of the most famous in the world and a producer of today’s most expensive wines.

Lalou Bize-Leroy, Henri’s daughter, joined Maison Leroy in 1955 and became President-General Director in 1971. Lalou, or Madame Leroy, worked tirelessly to understand the diverse terroir of Burgundy’s vineyards and selects her purchased wine with intense scrutiny and demand for quality. Madame Leroy also accompanied her father Henri at DRC until his death and became Co-Gerante with Aubert de Villaine from 1974 to 1992. While Maison Leroy’s village wines truly drink on par with some of the great 1er Cru equivalents throughout Burgundy and the 1er Crus drink like Grand Crus, Madame Leroy founded Domaine Leroy in 1988 after Takashimaya, an owner of luxury department stores in Japan, purchased 1/3 of the company and funded the purchase of vineyards. Madame Leroy purchased the estates of Charles Noellat at Vosne-Romanée and Philippe-Rémy at Gevrey-Chambertin to get the domaine running and she immediately transitioned to biodynamic farming for all of her vines. While Maison Leroy wines typically start around $70 per bottle and go into the several hundreds of dollars, Domaine Leroy produces wines in the thousands of dollars per bottle up into the tens of thousands of dollars due to their immeasurable quality and rarity.

Though the following is a description of the winemaking practices at Domaine Leroy and not necessarily Maison Leroy, I think it is important to include because of the demonstration it shares of Madame Leroy’s strict winemaking and quality standards. Starting in her vineyards, Madame Leroy follows a strict set of guidelines which includes spreading “Maria Thun”-type compost and manure throughout the vineyards as needed while hand-tilling the soil. At Domaine Leroy, they do not replant vineyards but rather replant individual vines as needed using buds of sister vines in the same vineyards. Leroy practices the Guyot pruning method from mid-January to early April only when the moon is passing the constellations Sagittarius, Aries, Leo, and, if necessary, also Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra keeping with strict biodynamic practices. They also remove a selection of buds to keep yields lower, remove buds from the trunk of the rootstock, and remove excess buds growing between nodes but do not clip the end of vines to keep the last bud in tact. At harvest, Domaine Leroy selects all fruit carefully by hand and carries them to the winery in small baskets before they are double hand-sorted on a stationary table to guarantee selection of the healthiest grapes. Fermentation is accomplished in large wooden barrels without destemming or crushing the fruit to avoid oxidation and preserve natural yeasts on the grape skins. Fermentation is not rushed and the fruit goes through extended periods of maceration before the wine is pressed and sent into the first level of the cellar until malolactic fermentation is complete. Using only gravity, the wine is then poured off the lees into the lower second level of the cellar where wine is stored until it is bottled.

For the source of the information above and more, check out Leroy’s website here. I also previously reviewed the 2010 Côte de Beaune-Villages from Maison Leroy.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2014 Bourgogne Blanc is pale gold in color. This truly blossomed after about 45 minutes in the glass, with the aromas of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcasing notes of green apple, pear, Meyer lemon, white wildflower, flint, raw almond, dried vanilla, and a hint of butter. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of crisp green apple, underripe pear, white peach, melon, honeysuckle, white pepper, and crushed rock minerality. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) finish. Very good but not as racy as other 2014 BB I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Price: $100 (paid $45 a few years ago). From a value standpoint, I think this is a bit of a stretch at the current market prices around $100. However finding this closer to $70 would be a solid entry and the $45 we got it for several years ago is screaming value.