Textbook Syrah That Blends Northern Rhône Character With California

Today’s Story: Lillian Winery

Lillian came to fruition in 2004 with their inaugural release of Syrah. The winemaker, Maggie Harrison, worked as assistant winemaker for Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non (think $200-$1,000 bottles of cult Rhone variety wines) when he encouraged her to begin producing her own Syrah. With grapes coming from the White Hawk Vineyard, Maggie bottled 150 cases of her 2004 Syrah and, though I have not had that vintage, the several vintages I’ve had since clearly reflect on her experiences at Sine Qua Non.

Over time Lillian grew from 150 cases and, although still small, sources grapes from White Hawk Vineyard, Stolpman Vineyards, Bien Nacido Vineyards, and Cabernet Sauvignon from True Vineyard on Howell Mountain. Additionally, Maggie makes Lillian Roussanne and Grenache which are bottlings added later to the portfolio. With the focus on Syrah, though, each vineyard offers different character. White Hawk is sandy soil producing dark fruit personality, Stolpman is calcareous soil producing brighter fruit but more tannin structure, and Bien Nacido is cooler producing smokier and floral notes with higher acidity and tannin. When they come together, a very elegant wine is born.

I previously reviewed the 2013 Syrah and 2013 Gold Series No. 3 Syrah from Lillian.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Syrah

100% Syrah; 14.3% ABV

The 2015 Syrah is deep purple in color. I decanted this for about an hour, though it was gorgeous from the start. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing classic Syrah notes of blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, lavender, candied bacon, hickory smoke, toasted vanilla bean, crushed gravel, mocha, and sweet toasted oak. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers up notes of black plum, blueberry, blackberry, cassis, bacon fat, sweet tobacco, graphite, brown sugar, smoke, mint, and cocoa. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium but velvety tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Very good quality and a textbook Syrah.

Price: $75. I think this is very reasonably-priced given its high quality level, balance, length, intensity, and complexity. It is also exactly what I want out of a Syrah and a textbook example of the variety. I think this also strikes a good balance between Northern Rhône and California characteristics.

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.

Textbook Syrah From the Rocks District of Oregon

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir2020 Laughing Pig Rosé2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay from Big Table Farm.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Funk Estate Vineyard Syrah

100% Syrah; 15.1% ABV

The 2018 Funk Estate Vineyard Syrah is opaque deep purple in color, nearly black at its core. After about an hour to open up, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of blueberry, blackberry, plum, violet, green olive, black pepper, charred green herbs, and rocky minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying blackberry, black plum, mulberry, blueberry, violet, a hint of smoke, crushed rock, and cracked black pepper. This dry red is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 134 cases produced.

Price: $48. This is a very solid Syrah and one that offers decent value in my opinion. It’s incredibly true to variety and showcases the terroir of the Rocks District beautifully, all while remaining fairly complex with good intensity and balance.

An Oregon Take on Burgundy’s “Secret” Value

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir from Evening Land.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain

Co-ferment of Pinot Noir and Gamay; 12% ABV

The 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain is deep purple in color with ruby hues. Given some time to open up in the glass, this blossoms into a rather complex wine for its youth. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, raspberry, mulberry compote, blueberry, rose petal, rosemary, pine, and finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cranberry, white cherry, mulberry, blueberry, savory garden herbs, black olive, and stony mineral. This dry red is light-bodied with high acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 595 cases produced.

Price: $35. I think this is pretty fairly priced given the balance, length, and complexity though there are probably better values if you look to Beaujolais for carbonic Gamay. I haven’t had any Bourgogne Passetoutgrain to compare this to, so I found my next tasting task.

Young but Complex Oregon Pinot Noir From the Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I recently wrote about the 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé from Big Table Farm, though I previously reviewed the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay as well.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color with purple hues. I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and the wine needed every second given its youth. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blueberry, blackberry, spiced plum, black raspberry, violet, leather, black olive, pine, crushed rock, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of raspberry, dried strawberry, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, violet, dried tobacco, cola, and underbrush. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 234 cases produced.

Price: $62. I think this is in the arena of very fairly priced to offering great value. I love the BTF Willamette Valley Pinot Noir at a lower price-point, but this Yamhill-Carlton bottling is certainly above and beyond. The intensity, complexity, and length in this Pinot are all profound and this is a bigger wine that certainly needs a few more years of age.

Fun Oregon Rosé That Differs From the Crisp Porch Pounders

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay from Big Table Farm.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV

The 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé is deep salmon/pink in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of strawberry, raspberry, blood orange rind, rose petal, and dried green herbs. There’s some characteristic of meatiness there as well. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of tart red cherry, wild strawberry, pomegranate, raspberry, red rose, stony mineral, and mild white peppery spice. This dry rosé is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, very low tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 680 cases produced.

Price: $32. This is a fun and “different” rosé in that there’s more body here and it differs significantly from the crisp and light porch pounders we are typically used to. The wine is very well balanced, offers nice complexity, and is versatile which culminate into my opinion that this is certainly worth trying for the price. 

Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a highly-regarded producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and rather opaque. Given how young this is, I poured it into the glass and let it open up for about an hour and a half before drinking. The aromas are of medium intensity, however the nose is rather complex and offers gorgeous aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, dried violet, forest floor, mushroom, asphalt, and savory green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, blackberry, a touch of anise, tobacco, purple florals, charred green herbs, a hint of smoke, and crushed rock. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this offers very strong value, particularly given the complexity and terroir-driven nature of the wine at a young age. This is also already beautifully balanced, and certainly benefits from lengthy air time at this stage.

Beautiful Trousseau From a Winemaking Legend of Oregon

Today’s Story: The Eyrie Vineyards

The Eyrie Vineyards is a highly-regarded and family-owned winery in the Dundee Hills AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It was established in 1965 by David Lett and his wife Diana, shortly after David graduated from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology. David planted 3,000 vinifera grape cuttings he acquired from UC Davis and select growers, and he was the first ever to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley and the first in the US to plant Pinot Gris. Since he planted these cuttings in a temporary nursery plot, David began the search for his own vineyard land and settled on 20 acres at the south end of the Dundee Hills in 1966. Late that year David and Diana cleared the land and moved their cuttings from the temporary nursery, ultimately producing their first vintage in 1970.

Winemaking at The Eyrie Vineyards is rather traditional, rooted in David’s original belief that the Willamette Valley could produce wines to compete with Burgundy. Fermentation is accomplished using only native yeasts for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it proceeds naturally and slowly without the use of artificial temperature control. The Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, however, are inoculated with a yeast strain from their own vineyards. In barrel (which are very minimal percentages of new oak), the wines experience minimal racking, extended lees contact, and full and natural malolactic fermentation. The wines are also never fined but slightly filtered, and minimal if any sulfur is added.

Today The Eyrie Vineyards consists of five separate vineyard holdings, and they are all certified organic. Since 2005, second generation Jason Lett has been proprietor and winemaker while he carries on the philosophies of his father David before him. To learn more or view the source of the information above, please visit the Eyrie Vineyards website here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Trousseau

100% Trousseau; 11.5% ABV

The 2017 Trousseau is pale ruby in color with garnet hues. Given some time to open up in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of cranberry, tart cherry, spiced red plum, lavender, barnyard, fennel, mushroom, green bell pepper, and pine. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying notes of pomegranate, ripe red cherry, tart crunchy cranberry, red licorice, graphite, charred green herbs, moss, and wet gravel. This dry red is light-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $33. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this wine, but I was blown away by the complexity and intensity. The balance is outstanding as well, and this is well worth the price.

Precise Oregon Chardonnay for a Great Value

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded. Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay from Big Table Farm, so please check out those tasting notes as well if you missed them!

Today’s Wine: 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 12.3% ABV

The 2019 Wild Bee Chardonnay is medium yellow in color. This needs about 45 minutes to open up in the glass, then it begins to sing. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of green apple, pear, lemon curd, white floral blossom, flint, dill, and honeycomb. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of green apple skins, lemon and lime zest, ripe pear, wax, wet stone, dill, and saline mineral. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is a beautiful, precise Chardonnay and I’m excited to see where it goes over the next few years in bottle.

Price: $30. This is a very, very good value Chardonnay. I can’t pull any faults out of this wine, and the quality, balance, length, and intensity are profound. It’s fairly complex at this stage, and should only add further complexities over the next few years.

Unique and Fun Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded. Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

Big Table Farm has an outstanding website, filled with pictures, videos, and incredible detail. I highly recommend visiting them here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV

The 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color and slightly hazy. This really started to show nicely after 30-45 minutes in the glass, with the nose showcasing medium intense aromas of yellow apple, golden pear, a hint of lemon custard, white florals, chalky mineral, a hint of smoke, and mild white peppery spice. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity, displaying notes of yellow apple, crisp pear, dried pineapple, wet stone, dried herbs, honeysuckle, dill, and a hint of oak. This dry Chardonnay is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Took some coaxing to pull apart the notes on this one, but the balance is incredible.

Price: $44 (I paid $28 on sale). I think the typical $44ish price tag is very reasonable here, as this is a fun, different, delicious, and well-made Chardonnay. If you are fortunate to find it on sale like I did, snag it because this offers tremendous value at the $28 level I paid.