Incredibly Impressive Willamette Valley Chardonnay

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.

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: 2018 X Novo Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2018 X Novo Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color with straw yellow hues. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine from first whiff, offering up a nose of lemon peel, golden apple, quince, dried gravel, reduction (gunpowder and smoke), petrol, limestone, and saline mineral. The palate is equally beautiful, though still pretty tight due to its youth with notes of green apple skins, golden pear, lemon curd, white florals, flint, and crushed rock minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous and mouthwatering high acidity while being very precise and crisp into a long finish. Definitely give this a few more years in the cellar, or drink it over multiple hours now.

Price: $75 (shared by a good friend who paid $65). I think this is a great value Chardonnay, and I know prices are already on the rise as this gets more recognition. Though young, this opened for us and was one of the wines of the night in an incredible lineup, also beating another 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay we put it up against.

Young and Rather Tropical Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Antica Terra

I first wrote about Antica Terra back in January 2020 with the 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir, though these wines hold a fairly sizable allocation in our cellar and I was destined to return to them sooner or later.

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 varietal 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.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Aurata Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14.1% ABV

The 2018 Aurata Chardonnay is transparent medium to deep gold in color. We let this slow ox for probably an hour or two before drinking it over the following hour. The nose is much more tropical than I imagined, showcasing aromas of white peach, apricot, pineapple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, wet river stone, and delicate green herbs. Meanwhile the palate is tropical as well with notes of lemon, green apple, tropical citrus, white florals, dill, chalk, and gravel. This is medium- to full-bodied with vibrant high acidity and is very dry and nicely rounded into a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $110. I’m very anxious to return to this bottling in another 5 years or so, as it was much different than I was expecting in its youth. On the value side of things, however, I think there are better options out there sub-$100. I remain a huge fan and proponent of Antica Terra Pinot Noir, though.

Light, Airy, and Fun Oregon Field Blend

Today’s Story: Hiyu Wine Farm

I previously wrote about Hiyu Wine Farm when I reviewed the 2015 Ramato, which was such a unique and fun wine I had to try another bottling from them today.

Hiyu Wine Farm, established by Nate Ready and China Tresemer, is a 30 acre working farm in the Hood River Valley of Oregon. The property consists of 14 acres of vines, 4 acres of fields and pastures, 4 acres of forest and a pond, and 0.5 acres of market garden with the balance devoted to food forests. Guided by the practices of biodynamics and permaculture, Hiyu tends very little to their vines and they do not hedge or green harvest. Rather, all mowing or tilling is accomplished by pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, and geese that live in the vineyards in cycles throughout the year. Hiyu does not use any sulfur in the vineyards and claims to spray 85% less material than a standard organic or biodynamic vineyard, with the majority being cinnamon oil or herbal teas. Interesting to note, the vineyards are divided into 0.5 acre blocks each planted to a field blend of varieties. There are 80 different varieties and even more clones planted on the farm! In the cellar, Nate practices minimal intervention winemaking and prefers long aging in oak before the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 (5ppm max).

Today’s Wine: 2016 Falcon Box White Blend

Field Blend (Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris, and Melon de Bourgogne); 13% ABV

The 2016 Falcon Box is a transparent but very rich, deep gold in color with hues of amber. As this develops in the glass, the nose emits aromas of peach, tangerine, melon, Dutch apple pie, honeysuckle, white wildflowers, brioche, and stony mineral. Once in the mouth, this light and airy Alpine wine showcases notes of golden apple, baked pineapple, peach, tropical citrus, light herbs, toffee, almond, and limestone. Well-rounded with medium body, medium (+) acidity, and a long but refreshing finish. 117 cases produced.

Price: $100 (I paid $80). I find it very difficult to call this a good value wine, simply because $100 for a white wine immediately makes me think of the immense quality you can get with a white Burgundy or a lower-priced California or Oregon white blend. However, this is nonetheless a very fun wine and something unlike wines I’ve tasted before, so I would approach it with that in mind.

Fun, Vibrant, and Confusing Oregon Chardonnay Blend

Today’s Story: Maloof Wines

Maloof Wines is a fun, lively, and somewhat exploratory winery established in 2015 by husband and wife duo Ross and Bee Maloof. Situated in Forest Grove, Oregon, Maloof produces single vineyard wines mainly with often overlooked white grape varieties sourced from their estate vineyard No Clos Radio or other vineyard partners. Before crafting these wines, Bee worked in the aerospace industry as a materials science engineer and Ross gained a penchant for winemaking first after working in dining establishments and later working a harvest in the Willamette Valley. As wacky as some might consider the wines (particularly after reading some of their entertaining tasting notes), the end goal is to produce fun, lighthearted wines through minimal intervention in order to showcase each unique vineyard site and its farmers.

I HIGHLY recommend visiting the Maloof Wines website here, especially to read through the fun and entertaining tasting notes on the “Wines” tab. The website also does a fantastic job discussing each farmer and vineyard they work with.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Beddia Bianco Chardonnay

85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Gris; 12% ABV

The 2018 Beddia Bianco is deep hazy gold/amber in color, actually reminiscent of an apricot. I must say this was a tough wine to taste at first, namely for the fact that upon first whiff you feel like you are about to enjoy an effervescent wine that really is not. Perhaps it’s the way this leaps from the glass with clean veracity and precision… Nonetheless, the nose does reveal captivating aromas of orange marmalade, marzipan, apricot, white florals, honey, finely crushed stone, and brioche. There’s some barnyard there too upon opening, but it largely blows off. Moving to the palate, I travel further into the adventure with notes of peach, yellow apple, melon, stone fruit, banana laffy taffy, snap pea, mineral, yeast, and lightly buttered toast. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity into a well-rounded long finish, leaving one both perplexed and yearning for that next sip. This is a very fun and weird wine. 81 cases produced.

Price: $32. This is a tough wine to discuss in regards to value, but I assure you that I cannot recommend it enough for the adventurous side of wine. Wines like this provide remembrance of the uniqueness, broadness, and power of the wine world which can help break up our often mundane tasting experiences. If you want something new and fun, look no further.

Delightful Oregon Chardonnay With Burgundian Flair

Today’s Story: Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca was established in 2015 by Master Sommelier Larry Stone and his partners Dominique Lafon and winemaker Thomas Savre. Lafon is a legend of Burgundy in his own right, and his protégé Thomas Savre has many impressive names on his resume as well. Larry purchased Janzen Farm, which would become Lingua Franca, at the very end of 2012 and immediately set about planning for 23 vineyard blocks varying by rootstock and budwood. Though he and his team initially planned on selling fruit rather than making their own wine, Lafon suggested producing estate bottlings in 2014 and they officially began the endeavor in 2015 with Savre on board.

Lingua Franca puts vital importance on not only the vineyards themselves, but how they are cared for. Since its foundation, Lingua Franca farms using low-impact organic and biodynamic principles such as no-till farming and maintaining a permanent cover crop to improve soil biodiversity. Instead of using chemicals, the team encourages nesting of hawks, owls, foxes, and coyotes to fend off any unwanted visitors. When it comes to winemaking itself, Savre and team stick to Burgundian traditions and seek to produce wines truly representative of their place.

To learn more about Lingua Franca, the team, and the wines, I encourage you to visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Avni Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2016 Avni Chardonnay is transparent pale to medium gold in color with straw variation near the rim. Given some time to open up in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of golden pear, lemon zest, brioche, toasted almond, matchstick, limestone, and stony mineral. There are also some gorgeous herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine shows notes of lemon, stone fruit, crisp golden apple, apricot, mild smoke, flint rock, wet stone, and saline mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity and a plush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this is an outstanding value Chardonnay, standing up with some of the Chardonnays I’ve enjoyed for twice its price. This is also rather Burgundian in style, which helps the case with me!

Burgundian Pinot Noir From Willamette Valley

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Estate Viognier in Textbook New World Viognier and I am excited to explore one of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs today. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Using sustainably farmed estate fruit, winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar to produce wines that transparently showcase the terroir of each site.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly translucent pale ruby in color with hints of garnet. Given 45 minutes or so to open up, the wine blossoms with a nose of cherry, black raspberry, stemmy strawberry, cola, bacon fat, dried tobacco, forest floor, dried green herbs, and cinnamon. On the palate, I get notes of sweet plum, black cherry, licorice, worn leather, tobacco, sous bois, nutmeg, rocky mineral, and light oaky spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) and slightly chewy tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. I got this for an incredible deal, which makes it a fantastic value proposition for my tasting. With an average price closer to $60 or more in the marketplace, however, this falls into the category of “worth it” but not classified as a great value. Pair with herb roasted chicken, rack of lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.

Textbook New World Viognier

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. Established out of an appreciation of winemaking, the land, and Burgundy’s concept of terroir, Cristom is known for their estate Pinor Noirs. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Cristom’s vineyards are all certified sustainable and carefully tended such that come harvest all fruit is as healthy and expressive of the terroir as possible. Cristom winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar and wines are fermented whole cluster with native yeasts, all in an effort to produce high quality and elegant wines with a sense of place.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Estate Viognier

100% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Estate Viognier is pale straw/yellow in color with medium gold and water white hues. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, vanilla bean, and saline mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, mango, peach, white florals, wax, and herbs with an almost medicinal character. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (-) acidity and an oily mouthfeel into a rounded, long finish. 978 cases produced.

Price: $30 average (I paid $22). I would surely pay $30 for this, because it is a great example of New World Viognier, but I can call it a value much closer to the $22 I paid. There wasn’t as much depth in this that I hoped for. Pair with quail, lobster, or sea bass.

Perhaps the Most Interesting Wine I’ve Ever Had

Today’s Story: Hiyu Wine Farm

Hiyu Wine Farm, established by Nate Ready and China Tresemer, is a 30 acre working farm in the Hood River Valley of Oregon. The property consists of 14 acres of vines, 4 acres of fields and pastures, 4 acres of forest and a pond, and 0.5 acres of market garden with the balance devoted to food forests. Guided by the practices of biodynamics and permaculture, Hiyu tends very little to their vines and they do not hedge or green harvest. Rather, all mowing or tilling is accomplished by pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, and geese that live in the vineyards in cycles throughout the year. Hiyu does not use any sulfur in the vineyards and claims to spray 85% less material than a standard organic or biodynamic vineyard, with the majority being cinnamon oil or herbal teas. Interesting to note, the vineyards are divided into 0.5 acre blocks each planted to a field blend of varieties. There are 80 different varieties and even more clones planted on the farm! In the cellar, Nate practices minimal intervention winemaking and prefers long aging in oak before the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2 (5ppm max).

Today’s Wine: 2015 Ramato

80% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewürztraminer, 5% Pinot Noir; 15% ABV

The 2015 Ramato is medium copper/amber orange in color while being transparent yet hazy. Once this blossoms in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of tangerine, orange rind, peach, rose petals, hibiscus, fresh cut wheat, hazelnut, and bright mineral. In the mouth, this intriguing wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, orange marmalade, cantaloupe, mixed wildflowers, ginger, and white pepper. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, and a thought-provoking medium (+) finish.

Price: $80. The value perspective is a bit difficult with this one, because I feel this wine is more about the experience. Yes, it is of supreme quality and so well-balanced you will say “wow;” but this is certainly a wine for the explorers who want to shock their palate back to life and compare prices more for how a wine makes them feel. With that out there, I would certainly buy more of this…if I could find it. Pair with salmon, oysters, or Parmigiano-Reggiano amongst other strong cheeses.

Luxurious but Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: North Valley Vineyards (Soter Vineyards)

North Valley Vineyards is a partnership between Tony & Michelle Soter, winemaker James Cahill, and Director of Sales & Marketing Brian Sypher. Though the wines are produced and bottled by Soter Vineyards, North Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rosé are in a sense the “regional” wines coming from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Willamette Valley rather than Mineral Springs Ranch, Soter’s estate vineyard. Diving a bit deeper, the team sources their fruit from the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carolton, and McMinnville viticultural areas with vineyards including Roe & Roe, Beacon Hill, Momtazi, and Zena Crown. Though Tony and James are highly involved in the farming of these vineyards (affectionately referred to as “satellite estate vineyards”) and they could certainly yield exceptional single vineyard bottlings, North Valley Vineyards carefully blends the wines from each site into the finished product. Tony and James produce their North Valley wines with gentle, traditional winemaking practices and age them in French oak typically only 5-15% new.

Today’s Wine: 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV

The 2017 North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir is moderately opaque pale ruby/purple in color. This needs an hour to breathe, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, dried blueberry, blood orange peel, leather, rocky soil, wet slate, pine, and cola. There is some slight heat but I think it’s due to the young age. On the palate, I get notes of black raspberry, baked cherry, juicy blackberry, blue florals, silt, mushroom, eucalyptus, allspice, and stony mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60 from the winery (though I paid $42 retail). I think this is somewhere between fairly priced and a good value at $60, but if you can find a deal like I did it is an absolute steal. This has all the characteristics of great Oregon Pinot Noir and, while it has that luxurious feel to it, doesn’t seem too heavy handed by the winemaker. Pair with duck breast, herb roasted pork, or dark chocolate.

Remarkably Profound Oregon Pinot Noir

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 varietal 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.” Source

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.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14% ABV

The 2017 Botanica is pale ruby in color with slight variation toward deep garnet. This was surprisingly approachable right out of the bottle, though changed over time revealing aromas of cherry, cranberry, smoked game, earth, wet gravel, sweet tobacco, ground green cooking herbs, black licorice, rocky minerality, and a touch of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of crunchy raspberry, strawberry, cranberry sauce, smoke, rose, white pepper, loamy earth, a hint of nutmeg, and graphite. This Pinot is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. There was some slight heat on the nose, but all around this is approachable and that heat should integrate with a couple more years of cellaring.

Price: $110 direct from winery. I am a huge fan of Antica Terra when it comes to American Pinot Noir, and Maggie Harrison’s winemaking skill for both this wine and her Lillian Syrahs make them worthy of trying. Pair this with duck, pork tenderloin, or grilled salmon.