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. 

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.

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.

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.