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More Oregon Selections



Monroe, Oregon used to have a Pontiac dealership along the main drag...
They've "upgraded," however, and now have a a more upscale enterprise in the building, 
the Broadley family's wine cellar.



BROADLEY VINEYARDS
The Broadley story begins in San Francisco's Bay Area, with Craig Broadley working for the legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Bookstore.

He and his wife Claudia lived in Berkeley and were willing to pay the exorbitant prices (five bucks at the time for a main plate!) at a little eatery called Chez Panisse.  It was at this point in time, in the 1970s, they developed a taste for good wine.  Bitten by the wine "bug," they explored finding suitable land in hopes of having a vinous "best cellar" job instead of working with bound-up "best sellers."

The couple ventured to Oregon, where Pinot Noir production was in its nascent stages of ferment.  Searching for a warm site in the cool climate Willamette Valley led them to a place just outside the town of Monroe.  And it's there you'll find about 30 acres of Pinot Noir vineyards, including the normal clones of Pommard and Wadenswil (the two prominent varieties back in the early days) along with more recently-available Dijon clones.
 
 
 
Craig & Claudia's son Morgan Broadley with his two kids, Savanna and Olivia.

2010
Savanna, the lady in pink, is an avid photographer, while Doctor Olivia is the youngest pediatrician we've ever met!
 
 
 

The Broadley family, in addition to their own grapes, buys Pinot Noir fruit from several other growers in the Willamette Valley, offering some single vineyard bottlings.


Craig Broadley will tell you they make Pinot Noir for their palates, not "the market."  Lucky for them, "the market" likes their wines!  And why not?  These can be some wonderfully expressive Pinots.   

Their Claudia's Choice bottling can be a really soulful Pinot Noir.  Named after Craig's wife, it's usually a wine showing black cherry fruit and perhaps a touch of a leathery note.

We currently have a 2013 Willamette Valley bottling in stock.  It's their entry level wine and we think it's a delight!  You won't mistake it for Cabernet, Zinfandel or, heaven forbid, Syrah.  The wine shows nice black cherry fruit and a faintly floral tone.  It's medium-bodied and beautifully drinkable.  Most customers will buy it and put the bottle on tonight's dinner table, but holding a few bottles for enjoying in 2017 or 2018 would be a good idea.


We also like their single vineyard bottling from the Palmer Creek Vineyard.  This is a site in the Eola Hills, about an hour's drive north of the winery in Monroe, Oregon.
They made all of 50 cases of this (just a couple of barrels!) and the wine is said to be made of the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir.  It was matured in some new French oak and there's a nice vanillin tone to this wine.
We find it to be very showy now, in its youth...it may age well for a few more years, too.

 
Currently in stock:  2013 BROADLEY "Willamette Valley" Pinot Noir SALE Sold Out
2013 BROADLEY "Eola Amity Hills" PALMER CREEK PINOT NOIR  Sold Out
 

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TENDRIL WINES

2009 White Label Pinot NoirI was attending a trade tasting event and looking for some old favorites amongst the various producers showing their wines.

Tendril was a brand with which I was unfamiliar and as I tasted the wines being poured that day, I thought these were damned good and maybe even worth their lofty price tags.

Then I see who owns the brand and who makes the wine:  Tony Rynders!

So Mr. Rynders major claim to fame was as winemaker for a decade (that's 70 in dog years) at Domaine Serene, putting that winery on the map and making some stellar wines there.

Apparently his working relationship with the bosses at Domaine Serene became strained and Tony looked to launch his own brand and consulting business.  He was sued by the owners of Domaine Serene and the winery has had a bit of a revolving door regarding its winemaking position.  
(Further, in perusing the Domaine Serene web site, there's not a word about the history of winemakers who have worked there and there's no notation of who currently is responsible for their winemaking!)

Anyway, Rynders is one of the luminaries in Oregon winemaking and his 2009 Tendril "White Label" Pinot Noir caught my attention.

Just released is the 2010...another winner!

It comes from six different areas within the Willamette Valley and it spent about 15 months in French oak, something close to one-third of the barrels being new.  The wine is medium+ bodied, showing a bit of dark cherry, a hint of a dusty, earthy note and atone which offers a suggestion of a Burgundian style...
The wine is showing well now and ought to continue to hold nicely for several more years, maybe more.

Currently in stock:  2010 TENDRIL Willamette Valley "White Label" PINOT NOIR Sold Out

 

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Soter Vineyards is marked only with this street sign on the road a half a mile from the winery and tasting facility.



SOTER
We first met Tony Soter when he was the winemaker at a fledgling vineyard in Napa called Chappellet.   Here was a fellow making excellent dry Chenin Blanc and marvelous Cabernet Sauvignons who turned out to be one of the most savvy when it came to the fickle Pinot Noir grape!  

And back in the 1970s, Pinot Noir in California was viewed simply as a lost cause.

Soter had worked in a Napa Valley wine shop before finding jobs in various cellars.  He schlepped hoses at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars for the Winiarskis, for the Spauldings at Stonegate and then he was an assistant to Chuck Ortman at Spring Mountain.  After that he was at Chappellet.  And he actually held that job for a few years.  A grower begged him to take his Oakville-grown grapes and Soter made, apparently, his first batch of Pinot Noir and now the rest is history.

Tony left Chappellet in 1980 or 1981 and started a consulting business.  Spottswoode was his first gig and a few years later he was working with Shafer.  Viader, Dalla Valle, Araujo and Niebaum Coppola soon became clients.  In the early 1980s, though, he'd embarked on his own winery project, calling it "Etude," the French word for 'study.'

Soter certainly has a fine touch with Cabernet Sauvignon.  What's remarkable is he is skilled at making Pinot Noir.  So many winemakers use their Cabernet "recipe" on Pinot Noir and the results are usually less-than-stellar.  Do you think a Bordeaux winemaker could make great Burgundy?  ((There's an amusing anecdote of an enologist in Bordeaux being asked about making wine from Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy...and the winemaker asked "What is Pinot Noir?"))
 

Mineral Springs Ranch, Soter's Estate vineyard.


Anyway, Soter's Etude Winery became a reference point for California Pinot Noir.  He realized he needed to make some investments in the winery and it was at the time he sold the business to Beringer Blass, since the enterprise needed its own vineyard as well as a permanent winemaking facility.    He remains affiliated with the Etude winery in some capacity and they're making some remarkably good wines.

Tony, who was born in Oregon, and his wife (who was raised in Portland) ended up buying a vineyard site and planting grapes in the Willamette Valley.  And, though he still is affiliated with the Etude winery, the Soter Winery is making its mark in Oregon.

We had a 2006 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir.  This is a vineyard Soter purchased a long time ago and then added additional plantings...they sold the property in 2005 and this 2006 is the final year they made wine from Beacon Hill.   


Future bottlings will be offered under the "North Valley" label for entry-level Pinot made from purchased fruit.  

The new estate vineyard is "Mineral Springs Ranch," a wonderful property on a hilltop.  This is a somewhat sunnier site and Soter has a delightful reception center atop the hill, with the winery situated down below.  

We have the 2009 Mineral Springs Pinot in stock...it's showing some dark cherry fruit with a faintly floral tone.  Medium-bodied...and it's showing well now and ought to continue to blossom over the next year or two.  
 

Currently in stock:  2009 SOTER "Mineral Springs" PINOT NOIR Sold Out
 

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VIDON
Don Hagge is the "Don" of Vidon, a small vineyard and winery in Newberg. Vickie is Mrs. Don, hence the winery name of Vidon.


They have a tiny patch of Pinot Noir in a wonderful location in the Chehalem Mountains near the bustling metropolis of Newberg.  The property encompasses some 20 acres, though only 5 are currently under vine.  I visited in August of 2010 and found Don drilling for oil, though he claimed he was trying to move the trellising posts for a row of vines.  A new parcel in front of their house is destined to be a vineyard featuring Syrah and a bit of Viognier.  

Some of the fruit used to be sold to other vintners, but Don now uses all his crop to produce a few hundred cases of his own VIDON wine.   Don hails from North Dakota and he spent some of his youth in France where he became a fan of Burgundy wines.  The fellow might seem, at first, like a simple farmer and a "country bumpkin," but don't be fooled...he's a clever and sharp fellow and he's got a palate for good wine.
 
 
 

Domaine Vidon

We tasted the inaugural vintage and found it to be promising, but the second vintage was really a winner.  The 2006 is also remarkably good, especially if you appreciate Pinot Noir that resembles "Burgundy" rather than a Syrah.  Here in California many winemakers produce wines with the color of Syrah and the tannin of Cabernet.  These tend to score well with critics who "rate" wines on a numerical scale and who think every wine must have the characteristics of Cabernet (inky color, tons of tannin, etc.).  

Don, in fact, stopped sending samples to various critical publications once he realized his wine did not fit the profile these so-called experts were looking for.  He makes "Pinot Noir," not Cabernet Sauvignon.

 


Vidon Pinot has the perfume of Pinot Noir.  It's fairly deep in color for Pinot, but has the elegance and finesse of this capricious variety.  The aromas feature black cherry fruit and a hint of a woodsy tone from the oak.  The flavors are similar and reasonably long.  Nice tannin, without being too strong.  This is a jewel of a Pinot Noir, so don't tell anybody about this find except your very best wine-drinking pals.
Currently in stock:  2006 Vidon "Willamette Valley" Pinot Noir  Sold Out



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ELK COVE VINEYARDS

Located in Northern Willamette Valley, Elk Cove is one of Oregon's "old" wineries.  Founded by Joe and Pat Campbell, Joe studied science history and medicine, while Pat's grandpa was a Swiss immigrant who cultivated vines in Oregon in the late 1800s!   Their son Adam joined the winery in the mid-1990s and has instituted some changes in the vineyard and cellar.  

Today the Campbell family has 220 acres of vineyards, the first having been planted in 1974. Their various parcels, however, cover something close to 600 acres.

The winery is situated in Gaston, Oregon, well west of Newberg and north of Yamhill.  
 


We've found good wines from this estate and they seem to have a handle on growing good grapes and turning them into interesting wines.  They make a nice range of wines, from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling to Pinot Noir.  There's a very fine Willamette Valley appellation Pinot Noir which is their entry level bottling, a Reserve designated wine and  five single vineyard Pinots.  Elk Cove also produces one of the best sweet wines in the Pacific Northwest, a fruity, aromatic white called Ultima.

Currently the winery produces around 50,000 cases of wine annually.  




Currently in stock:  2004 Elk Cove "Mount Richmond"  Pinot Noir Sold Out
2004 Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Sold Out


 

 

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DOMAINE SERENE
Ken and Grace Evenstad own this winery, along with hundreds of acres of property on the Red Hills of Dundee in the Willamette Valley where they cultivate Pinot Noir, primarily. 

The couple hails from Minnesota where Mr. Evenstad studied to be a pharmacist and Mrs. E was a registered nurse.  The Evenstads bought a small pharmaceutical company, one that had been owned by her uncle.  They bought the company for $1500 and thanks to the enterprising pharmacist, turned it into a multi-million dollar business with more than 600 staff members.

The firm is famous for its ability to copy others, producing generic drugs.  And so Domaine Serene produces wines which some say nicely copy the wines of Burgundy.

The vineyard lands were purchased in 1989 and for the first few years, they bought fruit from local growers.  The first harvest from Domaine Serene's own vineyards took place in 1995.  Ken Wright was their original winemaker and some years later they hired a fellow named Tony Rynders who did a fine job in producing serious quality wines.  Today Domaine Serene encompasses some 125 acres of vineyard, split into ten distinct parcels.

The Evenstads are, by all accounts, very competitive and willing to brag about their accomplishments and superiority.  They took out an ad in The Wine Spectator, for example, after conducting some tastings of their wines alongside those of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and their wines won each flight, apparently.  In one of those periodicals which rates wines on a numerical scale, Domaine Serene wines also fared well.  
The ads they posted noted not only were they better than anything the neighbors were making, but they were also better than the benchmark wines of DRC for Pinot Noir!

In a relatively small wine community where many vintners are willing to share their expertise and experience, Domaine Serene's owners view their company practices as "trade secrets."  

The notion of their winemaker, for example, launching his own label did not sit well with the proprietors of this winery and they filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rynders asking for $75,000 in damages.  There was a claim he had used company equipment for his own wine and that he had knowledge of their "secret" method of vinifying red Pinot Noir grapes and turning it into a $75 white wine called "Coeur Blanc."  

Other winemakers laugh when hearing of this sort of "trade secrets" legal entanglement and Rynders says the method of making a "Blanc de Noir" wine from Pinot Noir is common knowledge and it's been done by wineries for years.  The case was settled out of court and no details have been revealed apart from the fact that winemaker Rynders is prohibited from either making his own or consulting with some other winery in the production of a white wine made of Pinot Noir.  This condition runs on sometime into 2013, we understand.

Ironically, Domaine Serene did not produce a "white" wine of Pinot Noir until after Rynders was shown such a wine by our friend Luigi Mancini from Italy!  Mancini has been making a white wine of Pinot Noir for more than a decade.  
 


The winery is, however, a very business-like enterprise and each staff member has his or her particularly duties and responsibilities.  One Oregon industry insider described Domaine Serene as "a bit rigid and unbending."  A former staffer told me "Domaine Serene is very weird.  All the cool folks are scared...I got screamed at for the most ridiculous things..."

I saw this first hand when I visited the property in 2010, having asked to see the winery so I might take some photos for our website.  I had just tasted a range of Serene wines and the tasting room lady explained she might be able to show me around if another colleague showed up.  She did not know, though, it this staffer would arrive in 10 minutes or 45 minutes...as I was on a tight schedule, I departed.  It was a bit odd, though, that on a week day, during normal business hours, there wasn't an office person, cellar or lab crew member with the ability to spend 5 minutes walking through the winery.
 


The receptionist in the Domaine Serene offices seemed to have the compassion of an IRS or DMV bureaucrat when I asked her about having a quick look in the cellar.
 
 

Neighbors and vintners seem bemused by their wealthy competitors and I heard this winery derisively referred to as "Domaine Obscene."   Part of this stems from an attitude neighboring winemakers view as "We're better than you and we'll tell you so."  And consumers may see that this winery is proud of its wines, too.
 
 
The wines are premium-priced, to be sure.  We had been impressed by the quality of the wines in general, but they had two really good winemakers from the start in Ken Wright and Tony Rynders.

The wines fare well in blind-tastings, though some may criticize the Pinot Noirs for being more along the lines of Californian wines than of Oregonian.  ((And there's a certain Napa Valley vibe or attitude at this winery, coincidentally -or not-.))

I've found the Domaine Serene Pinots to be a bit beefier than most of the wines of their neighbors.  

The 2007 "Yamhill Cuvee" showed classic Pinot Noir fruit...nice cherry notes on the nose.  It's bright, lightly oaked and mildly tannic.  Very good.

A 2008 Evenstad Reserve shows good Pinot fruit and plenty of oak.  There's a pencil shavings-sort of flavor on the finish, so it's a wine for fans of lavishly-wooded wines.  At $58, this struck me as a bit expensive, but we had sale-tagged it at $49.99.

Ninety bucks will get you a wine with the "Mark Bradford" designation.  I was a bit perplexed by this wine, not finding much in common with Pinot Noirs from Burgundy or California's north coast.  It does have a red fruit character, but I did not recognize this as a Pinot Noir, nor did it strike me as a wine for which I'd ask customers to drop $90.

A 2006 Winery Hill bottling was more tannic and structured and it seemed to have greater character of Pinot Noir.  Brushy and woodsy, too.

Though they claim to admire the wines of Burgundy, their 2007 Etoile Chardonnay ($45) was a total mystery to me.  The honeyed notes dominated and the wine, at nearly 3 years of age, seemed to be ever-so-slightly on the edge of oxidation.  I thought of the Jura wines called Vin Jaune as I sniffed and tasted this.    We tasted this again in San Francisco and found it merely woody and in better condition than the bottle in their tasting room...

The wine dabbles with Syrah wines, which come from either Southern Oregon or Washington's Columbia Valley.  I did not find these to be reminiscent of Rhone Valley Syrahs...they were simply "red wines."

They treated their Bay Area representative poorly over the years and finally moved on to selling their wines with a big liquor distributor.  This company, with its dozens of employees (compared with maybe a dozen from the previous outfit), does not have the resources to show the wines and they are rarely seen in distribution in these parts.

Currently in stock:  2008 DOMAINE SERENE "Evenstad Reserve"  Sold Out
 

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SHEA WINE CELLARS & VINEYARD

If you've perused the labels of Pinot Noirs from Oregon, you've probably run across the Shea name.  The vineyard amounts to some 140 acres planted on a 200 acre estate.  The vineyard is just north of Highway 240 a short distance east of Yamhill.  

They sell fruit to well more than a dozen wineries, even one or two in California!  About 25% of their fruit stays "home" and is vinified by the Sheas these days, up from 10% a few years ago.

The roster of Shea  Vineyard wineries is impressive:  Ken Wright, Broadley, Penner-Ash, Panther Creek, Raptor Ridge, St. Innocent and even California's Ancien winery!

The wines have routinely been good from this vineyard and its own "Estate" wine bottling is quite good.  The wines tend to be fairly well-structured, not light, fruity or flimsy...

Their 2012 "Estate" Pinot Noir is another good example of this producer.  It's 5 different clones of Pinot Noir and a dozen vineyard parcels.  The wine sees nearly half new French oak.  As usual, it's a showy Oregon Pinot with less than 14% alcohol (illegal in many parts of California, apparently) and a sensible price tag.  Nice red fruit notes and a touch of a flowery tone with light wood in the back...you can drink it now, too, if you like.

 
 
Also brilliant is a wine called Homer.  This is a small selection of their best barrels.  They only produce a few hundred cases of this lovely wine.  It's a bit more intense and complex than their Estate wine.  Just two clones of Pinot, a Swiss clone and one from Burgundy.  More new oak than the Estate bottling, but the wine handles it easily.  It's not inexpensive, but there's something special about the wine and I didn't flinch when I heard the price...I thought the wine has merit and value, even at its lofty price.
 


Currently in stock:  2013 "Estate" Shea Vineyard  Pinot Noir SALE $39.99
2011 Shea "Homer" Pinot Noir Sold Out

A showing of Shea's grapes made by Shea and 8 other Oregon producers...
Tu Shea!

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KEN WRIGHT CELLARS
kenwright.gif (12002 bytes)If you're looking for "Mister Wright", this is your man.  He was a partner in Panther Creek before establishing his own winery in 1994.  The wines were originally made in a shared facility (Domaine Serene being the other part of the cellar) in Carlton.   

Wright offers especially distinctive batches as single-vineyard bottlings.  He was "dubbed" (or "knighted") as a "Master Winemaker" by The Wine Spectator.  The wines are subjected to minimal cellar treatment, the usual regime by Pinot Noir producers.  

We have a few bottles of his 2014 Shea Vineyard Pinot.

The Shea Vineyard comes from the Yamhill-Carlton area...Wright gets several parcels, 2/3s of which are planted with the Pommard clone and the rest is Wadensvil.  We like the firm structure of the wine and its dark cherry/berry character.
 



Tyrus Evan is Wright's small, non-Pinot Noir label.  The name for this project stems from Wright's sons' middle names, Tyrus and Evan.

We liked the 2003 Syrah from the famous Del Rio vineyard 15 miles north of Medford in Southern Oregon.   The climate is warmer than in the northern part of the state where Pinot Noir reigns supreme.  The wine has berry-like fruit with a nice touch of wood.  It's a softer styled Syrah (remember, it's in the hands of a Pinot Noir producer!), so drinking this in its youth is probably wise.

Currently in stock:

2003 Tyrus Evan "Del Rio" Syrah $31.99

2014 KEN WRIGHT "Shea" PINOT NOIR SALE $51.99


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BERGSTROM

A fellow of Swedish heritage who came to the United States to seek his fortune.  He ended up studying medicine and has had a long career in the Portland, Oregon medical community.  One of our Burlingame docs knows this guy and likes him well enough to buy Bergstrom's wines.

Dr. John Bergstrom and his wife Karen lived in Portland for many years before purchasing a vineyard site and planting Pinot Noir in the Dundee with the idea of possibly getting into the wine business.

They had five kids and one of them studied viticulture and enology, venturing to France's Burgundy region to complete his formal education.  Josh Bergstrom, though, also brought back a partner, his wife Caroline.  He takes care of the vineyards and cellar, while she's in charge of finances and sales.

Today the business has grown to comprise five vineyard sites scattered over 84 acres.  They produce less than 10,000 cases of wine, though, so it's not a tiny winery, but it's not huge, either.

We've tasted their wines from time to time...the standard of quality here is pretty good and we view this estate as an elite producer in Oregon.

 
 
 
 
 
Currently we have a lovely Pinot from their Gregory Ranch vineyard.  This site features a sandstone terroir.  It's a bit of a bowl, so there are four parcels with somewhat different exposures.  Bergstrom was instrumental in planting the vineyard back in 2007.
They explain that black cherry, blueberry and blackberry notes are the hallmarks of Pinot Noir from this site.  And we find some of those notes in the 2014, along with a nice touch of sweet, brown spice from the oak.  The wine is enjoyable now and should continue to develop over the next few years.

 

Currently in stock:  2014 BERGSTROM "Yamhill-Carlton" Gregory Vineyard PINOT NOIR   Sale $59.99

 

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ALEXANA

A fellow of Indian heritage made his mark in the world of medicine, becoming a well-regard cardiologist in Texas, after studying at Baylor University.

After some medical conference in California, Dr. Madaiah Revana bought some properties in the Napa Valley, hired a celebrity winemaker, a celebrity vineyard manager and soon his name was on pricy bottles of pretty damned good Cabernet Sauvignon.  That wine is called Revana.

Now he's got a related property in Oregon's Willamette Valley and that's called Alexana...
 
The Oregon winery is named after Revana's daughter, Alexandra.  

The initial vineyard site covered 13 acres, but then Revana has augmented that and today something like 55 acres of the 80 are planted with vines...Pinot Noir dominates with a smattering of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay.

All the wines we've tasted from this winery have been quite good, so clearly Revana has capable staff members.  I think famed Oregon winemakers Tony Rynders and Lynn Penner-Ash have been the hired guns to assist in the cellar.  The on-site winemaker is Bryan Weil.

We have a very good 2013 "Terroir Selection" bottling (they also buy some fruit from the famed Shea vineyard).  It's from five appellations: Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, McMinnville, Eola Amity and Yamhill-Carlton.  Ten clones of Pinot Noir, with five of them being numbered, so you'll likely fall asleep as they are recited to you.  (This is a bit like counting sheep:  115, 116, 117...
 
 
Alexana's 2013 Terroir Pinot is a medium-bodied red...fairly smooth, dry and with some black cherry fruit and a touch of a vanillin note from the oak.  It's best consumed now or in the next year, or two.   
We think it's a good value, too.

Currently in stock:  2013 ALEXANA Willamette Valley "Terroir Selection"  PINOT NOIR $32.99



 

 

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LEMELSON

You probably have not heard of the name Jerome Lemelson.  I know I hadn't until I did a bit of research.

This guy was amazing, holding patents on hundreds of gizmos and gadgets.  Only Thomas Edison and Edward Land (Polaroid cameras) held more patents!  

Lemelson's innovations made possible all sorts of things we take for granted: ATM machines, Camcorders, Sony's "Walkman" devices, fax machines and more.  

It seems Lemelson developed technology used in "bar codes" and scanners, helping speed up purchases at the point of sale in all sorts of stores and yet early vintages of Lemelson's wines did not have a UPC code on the bottle!

There's a bank of solar panels outside the winery...and inside you'll find a modern, multi-level facility geared towards traditional winemaking but with an eye on technology.
 
Here's a look inside their innovative winery...
 
A platform, complete with sorting table, can be moved throughout the fermentation room to fill the variable-capacity tanks and to do a "punch down" of the red wine fermenters.


One of his sons, Eric Lemelson, was bitten by the wine bug and he runs this modest enterprise in Yamhill County.  They have had a number of winemakers the past few years and Anthony King holds the position presently.  He seems to have the wines on the right track and there's a measure of stability in place as a result.
 


The Jerome's Reserve wine is a barrel selection, representing the best wine in the Lemelson cellar.  The 2001 won a blind-tasting in May of 2004 here at the shop.   We've had our eye on this producer ever since.

A nice range of wines is produced at Lemelson.  There's a good dry Riesling and Pinot Gris from a relatively high elevation site.  An oaky Chardonnay rounds out their white wine roster.  Some single-vineyard Pinot Noirs also are offered.

Currently in the shop is a 2009 "Thea's Selection."  This comes from a number of vineyard sites and it's their flagship Pinot Noir.  We like the berry and cherry fruit in this wine and there's a faintly floral element lurking in the background.  The 2009 has a touch of forest-floor or maybe tobacco?  Well, it's a good example of Pinot Noir and since it comes from a variety of vineyard sites and terroirs, there are numerous interesting notes in this little symphony.

We have a lovely dry Riesling in stock.  It's from the 2008 vintage.  There's a chalky aspect to this wine with classic fruity, floral, Meyer Lemon-sort of fragrances and flavors.  Delicious!

Currently in stock:   2009 Lemelson "Thea's" Pinot Noir Sold Out
2008 Lemelson Dry Riesling $19.99

 
 
 

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PANTHER CREEK CELLARS
panther.gif (4951 bytes)Ron and Linda Kaplan are the owners of this enterprise.  They bought the winery when there was a falling out between the winemaker (Ken Wright) and the other partners.  They had  enlisted Mark Vlossak to be the winemaker.  He is the winemaker at St. Innocent, as well.  Not sure who's there making the wines these days....Located in McMinnville, Panther Creek leases some 59 acres.  

We had some bottles of Panther Creek's 2000 "Winemaker's Reserve" Pinot Noir in the shop.  These folks make a bunch of single vineyard wines and this is their "blended" Pinot.  In 2000 they have fruit from the cool climate Willamette Valley with some from the warmer Umpqua Valley to the south.   They started the fermentation using native yeasts before kicking it with some special strain of cultured yeast (I guess they wanted to insure the wine fermented out to dryness).  You'll find a touch of wood here, along with dark cherry and a whiff of forest floor aromas.  Drinkable now...we like it at cellar temperature.

Currently in store:  2000 Winemaker's Reserve Pinot Noir (list $35) Sold Out



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KING ESTATE
These people quickly appeared on the radar screens of Oregon wine aficionados as it is the largest winery in Oregon.  The King family made a few bucks in an enterprise known as something like King Avionics, making radar devices for airplanes.  

Ed King, Jr. developed a taste for good wines while traveling around Europe.  His son, Ed III, went to school in Oregon and was mainly looking for a source for hay for some horses.  He had already planted a small vineyard just for kicks, but when he saw the property, Ed III decided to really make hay.  Or, rather Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir!

They have a 1033 acre estate southwest of Eugene.  The winery is making about 100,000+ cases annually, so while not huge, it dwarfs the many tiny cellars one encounters on the Oregon wine trail.  

They make a rather pleasant Pinot Gris, a medium-bodied, somewhat fruity style that's a refreshing change-of-pace to those who are just discovering there are wines other than "California Chardonnay."   The wine displays "sweet" notes all the way through the aromas to the flavors.  I find notes of candied citrus and some tropical fruit tones here.  It may be close to dry, but the over all balance is of a softer, less acidic white wine.

The winery makes some Pinot Noirs and we've tasted perfectly nice red wines, but nothing compelling.  King Estate has yet to be identified as a major source of Oregon Pinot.  Perhaps this will change in the future?
Currently in stock:  2011 Oregon Pinot Gris  (list $20)  Sold Out

 

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ST. INNOCENT WINERY
 

This Oregon winery is one of the "early" ones, as winemaker Mark Vlossak had been assisting at the late Fred Arterberry's winery back in 1987, or so.  (Fred was also famous for his cider.)

Vlossak grew up in Wisconsin and his father had been interested in wine, hence it was something Mark was privileged to taste as he was growing up.  Going off to college, he studied theater and then decided on a career in pediatrics.  And he had some sort of internship in Oregon.

At some point he started taking classes at UC Davis and was working for a prominent wine chemist, doing lab analysis for various wineries.  And then he was hanging out with Arterberry, too, even while in the medical business.
 
In 1988, with the backing of a small group of investors, Vlossak launched the St. Innocent brand, making a few hundred cases of wine.

Along the way he took on the job of winemaker for the Panther Creek winery (1994-1999), but these days his full-time gig is making wine for his St. Innocent winery along with handling the cellar for a label called Zenith Vineyard.  Zenith is the old O'Connor vineyard and today it's owned by Tim & Kari Ramey.  

Vlossak has been a good ambassador for Oregon wine as he promotes his St. Innocent and Zenith wines.  His newsletters were quite scholarly and it's clear this fellow is a 'wine geek' as well as being a skilled winemaker.

We've found Vlossak's winemaking style to be quite good and he doesn't make "extreme wines."  That is, his wines tend to feature balance and elegance over power and concentration.  

We currently have a 2013 Pinot Noir in stock.  It's from the Shea vineyard, just west of the Chehalem Valley.  Shea usually has firm acidity and good structure.  It displays nice cola and black cherry notes.  Oak is mild...he only used about 28% new barrels for this wine.  The 2013 is a medium-bodied Pinot Noir and it's one which we expect to continue to develop over the next decade, maybe longer...it's quite good now, though.
 
Currently in stock:  2013 ST. INNOCENT "Shea Vineyard"  PINOT NOIR SALE $49.99

 

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OWEN ROE
wpe2D.jpg (4708 bytes)The name of this brand is that of an Irish patriot who roamed Europe in the 1600s.
Owen Roe O'Neil.
 
The wines for this brand are made in Washington State and "Baja Washington", which would be Oregon's Willamette Valley.  They actually have a winery in Washington's Columbia Valley, along with a modest warehouse winery near the Champoeg State Park in Sherwood, Oregon (a short drive from Newberg).
 


David O'Reilly is the driving force at Owen Roe.  He was born in Ireland and came to California for college...and he ended up working at the Elk Cove winery, handling marketing but always interested in the production side of wine. His partner, Jerry Owen, takes care of looking after various vineyards.

In 1999 O'Reilly began working on the Owen Roe project.  And what a project it's turned into!  From the first vintage, making a several hundred cases of wine, the various labels (Owen Roe, Sharecroppers and O'Reilly's) now tally to 100,000 cases.

The Wine Spectator's Harvey Steiman was very quick to praise this producer and practically nominate the winemaker for sainthood shortly after their first release.  We've found the wines to be quite good, in general, and some have been exceptional.  Now that they've had a decade, or so, to hone their skills, we can say the top wines are usually stylish and have a measure of intensity.  In general, the Owen Roe wines, anyway, are always worth a look.

The vineyards are typically contracted for by the acre, rather than by the ton.  This allows them to regulate crop levels with an eye towards quality rather than quantity.  The protocol in the winery features a minimalistic approach to winemaking.   Oak tends to be a prominent feature in many of their Owen Roe wines, though I think they've pulled back a bit and seem to shine the spotlight, these days, on the fruit.







I've wondered, after tasting a couple of recent vintages, if the production levels have grown to a level where they are having trouble maintaining quality.  As a consumer (yes, I know, we're in the business of selling wine, but we also like to put bottles on our own dinner table, too, you know), I appreciate getting top quality wine at a fair price.  
My current feeling is that the wines are not quite at the same quality level as they were a few years ago and the prices are a bit optimistic.


Currently in stock: 2014 ABBOTT'S TABLE  $22.99



 
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BRANDBORG VINEYARD & WINERY


We've known Terry Brandborg for ages...he used to make small lots of various California wines at a little facility not far from San Francisco.

His day job, back in those days, was as a longshoreman in San Francisco (does San Francisco have any shipping industry these days?) during the early part of the day, leaving his afternoons and evenings free to either work in the cellar making wine or, even better, attempting to sell some of it.

In 2001 Terry and his wife Sue did some exploration in Oregon for a vineyard site.  He'd always been interested in Pinot Noir, so Oregon made sense.  But while so many vintners set up shop in the Willamette Valley, the Brandborgs found a site in the southern part of the state in the Umpqua Valley.  They're 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean in a little place called Elkton, 495 miles north of San Francisco and 160 miles south of Portland. 

Elkton has had Pinot Noir since the 1970s.   The Brandborgs place is situated 750 to 1000 feet above sea level.  They've got approximately 50 acres which they're working on planting.   In the meantime, fruit from established vineyards in the Umpqua Valley provide the grapes for their wines.  

We found the entire range of wines to be nice...especially good is their 2009 Pinot Gris.  This wine is left on the spent yeast until bottling.  We like the faintly toasty, smoky note in this wine, along with the mild spice of the ripe, mature Pinot Gris.  It's dry, medium+ bodied and a delight.  

Currently in stock:  2009 BRANDBORG Umpqua Valley PINOT GRIS  Sold Out

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