For Christmas, two of my sisters and I went in on a case of wine for our parents, who appreciate good wine but aren’t crazy about it like I am. I got to pick out the wines, so I thought I’d put together a sampling of wines from Oregon and places they’ve travelled to or otherwise seem to like quite a bit.
With the help of my favorite local wine shop, Liner & Elsen, here’s what I picked:
2003 Evesham Wood Chardonnay Les Puits Sec
This is the estate chardonnay from the producer I worked for this fall, which I figured my parents would want to try. Warm vintage, sometimes a lackluster grape in Oregon, but you wouldn’t know it from this beautiful Burgundian-styled white wine, with subtle oak influence and lovely ripe but not overripe fruit. If I could make chardonnay like this, I’d be happy. I like Evesham Wood more for their reds, but this wine was a revelation.
2004 Francios Pinon Vouvray Cuvee Tradition
My parents visited the Loire valley a few years ago and came away with new respect for the chenin blanc grape, otherwise known to most Americans as the main ingredient of white jug wine. I haven’t tried this year’s model, but Pinon is a terrific producer. This wine is typcially only lightly sweet – sec tendre as the French would say – with great minerality or mineral aromas and flavors.
2004 Hirsch Gruner Veltliner Kammerner Heiligenstein Kamptal
This fall, my parents visted Austria for the first time, so I thought some classic, dry Austrian white wine would be in order. And packaged in a screwcap too! Gruner Veltliner is the main wine grape of Austria, grown rarely elsewhere and producing a subtle, refreshing wine that sometimes includes the flavor of really good fresh green peas.
NV R. Dumont et fils Champagne
What case of Christmas wine would be right without bubbly? This small producer isn’t widely distributed but what a tasty Champagne at a reasonable price. Highly recommended if you haven’t tried it. On the crisper side, but with good richness I think from a majority of pinot noir in the wine (along with chardonnay).
2003 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir Cuvee J
Cuvee J is the special selection from the Les Puits Sec vineyard, the fanciest wine in this bunch and a great example of top quality Oregon pinot noir. Again, the 2003 vintage was hot and this wine is fairly ripe and alcoholic for Evesham Wood. But if anyone can make tasty, ageworthy wine from even the hottest years, it’s winemaker Russ Raney.
2003 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District
Without other Evesham Wood wines currently available, I went with a couple of selections from Belle Pente, another favorite of mine among Oregon producers. This is a lighter but no less tasty pinot noir meant to drink young.
2002 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard
As a counterpoint, here’s an older vine bottling (30 years) from the same producer. This one comes from the Murto vineyard in the Dundee Hills, made in a terrific vintage by a skilled but hands-off winemaker Brian O’Donnell. Lovely fragrance with good richness and balance, young and pehaps a touch oaky but good now or in a few years. I like Brian’s touch with pinot noir – never too dark and extracted, always fragrant and spicy without too much oak. He’s also been kind to me as a home winemaker looking for tips and grape sources.
2003 Fattoria Petroio Chianti Classico
The latest release from Petroio, a terrific little producer well known to Portland, where the Italian wine market is surprisingly deep (very deep). Nothing super fancy here, just good, fleshy, mostly sangiovese-based wine that’s like a quick trip to Tuscany in your glass – one of my parents’ favorite destinations.
2001 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva
Again, a counterpoint that shows more depth, richness, and structure compared to a “basic” Chianti Classico. If I had to pick one producer from Tuscany, Felsina would be it. Just terrific wines, good young and old, well-priced (especially after their former price-gouging importer was cut loose), and like a quick trip to Tuscany, but first class.
2003 Pasquero Sori Paitin Barbera d’Alba “Serra Boella”
My dad has always liked the barbera grape, and this is a great example of the grape from a great producer of everything from dolcetto to Barbaresco.
2001 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas
Gigondas in Berkeley, CA? Yes, Kermit Lynch, of the eponymous wine import and retail firm in Berkeley, is part owner of this estate in the southern Rhone valley of France. Pallieres just happens to produce one of my favorite Gigondas, a wine made of mostly the grenache grape with some syrah and mourvedre in the mix. Dark colored wine, with flavors of wild berries, dry herbs, and (as if you don’t know what they taste like) rocks. A nice blend of old world rusticity with new world fresh fruitness, with fine tannins that melt away if you drink with with dinner. I’m getting thirsty just writing about it.
2003 Edmunds St. John Rocks and Gravel California
A final counterpoint, this is a Berkeley-made wine from winemakers Steve Edmunds in the image of the great wines of the southern Rhone valley. Again, a mix of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre, this too mixes old world and new world styles well, with a nice earthiness amid the fresh pie fruit that California wines (aside from this one) usually have way too much of. Not nearly as tannic as the Pallieres, these are two wines to compare if you’re interested in seeing the similarity and difference between wines from France and California. By the way, the wine name comes from a Bob Dylan song.
So there it is…Merry Christmas and happy tasting.