The Armstrong vineyard gang met Friday night at Red Hills Provincial Dining in Dundee, OR, for the second annual dinner of grower and producers. Our Vincent Wine Company label sources from Armstrong, up on Ribbon Ridge, along with Seven of Hearts, Ayres and, starting in 2011, Aubichon. Good company for Vincent to be in, for sure.
This year the dinner was especially notable because three of us brought barrel samples from 2010 from the first fruit harvested at this new site, which is owned by Doug and Michelle Ackerman. It's too early to say much about the wines, and I'm obviously too close to be fair. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. Last year, the site produced a small crop of nicely ripe fruit, and though the wines are still unfinished, everyone's samples showed great potential. Mine was the lightest in color but I like how expressive the wine is. We will see how things continue to evolve.
After quickly tasting through the barrel samples, we moved on to the main event. A mix of other wines, several older ones including a stellar Amarone Recioto from the 1960s. My favorite white wine was a 2005 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru "Vaillons" that was archetypal young Chablis. Greenish in the glass, strongly mineral with good weight, precise acidity and lovely seashell flavors. This will age nicely but was delicious with crab cakes. I saved and savored some for my main course of seared scallops.
Others ordered things like short ribs or lamb shank or mushroom pasta, so reds were fittingly our focus. Highlights there included a magnum of 1982 Gaja Barbaresco, generously opened by the Ackermans. What lovely old Piemontese red, mature with some pleasant oxidation and hard to describe earthy aromas and flavors, this was old school nebbiolo all the way. Translucent, perfumed, bottle sweet, just terrific wine that held up pretty well over the evening.
I brought the 2000 Confuron-Cotetidot Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru "Les Suchots" that showed pretty well. A bit more mature than 11 years might suggest, though I think 2000s are probably in their peak window these days. Fragrant, spicy, very Vosne, a little hard in the mouth though, not as resolved as the nose suggested. My only complaint. This was delicious red Burgundy.
Back to Italy for the 1997 La Spinetta Barbaresco "Vigna Gallina" that, I'll admit, was my favorite dry wine of the night. Incredibly aromatic, more modern, sure, but clearly Piemontese nebbiolo. The aroma was so nice, something you could smell all night and never tire of. Dark fruit, subtle oak, then fennel and other spicy aromas. Full and rich in the mouth but not heavy, tannin rounded as you find with more modern Piemontese red, but I can't complain. A little barrique flavor on the finish, but this is outstanding wine. The perfect answer to people (like me) who sometimes get a little dogmatic about how old school is always (always!) better than the new school.
There were some other notable reds, but I didn't pay enough attention to them. A rich, stony 2004 Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes, a ripe but not overdone 2003 Relagnes Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Vigneronnes, and an herbal and not quite up to task 2004 Neudorf Pinot Noir Mouterre from Nelson in New Zealand (another from me).
Really, I was focused on another incredible wine opened by the Ackermans. The 1968 Masi Amarone Recioto di Amarone, a wine that's one year older than I am and was so youthful, so delicious that I wouldn't have guessed it was older than 20 years and would still call it one of the most delicious wines I have had in recent memory. The perfect balance of savory and sweet, with little sugar sweetness but lovely, sweet aged fruit, no volatility, just perfectly integrated plum, tar, bitter chocolate, you name it, just incredible flavors, length, texture. Really, what great wine and great aged wine is all about. I am incredibly fortunate to have tried it. Thanks Doug and Michelle.
In all, a delightful night in Red Hills' Craftsman house of a restaurant. The service area in the living and dining rooms. Fir flooring, dark beams lining the ceiling. Almost perfect, which is no complaint, just truth. Provoking thoughts of the future. We promised to do it again next year and, even with the uncertainty of this year's growing season ahead of us, I'm sure it will be even better then. The future is bright indeed.