Party for Eight -- or some such - Printable Version

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- Woodman - 04-05-1999 04:57 AM

Attended a tasting the other night at the Heathman Hotel here in Portland, appropriately titled "A Party for Eight" or something like that. Some impressions:

WillaKenzie Estate
'97 Pinot Gris -- just plain tasty
'97 Pinot Noir Aliette -- great nose, great flavors, round and full, with no finish

Brick House
'97 Pinot Noir Cuvee de Tonnelliere -- I don't get it, but it showed better than previous tastings. I thought it was corked, but Doug Tunnell (the owner/winemaker) assured me the nose was typical. Musty, but Doug's a nice man.

Archery Summit
'98 Vireton White Wine -- Honestly, this could be the best white wine made in Oregon. Pinot gris, pinot blanc and chardonnay, some of the chardonnay cuttings smuggled into the states (if rumor is correct) from the Cote d'Or.
'97 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir -- Do you like new oak? Cinnamon and clove dominate with black fruits. Too much money, but Gary Andrus is seriously nuts. What a character.

Harry's such a nice guy, but the wines are too soft and almost flabby. The Rion Reserve is tasty, but it has very little future.

'96 Reserve Pinot Noir -- a very, very nice wine with a future. Black-fruit driven.

Ken Wright Cellars
'97 Willamette Valley Chardonnay Dijon Clones -- restraint in the oak regimen makes this wine pretty tasty, if a little lean.

Ubelieveably, Ken has SOLD OUT of his '98 pinots already. Barrel samples follow:
'98 Wahle -- Deep, dark and brooding.
'98 Nysa -- second best nose of the night. Bright, with lots of asian spice.

Beaux Freres
I still don't understand what the hype is about.

Bethel Heights
'93 Southeast Block Reserve -- This wine positively stinks in the best possible way. Incredible barnyardy aromas. Drink 'em now, because I can't see it getting any better, but it's real good at the moment.

- Thomas - 04-05-1999 11:33 AM


I used to sell Cristom wines here in the East. Usually good stuff, but prices and lack of familiarity kept them back. Glad to hear they still are good.

- Woodman - 04-05-1999 05:47 PM

Foodie, if anything, they are better. The '96 Marjorie Vineyard pinot is a killer. Steve Doerner is one of the leading winemakers in Oregon, IMHO.

- Randy Caparoso - 04-16-1999 02:23 AM

Just back from Oregon and California, guys, with way too many notes. But touching upon your showdown in Portland:

I personally thought that WillaKenzie made the best Oregon Pinot Gris in '97 -- brilliant fruit and fragrance built upon satiny, lively body. Tasted a final blend of the '98 just before bottling, by the way, and it's the same (pure, with zero oak) but even more intense, in fact scintillating. Look out!

Don't hold his niceness against Harry, Woodman, because he's making some serious dominant stuff. In other words, I can't quite get behind your "soft" accessment of the '96 Rion Reserve PN. It is overflowing with lush fruit and brown spices (cinnamon stick, peppermint, incense, etc.); the tannins are super-fine (as a result of some daring post fermentation maceration), which is why it was dedicated to Rion in the first place. But everything (acidity, tannin, glycerols, etc.) definitely seems to be in place; and if anything, the natural fruit concentration will carry this wine much farther than the the slightly over-extracted (and thus bitter) wines generally characterizing the likes of Cristom, Ponzi, Domaine Drouhin, St. Innocent, and even the bright, young Laurent's stuff at WillaKenzie.

And as I've also shared with you, the '97 Chehalem "Ridgecrest" will also one to watch -- a literal black "fruit bomb." Harry is also making the most "interesting" Pinot Gris in Oregon these days -- a wholly successful 100% French barrel fermented '97 "Reserve," with intense tropical fruit (passionfruit & pineapple nuances) filling out creamy, silky medium-full complexities.

I am not as thrilled, however, by the Archery Vireton. Look at it again, Woodman. It has exuberant fruit, but the finish is a bit coarse. Certainly not a sipping or sushi wine. You'd need to throw some wood charred chicken at it (to balance the rough hewn edges).

I will admit, however, that the '96 Cristom "Reserve" is looking good. Good, bouncy, round qualities. Its sweet, wild berryish primary fruit aroma, however, doesn't bode as well for me. I wish there were more complex secondary aromatics (or "bouquet," as they used to call it). Once this rush of fruit subsides, I wonder whether there will be enough underneath to form something interesting. It's a same question I would have about a Beaux Freres. They're wonderful fairly new, but the longevity is questionable. Therefore, in my mind these are wines to drink -- and thoroughly enjoy, mind you -- young. Frankly, I think the softer, more supple, textured styles of Oregon PN (like Ken Wright's and Rex Hill Reseves) are bound to evolve, and develop mingling notes, more gracefully.

Different strokes, I guess. But great fun all around!