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Oregon: 4 wines that illustrate the style (2/3)

Part two in a series of three articles about Oregon wines. Read part one here, pinot noir wines that challenge Burgundy?, and part three here, a wide range of pinot noir wines.

So let’s get to the four wines and winemakers that Carrie Kalscheuer (Rex Hill Vineyards) and Maria Ponzi (Ponzi Vineyards) introduced us to (see part 1), but first some important notes regarding the two vintages 2013 and 2014.

2013 began with a warm spring and early budding and then hot and dry weather during the summer. The grapes ripened normally until the end of September when heavy rains drowned many vineyards. Some took very unconventional ways to deal with the water, among other things using helicopters to dry the vines!

The weather in October changed and continued with high temperatures and a lot of wind, which meant that the grapes were still able to develop optimally. 2013 were in this way split “two harvests”, before and after the rain, where the white grapes in most cases belong to the first category and red grapes to the latter. The wines from grapes harvested before the rain feel as if they come from a warm year.

2014 had a mild spring and they had perfect weather during fruit setting. It was followed by a hot and dry summer. The grapes generally reached optimal maturity and could in most cases be harvested earlier than any other harvest on record.

The wines from this vintage have a high concentration and are fruit driven.

Pinot Noir in a grand cru vineyard in Corton

Pinot Noir, copyright BKWine Photography

So the four wines.

Ponzi Winery

Ponzi Winery (Sherwood), Tasting Room (Dundee), is located in the Northern Willamette Valley and was founded in 1970 by Dick and Nancy Ponzi. They thought that the location in Oregon met their requirements in order to make great wines of grapes in cool climate. Today it is the sisters Luisa and Anna Maria Ponzi who run the company. Luisa is responsible for the winemaking and has a degree from Burgundy specializing in pinot noir. Anna Maria is responsible for marketing and sales.

All Ponzi Vineyards are LIVE-certified. They avoid pumps and instead uses gravity in the winery. All vineyards except the original one is within the AVA Chehalem Mountains.

2013 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

AVA: Willamette Valley since also grapes from outside the Chehalem Mountains are used.

Vinification:

  • whole bunches are pressed, including stems
  • fermentation in French oak barrels, of which 10% are new, partly with natural yeast (wild yeast)
  • malolactic fermentation took place spontaneously and completely
  • stirring of the lees took place once a week for 6 months. After 12 months, there was additional ageing in neutral oak barrels.
  • After a total of 20 months barrel ageing the wine was moved by gas pressure to the blending tank. It was bottled by gravity and finally aged in bottles for 3 months.

So how was the wine?

Aromas of yellow fruit with vanilla elements, clean taste with moderate acidity and good fruit. Some spicy notes. Long and full-bodied after-taste. Serve it to flavoursome fish dishes or a herb-spiced chicken. ~35 euro

Maria Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards

Maria Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

King Estate

King Estate (Eugene) is located in the southern part of the Willamette Valley and founded as recently as 1991 by the King family who still runs the winery. It has 400 hectares of which about 190 are planted with wine mainly pinot noir and pinot gris. Like most wineries and winemakers in the state they have visions and goals. These include making wines that make life more comfortable for people who buy them by having high quality, are approachable and affordable in price. The vineyard is Salmon Safe certified and wine production is certified organic.

2013 King Estate Winery Pinot Gris

Vinification:

  • organic grapes from their own vineyards mixed with grapes from other sustainable growers in Oregon
  • fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks
  • 4 months of ageing on the lees

So how was the wine?

The colour was what the French sometimes call “gris”, that is a very dense colour for a white wine (obvious in comparison with the chardonnay next to it). The smell was aromatic with tropical fruit and hints of mushroom. The taste was clean and fruity with a good acidity for a pinot gris. Dry in the finish. Goes well with white meat or why not a piece of Münster cheese? ~17 euro.

Pinot noir ready to be harvested

Pinot noir ready to be harvested, copyright BKWine Photography

Rex Hill Vineyards

Rex Hill Vineyards (Newberg) has made elegant pinot noir wines for 30 years and strive to make wines from Willamette Valley typical for its origin. The winery was founded by Paul Hart and Jan Jacobsen in 1982. They now grow only pinot noir. The company was acquired in 2007 by A to Z Wineworks and work in the vineyard has since been pursued with new enthusiasm. They have two wineries, the home farm with 9 hectares, of which 7.7 ha is used for pinot noir and the Jacob Hart vineyard with 13 hectares of which 11 with pinot noir. They cultivate both biodynamically.

2013 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

AVA: Willamette Valley

Vinification:

  • Sustainably grown quality grapes from the Willamette Valley hand-picked and hand-sorted.
  • 14 months of aging in French oak barrels, of which 28% were new.

So how was the wine?

Light red colour, aromas of red berries and some smokiness. The taste had very concentrated fruit and a high acidity with good balance with agreeable tannins. In the US about 35 dollars.

Stoller Vineyards

Stoller Vineyards (Dayton) has been in the Stoller family’s possession since 1943, and since 1995 it consists of a single plot of 80 ha. The largest part is located in the Dundee Hills. Here pinot noir and chardonnay share the space with 64% and 29%.

LIVE-certified winery and the world’s first LEED-certified winery.

2014 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

AVA Dundee Hills

Vinification:

  • Exclusively grapes from their own vineyard
  • Ageing on 20% new and 80% used barrels

So how was the wine?

Light red colour and aroma of raspberries with hints of cherry. The taste had good fruity with excellent acidity and oak that was well-integrated. Long aftertaste with some spiciness.

This wine was with some justification called a “consumer vintage”.

Read all parts of this trilogy on wines from Oregon:

Carl-Erik Kanne is a long time wine enthusiast and fervent wine taster. He reports from wine tastings and wine events in Stockholm for BKWine Magazine.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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