Oregon Wine Club – June 2009

Hamacher Wines
This month we feature one producer, Hamacher Wines, which makes two wines: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Eric Hamacher founded his winery in 1995 with his wife Luisa Ponzi, winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards (imagine those dinner table conversations). He was in the shop recently to taste us on his wines, and we were duly impressed—with his wines, for sure, but also hearing about the passion and thoughtfulness be brings to every aspect of his craft. This is someone who doesn’t choose the easy or expedient approach. Patient and meticulous, Eric takes no shortcuts throughout the entire winemaking process. For starters, he has his oak staves weathered for three years before they are even made into barrels, in order to leach out the harsh, woody tannins, thus allowing for a soft carmelization of the wood’s sugars. Once his wines are finished, he ages them for at least a year and a half before release, remarkable in this rush-to-market world, but vital in his opinion, to give the wines time to develop before they are sold. When asked how he achieves so much richness in his wines every vintage, his reply was: “It’s the fruit, the barrels and the patience.” Eric produces his wines in the Carlton Wine Studio in Carlton, Oregon, an innovative “green” cooperative winemaking facility which he launched in 2002. It’s the first of its kind in the country built from the ground up, and combines environmentally sustainable building, with efficient production design. Definitely worth a visit! We present two wines from this talented and dedicated winemaker:

2006 Estate Pinot Noir
This wine is everything that a well-made Oregon Pinot Noir should be: soft, layered, and beautifully complex, it is a Pinot for purists—definitely not a Syrah wannabe. It offers elegance over power, with an inviting nose of dark fruit and brambles, soft tannins, and a complex and layered mouth feel. Beautifully balanced, it is lovely now, or could develop another year or two. It’s $46 and we should be able to get more. You could pair it with salmon (of course) or any light fare that allows the fine nuances to show through. Eric’s 2007 Pinot is, of course, still aging, but our bet is that his will be a stunner, despite the difficulty of the vintage. Experienced, patient winemakers did not let the dire weather forecasts distract them, and were able to produce some much more classically-styled Pinot that year. Our favorite image: Eric hiring helicopters to fly low passes over his vineyards to “blow” the water off the foliage, rather than pick the grapes too early. Apparently the kids loved the excitement, too!

2005 Chardonnay, Cuvée Forêts Diverses
Eric’s Chardonnay is named for his most prized wine barrel—made by the time-consuming aging process mentioned above, but also using wood selected from several different forests in France, to impart a subtle blend of oak flavors. He uses Dijon clones, which thrive in Oregon’s cool-climate vineyards, and ages the wine for over two years in bottle before release (did we mention this man is patient?). The resulting wine is reminiscent of a white Burgundy; elegant, complex, and delicate, with great aromatics and minerality.
Eric believes that that Chardonnay “is the Holy Grail of white wines,” and that, with the right clones, Oregon is capable of making Chardonnays that rival the best in the world. See what you think. It’s beautiful now, with or without food, or could probably age for several more years. It is $36 and there should be more available.