Oregon Wine Club – October 2009

Winemaking is not static. It draws from the experience of the past, but it also looks to the future. As vines age, so do winemakers, and wineries evolve as they pass from one generation to the next. Quite coincidentally, both wines in this club trace the threads of family ties, in one case, around the globe, in the other, across the barrel room.

2007 Clawson Creek Vineyard, Angela Pinot Noir
This winery began with a friendship and a mutual love of Pinot Noir. One of the friends was Rob Rosenstein, the other was Antony Beck. The family connection? Antony’s family owns the socially and environmentally pioneering winery in South Africa, Graham Beck Wines (he is Graham Beck’s son), a long-time favorite on our shelves.

This seed was sown in the bluegrass fields of Kentucky but, long story short, the two friends joined forces with Oregon’s Ken Wright who found them the ideal vineyard site on Savannah Ridge in the Yamhill-Carlton District, and agreed to make the wines for their dream winery. Ken, whose own wine has been featured in this club, is considered one of the founding fathers of Willamette Valley Pinot, and is known for his rich, beguiling wines.

The Angela Pinot Noir, named for Antony’s wife, is a dark, almost glowing red. A bit restrained on the nose at first, it opens up to a plush, fruit-forward palate, with deep cherry flavors, a silky smooth texture, and a long, chewy finish. It is approachable now, but needs a few years to truly develop. It is $55 and is extremely limited.

2007 Torpedo Cellars, Horsetail Pinot Noir
This wine seems to be shrouded in a bit of mystery. It is made by the son of a very highly-regarded Oregon winemaker, whose own stunning Pinot has already appeared in this club. And since the winery isn’t drawing attention to the connection at this point, we won’t either. (Don’t ask—we’ll have to shoot you!)

All three sons grew up in the vineyard, watching their father, observing his hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, and still, they seem to be drawn to the winemaking in their souls. They know that the shoes they may one day fill are enormous. Two of the sons made this wine and, in spite of the experience they gained working alongside their father over the years, plus formal study of enology and viticulture, they seem to want to hone their chops by working outside of the family winery, broadening their experience, even in other countries and hemispheres, before some day taking on the legacy of the family winery. Their first effort is this Pinot Noir, dubbed Horsetail, under the Torpedo Cellars label. It is wonderfully earthy, with rich black cherry fruit, a full mid-palate, and soft tannins in the long finish. The cost, $25, is a special price for the inaugural vintage — it will retail for much more in the future. But for now it is a great chance to view the potential future of an already legendary winery.