Oregon Wine Club – February 2010

2006 Phelps Creek, Cuvée Alexandrine, Pinot Noir
French winemaker Alexandrine Roy can usually be found on her estate in Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. But each fall, she travels to Hood River, Oregon, to Phelps Creek Vineyards, where she creates the signature Pinot Noir that bears her name. She hand selects specific rows in their estate vineyard, choosing only the optimum fruit, and then crafts her cuvée using traditional Burgundian techniques: employing only native yeasts, and doing punch down — the breaking up of the cap that forms during fermentation — by foot. The beautiful result is a wine that is from 100% Phelps Creek estate fruit, but with a decidedly French attitude. Elegant, complex, and earthy. Although we featured the (very different) Phelps Creek Estate Reserve Pinot in the May 2009 club, we seem to have mostly focused on Willamette Valley wines in this club. Here’s another chance to try something outside the valley, from the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge AVA. Here, the vineyards are warmer, drier, and higher than those in the Willamette Valley, and their potential for Pinot Noir is drawing a lot of attention. The Cuvée Alexandrine is $45, and lovely now, though it will evolve for several more years and could cellar five or six years beyond that.

2008 Owen Roe, The Kilmore, Pinot Noir
Owen Roe brings a bit of the old country to the world of Oregon wine. The winery takes its name from Owen Roe O’Neill, a 17th century Irish patriot who dedicated his life to upholding the principles of political equality and freedom. Both O’Neill and winemaker David O’Reilly came from County Cavan, Ireland, but O’Reilly now makes his home in Oregon, where he has been crafting excellent wines since 1999. In addition to Cabernets, Syrahs, and blends, he makes about eight Pinot Noirs, one of which is the Kilmore. The Kilmore is sourced from three exceptional vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton district, where the ocean bottom soils, and dry summers force low vigor and small, intensely flavored berries. The wine itself is a blend of three Pinot Noir clones: Pommard, Dijon and Wadensvil, and the resulting wine is lush and silky, with rich, dark fruit and a finish that lasts and lasts. The wine is named for the old abbey on the O’Reilly clan’s land in Ireland and the label shows one of the arches in the Abbey ruins. This Pinot is a bit young yet, but should be ready to drink in the next few months. Or save it for the holiday season next winter; it would be perfect for turkey, ham, or roasted chicken. They made only 600 cases and it is $43.