Oregon Wine Club – June 2010

2007 St. Innocent, Justice Vineyard, Pinot Noir
Although serious Pinot Noir began being produced in Oregon around 1970, St. Innocent Winery, founded in 1988 by Mark Vlossak, stands among the most established and highly-regarded Pinot producers in the state. Vlossak still makes the wine there today and has become one of the state’s most respected winemakers. The fruit for this wine come from Justice Vineyard, which was planted in 2001 by Ted Casteel, one of Oregon’s best grape growers. Vlossak says, “To make wine from fruit grown by him is a gift.” Combine one of Oregon’s best winemakers with one of the state’s best vineyard managers and it’s hard to go wrong. As we know 2007, with its late-season cool, wet weather, was a very challenging vintage in Oregon. But in patient, experienced hands, the extended hang time actually allowed the acids and tannins in the grapes to soften, and complex flavors to develop. This rich, layered Pinot Noir exhibits the best of those results, with its beautiful texture, persistent aromatics, and muscular, but balanced tannins. With an hour or two to breathe, it is ready to drink now, or it could be aged for up to ten years.

Vlossak’s winemaking philosophy is that wine should complement and enhance the flavors of food, and add to the pleasure of a meal. He makes all of his wines to be food friendly and his labels are some of the most informative around, especially when it comes to pairing suggestions. As he notes, this Pinot is perfect for grilled meat entrees: salmon, lamb chops, or pork tenderloin. It would also be a great match for risotto or pasta dishes. It was $49.75 and is completely sold out.

2007 RoxyAnn Winery, Claret
Every now and then we have to remind ourselves that this is the “Oregon Club,” not the “Oregon Pinot Club.” It isn’t even necessarily exclusively a red wine club, but there is so much fantastic Pinot Noir from the state that we tend to gravitate in that direction. But there is more to the state than Pinot, and there are superb wine-growing regions besides the Willamette Valley. Case in point: the Rogue Valley, much further to the south, just this side of the California border. It is much warmer and drier here, thus not as suitable for growing Pinot Noir, but perfect for warmer-climate grapes, such as the Bordeaux varietals in this Claret from RoxyAnn. This winery, near Medford, was founded in 2002 at the historic Hillcrest Orchard, which has been producing fruit for over 100 years. RoxyAnn’s vineyards are located on the southwest slope of Roxy Ann Peak (hence the winery name) on shallow limestone-clay soil with excellent southern exposure. Winemaker John Quinones focuses on balance and texture in his wines, and this Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend is deep, rich, and complex, without sacrificing elegance and finesse. It’s $27, still in good supply, and loaded with dark fruit and spice. Try it with a juicy steak, or a gourmet burger.