Specialty Club – May 2011

2009 Antica Terra, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
We come across a lot of wines we like, and some that we truly love. But when we feel the same way about a winemaker it is a special treat. That’s what happened recently when winemaker Maggie Harrison was in town to introduce us to her amazingly good, and agonizingly limited wines. After a visit to the shop, and a knock-your-socks-off wine dinner at Sitka and Spruce, we grabbed her wine with both hands, and nearly brought Maggie with us. Given her impressive background, apprenticing for eight years at California’s exclusive Sine Qua Non, she had every right to be a wine diva, but she turned out to be one of the most charming, down-to-earth, and unassuming winemakers we’ve ever met. And now she is co-owner and winemaker at Oregon’s Antica Terra. The winery is located on a rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills region of the Willamette Valley. The first vines on the 40-acre site were planted in 1989, on a dauntingly rocky site, overflowing with fossilized oyster shells. But Maggie does not focus on single vineyards for her wines, finding the blending process to be the most challenging and exciting part of winemaking. Her Pinots tend to be about 50% estate fruit, from her Antica Terra vineyard, which imparts a stony, earthy, mushroomy signature to the wines. To this, Maggie supplements with purchased fruit from the best vineyard sources possible. Her unique winemaking practices include aging her wines on the lees; adding up to 30% of pressed juice to every barrel; and stirring the wine while it is in barrel—all of which adds further complexity and aromatics to her wines. Her 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is ripe and richly textured with elegant, spicy aromas reminiscent of autumn woodlands, and a silky smooth finish. At $52.25, it is lovely now, but will certainly develop even more over the next few years. Enjoy it with something elegant, but not overpowering, to fully enjoy the nuances of this wine. Perhaps roast duck?

2009 Lewis Cellars, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
One of Bear’s big frustrations was his inability to get wines from Lewis Cellars for his customers. Well, times have definitely changed, and now the local distributor is happy to sell the highly regarded wines from this cult California winery to all comers. Lewis Cellars was founded in 1992 by former race driver Randy Lewis and his wife Debbie but, unlike most “celebrity wineries,” the Lewises were hands-on proprietors from the beginning. Although best known for their powerhouse Cabernet and rich Chardonnay, they also make wines from Merlot, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes from the second vintage of this lovely Reserve Sauvignon Blanc come from the very summit of Mount Veeder, so they retain quite a bit of natural acidity. They are whole cluster pressed, and then fermented and barrel aged in a mixture of French oak and stainless steel for about eleven months with no malolactic fermentation. The results? You can judge for yourself, but we think you’ll really enjoy the clean citrus flavors and creamy, slightly nutty texture of the wine. It’s ready to drink, particularly with dishes with citrusy flavors, is $52 and, needless to say, very limited.