2009 Penner Ash, Shea Vineyard, Pinot Noir
As we well know, all wines begin in the vineyard. And Yamhill County’s 200-acre Shea Vineyard, located in the Yamhill-Carlton District, is one of the most highly regarded in Oregon. (Some even call it Oregon’s Grand Cru vineyard.) Owner Dick Shea planted the original 100 acres in the late 1980s, and he sells his fruit to some of Oregon’s most respected wineries, Ken Wright, and Beaux Freres among them. Another winery blessed with access to this coveted fruit is Newberg’s Penner-Ash. Lynn Penner-Ash had been enologist for four years at Napa superstar Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars when, in 1988, she switched to the Oregon team and become winemaker for Rex Hill. While she was still making her award-winning wines there, she and her husband Ron founded Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. Proximity to Shea Vineyard was a major factor in their decision to locate their winery where they did. Lynn’s Pinots have been described as “elegant and earthy, structured and thoughtful.” Her 2009 Shea is all of that and more. Round and complex, it has intriguing spice notes and layers of dark fruit and wet stone, all beautifully knit together with amazing structure. Somehow it manages to possess great body and intensity, without seeming heavy at all. It would pair perfectly with a special meal of roast beef or grilled salmon. It is drinking well now, but it will certainly develop even more over the next four to five years. It is $60.
2010 Abacela, Albariño
This month we also venture south of the Willamette Valley to the Umpqua Valley, home of Abacela. We have always loved the wines from this southern Oregon producer, whose emphasis is on Spanish varietals. To make their long story short, it all started out when owners Earl and Hilda Jones were searching for a place to produce the Tempranillos they loved, here in the states. They found that place near Roseburg, in a vineyard site with a climate very similar to that in parts of Rioja and the Ribera Del Duero: with cool springs, followed by hot summers, and cool falls. The Jones were the first to plant Tempranillo in the Pacific Northwest, and they named their winery after the Spanish word, abacelar, which means “to plant a new vine.” Their Tempranillo flourished in this site, which is warmer than the Willamette Valley further north, yet cooler than the Rogue Valley to the south. Not surprisingly, the other Iberian grapes they planted also did well there, such as this, their Albariño. Albariño hails from the Rias Baixas region of Spain, on the northwestern Atlantic coast. It is valued for its fragrant, crisp elegance, and its versatility in pairing with foods, especially seafood. Fruit for this Albariño comes from Abacela’s Fault Line Vineyards, located at the juncture of the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range, and the Cascades. It is complex and bracing, with lively acidity, flavors of white stone fruit, and a crisp, steely minerality. But with a smooth touch of aromatic creaminess. Enjoy it anytime within the next two to three years, with anything from the sea: shrimp, crab, scallops, or halibut. We’ve also heard it goes great with gumbo! It is $18 and is in decent supply.