2010 Antica Terra, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
You may recall how smitten we were with the delightful Antica Terra winemaker, Maggie Harrison, when we met her last year and featured the 2009 vintage of this wine in the club. Maggie spent eight years at California’s exclusive Sine Qua Non, before being lured up north to Oregon in 2005 to become winemaker at Antica Terra. The site that convinced her to drop everything and completely change her life is a rocky, 11-acre vineyard on a hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills, on much older soil than is typical in the area. Rather than consisting of deep soils from the Missoula floods, or volcanic soils from the formation of the Cascade Range, this site is a mix of sandstone and fossilized shells from a prehistoric seabed that has risen to the surface. (Antica Terra is Latin for “old earth.”) The vines, planted in 1989, struggle on this steep, rocky site but Maggie and her crew give them the meticulous care they demand. In return, they produce particularly nuanced wines with the signature stony, earthy, mushroomy quality that is a hallmark of Maggie’s wines. In long, cool growing seasons, such as 2010, Pinot Noir grows darker and more concentrated. Intense thinning that year, along with the now-famous massive pillaging by marauding birds, led to a much lower production. But the wine that resulted is exquisite: aromatic and expressive, with soft tannins, and only 13% alcohol. As always, the wine is based on fruit from the estate vineyard, blended with purchased fruit from some of the best sources around, to create a sum which Maggie feels, is greater than the parts, evoking stone, forest floor, and flowers. We were able to get enough of this limited wine for the club, at $53, plus a bit extra. Enjoy it with an elegant meal, such as roast duck or game.
(We also brought in several bottles of Maggie’s stunning, and extremely limited “Botanica,” Pinot Noir, made from Shea Vineyard fruit. The aim with this wine, she says, “is to allude to the opulent possibilities of the variety, while retaining its essentially graceful nature.”
It is $80 a bottle.)
2011 Teutonic Wine Company, Chasselas Doré
Oregon is awash with winemakers striving to craft their wines in the style of fine Burgundies. Then there’s Teutonic Wine Company. Their touchstone is a bit off the well-trodden track, as are their fruit sources. Teutonic owners and winemakers, Barnaby and Olga Tuttle’s hearts are firmly planted in the cool climate regions of Germany and Alsace, and their estate vineyard lies in the coastal town of Alsea, away from the well-known AVAs of the Willamette Valley. They have set out to produce the finest German- and Alsatian-style wines in Oregon, with the overriding goal that their wines are, first and foremost, food friendly: low in alcohol (typically 9 to 12 percent), with plenty of acidity. In their cool climate, Alsea vineyard, and in the other similar sites they use, the fruit is able to hang longer without over-ripening, developing more complex flavors, elegance, and nuance, but not high alcohol levels. And this wine? Chasselas Doré is a crisp, minerally grape most often associated with the cold climate of Switzerland, and when Barnaby and Olga discovered a 40-year-old parcel of it growing in David Hill Vineyard, off the beaten track in the foothills outside of Forest Grove, they jumped on it. The wine they have produced from it is a perfect example of what Teutonic is all about. With racy acidity, focused minerality, and the freshness of an Alpine meadow, it would be perfect for fondue or raclette, or even with heartier, earthier fare, like wild game, mushrooms, or seafood stews. It is $29.75 and they produce miniscule quantities of each of their wines, so it won’t be around long.