Oregon Wine Club – June 2012

2009 Cameron, Abbey Ridge, Pinot Noir
To hard core Burgundy fans, the initials DRC means just one thing: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the most revered producer in Burgundy, if not the world. But in Oregon (the other home of Pinot Noir) there’s another DRC: the Deep Roots Coalition. Cameron winemaker John Paul began DRC in 2003, along with Russ Raney of Evesham Wood. There are now 12 wineries in the loosely organized group, who believe that being a winemaker means being a good steward of the land. They also believe that vines that receive no irrigation, and must burrow their roots deep into the ground for nourishment, pick up nuances from the soil deep beneath the vineyard, producing wines that are more distinctive and more representative of place. This has long been the practice in Burgundy (indeed, in most of Europe), but it is more difficult, and more risky in our climate. But what about this wine?

John Paul founded Cameron Winery in 1984 with his wife, and partners Bill and Julia Wayne, of Abbey Ridge Vineyard. With a background in marine biology, he was always firmly committed to sustainability and sound environmental policy, and was thus determined to dry farm his vineyards from the beginning. Although it takes longer to establish new vines, in the long run, dry farming produces heartier, stronger fruit. In fact, some of his vines’ roots now reach down 25 feet into the soil. Abbey Ridge is their oldest vineyard, with fruit planted in 1976, and it is one of the highest vineyards in the Dundee region, at 500-700 feet. Fruit from Abbey Ridge has excellent natural acidity and produces extremely elegant wines. This wine is an excellent example of what dry-farmed, Oregon fruit can produce. It is $53.75 and has beautiful balance and great body, not too ripe or rich, with lovely aromatics, and great aging potential though it is very drinkable now. The winery was named after the Paul family’s Scottish clan, inspired by its location in Dundee, Oregon.

2008 Stevenson Barrie, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard
If you’ve never heard of Stevenson Barrie, it’s probably because up until recently, the wines have stayed mostly in Oregon, where they were sold to local restaurants and loyal winery fans. Flying pretty much under the radar, the winery has no tasting room, and no website. But their wines have long been sought out by those who have been able to find them. So we were excited to find out that one of our small, local distributors has added them to their portfolio. Stevenson Barrie was actually founded back in 1995, as the personal label of Michael Stevenson, along with business partner Scott Barrie. Michael Stevenson’s main gig has been as winemaker at Panther Creek, a much bigger operation, well-known for its high quality, high-scoring wines. Stevenson keeps production at his personal winery small and focused in order to let each wine reflect the vineyard site and the vintage. He uses no new oak, and sources exclusively from just a handful of the top vineyard sites in the valley, including Shea, from which the fruit for this wine is sourced. As we’ve noted in the past, Yamhill Carlton’s Shea Vineyard produces some of the most coveted fruit in the Willamette Valley, and is sometimes even referred to as Oregon’s Grand Cru vineyard. Shea is known for producing supple, elegant, and very texturally-driven Pinots, with notes of both red and black fruits. Stevenson Barrie’s Shea Pinot is a beautiful example of what Shea fruit can produce: velvety smooth, with a seamless balance of fruit and minerally earth tones. It is $29.75 and is quite lovely now.