2009 Hamacher, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
This month we feature wines from two exceptional Oregon producers, both of which, in good Burgundian fashion, focus on just two grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And we give you one wine from each grape. The first is from Eric Hamacher who founded his winery in 1995 with his wife, Luisa Ponzi, winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards. You probably recall the story of how Eric hired helicopters to fly over his vineyards in 2007 to save his fruit from the late season rain. That may be a novel image, but it speaks volumes about the lengths he goes to as a winemaker to produce the best wines possible, in the field, in the winery, and even in the production of his barrels (he lets the oak staves weather for three years before they are made into barrels, in order to leach out the harsh, woody tannins and to caramelize the wood’s sugars). He ages his wines for at least a year and a half before they are released, to give them time to develop before they are sold. Always patient and meticulous, he strives for elegance over power in his winemaking and consistently produces richly-textured and elegant wines. His 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot is no exception. Full bodied and silky smooth, it is layered and aromatic, with notes of herbs and forest floor. It is $49 and lovely now, though it will no doubt continue to evolve in the bottle over the next six to eight years.
2011 Domaine Drouhin, Arthur Chardonnay
We have featured a number of wines from this iconic Oregon producer over the years. Domaine Drouhin was founded by the family of Burgundian producer, Maison Joseph Drouhin, in Oregon’s Dundee Hills where they found the climate and terroir similar to that of their home in Beaune. Daughter Vèronique Drouhin-Boss has produced all of the wines there, since the first vintage in 1988. Though Domaine Drouhin is probably best know for their stunning Pinot Noirs, which are acclaimed for their elegance, finesse, and ability age gracefully, since 1996 they have also produced wine from the “other Burgundian grape,” Chardonnay. It is named for Veronique’s son and is made from 100% Dijon clones first planted in 1992, some of the oldest such vines in the New World. The 2011 vintage was relatively cool, and the later harvest allowed the flavor and acidity to fully develop. Half of the Arthur Chard was aged in new and used French oak, the other half in stainless steel and it shows the crisp acidity and minerality of the vineyard, with lovely richness and depth. Véronique says it is as if one brought together elements of a pure Chablis and an elegant Meursault. It is $32.25 and is ready to enjoy now (perhaps with seared scallops), but it will develop nicely over the next several years.