Oregon Wine Club – June 2014

2012 Argyle, Nuthouse Pinot Noir
Here’s a winery that has made multiple appearances in this club. What you might notice first is that they have redesigned their label: gone is the playful, “nutty,” artwork, complete with squirrels, paying tribute to the former hazelnut processing plant that now houses the winery. The new look is a bit more serious, perhaps to reflect the fact that winemaker Rollin Soles is the only Oregon producer to have had his wines ranked among the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World an amazing eleven times now. Of course it’s what’s inside that counts and the Nuthouse wines are Argyle’s most coveted and highly-rated, meant to be “provocative, singular expressions of [the fruit], born of a dutiful kinship with the greatest wines from the Old World.” Fruit for the Nuthouse Pinot comes primarily from Argyle’s warm, low-elevation Lone Star Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. It is an excellent site for growing Pinot Noir and is planted mostly to Dijon clones. The 2012 growing season presented a number of challenges, with July through October being the driest on record. But well-timed irrigation, just before a harsh period of record-setting drying winds set in, allowed them to harvest fruit with perfect maturity and ripeness and fresh, natural acidity. This vintage of the Nuthouse Pinot is very approachable now, with soft, delicate aromas and flavors, that gain complexity as it opens up, but it could also age in the bottle for five to ten years. Pretty, layered, and complex, the winery suggests enjoying it with grilled venison loin with saffron white beans, almond romesco, and bone marrow toast. It is $49.75.

2011 Brick House, “Cascadia” Chardonnay
Brick House also needs no introduction. We’ve featured a number of their Pinots in the past — their Cuvée du Tonnelier, Les Dijonnais, and Evelyn’s — as well as their Gamay Noir. But this is the first time we’ve put their Chardonnay in the club. Located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, Brick House produces and bottles all of their wines on their 40-acre farm, from certified organic estate-grown fruit. While many think of Pinot Gris as the quintessential Oregon white grape, it makes sense that, as in Burgundy, a region that produces excellent Pinot Noir would produce stunning Chards as well. Brick House winemaker Doug Tunnell grows four Chardonnay clones, all Dijon, originally from cuttings taken near Meursault in Burgundy. He ferments his Chardonnay in seasoned French oak, as the use of new oak could overpower the delicate fruit flavors, and he follows the traditional practices of producers in Burgundy villages like Puligny, Chassagne, and Meursault, leaving the wine on its lees for 18 months before he bottles, unfined and unfiltered. He calls his winery a “New World site dedicated to Old World wisdom,” and all of his careful attention to detail, with minimal intervention, lets the pure character of the fruit and the terroir fully express itself. The Brick House Cascadia Chardonnay shows all of the elegance, class, and purity that Doug’s wines are known for, and is beautifully textured, with delicate flavors of white fruit and a focussed minerality. It is $37 and is ready to enjoy now, perhaps with lobster, foie gras, or chicken.