Oregon Wine Club – December 2014

2012 ROCO Winery, “The Stalker” Pinot Noir
If you think this wine is named for one of those ominous, frightening types that follow celebrities around, you’re probably not alone, but that’s not the case at all (even though that IS a caricature of winemaker Rollin Soles on the label, being chased by some kind of bird). In this case, we’re talking grape stalks, and Rollin’s utterly unique way of making this tiny-production wine. One of the many choices in the winemaking process is whether to destem the fruit, or use the entire clusters during fermentation. Destemming helps avoids the green tannins and vegetal flavors that the stalks can produce in wine. But when successful, whole cluster fermentation (stems and all) can add an additional layer of earth and spice that can be very appealing. For this wine, Soles tried an entirely different approach, which he is somewhat secretive about but which, he explains, was influenced by the process used in the Valpolicello region, where whole grape clusters are air-dried before the fermentation process begins. So, taking a “walk on the wild side,” he dried the stalks to take the “green” edge off, proceeded with whole berry fermentation, then added the stalks back in later, thus getting the benefit of the spice-laced tannins, without the unpleasant greenness of the fresh stalks. A lot of work, but the result is clearly worth it. The wine, sourced from Wit’s End (their own vineyard, located in the Chehalem Mountain AVA) and Marsh Estate, in the Dundee Hills, has beautiful texture, plenty of spice, a cornucopia of fruit flavors, and a wonderful touch of earthiness. A very special wine indeed, and we’re excited to be able to put it in this month’s club. It is $48.75

2009 Belle Pente, Belle Pente Vineyard Chardonnay
We’ve featured a number of Brian O’Donnell’s wines in this club in the past, but this is the first time we’ve included his Chardonnay. As you know, we have great respect for Brian. He brings quite a scholarly approach to his winemaking, with a deep understanding of the geology, geography, and soils of the Willamette Valley—which is why we had him teach a class on the subject here in the shop several years ago. Brian and his wife Jill have an excellent and beautiful (hence the name “Belle Pente”) vineyard site in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which he has farmed organically since 2000, and using biodynamic practices since 2005. The vineyard is planted mostly to Pinot Noir, but there are about two acres of Chardonnay. This wine uses all Dijon clone, which has proven to be well adapted to the cooler climate of the Willamette Valley. (Coincidentally, Rollin Soles, of ROCO above and longtime winemaker at Argyle, was one of the first winemakers in the valley to fully embrace this clone when it was first introduced to Oregon back in the late l980s). The Willakenzie soil of Belle Pente Vineyard tends to produce wines with wonderful power and finesse, and this Chard is no exception. We were able to taste it with Brian when he was in town several months ago and loved the complexity and depth that has developed after a few years in bottle. Its fresh, tropical flavors and aromas are balanced by soft minerality and acidity. There isn’t much left, but we were able to get enough for the club, at $32. With added body and richness from extended lees aging and barrel fermentation, this is a very elegant Chardonnay that can be enjoyed with food, or on its own.