2009 Soléna Estate, Domaine Danielle Laurent, Pinot Noir
Frenchman Laurent Montalieu’s journey to Oregon was a bit roundabout. He grew up on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, but returned to his family home in Bordeaux during the summers and for high school. During those visits, he developed his interest in viticulture. After studying in Bordeaux and working at top wineries, both in France and in California, he became a partner and winemaker at Oregon’s WillaKenzie Estate. While there, he and his wife Danielle bought an 80-acre estate as a wedding gift to each other (they registered with premium nurseries to receive Pinot Noir vines as their wedding gifts!) This estate vineyard, Domaine Danielle Laurent, is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, next to the stellar Shea Vineyard and planted on predominantly Willakenzie soil with Pommard and Dijon clones. In 2003 Laurent left WillaKenzie to focus exclusively on his own winery with his wife, which they named Soléna after their daughter. This Pinot comes from the generous 2009 vintage and it shows the inviting earthy undertones typical of the vineyard, with mushroom and forest floor notes overlaying the elegant fruit flavors. It is rather rich and opulent, as you might expect from the warmer vintage, but totally in balance and utterly expressive. They made 240 cases and it is $45. You could enjoy this one anytime over the next five years or so and with its complexity, it could stand up to heartier fare, perhaps even a nice cassoulet.
2011 Quady North, Cabernet Franc
When Herb Quady began his own winery in southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, he borrowed the name of his parent’s eponymous winery in Madera, California. What he didn’t borrow was their focus on dessert wines, which has won them much accolades throughout the country. Instead, Herb focusses on three grapes, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier, with some forays into southern Rhône grapes. We poured his Grenache-based Rosé at a recent tasting and it was one of the tastiest northwest Rosés we’ve had in a long time. But for this month’s club we present his Cabernet Franc. This grape clearly does well in the climate and soils of southern Oregon. It is softly spicy with mellow flavors of purple fruits and a bit of cocoa. As we were considering it for the club, a customer who is studying for his sommelier exam happened to be in and asked to try it blind, knowing only that it was from Oregon. After a bit of contemplation he guessed that it was Cab Franc, perhaps from 2011, and probably the Rogue Valley. Pretty impressive! And what it also shows is that this wine is varietally correct and characteristic of both the vintage and its source in southern Oregon. It is $37 and is ready to drink now though, as the winemaker notes on the bottle, it will also age nicely for another decade or so.