2018 Cowhorn, Viognier, $37
Winery Info: Bill and Barbara Steele purchased their property in southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley in 2002, with a dream of owning a piece of land where they could “create a new model of small-scale farming…economically viable, good for the community and good for the earth.” They found that their site had very similar characteristics to that of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and proceeded to plant southern Rhône grape varietals. They continue to focus on Rhône-style wines, farmed biodynamically. The New York Times calls Cowhorn “a Biodynamic cult favorite among chefs from San Francisco to New York.”
Winemaker: Bill and Barbara Steele
Grapes: 100% Viognier
Vineyard: Their estate vineyard at 1,550 feet in elevation in the Applegate Valley. With alluvial gravel soil.
Flavor profile: A complex, nuanced Viognier, with aromas of white flowers and peaches and layered flavors of citrus, tea leaf, and a hint of ginger. Very elegant and rich.
Production/Availability: The winery is sold out of this vintage but the distributor still has some available.
Drinkability: Now, or over the next few years.
Food Pairing: Mild korma or southeast Asian curries; seared scallops or other shellfish such as lobster or crab; or with root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes, or butternut squash soup.
2015 ROCO Winery, RMS Brut, $45
Winery Info: In 1987 Rollin Soles and his wife Corby Stonebraker-Soles (the RO and CO of ROCO) purchased a hillside property in the Chehalem Mountain Range with a perfect combination of elevation, soil type, and geological aspect, plus a natural spring. But for the following 15 years Rollin continued to make winery at Argyle Winery (which he co-founded). In 2001 Rollin and Corby planted their Wits’ End Vineyard on their site, and they produced their first vintage two years later—a wine that was later poured at the White House. He has now been making wines for three decades and his wines have been listed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the World 13 times, three of which were for his sparkling wines.
Winemaker: Rollin Soles
Grapes: 70% Pinot Noir (Dijon 115) and 30% Chardonnay (Dijon 95), aged 30 months in bottle.
Vineyard: Marsh Estate, Gran Moraine, Blossom Ridge, and Vista Hills vineyards. The Pinot Noir is grown on volcanic basalt and the Chardonnay on marine sedimentary soil.
Flavor profile: Rollin says that seamless flavor and a long fresh finish have become hallmarks of his RMS. Made in the traditional Champagne method, this one, from the warm 2015 vintage, is complex and smooth, with flavors of baked apple, poached pear, and toast. The creamy texture is balanced by a nice touch of bracing acidity.
Production/Availability: 120 cases made.
Drinkability: This sparkler is drinking beautifully now.
Food Pairing: On its own, or with shellfish, sushi, or fried calamari. Or try it with buttered, salted popcorn!