10 Feb 2010
Pinot. Just the mention of the word causes many wine lovers to begin to salivate at the light, sweet fruit. Pinot. This fickle grape drives wine makers crazy with its thin skin, susceptibility to weather, and its influence from the soil. The high-maintenance drama queen of wine perpetuates passionate prose and is the ire of Merlot lovers everywhere.
Oregon winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards manages to gently coax 310 acres into beautifully crafted Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir (among a few others). Wine Enthusiast calls Willamette Valley Vineyards, “One of Americas great Pinot Noir producers year after year.” As you’ll see in the video, I whole heartily agree.
While the wine I’ve tasted is a palate pleaser, even more impressive is the wineries stance on being a steward of the land. From the basic reduce, reuse and recycle to a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a world leader of sustainability. One impressive program offers fifty gallons of biodiesel to employees every month (10 employees participate).
Those that know me (or watched my reviews) know that I have a love / hate relationship with Pinot Noir. My limited experience with the grape has left me with a sour view of what it can produce. I’m not giving up! A wine that generates so much passion must have an impressive upside.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 13%ABV, 37,446 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very translucent and clear. Borderline amethyst like tone
- The Sniff: A moderately restrained nose that produces gentle whiffs of sweet cherries or cranberries, woody oak, and vanilla.
- The Sip: A little thin on the initial attack but opens up to delicate raspberry / cherry with a dash of vanilla. The finish is slightly sweet and tart like a SweetTart candy.
- The Score: At $25, I score this wine a 3 (out of 5). It’s a very nicely made Pinot Noir. It lacks the brightness of flavor to score higher. At under $20 on sale this would be a solid wine.
2007 Signature Cuvee
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 14.5%ABV, 305 cases produced
- The Swirl: Translucent and clear with moderate garnet tones. Very pretty – would make a nice piece of jewelry
- The Sniff: Very bright aroma of cherry and cola with hints of smoke and wood
- The Sip: Impressive balance, the initial taste feels slightly carbonated (like pop rock). The sweet cherries are not overwhelming and the finish is wonderfully round with the right amount of acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this wine may be out of reach for the majority of consumers but shows very well and deserves a score of 4 (out of 5).
Overall this round of Pinot Noirs has shown me why there is such a passion for this fruit. You can feel that the wine is a delicate dance and must be carefully crafted to produce a good product.
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
29 Nov 2009
Over the last few months I’ve read hundreds of wine pairings from great bloggers around the world (wide web). The general concensus of Thanksgiving pairings included a Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. While I respect the opinions of those blogs and I learned a great deal, the best advice I heard was from TheWineWhore who encouraged, “drink what you like.”
Our Thanksgiving adventure began with driving to Portland, OR from Spokane, WA. After 5 hours and 20 minutes in the car (impressive to those that know), we arrived ready to celebrate with family and with wine. Below is a recap of the five wines we enjoyed.
Frontera Cabernet Merlot Blend – $3
Okay, before you judge me and discredit this blog – it was offered to us by my Father in-law. In the spirit of diplomacy, I partook. It wasn’t Boone’s Farm but it was dull, bland, watery, and lifeless. If you’re in the need for a $3 bottle of wine, it’ll do but otherwise drink grape juice instead.
Thursday (Turkey Day)
2008 J Bookwalter Tercet (Roussane / Marsanne / Muscat) – $18
We brought this Columbia Valley, WA white blend from our Woodinville tasting trip. This was a great starting wine for the night. Very flowery roses, lemon and vanilla for the smell. The sip was crisp and believe it or not had hints of pumpkin pie (nutmeg and vanilla). The wine was overwhelmed by the sweet potatoes but held up well with the turkey, stuffing and cranberry. P.S. It is the only J Bookwalter white that is not sold out.
2008 Cline Cellars Cashmere (Mourvedre / Grenache / Syrah) – $21
Like the Led Zeppelin song of the same name this wine is big, bold and complex. This blend supporting the breast cancer network comes off very fruity on the sniff but the sip provides a balance of plum, pepper and cocoa. The Sonoma Valley, CA wine clashed with the cranberry but paired well with the mashed potatoes, gravy and green been caserole. Definitely want to find this wine again to try with pork, lamb or heavy pasta. Cline Cellars
2007 Pillar Box Red (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) $10 or less
The big fruit forward selection is a bargain from your local Costco. The fruitiness of the Shiraz was balanced out by the spice and boldness of the Cab. The sniff was not as complex as the previous wine and the finish had the most tannin. Pillar Box Red felt chewy when drank alone but pairing with the turkey, stuffing, and later the cheesecake it came alive nicely. The 90 point score in Wine Advocate seems a few points high but I will definitely pick this bottle up on the next trip to Costco.
2008 Oregon Pinot Noir – $13
This ‘best selling Pinot in Portland’ was the last of the Thanksgiving wines to be opened. The only thing paired with this wine was great conversation over global warming, health care, and my last piece of Eggnog cheesecake. At $13, Eola Hills Pinot was the hands down best value. The swirl was the lightest of all the wines we tried, translucent and brilliant. The cherry, vanilla smell reminded me of Cherry Dr. Pepper. The sip was light bodied with good tannin structure on the back end. Admittedly, I am not a Pinot lover, nor do I have vast experience in tasting them, but this wine scored high with me.
For the most part we bucked conventional wisdom. The wines we gave thanks over were chosen because they were ‘liked’ by the people who brought them. TheWineWhore’s advice is the best – drink what you like. If you don’t know what you like or have fears over food pairings, check out the hundreds of amazing reviewers out there (some are on my blog roll to the left).
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
14 Nov 2009
Left Bank is Today’s GROUPON OF THE DAY! < Click to buy
Get $25 worth of wine and food for only $12. Sign me up.
Tonight we were excited to explore a new(er) wine bar in downtown Spokane, Left Bank Wine Bar. I Saw a tweet that local musical genius Darin Hilderbrand was performing at 8pm, so we hopped in the Jeep, braved the snow and headed downtown. I brought my flip cam hoping to capture the essence of the place .
Left Bank is at 108 N Washington (although I refer to it several times incorrectly in the video – to my credit the door does say 105 on it, but that refers to the suite number at the American Legion building). Their logo is great and the building they are in is BEAU-tiful. While the space they have is on the long/narrow side, they make great use of it. The decor is fantastic juxtaposition of elegant chandeliers and exposed brick (tres-chic). Once word gets out about this place I think they’ll struggle with seating. Most of the available seating was at the bar.
Walking in to the great lighting, acoustic music, tall ceilings, and friendly fireplace transported us away from the cold dreary night of Spokane. The vibe in this place is trendy without feeling cold, warm without feeling like a lodge and hip without feeling like a night club.
We sat at the bar, introduced ourselves to the wine buyer and proceeded to order four glasses of wine (described later).
The small staff, busily tended to the needs of about 15-25 wine drinkers. I didn’t get a chance to look at the menu too closely, but did learn later that Left Bank offers light fair food service with salads, sandwiches, and paninis. We handily devoured a double dutch chocolate cheesecake (while not made onsite - it was very delicious). They have an intriguing menu of 3 and 5 cheese plates that I will have to experience during a future visit.
The wine selection is a nice balance of white and red, consisting of about 60 bottles (all available by the glass) ranging in price from $6-$10 per glass. A majority of the selection was Washington, Oregon, and California wine regions. New items are rotated on every 4-6 weeks (so stop by often to explore new tastes). If you have a glass you like, you can even buy the bottle and take it home.
The owner, Aaron Kelly, quickly introduced himself and was glad to have us around. He was a little apprehensive to be on camera, which is understandable because he was coming off a long shift and not feeling his best. After a brief chat, we talked at length to his wife, Katrina and learned of their journey to opening Left Bank April 2008. They are beautiful people, with a desire to share their passion for wine with others.
As the music continued, we enjoyed our wine and the conversation. Several new people joined the party, but very few left.
Check out my first ever on location review at Left Bank (November 14, 2009)
The place was clean, had a balanced atmosphere. I felt their business model and understood what they were going for. You can even pick and choose various wines from the menu for small pour flights to expand your wine experience. The staff was incredible and made all the patrons feel welcome and tended to. The restroom was a shared restroom with other building tenants, so no wow factor there (but it was clean). The wines were well priced for the quality (no $7 a glass Sutter Homes or Hogue Fume Blanc here). Highly recommend a stop after work, with a date, or before / after a show at the INB Performing Arts Center. Parking is either pay parking or metered parking (before 7pm). The location is near perfect walking distance from RiverFront park, the INB, and several downtown financial buildings.
Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel - This is one of our favorites that we’ve had several dozen times. I won’t review it here, but it is one of my all time favorite wines and the wine by which I measure all Zins (except maybe the Kana that I had in 2007). $25 retail
La Dolce Vita Pinot Noir; Oregon – I’m not a huge Pinot Noir fan, but I’m also a rookie when it comes to tasting them. The color is always intriguing. After the swirl, I wasn’t sure I wanted to taste the wine. Very much a musty, dirty, earthy smell. Not to be crude, but smelled like a wet dog. Kimberly came up with one of my favorite descriptions ever – “smells like a musty Aquanet hairspray smell after being at the bar all night” (not sure how she knows that). During the taste, I noticed a strong cigar taste with a hint of black licorice. At first I wasn’t a big fan. A finished about 1/2, then set it aside to taste other wines and to talk. After about an hour, I came back to it and it had settled quite well. Could be a good wine with a game meat, spicy pork, ect. For me, not a sit around and drink wine. $22
- Swirl – Great light plum color. Nearly see through, very jewel like
- Snif – As said above, very dirty smell, wet dog, smokey hair spray, cigar box
- Sip – After sitting became more tame, smooth on the finish, recommend with food
- Score 3-/5 (but I’m not a huge fan of Pinot Noir)
Two other wines were tasted (and possibly will be reviewed tomorrow – because right now, it’s 1AM). Thanks for watching and reading. Stop by and have your own experience at Left Bank – tell me about it here. Check in regularly as we explore the wonderful nectars of coffee, wine, (tea and more).
The DOTD (Drink of the Day) – for me my favorite was the Seghesio Zin – how about you? What are you drinking?
Enjoy life with friends and <drink.happy>