Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ahh! Memorial Day Weekend tasting in the Willamette Valley

Just avoid the parking lot which is known as Highway 99, and you'll be fine. Scholls Ferry Rd to Hwy 210, to North Valley Road is a great route into wine country. Today, along North Valley Road, there were at least six signs for new wineries of which I've never heard. What is the upper bound of all this grape development, I wonder? Is this a grape juice bubble? Is the unending rush of people and their gold into grape and bottle going to finally implode, sending much of the industry into ruin?

For the answers to these questions, tune in again in, say, three to ten years.

2007 here started late--bud break and bloom were a full month late . But most of the summer was warm and many vines caught up somewhat, so that nearing the typical harvest date range, they were only a couple of weeks late. But then early and torrential rains came. Some growers panicked and picked unripe grapes. Others picked during the rain, which diluted flavors. Some few, however, waited it out, and were rewarded with a very unusual long, warm second summer. In sites where the grapes could drain well and were allowed to hang until mid-to-late October, the fruit was OK. Otherwise, it was a decidedly sub-par year. So selection is critical; if you choose poorly, the wine is thin, the color weak, even for a pinot.

I've tasted many 2007 Pinots. With few exceptions, there is only so much a talented winemaker can do with non-idyllic grapes. The White Rose Dreamcatcher is a special find; those vines are very old and on rather steep slopes; the wine offers up a complex nose and good fruit. Some say that "leaner" pinots need time to reveal their fruit, and I hope that is so. But aside from Dreamcather, I'm not buying the '07s. Hold onto your wallet until the 2008s are available. I will be watching the Beaux Freres 2008 Pinots, and will advertise them next March and June. They are fabulous now, even though bottling is months away. I suspect there will be many fantastic pinots from Oregon sporting the '08 vintage on their labels. When they're more widely available, my glass and I will soldier through a number of them, so that we can all load up on quality pinot.

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