An Oregon Tasting

This happened less than 24 hours after our Cab/Merlot tasting… and poor Jeff hadn’t sufficiently hydrated before that tasting following his bike ride, and so was still feeling somewhat hung over when we set out for the Oregon tasting.

This 10-people-for-10-Oregon-Pinots tasting was hosted by Bill St. John, the frequent wine columnist for the Chicago Tribune and also the guy who runs our monthly wine tastings at work. He decided to host a series of intimate wine tastings, partly because he has to taste all these wines for his columns anyway and thought it might be fun to taste with others, and partly because his friend had kindly lent out the use of her beautiful wine cellar in Lincoln Park.

Since Dot is a frequent taster at Perman’s Wine Cellar, where Bill conducts regular tasting classes, she too got onto his mailing list for the series and managed to lend a spot for the afternoon’s tasting. In fact, she’d also purchased the line-up of wines for our previous evening’s tasting from Bill’s private stash!

Fun hour and a half, especially when we were treated to hilarious tales of Bill’s misadventures in tastings.

Willamette Valley, a Journey from North to South
2010 Atticus Wine Yamhill Carlton $24
This was the only label in the line-up that we recognized. Always fun to learn about new vineyards/wineries! Bill explained his thought process in rating wines… is this worth 24 “happies”, he asked. I thought so… it wasn’t the most complex wine, and given that I hadn’t any other bottles to compare it against, I thought I would spring $24 for it. At first whiff, I caught of scent of black pepper and immediately a steak of seared tuna appeared in my mind’s eye. But Bill was right though, it didn’t have a lingering aftertaste that made you pause.

2010 Carabella Vineyard Estate Chehalem Mountains $37
Volcanic soil gives a bigger perfume, apparently. This had a bigger nose with a rounder finish. Alex, one of the tasters, noted vanilla notes, to which Bill said that a third of the wine came from new barrels. Worth 35 “happies”? Possibly…

2011 Copper Mountain Vineyards near Chehalem $25
Oof. Funky nose! This tasted very rustic (which is a nicer way of saying not very refined). Bill told us that it’s made in a biodynamic style, which made me wonder if they didn’t pee on the soil. I wouldn’t pay 12 “happies” for this.

2011 Union Wine Co Kings Ridge $18
My notes say: “powder nose”… reminds me of the scent of rouge… tasted somewhat tart and bitter

2009 Youngberg Hill “Natasha” Dundee $35
This was the darkest Pinot of the day, and had a mouthful of tannins, which led Graham to comment that it didn’t taste very “pinot-y”.

2008 Youngberg Hill “Jordan” McMinnville $40
Another Youngberg. This one tasted more like a Pinot, with an earthy, barnyard nose and a heavy rounded finish.

2008 Amalie Robert Estate Selection (east of Salem) $50
Clear winner of the afternoon, and definitely worth $50 “happies”. Gorgeous nose – very complex, with notes of vanilla, minerals and berries. Silky and luxurious. What was surprising is that it was fermented whole cluster (vs. berry), because the tannins, while giving the wine its balance and structure, couldn’t really be discerned in the mouth. Beautiful.

2009 Johan Vineyards Estate (west of Salem) $28
Bill noticed that I’d scrunched up my face when I took a first taste, and asked why. It was fizzy, I blurted out, bemused. That’s not a sign of good winemaking, he let on, since it meant that the wine was still fermenting – a good 4 years after bottling!

2010 Brooks “Janus” Eola Hills Amity $35
The winemaker’s notes pegged this as “powerful and elegant”. I didn’t get its elegance… it seemed assertive and pushy to me as wine, but there was no denying it was powerful. Big stink, big dark red berries, big finish. Big everything really. Dot really liked this one, after the Amalie of course. I think it was her second favorite of the day, even more so than the Carabella.

Other Region
2009 Brandborg Vineyard & Winery Bench Lands Umpqua Valley $22
Our collective descriptions of this wasn’t the most flattering – “medicinal”, “cough syrupy”… it tasted colder, as if it hadn’t been made in a hot year (I thought wines from Oregon in 2009 was uniformly hot), with a somewhat thin finish. Or maybe, it was just because we’d tasted it right after the Brooks…

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