Let’s talk wineries today, shall we? One of the first forays on this journey came two weeks ago, when the idea of this blitz on wineries was still fermenting in my head. The lovely people at Deux Vert (Mike and Patty Green) had sent an email out about an event Laurel Ridge (another great winery) was hosting. It was a guest winery weekend, featuring the good folks who use the Laurel Ridge facilities for making their wines. What could be better than a bunch of wineries under one roof?
My trusty sidekick (or am I hers?), Beth, was game for the gig so we loaded up and drove to Carlton, OR. Carlton is a lovely little town, and Laurel Ridge sits just northeast of it (address is 13301 NE Kuehne Road; www.laurelridgewinery.com). As a bonus, you will often be met at the car by one of the winery dogs who takes his job as chief greeter very seriously. On this day we had the joy of experiencing the wines of seven different wine makers. It felt like cheating on the whole “visit all the wineries” goal, but what a great idea this is. One tasting fee, several small winemakers many of whom do not have tasting rooms of their own. To be honest, it is events like this that have led me to some of my favorite wines.
On this day we had the good fortune to be introduced first to Domaine Meriwether (www.meriwetherwines.com). Let me just say, I love these guys! The gentleman who was running the tasting this day was wonderful, I wish he had his name on the card we took, but when he said that we were in for a graduate course in winemaking he wasn’t kidding. I really appreciated his time, patience, and willingness to explain his craft. When they open their new tasting room later in the spring, you can be sure I will be making the drive to Veneta.
Domaine Meriwether does sparkling wines in the Methode Champenoise. As the name implies, this is the way they do it in France. It is a complex and exacting method that pays off in a beautiful sparkling wine with complex and lasting bubbles. Our host was great in explaining the process (I think it helped that we stood there with pen and paper in hand, eagerly dashing off notes – everyone likes an appreciative audience!).
We started with the Discovery Brut, a nice, dry white champagne. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made from the second pressing. I liked the crisp acidity of this wine – this is one of the driest sparkling wines I have tasted from this area – and yet there is a great fruit flavor to it as well; very nicely balanced, and just really fun to drink.
We then moved on to the 06 Prestige Rose. This is a beautiful pink champagne, the color coming from the addition of a little bit of red pinot noir. Two thoughts came to mind – the first was that it reminded me of a pink champagne I love, Gosset Rose; the second (which I actually said out loud) was that it was sweeter than the first. I was corrected on the second. It isn’t so much sweeter as it has a fruiter tone to it. In other words, you taste the fruit, but it is still dry, dry, dry. The winemaker had an interesting thought on this – first days I am going to do a blind tasting with some friends to see if I can prove him right. Yes indeed, this was my sparkling wine purchase for the day. I’m thinking I am taking this one to the Bay Area with me in April to drink with Erik and Bob.
Next up was an 06 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley. My notes on this say it was a very ‘soft’ wine, this is not a big, bold, hit you in the face with a grape pinot gris. It is subtle, silky, and meant to be drunk with food. Some wines just are, and this is one of them. I could see this with seafood, easily. It needs a little something to bring it out, but nothing too spicy or overpowering.
Then we came to the 05 Chardonnay. Everyone will give you the whole ‘two camps’ spiel about this grape. Either you want a ton of oak and butter, or you don’t. Which is generally a way of saying ‘we did this all in stainless so if you like California Chards, you won’t like us’ or the reverse. I think there is a third camp, the group that likes a nicely balanced white. This one fits the bill. Sure enough, it is ½ oak, ½ stainless, and it has a lovely crisp acidity and great fruit. This is a perfect hot day on the porch kind of wine.
And finally we ended up the Pinot Noir Rose. Yes, I know. Rose. Every time I mention this to folks you can see them thinking “box of wine” or “woo hoo, white zinfandel.” Well, they are missing out. This one met my criteria of ‘summer in a glass.’ Pinot Noir Rose, when done right, is the perfect summer wine. It is fruity without being overly sweet, it is crisp and refreshing, it is a great sipper and is also great with the foods I associate with summer – salads, light fare, grilled veggies. This one was a summer in a glass wine. These guys did it right!
In Part II, more of our adventures at Laurel Ridge…