Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The 2008 Oregon Pinot Show: 6 Artisan Producers from a Historical Vintage

Pinot Noir grapes in Oregon.  Photo by James Moises

"In the 2008's, you've got the best vintage Oregon has ever produced, the kind of vintage Oregon winemakers always hoped they could produce." Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator.

Praise for the 2008 vintage in Oregon has been unanimous, from the New York Times, to Wine Spectator and all of the ratings rags, to the Oregon Wine Awards and more, it is simply superb.  With an uncharacteristically dry September and October, the warm days and cool nights allowed grapes to achieve ripeness without sacrificing the freshness provided by good acidity.  The wines are sought after by collectors and wine enthusiasts around the world making the 2008's harder and harder to find.

2010 harvest in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  Photo by James Moises
But on Wednesday, August 22, we are giving 20 lucky people an opportunity to taste 6 beautiful wines made by small artisan producers from this historic vintage.  The wines will be presented by James Moises, Oregon producer and distributor of limited production wines from Oregon and Washington, and promises to be an unforgettable evening of fine wine and great company!

James in the vineyards, Oregon's Willamette Valley.  Photo courtesy of James Moises
This is a seated event and reservations and prepayment are required.  We have only 8 spots remaining so please contact us at 504.304.0635 to secure your spot. $30

Here's a look at the line up:
2008 J. Daan Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, $24, 450 cases produced
Justin and Megan Van Zanten own this small winery in the Yamhill County town of Carlton. J Daan Wine Cellars, currently housed at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, is the effort of Justin and Megan Van Zanten. Justin's "day job" is as assistant winemaker to Andrew Rich, and he worked previously at major Oregon wineries, including Adelsheim and Chehalem.

The wine is produced from the Croft-Williamson Vineyard and Apolloni Vineyard grapes. This vintage shows off the best of Willamette Valley Pinot-- lush flavors of raspberry and cherry with an elegant finish and silky mouthfeel.

2008 Lumos Wine Company Pinot Noir Temperance Hill, $36, 688 cases produced
The Lumos Wine Company is the product of the efforts of its owner/winemaker, Dai Crisp, who was first introduced to viticulture in 1986 when he helped his parents plant a small, 10-acre vineyard on their farm in Wren, Oregon. In 1990 he became manager of Croft Vineyards where he began to develop his own unique style of grape growing. Then in 1999, Dai took on the 100-acre site at Temperance Hill Vineyard, where he is currently manager. While always interested in the process of wine-making, it wasn’t until Dai had proven to himself and others that he could grow an outstanding wine that he finally made the leap with his own label.

The wine won Double Gold at the Oregon Wine Awards! Lovely, brush-tinged juicy red fruits highlight this classy, fresh, delicious wine. Cristom is one of those producers who can do virtually no wrong. Great wine. Renowned vineyard manager meets famous vineyard. Result: Terrific wine. This stuff is dense, purple-dark, and laden with deep flavors and minerally structure.

2008 Capitello Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, $37.50,
Ray Walsh made King Estate's white wines from its start, developing the US's best known Pinot Gris. He rose quickly at King Estate, highly regarded for his ability to bring out the very best in Oregon grapes. Ray left King Estate last year to make his own Capitello wines.  Ray is a native New Zealander, and worked his way up from "Cellar Rat" to "Cellar Master" at Limeburner Bay, Villa Maria, Waitakere, and Coopers Creek Wineries before moving to the US in 1995. He started as Cellar Master at King Estate in June of 1995, then became winemaker in June of 1999. He was instrumental in the development of the King Estate wine style, and in the high ratings and national respect the winery has today.

The wine is sourced from two vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley; Mary’s Peak Vineyard (located just south of Philomath) and Rainbow’s End Vineyard (located in Monroe). Both vineyards are warm sites that are planted on Bellpine soil, offering richness to the fruit as well as elegance to the finished blend
This Pinot Noir gives off rich aromas of ripe raspberry & pomegranate fruits, while offering elegant oak spice, floral and earth tones. In the mouth, a full display of rich berry fruit and silky tannins shows  up front. The intensely bright raspberry -blueberry fruit along with oak tones fill out the mid-palate, leaves you with a viscous raspberry linger.

2008 De Lancellotti Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountain, $63
The De Lancellotti Family Vineyard's owners Paul and Kendall de Lancellotti bring to Oregon Pinot Noir a dedication to organic and sustainable grape growing practices that is rare to find and hard to achieve.
A hallmark of Paul and Kendall's winemaking philosophy is their commitment to stewardship of the land. In 2004, they received Biodynamic certification for their 27 acre vineyard. Certification is a complex process involving a commitment to the land and to the cycles of nature, as well as to strictly regulated winemaking practices. The Bergstrom and the deLancellotti Family Vineyards operations were the first two vineyards in the Willamette Valley to be certified Biodynamic. In 2008 they received the highest level of Biodynamic farming, Demeter certification. Using France's great Burgundies as his benchmark, Paul deLancellotti aims to bring subtlety and elegance to his signature Pinot Noirs.

IWC & WS 92 points: Full, bright red. Sexy bouquet of raspberry, cherry-cola and potpourri, with subtle woodsmoke and anise qualities in the background. A juicy, spicy midweight that offers sweet red and dark berry flavors and a zesty mineral spine. Darker fruits come up on the finish, which lingers with impressive juicy persistence. Very attractive right now but has the balance to reward another four to six years of bottle aging, at a minimum.

2008 Dominio IV Pinot Noir Poetry and Roses, $33, 205 cases produced
The husband and wife team Leigh and Patrick are the driving forces behind the winery, supported by Leigh’s parents Liz and Glenn. Leigh is in charge of the Dominio IV vineyards, but her main job is to be vineyard manager and co - general manager for Archery Summit, a producer of ultra-premium Pinot Noirs in Oregon. Leigh studied viticulture at the University of California at Davis and joined the team at Archery Summit in 2000. Patrick also studied at the University of California at Davis and is the winemaker of Dominio IV.

WA 91 points: The medium ruby red 2008 Pinot Noir of Poetry and Roses displays an enticing bouquet of exotic spices, incense, floral notes, and assorted red fruits. This sets the stage for a sweetly fruited, elegant wine that also contains plenty of density, impeccable balance, and a lengthy, seamless finish. Drink this stylish effort through 2019.

2008 Moises Holmes Hill Vineyard, $38, 100 cases produced
Born and raised in New Orleans, Jesuit and LSU graduate, ER doctor and professor, Dr. James Moises is a busy man. Somehow between working in the ER and teaching, he is finding time to follow his other passion, making wine. And not just any wine, we’re talking very small production, serious Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley made with sustainable vineyard practices and minimalist intervention in winemaking.  James’ first vintage release was in 2006, producing an old vine Pinot with fruit from friend Mark Wahle’s original family plot that was planted in 1974, and a Holmes Hill Pinot from the recently planted 40 acre site. Total production was only 150 cases in 2006 and in 2007. With the release of the Vieux Carre, a blend of the old vine Yamhill Carlton and the Holmes Hill fruit, production increased to 300 cases. While Mark Wahle is the winemaker, James is there every step of the way, involved from planting to bottling and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves the creative process involved in “taking this cluster of fruit and producing something really special that will bring enjoyment to others.”

The Holmes Hill is my current favorite of James' 2008s and it has been since the night we did the 2008 release tasting of all of his wines.  Immediately drinkable, yet it has all the right stuff for aging.  Great plush, silky mouthfeel, delicious dark cherry fruits with balanced acidity and minerality it is a knock out! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Positano Bites Deep...

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”  John Steinbeck

 After 13 hours of flying and two tiring train rides, the five of us, later tagged as "le cinque donne", lug our suitcases down the very long train track in Napoli. At the end of the platform a pack of Italian male limo drivers awaits, holding up signs, maneuvering around each other, ready to whisk the "stanieri" to destinations on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.  As I yell out into the crowd asking for Vincenzo, a jovial face makes his way to us.  An infectious smile with an easy, friendly manner, we exchange kisses on the check, feeling immediately comfortable with our new found friend and ready for the adventure that awaits.

Vincenzo Fusco, our friend and driver in Positano

Deliriously dazed, we pile into his van and make two request: bathroom and espresso.   With chaos of Napoli drifting behind us, Mount Vesuvius to our left and the bay of Naples to our right we leave the autostrada and begin ascending the infamous Amalfi Coast highway.  Zig zagging our way up past towering rocky bluffs and plunging gorges, the beautiful combination of the mountains meeting the crystal clear waters, I've never seen more spectacular views.  The pastel colored buildings clinging to the cliff ledges, sparkling in the afternoon sun, beckoning, seducing enchanting, what took me so long to get here and how am I ever going to make myself leave this place?

Our first look at Positano

We stop at the pinnacle of one of the cliffs on the highway and both requests are answered at a little tabacchi perched on the edge of the rock.  A little further down the road Vincenzo makes another stop giving us our first drop dead view of Positano.  Nestled in the rock crevice below, its deep blue water dotted white with boats, the dark pebbly beach lined with colorful umbrellas, we have arrived in paradise.  We descend, twisting, turning narrow streets bring us to the road above the villa.  I say "above" because to reach it you walk down a steep flight of 75 steps to reach the terraced ledge along which sits Le Sirene, our home for the next week.  We embrace Chiara, owner of the villa, as two burly porters lift the luggage of 5 women on their backs and bring it down the ancient stairs all in one trip.

View of Positano from Villa Le Sirene

I'd looked at the pictures of the view from the villa's terrace a thousand times, but as Chiara threw open the 12 foot tall double doors, nothing prepared me for the scene that awaited.  All of my senses are awakened from the exhausting trip as we walk out on the terrace and absorb the scene below us.  Sounds of waves crashing, children laughing, dishes clanking in the restaurants below, conversations drifting up the hillside, this little town is so alive with the most wonderful energy.  Salty ocean smells, clean sea air, and aromas from the seaside cafes, accompanied by visually stunning views, it draws me in as no place ever has, and we've only been here 5 minutes...

Photos of Da Vincenzo, Positano

We settle in and decide on an early dinner followed by a good nights sleep to prepare for our first full day on the coast.  Out of the villa, puffing our way back up the 75 steps we came down earlier, we go left on the street to "Da Vincenzo"  a beautiful little spot on the main drag.  Of course it's early, way to early for any respectable Italian or anyone accustomed to the late dinner hour in Italy, but they we're totally accommodating to our bleary eyed and barely functioning group of tired women.

As soon as I see the menu, I know how I wanted to start my meal.  Insalata del Mare (salad from the sea), piled with fresh mussels, tiny delicate clams, langostino, octopus and squid in a deliciously simple marinade of local lemon juice and olive oil, is a staple on the Amalfi Coast and something that should not be missed.

And now the decision on the wine.  Familiar and beloved varieties like Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino are on the white wine list, but I want something different, something that would taste like this wonderful  place.  So I choose from an unknown producer (who we actually got to visit on our next trip...), Tenuta San Francesco, and select their inexpensive Costa d'Amalfi Tramonti Bianco, a light, crisp blend of native varieties, biancolella, pepella and falanghina grown in a deep valley further down the coast.  Beautiful floral and herbal aromas with wonderful minerality and acid, it is the absolute perfect match for la cucina del mare in Positano.  It became one of our favorite wines on the trip, our go to bottle to accompany any of the fresh seafood dishes, and something I can't wait to have each time we go back.

Le cinque donne in Positano

Sipping on that wine, tasting the sea in that wonderful dish in that little restaurant with 4 of my favorite people around me, is a moment I will never forget.  A peacefulness comes over me, a feeling that there was no where else in the world that I want to be in this moment in time and it is a feeling that stays with me the entire visit.  There is something about this town, the warmth of its people, its natural beauty, culture, wine and cuisine that keep me coming back year after year.  It's affect on me is profound and hard to capture in words, all I know is that it keeps calling me back and I can't help but listen...

Links to our favorite people and places mentioned in this post.  Please tell them Beth & Kerry from New Orleans sent you...
Taxidriver Positano,  Vincenzo Fusco
Chiara & Giuseppe, Villa Le Sirene
Da Vincenzo Ristorante
Tenuta San Francesco

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Dangerously Simple Summer Cocktail

Sunday evenings = cocktail time.  We've done a long, hard bike ride at the end of a busy week, and a nice refreshing beverage is the perfect recovery tonic!  We love citrus based cocktails and this one with fresh lemon juice, ginger and agave nectar added to some Square One Organic Basil Vodka is the BOMB!

1 1/2 oz. Square One Basil Vodka

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz. agave nectar or simple syrup

1/2-1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger

Combine all in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into a rocks glass.  Garnish with a fresh Basil leaf and a little of the chopped ginger.


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