Willamette Valley – The Last Sip

On our last day of wine tasting we decided to take it a little easier since we were driving to Troutdale, east of Portland, for a wedding reception in the evening. We wanted to try more white wines so we headed for Adelsheim Vineyard since they have several whites. We were disappointed however that they were only pouring one white and it was a wine we were not interested in. So we chatted a while with them and bought a couple of bottles of their Auxerrois (easy for you to say!) since we had liked previous vintages. This in an uncommon varietal, the clones of which came from Alsace. Less than 500 acres are probably planted worldwide.

We decided we would go to The Carlton Winemakers Studio hoping they would have some whites of interest on their pouring menu. We were greeted by Elyse, the tasting room attendant and recent transplant from Philadelphia. We told her we were interested in tasting white wines and she was very helpful and informative. We had a great time chatting with her and trying different wines. We tasted reds and whites including some older vintages.

Elyse started us off with a 100% 2008 Roussanne made by Andrew Rich. He sources the grapes from a 14 acre vineyard in the Columbia Valley. Elyse explained how little Roussanne is grown in the USA and where it is grown. We were surprised to learn the total acreage is very small. Not having much experience with Roussanne, I couldn’t say if it tasted true to the varietal but it had a nice nose, great flavor and good acid. A very nice summer drinking wine. Then she poured a 2009 Brittan Vineyards Chardonnay that was produced for a wedding that ended up not happening. Well, we are really sorry about the wedding, but the wine was very nice. Great Chardonnay flavor with very light oak, good acid and a really long finish.

Next we tried a 2008 Hamacher Chardonnay (Cuvee Forets Diverses) using the grapes from four different vineyards. Another very nice Chardonnay and again, not too much oak like California vintners often do. Next Elyse switched us to some Pinot Noir, she served a 2007, 2005 and 2003 Lazy River Pinot Noir. All three were very good. We did like the 2005 the best but the 2003 was still showing well, maintaining a ruby color with good complexity and raisin flavors. The 2005 showed great complexity with an earthy nose, complex fruit flavors with a great pop of cedar and spice on the mid palate.

Jeff Woodard, the Wine Director for The Carlton Winemakers Studio, was also at the Studio and offered us a couple of wines. One was the 2008 Retour Pinot Noir which is his sister Lindsay Woodard’s, wine. Eric Hamacher is the winemaker. Lindsay and Jeff are sixth generation Oregonians and have a deep sense of the terroir of the Willamette Valley. The wine is a blend of six vineyards from six different AVAs and vines which are 38-42 years old. It is hand harvested and uses natural yeast. The flavors tasted of bright, complex, rich berry fruit with moderate tannins and good acid. It was a very nice Pinot Noir. 600 cases are produced.

Jeff also poured us the 2009 Memoirs by Ayoub Vineyard. It is a blend of three vineyards. Mohamad Ayoub is one of the 17 vintners whose wines are made at the Studio. The Memoirs is a second label for Ayoub Vineyard. He came through the tasting room briefly, but we didn’t have a chance to talk to him about his wines.

Next we went back to two Andrew Rich wines. We didn’t know he also loves to make Rhone varietals in addition to Pinot Noir. The first was the 2008 Mesalliance Columbia Valley, a blend of 46% Malbec, 46% Syrah and 8% Petit Verdot. This is a very interesting wine because you can pick up both the Malbec and the Syrah in the flavor. It has a nice light body and will make a good summertime red. The last wine was Andrew’s Coup d’Etat Columbia Valley. It is made up of 49% Grenache, 32% Mourvedre and 19% Syrah. The Grenache was evident in the nose and flavor with moderate tannins. Another nicely made wine.

We had a great time and tasted more than we expected. We really want to express our thanks to Elyse and Jeff for making our last day in the Willamette Valley so nice and interesting.