Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Premier Cru from Oregon

Okay, so I've been going gaga for Burgundy lately. I'm going there soon, I'm allowed to get excited. I don't want to forget my wine roots though - its Oregon that taught me that wine = love and I will try to stay true to that, in the sense that I will always give Oregon a little extra consideration when thinking about wine.

Tonight I re-connected with a friend from elementary school (!) and when I got home BrooklynLady had prepared a yummy looking fresh ham roast with marjoram, some roasted potatoes, broccoli rabe, and some roast apples. She rubbed her pregnant belly while asking me if I would open some wine. I was prepared (honestly) to have mineral water with dinner - I already had a few beers with my old buddy - but if the wife insists...I obey.

There is no vineyard or climate classification system in Oregon. If there were, I bet that some of Adelsheim's vineyards would be highly classified. They make several single vineyard wines, and Elizabeth's Reserve is a blend of wines from their best barrels of Quarter Mile Lane, Calkins Lane, Ribbon Ridge, and other vineyards. Other vineyards that might achieve high status include Shea, Seven Springs, Brick House, and Arcus. There are others, but these are the ones I know best. And as in Burgundy, different producers can make vastly different wines using grapes from the same source...

I want to taste premier and grand cru level wines to learn more about Burgundy before our trip. I have a couple of bottles of premier cru wine in the "cellar" but they are too young to open. So I opened a 2004 Adelsheim Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir, $43. This is a wine I would normally have to psyche myself up to actually open at 43 clams, but I want to taste the good juice, and Adelsheim is definitely one of the Oregon producers that I would say produce premier or grand cru level wine...every year, regardless of the quality of the vintage.

The verdict is not yet in on 2004 in Oregon. I haven't been crazy about the wines thusfar, but maybe they're just too young. This one though...WOW. Immediately upon opening you can smell the fresh cherries wafting up from the bottle. The same beautiful clear garnet as the Burgundy wines. A bit tight at first, in the nose and the mouth, not giving too much. Fine, set the table, put out some mineral water, plate the food, tell the wife about my old friend, put on some music, be patient...

An hour later this wine is positively singing. Smells of cooked and fresh ripe cherries, with faint vanilla oak and some alcohol heat in the background. At 14%, I'm not surprised to smell it. But compared to most Burgundies at 12% or 12.5%, that it significantly more alcohol. Bright cherry fruit, pepper and spices, and an undertone of earth are dominant in the mouth, with a bit of sharpness from the alcohol. There is a long finish that is pretty gamey.

Overall, this wine seems like an extremely talented teenager who if properly nurtured, will become a wonderful adult. I will save my two remaining bottles for at least a few years in the hopes that the various flavor and aroma components harmonize with each other. Still a bit disjointed now. But this is definitely top shelf wine.

This seals it - I am going to host a tasting of Pinot Noir, and guests can bring whichever Pinot they think will drink well right now. I will contribute an Oregon wine and a Burgundy, and we will all learn together. Let me know if you're in the area and interested...

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