Friday, January 11, 2008

Five Nights of Oregon Pinot Noir - Part IV

The fourth night of our 2004 Oregon Pinot Noir festival brings BrooklynLady and I back to a sentimental favorite. Adelsheim was born in 1978, although the work began in or before 1971. David and Ginny Adelsheim are true Oregon wine pioneers. Not the very first to grow wine grapes, but among the first.

I honestly do not remember how I knew to visit Adelsheim when BrooklynLady and I toured Willamette wine country in the unusually sunny and warm first week of January, 2005. Yup, basically 2 years ago on the button. But we did visit, and what a visit it was! Not easy to find on the back roads outside of Newberg, but lots of fun driving around. Inside an unassuming building was this completely modern and impressive wine making facility with enormous stainless steel tanks and wooden barrels and old vintages of wines past lingering along the walls. And a cavernous and quiet cellar where the oak barrels rested with their bounty, waiting for their chance at the big time.

After our tour of the facility we tasted through some "wacky whites," as the like to call their Pinot Blanc and other white offerings, but the real prize for us was the Pinot. Don't get me wrong - Adelsheim makes good wine period, white, red, or déglace Pinot Noir dessert wine. In fact, it was an Adelsheim wine that recently won Eric Asimov's NY Times Tasting panel sampling of Oregon Pinot Gris.

But back to Pinot. We tasted the "entry level" Oregon Pinot Noir, produced every year, Elizabeth's Reserve, a blend of the best barrels from all of the vineyards, and one single vineyard wine, Quarter Mile Lane. We were dizzy with pleasure by the time we tasted the Quarter Mile Lane - these wines were just so characterful and memorable. I still have one bottle of 2001 Adelsheim Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard that I'm saving for something special with BrooklynLady.

There are five single vineyard wines made by Adelsheim: Quarter Mile Lane, Calkins Lane, Bryan Creek, Ribbon Springs, and Goldschmidt (named after a former Governor who used to own the vineyard). They are made most years, but if conditions make it impossible, the wine is not produced. There was no 2004 Quarter Mile Lane, for example.

We've enjoyed many a fine Adelsheim bottle since that trip in 2005. One that I particularly remember is the 1994 Elizabeth's Reserve that we drank while packing the night before our Loire Valley trip. We've tasted most vintages since 2001 of both the Oregon Pinot and Elizabeth's Reserve, and single vineyard wines here and there too. The Oregon wine is good, but it is not as good in its price point as the Elizabeth's Reserve or the single vineyard wines are in theirs.

I like what I think of as the Adelsheim style - ripe and fruity, fresh and clean, and true to the terroir of the Willamette Valley, with blue fruits and pine. Not overpowering, but firm and present in the mouth, great with lamb or other gamy meat. That said, I've not been as crazy about the wines from the 2004 as I was in previous vintages. Hard to tell if it's my palate that has changed, or if it is the wines. We decided to re-taste an Adelsheim wine for the fourth night of our Pinot festival, and we approached it with excitement, as we always do with Adelsheim.

2004 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Elizabeth's Reserve ($43 from the winery). Rich purple hue but completely translucent. Aromas of black cherry, spice, and cough syrup, a bit of pine also. A very nice nose, especially after a 90 minute decant. Very smooth texture with fine grained tannins, and a ripe dark fruited palate. This is sweet and sappy, but also a bit out of focus. It might need some more time to come together, although I think that the acidity is just not there to balance out and bring focus to the wine. Certainly very good stuff, but not the finest Elizabeth's Reserve I've tasted.

Maybe my palate has changed. Maybe Adelsheim was not entirely successful at handling the challenges of the 2004 growing season. Maybe I'm a total idiot. Who really knows. But I've had too much good wine from Adelsheim to stop now. Let's see what the 05 vintage brings.


Ikigai said...

Great post. A very complete description of your experiences both at the vineyard, and during tasting.

very nice format.

Anonymous said...

I'm following along with you Brooklynguy, wondering if you'll make Oregon wines sound appealing again, but we're only batting .250 so far! Mediocre in baseball and, to my way of thinking, very disappointing when it comes to opening purchased and long-anticipated bottles. Hope the last one is the best and that you really enjoy it. (Select carefully--the state of Oregon waits with bated breath.)

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks Matthew, and welcome to the site.

Steve - c'mon, they are SO appealing, i think. what about that belle pente. and the last wine we drank was just as good, as you'll see tomorrow. i'm way better at selecting now than i was when i bought some of these wines. and i think adelsheim is better than this particular bottle.

Jeff said...

While I'm not giving up on Oregon Pinot Noir, I find myself wishing the wines weren't quite as expensive as they are. That way a bottle I'm not completely fond of wouldn't be as painful.

RougeAndBlanc said...

I have virtually no experience with Willamette Valley Pinots. Would you say "blue fruits and pine; not overpowering" are their signature characteristics?

Brooklynguy said...

hi jeff - i understand what you mean. but the same is true in burgundy and champagne, and in barolo too. not that i am saying the wine region of oregon is the equal of of those places, but like those places, the pleasure is so intense with the good stuff that it is worth sifting through and risking some bad bottles. all part of the road to nirvana. try st innocent or belle pente or brick house or one of the others i've reviewed well here over the past two years. we seem to have similar palates, maybe you'll like one of them.

hi andrew- i experience blue fruits and something herbal to be part of the willamette terroir, but that might just be the producers i drink. balance is harder to find in oregon than in burgundy - riper fruit, higher alcohol. so try one, but choose wisely.

Anonymous said...

I have never ever tasted Oregon Pinot Noir wines, but these posts make me long for them. Seems us Europeans are late to the party (once again). Poor distribution doesn't help much of course...
Anyway, thanks for the interesting articles.

Brooklynguy said...

hey Steven - it would take some special thinking and financial backing, in my opinion, for a european importer to bring in the pinots of oregon when you have all of that great burgundy wine sitting there. the prices would be high too, with the shipping costs. that said, maybe someone will bring in the better bottles sometime and you'll get your tastes.

Anonymous said...

You could be right. On the other hand, even if Burgundy is only 300 miles from here, good burgundy wines still aren't cheap.
Also most winelovers I know are always on the lookout for something exciting, something new, so bring on the Oregon wines.
Well maybe I will ;-)

Brooklynguy said...

you know, with the exception of certain producers, Burgundy might be a better value than Oregon. So you're an importer - nice. bring in a bit of Belle Pente and St Innocent and see how it moves.