Tag Archives: Oregon Wine

Pinot and Oregon’s Panther Creek Cellars

20 Jun

For lovers of pinot noir, Ken Wright is the master of Oregon vinification. Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986, and his collaborator Tony Rynders, (celebrated for his work at Domaine Serene) took the reins as consulting winemaker at Panther in 2013 when Bacchus Capital Management acquired the operation. Together, management and winemaker strive for continued growth and excellence while seeking new heights and producing multi-faceted expressions of pinot noir as Panther Creek Cellars celebrates its 30th year.

With Panther Creek’s vineyards in six of Oregon’s greatest AVAs and nine iconic territories, Rynders has both the knowledge and the tools at hand to develop stunning wines, and a taste of them is all that is required to know that Panther Creek offers serious competition in quality wines.

 

Panther Creek 2014 Pinot Gris, 13%ABV, $20/bottle MSP

I’m normally reluctant about pinot gris made in the USA but Rynder’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA is closer to the Burgundian whites than some  would admit. While the 2013 showed as slightly more lush and creamy, the 2014’s expression is elegant and crisp with notes of golden delicious apple, lemon rind and honeydew melon. The medium-long finish has a savory balance between expressive fruit and zippy acidity with no barrel aging to cover imperfections. Delightful cold but beautiful as it warms and can show complete expression. It is becoming a solid value from Oregon in the $20 and under field.

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Panther Creek Single Vineyard 2014 Kalita Vineyard Pinot Noir. 14.3%ABV, $50/bottle MSP. 

Dark ruby in color; bright raspberry and cherry nose with green herbs; brisk cherry and red plum on the palate with subtle vanilla, baking spice, mineral and vegetal notes on the medium-long finish.  This beautifully feminine expression of pinot is fruit-forward with vibrant acidity, a gentle oak backbone and a complex mineral base of sedimentary soil. The jovial, friendly and well-spoken Arthur Kalita carries a jar of his Kalita soil to tastings (featured to the left of the bottle in the photo below) which is helpful to remember the layering flavors of the wine when the fruit and floral notes that drive it forward are capable of making you forget the complexity and beauty the Kalita vineyard offers in the bottle. If I were to cellar this, I’d expect it to be even more gorgeous and refined to classic perfection in six to ten years, as the ability is absolutely there for those who have the patience. Personally, I’d drink it now as the wine pairs gorgeously with a wide array of flavor profiles from meslcun-and-chicken sausage pizza, to Sockeye Salmon, but is brilliant on its own.

 

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Panther Creek 2014 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir

Offering a strong contrast to Kalita, the Schindler Vineyard provides a big, brawny and masculine expression of pinot noir. Deeper in color with a nose of massive black fruit, the palate proves dark black cherry, allspice and black pepper, and powerful acidity and tannins. To me, this is a pinnacle of age-worthy burgundy that can be enjoyed now while massive in proportion, or aged to a balance of perfection. The wine drinks gorgeously alone but simply sings with food, complementing duck, ribs, and beef tartare easily, bringing out additional floral notes as well as heavy tones of earth, cedar, granite and leather. A monumental wine that offers tremendous value in being affordable for those who love world-class pinot noir.  Thinking about joining an Oregon wine club? You should consider Panther Creek- I know I am!

 

PC Schindler

 

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Robert & Janet Schindler, with whom I just loved hanging out with and chatting about wine, sound, and cochlear implants. Seriously! 

 

When it comes to single vineyard pinot noir and pinot gris, it is worth your time to check out Panther Creek Cellars and specifically the Schindler and Kalita vineyard wines. Rynders is crafting great wines, and I only expect them to get better in quality. Currently, they offer excellent expression of both the feminine and masculine sides of pinot noir, are very Burgundian in style for Oregonian wines, and sell at competitive price point.

Need more proof?  Just taste it- the proof is in the glass.

à votre santé!

 

Youngberg Hill Vineyards

16 Apr

Winemaker Wayne Bailey is a quiet, warm, and unassuming man. His radiant smile beams like the afternoon sun when he talks of his children: both of his daughters and his wines. He’s a farmer at heart, a man who loves the land, lives to grow great fruit, and who respects the earth- insisting on sustainability, biodynamics, and organics across the board. When I hear those three words together, it often makes me wonder if there might be a trade-off in quality to maintain the lofty objectives. Youngberg   In this case dear readers, I can attest that I experienced a greater appreciation for his lofty goals and dedication to sustainability, biodynamics and organics because the wines pay off in the mouth. And if like me, you are also a French wine snob, these wines might actually remind you of wines from Burgundy. Let me wax poetic another time, and let’s get to the wines!

Youngberg Hill 2014 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.5%, MSRP $25/bottle.

Color: pale straw with a slight tinge of green. On the nose, I detected an initial smokiness that dissipated quickly (probably from travel) and a few moments later had gone with no lingering trace, instead my nose filled with melon and white pear. On the palate, bosc pear, apricot, and kiwi fruit meet solid acidity in a savory blend with a gentle rolling finish that shows hints of vanilla, fresh cedar, and clay. Overall, it drinks like a mature savory white with a neutral barrel sense, not buttery, and delicate enough to drink on its own but stellar when paired with food. Obviously fish or salads would be an easy pairing, but this Pinot Blanc stood up to spicy meatballs and gnocchi in a truffle cream sauce. I have to admit, I fell a little bit in love with this pinot blanc and wanted to steal the bottle to take back with me.  If you are  new and perhaps a little afraid of pinot blanc, this is THE wine to taste to try it out: a shining example of the grape that will make you want to drain your glass over and over again. IMG_1146

 

 

Youngberg Hill 2012 Cuvee Pinot Noir,  Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 14.5%, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is light purple with violet edging. On the nose: iris, rosebush, and a hint of black fruit. In the mouth, young black plum, black cherry, with a medium finish showing notes of pepper, clove, oak and silty clay. I was expecting a pinot with much brighter fruit and thought this wine is ideal to drink right now. Wayne explained to me that for the Cuvee, he made single vineyard barrels of two different grape clones with six- and seven-year old vines and blended the barrels together to make a wine that was approachable upon release (requiring less age). It works- it’s a “drink me now” wine that shows the fruit with a sense of maturity, good acidity and tannin. It sang with rich and savory dishes but I could also see this being great to watch the sunset on a picnic with a fruit and cheese basket while the kids play nearby, and lasting across dinner and with dessert.

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Youngberg Hill 2012 Jordan Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, Oregon.  ABV 13.4%, MSRP $40/bottle.

From a four- acre plot planted in 1989 comes the single-vineyard “Jordan” Pinot Noir. Color is bright violet, while the nose shows gentle black cherry, vegetation, and hints of truffle and leather. In the mouth, fruit forward cherry and red raspberry with a better initial balance blend. I noticed significantly less spice than the Cuvee, while the finish is showing more complexity and more notes overall- with spice box, sandalwood, green pepper, slate and loam. The Jordan pinot is a wine to lay down and enjoy in 6-10 years when it will have subtle fruit and tons of complexity. This is a young thoroughbred that needs time to come into its own and will pay off beautifully down the road, but will require patience to get there. 

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As an independent winemaker, Wayne Bailey is someone to keep on your list of people to watch. Without fanfare and pomp, he simply demonstrates how much he loves the time spent in the vineyards by producing great fruit that in turn are used to make delightful wines. I’m glad I got to spend time with him and am looking forward to enjoying more of his products in the future, both in the short and long run.

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Have you tried Youngberg Hill wines? Please comment, and share your experiences with us! 

à votre santé!

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