This Week’s Wine Tasting
American Wines from Oregon and California
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Qupe and Adelaida
Willamette Valley Vineyards– “Founder, Jim Bernau, purchased the Estate site in 1983 and cleared away the old pioneer plum orchard hidden in scotch broom and blackberry vines. He planted Pinot Noir (Pommard and Wadenswil clones), Chardonnay (Dijon and Espiguette) and Pinot Gris. In the beginning he hand watered the vines with thousands of feet of hose.
Numerous classes at UC Davis, and seminars from here to France, sharpened Jim’s viticultural skills and in 1989 he was ready to build his dream–a world class winery in the Willamette Valley—and make cool-climate varietals, especially Pinot Noir, in sufficient quantities to be served and sold in the best restaurants and bottle shops in the world.
Our approach is to grow, by hand, the highest quality fruit using careful canopy management, and to achieve wines that are truly expressive of the varietal and the place where they are grown. Since we ferment and barrel each vineyard lot separately (sometimes as small as two barrels) we can save the best barrels for single vineyard bottlings and Signature Cuvée.
Our stylistic emphasis is on pure varietal fruit characters, with attention to depth, richness of mouthfeel, and balance.”
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013
Willamette Valley, Oregon. “Depth of extract, richness, big mouthfeel but with elegance and ability to age. The grapes were picked at peak ripeness and the whole clusters were then lightly pressed. The must was cold settled and racked to another stainless steel tank where it was inoculated with 3 special strains of yeast which promote a rich mouth feel. Fermentation lasted approximately 5 weeks at 55-60 degrees F. The wine was sur-lee aged, stirring the tank twice monthly.
Straw in color, this Pinot Gris offers aromas of tropical papaya and starfruit with a layer of intricate white floral notes. A fruit-forward palate of kiwi, tangerine and peach are accented by a touch of warm spice and a finish that is crisp, clean and refreshing. The juicy acidity strikes the perfect balance of lush fruit and freshness.”
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Whole Cluster 2013
Willamette Valley, Oregon. “The stylistic vision of this wine is to capture pure Pinot noir fruit with beautiful depth and structure, through whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration. Our winemaking philosophy demands attention to detail from vineyard to bottle. The vineyards for this wine are chosen to complement this unique style of wine. The whole grape clusters (including the stems) are gently conveyed into stainless steel tanks that have been filled with CO2 gas. Yeast is then added, tank heated to 85 degrees, and lid closed tightly to exclude any oxygen. As juice is liberated from the fermenting whole clusters, it is periodically and gently pumped off and allowed to ferment separately for around 21 days. Pressing takes place when aromatic and taste characters are ideal and tannins still gentle. After pressing, fermentation is completed over a 7 – 10 day period in stainless steel tanks. PH is monitored closely during malolactic fermentation until the desired balance is achieved.
As refreshing as liquid fruit salad in a glass. Bright ruby in color, this wine opens with vibrant aromas of fresh cherries, strawberries and clove with a hint of earthiness. Flavors mirror aromas with a fruity and sweet entry, juicy mid-palate flowing into a soft, well-rounded finished accented by mouthwatering acidity. Enjoy now through 2017.”
Qupe– “While working at Zaca Mesa Winery, Bob began buying grapes and barrels, and foregoing a paycheck in exchange for use of the winery’s equipment. In 1982, he founded Qupé and produced Chardonnay, Syrah and a dry rosé of Pinot Noir, for a total of 900 cases. Bob struck out on his own and left Zaca Mesa Winery following the 1983 harvest, renting space in other area wineries to make wine for Qupé.
As Qupé’s production grew, Bob focused his efforts on Syrah and other Rhône varieties, but continued to craft ever-popular Chardonnay, which helped to pay the bills. In 1989, Bob joined his old friend Jim Clendenen (who founded Au Bon Climat in 1982) to build a winery of their own under a lease agreement with Bien Nacido Vineyards. The two continue to produce their wines at the elegant facility, located on the Santa Maria Mesa.
Over the years, Bob and Jim have mentored dozens of winemakers, including Jim Adelman, Gary Burk, Frank Ostini and Grey Hartley, Paul Lato, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, Morgan Clendenen, and Gavin Chanin. Proving that the wine business can be a true family affair, Bob’s two older sons, Ethan and Luke Lindquist, have become winemakers, while his daughter, Paige, developed and managed Qupé’s tasting room and wine club for the first 4 years. With his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, as winemaker, Bob has partnered in a second winery, Verdad, which specializes in Spanish varieties.”
In 2002, Bob and Louisa purchased an 80-acre ranch in the Edna Valley near the city of San Luis Obispo. The following year they moved to San Luis Obispo with their then two-year-old son, Theo. In 2005, the couple installed the 40-acre Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, which is planted to Pinot Noir, Marsanne, Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Albariño, and farmed according to strict biodynamic standards.”
Qupe Syrah 2012
Central Coast, California. Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Edna Valley. “The higher percentage of Paso Robles grapes give the wine a more up front fruit character, but still with the trademark spice and savory characters that you expect in our Central Coast Syrah.” “This is a pretty classic bottling of our Central Coast Syrah, our 31st consecutive vintage! The cooler climate grapes lend a savory, spicy character with refreshing acidity and balanced alcohol. The warmer climate grapes give the wine a more forward fruit character and add suppleness and earlier drinkability.”
Jen’s note- Pretty color, deep ruby/garnet with magenta edges. Warm and intense blueberry and raspberry aromas. Spicy and juicy with some smoked meat and gamey qualities with floral notes. Acid and tannins are surprisingly soft. Very good.
Qupe Maxtap Cuvee 2011
Central Coast, California. 64% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 3% Mourvedre. “Various lots were fermented separately using traditional techniques including manual punch-downs and manual pump-overs, aged for 14-15 months in French oak barrels (mostly neutral) and lightly fined with egg whites to soften the tannins. Like our Central Coast Syrah, Maxtap is a blend of predominately cool climate grapes that provide freshness, spice, acidity and balanced alcohol and warmer Paso Robles fruit that adds plush, fruit forward character.” “This is a wine that works well with foods that would normally be served with a rich red. With its soft tannins, plump fruit and spices this wine works well by itself as well. The aromas and flavors show nice berry fruit and dried cherry with hints of tobacco and wild herbs. This wine is not meant to take up cellar space but if you are so inclined should continue to age nicely for 5-8 years.”
88 Wine Advocate– “A solid value and a fun, delicious drink, the 2011 Maxtap Cuvee is a blend of 64% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo and 3% Mourvedre that spent 14-15 months in mostly neutral oak. Clean and classically styled, with bright cherry, saddle leather, underbrush and spice…”
Adelaida– “Adealida’s seven distinct family owned vineyards lie in the hillside terrain of westside Paso Robles, 14 miles from the Pacific Coast. Ranging from 1500-2000 feet in elevation these low yielding vines are challenged by chalky limestone soils, afternoon blasts of cool marine air, and a diurnal temperature swing of 40-45 degrees.”
“In 2012, Adelaida Cellars welcomed Jeremy Weintraub as Winemaker. “Jeremy brings an enormous amount of experience and perspective to our winery,” says Adelaida general manager Jessica Kollhoff. “We are very excited about what he sees in our vineyards and how he works with vineyard and cellar crews to craft the best wines for our customers.”
“I have always thought of myself as a winegrower, more than a winemaker,” says Weintraub. “And that philosophy aligns with the concept behind Adelaida. With some of the most compelling vineyard sites on the West Side of Paso Robles producing stunning fruit, my job is to capture that quality in the bottle.””
Robert Parker says of Adelaida: “A winery that flies under the radar, Adelaida Cellars consistently produces classy, balanced and fruit filled wines that show the best of the region. They’re always well-made and highly drinkable.”
Adelaida Pinot Noir Estate 2012
Paso Robles, California. Barrel aged 18 months; 100% French oak; 31% new. “A warm “Paso” summer re-energized these venerable old vines following the devastating loss from the frost of 2011. Dating from 1964, these gracefully gnarled vines from Adelaida’s HMR Estate are the oldest continuously farmed Pinot Noir vines in the Central Coast. Success here is due to the cooler microclimate of this mountain vineyard and the underlying chalky calcareous soils, a rarity in California. While we cannot make a clonal attribution, these early smuggled imports from France were deemed “suitcase clones”. Distinguished by their pine cone shaped clusters and small berry size the resulting wine displays a distinct Burgundian character. Grapes are picked at night, fermented in open top vats utilizing indigenous yeast cultures and matured in light toast French oak barrels, 1/3 new.”
Adelaida Zinfandel 2011
Paso Robles, California. 85% Zinfandel, Carignane 15%. Barrel aged 22 months; 100% neutral French & Hungarian oak. “This wine is based primarily on grapes from a Westside Paso Robles neighboring vineyard and our Michael’s Estate Vineyard. Our vines are heritage clones (cuttings grafted from a neighbor’s century old vineyard), head trained, with 12 foot spacing between individual plants. This method promotes deep roots in the search for scarce ground water and consequently smaller yields. Due to the cooler vintage fruit was not harvested until mid October, to allow longer hang time and optimize ripeness. Carignane, often partnered with Zinfandel in old vine field blends, freshens up the ripe character of Zinfandel and adds a unique, spicy edge. Open top fermented with hand punch downs, the new wine matured in a combination of neutral French and Hungarian oak barrels.” 980 cases produced.
90 Wine Advocate– “Slightly more sweet and supple than the Reserve, the 2011 Zinfandel has outstanding aromatics and balance on the palate. Sweet cassis, black raspberry, mint and briary underbrush all come together nicely on the nose, and this medium-bodied, elegant Zinfandel will continue to impress over the coming 6-7 years as well.”