Saturday, January 22, 2011

Of Pinot and Port

In light of my upcoming relocation to the west coast, and Lisa's strong appreciation for certain fortified wines from Portugal, we decided to give this AOC gathering a dual theme - wines from Oregon, and Port.

In my evite I mentioned that we didn't want to end up with nothing but Pinot Noir for the Oregon portion of things, so folks should think about bringing one of the other varietals or blends that is common to Oregon. Well, this crowd knows how to follow instructions - perhaps too well. This became apparent as guest after guest arrived bearing bottles of Pinot Gris! We joked about this turning out to be a de facto Pinot Gris tasting, but I think we all enjoyed tasting the different styles. In addition to the four Pinot Gris represented, we ended up with three Pinot Noirs and three Ports. Michelle did bring two additional Pinot Noirs to the game a bit later in the evening, but I don't think that the majority of the attendees were still around to taste them.

We had some nice food to accompany our wines, including a roast and some baked brie with pumpkin butter and roasted nuts, a potato/root vegetable salad, homemade bread and our favorite chocolate cake from Eastern Market.

Below is a list of the wines we tasted. I don't think there was a bad wine in the bunch, although we each had our own likes and dislikes. My personal favorites were two of the Pinot Gris - Wine by Joe and The Pines - and the Warres Otima 20 Year Tawny Port. I was somewhat disappointed by my own contribution, the Cristom Pinot Noir. It came highly recommended to me by one of the staff at Calvert Woodley, and I think it would have been a perfectly lovely wine for about 2/3 of what I paid for it. It just didn't feel very balanced, and although I enjoyed the woody, peppery, and mushroomy aromas/flavors, I didn't feel like they integrated well. I also don't feel like I can adequately analyze the Pinot Noirs that Michelle brought, because we had them very late in the evening and after Port. Most of the descriptions are directly from the winery websites, as are the prices. Where I couldn't find the info the website, I used descriptions from various critics and prices from, DC stores.

Wine by Joe Pinot Gris 2009: aromas of fresh cut pears, green apples and hints of vanilla and cream, this Pinot Gris will not disappoint you. The light clean flavors in the mouth encompass citrus and green apple well-balanced by refreshing and flinty acidity for a perfect and lively finish with lingering hints of citrus rind. $14

R. Stuart & Co. Big Fire Pinot Gris 2009: A daydream -a mountain-top -a cooling breeze -the almost hush of a waterfall all in a glass. Truly. The 2009 Big Fire Pinot Gris is glorious. It is being on that mountain. Sunlight shimmering on snow all around you. It is succulent, just ripe, Anjou pear, moist, tender lychee fruit. It is a memory of cool green grapes. It is bracing, beautiful — it will lift you up. Whether your dream (or your dinner) is from a far-off, exotic locale – or just locally exotic – Big Fire Pinot Gris will be right there. $14

The Great Oregon Wine Company Rascal Pinot Gris 2009: I was unable to find the winemaker's website, but this stuff is showing up all over internet wine forums and the geeks have really good things to say about it! The winemaker herself, Linda, seems active on a lot of these forums and is really good about replying to people's comments and sharing a lot of technical info with everyone. $10.99

The Pines 1952 Pinot Gris 2008: Our 2008 vintage is a classic Alsacian-style. Almost bone-dry, displaying characteristics of green apple and meyer lemon with a hint of pear with aromas of pineapple and citrus. $18

Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir 2008: On the palate it displays medium body, sweet fruit, plenty of spice and enough ripe tannin to evolve for 1-2 years. However, it can be approached now and over the next 6-8 years. $30

Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007: A wine of finesse and delicacy produced by a "typical" year of Oregon weather. A cool spring, a normal summer and cool fall led to the fruit that was less concentrated than we have come to expect at this site. Enjoy the elegance now and save the bigger vintages for more aging. Pair it with baked salmon for a lighter meal or maybe a beef stew that is light on spices. This wine is great for people starting to get into reds, many white lovers rave about this wine because it is delicate on their palates. $9

Firesteed Pinot Noir 2008: Ruby red in color with aromas of strawberries, cedar and spice, the wine's luscious flavors of vanilla bean and cherry tart are well supported by its surprising structure. $19

Fonseca 10 Year Tawny Port (750ml): Of an average cask age of 10 years, it is a young port of russet color with brilliant crimson highlights and a fragrant, ripe fruit bouquet. Its smooth, silky texture and subtle oak nuances are balanced by a fresh acidity and tannic grip that culminate in a long, elegant finish. $30

Warres Otima 20 Year Tawny Port (500ml): An outstanding wine that epitomizes everything that is great about a superbly balanced Twenty Year Old Tawny; the translucent copper colored tone of the wine is matched by the beautiful soft nutty aromas gained by a full twenty years ageing in seasoned oak casks. Otima 20 Years is rich and delicate, but never cloying; the tannins and acidity ensure balance and perfect length. $43

Cockburn's 2000 Vintage Port: The description on the company website talked more about the weather conditions surrounding the vintage; however, they posted these reviews from Robert Parker and from The Wine Spectator, respectively: "Potentially one of the most compelling wines of the vintage, should drink well between 2010 - 2035" and "Nicely made, very subtle aromas of crushed berries, roses and lavender. Full bodied, lightly sweet with big, juicy tannins and a long, fruity finish". $66

There were some questions asked throughout the evening regarding it is made, what the differences are between the various styles, etc. Unfortunately I was completely unequipped to answer these questions, but good old wikipedia has this to say, for anyone who is interested:

I want to thank everyone who participated in this all did a great job with your selections and picked out some very quality, solid and interesting wines. In particular I'd like to thank Amy & Ted and Katie & Chul for their Port contributions (Warres Otima 20 Year Tawny and the Cockburn's Vintage 2000). These were not inexpensive wines and we really appreciated the opportunity to taste something that most of us wouldn't be likely to fork out the cash for just for ourselves!

I'll be cross-posting this on my new blog:

As this will probably be my last AOC for some time, I just want to say that I've had a great time with all of you and hope that you will keep things going! If you take pictures and/or notes, I'll be happy to post them here if you send them to me. Santé!

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