Wine dinners just keep coming to our unlikely upstate town. It was a perfect opportunity for Carey to hear the Willamette Valley Vineyards story sans stomach virus and wobbly knees. For me, I was excited to hear it from the boss man’s mouth after missing him on our trip to Oregon.
Jim Bernau, WVV founder, is a passionate man. It became instantly apparent as to how he managed to sell his vision, building his winery one shareholder at a time in what was an untried model. One of his original investors was at the table that night.
5 wines on the menu and 2 surprise appearances. I just wish I had snuck in a couple of Riedel stems for the occasion. While out in Oregon I enjoyed the specially made Oregon Pinot Noir stems that were used in all the tasting rooms. Now, I understand that excessive stemware design is a contentious issue on the blog scene, but I liked the damn glass—tulip-shaped flare, narrowed to concentrate aromas. Way cooler than the thick little tooth chippers that kept swirling to a minimum.
The lineup opened with the Pinot Gris, which Carey mostly enjoyed without me because I was running late, but I managed a few sips before the Chardonnay took place. I say took place because it really was like an event within an event. I reviewed the 2007 Dijon Clone Chardonnay last February, about 6 months after it was bottled. It was stunning then—it has improved since. Best wine of the evening—the shop owners and distributors in the room were buzzing about it.
Excerpt from my February review:
Golden straw in color, displaying the slightest grassy tint at certain angles. Complex nose braced with incredible olive aromas, stuffed grape leaves, coconut and a hint of lemon.
Beautiful spice and acidity, a swelling midpalate, and a lengthy, chest-warming finish. Pineapple and strawberry join the olive and wonderful citrus qualities on the palate. Banana and barley linger in the finish. A subdued creaminess of texture provides an incredible cohesiveness for the flavor spread.
The Pinots followed. The soft, musky, red berry Founders’ Reserve, and the expressive pom juice and plantain Whole Cluster were the two scheduled wines. Jim smartly positioned the Whole Cluster later on the menu when the taste buds are tired and its juicy vibrancy is easily appreciated.
The surprise of the evening was the newly bottled 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. Big expectations surround the 2008 vintage, after a rough start, the growing season concluded with rain that never came, warm days, cool nights, and a leisurely, pinpoint harvest—even at its young age, the Estate was showing sophistication, depth, and lovely fruit purity.