The excitement of discovering a new wine
The choice of what to write each month is based largely on my personal experiences. That is true more so today than when I started this Woman on Wine column seventeen years ago. That’s because my time to indulge in wine tastings grows ever shorter as the demands of raising two children become greater. I spend far more time working as a shuttle service, confidant and laundress than I do as a member of the wine community. So when I have the opportunity to attend an event with memorable wines, it makes a far greater impression on me than it would on a wine writer attending one of these sorts of events every day of the week.
What I’m leading up to is that I actually stole away from my tiny charges for a few hours last week to attend a dinner hosted by the Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction.
Never heard of it? That’s probably because the event is for the wine trade and is not open to the public. However, if you’re a fan of Pinot Noir, then is a safe bet that you’re well acquainted with the Willamette Valley wines and can probably understand my excitement to attend an event focused around some of the most dynamic wines of the region.
The tasting was built around showcasing some of the wines auctioned off over the years. The wines sold at this exclusive event are always special bottlings created specifically for this fundraising opportunity. I won’t get into tasting notes on these wines, since the bottles were purchased by retailers and restaurateurs from various parts of the country. (However if you frequent a fine wine shop, particularly one in Oregon, California or Texas, you’re likely to run into one of these auction wines. You may even get lucky enough to purchase one for yourself.)
Dynamic Willamette Valley wines to try right now
However our evening was not just limited to tasting exclusive auction wines. We also tasted several current release wines that helped offer a greater understanding of the nuances of the Willamette’s many sub regions. And yes, although I will admit to enjoying tasting each one of the rare, auction wines, it was the tasting of the current wines that had me most excited. You see, I went to the event expecting to taste a few of the Willamette’s most exclusive gems. But I didn’t expect to walk out of this event with a list of exquisite Willamette Valley wines any average Joe could buy today.
This is without question the most interesting Chardonnay I’ve tried so far this year. Exotic and perhaps even a little odd, its aroma is like sniffing a bouquet of tropical flowers while standing in the middle of a barnyard. Sweet, citrus acidity gives it remarkable freshness. But a touch of salinity, which quite literally makes the mouth salivate for more, is this wine’s most captivating feature.
I want to be clear that this is not a current vintage wine; however a quick search using winesearcher confirmed that the wine is still available at a handful of retailers around the country. The Pinot is incredibly complex and still offers freshness, despite being what would be considered a library wine. It comes from a notable vineyard with volcanic soils. If you’re interested in exploring the regional distinctions of Willamette Valley wines, you will want to try this one.
If you’re a drinker of Santa Barbara or even Russian River Pinot Noirs, this Willamette Valley wine will really throw you. A Pinot with an expression of the varietal’s most savory notes, it’s nothing like California Pinot, nor French for that matter. That being said, it is a brilliantly crafted wine and one that gives a stunning expression of the prehistoric seabed on which the grapes struggle to thrive.
I don’t think it would be right to talk about Willamette Valley wines without mentioning bubbly. A region exceedingly well suited to growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, it is, naturally, home to some of America’s finest sparkling wines, like this limited production Brut. A blend of 59% Pinot Noir and 41% Chardonnay, it’s a plush wine with a creamy texture that seems to melt on the tongue.
Need more wine recommendations? Check out all of my monthly installments of Woman on Wine.
wine glass photo by Mihai Onita
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