This is my favorite feature of the year, not only because it is the harbinger of months of sunny, warm days, but also because I get to help the “I only drink red” afflicted on their path to recovery.
Yes, we are going to look at the wines lighter in color and body that go oh so well with warm days and nights and can also make for better food-dancing partners any time of year.
Read Parts II & III. Click on Wine Column under the Local Flavor menu.
This first installment will examine Oregon’s offerings; it will also be a good opportunity to look at what differentiates its wine regions. We’ll start in the Willamette region and sample some less-red Pinot Noirs, as well as some white and bubble quaffs.
This region offers up two wonderful wine styles in the summer-sipper pantheon: the obvious Rosés and the new kid on the wine block, White Pinot Noirs. The Rosés remind me of quality Provencal Grenache/Carignan-based blushes, dry and full of dry summer berry and berry-leaf flavors. Swick Wines’ version is a Pétillant Naturel, most often referred to as Pét-Nats, which are typically made with low sulpher levels and allowed to finish fermentation in the bottle. This creates a slight effervescence and a dose of earthy components in addition to the bright fruits. The far less common White Pinot Noirs usually bring flower notes to accompany barely ripe, cherry flavors. Amity Vineyards’ White Pinot is a stellar example from a seminal Willamette Valley producer.
This region also serves up lithe white quaffs from the Pinot Gris and Chardonnay grapes. With its cool climate, varied soil types and focus on quality, Willamette kicks out some of the most light, lively and complex Pinot Gris and Chardonnays made anywhere. If you have only sampled Pinot Noirs from the Willamette, it’s time to branch out and try these gems.
Moving south to the Rogue Valley we find greater diversity of wine types than in its highly regulated northern neighbor. This freedom of choice along with lower land prices and more varied climates encourages the aptly named Rogue winemakers to spread their wings and make wines from more obscure grapes such as Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer and other cool-climate European grapes. Wines from this region are in the hard-to-find category since most are sold at the wineries.
However, this area of southern Oregon is so beautiful and welcoming, not to mention home to major celebrations such as the world-class Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the Britt Music & Arts Festival in Jacksonville, that they are well worth a visit.
In upcoming editions, we will be on to Europe and California on our warm-weather wine tour. Read Part II in the next editions or at TheTahoeWeekly.com.