Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rockin' Thursday

Good evening! Welcome to Thursday, and a fantastically rainy June day in the great northwest. What better to warm you up than a little Oregon pinot noir, eh?

Seriously though--we pulled out a 2004 Springhill Cellars Pinot, from McMinnville.

From the nose: dried fruit, perhaps plums, cherries or perhaps cranberries, and a hint of milk chocolate..

Going further, impressive mouth feel from a little producer, but not perfectly balanced--perhaps the alcohol (13.9%) emerges just a touch too much. The wine also has a good punch of acidity, which takes away a bit from the fruit, which shows the dried fruit flavors, primarily dark cherry that were found in the nose. On the finish there is a touch of pepper.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Noble Pinot and Steak

So we decided to go for a Pinot with steak tonight. Being that it was a Monday night, I wanted to go with something a little less expensive, so we decided on a 2003 Noble Estate Pinot Noir. Noble Estate is a small vineyard and winery operation in the Eugene area, and their tasting room is literally the guest house at their residence, right next to the pool.

On the nose, heavy aromas of blueberry and blackberry jam. We started drinking it a little cold, so there were not many flavors noticeable when we took our first sip. The wine is very heavy on the tannins, which probably has as much to do with the vintage (2003, a very hot year in the Willamette Valley) as with the winemaking. As the wine warmed up, it really didn't open up much, which was a bit disappointing. The wine was not very complex, and as I think back on it, it was a very forgetable wine. I'd rate it a 4/10, and give it a definite pass.

Noble Estate

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tasting Notes and Scores

I want to touch a little on my thoughts about tasting notes and giving wine scores.

First, on the subject of tasting notes. We plan to put up tasting notes for many of the wines we drink. You'll notice that Sirpa and I don't agree on everything most of the time, and that is what's great about wine. Different people have different palates, with different likes and dislikes. I'm not a fan of big, tannic red wines (Such as Cab Sauv or Syrah), but Sirpa loves those kinds of wines. Bottom line, if we recommend a wine, you should try it. Ha, that sounds kind of bossy. Don't take our word, or anybody else's for that matter, on what a wine tastes like. Try it for yourself and see what you think. You are the ultimate judge on what you like.

Now, about wine scores. I really hate how wine scores have taken over the marketing of wine, especially the 100 point system. Most of the time, the 100 point system isn't a full 100 points, but really only 30 points (70-100). Robert Parker's published system is only 50 points (50-100). So now what makes a wine score an 89 instead of a 90? That could come down to taste preferences (see above). For instance, Parker likes big, tannic wines, and scores those highest. This leads to Pinot Noir not getting very high scores, because it is a more elegant and delicate wine.

So my plan is to use a 10 point system, and truly utilize the full 10 points. Points will be awarded based upon all aspects of the wine, including: how complex the wine is, how nice it is to drink, what the nose is like, the color, the mouthfeel, and how good of a wine it is compared to similarly priced wines and wines of the same varietal. For example, LaVelle Vineyard's 2005 Pinot Noir would get a 8 or 9 from me, because it is a very nice wine at a really great price. On the other hand, Erath's Juliard Vineyard Pinot Noir would also get an 8 or 9, even though it is a better wine. The difference is in the price points. By price, the Juliard is more of a special occasion wine ($35-40), where the LaVelle falls into the every day drinker category ($20-$25). If the Juliard was priced at $20-$25, it would be a 10 point wine. Wines under a score of 5 should be avoided, and anything above a 6 is drinkable and good.

Now, also keep in mind that our palates change throughout time. I will try and revist wines when I have the opportunity, and we'll have to go back and compare scores and notes. As I said in regards to the tasting notes above, take my scores with a grain of salt. Hopefully the scores I give will just help weed out the bad wines, and maybe get you to try a wine you might end up likeing. I definitely want to compare tasting notes, so if you have any about the wines I try, please let me know.

Link to LaVelle Vineyards

Link to Erath

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cabernet Franc itch is scratched!

So tonight we decided to scratch John's Cab Franc itch, and we had it with marinated and grilled tri-tip and grilled asparagus. We drank the Andrew Rich 2004 Cabernet Franc, and our tasting notes are below.

John P: A simple and not complex or deep, multi-level wine. Pepper is dominant on the palate, along with the dark cherry and/or blackberry that is common in red wines. It is a medium bodied red, and I'd consider it a light-medium bodied wine overall. Its light on the tannins, so its a wine thats easy to drink, and it would be a wine that you'd want to drink sooner than later. Overall, I'd say its a 7/10. Its a good wine, especially for an everyday kind of drinker. You don't need a special occasion to drink this. A Thursday night BBQ is reason enough, especially when you're not in the mood for a delicate Pinot Noir or a big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sirpa P: Nice acidity, which might not always be noticed in a red wine... luscious, chocolate/blackberry nose... maybe a touch of mocha, if you really take it in. Perhaps the greatest part of this wine is the way that it could easily pair with a wide array of things, but happened to go particularly well with marinated and charcoal grilled tri-tip. What I really want to put out there, overall: if you see this wine, check it out. Cab franc is typically a blending wine, and having the opportunity to taste the wine on its own is incredible... I would also put my vote in for trying petite verdot on it's own as well, but that's another page in the book. :)

Overall.... definitely will have to do this one again!

Then, because we were still in the mood for more wine as we were watching The Office, we decided to drink an endcap special from the local grocer. Wow, what a bomb of tannics, acid, and alcohol. There was almost no fruit to be found. It was the exact opposite of Boones Farm wines, which are sweet and fruity. You can definitely tell the difference between a winemaker who cares about his craft (Andrew Rich) and one that just doesn't care. This wine was really hard to drink, even as a second bottle of the night.

Link to Andrew Rich

Wine chick extraordanaire!

Good evening, my wine loving friends!

If you'll allow me to introduce myself, I am the lovely "other half" to Mr. John P =) Most people know me as Sirpa; although as you can imagine, my rather unusual name has drawn quite the array of fantastic nicknames over the years. Regardless, I am the spark to the flame... my wine education started by buying random (and typically "affordable") wines on Tuesday nights in college, then looking up whatever I could about the varietal and the winemaker... and everything else that happened to come up.

Long story short: wine has just become an incredible passion of mine, basically the focus of my career at this point... I am currently working at a wine bar, and do an incredible amount of tasting, which greatly lends to my overall education and knowledge. The thing about it is, that a lot of people think it's probably an easy job, just "tasting wine all day." In reality, it IS work... a lot of work, taking notes, remembering everything (or at least close to everything) that you've tasted, and then being able to recall that if necessary in order to fit the needs of the bar.

So... from here on out, I look on taking my education/work, and pleasure--and sharing it with all of you.... my influences may not always be entirely northwest, but my heart and my passion lives and thrives here in Oregon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Cab and a Chard, all in the same night.

Yesterday, I was really in the mood for a Cabernet Franc. I'm not sure why I was in the mood for this, but it just sounded really tasty. Unfortunately, what we had for dinner (chicken and rice) didn't really pair well with red, so we decided to drink a 2000 Cristom Chardonnay. We don't really have Chardonnay very often, and the 2000 Cristom is about all we have in inventory right now. Cristom only has 4.5 acres out of their 65 acres planted with Chardonnay, so its a very minor part of their wine selection. Their Pinot Noirs are very big (for a Pinot) and the ones we have are going to be stored for a while. The Cristom Pinot Gris is one of the best I've had, and was one of the first wines I drank that I really enjoyed. I think the Cristom Pinot Gris and the King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris are the wines that got me into wine.

But I digress, so back to last night. The Chardonnay was a good drinker. It wasn't overly complex, and not very oaky, so it was a really great Tuesday night wine with dinner. I'm not usually a fan of Chardonnay, as they are usually to oaky and big. The way most Oregon Chardonnays are made though, they are lighter and usually fermented in stainless steel. The Cristom is oak-fermented, but it is still a good example of how I would make Chardonnay.

After dinner, and friend came over and we had a bottle of 2005 Erin Glenn Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm not usually a fan of Cab due to the high tannins, but Erin Glenn makes a Cab that is easy to drink, even for a guy like me with a "delicate" palate. This wine is definitely on the lighter end of the Cab spectrum, which I appreciate. It was a wine that was easy to drink on its own, and did not need food to go with it. Again, it wasn't a super complex wine, but a very drinkable, and very good wine overall.

Sometimes you don't have to have the most complex and superb wine to enjoy a dinner and nice evening with friends. A good bottle (or 2), good food, and good friends are all you need.

Link to Cristom

Link to Erin Glenn

1st Post

Welcome to the West Hills Wine Blog. The name has a few meanings, but I think is still universal enough to not limit itself. So why the "West Hills"? First, I live in the West Hills of Portland, OR. Second, the majority of the grape growing in the Willamette Valley happens in the west hills of the valley. Third, the Cascade mountain range could be considered the "West Hills" of the United States. So the name encompases the focuses of this blog, which will be as follows (in increasing priority):

1. West Coast of North America (CA, OR, WA, BC, ID)
2. Pacific NW (OR, WA)
3. Oregon
4. Willamette Valley (Including all 6 Sub-AVAs)

So you'll see most of the posts are about Willamette Valley wines and interests, but I'll also talk about the other AVAs of Oregon, as well as some Washington and Idaho wines. On a rare occassion, there might be something thrown in here about California, but I think that state gets enough press about it.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about everything wine. I got into wine thanks to my fiance. My friends consider me a "wine snob", but I think that just comes from knowing a decent amount about wine, and having an opinion about what I drink. I plan to blog about my experiences of being a 20-something in a culture of 40 and 50 year olds. I go wine tasting quite often, so I plan to blog about what I taste, what I like, and what I don't like. I don't have years of knowledge that make me an expert. I'm just a guy who likes wine, and I want to share my experiences with anybody who wants to read them.