Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Rundown

Thanksgiving weekend was a very intense experience. So intense, that I'm needing to take a few days to get settled and back to normal. I'm going to be doing a very in-depth review of our experiences, including tasting notes of the 100+ wines we tasted. Please keep tuned in for more in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wine and Football

I had an experience this past weekend that I just had to write about, mostly because it really fits into what this blog is really all about. Sirpa and I are the wine drinkers of our group of friends. A few others have gone tasting with us, or tried a few different wines, but nobody drinks and explores wine the way we do. It creates a very interesting dynamic when we bring out wine at a party, because most of the people there don't have a clue about what we are doing when we swirl, sniff, swirl again, sniff again, taste, and repeat.

On Saturday, I was over at a friend's place watching college football (Portland State, then Oregon, then Oregon State). Naturally, we were drinking beer throughout the day, as is usually what happens when guys and football are combined. Sirpa got off work and arrived around 7, and had brought with her the last of a bottle of 2003 Archery Summit Estate for us to taste and explore. I poured what was in the bottle into a glass, and proceeded to taste the wine. Now, I was in the kitchen during this time, with a small crowd of spectators watching me go through the tasting process. After getting a taste or three, and allowing Sirpa to taste a bit, I asked one of the guys if he wanted a taste. Now, there was still probably 5 or 6 tastes left in the glass, and I intended to let Sirpa have a few more before it was finished.

I handed the glass over, and after a quick sniff or two, the guy downed the wine like it was a shot, just opened his throat and let it go down. I really don't think it even hit his tongue. I was in shock, and I just stood there for a minute, not knowing what to say. It wasn't a huge deal, as both Sirpa and I had tasted it, and I wasn't planning on having any more, but I wasn't sure how to react to seeing somebody shoot a small glass of wine that was worth about $20. This just showed me how much the typical person does NOT know about drinking and enjoying wine.

Wine is not, and should not be, a chuggable beverage. Wine's purpose is not to get you drunk, though a good wine buzz can't be beat (probably has more to do with the good food and atmosphere than the actual physiological effects). Drinking wine is about exploring something new, and subtleties, and noticing how a Pinot Noir from one place can taste entirely different from the place next door. For a buzz, I'm going for beer, or maybe some mixed drinks. For enjoyment of atmosphere, experience, and reflection, wine is my beverage of choice. I'm just going to have to do a better job of describing the benefits of "tasting" wine, as opposed to "drinking" wine when I hand a glass to someone.

Monday, November 5, 2007

2006 Kathken Vineyards Pinot Gris Barrel Fermented

Kathken Vineyards is a little place in the Eola Hills, just west of Salem. It is a 51-acre vineyard, owned by Kathy and Ken Slusser (hence the name) and Ken is the winemaker. They've got a few different wines, mostly Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The 2006 harvest presented Ken with more juice than he had space to ferment in tanks, and so he put what did not fit in the tanks into barrels to ferment, and the result is two distinctly different wines, both from the same grapes and the same winemaker. The following review is for the barrel fermented version, and I'll do a review of the tank fermented version soon.

Color: A peach color, with more pink hues than most pinot gris

Nose: Peach, a hint of green apple, a touch of grapefruit and citrus

Palatte: Not a complex wine, good balance, no flavors really jump out at me. Some peach, with a hint of orange, along with typical Pinot Gris flavors. Really short finish, after 10-15 seconds the flavors have disappeared.

Overall Rating: 6/10 At a price point of about $12/bottle, its a good weekday wine, which is fitting as it was drunk on a Monday night while watching football. Kathken Vineyards is priced towards the lower end, but the wines are good for the price. All of their wines are easy to drink, and decently good.

Kathken Vineyards

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thanksgiving Wine Trip Planning

This week I decided to plan out our Thanksgiving wine tasting. The advantage to tasting the weekend after Thanksgiving (instead of shopping) is that many places that are not usually open to the public open their doors and you get a chance to taste some wine you normally would not have access to. That is, unless you just buy a bottle and take a chance on a wine you don't know much about besides reputation. The problem I ran into is that there are entirely too many places we want to go to, and not enough time to do it. We only have Friday and Saturday to taste, as Sunday we have family obligations. The other restriction is the times that places are open. The window of opportunity for each day is about 10am - 5pm, which really does not leave much time for tasting, especially when there are about 15 places we want to go. This does not include the places we are club members at, which would mean free tasting and other events at those places.

So the process of elimination came down to figuring out where we wanted to go, and figuring out which places are either the most bang for the stop, or are only open during this weekend. All of the places we chose are only open for this weekend, and many of them have pretty steep tasting fees. I'm not sure how I feel about that, and I'm planning on a blog post about tasting fees for the near future, but I digress. The following is the list of where we are planning to go to:


Owen Roe - $15 tasting fee, with a Riedel Bordeaux glass. Owen Roe has quite a few wines we are fans of, and being able to taste them at one location will be reallly nice. The other times we have had them, is just a bottle at a time, so exploring more of the portfolio will be nice.

Chehalem - $10 tasting fee. Chehalem Wines was founded by Harry Peterson-Nedry in 1990, but he planted is vineyard in Ribbon Ridge in 1980. He is one of the more influential people in Oregon winemaking, and so it almost seems like a necessity to taste his wines.

JK Carriere - $10 tasting fee, refundable w/purchase. This stop was requested by Sirpa, and looking at their list of wines, I can see why. I see they have a Anderson Family and a Shea Pinot Noir, so they've got to have some good stuff. Shea just doesn't sell his grapes to anybody (see below).

Lachini - $10 tasting fee. Lachini Vineyards was founded in 1997, and is getting great acclaim for their wines. They have a couple Pinot Noirs, and Pinot Gris, and their wines are very well made.

Elvenglade - Not sure of tasting fees. We've got some Pinot Noir futures to pick up, and that is the main reason we are stopping here. That, and they've got some pretty good wines, from a couple different winemakers.

Patricia Green - $20 tasting fee, partially refundable w/ purchase. Patty Green is another well respected winemaker, so visiting her is a must.

Shea - $10 tasting fee. Dick Shea might be the owner of the most respected vineyard in the Willamette Valley. According to Wine Press NW, Shea Vineyards is the #1 Vineyard in Oregon. Any Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir can expect 90+ points from any critic, and so trying his stuff directly will be a treat.

Anam Cara - $10 tasting fee, for all participating wineries. Anam Cara is made at 12th and Maple Wine Co., and a total of 4 labels will be represented there. Access to all of them will be through the one tasting fee, which results in the most bang for the buck. We have tasted their wine before, and was pleasantly suprised. Also there will be Battle Creek, Basket Case, and Cleo's Hill.

So I think this is our list. There's many more we'd like to get to, but that will have to wait until Memorial Day weekend. I'll put up a stop-by-stop review of the weekend, so let me know if there's anything you'd like to see discussed.