May 2023 Newsletter

Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo are different grapes. They have no known genetic relation, and they have deep roots in their respective homelands of Burgundy and Piedmont. For all their obvious differences, there is a school of thought in the wine world that the two grapes are “brothers from another mother”. For all their distinction, they both reach their greatest heights with elegance, rather than raw power. These are two grapes that don’t have to be loud to be heard, and that shared personality trait has tantalized winemakers and wine drinkers for centuries. Enter Jon Larson and Boyd Pearson, brothers of another mother of another sort. Two friends in the business of making and selling fermented things. One day in 2015, the two of them stumbled into a stray ton of grapes without a home, and turned those grapes into Redolent Wine Company, a source of food-friendly, discursive wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Nebbiolo. Somewhere along the way, Jon and Boyd had the curious notion to co-ferment Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley with Nebbiolo from the Columbia Gorge. This wine offers all the best parts of these two A-lister grapes, but neither outshines the other. Aromas of inky black cherry, rose petal, orange rind, damp soil, anise, clove and potpourri lead into a palate with all the velvety grace of Pinot Noir and all the nervous energy of Nebbiolo. Ripe raspberry, hibiscus, cherry drop, and tarry earth linger through the finish that simply begs for another bite of whatever you’ve cooked up: something fresh off the grill and sticky with BBQ sauce, or cioppino, or pizza. This is a wine that can handle foods with strong personalities.


Clos Griotte Pinot Noir Rose 2019 $20

Thibaud Mandet has some interesting ideas about pink wine. So many winemakers rush their rose to market as if it’s going to expire like a carton of milk. Thibaud prefers to let his rose age a bit, often longer than his red wines. In a newsletter where we are featuring some of the first wines from vintage 2022, this Clos Griotte rose was harvested in 2019 from the biodynamically-farmed Hyland Vineyard in McMinnville. The wine spent a full day with its skins to soak up a relatively deep pink color before pressing and then five months in stainless steel tanks with the lees to impart a textural element rare in rose wine: creaminess. Once bottled, the wine then had to wait three entire years for release, an agonizing wait, but one that Thibaud insists is necessary to focus the wine’s bouncy energy into a more thoughtful, elegant drink. We appreciate this wine for the fresh perspective almost as much as the pure joy of drinking it. A resonant coral pink color in the glass is the first sign that something different is about to happen. Blooming aromas of Rainier cherry, ruby grapefruit, lychee, wild strawberry, and burnt orange peel lead to a palate of strawberry, juicy cherry and violets. The texture is full bodied, creamy yet crisp, lush yet fresh, substantial yet snappy. Pair this wine with salmon, tuna, or halibut, or any sort of big fish seared over an open flame. If you take anything away from this, the next time you see a rose a couple years older than it should be, give it a try!


Timothy Malone Columbia Gorge Nebbiolo Rose 2022 $17

Oregon is clearly on to something with Nebbiolo. Our climate in northern parts of the state is quite similar to that of Piedmont, and the city of Portland is curiously devoted to Italian wine. Pinot Noir may be our calling card, but Nebbiolo keeps knocking on the door, a persistent siren song of potential. This one by Timothy Malone in the Columbia Gorge is one that has featured in this newsletter nearly every time we’ve had the opportunity, and we’re happy to have it again, just in time for the first picnics of the year. The first thing you notice upon pouring a glass of this wine is that it is white. Only when you hold it up to the light can you see its barely-there touch of pink. The nose doesn’t play the same trick. It’s bursting with strawberries and peaches, with peach and cherry blossoms, fresh-picked cranberries, apple sauce, and granitic soil notes too. The palate is a lively rushing stream full of snowmelt and tastes like peach sorbet surrounded by spring flowers, with orange and grapefruit and lemon zest. This wine has iridescent energy; it’s crisp and refreshing and light on its feet, perfect alongside kebabs, artichoke hearts, and sourdough sandwiches eaten outside.


Willful Wine Co Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc 2022 $22

The first thing you notice upon pouring a glass of the Willful Wine Co. Pinot Blanc is that it’s white. Like, really white. Essentially clear, with glinting highlights as white as the new driven snow. Color doesn’t tell you everything, but it certainly seems to fit in this case. The nose offers razor sharp notes of crisp Granny Smith and Wickson apple, lime zest, pear, mint, chamomile and white clay. The palate is sharp and zesty, with a white soil minerality and delicately expressed energy. Lime, pear and apple fruits jockey for attention. Winemaker Pam Walden’s wines have gained a reputation for focus and balance over her 20+ year career in Oregon, and this Pinot Blanc is a remarkable example of this character. Some wines win you over with lush texture or profound aromas or tooth shattering acidity. This Pinot Blanc excels with precision. It is just the right amount of acidity; it has just the right balance of fresh fruit and floral touches, and the texture is seamless, clean, and refreshing. This is the perfect wine for a springtime gathering, especially when it features some sort of citrus-cooked chicken or delicate fish, and I’m pretty sure every time a cork is popped from one of these bottles, a flower blooms somewhere.


Jackalope Cellars Columbia Gorge Red 2020 $21

The Jackalope is a combination of a jackrabbit and an antelope. Winemaker Corey Schuster has a long-standing fascination with the animal, and has brought its adventurous spirit with him along his serendipitous journey into the wine-making world. Like the winery’s (mythical?) namesake, this (very real) blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot is a very social animal, a wine to bring to a house party with friends or a barbeque. Grapes for this wine were taken from both sides of the river in the Columbia Gorge AVA, where bright sun, constant wind, complex soils, and abrupt elevation combine to offer grape growers a wide range of options for their vineyards. For Corey, this means complex, substantial and dark fruited wine that remains easy and quaffable. On the nose, we get blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, vanilla bean, clove, cinnamon toast and underbrush. On the palate the fruit comes fresh from the bush, more of those blackberries and currants mixed with blueberries, dark roasted Ethiopian coffee beans – with that barest hint of citrus – baking spice and vanilla. Beautifully balanced with generous helpings of both tannin and acidity, this is a wine for the messy cheeseburger, for the short ribs, or the flank steak that takes a marinade


Brooks Willamette Valley White Amycas 2022 $23

The Willamette Valley has a long tradition of expressive, Alsatian style white wines. The traditional grapes of this region have a longer history in Oregon than Pinot Noir does, dating back to the Rueter family Klevner (Pinot Blanc) of the 1880s. Without the interruption of prohibition in the 1920s, it’s easy to envision an alternate history where the Willamette Valley became the Alsace of the New World. Modern examples of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer certainly support the theory. Brooks’ Amycas, a charming and floral blend of five varieties – Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer – is another compelling argument that these grapes deserve a place among the valley’s vineyards. The wine offers rich aromas of apple blossom, pear drop, lemon zest, peach pit, and watermelon juice with a salted rim. The palate is lean and bright, with a juicy core of ripe melon and grapefruit accented with ginger root. An homage to the traditional Alsatian Edelzwicker blend, this is a zesty and cheerful wine at home with the punchiest vinaigrettes, the potato salad alongside white fleshed fish, or a warm afternoon in the sun.


Slake Cider Willamette Valley Traditional Sharp Cider Summer Set NV $11

Once upon a time, cider was the standard dinnertime drink for most Americans, and most farms from New England to the Mississippi had an apple orchard with apples suited for cider. It wasn’t until the 1880s, when immigrants from Europe brought a taste for wine and beer, that cider lost its place at the table, and prohibition dealt a further blow when almost all of those family orchards were cut down, leaving only sweet “dessert style” apples in the United States, unsuited to making quality hard cider. That has left cider with an odd identity since prohibition ended. Not quite wine, not quite beer, and the only cider available until recently was sticky sweet, nothing like the dry, complex hard ciders of the nineteenth century. A century later, and after much painstaking effort, cider is making a modest comeback. Enterprising cider makers found old orchards that survived prohibition and propagated a new generation of cider apple trees, restarting a once proud tradition for a modern audience. This Slake Cider is a perfect representation of that effort. Mark and Keenan Bailey made this from their family farm, using a combination of the Dolgo crabapple, the Heritage Gravenstein, and several french bittersweet cider varieties to create a neatly balanced, dry cider that offers substantial complexity and pleasant, creamy texture. Wild yeast fermentation ensured that this is much more than the factory issue ciders of the 1990s. Aromas of apple sauce spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, honeycomb, raspberry, incense smoke, and crisp apple. The palate is fully tart, with keen acidity offering sharp green apple flavor, baking spice and pepper, before a gentle touch of earthy farmhouse brett takes hold on the finish. A fresh accompaniment for any sort of picnic spread or day on the porch, but also just fine for tacos or roast chicken. Under 7% alcohol, but rich, complex and satisfying. We think it’s time to reintroduce cider to the table.


JK Carriere Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Clarion 2022 $24

Sometimes great things happen when we find ourselves in a tight spot. That’s where Jim Prosser was three years ago, along with every winemaker in the Willamette Valley, under the deep red sky of Oregon’s 2020 wildfire season, when a massive cloud of smoke lay over the valley just as grapes were reaching optimum picking time. It was an agonizing choice for winemakers across the valley who had spent the season looking forward to what should have been a banner vintage. Many winemakers dumped their crop entirely. Some forged ahead and pressed their Pinot Noir as gently and quickly as possible to mitigate the smoke taint in the wine. This second choice was the first edition of the JK Carriere Clarion, and it had something in it that caught Jim Prosser’s attention, a freshness, a vibrancy that shone bright enough that he elected to try it again the next year, and now again in 2022. This third vintage of the Clarion is like its namesake, pure and clear and fresh. Raspberry, cranberry, and firetruck red cherry fruit bursts out of the glass, all dusted with red clay soil. There’s a whiff of mint and underbrush, meyer lemon, watermelon, and white plum. The palate is lean and crisp and thirst quenching, with more raspberry and cranberry fruit that slowly fade to violets on the finish. We highly recommend giving this one a light chill, and enjoying it with your favorite sandwich, a charcuterie board, or Caprese salad.


Vincent Wine Co. Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc 2021 $23

Those lucky enough to know Southern California native Vincent Fritzsche know that he is a pretty laid back fellow. After years working for wineries in California and Oregon, he launched Vincent Wine Co. in 2009, dedicated to sourcing organically farmed fruit and turning it into wine without fuss or intervention. He works with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gamay, and brings just a touch of that SoCal easy-going charm into each wine. In 2021, he used Pinot Blanc grapes to make a wine that would be equally at home with a classic Sockeye salmon and fiddleheads, or at a beach club alongside a BBQ sauced cheeseburger. This is classic Oregon Pinot Blanc, full bodied, with malolactic creaminess cut by zesty acidity. There’s notes of Meyer lemon, peach, Asian pear, plantain and lime leaf on the nose. On the palate it’s all Orangina, limoncello, apricots, springtime blossoms, and the sort of salt that comes on the rim of a margarita. This is a veritable dance party on the palate, but all that fruit chips in to clean up and get out by midnight, because the finish is clean and refreshing, leaving behind only a clear and bright echo of an orange grove and resonant minerality.

If all this sounds good to you, come on down to L&E on May 20th, Vincent will be in the house pouring this Pinot Blanc and a selection of his other wines!


Lavinea Eola Amity Hills Pinot Noir 2021 $36

Isabelle Munier had already made noise as a winemaker in Burgundy before coming to Oregon to oversee Dominique Lafon’s Evening Land project in 2007. In short order, she established herself as one of the leading winemakers in Oregon, and made Evening Land one of the most sought-after wines in the Valley, with a decidedly Burgundian style; a strong kick of minerality and plenty of textural tension. In 2014, Isabelle started Lavinea, a more expansive project aimed at highlighting some of the Willamette Valley’s oldest vineyards. She has kept her signature winemaking style, and brings the same sense of grace and power to each of her single vineyard wines. This Eola-Amity Pinot from 2021 is also a single vineyard, but we’re not allowed to know which one it is yet. If the results in this bottle are any indication, we’ll be seeing the vineyard title on Lavinea bottles soon enough! In keeping with the general theme of the vintage, this Pinot begins with a friendly burst of fruit on the nose. Black cherry, red raspberry, and blackcurrant framed by rose petals, vanilla bean, oak spices and a few shakes of the pepper mill. The palate is on the medium-to-full bodied side, with well polished, mile-long tannins providing a silky home for a spread of red and black berry fruits, sarsaparilla, underbrush, and a touch of toffee. This is the sort of perfectly balanced and carefully built Pinot Noir that’s delicious now but has the structure to age another ten to twelve years if you can stand to wait. Longtime lovers of Domaine Drouhin should take special note. This one is right up your alley.


Eyrie Vineyards Sisters Trousseau 2019 $34

You may be asking, what is Trousseau? Why is this obscure grape variety in the Willamette Valley taking up space that could easily produce more Pinot Noir? What is L&E thinking putting this in the newsletter? These are all valid questions. In answering each of them, we keep coming back to a singular point. When Eyrie Vineyards plants a grape never seen before in the Willamette Valley, good things tend to happen. David Lett pioneered Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris here in the 1960s, leading the first generation of Oregon’s wine revolution. His son Jason put these Trousseau vines in Eyrie’s Sisters vineyard in the Dundee Hills, precisely because wherever Pinot Noir thrives, this obscure grape from France’s eastern Jura region does too. Trousseau offers up a menu of aromas just as long as Pinot Noir, but distinct from it. Spicy black raspberry and cherry pie, black pepper, red rose petals, wild mountain lowbush blueberry, underbrush, potting soil and orange blossom. The palate is richly textured and fills every corner of the palate with juicy, refreshing acidity and dusty tannins. Lively black raspberry, blackberry, cranberries and blueberries mix with a crust of clay earth and a dash of orange that lingers on the finish. When pairing this wine to food, look for savory, well salted dishes. One important note, decant this wine for at least an hour before serving to let the aromas develop. Upon tasting this wine, we simply couldn’t resist featuring it for Oregon Wine month, because, after all, where would Oregon wine be without its pioneer risk-takers: people who came to a valley known for hops and hazelnuts, and saw a second Burgundy.


Statera Cellars Willamette Valley Chardonnay Imber 2022 $24

Meredith Bell and Luke Wylde believe in Chardonnay. They make other wines too, under the brands Est and Lares, but their shared passion for Chardonnay comes through in their Statera wines, devoted entirely to this singular grape from the best sources in the Willamette Valley: vineyards like Royer, Bunker Hill, and Johan. They try to source their grapes from organic and ethically-farmed sources. They make a range of single-vineyard Chardonnays – usually the best version of that vineyard available – and some sparkling, and orange Chardonnay too, but this cuvee, Imber, represents a holistic snapshot of the vintage, blended from several sites. In the cellar, Meredith and Luke are looking for intensity in their wine. The pressing is long and hard, the fermentation cold and slow. The wine is left on the lees in totally neutral barrels for more than a year to gain textural depth and richness. This is not a Chardonnay for the faint of heart; this is an intense wine. The nose offers every expression of the lemon: the juice, peel, zest, and curd. There’s notes of juniper and basil, apricot, hints of green apple, orange zest and a bit of biscuit. On the palate, those hints of apple become power chords of apple, with lemon oil, hazelnut, and herb salt. Bursting with acidity, and texturally creamy thanks to all that time on the lees, the wine finishes with a touch of marmalade on shortbread. Put this head turning wine next to all sorts of bird-focused dishes or whatever you bring home from the farmer’s market.


Belle Pente Pinot Gris 2017 $17

Aromas of honeycomb soaked in apple juice. Lime zest, tangerine, bee pollen, chamomile, nutmeg, and the smell of a flower garden on the first warm day of spring. Flavors of pear butter and applesauce cut with fresh lemon juice. Waxy and full bodied, rich and creamy yet energetic and defined by a heaping helping of acidity. Orchard fruits dusted with baking spices linger on a finish that begs for salmon, grilled summer squash, or couscous with seven vegetables. Some things change, some things stay the same. One thing that seems to never change is Brian O’Donnell’s Belle Pente Pinot Gris. Vintage after vintage, his Pinot Gris brings us as close to Alsace as we can get without a plane ticket. Brian and crew farm their “Belle Pente” organically, and in keeping with Alsatian traditions, they let the grapes hang until the last possible moment so the grapes sop up every available drop of autumn sunshine. In the cellar, the wine is fermented cold and slow to preserve the freshness of the fruit and acid while the yeast does its work to build layers of flavor. A year on the lees makes for a positively full bodied wine, lush yet fresh, and a couple extra years in bottle puts this wine in unusual company, especially for a wine, whether it be white, rose, or red, under $20.


Scenic Valley Farms Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2021 $20

Scenic Valley Farms is a farm that makes wine. This might sound like an obvious thing to say, and while it’s technically true that all vineyards are farms that make wine, it’s truer here. Vineyard manager Brian Zelinsky’s parents Bob and Pam started the farm in 1970, and in addition to grapes, the farm produces all the other things the valley is known for: pears, wheat, grass seed, hops, and hazelnuts. The farm is dedicated to ethical farming, which means a whole list of environmentally sound practices and they employ their vineyard crew all year long. The extremely human scale and unfussy character of the operation come through in this classic Pinot Noir. There are aromas of mashed black cherry and raspberry, with fresh turned earth and underbrush and suede, cardamom, clove, and black pepper. The palate is an open book, full bodied as Pinot Noir goes, with black cherry, strawberry, and blood orange fruits dusted with a bit of earth and carried by velvety tannins and freshening acidity. This Pinot Noir is easy to get along with and easy to drink. As winemaker Gabriel Jagle puts it “I just want to make the wines that my friends like to drink”. It’s easy to imagine sharing this with friends.


Lundeen Willamette Valley Brut $38

Michael Lundeen counts four generations of family in the Willamette Valley, just outside McMinnville. His resume includes stints at some of Oregon’s best known wineries, but since 2008 he’s put his own name on his wines, and when it comes to sparkling wine, he’s put quite a stamp on the Oregon wine scene as a whole. Michael got into the sparkling wine business almost by accident. He had grapes that weren’t getting ripe enough to make still wine in a cold vintage, so he figured “hey, how hard can it be to make Champagne?” As nutty as that sounds, it seems to have worked, as Lundeen’s traditional method sparkling wine quickly became a new benchmark for Oregon. This latest edition represents a decade of work honing his craft and style, a wine that could pass as Champagne but speaks mostly to Oregon. A true traditional method wine, this is a non-vintage blend. 80% of the total comes from the bright, lean 2019 vintage. Two parts Pinot noir, one part Chardonnay, and a teaspoon of Pinot Gris were left on the yeast for three years. The nose offers green apple, lemon, cherry, sourdough yeast, almond, tarragon and fennel. The palate shows red cherry fruit with apple and almond accents and a strong soil driven minerality coming through the classic, creamy textured palate sizzling with tiny bubbles. Like many great traditional method wines, yeasty, nutty, notes bloom on the finish. Pair this with almost anything, really.