May is Oregon Wine Month, and while most people think Pinot Noir when they think Oregon wine, we thought it would be fun to do a deep dive into a stainless steel tank filled with WHITE WINE from Oregon!
To that end, we have a series of blog posts for you where we will investigate and taste six fun whites from Oregon, then just in time for Chardonnay Day on Thursday May 24, and National Wine Day on Friday May 25, we have two dozen DRY FARMED CHARDONNAY from Oregon where we will also discuss the difference between wines that use oak barrels and those which do not.
First, a call to action that does not include tasting wine! While some may think this is frivolous, don’t you think it’s time for us to have a white wine emoji? If you agree, please join us in signing this petition calling for the creation of a white wine emoji .
And second, who do you think needs this emoji? If you think women, you’re wrong: a recent report from Digimind “reveals that men discuss white wine more often than women on social media (57% vs 43%).”
Now on to the serious business of discussing six white wines from Oregon which we tasted in the following order:
- 2016 – Left Coast – Estate White Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, Oregon – 14.1% Alcohol
- 2016 – Left Coast – Estate Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley, Oregon – 14.1% Alcohol
- 2015 – Iris Pinot Gris – 12.1% Alcohol
- 2017 – Raptor Ridge -Gruner Veltliner – Chehalem Mountains – Tuscowallame Estate – 13.0% Alcohol
- 2014 – Iris Chardonnay – 13.2% alcohol
- Montinore Estate Borealis -The Great Northern White – Willamette Valley – 12.3% Alcohol
- Note: all wines were samples for our review consideration
How did we decide this order? We debated quite a bit, particularly about where to put the Borealis as it is very rambuctious and a tad sweet like a toddler, the Gruner is a lean green fighting machine, and the Chardonnay has some oak on it, so we decided to do those later.
We wanted to appreciate the subtleties of the Left Coast White Pinot Noir, so that went first and we wanted to compare and contrast the two Pinot Gris so clearly we’d taste them side by side.
The order of how you taste wines definitely influences your experience of them — as does the shape of the glass you choose! For our evening’s tasting for three of us, I ended up washing (by hand!) almost two dozen glasses of various shapes and kinds including:
- Martha Stewart’s “white wine” glasses (these serve as a basic glass for most whites and even some reds!),
- Riedel’s oaked chardonnay stemless glass,
- Sauvignon blanc glasses for the Gruner,
- Pinot grigio glasses for the Pinot Gris!
- Cheese Board
- Asparagus wrapped with prosciutto
- Many Mini-Pizzas bites!
We started with two wines from Left Coast Cellars located in Rickreall, OR 15 minutes north west of Salem and south of McMinnville in the Willamette Valley. Founded in 2003, Left Coast now has one of the largest contiguous vineyards in Oregon.
Family owned, 100% estate grown and bottled, and committed to sustainability, Left Coast desires to enhance and share the natural beauty of their property with others through thoughtful winemaking, sustainable practices and habitat conservation. Both vineyards and winery are LIVE certified sustainable, they are 90% solar powered and have partnered with the US Department of Fish & Wildlife to help restore 100 acres of old growth Oregon White Oak on the property to their native savannah state. Voted Oregon’s Best Tasting Room of 2017 by USA Today, they are famous for their wood fired pizza. (We cooked ours in my oven!)
2016 – Left Coast – Estate White Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, Oregon – 14.1% Alcohol – $24
Color: So clear that it is like water, but there is a very faint rose gold color to it as well; it is influenced by surrounding colors! Limited skin contact provides this pristine clarity.
Nose: Grass, and ocean breeze with saline minerals. This wine is very fresh and clean on the nose with pear and applesauce as it opens up.
Palate: Very nice round mouth feel, clean refreshing, very subtle cherry notes, more like an essence of cherry.
This wine is like being at the beach having a rainier cherry and your mouth is agape in wonder of the huge wave rolling in. Great beach wine.
Pairings: Sue tried the this wine with caviar and was not really thrilled, there was a bit too much fruit to pair well with the salt. We sampled a papaya delice cheese with a piece of ripe pear with this wine: what a lovely pair. This led to Sue’s creation of pear and brie pizza: the pear in the pizza brought out the pear notes in the wine. I really liked the procuitto wrapped asparagus as a pairing and Sue agreed so she made a pizza with these elements as well. Our salad of spinach, fresh raspberries, feta, pecans and raspberry balsamic was lovely with this wine.
This is an amazingly versatile wine. We found something to go with this wine for every course that was served tonight. There is a clean astringency, it motivates your palate to what you are eating if it is the correct pairing.
2016 – Left Coast – Estate Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley, Oregon – 14.1% Alcohol $18
Color: Very very pale yellow, maybe even white gold.
Nose: Tangerine, nectarine, honeysuckle. Diane fell in love with the aroma: Very faint grassiness, almost like fresh cut grass, but grass that has been cut down a while ago earlier in the day, and you are still smelling it as the sun sets and it’s time to relax.
Palate: Fruit on the palate suggest sweet citrus on the front of the palate, with a dry crisp finish. Diane got nectarine, not a super ripe nectarine, following through to that nectarine on the back of the mouth. There is not a lengthy finish on the backend. Big burst of flavor up front which mellows finishing clean and crisp. Very satisfying wine.
Pairing: In Sue’s opinion, this wine was the very best with the oysters, it brought out an almost apple pie sweetness in the oysters.
This was a delight, with or without food. We kept coming back to this wine and found it to be wonderful throughout our meal.
2015 – Iris Pinot Gris – 12.1% Alcohol $18
Color: light pale yellow
Nose: earth, damp forest, fresh stone fruit
Palate: Bright and fresh, not an acid monster, but lemony, clean and refreshing.
Pairing: We imagine this wine with a roast beet or squash salad with goat cheese. Diane had the wine with a piece of brie and found it much more pleasurable. Sue liked it with a bit of ripe pear to the brie bite. Sue found the fresh oysters to be perfect with this wine.
This wine has staying power! Often we think of white wines as drink em up quick,because you want to and generally you need to, but this one lasted quite well over several days.
Iris is located in the southern part of the Willamette Valley, just twenty minutes southwest of Eugene which is where you’ll find their tasting room. Check out their blog here.
2017 – Raptor Ridge -Gruner Veltliner – Chehalem Mountains – Tuscowallame Estate – 13.0% Alcohol SRP $20
Color: pretty pale color a bit more than the Pinot Gris, a bit more gold.
Nose: brisk tangerine, elderflower, sage, cough drop menthol, anise, licorice.
Swirling and opening up this wine brings out more rewarding and surprising characteristics.
Palate: Super grassy and acidic all across the palate, this wine has mouth watering acidity making it a great palate cleanser. Have this wine between courses to wake up your taste buds! Tart lemon lingers on the back palate. Very mouthwatering. A bit of tart green apple.
Imagine a grassy meadow on a brisk, dewy morning as you choose a place for a picnic.
Pairing: Great with the caviar, perfect with the fresh oysters, Gwen found it to be like the chemistry of milk chocolate and the magic that happens when you put the two together. We really liked this wine with our brie, asparagus, procuitto pizza. Such lovely flavors that marry together, the garlic starts to take control, but then is controlled and tamed by the creaminess of the brie, and the smoked salt of the food.
Fewer than 500 cases produced. There is very little of this grape grown in the United States, much more in Europe. The grape does best in Loess soils similar to soils there in the Rhine. Only 10% of the planet has this type of soil which is made up of sediment sized grains of silt that have been blown in the wind and accumulated.
More about Raptor Ridge before Oregon Wine Month is over!
2014 – Iris Chardonnay Chalice Estate – 13.2% alcohol SRP $28
Case Production: 432 Cases
Cooperage: 50% New French Oak
Final Analysis: 13.2% alcohol; TA 5.9 g/L; pH 3.3Vineyard Source: 100% Chalice Vineyard, C Bloc
Love the branding of this wine!
Color: Kind of a greenish gold
Nose: Butterscotch, pineapple, definitely smells like an naked Chardonnay in sharp contrast to the other wines. Diane also got mushroom.
Palate: Green apple, There is some acidity on the palate which does round out the buttery. This is more in Helen’s wheel house, she loves big buttery chardonnay. It kind of clings to the roof of your mouth.
Pairing: So much potential with this wine when paired with food. Rich buttery seafoods make this wine much more enjoyable. Diane wanted to have a smoked oyster and asked what wine we might recommend, we took her to the chardonnay thinking that the smoke in the oyster might do nicely with the chard. I took it one step further and put her smoked oyster on creme fresh with the chard. I felt the pairing was not bad, but not something to write home about it. Sue decided to join in with the smoked oyster and the chard. It was again a nice pair, but not the best of the evening.
Our creamy shrimp, garlic pizza, was fabulous with this wine, it cut the oakiness and changed the wine completely in a brilliant way. Over the top insane. This wine changes when it has a creamy, lovely garlic. We all agreed that this was a most amazing transformation of this wine. for our brie asparagus pizza was great as well. the creaminess of the food brought out a wonderful loveliness in the wine. It also liked the smoked oyster, mushroom pizza with parm, who would have thought that this would have done well? In fact this was really the only whites that went well with our smoked oyster pizza.
I paired this wine the following days with roast chicken and other meals: while it would never be my choice for happy hour, it is fabulous with food.
To celebrate Oregon Wine Month, Iris is offering 50% off on orders of 6+ bottles of this wine with shipping included!
Montinore Estate Borealis -The Great Northern White – Willamette Valley – 12.3% Alcohol $16
38% Muller – Thurgau, 32% Gewurztraminer, 19% Riesling, 11% Pinot Gris
Who is the largest producer of certified estate wines made from Biodynamic® grapes in the country? Oregon’s Montinore Estate which also produces the Borealis grown in their Stellar Certified Organic vineyard located in north Willamette Valley.
While the residual sugar is 1.6% making this a bit on the sweet side, the acid is 6.3 g/L and the pH is 3.17 giving this stainless steel fermented wine balance and versatility.
Color: Pale yellow
Nose: Very floral nose, gardenia, spice, cardamom, coriander, chinese 5 spice, lemon
Palate: Fruit forward but not overly sweet, tangerine on the front palate, nice citrus, fresh orange finish, valencia orange, lemon curd toward the back, some sweetness, sassy.
Pairing: With the sweetness, we imagine this would be great with Asian food, Thai curry. We saved our dessert for this wine: blue cheese pear pizza with roasted pecans and rosemary and a creme fresh lemon curd raspberry pizza. After smelling the wine we all decided that we wanted to go straight for the lemon curd raspberry pizza. The citrus creaminess of the wine was spectacular with the wine. This wine also was spectacular with our blue cheese, pear, and pecan pizza.
The secret to pairing wine with dessert is that the dessert can NOT be too sweet. These mini-pizzas work really well.
Cheers to Oregon Wine Month and to National Drink Wine Day!