When I put out a call for dry farmed Chardonnay from Oregon, I was surprised by the number of wines that arrived at my doorstep. We chose a selection which I wrote about here for Chardonnay Day 2018 and we will do more for this Chardonnay Day.
But the wine kept coming, including a bottle that really wowed me as soon as I saw it:
- One, the label was flat out gorgeous, depicting a bee amongst dandelions. You may not know this, but dandelions, while a weed, are critically important fro bees because the dandelions bloom early in the season providing an important food source for bees. This said to me that these people are Paying Attention!
- Two, I recognized the Belle Pente vineyard on the label as one that is farmed biodynamically
- Three, I knew that Brian O’Donnell, Belle Pente’s farmer as well as a winemaker who I met at the Oregon Wine Road event in LA, is a legitimate dry farm fanatic! (In this post, I discuss how some dry farms are drier than others).
- Four, because it’s a biodynamic wine, I can continue my biodynamic wine experiment where I open and then periodically taste the wine to see how long it lasts! (OK partly my problem — I can only wait so long… in this case 14 days!).
The Day Chardonnay from the Bell Pente Vineyard in the Yamhill Carlton (AVA 12.75% SRP $38) with only 150 cases produced delivered on its promises and intrigued me enough to pursue learning more about the wines, the label, and the winemaker, Brianne Day.
About this 100% Chardonnay, Brianne Day writes: “I am ecstatic to be able to work with fruit from this lovely site.” She continues to say that the farmer, Brian O’Donnell, “is someone who I have looked up to in the industry for years” and that “[T]he site that he and his wife, Jill, farm really embodies the diversity I have in mind when I think of a multi-cultural farm. They grow fruit trees, cows, geese, chickens and vegetables in addition to grapes. They really live in harmony with the natural elements of their site and I love all of the wines they make from their vineyard. This gorgeous Chardonnay fruit was picked in mid September, pressed, allowed to brown, racked to barrel and then fermented in one new 500 liter barrel, one once-filled 300 liter barrel and two neutral 228 liter barrels. With the exception of topping, It was not touched at all after going into barrel, for 19 months. It was racked into stainless steel, and cold stabilized and bottled unfined and unfiltered on April 19th, 2017.”
So you can imagine how ecstatic I was to learn that she would be at this year’s World of Pinot Noir where she would be speaking and sharing her wine on two panels (which unfortunately I was unable to attend as I was told they were sold out although I was also told by another speaker that there was still space…). I was however, able to connect with Brianne at the Grand Tasting and she sent me the current vintage of the Chardonnay as well as my favorite biodynamic Pinot Noir which I tasted in the media room, “Broken Destemmer” from Johan Vineyards.
Brianne’s family moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley when she was 16. There she fell in love with the “vibrancy” and “orderliness” of the vineyards. In her 20s, she traveled the world’s wine regions for two years, and she returned to Oregon about 10 years ago determined to be a winemaker.
In her preparations to become a winemaker, Brianne
- studied at Chemeketa Community College
- learned about wine in France, New Zealand and Argentina
- worked in wine with Willamette wineries she admired including The Eyrie Vineyards, Brooks Winery, Grochau Cellars,
- Belle Pente, Scott Paul and Storyteller Wine Company,
- served wine in restaurants
- sold barrels for Bordeaux cooperage, Saury
In 2012, she made her first vintage of 125 cases with Pinot noir from a friend’s family’s vineyard. With rave reviews, she poured at the RAW Natural Wine Fair in London. In 2017, she produced 5,000 cases of Day Wine which could be purchased in twelve states and three countries.
2016 – Day Chardonnay – Belle Pente Vineyard – Yamhill Carlton AVA – 12.75% alcohol – SRP $40
From the label: “This wine was created naturally with consideration and respect for the planet, for the people who love and tended to it and for those who will enjoy drinking it.” The Belle Pente Vineyard is biodynamic but the wine is not certified by Demeter.
Color: Pale yellow,
Nose: Honeysuckle, honey pollen, honey crisp apple, citrus blossom, elderflower bloom, fennel pollen
Pairing: Lemoned honey, light grassiness, it has quite a finish, there is kind of a plushness to it, it has acidity, but it is not overwhelming in acidity. Complex, there is freshness and vitality. This is not a heavy chardonnay. There is a very light touch by the winemaker. She lets the fruit speak for itself.
Pairing: The wine went beautiful with chevoo marinated goat cheese in garlic, fennel pollen olive oil. I kept returning to the truffle marcona almonds. Fantastic with brie. Great with duck liver, or duck liver pate. Beautiful with the salad. Good with the mushroom ravioli but Sue would have preferred sage in the sauce with the wine over the thyme (but mine was gone from my garden!).
2016 – Day – Johan Vineyard – Broken Destemmer – Willamette Valley AVA – 13.5% alcohol – $50
The label says: “During harvest a winemaker is triaging constantly and must act with instinct and flexibility. One cannot be too set in their ways, otherwise the winemaking is a swim against an undertow and the wines are forcibly molded. I work best and the wines become their true self when I ride the current and open up to possibilities instead of rigidly sticking to preconceived notions, (I think this is true in life as well). The destemmer broke the day this fruit came in so this wine is 100% whole cluster. Because of the different treatment from the rest of the fruit, this wine is completely unique and I felt it needed to be showcased on its own.” Johan Vineyard is biodynamic, but the wine is not Demeter certified.
Color: Relatively brown, coral, pale coral ring
Nose: Sue found it super earthy, barnyard funk, with underlying trace of cherry, cherry tobacco, while to me it was more rhubarb, cherry cola, sasparilla, and strawberry. The nose is rich and engaging.
Palate: Lot of earth, tannins, and acidity, the rhurbarb that I found came out on the palate, plus pomegranate, lots of acidity. This is not your run of the mill Pinot Noir. It is bold, earthen, grippy.
Pairing: So lovely with the strawberries and mozzarella in the salad which highlights the lovely fruit and earthiness of the wine. Definitely a great dessert or end of the meal serving. Really loves the earthiness of the ravioli and the cream sauce; that was over the top. The wine has many earthy notes and we wished we would have had sage in the sauce instead of thyme.
PS Looking for a fun wine-centric weekend? Maybe a belated Mother’s Day gift or something for grad or dad?
Here’s how they describe it:
Escape into Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. You’ll have the opportunity to truly disconnect from the stress and strain of every day life and venture to a place where time stands still and dreams come alive. We’re thrilled to partner with Plate & Pitchfork founder Erika Polmar and Chef/Owner Ben Bettinger from Laurelhurst Market & Big’s Chicken. Ben’s delicious and hearty meals will feature products grown and raised in Eastern Oregon and will keep you well fueled for your adventures. Each dinner will be perfectly paired with a selection of our wines. In addition to fabulous food and drink, you’ll enjoy three days filled with thrilling Class III & IV whitewater, incredible scenery, wildlife viewing and fishing opportunities as you venture through thirty-two miles of the Canyon.
Sounds fun to me! I’m in! How about you??
NOTE: I originally included a discussion of Day Wines “Running Bare” red blend from Applegate Valley AVA, but then I determined that it is NOT biodynamic and since this article was getting LONG, I decided to save that part for a post that also includes Queen D which is 32% Vermentino, 23% Marsanne, 23% Roussanne, 22% Grenache blanc.
SO! Still to come — 2 blends from Brianne Day from Southern Oregon:
2015 – Day – Running Bare – Mae’s Vineyard – Applegate Valley AVA SRP $33
50% Cabernet franc, 25% Malbec, 25% Tannat
2016 Queen D Applegate Valley AVA
32% Vermentino, 23% Marsanne, 23% Roussanne, 22% Grenache blanc.