Two 2010s from Adelsheim

Hello friends. We have two wines from a seminal Oregon producer today: one is yet another shimmering 2010 Pinot, the other a rarer beast: a Willamette Valley Syrah:

2010 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Elizabeth’s Reserve

Adelsheim is part of the old guard of the Willamette Valley, and was especially influential in establishing the Chehalem Mountains as a viable growing area. Founded by David and Ginny Adelsheim in 1971 (here’s what they looked like then), they released their first commercial wines in 1978, and Elizabeth’s Reserve was inaugurated soon thereafter as a blend of the best barrels in the winery.

For me, Lizzy is one of a handful of reference-point wines for Willamette Valley Pinot each year (Eyrie Reserve, DDO Laurene, Westrey Abbey Ridge are a few others, and I’m sure I’m leaving several out), because it consistently and transparently expresses the vintage it comes from.

The 2010 vintage in Oregon was one of fine quality with crystalline purity but extremely low yields, thanks to insatiable birds that decimated the late-hanging vintage in October. With a low-yield vintage like 2010, vigilance is required in buying, as the good 2010 Pinots tend to hit the Seattle market and disappear. That’s why we’ve jumped in early on 2010s from from Eyrie, DDO, Crowley, St. Innocent, Cameron, and Patty Green, and that’s why we’re jumping on Lizzy today.

It includes barrels from twelve different vineyards. Six are estate; six are purchased fruit. Six are volcanic jory soil; six are marine sedimentary soil. The core comes from the Chehalem Mountains, back where it all started for Adelsheim, and the wine was aged in French barrels for about a year (34% new). It’s expressive of 2010 to be sure, with soaring airy aromatics of red cherry, violet, and rosewater. The palate has a beautiful, fresh (13.4%-alc) core of red cherry and rhubarb fruit, lifted by nuances of chamomile tea and citrus peel and dusty forest floor. This one is all about purity of fruit, transparency of place, and elegance of texture.

Wine & Spirits (Patrick Comiskey): “($55); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”

2010 Adelsheim Syrah

I was knee-buckled by this one. Willamette Syrahs are rare but not unheard of (I know Cristom’s version has multiple fans among our list members). They tend to be micro-production (251 cases here) and get snapped up in-state. We’re lucky to have access to a parcel of this, which will be special-ordered from the winery and shipped up for our list members. Adelsheim’s Syrah has never been sold in Washington before today.

So what is the character of Willamette Syrah? Well, imagine the lovechild of St. Joseph and Gramercy Cellars, and you’ll start to get the picture. This has plenty of old-world personality, in its low alcohol (12.9%), its black-pepper-dusted-steak nuance, its insistent mineral character. But there’s a succulence, a pure grapey-ness, to the boysenberry/blueberry fruit that would lead me away from Europe if I was tasting this blind. Bridge wines like this, that span the stylistic gap, are awfully compelling, and this has an honesty to it, a sense of unfussedness, that I found totally seductive.

It comes entirely from Calkins Lane Vineyard, the lowest site in the Chehalem Mountains (200ft elevation) that Adelsheim farms. The Syrah vines were planted in 2003, and they sit entirely on marine sedimentary soil. Terroir-expressive Syrah from a patch of land that used to be seabed under the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean? Um, yes please.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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