Three from J. Albin / Lorelle

Hello friends. John Albin is producing some of the best values coming out of Oregon right now, and today’s trio of wines is proof of his range and quality.

John led the viticulture and winemaking at King Estate for seven years before branching off on his own. His J. Albin label is known more to Oregon insiders than to the general public (having no website helps in that regard). And if J. Albin is under the radar, John’s Lorelle label might as well be subterranean. It’s was originally a project for his Seattle distributor, in hopes of developing a strong Pinot glass-pour option for restaurants. But as long-time list members know, we love these little distributor glass-pour projects (Brand, For A Song, Northwest Vine Project, etcetera). Why should the sommeliers get to have all the fun?

Today we have two wines under the Lorelle label and one under J. Albin:

2013 Lorelle Pinot GrigioThis comes entirely from The Benches Vineyard. Formerly called Wallula, this is an estate site for Long Shadows, who also sell some of the grapes to a select customer list. Their website has some great pictures of this breathtaking site.

A pale pink color, this is almost like a Gris de Gris (Pinot Gris/Grigio takes on a natural pinkish hue as it ripens, so if you allow skin contact after harvest, you can achieve a color like this). The aromatics are clean and fresh, a mix of honeycrisp apple, chalky mineral, and floral topnotes. In the mouth, this is bone-dry, with poppin’ acid and a brisk 12.5%-alc texture. It’s a nervy Grigio, austerely-fruited and minerally to the core. I love how bright and mouthwatering this is.

2012 Lorelle Pinot NoirWe actually offered this once, right after its release, as part of our Thanksgiving offer on November 4, 2013. Here’s an excerpt from that offer:

Entirely from Laurel Vineyard, a cool-climate site in an under-loved corner of the Willamette that was planted in 1981 and is farmed by the Albin family. So basically we’re looking at estate-grown, single-vineyard, Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir from 30-year-old vines. For like fifteen bucks. Not bad. “Perfect roast chicken wine,” was the consensus around the tasting table for this one (we can sub turkey, right?). A zesty, spicy Pinot from a terrific vintage, this mixes raspberry fruit/brambles, black cherry, and earth, with dustings of espresso and cayenne for good measure. It’s an energetic vin de soif.

Now we’re catching it at the tail end of its release cycle, and it’s even better, a laser beam of black cherry fruit and dark soil/earth tones. It’s still a vin de soif, utterly gulpable and delicious. Who is making better Oregon Pinot at this tag?

2007 J. Albin Blanc de NoirThis is a pretty special opportunity. Albin’s sparkling wines are not regularly distributed in Washington. They’re special order only, and other than wunder-somm Cyril Frechier, I haven’t seen them turn up anyplace else in Seattle. We offered the 2007 Brut Rosé back in May 2013, and today we have another vintage 2007 sparkling wine.

What else makes this wine special? First, it’s vintage bubbly, all from 2007, a year cool enough to make cool-vineyard Pinot Noir a serious challenge. In other words, perfect for sparkling wine! Second, it’s single-vineyard, all Pinot Noir from Laurel Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains (same as the Pinot Noir above). Laurel is a cool-climate vineyard in an under-loved corner of the Willamette (location here), planted in 1981 and farmed by the Albin family. Because the family is onsite farming the vineyard, they can pick at just the right ripeness and acidity for sparkling wine. They’re also doing full Champagne method here, including hand-riddling, and they’re disgorging on demand. Certainly if we were in Champagne looking at vintage, single-vineyard Blanc de Noirs, we’d need to empty our collective wallets. Fortunately we’re in Oregon!

The nose is immediately compelling, with good dark Pinot fruit (cherry, raspberry), savory notes (earth, chicken stock), and a deeply attractive salt-air salinity. Maturing notes of hazelnut are beginning to emerge as well. In the mouth, this possesses a fine mousse that carries dark, sultry flavors across the palate. Fresh fruit is paired wonderfully with bready autolytic notes and maturing nuttiness. It’s an intense, palate-coating bubbly, evolving wonderfully at seven years past vintage.

First come first served up to 24 bottles each of the Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir, and those two  should arrive in about a week. For the bubbly, please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. As I mentioned, they disgorge on demand, so it may be a few weeks before the sparkling wine appears, at which point all the wines will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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