3 from Eyrie + 2 from Forge

Saturday Pickup UPDATE: We will have bonus pickup hours for TPU members on Saturday March 14, from 10am-2pm. We’re also going to use the occasion of our first open Saturday of the year to continue our efforts to tidy up the warehouse, so this pickup day will double as a bin-ends purchasing opportunity. You might remember that our “Hoarders” offer from Feb 25 included wines where we had between 4 and 28 extra bottles kicking around. On March 14 we’ll tackle the list of wines with just 1-3 extra bottles. As you’d imagine, there are a handful of real gems among the list.

Because it’s our first open Saturday of the year, we expect it to be a busy one, so please do e-mail us if you’re planning to come in.
Hello friends. As the calendar ticks over to March, our thoughts turn to spring. And that means white wines. We’ve been tasting a bevy of whites in the warehouse lately, and today’s offer features five of the best: three from a classic Oregon producer, and one from a place whose wines rarely leave their home state: the Finger Lakes of New York. Because it’s so rare to be offered New York State wines, I’m throwing a red monkey wrench in our whiteworks; we’re going to include a Pinot Noir from the same Finger Lakes producer at the bottom. No worries: it drinks largely like a white wine anyway.

Without further adieu, onto the wines:

2013 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris

This is a big year for The Eyrie Vineyards, as they’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the winery. There will be celebrations in Oregon (of course), as well as other parts of the United States, and also locales in Europe and Asia. These wines have developed an international reputation over the years for clarity, transparency, and honest expressions of Willamette Valley terroir. I have written about Eyrie often, and at length. Our inaugural Oregon offer was for Eyrie wines. Our final offer of 2011 was a thrilling dip into the Eyrie library caves.

One of the real treats of attending Oregon Pinot Camp a few years ago was walking the original Eyrie Vineyard plantings with Jason Lett (see picture; I’m second from the left; Jason is dead center, back row, hat, shades, turquoise shirt; the tree from Eyrie’s iconic label, the one that hosted the eagle’s nest that gave the winery its name, is right behind us). Jason knows that piece of land the way a parent knows a child, and treats it with the same tenderness. He’s managing the near-impossible dual feat of carrying on a family tradition while carving out space for his own vision, and doing it with a preternatural sense of calm and equanimity.

Now certainly, the winery’s star has risen on the back of its Pinot Noirs, but Eyrie whites are wonderful little gems, and today we have a trio of them. Beginning with this Pinot Gris, which is a bone-dry, austere, mineral-driven bottle of wine (12.5% listed alc). The fruits (citrus, tree fruits, kiwis) and flowers are grace notes here, and this is a fine reminder that, of all the Pinots to pair with salmon, one can make a compelling argument that Gris is king of the heap, above even the more traditional Noir.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2013 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc

A true hidden gem of the Eyrie lineup, this beauty rarely leaves the clutches of Oregonians, and it’s one we’re lucky to source. Pinot Blanc is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. In other words, you have a vineyard full of Pinot Noir, and all your vines have red grapes, except for one cane, whose grapes are all white. Weird, huh? And then a few geneticist/vigneron types propagated these mutant vines into vineyard blocks all their own. Voila Pinot Blanc!

This one kicks off with an alluring nose of honeydew melon, white flowers, and fennel frond. It conveys a wonderful sense of fullness and silken texture at a low weight (12.5% listed alc). The mid-palate is creamy, leesy, a wonderful transition point from the fruity attack into the more minerally finish. For those of us chugging too much Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc like this is a fine alternative. Find some fresh scallops, give them a nice hard sear, and crack a bottle of this.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”

2012 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines

Eyrie Chardonnay from the Original Vines is a leap of faith, a trust in a multi-generational tradition of stewardship of a small piece of land, trust that these caterpillars will become butterflies if you let them sleep. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a number of older vintages of this wine. They are among the most ageworthy wines in the Pacific Northwest, and I include both reds and whites in that statement. At that Oregon Pinot Camp a few years ago, I had the chance on the last day to taste the 1983 vintage. Pushing 30 years old, it was still very much alive, a deep-golden hazelnut-mineral-earth nectar, one of the most compelling liquids ever to pass these lips.

All that to say: please don’t drink this wine too young. Yes, right now it offers lemon curd and smoky hazelnut notes. Yes, there is already a flintiness reminiscent of great Chablis. Yes, it already has a solid core of tangy minerality. But it’s tightly wound, as this wine always is, and the beauty will be in watching this unfurl over the years. Only 112 cases produced, and from a fine vintage; figure we’ll only get one shot at this, especially with this review turning up in the February Enthusiast:

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 95pts.”

2013 Forge Cellars Riesling Les Allies

This is a very cool project in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, a part of the United States near and dear to my heart, since I spent a memorable six months living there as a 23-year-old, in the throes of an early romance that eventually turned into a marriage. As you can see from their Purchase page, these wines are rarely seen outside the confines of the east coast. We’re lucky to have access to them.

This nice little six-minute video is a great intro to Forge, which is a collaboration between Louis Barroul of Saint Cosme (a name that will be plenty familiar to our list members) and two grower/winemakers in the Finger Lakes. The project kicked off with the 2011 vintage, but it was the 2012 vintage of this particular wine that put the winery on the map, after it earned a 92pt review from Wine Spectator, including this alluring last sentence: “This is a step ahead of the pack.”

I’ll let the winery introduce the 2013, since this is a region I still don’t know a ton about: When the vintage allows it we make a selection in the spring of certain barrels that we feel will benefit with longer aging.  In 2013 we had two vineyards that comprised Les Alliés, Sawmill Creek and Harvest Ridge. Sawmill Creek is on the “slope” and is mostly grey shale and contributed great power and length.  Harvest Ridge is on more limestone/clay vineyards and shows the wet-stone and round mouth feel we come to expect.  The combination of these two sites and with nearly a full year in barrel show an expression of Riesling from the Lakes that is unique and exciting.

This was done entirely in neutral barrels, and it clocks in at 12.5% listed alc. The nose is just great: golden apple, lime leaf, and terrific wet-stone minerality. Bone dry in the mouth, it is immediately noteworthy for its palate-coating sense of extract. There is loads of minerality paired to alpine fruit, and the acidity is pitch-perfect: mouthwatering and delightful. This shows a cool-climate American region with enormous potential, and it lights up both the intellectual and sensual areas of the brain.

2013 Forge Cellars Pinot Noir

We had to include this, right? I mean how often are we going to be able to offer Finger Lakes wines? The Pinot also clocks in at 12.5% listed alc, and it drinks like it comes from someplace cooler than Burgundy; maybe more like an Alsace Pinot or a Spatburgunder from Germany. It’s a pale, pale ruby in the glass, almost delicate to look at. The nose is terrifically expressive: cherry and anise, woodsmoke and smoked meat. The palate continues the theme, a lovely mix of cherry fruit and continuing smoky/meaty notes. It is perhaps at its best on the compelling finish, which lingers impressively for a wine of this weight, and which conveys cherry-pit bitters and a sanguine/bloody minerality.

What lover of terroir expression can resist the chance to taste this patch of American soil through the prism of Pinot Noir?

Let’s put a max of 12 bottles on each wine. I’m confident we’ll have plenty of the Pinot Gris and Blanc. The Chardonnay and both Forge wines may end up being allocated; our parcels are borderline. All five wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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