Hello friends. John Albin 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 was originally a project for his Seattle distributor (C&G, for those of you who enjoy the inside-baseball of the wine trade), 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?
The Lorelle line has since expanded to include a white and a rosé as well, and we’re offering all three wines today. This troika makes a compelling case that John is producing some of the best values coming out of Oregon today:
Okay, except technically this first wine comes from Washington fruit. So sue me! It is entirely Benches Vineyard fruit. Formerly called Wallula, this is an estate site for Long Shadows, who also sells some of the grapes to a select customer list. Their website has some great pictures of this breathtaking site.
While this one is not labeled as rosé, its color is indeed a lovely pale copper. You can get this effect (sometimes called Gris de Gris) because 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. Those of you who enjoy Julia’s Dazzle may recall that the foundation for that wine is Pinot Gris from The Benches. The difference is that for Dazzle, Gilles Nicault adds 2% Sangiovese for color stabilization. Hence Dazzle is a truer shade of pink, Lorelle more like salmon.
And speaking of salmon… this would be a lovely pairing with the northwest’s favorite finfish. It offers a nose of pineapple and honeycrisp apple fruit paired to chalky mineral. “Not a dullard!” is my first palate note, which is an expression of surprised delight considering how many insipid Pinot Grigios we taste. Bright and lively (12.5% listed alc), this has good alpine character, citric fruit, and lovely mineral/saline cut. It’s clean, honest, refreshing. It’s a chugger, pretty much built for summer porch pounding.
A rosé built entirely from Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, this is a bright electric pink color and clocks in at 12.5% listed alc. I loved the Oregon Pinot character on the nose, all kirsch and resinous forest floor. The palate mixes fruit notes of green strawberry and pineapple with subtleties of chalk and sweet pea. It’s a mouthwatering rosé, with plenty of brightness to drink all summer, and then just enough sneaky finishing richness to offer itself up as a Thanksgiving candidate, should any of your bottles survive the summer.
This is the third vintage in a row that we’ve offered of Lorelle Pinot Noir, and no wonder: it’s damned difficult to find successful Oregon Pinot Noirs at a $15 tag. Actually, it’s pretty tough to find successful Pinots from *any* region at $15. The (sensitive, fickle, maddening) grape just does not lend itself to inexpensive viticulture and vinification.
But John does well with the Lorelle label, always crafting an unfussy bottle with plenty of honest Pinot character. That’s certainly the case with the 2013, which hits the glass pale ruby and clocks in at 12.9% listed alc. The nose mixes red cherry fruit, anise, and pine bough, leading into a palate with a core of bright red fruit, with just enough savory resinous complexity to let you know you’re in Oregon. I’d put a light chill on this over the summer and enjoy its citrusy acids and pure red fruits. A total vin de soif, perfect for thirst quenching during the warmer months to come.
First come first served up to 72 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.