Hello friends. The more we have offered Oregon wines over the years, the more convinced I am that Washington and Oregon have a dysfunctional wine relationship. Beautiful Washington wines languish in Oregon; beautiful Oregon wines languish in Washington; and let’s not even discuss California!
At first, I thought the whole situation was a little sad. Right up until I realized that it was laden with opportunity. After all, our list membership certainly doesn’t have a dysfunctional relationship with Oregon. On the contrary, we have a healthy, stable, (dare I say loving?) relationship with our Pinot-blessed neighbors to the south. And that relationship seems to be leading to more and more cool opportunities for our list members.
Which brings us to today. Recently David Autrey from Westrey shipped a handful of Pinot Noir samples up for us to taste. None of the wines are currently sold in Seattle. And the deal was: taste the wines; and if you like the wines, offer the wines, and then special-order the wines up to Seattle. Note: this is not the same thing as an exclusive. If other retailers or restaurants decide to piggyback on our order, I’m not going to throw a tantrum (now that I’m on the receiving end of many a tantrum thanks to a headstrong 20-month-old, the allure of the giving end of tantrums is considerably lessened).
But it’s still a pretty darned cool opportunity: access to as-yet-unsold-in-Seattle bad-ass Pinot Noirs. Westrey is an outstanding Oregon winery, one of my very favorites. And despite a 20+ year track record of excellence, I would still call them under-known, under the radar for the quality they put in bottle. They’re beloved by insiders in the Oregon scene but difficult to source outside the state. They’re open exactly two days each year (Memorial Day, Thanksgiving). Their wines are rarely reviewed by the national press, but they’re message-board darlings, and in-the-know types like Allen Meadows (the Burghound) say things like this: [TEXT WITHHELD]
Amy and David were both philosophy majors at Reed College in Oregon (take heart, mothers and fathers of philosophy majors: you have potential future winemakers in your midst!) David worked the ’89 (Adam Winery; now defunct) and ’90 (Cameron) vintages in the Willamette Valley before spending the ’91 vintage in Burgundy at Domaine Dujac. Returning to the WV in ’92, David worked one more harvest (this time with Bethel Heights and Rex Hill), before launching Westrey in 1993 at a total production of 400 cases. Production has increased since then, but not by much. The lineup includes three single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, and since accessing Westrey has become something of a rarity, I’m inclined to offer all three:
Finding single-vineyard Oregon Pinots at sub-$30 tariffs is hard enough to begin with. Let alone when that single-vineyard includes a solid third from 35-year-old vines (the 1977 block at Oracle; all own-rooted Pommard clone material). The remainder is from the newer (2001) plantings, all Dijon clones. It was a 17-barrel lot, including 4 new barrels, 4 once-used, and 9 neutral. Listed alc is 13.5%, and it begins with a nose of brambly berry fruit alongside spicy/savory tones like good Spanish smoked paprika. The palate is lithe and vibrant despite the fleshier year, offering citrusy acids and very compelling cherry-pit bitters. I love the lightly salty mineral tang here, and the sneaky finishing chew. This offers plenty of stuffing and a real sense of place for the tag.
Westrey’s block sits at about 450 feet on Nekia soils, and it is all Dijon 777-clone material. This was a 7-barrel lot: 1 new barrel, 2 one-year-old, 4 neutral. Justice also included 20% whole-clusters (stems and all) in 2012. It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and offers a black-and-brooding aromatic profile: brambly black fruit, woodsmoke, and tarry/graphitic mineral complexities. Rich, supple, and quite dark, it offers a balanced mix of black cherry fruit and dark minerals. Well-proportioned, with perfect weight and density, this is a beautiful example of Eola-Amity Hills fruit. It’s also the only wine of today’s three with a review, from the points-reticent Josh Raynolds:
Vinous (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 92pts.”
As far as I know, only three wineries currently make single-vineyard Pinots from Abbey Ridge fruit: Cameron, J. Christopher, and Westrey. If Oregon was Burgundy, Abbey Ridge would be a Grand Cru site. Of that I am one hundred percent certain. Planted at 500-700 feet on the red volcanic soils of the Dundee Hills, it is among the oldest commercial vineyards in the Willamette. Bill and Julia Wayne’s original goal at the time of planting was to grow Pinot fine enough to sell to the inimitable David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards). They did eventually sell fruit to David, and later to Eyrie’s neighbors, Amy Wesselman and David Autrey.
I believe they’ve been making a version of Abbey Ridge Pinot since 1995, so it’s an understatement to say they have a comfort level with the vineyard. All that I love about Abbey Ridge is on display here: the high-toned soaring florals, the aching transparency, the piquantly pure red fruit. Glorious. There is never a shred of excess weight in Westrey’s Abbey bottling, and that’s certainly true here. Earthy, leafy, and resinous in turn, this offers a ne plus ultra autumn wine. I consider it Westrey’s flagship, and it’s a must-try for lovers of Oregon Pinot. It’s also built for long-term aging, so if you’re going to open this any time soon, a lengthy multi-hour decant is in order.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. Recall that this is a special order, so it may be more like 3-4 weeks (as opposed to the regular 1-2) before these wines arrive, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.