Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Evolution wines by Sokol Blosser Winery, Oregon

1971 was a very good year, just ask the Sokol Blosser family.

For it was in 1971, long before anyone had lofty notions of an "Oregon Wine Industry" that the Sokol Blossers planted the self-named vineyards about 30 km (20 miles) south of the city of Portland in the county of Dundee. Started by Stanford graduates, and newlyweds, Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol, these two must have either been incredibly stubborn or truly certain of their vision. I say that because the business-law of averages states that any new company will take about seven years to start making profit.

For this vineyard, the big break took more like eight years when the intrepid couple sent their wine to the  International Wine and Spirits Competition in London winning six awards, including several golds. I can't imagine waiting eight years to receive validation from my peers that I'm doing the right kind of work... it takes a very special person to struggle to create something that flies in the face of "mass-opinion". I mean, really, at heart we're all still in high-school  waiting to see what everyone else is going to wear for the first day of class, and then running home to ask our parents for money so that we can buy the same clothes.

Well obviously Bill and Susan weren't those kind of kids. They built a winery where virtually no one else thought World-Class wine could be made. They sent that wine to one of the most prestigious competitions of the day, and won gold. They then expanded the vineyard the very next year and Bill left the stability and comfort of a well-heeled planners position to take the reins as the Sokol-Blosser winemaker full-time. Bravely forging into the unknown...

But Bill and Susan were never afraid to push into the unknown; they were innovators with the use of cover crops to preserve top-soil, they reduced and eliminated the use of pesticides and herbicides to preserve the local salmon streams, they became recognized as one of the top-100 companies to work for in the state of Oregon (the only winery that year). In short, this couple spent  their careers striving towards a different direction then the mainstream.

But why?
underground wine cellar

Why forge so ardently for organic principles long before it became popular, or even fiscally prudent to do so? Why install solar panels for energy on the WestCoast, where it rains enough to make even ducks uncomfortable? Why create the first U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified underground barrel cellar? Why work so darned hard when so many others were doing the opposite?

I believe it was to preserve their terroir

Inspired winemaking and stunning land weren't the only reasons that The Wine Spectator featured Sokol Blosser and their Pinot Noir in 2001. No... awards, accolades, adoring consumers all happened because these wines tell a story.

I was fortunate enough to have a colleague at PMA Canada send me some samples of the new release from this vineyard; their mid-tier wine which hovers just below the $20 price in British Columbia. Excellent price for certified organic wines in this part of the world, but what about the flavors???

A fresh take on Oregon!

Evolution n/v white
Dundee hills AVA, Oregon
90 points
www.PMACanada.com   importers

16th edition
varietals:   Muller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, 
Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner
maturation:   100% stainless steel
  • visual:   clear; pale gold core with watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium+ to fully intense youthful aromas bursting with exotic floral and lush fruit, yellow and pink grapefruit zest, white flowers, apricot, roses... layers of bouquet
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ grapefruit acids, medium- body, medium- ABV (12%), medium+ youthful flavors mimicking the nose... there truly are layer upon layer to this wine and yet in presents itself in a very approachable manner. Full of fruit and floral this wine uses the Gewurztraminer brilliantly and will appeal to any Spring/Summer patio/beach/deck. Excellent balance and very good structure, medium+ length
  • conclusion:   imminently thirst-quenching, this bright little number drinks well now and will not develop appreciably with age. Best 2013-2017/19
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   as the Gewurztraminer was one of the most prominent varietals in the blend (for me) - I would use that as my anchor and try Dijon marinated grilled chicken with BC apricot relish, steamed quinoa, fresh rosemary sauteed apples and baby bok-choy... the sweetness in the wine will respond well to some savory tones in your food, the apricot accentuates the ripe stonefruit notes whilst playing acid (relish) off sweet fruit, I'm on a quinoa kick so there's that - but  really this wine carries multiple layers and can handle multiple layers in the accompanying food

Evolution n/v red

Dundee hills AVA, Oregon
89 points

2nd edition
Bronze Medal Winner - Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
Bronze Medal Winner - New York International Wine Competition
  • visual:   clear; deep garnet core with distinct cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ youthful aromas bursting with cherries, cherry blossoms, roses, savory earth background and light spice
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red currant acids, moderate+ green/grippy tannin  moderate- body, moderate+ ABV (13%), moderately intense youthful flavors much like the nose: fresh and cheery with a hint of savory backbone but not overly complex. Very good balance, good structure, medium length
  • conclusion: fresh young wine best consumed young. Will not develop appreciably in bottle but tannin will soften over the next 12-18 months and will drink more easily without food (for those who enjoy a soft red). Enjoy 2013-2017
  • FOOD PAIRINGS: I would use this Syrah based blend much like an inexpensive Chianti or perhaps Primitivo... pasta bolognese with prosciutto chips, grilled sausage and portobello mushrooms, shaved Parmesan... it needs no explanation - a juicy wine for some juicy food!

"All things unto themselves" I've heard it said... to me, as I grow in the wine-industry, I find that is still a rarity. It's rare to find people I guess in any walk of life who dare to express themselves as they are, rather then how they wish they were. For a winemaker to express grapes the way that they want to be expressed- well- that's not every winemaker.

Winemakers are proud. Winemakers are bold. Winemakers want to put their stamp on a wine so that people half-way around the world will say: "Oh - that was made by Winemaker X!". It takes more strength of character to allow a wine to travel halfway around the world and someone says: "Oh - that was made in Dundee Hills!".

The Evolution line of wines is still introductory, but certainly walks a long way towards expressing more of where it came then of who made it. These wines may well change the way consumers look at Oregon wines... from lofty Pinot Noir commanding top-level prices to these which are easy drinking and (relatively) easy to afford. I look forward to tasting more of the wines that made Sokol Blosser famous.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Novas wines by Emiliana organic vineyards

Recently, I've been focused on the concept of terroir, and it's preservation. So much so, that I sent an idea for a lecture about this critical theme to the North American Wine Blogger's Conference. They have taken my idea, melded it with another theme, and will be re-packaging it into a 2.5 hour panel-lead discussion on Saturday 08th June. I'm pretty giddy about that!

But why? What's all the commotion about you say?

There is an evolution happening not only in the wine industry in general, but in our province of British Columbia in specific. Many readers know that in 1986 there were only 33 wineries in BC, and by 2011 that number had grown to over 240. We are growing faster then even the greatest wine gurus of Canada can reasonably keep up with.

But it's not just growth in numbers of wineries, or volume of production, that is so exciting to me and many others. It's the proliferation of truly world-class wines that are coming from our extreme wine region. We here at the most northerly edge of the wine-world are releasing sparkling wines rated as some of the finest anywhere. We produce truly unique and high-caliber Pinot Noir, ultra crisp, clean Chardonnay, bone-dry and fully intense Riesling... I even know a winemaker who produces small quantities of a brilliant Tempranillo

But will we always?
vineyard at Emiliana

As much as there is fantastic development in organics and bio-dynamics, and BC is one of the regions that is leading the foray,  there is another side to the industry. New winery owners are still being told, by some people, that it's ok when building a new winery - to bulldoze the land and then plant what is needed or wanted. There is still a proportion of the industry that doesn't believe that a natural ecosystem, well-preserved, is absolutely necessary to create a full and complete expression of terroir

It is that expression that creates uniquely beautiful wines. I also believe, as do many others, that it allows for greater life-span in the wines as well.
Emiliana organic vineyards (www.Emiliana.cl) is a brilliant example of these principles at work. I remember vividly the Vancouver Wine Festival of 2012, and be able to sit (in awe) and listen to the fantastically passionate Alvaro Espinoza (consulting winemaker). This man bristled with dynamic energy as he spoke of the investment of time, energy and passion into the land and the people who were producing Emiliana wines. 

There are so many things to list that Emiliana is doing well, that I would be remiss to even start the process - for you and I would be here for a long, long time. Better for you to read the company website and absorb from them directly the whats and hows of what this premium winery has done and continues to do. But let me tell you about the wines if you haven't tried them.

2010 Novas Chardonnay-Marsanne
DO Valle de Casablanca
89 points

vine age: 20 years
altitude: 370 m
vineyard yield: 6 tons/HA
maturation:  30% aged 4 months in new French oak
production: 9,350 cases

  • visual:   clear; pale gold core with light watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium+ intense and youthful aromas; ripe pineapple, exotic floral notes, slate-like minerality, peppery finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ green apple/lemon acids, medium body, medium+ ABV (14%), medium+ intense and youthful flavors that mimick the nose with a keen line of mineral throughout, starts with the lush fruit/floral and finishes with a clean light citrus tone. Very good balance and structure, medium length
  • conclusion:   brilliant wine for the money. Drink now, drink often! Will not develop appreciable but can be held until 2018 or potentially longer
  • FOOD PAIRING:   crisp lemon acids with love a fat roast chicken or duck! Consider poulet au quarantes l'ail (the chicken of 40 garlic) where you put generous wedges of garlic in little cuts in a whole chicken and slow-roast...divine!!
2010 Novas Cabernet-Sauvignon Carmenere
DO Valle de Colchagua
$17.99 www.bcldb.com
90 Points

vine age:   20 years
altitude:   245 m
soil composition:   colluvial; stoney with clay-loam
yield:   8 tons/HA
maturation:   12 months, 40% new French oak, 30% American, 30% stainless steel
production:   13,250 cases

  • visual:   clear; deep garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and youthful aromas; pungent savory herbs; tomato leaf/bay leaf, ripe dark  plums, strawberries, bell peppers, rich dark chocolate
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium raspberry acids, medium+to full chalky/chewy tannin, medium+ body, medium to medium- ABV(14%), medium+ to full intense and youthful flavors expressing deep earthy tones, savory dark chocolate, bright red berries, hints of tobacco and leather. Excellent balance and structure, medium+ length
  • conclusion: whilst this is already drinking quite well, this will reward patient cellaring. Enjoy 2013-2020
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   dimension, elegance, this wine over-delivers and pairs handsomely with prime rib, but also consider seared venison flat-iron steak with maple glaze, steamed spaghetti squash and rainbow chard, "raz-el-hanout" spiced quinoa... very specifically the maple and the Arabic spices both play well off the wines dark cocoa notes and the nuttiness of quinoa will enhance the tobacco/leather tones

Though for this article I'm writing about the Novas line, I must mention the great jewel of Emiliana which is the Coyam Bordeaux-style blend. I will never grow tired of that wine! Truly elegant in it's production, it follows the principles of a left-bank Bordeaux-blend with it's high proportion of Cabernet-Sauvignon whilst creating a flavor-profile that is entirely it's own. It is unabashedly Chilean with it's richness of bouquet; the depth of the savory earth-tones, the dark floral aromas... I have never scored it less then 92 points and was un-surprised to discover that it had earned the prestigious title of "Best Wine of Chile" in 2003.

Alvaro Espinoza
This is what happens when a winery treats their land as it deserves. This is the direct result of a terrific investment of both finances and energy into allowing a natural landscape to evolve into a thriving vineyard. These ideals don't just exist on paper for wine-lovers: these ideals exist in the bottle, and the glass. Alvaro Espinoza understands and shares these ideals. He has brought the story of his land, his valleys and his people to my very distant part of the world and I will always be grateful to him for that. I look to this winery as one of the best examples of how our industry can be leaders in organics, in bio-dynamics and carbon-neutral business and can do so with heart, and spirit while building a truly prosperous business.

Well done Emiliana! I would have loved your wines enough for what was in the bottle - the back story is icing on the cake. Now I get to drink great wine and support a worthwhile company at the same time. Where are you investing your consumer dollars???

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!