Wine column for August 12

Oregon produces less than 1 per cent of America’s wine — compared with California’s 90 per cent — yet it receives accolades well out of proportion to the state’s output. It also gets the bulk of the positive media. In recent years, 40 per cent of the wines from Oregon reviewed in Wine Spectator, the American wine bible, received at least 90 points.
Adelsheim Vineyard was one of the first wineries planted in Oregon and remains at the fore-front of innovation. It started in 1971 when David and Ginny Adelsheim purchased 7 hectares and planted vines on about two hectares of them the next year in the north Willamette Valley. With success has come expansion and they currently farm almost 100 hectares while remaining a family-owned operation.
David Adelsheim studied in Burgundy in 1974 and then worked as a sommelier in Portland until 1977. Ginny Adelsheim designed the labels when her husband made his first commercial release in 1978.
David Adelsheim put Oregon wine on the world map. He helped establish the Oregon Wine Board and founded the international pinot noir celebration held each year in Oregon, to which the elite of the wine world come.
Most of Adelsheim’s 11 estate vineyards are on the slopes of the Chehalem Mountains, at elevations from 70 to 240 metres. Temperatures drop with elevation, meaning a three-week difference in ripening but concentration of fruit flavours.
“Wines from the Willamette Valley share certain characteristics — an intensity of fresh fruit aromas with a backbone of acidity combined with structured tannins that gives the wines liveliness and age-ability,” Adelsheim said.
David Adelsheim made the early wines but handed winemaking duties over to Dave Paige in 2001.
Adelsheim noted that different terroirs produced different flavours in the wines. “Red basalt gives red-fruited pinot noir while soils based on marine sediment produce black-fruited pinot.”
Pinot noir is by far the most-planted grape in Oregon: It represents two thirds of grapes grown in the state and about 83 per cent of all plantings in the Willamette Valley.
The entry level pinot, the 2010 Adelsheim, a blend of fruit from a range of sites, is better than much more expensive pinots from Burgundy. A feature of Adelsheim pinots is their ageing potential. Despite the soft, almost unnoticeable, tannins and elegant acid it could be cellared for 20 to 25 years.
The wine smells of red currants and cherries with a touch of Asian spices and black tea. It represents a fine and typical example of a wine from red basalt soils.
The 2009 Elizabeth’s reserve pinot has been made since 1986 and is named after David and Ginny’s daughter. The label sports a line drawing Ginny created of her daughter, the drawing as elegant as the wine. This was my favourite of the pinots tasted and has exceptional balance with a lingering and elegant finish. The wine offers layers of raspberries and strawberries and hints of cedar, with a touch of spicy black fruits, the result of a warm vintage.
Samples from 11 single vineyard are blended after spending 17 months in French oak, about a third of it new. This produces wondrous concentration of fruit flavours and texture, and the wine has silky tannins and a lingering finish. David Adelsheim said it could be kept for a quarter century, though Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate magazine suggested it should be consumed over the next six or seven years, and awarded it 90 points.
The final pinot tasted was the 2009 Bryan Creek Vineyard, a single-vineyard site planted in 1989. It has the highest elevation of all Adelsheim plots, at 240 metres, and is picked last. It is a complex wine offering aromas of layers of spice, raspberries, cherries and toasted bread. Firm acidity in the mouth with hints of dark chocolate suggest this is a wine to cellar for half a decade before opening. David Adelsheim maintains it could be kept for three decades. Wine Advocate gave this wine 90 points.
Adelsheim sells most of its wines within the United States but aims to export 10 per cent of its output within a few years.
Words: 655

Categories: Not home, wine

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