A few days ago I spent a very nice afternoon at the Fifth Annual Portland Indie Wine Festival. It’s a celebration of the small, independent winemakers from all over Oregon. Some of these folks are just starting out, others are so small in terms of production their wines never make it outside the state. So it’s a great opportunity for consumers, retailers, distributors and restaurant folks to take a comprehensive look at the “cutting edge” of winemaking in Oregon. I tasted a lot of very nice wines that day, but two were so spectacular that I had to write about them right away. I wasn’t the only one who thought these wines were special, so I don’t think they will last very long around here. The second wine will be covered in this weekend’s newsletter. 2006 Big Table Farm White Hawk Vineyard Syrah 44.00 That’s right. A California wine made it into the Portland Indie Wine Festival! This is the same White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara County that supplies Syrah fruit to the likes of Sine Qua Non, the Ojai Vineyards and Lillian. In fact, this fruit comes from the block that Maggie Harrison very carefully rides herd over. She had a little extra fruit left over in the 2006 vintage so she sold enough to make 175 cases to Brian Marcy and Clare Carver. Brian and Marcy moved up to Oregon a few years ago in order to make Oregon Pinot Noir and they ended up buying a very cool old farmhouse that sits on a whopping 70 acres of land near Gaston, Oregon. Brian is a very talented winemaker who has made wine at Turley Cellars, Marcassin, Blankiet, Neyers Vineyards and a few other notable California wineries, not to mention a stint with Trevor Jones in Australia. Clare is a very talented artist who is responsible for the artwork on some of your favorite wine labels, from Beaux Freres and Phelps Creek to Grace Family and Miner Family Vineyards. Together they share the duties when it comes to raising kids and running a true working farm that has all sorts of animals, from pigs to cows, running around. Brian also makes the wines for Coelho in Amity and they let him use their winery facilities to make the Big Table Farm wines. One of his winemaking neighbors at the Coelho facility is Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra and Lillian fame. Small world, huh? I will say that after having spent about 15 minutes at just their table the other day, they have put Maggie’s White Hawk fruit to good use! The fact that Clare and Brian are talented, creative, hard-working farmers that also seem to be real sweet people makes selling this wine an easy thing for me. This fruit was picked in late October of 2006 and Brian had it shipped (still in their little plastic yellow picking bins) to Oregon in a refrigerated truck. The fruit was hand sorted and then cold soaked for five days in order get maximum flavor from the skins before fermenting began. The wine was then aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, 40% of which were new. The color of the wine is a nice, deep magenta color and as it swirls around the glass it picks up flecks of a darker purple color. I though the nose was fantastic, with dusty blackberry fruit and a touch of savory meat fat. The meat fat thing is very subdued but it’s there, oinking in the background. It’s also a very floral nose, with what might best be described as white flowers wrapped up in a white linen bouquet. It’s a very pretty, perfumed nose and it will be a challenge for Syrah lovers to actually move on to drinking the wine. But drink I did. This one of only two wines at the festival that I couldn’t bring myself to spit out. And even though I think the label said the alcohol percentage was 15% I refused to believe it. This wine was beautifully balanced and displayed no heat on my palate whatsoever. I have had a lot of northern Rhone wines that claimed 13% on the label that tasted and felt just like the Big Table Farm. Great acidity and a good bit of tannic grip served to balance out nicely with the blackberry and small bits of blueberry fruit. And this is no sweet, gushy fruit bomb. There is a slight tartness to some of the fruit that is quite refreshing. And the palate seemed almost bouncy to me, not big and clunking like a lot of 15%ers I’ve come across. Based on the aromatics alone I almost wondered if there was any Viognier in there. Brian says no Viognier. But the wine is pretty just the same. And so is the label on the bottle! Clare’s artwork is quite fetching in its simplicity and another artist, Inge Bruggerman, used an old letterpress label printer to make individual sheets of labels. Then they hand cut each label before gluing it to the bottles by hand. These labels are truly a work of art so Clare even wraps each bottle in a special tissue paper to protect them. Bravo to Clare and Brian for creating this superb wine. Just recently Robert Parker raved about this wine and awarded them 90 points for their efforts. Once the vines they planted on their farm mature a bit more, I can hardly wait to see what their Pinot Noir is like! This is definitely a very talented team to keep an eye on. OK, let’s cut to the chase. This is a great bottle of Syrah. Brian and Clare only have about 100 cases left as of the conclusion of the Indie Wine Festival. I believe they sell the wine up at the farm for 45.00 a bottle. So let’s give everybody a bit of an incentive to try this wine. Buy as few or as many bottles as you like. Everybody will get free shipping on this wine, no matter how many bottles you purchase. If you purchase a case of twelve bottles or more a 10% discount will be applied in addition to free shipping. If you liked the Lillian Syrah at 62.00 a bottle, you are going to flip for the Big Table Farm. Syrah fans, this is the genuine article. I consider it a “must try” for all those people out there who have enjoyed Syrahs over the years from the likes of Neyers, Cayuse, K Vintners, Sine Qua Non and Lillian. It’s their first vintage of this wine and you won’t find it on shelves near you. So grab this opportunity to get in on the farm house ground floor with these up and coming “barnistes.” Friday Night Tasting, May 8, 6:00-9:00PM: Storyteller House Party
Don’t miss this one as Friday night we are pouring some very interesting red, white and sparkling wines from all over the Old World. These are wines I quaff around my household on a regular basis. None of them have ever been poured at Storyteller before. In addition to those wines, wines that will be beautifully priced as well as interesting, we will be kicking off the Cameron Giovanni. Still on the fence about attending my house party? Then I guess we will have to give the first 24 people who come to the tasting a very special gift. No strings, you get to keep your house party parting gift even if you don’t buy anything. There is no charge for this tasting. Saturday Wine Tasting, May 9, 12:00-5:00PM: Something Pink.
Rain or shine, it is time to start drinking pink in earnest. There will be no charge for this tasting. Cheers,
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