When Alsace Drinks Like Burgundy (Wait…Nah.)

Actually, why compare the Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir 2016 Les Jardins to Burgundy? Like in Oregon, it’s time to say Pinot Noir (especially from a storied locale like Alsace in France) don’t need that “Burgundian” comparison so abused it should really be retired because it’s completely irrelevant. (Also there’s plenty of Burgundy thats, well, not very Burgundian. ANYWAY….)

This bottle was part of a small group of Pinot Noir from Alsace sent to me as samples. One was pretty “meh” and I was a little bummed out so I didn’t go back to that well for a bit. MY BAD!

The first thing I noticed when opening this wine is, “Wow, I’m actually opening a red wine.” I almost opened up a Kumeu River Chardonay from New Zealand, regardless of the weather dictating red wine time. 

Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir 2016 Les Jardins ($34)

Photo via Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Initial take after pulling the cork and giving this Pinot a whiff: earthy, forest-y kind of smells. These scents were so prominent I was wondering if drinking it would be like being in a Pacific Northwest rain forest, getting down on all fours, and eating handfuls of damp soil washed down with fern fronds.

BUT NO! There’s loads of bright, yet deep, black cherry flavor.


Cool fact: Domaine Ostertag is certified biodynamic. The wines are imported by Kermit Lynch, so you know it’s real-deal. A tip I always give is if you don’t know jack shit about an imported wine: flip the label and see who the importer is. If it’s someone like Kermit Lynch, you are gold(en).

There’s an interesting blurb about this Pinot Noir in an offer from said importer’s wine shop. Here’s what Kermit Lynch’s Dixon Brooke had to say:

André’s [Ostertag’s] son Arthur has joined his father and grandfather at their domaine in northern Alsace, three generations now working side by side. Much as his father did with him, André has given Arthur a lot of freedom to experiment in the cellar….One of his other initiatives has been to add more stems to their younger-release Pinot Noir to give it a bit more structure. Mission accomplished.”

So now you know one of the reasons why this Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir is so memorable. It’s a touch acidic right now; I imagine it would settle down with a year or two in a cool, dark place. Or give it a good hour in your finest decanter or crappiest glass jar.

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Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

I went to a “Meet the Makers” Visit Seattle event at Filson’s flagship NYC store in Union Square  and soaked in the idyllic and nostalgic Pacific Northwest vibe. One of the highlights, of course, was the selection of Washington State wines available to sample. And I have to say, I was fairly gobsmacked by many intriguing and delicious bottles.

Here are some highlights.

6 Washington State Wines to Covet and Drink

Orr Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc (2016)

Save the Washington Chenin! There’s very little left, and a lot of it is old-vine goodness. Kudos to winemakers like Erica Orr, creating Loire-esque wines with the grape.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Two Vintners O.G. (2017)

Morgan Lee must have been the first person to make an orange wine in Washington State. If you know who beat him to it, LMK. This is the 6th (!) vintage of this wine. Oh, O.G.=Orange Gewurztraminer. The color comes from the grape skins spending extra-special time with the juice. This is killer!

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Smockshop Band Pinot Noir (2016)

Whoa, a stunner! (The label and the wine.) This winery is new to me, part of cult-y Hiyu Wine Farm. This Pinot comes from a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. There is simply no more exciting region for wine in Washington State than the Gorge.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Savage Grace Côt (2016)

I’ve been a fan of Michael Savage’s wines for a while now. They have an appealing light touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this Malbec. He calls it Côt as a nod to how the grape is referred to (and the style of the wine) in the Loire Valley: elegant, not jammy.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah (2015)

Greg Harrington is firing on all cylinders and nowhere is this more apparent than his Syrah. It’s a very gulpable, old-world influenced bottling. A great synthesis of grape, site, and winemaker.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah Stonessence (2015)

In contrast with the Gramercy Cellars, the Reynvaan is a meaty, smoky, gamey affair. The first whiff you take  places the fruit from the extremely distinct “Rocks” area of Walla Wallla Valley. (Which is actually in Oregon, but that’s another story.)


Also thanks to these folks representing the city and state:

The reps from the Space Needle providing an update on the, well, major updates there. Chihuly Garden and Glass for the tiny, precious piece of glass I have purposed for salt-keeping. Hama Hama for the amazing oysters. Chef Jeff from No Anchor for the creative veg and salmon bites. Boo and Christophe from Hedges Family Estate, an always entertaining duo. (Check out their biodynamic Cabernet in magnums.)

Finally, Washington State Wine for all the eye-opening bottles.

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Spätburgunder Spotlight (Spätlight?)

Can’t say I’ve had a lot of German Pinot Noir. So when I had the chance to attend a dinner celebrating Spätburgunder (that’s the country’s name for Pinot Noir), there was no way I was missing it. Hearty thanks to Icy Liu for the invitation. (Her IG is full of incredible wines.)

Our Master of Ceremonies was Lyle Fass of the eponymous Fass Selections. He brought most of the wines, along with a final two bottles courtesy of Brad Trent. (Check out his photography.) We were joined by a few wine industry pros.

Overall the wines were excellent. I haven’t had that much good Pinot at one sitting in a long time. These are wines that belong on the table and in the cellar.

One thing I was wondering before we started is, “What is German Pinot Noir?” Does it have a style, a signature?

Of course, that’s not a good place to start. It’s a big country. You have to dive into the regions (Mosel, etc.) and get to know the producers. And probably the vintage. It’s a lot like learning about Burgundy. Dedication, with a touch of obsessiveness/madness, is key.

I’d also advice anyone stymied by German Pinot Noir to flip the bottle over. If you see Fass Selections, it’s going to be something on the elegant, earthy, spicy side. No pumped-up PN here. (This is advice I would give for wine, period. Find an importer you like and if its name is on the back of an unfamiliar bottle, take a flyer.)

One way to think about German Pinot Noir came from Lyle himself. He likes to refer to it as “Red Riesling.” All the things that make Riesling from this part of the world compelling and complex can make an appearance in a fine bottle of Spätburgunder. (Except sweetness. These are totally, completely dry red wines. Also, a ton of German Riesling is now dry. I digress….)

Splendid Spätburgunder

Here are the eight bottles with comments. The wines were arranged in flights of two.

Mosel Flight

Weingut Spater-Veit 2008

We started with the oldest bottle. Very smooth, low tannins, and lots of mushrooms peeking out from forest floor kinda thing going on. Would drink now.

Marbleous 2015 Winniger

Was it marvelous? (Sorry.) Yes. Probably tasting it next to a wine almost a decade older made the Marbleous show noticeably different/better. But I loved the fruit and the intensity. This is from a warmer (lower) part of the Mosel.

Limestone Flight

Ziereisen Jaspis 2014

Earthy and a wine you want to brood over, nice acidity and a little touch of tannin. #ambrooding

Thörle 2015 Probstey

Rich, dark, and juicy. Mellowed the longer it was open/in the glass. Bodes well for a long future. Lyle considers Probstey to be a “Grand Cru” site.

Weingut Josef Walter Flight

2011 Pinot 274 Centgrafenberg 

Lots of twigs and smoky/savory notes on the nose. Wonderful vegetable (I like veg in my red) component, spice, and then you get a nice fruit pop at the end. Intriguing blend of 40% Spatburgunder and 60% Fruhburgunder, the latter a Pinot Noir variant. 

2012 “J” Hundsrück

This wine was peachy, as in peaches. Which is strange when talking about smelling/tasting a red wine, but that what makes wine so dang compelling. Nice richness.

Enderle & Moll Flight

2015 Buntsandstein

Li’l smoky, high acid. Perfect. (Because of the night progressing and darkness descending, my notes got more, ahem, compact.)

2015 Muschelkalk

Fruiter and richer than the B. Hell of an end to the evening’s festivities.


The moral of the story? Above all, seek out Spätburgunder, and from a good importer. Really, there are lots of countries you may not think of for Pinot Noir that may surprise and delight. Add Germany to the list.

Spätburgunder Spotlight (Spätlight?)

Finally, we met for dinner at Riverpark. The patio (where we sat) has marvelous waterfront views. We could even see my home neighborhood of Greenpoint from our table. Of course, being the stupid magnanimous person I am, I chose to sit facing the restaurant. The crab and cornbread dish with peekytoe crab, charred corn, heirloom peppers, lime, onion, and beurre blanc was excellent. I also had a very nice cavatelli dish with smoked chicken, corn, fresno chiles, parmesan, and fines herbes. I love corn in the summertime!

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Thoughts on Chile Inspired by Winemaker Rodrigo Soto

I met Rodrigo Soto back in 2012 when I was visiting the Veramonte winery in Chile. (Sidebar: they have a really cool antique corkscrew collection there.) He’s been at the forefront of converting vineyards to organic farming for the Ritual, Neyen, Primus, and Veramonte labels.

Vineyards at Veramonte / photo courtesy the winery

Recently I had a chance to reconnect with him for an informal chat over some coffee. (We met at 8:30am, not prime wine time.) Before he caught a train to go up to Westchester (which gave me unpleasant commuting flashbacks), he left me with a couple bottles to take home.

Two of the topics covered I’d like to address here. One is the question of price and the other is regionality. And this first bottle points to both.

Ritual Supertuga Block Chardonnay Casablanca Valley 2016 ($50)

Thoughts on Chile Inspired by Winemaker Rodrigo SotoOne of the issues facing the wines of Chile is most people hear “Chilean wine” and only think “value.” Or the dreaded “cheap.” There is no denying that Chile has very high-quality wines at excellent prices. I’ve been a huge fan of its Sauvignon Blanc (and more) for that reason.

While there are some iconic (red) wines that command high prices, like Santa Rita Casa Real, Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor, and Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta, it’s more of a slog for white wines. How do you get people to consider Chile a source for wines that cost $20, $30 and higher? If I gave you $50 and said get any wine you want, would Chile cross your mind?

Consider a wine like the Ritual Supertuga Block Chardonnay. It’s fermented in big ol’ oak barrels but only 18% of them are new. So you get more texture and less oakiness. (Some of the wine is also fermented in concrete eggs, which I’d call hip but they are getting so popular I don’t even know if that’s accurate anymore. Ok, they are still cool.) It’s rich, it’s elegant, it pleases.

The other issue Rodrigo Soto and I discussed is regionality. Everyone knows Chile makes wine, but how many people drill down into its distinct regions? This wine is from the Casablanca Valley and it’s one of many regions of Chilean wine worth exploring. (If you go here and click on the “See Chilean Valleys” tab you get an idea of how far these regions stretch up and down the country.)

Veramonte Pinot Noir 2016 ($11)

Though I’m steering you to think of Chile beyond budget wines, I have to toot its horn for very good Pinot Noir at outstanding prices. In my wine shop I’d have at least a three-case stack of the Veramonte Pinot Noir, with the top box meeting my exacting specifications for how you cut a case of wine with a box knife. Now I’m having flashbacks to sales reps and merchandisers with sloppy cardboard case cutting techniques. (Shudder.)

I always consider finding good Pinot Noir under $15 to be like the quest for the Holy Grail. (Sidebar: I recently saw the 1981 movie “Excalibur” for the first time in decades. The cast is spectacular: Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, and Patrick Stewart, to name a few. It’s very weird, moody, and dark. Highly recommend.)

So the Veramonte Pinot Noir (screwcap closure, BTW) has a little bit of oomph. It’s not a light, delicate wine but more medium-bodied. Nice to note it’s 100% Pinot Noir. A lot of cheap Pinot has just enough Pinot Noir to be labeled as such, usually pumped-up with Syrah or whatever other grapes are lying around.

In conclusion: Chile is worth your premium dollars and is a multi-faceted country when it comes to regional wine nuances. You don’t have to spend $50 to experience this but if your ceiling for Chilean wine is, say, $15 and under, don’t hesitate to get into that $25+ range. Thanks to Rodrigo Soto for his time and a thought-provoking conversation. It’s definitely the most consideration I’ve given wine at 8:30 in the morning, and possibly later in the day, too.

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Master Sommelier Larry Stone and Lingua Franca Wines

lin·gua fran·ca noun: “a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.”

Lingua Franca Vineyard LSV

The headline for this article could read: “Local Boy Does Good!” Larry Stone is one of the most influential people in the wine industry. (Period). One of the first Americans to pass the Master Sommelier exam (#9 in 1988), the only American ever to win France’s Grand Prix de Sopexa competition (better known as the “Best Sommelier in the World”). Wine director for Charlie Trotters. Founder (With Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) of the legendary Rubicon in San Francisco. Dean of Wine Studies at the International Culinary Center.

In 2006, he left the restaurant business to become the Gérant of the Niebaum-Coppola winery, now Inglenook. He worked with Augustine Huneeus at Quintessa, started his own Napa property Sirita and he also ran a négociant firm, Deux Chapeaux, with Daniel Johnnes. In 2010, Stone became president of Evening Land Vineyards, where he collaborated with Burgundian winemaker Dominique Lafon. Today, Evening Land is in the capable hands of Stone’s Protégé Rajat Parr.

In 2012, Stone started a new winery next door – Lingua Franca.

Master Sommelier Larry Stone and Lingua Franca Wines
Larry Stone tasting at Esquin

Stone brought together a team led by Dominique Lafon. Who is Burgundy’s best-known winemaker, his name is attached to one of its most famous Domaines -Comte Lafon. The Comtes Lafon domaine, contains well over three hectares of premier cru vineyard as well a piece of burgundy’s grand cru Le Montrachet. Lafon Montrachet sells for thousands of dollars a bottle. He has been rightly called “the Wizard of Burgundy.”

He also brought on board winemaker Thomas Savre, who worked with stone and Lafon at Evening Land after working at luminary Burgundian properties as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Dujac, and Maison Nicolas Potel. To manage the vineyards he brought on local viticulturist Mimi Casteel. Mimi is the daughter of Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley, co-founders of Bethel Heights Vineyard. She brings with her a lifetime of living and working in the valley and her families well known reputation for Sustainable and Biodynamic farming.

Master Sommelier Larry Stone and Lingua Franca WinesStone was in negotiations with Evening Land’s neighbors to purchase the land adjacent to the famed Seven Springs Vineyard, even before he left the project. After he left Evening Land the Janzen family approached him with a deal to buy the land. He sold his stake in Sirita Winery, auctioned off his personal wine collection and convinced a few friends to invest.

They cleared the land – removing fruit and Christmas Trees – planted a vineyard and built a winery, designed by Lafon and Savre. Across the road from Seven Springs it is also adjacent Domaine Serene’s Jerusalem Hill Vineyard, Argyle Winery’s Lone Star Vineyard and Domaine Drouhin’s Roserock Vineyard.

A perfect vineyard sight, a remarkably capable team and an astute understanding of the wine business. It is not surprising these wines are already creating a buzz. Lingua Franca is being poured at high-profile Paris restaurants Vitus, Taillevent and Spoon. Impressive for a new minted American Pinot Noir.

Master Sommelier Larry Stone and Lingua Franca Wines

The entire first vintage from Lingua Franca received 90 plus point scores from Wine Spectator! With The Tongue N’ Cheek making it in the

Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills 2015 $36.99 btl

Refined and precise, featuring a structure that’s elegantly complex, with raspberry and cinnamon aromas and sleek cherry and mineral flavors. Drink now through 2022. 772 cases made.

92 Points Wine Spectator

He told me, “We are not trying to make ‘burgundy’, although that is of course an influence. We are making wines of very little intervention, wines of place”. Stone describes it as “exploring Oregon with the mind of Burgundy.” The name Lingua Franca represents the concept of universal language, of bringing people of different worlds to common ground – shared conversation, shared enjoyment. Lingua franca could be described as a conversation between Oregon terroir and years of traditional Burgundian winemaking.

If you were to make a list of what you would need to make a great wine, every box would be checked off on the list.

Not bad for the son of refugees.

His mother was a cheesemaker, and his father was a produce buyer at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Stone was always enamored with food and even making his own wine at age 14. At the UW, Stone was a National Merit Scholar who studied abroad in Montpellier, France, and Vienna. He pursued a doctorate in comparative literature, earning a Fulbright Scholarship to University of Tübingen in Germany.He never finished his dissertation.

He was one of Seattle’s very first Sommeliers’ at a restaurant called the Red Cabbage. Later working at the Four Seasons Olympic before heading to Chicago and Charlie Trotter’s.Master Sommelier Larry Stone and Lingua Franca Wines

Local boy does good, and then some.


By Lenny Rede

Leonard Redé is the marketing person here at Esquin Wine and Spirits. An instructor in the Wine Technology Program at South Seattle, he wrote the curriculum for the Associate of Arts Degree in Food and Wine Pairing Sommelier Studies. A classically trained chef and pastry chef he was nominated for educator of the year while Chef Instructor at the world renowned Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. He garnered international attention at his award winning restaurant Sapphire kitchen and bar. A restaurateur, wine steward, chef and educator with over 30 years of industry experience he has a unique blend of culinary and wine expertise. He loves to share his passion for all things gastronomic and he’ll gladly help you navigate the world of wine and is always quick with a wine pairing or recipe.

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The New Best $15 Pinot Noir

Probably/definitely blasphemous, but I liken the task of finding a Pinot Noir 15 bucks or less to that of the quest for the Holy Grail. So when I picked up a bottle of Les Deux Moulins Pinot from the Loire Valley, I had a bit of trepidation.

Though I was cautiously optimistic, because I had enjoyed the Sauv Blanc from this producer. And, I like the label. Which is important to me. Not gonna lie.

Les Deux Moulins Pinot Noir (2016)

This is definitely everything I want in an inexpensive Pinot Noir. I got it from my close-by shop, Grapepoint Wines, for $15. (Wine-Searcher shows it for $12, but with only one seller I imagine there will be some fluctuation between the two prices.)

Since it’s fermented and aged in stainless steel,  this is a Pinot Noir that’s a fresh, easy-drinking delight. If you need a red wine to chill down for the summer, this would fit the bill mightily. (Though you’ll find me drinking it in the shade.) Very tasty stuff.


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Lachini Vineyards: Spring Releases & Lunch at the Vineyard

Lachini Vineyards is having it’s spring release over the next few weekends and also a lunch in their estate vineyards in Oregon. Please RSVP below if you are interested.

Lachini Vineyards: Spring Releases & Lunch at the Vineyard


Our SPRING RELEASE events are nearly here! We’ve been waiting for these events since we first laid eyes on these beautiful wines back in 2015 harvest. We are excited about our 2015 Pinot noirs as they boast big flavors that provide immediate drinking pleasure, yet possess enough stuffing to age! To round out this release, you’ll find our 2014 Prima Pinot Noir (only the 3rd vintage of this marvelous wine), 2015 Chardonnay al di là (meaning…’beyond the beyond’) plus 2016 Pinot Gris – just in time for summer! We still have plenty of our 2016 Rosé and will pour this as well for those of you who missed the awesome events last weekend.

We have several events around our PICK-UP parties including a luncheon in the vineyard on Saturday, May 20th beginning at 10:30am. This is a separate event that is open to wine club members and non-members. These events will be the first opportunity to taste and purchase quantities of these wines, after which we will upload to our website under SPRING 2017 RELEASE for all to purchase for a limited time.

2015 Family Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains  2125 cases produced
2015 Pinot Noir, Cuvée Giselle, Chehalem Mountains  300 cases produced
2014 Pinot Noir, Prima, Chehalem Mountains   74 cases produced 
2015 Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains 196 cases produced
2016 Pinot Gris, Oregon 819 cases produced

For those of you who live out of town or can’t wait for the events, we are taking a limited number of call-in orders whereby we’ll ship any assortment of the above wines for your Spring/Summer pleasure. All shipments are scheduled for the week of May 22nd (wealther permitting). Please call our Woodinville Tasting Room at 425.489.9917 during normal business hours to place your order with one of our associates. Your wine will travel via FedEx ground along the West Coast and via FedEx 2-day Express to the East Coast & Hawaii. We recommend letting your wines ‘settle’ for a few weeks after shipment.

Be one of the first to taste our newest wines & pick up your club shipment. Please RSVP to the event of your choice. Parties & tour groups of six or more, please call for times. If you are unable to attend one of the parties and have indicated a ‘pick up status’ or wish to receive your wines prior to the summer, we are happy to hold through the June 10th at each of our tasting rooms or glad to ship to you.

Club members receive complimentary tastings & up to 3 guests. Event tasting fee will be $20 per person for non-club members. You are certainly welcome to invite additional guests.

WOODINVILLE ~ Lachini Tasting Room
14455A Woodinville Redmond Rd. | Woodinville, WA
Saturday, May 13th, 2016 11:00AM – 5:00PM
Enjoy POMPEI WOODFIRED PIZZAS, prawns and lamb/mushroom bite pairings

OREGON ~ Lachini Estate Vineyard & Tasting Barn
18225 NE Calkins Lane  | Newberg, OR
Saturday, May 20st, 2016  1:00PM – 5:00PM
Enjoy woodfired pizzas & wood-fired bite pairings.

LUNCHEON – Saturday, May 20th 10:30am – 12:30pm at our Estate Vineyard
RSVP now, limited to 40 guests. Will include a multi-course lunch with Champagne, our 2016 Rosé & a mini-vertical of our Cuvee Giselle Pinot noirs. We are still working on pricing, but likely around $50/pp.


Please specify which event in the SUBJECT LINE you are requesting. We will call you to confirm your seat for the luncheon and for credit card deposit once pricing has been finalized.

From our vineyard to your table, your enjoyment is our passion!

Lachini Vineyards: Spring Releases & Lunch at the Vineyard
Lachini Vineyards: Spring Releases & Lunch at the Vineyard

18225 NE Calkins Lane, Newberg, OR 97132  || 14455 Woodinville Redmond Rd. Woodinville, WA 98072
Email: info@lachinivineyards.com  | Phone: 425.489.9917 or 888.703.0007 | www.lachinivineyards.com

Weekend Wine Paring ~ Cedar Plank Salmon with Tarragon Mustard Glaze + Chehalem Wines

Spring seems reluctant. I see the fits and starts, the bud break and blossoms, the first Rosés’ and the first of the seasons’ harvests. This is the time of year that I get the most antsy with anticipation. I just can’t wait to get outside and grill! Growing up in California we would grill year round.  Here, I have to seize the day, and catch the sun when she briefly smiles on me.

Grilled Salmon is just about one of the best dishes to prepare when entertaining guests, especially out of towners. The best part is how little time you actually have to spend in front of the grill. Less cooking equals more partying. Again, plan ahead and have your ingredients ready to grill when your guest arrive.

There are a many great ways to grill. One of the time-honored traditions, in these parts, is Cedar plank salmon. One of the greatest things about a Cedar Plank Salmon is that it works just as well in the oven as it does on the grill, so no matter how fickle mother nature may be you can still have a nice dinner.

Call me a traditionalist, but there are few better wines to serve with Cedar Plank Salmon than a good Oregon Pinot Noir, especially from Chehalem Winery. 

Weekend Wine Paring ~ Cedar Plank Salmon with Tarragon Mustard Glaze + Chehalem Wines

Chehalem Three Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2013 $32.99  

This Three Vineyard Pinot Noir has beautiful ripe black cherry and brambly cassis on the nose, with fresh wet earth and a tea leaf component. White pepper, dusty cocoa, tobacco, sweet loam, and raspberry accentuate the nose, providing a fresh, full, complex package. The palate is lithe and playful, with especially round, pliable acid, and an overarching flavor of rich cranberry sauce and rose hips. The finish is lengthy, yet elegant, with beautiful balance – a perfect partner for salmon.

“Light and sleek, open-textured and appealing, with delicate plum and guava flavors, riding on a glassy frame into a vivid finish.” 91 POINTS, Wine Spectator

Or, if you prefer, few places grow Chardonnay as well as they do in the Willamette Valley.

Weekend Wine Paring ~ Cedar Plank Salmon with Tarragon Mustard Glaze + Chehalem Wines

Chehalem “Inox” Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2014 $19.99 

The fruit shines brightly in this all-stainless cuveé. Ripe golden apples are at the core, with hints of peach and papaya. It’s a lovely, forward, ready to drink style that brings extra concentration and detail that is all too rare in unoaked Chardonnays.  91 Points, Wine Enthusiast

xox, Lenny

Taste these wines, plus other BBQ favorites on April 29th  from 2pm to 5pm

Grab a bottle to take home, and create your own:

Cedar Plank Salmon with Tarragon Mustard Glaze

Weekend Wine Paring ~ Cedar Plank Salmon with Tarragon Mustard Glaze + Chehalem Wines

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Wine Reviews: California & Oregon Pinot

You’ve likely been bombarded by media about Thanksgiving wine pairings. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Just open up all sorts of bottles and let the crowd and food sort it out.

But, thinking back over the past few Thanksgiving meals, I can’t remember a dinner that lacked at least one California Pinot Noir. Willamette Valley, and of course Burgundy, will also do. For me, Pinot Noir exudes crisp autumn weather and makes me hunger for warm, hearty foods.

A lot of 2014 California Pinot Noirs are hitting shelves, and they’re tasting darn good — lots of freshness and red fruits but some show serious concentration.

This tasting includes a host of Pinots from Etude, which has been producing vibrant Carneros Pinot Noir for three decades. In recent years, they’ve expanded into a range of Pinot Noirs from other sites in California (and even a Willamette Pinot and a zinger from New Zealand). The wines taste so site-specific, and each stood out as unique in a single-blind tasting, but they maintain a house style focused on crisp acidity, juicy red fruit and lots of spice. This was my first time tasting the Willamette Valley Pinots from Lenne, a producer focused on two estate Pinot Noirs from a site near the town of Yamhill. (I’m impressed.) And we also have some late releases from Clos de La Tech and Holman Ranch.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

Review: 2010 Clos De La Tech Pinot Noir - California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
SRP: $42
Dark ruby color. Aromatically bursting with savory and spicy elements, like spiced coffee, old library books and black tea, on top of black cherries and raspberry jam. Full-bodied with some sturdy structure to the tannins, and the wine is framed by vibrant acidity. Dark, concentrated cherry and plum fruit, with dark chocolate, coffee, clove, smashed rocks, and a complex host of herbal and savory spices. Needs time to open up, or time in the cellar, but this is a bold yet complex Pinot. Impressive. Plenty of life ahead. Aged 12 months in 3/4 new French oak. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir Bannockburn - New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Bannockburn
SRP: $60
Vibrant ruby color. Smells like cool raspberries and strawberries with cola, rhubarb, white pepper and sage — complex and gorgeous aromas. Maintains lively acidity and freshness throughout, while sporting structured but smooth tannins. Tart strawberries and wild raspberry fruit is pure and crisp, and laced with complex elements of raspberry leaf tea, savory mushroom, topsoil, rose petals, warm spices. Gorgeous silky texture on the palate. I had no idea a New Zealand Pinot made it into this single-blind tasting, and this had be perplexed as to its origin but totally swooning over its deliciousness and complexity. I’d love to taste this in three to five. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $45
Light ruby color. Sweet but tart red and black cherry fruit on the nose, along with rhubarb, cola and eucalyptus and pumpkin pie spice. Full-bodied with moderately bright acid, velvety mouthfeel but some grip from the dry tannins. Dark cherry and plum, the fruit is juicy but a bit compact, and needs time to coax out the sweet floral, cinnamon, cocoa and mushroom notes. A sense of graphite and stony minerality lingers on the finish. Very nice but it’ll be better in a few years. Aged 12 months in 1/4 new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir Ellenbach - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $60
Deep ruby color. Aromas of sweet, chewy cherries and raspberry jam, with tobacco, cola and rooibos tea. Tart acidity, dusty tannins provide enough structure, and there are loads of sweet black cherries and raspberry jam flavors on the palate. Cola, rhubarb, rose petals, lots of other stuff going on, some clove and pine. Rich and chewy but stays fresh. Should evolve nicely over the next few years. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $45
Deep ruby/light purple color. Smells like a mix of tart cherries and raspberry jam coated in black tea and spicy tobacco. Full-bodied but tart acidity, this is a richer, more extracted Pinot but the acidity keeps it vibrant. Red plums, raspberry jam, some darker cherry fruit, add in some earth, mocha and herbal spice tea. Gets significantly better with air — I’d like to revisit in two or three years. Aged 12 months in 1/4 new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir North Canyon Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $45
Bright ruby color. Aromas of chilled raspberries, juicy strawberries and pomegranate, mixed with rose hips, and some warm cinnamon spices — elegant and deep aromas that take time to fully develop. Medium/full-bodied with a dusty tannic structure, full of tingling acidity. Juicy black cherries and crunchy pomegranates blend with flavors of cherry wood, cedar, tobacco shop and allspice. Finishes long and crisp, more savory spices and mushroom and wet forest come out with air.. Great now but good near-term ager. 10 months in ¼ new French oak. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Etude Pinot Noir Yamhilll Vista Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $60
Medium ruby color. Smells of juicy strawberries, tart red currants, dusty earth, leather and rhubarb. Fleshy texture will a full body and moderate acidity and medium tannin. Juicy raspberries and strawberry jams, with rose petals, sweet coffee, rhubarb pie and caramel. Finishes with earthy spice. Delish, ready to go, but could age in the near term. Aged 13 months in 1/3 new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2014 FEL Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $70
Deep ruby color. Smells of sweet cherries and strawberries, along with rose hops, tobacco, pickling spices and more savory notes of tilled soil and mushroom. Medium-full-bodied with smooth but structured tannins and moderately crisp acidity for balance. The tart strawberries mix with richer black cherry notes – laced with elements of soy, mushroom, pipe tobacco and earth, along with some intermingled notes of cigar box and light roast coffee. Delicious stuff now but it should evolve nicely over the next few years. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 53% new. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Holman Ranch Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Carmel Valley
SRP: $35
Light raspberry color. Smells of tart strawberries, cherries, and red apple peel topped with pepper, rhubarb, fennel and cola. Fresh acidity, light-medium-bodied (12.8% alcohol) with fine tannins that still provide structure. A lighter, brisk approach but still plenty of texture and flavors. Sour cherries, watermelon, wild strawberries, the tart fruit is laced with notes of tobacco, pepper and dusty earth, just a hint of cola. Vibrant, fresh, tangy, showing wonderfully right out of the bottle. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2015 Inconceivable Wines Pinot Noir The Fog Prince - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $25
Dark ruby color. Aromas of sweet red cherries, raspberry jam, cola, vanilla and sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate this shows light tannins, a slightly chewy texture and some fresh acidity. Sweet/sour cherries and tangy raspberries blend nicely with some cola, roses, toffee and espresso notes. An easy-drinking style but very delicious, and a good value. Aged 10 months in 60% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Lenne Pinot Noir LeNez - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $30
Pale ruby. Aromas of sour cherries, tart blueberries and black cherries, along with sage and pepper and mushroom/earth. Medium-bodied, moderate acidity. Bright red fruit gushes across the palate (strawberries, wild raspberries) with notes of herbal tea, rose hips, spiced cranberry sauce, tilled soil and eucalyptus. Tart, vibrant, refreshing finish, yet this has a lot of concentration for the cellar. So pretty, and great value. Aged in about 1/4 new oak, 13% alcohol, this is a blend of each clone planted on Lenne’s estate vineyard. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Lenne Estate Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $45
Pale ruby. Elegant, vibrant red fruit aromas with lots of rose hips, white pepper and such gorgeous floral complexity. Medium-bodied, so juicy and bright with some moderately grippy tannic structure and lip-smacking acidity. Tart cherries, raspberries, wild strawberry, the fruit is so damned vibrant and delicious, and laced with lots of roses, violets and white mushrooms. Velvety and sporting serious grip, this is also silky and elegant. An exciting Pinot Noir. More tar and cedar on this one (1/3 new oak) but it’s woven in expertly. Gorgeous stuff that will improve for four or five years easily. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Lenne Estate Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $38
Bright ruby color. Juicy black cherries mix with red currant, topped with lots of violets, soil, hints of leather and cocoa. Medium/full-bodied with structured but accessible tannin and moderate but refreshing acidity. Very cool mix of black and sour red cherries, along with notes of roses, violets, chestnut and savory spice. Some cedar and cocoa from the oak, but it’s balanced nicely. A dusty mineral and soil element comes out with time. Delicious now but built for a solid life in the cellar. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Nielson by Byron Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $45
Deep ruby color. Aromas of chilled but juicy red berries (strawberry, cherry, raspberry) along with a complexity of herbal and spice elements (mint, white pepper, rhubarb). Full-bodied but smooth and velvety, the chewy tannins and medium acidity make this pleasant and approachable. Juicy cherries, raspberries and jammy strawberries, the fruit is juicy and ripe but not heavy. I get sage, violets, rhubarb and white pepper notes. Touched with cedar and vanilla, but those elements are woven in nicely. Rich, velvety but also bright and leaves the palate feeling refreshed. Aged 15 months in 40% new oak. (89 points IJB)

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Our Champagnes have been consumed and celebrated at the International Pinot Noir Celebration since Bryan first visited in 2011, rolling a cooler around filled with bubbles!

Thibaud Mandet (Winemaker at WillaKenzie), Bryan, Rollin Soles (Winemaker at ROCO Winery)

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Pinot Noir from Australia, excellent!

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Champagne and sparkling wine fanatics: David Speer (Ambonnay), Rajat Parr (Evening Land, Sandhi Wines, Domaine de la Côte), Bryan

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Bryan, Ken Meyer (FC Club Member), Nelson Daquip (Canlis Head Sommelier), Chris Tange (Seattle wine distributor and Master Sommelier)

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Bryan, Chris, Carrie (Wine buyer for Sea Creature Restaurants), Renee Erickson (Chef and Owner, Sea Creature Restaurants)

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

IPNC’s volunteer sommeliers enjoying Fat Cork Champagne with their brunch.

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Larry Stone (Master Sommelier, Lingua Franca Wines), Raj, Mimi Castille (Oregon vigneronne and FC Club Member), Bryan

Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

Bryan, Dawn Smith (Sommelier extraordinaire and Fat Cork General Manager)