Oregon

The 2008 Vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir. Interview with James Cahill of Soter Vineyards

I always strive to create wine content that is evergreen; not tied to any one specific vintage or wine.  But in the summer of 2010, the fine wine community was buzzing about the 2008 vintage in Oregon and people wanted to talk about it.  Unlike the 2008 vintage Pinot Noirs, my interview with James Cahill, winemaker of Soter Vineyards hasn't aged very well.  It's all out the quality of the 2008 Vintage in Oregon.

This is Episode #14 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.  Enjoy.  Transcript is below the video.

Transcript:

I'm James Cahill and I am the winemaker for Soter Vineyards, Tony Soter's Oregon project. A certified sustainable winery producing an emphasis we'll say on estate grown and regional blends of Pinot Noir and a little bit of sparkling wine. It's just a silly habit of ours.

What we have in '08 is a long growing season and when we found ourselves in Oregon picking grapes in the middle of October, that means lots of things. Especially if we're picking at leisure like we were. It means that the grapes have been out for a good long while. They've enjoyed a good growing season.

If we're not in a hurry, it means it's been a moderate growth season, right? That there hasn't been heat and things that would force us to have to harvest because grapes are shriveling or something like that.

Of course, if we're harvesting leisurely it means it's under sunny skies. I think what we regionally look for in from '08's will be the precious and natural acidity that's found consistently in '08 Oregon Pinots. It's what our region does.

It's a beautiful level of ripeness. A complete level of ripeness without excess, right? So that the things we can do in our cool climate, which is capture fruit flavors with freshness and life rather than more confection or baked flavors are so clear and consistent I think in most quality levels as well.

Of course, the price of admission for a fine Pinot Noir is pretty steep right? You have to pay a few bucks to get a satisfying bottle of wine, but I think even on modest bottlings you'll find a good quality Pinot that will speak not just of Pinot, but of Oregon Pinot. Acidity, liveliness, structure. Again, with a thorough level of ripeness.

What is the aging potential of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir?  And what Oregon vintage is most similar to 2008?

It's a great question. Of course the aging potential is always how you enjoy wine, right? I think what we always qualified is that the wines will get better, you know? I think that there's structure in the wine and enough depth and volume in the quality of fruit that they will age gracefully, and in balance, and that you will be rewarded by waiting both in the near term as the wine's relaxed. Waiting a year or so you'll be rewarded with a better picture of what the young wine is.

Then of course as it unfolds, in its old age I think one of the things we'll look for is that the wine's made mature like many other vintages at seven, eight, nine years old, but they'll probably hold for quite a long time where other wines may have less ability for a plateau.

2002 is a vintage we often look back on as controversial for some, but for many right-thinking folks in our region, I think 2002 is kind of a perfect year because there was good ripeness. There was not a lot of drama to harvest. The harvest conditions and the wines had muscle.

If people didn't go to far in terms of manipulations or excessive hang time. I mean, beautifully balanced wines that will age elegantly. '98 and '99, '99 would probably be more like '08 in that it was a miracle vintage at the time because we were harvesting well into October. A vintage that looked like it might be tough to get the grapes in, you know?

There were three challenging vintages in the 90's. '95/6/7 people were pretty gun shy that if you're waiting to October puts you at risk of course for the winter rains that are going to arrive. So yeah, I think referencing '02 and '99 might be benchmarks, but the level of ripeness in '08, while complete, the alcohol potentials might be a little lower perhaps than in other vintages.

Video: The Meaning of Wine with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery

It’s a great life ... It’s a great project for my life
— Mark Vlossak, St. Innocent Winery

Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery answers Austin Beeman's signature question.  "What does wine mean to you?"

This is Episode #51 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman video podcast and the fifth of five videos from my interviews with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery. Click below to see the other parts of the interview.

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Video: Inspired to Discover New Terroir (with St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak)

Without the established rules of Europe, how do American Winemakers discover great new terroir?  For St. Innocent's Winemaker Mark Vlossak, it is all about inspiration.  In this short six minute video, Vlossak talks about the different subregions of Oregon's Willamette Valley and what he find so inspirational about each of them.

This is Episode #50 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman video podcast and the fourth of five videos from my interviews with Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery. Click below to see the other parts of the interview.

Video: Going Deeper into Willamette Valley's Terroir. With St Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak (part 3)

Get ready for a master-class on the specifics of terroir in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  If you ever wondered why Oregon is so exciting a wine region, this video will make it very clear.

Join us for eleven minutes with St. Innocent Winery's Mark Vlossak.  It's well worth your time!  Vlossak discusses the intricacies of terroir and how New World Wineries - such as those in Oregon - deal with discovering and using it.  The focus is on why factors influence terroir.

This is episode #49 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.

This is part three of a five part video with Mark Vlossak.

Video: The Subregions of Oregon's Willamette Valley. St Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak

Similarly to other places that produce high quality Pinot Noir, Oregon's Willamette Valley is divided into many regions and subregions - each producing their own unique flavors and textures.  St. Innocent Winery's Winemaker Mark Vlossak talks in this video about those subregions and how they came to exist.  

This is the 2nd of 5 videos featuring Mark Vlossak that I produced during my 2012 trip to Oregon.  The first video "Understanding Oregon Pinot Noir" can be found here.

I interviewed Mr. Vlossak in the cellars of St. Innocent Winery.

This is episode #48 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.

Video: Chehalem Winery. Wynne Peterson-Nedry Winemaker Interview

In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chehalem Winery's Wynne Peterson-Nedry.  It was a rare blast of hot weather in Oregon with temperatures rising into the high 90s.  It was a pleasure to stay in the shade and sip from the many dry white wines that are strongly featured in Chehalem's porfolio.

Chehalem Winery, a family operation, was transitioning from Father to Daughter as well as experiencing a dramatic change in their label design.  I spent about a half hour with Ms. Peterson-Nedry and the highlights of that interview form Episode #46 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.

We spoke about the history of Chehalem Winery, where Oregon fits among world Pinot Noir regions, and why you should think about Riesling when you think Oregon Wines.

For more information about Chehalem Winery - their website is https://www.chehalemwines.com/

If in Ohio, you can buy Chehalem wines at Walt Churchill's Market.

Elsewhere, support the podcast by buying Chehalem Wines on Amazon

Video: Anne Amie Vineyards - Winemaker Thomas Houseman

The first winery in Oregon that I visited was Anne Amie Vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Willamette Valley.  I got to the tasting room around closing time to find only the winemaker - Thomas Houseman.  We had a quick interview and talked about the distinctiveness of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Anne Amie Vineyards, current trends in wine, and the meaning of wine.

Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman. Episode #45

Download the video in HD by clicking here.

The complete podcast is available in iTunes here.

St. Innocent 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir - Vertical Tasting - 2007, 2008, 2009, & 2010

When St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak traveled to France, he noticed that many of his favorite wineries had one thing in common.  They all used Biodynamic farming.  So he began to search Oregon for some good Biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir.

This radical extension of the organic movement looks at the whole health of the vineyard, using organic practices, and also incorporated much pseudo-scientific thought.  Many have compared it to holistic medicine.  I don't agree with much of biodynamics, but do agree with Vlossak in the quality that this ideology often produced.

Vlossak purchases fruit from the biodynamically farmed Momtazi vineyard for St. Innocent and I knew that I had to try these wines.  Luckily for me, my Ohio distributor had four vintages in stock and I was able to throw a vertical tasting of St. Innocent Pinot Noir 'Momtazi' 2007-2010. 

It was no surprise that the wines were of excellent quality, but what surprised me was how the biodynamic farming seemed to moderate the effects of some extreme vintages. 2010 was one of Oregon's coldest ever and 2009 was one of the hottest ever.  Yet the heathy Momtazi vines seemed to not let the wines vary significantly.

Similar things happend with the phenomenal 2008 vintage and the 'Meh' 2007 vintage.  The wines were brought together stylistically.  Was this the health of the biodynamics?  I don't know the answer to that. 

For great discussions of Biodynamic winemaking check out my video interview with Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard or my video interview with Rebecca Work of Ampelos.
Momtazi Vertical.JPG

So let's get to the wines themselves.

St. Innocent 2010 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.   92/100 Points.  $39.99 OH retail

A light pink-red color.  Bright red fruit nose with red apple skins.  Delicate red berry cream on the palate with a gentle texture.  Pleasant and undemanding, but still a super achievement.  Graceful, if even a little whispy at times.

St. Innocent 2009 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  89/100 Points.  $39.99 OH retail

Color is noticeably darker than the 2010.  More intensity to the aromas, but less depth of flavor.  Red plums, cherries, red dust on the palate with some oak and a strange citrus.  Can feel some awkward alcohol. 

St. Innocent 2008 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  91/100 points.  $39.99 OH retail.

Dark purple-red.  Aromas of intense red and black plums with brightness to the character.  Soft and silky with dark black fruits and (for the first time) some tannins.  This is young and tight with pronounced tannins, but just wait a few years. 

St. Innocent 2007 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  90/100 points.  $39.99 OH retail.

Brick red color.  Floral aromas with light herbal notes.  Palate is red and meaty with some warmth and hints of emerging herbs. 

In conclusion, there are some delicious wines here at pretty reasonable prices.  I'll definitely be looking for the 2010 'Momtazi' again.  The Biodynamic Winemaking thing is still up in the air, but all if you want is excellent Oregon Pinot Noir, you might find this something that works well for you.