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: Understanding Oregon Pinot Noir. St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak

St. Innocent Winery's Founder and Winemaker Mark Vlossak was responsible for some of the most interesting wines that I tasted during my 2012 trip to Oregon.  The St. Innocent Pinot Noir Temperance Hill absolutely blew me away and the St Innocent Pinot Blanc made me think hard about the white wine potential of this region.

Mr. Vlossak was also one of the Willamette Valley's most eloquent supporters.  Winemaker Mark Vlossak is heavily involved in the yearly "Pinot Camp" educational week for industry professional.  This video, the first of five, gives you a taste of what he can teach us about Oregon Wine.

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

This is Episode #47 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.  There is more to come.

Experience More...

Left-Handed Compliments: Tasting 2013 MollyDooker Wines

Seriously?  17% Alcohol in a Merlot?  WTF guys?  Ok, Austin.  Settle down.  

A 'Mollydooker' is Australian slang for a left-handed person.  It is also the name of one of Australia's cult wineries.  Created by Sarah and Sparky Marquis after the disintegration of the relationship between Winemaker Marquis and Importer Dan Philips, MollyDooker exploded into the American wine scene more than a decade ago.  The style was one of extremity: big fruit, big alcohol, big extract, big humorous labels. Buoyed by a glowing 95 point Robert Parker review and a $20 price, MollyDooker's "The Boxer" Shiraz became one of the 'must have' wines of the season.  

ButTimes have changed.  Australian wines have experienced devastating losses in the American market.  Only the low priced Aussie wines seem to be making much of an impact.  Things are also different for Mollydooker.  Prices are up considerably and, while scores are still high, popular taste has moved away from the ultra-ripe style that Mollydooker embodies.

It had been years since I tasted these wines.  So I hosted a tasting at Walt Churchill's Market and tasted the 2013 vintage.  Why so young?  Well these are wines that show their best in their youth and that is how most customers drink them.  The winemakers recommend "The MollyDooker Shake" as shown in the video below.

MollyDooker 2013 "The Maitre D'" Cabernet Sauvignon.  $29.99 OH Retail.  "Crimson black red. Aromas of grape jelly and blood.  The palate is smoke and spice and red jelly.  Some brightness to the fruit and a touch of heat.  Less heat than expected for 15.5% alcohol."  88 points.

MollyDooker 2013 "Two Left Feet."  $29.99 OH Retail.  "A blend of Shiraz, Cab Sav, and Merlot.  A medium dark red color.  Strawberry jelly on the nose.  Burnt cherries and heat in the mouth.  Kinda disjointed.  My least favorite of the set."  82 points.

MollyDooker 2013 "The Boxer" Shiraz.  $29.99 OH Retail.  "This is the wine that built MollyDooker in the marketplace.  Very black center and a dark purple rim.  A nose of dried cherries embedded in dark european chocolate.  Big everything.  Big pepper.  Big spice.  A hard punch of flavor with fruit, oak, and both white and black pepper.  Serious heat."  90 points.

MollyDooker 2013 "The Scooter" Merlot.  $29.99 OH Retail.  "Ruby Red color.  The lightest wine of the bunch.  Smokey hazelnut chocolate nose.  Huge mouthfeel!!!! Waves of undulating alcoholic black jelly.  Burnt toast finish."  88 points.

Mollydooker 2012 Enchanted Path.  $79.99 OH Retail.  "One of the big boys.  A Shiraz-Cabernet blend at 60-40.  Absolute black-purple.  Sweet sexy nose of flower and jelly.  Fresh plums and delicious black cherries.  This is the first of these wines that hasn't been totally jellified.  This is an enormous wine and wears that weight well.  A dry dessert wine.  Excellent but specialized."  93 points.

So, there we are.  What do I think of these wines?  Well... there was a time when these would have been among my favorite wines in the store.  Today?  Probably not.  Maybe I've matured in my palate or maybe tasting thousands of wines per year has biased me towards the unique and the esoteric.  I wouldn't doubt it.

These are high-quality professional wines that know their style and own it proudly.  And for many, these will become beloved wines.  So, if these descriptions sound good you, don't hesitate to pick up some MollyDooker.  And don't forget to do "The MollyDooker Shake."

 

 

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

Pontet Canet 2007 & Pontet Canet 2008. A 'Vin de Plaisir' & a 'Vin de Garde.'

 Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

 Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

It was a brutally cold, windy, and rainy day in Pauillac when I visited Chateau Pontet Canet with other students from The Wine & Spirits MBA. But as I stood in front of a big picture window listening to Vigneron Jean Michel Comme speak about his struggles to create a biodynamic wine in Bordeaux's Left Bank, it was obvious there was something very special in this quietly humble man and the wines he oversees.

Obviously, I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Robert Parker, the great wine critic, has given Pontet Canet some of his highest accolades ever, including back to back 100 point (Perfect) scores for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Those aren't the wines we're discussing here.  We're discussing the 2007 and the 2008.  We're also discussing the French concepts of 'Vin de Plaisir" and "Vin de Garde."

2007 was the year that challenged Jean Michel Comme and Pontet Canet.  The weather conditions conspired against biodynamics and Comme felt like he had squandered the opportunity given him, but the owner of the vineyard.  And yet the wine is magnificent.  Why was he so disappointed?

Chateau Pontet Canet 2007 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A purity to the red fruit that is almost magical in its beauty and intensity.  A pretty jellied richness marinading fresh cut herbs and bright fresh fruits.  A long finish is well cut tannins that lasts almost a minute."  95 points.  

2008 was a tight classic vintage in Bordeaux that didn't get a lot of respect in its youth because the wines were tight and need considerable cellaring.

Chateau Pontet Canet 2008 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A beautiful red crimson color.  Dense, brooding, and primary.  Almost opaque in its power and tightness.  A forever wine meant for the cellar and consumption and lifetime from now."  95 points.

Here is the interesting question and the crux of this article.  How can two vintages of the same wine, using identical winemaking technique, have such completely different taste profiles and yet be the same quality?

It comes down to Plaisir vs Garde.  The French parse all wine down to two categories.

Plaisir (or pleasure wines) are ones that give immediate enjoyment.  They are often fruit-forward, generous, and hedonistic.

Garde (or 'to keep') are wines that will benefit from considerable time in the cellar.  They often produce more classic, traditional flavors and profiles.  Cellar wines also achieve a longevity and levels of complexity that Plaisir wines can't approach.

Which is better?  As usual, it depends.  Garde wines often reach higher levels of technical proficiency and complexity, but require time and proper cellaring to get there.  Plaisir wines can be enjoyed tonight.

What's the takeaway here?  When you are seeking out a premium high-quality wine (and spending some serious money,) vintage won't necessarily speak to the wine's quality.  It will, more likely tell you something about which style of wine you are going to get.

 

Experience More....

  1. Video Interview with Randall Grahm on Biodynamic Wine Making
  2. Video Interview with Rebecca Work of Ampelos on Biodynamics vs Organic