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Eugene Weekly : Wine : 2.3.11


The Wow Factor

Oregon wines hit the cool 90s

By Lance Sparks

"Wow.” We open with a direct quote from Sarah Palin, her deepest capture of the beauty and wonder of wild Alaska. When it comes to monosyllables, we just cant beat Ol SP.

Here we quote our profound political philosopher to express our amazement at the news that Oregon wine has made the cover of that widely read mag, Wine Spectator, the inside article a rave about local achievements with the 2008 vintage, not just for our signature red wine, pinot noir, but also the white pinot gris, even ã drumroll, and another "Wow” ã chardonnay. Happy Valentines Day, homies.

Those headlines couldnt come at a happier time, in the drear gray of winter and in the lingering agonies of the Republican Recession, when every sale might mean another day in business. But despite all that good news, there are going to be some hurt feelings, mainly from folks who didnt make writer Harvey Steimans list of wines at 90+ points, but also because, as usual, the body of his piece gives short shrift to outside the grape-draped hills just south and west of Portland.

Still, "Wow.” Confirmation: Oregons winemakers can make really good wine, at least for 2008. And some of the 07 wines. And most 06 were darn good; 05 wasnt bad and 04 was super. See how it goes? Number of wineries mentioned from the south end of the Willamette Valley? Nil. Zip. The New York Times can list Broadley Sundance Pinot Noir as one of the nations best, but not Steiman. But go to the back pages of the issue and get down under the 90 points, to the high-80s, and there we are: King Estate, Sweet Cheeks, a few others from south of us. Oh, boy.

Well, the tears shed will be mostly of the crocodile variety. Steiman left a gob of fine wines on the shelves, many at prices we can afford (the tops on his list usually run $50 to $75). Well be looking for those.

Meanwhile, another national mag, Wine Enthusiast, wondered recently (December 2010) why pinot blanc "has not become more of a cult wine in Oregon.” Good question. Pinot blanc can thrive in Oregon, along with the whole pinot family of grapes, but this dry white is particularly versatile with food and responds to a variety of wine-making styles (more lush or more lean).

We like the wines made by our neighbors the Shown family, and locavores that we are we especially appreciate the familys respect for the land and sustainable farming practices. We also enjoy the way their wines match with food.The Showns Brigadoon 2009 Pinot Blanc ($16) delivers a glassful of ripe pear flavors on a creamy texture with well-balanced acidity that invites fresh seafood, cheeses, even vegetarian dishes. They produce tiny amounts of their wine, so you might have to special order or try their website.

J. Scott Cellars 2008 Pinot Blanc ($14) wraps its pear/citrus flavors in a stony minerality that lends depth and charm. We put this wine with sautéed halibut, and we got music.

Were glad Steiman noted that the first releases from the 2009 vintage promise another strong year, and Boedecker 2009 Barrel Select Pinot Noir ($15) advances the case. Flavors are typical ã black cherry, earth, touch of spice ã well-balanced, good value for this variety (expensive to grow and to make). Well worth a closing "Wow.”