Eugene Weekly : Wine : 6.4.2009


Stop and Sniff the Rosés
An early peek at new whites and pinks
By Lance Sparks

Yow! Summer in lovable little Bluegene. Been a lotta places, lotta times, but I’m stumped to name a sweeter place to be when the air turns warm and rhodies bust out like lollipop trees and irises perfume the air. Then the roses, oh my. 

Mole and I were prepping our June wine report, first of summer. Bright sunlight filtered into the office through grimy glass, 23rd floor of the rickety high-rise in downtown Eugene. I lurked by the window, peering down on the blooming landscape. Behind me, Mole clinked glasses, pulled corks. “Mole, buddy,” I said, “summer’s here. Do you think I should get a bikini wax?” Dead silence. “Only, see, I saw this salon offering discounts. Waddaya think?” I turned around. Mole stared at me, mouth open, actually sorta doing fish-breathing. I half expected bubbles from his lips. I grinned at him, relented, “Just messin’ witchu, pal.” Not an ironic bone in that round body.

“Sleut’, dat’s kinda weird, y’know? We gotta t’ink about the 2007 vintage and wines da peeps’ll like, and wines fer picnics and li’ dat, ’n’ now I gots this scary pitcher in my head, li’ a stupid song ya can’t stop singin’.”

“Sorry, chum, just funnin’,” I said. “’Sides, the 2007 wines are just different, most of ’em. I mean, 2006 was big heat, super-ripe grapes, high sugars, pinot noirs with alcohol levels used ta be reserved for wicked zinfandels, 14 per cent, some almost 15, monster pinots with jump-in-the-mouth fruit, berry flavors from reds, to blues, to blacks. Then 2007 comes along and we’re back in Oregon, rains right through September into October, most growers sweating B-Bs. But the smart guys played cagy and made some yummy wines, steely whites, delicate pinots with Burgundy-like acidity and flavors all nuanced in the red fruits, some really nifty. And now the 2008 whites and rosés are comin’ in, prices are comin’ back to Earth. Wine’s good, life’s good, right?”

Mole brightened, a little, and we went to work. Actually, many of the best of 2006 pinot noirs are still available, and most are big, bold, fruit-driven and deep and still come off as pinots despite the high alcohol levels, but they’re almost all priced over 50 bux. If ya got the dough and the pinot jones, though, we’ve tasted some bell-ringers (filthy job, this): Ken Wright Savoya Vyd. is lovely, alcohol only 13.5, with bright fruit, silky texture, flavors like chocolate on cherries; Bethel Heights Flat Block is terrific, balanced, complex, with a lingering finish; Beaux Freres Ribbon Ridge is simply superb, satin-smooth, with distinctive flavors of candied fruits.

But back in the real world, there’s a stone bargain: Viridian 2006 Pinot Noir hales from Rickreal and delivers well-defined flavors of cherries with a dash of spice on a light body with good acidity for food, plus it’s a pinot steal at $9.95. For a few dollars more, Spindrift 2006 Pinot Noir ($22) is ripe and round and fully packed.

We’re starting early on our rosé report. We usually wait ’til high summer heat sends us screaming for cool wines with richer flavors than whites usually pack, but rosé has been re-discovered (at last!) and the market overflows with pretties in pink. Triennes 2008 Rosé ($15) is from the Provence region of France where rosés are made with amour; this one is a pale pink bouquet of strawberries and cherries with a charming whiff of tangerine.

More to come for summer fun. Wax on and be ready.