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July 29, 2009

08 Pepperwood Grove, Valle Central Pinot Noir

It tasted like a science experiment, so I thought I'd run my own tests. This is the taste that made me hate wine when I first tried it thousands of gallons ago. Sharp, acidic, alcoholic--it tastes so damn adult, like something they brought out at the big table over Thanksgiving. We weren't supposed to touch it, but the truth is, nor was anyone else. They took it in out of ritual, a little like communion wine. Or placenta. Problem wasn't the wine, though--it was that horrible air of respect. That defensive notion that we should revere what we don't understand, respect it, and, well, swallow. But you could've felt the same way about gin before mixing it with an olive, vermouth, and ice. Or green coffee beans before roasting them and steeping them in water. This isn't a wine, it's an important part of wine, and in that way closer to grape must than what we know as pinot noir. So it's incomplete, which I guess means buying it is like taking your son to Pizza Hut for getting a C in gym. Well, I found the strength shoes that make junk pinot noir a rose by any other name: grenadine (which, of course, you have on hand to make Heineken Monacos on weekends), a drop of which transforms this cheap, acetic pinot noir into nothing short of Oregon terroir. I've gone too far. But the next time you end up with a pinot this disappointing, add a little grenadine, which immediately adds the oily raspberry and pomegranate flavor you usually pay another $20 for. Seems unfair. I'm sure I could throw a little free-trade vanilla extract to this and end up with Sea Smoke. But what's amazing about the grenadine is that it doesn't sit on top. It fills in all the gaps, instead, even adding enough body and aroma to make you double-take on the bottle. Your takeaway isn't this discovery though, as handy as the tip may be. Instead, I want you to leave thinking what would drive me to do something like this. Dissect the meaning of "bad wine." Is it worse to be so bad you dump it down the drain, or feel so much pity that you find a need to fix it? My stomach's happy. Stupid tongue doesn't know any better. But, my do I feel so sad. This post is over. It's time to call my mother. See if she needs anything. Maybe I should come over this weekend.

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July 07, 2009

07 Arcane Cellars, Willamette Valley Pinot Gris Reserve

Fitting that I'd drink this after Eyrie, who planted the country's first pinot gris. Funny how so little has changed. Maybe, I'll admit, this isn't a varietal much suited to change, but the plush sweet tart candy profile is starting to wear thin. In every way Arcane's wine is doing nothing wrong. And while I'll usually commend some Basque whites and albarino for that trait alone, Alsace and Italy have proven that pinot gris shows itself on a wide spectrum of flavors fat to lean. Spritey, summery, and just the slightest bit milky (or maybe egg white-y), it's the perfect profile for lemon meringue. And if you try hard enough, lime zest and something I can only describe as smoked loose leaf paper comes through. It's great fruit. And I guess that's the surprise. No stoniness--OK here it comes: no terroir. It doesn't have to have that. I'd gladly guzzle this wine. But then what exactly are we "reserve"-ing this for, and what really have we done with this grape for all these years?

July 06, 2009

02 The Eyrie Vineyards, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Reserve

Love is an iterative process. It changes you, you change the one you love, and it takes a little editing, fidgeting maybe, to get it all to work out in the end. I know wine changes. Usually, it goes bad. I know I change. Quickly get sick of the wine I might've drank all summer long last year. But rarely do we both change right enough to know each other better. One year after my first, the 02 Eyrie Reserve pinot--one of son Jason's final wines under the tutelage of Papa Pinot David Lett--is a complete masterpiece. It hates me, tastes odd, and leaves me wanting more. This is in fact the way I hope to age, mature, but still robust and full of life. The wine has somehow picked up intensity and is currently a cliffhanging invitation to drink again next year, the year after, and every year until David returns. I like David's wines because they always seemed more "Burgundian" than Burgundian wine. People love to throw that word around. It's come to mean light or elegant, as if anything that arouses so much passion and lust could ever be those two things. I read "Burgundian" a little differently; it means committed. It means we believe in this soil, or we'll push through and try to harvest through the rain; we'll drink what we want with what we want to eat, and sometimes whatever's in the garden will do just fine. When I first tried David's 2002 pinot last May, I could tell it had some legs. It was plush, at times sweet, and really little like the image of Eyrie I had in my head. But I could hear him, or my impersonation of a man I regret never having met, sweet, raspy, and tart, saying this is what the wine is, this is what it was when the oldest Oregon pinot vines were planted in 1966, I love you, and shut up.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Tom Miller said...

Nilay,

"This is in fact the way I hope to age, mature, but still robust and full of life." Your description of the 2002 Eyrie Reserve Pinot noir perfectly describes Jason's Dad who died much, much too young. He was always "robust and full of life." We miss him greatly.

Keep up the excellent writing.

Tom Miller

12:22 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

I was just sharing this wine a few nights ago and talking about it not more than 12 hours ago. You just made everything I've ever done worth it. I will not forget this.

12:51 PM  

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