2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Gris

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on summer vacation making lemonade out of lemons (was supposed to be in the Dolomites) and am drinking local. That means digging into Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Given my inclination for value I had to have a peek when we hit the Trader Joe’s in Bend for groceries. They had a nice selection of local wines with about 10 of each Pinots. Far more than we see in California so I decided to grab one of each. First up was the Pinot Gris…

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Eola Hills “Apples, Apples, and more apples – this is what comes to mind on the first sip. A little spritz on the finish. This Pinot Gris was made exclusively from grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. Aged only in stainless steel to allow the fruit flavors to come forward. Similar in style to the Pinot Grigio’s from Italy.”

What I Think:

First off unlike much of the Oregon wine we see at Trader Joe’s in California Eola Hills is a real winery, not just a label, located about ten miles outside of Salem. Started in 1987 the winery makes a wide variety of offering from Cabernet Sauvignon to Viognier to Zinfandel. Not many that Oregon is renowned for. That said Pinot Gris (and Noir) is one in their portfolio for which they are well known so let’s get to it.

(12.6%) Pale, yellowish gold in the glass. Big, crisp and forward on entry with juicy green apples and ripe peach flavors which quickly give way to a mineral, talc backbone. From there the finish turns creamy showing a bit of spice as it lingers on. Again this one seems a bit flabby as I would prefer more acidity but it does seem fairly priced at $9.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Sokol Blosser Evolution

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on vacation and looking to sample the local offerings. To be honest this one is cheating as I had it a few days before I left. That said still looking for my first favorite. Perhaps time to try some Pinot!

NV Sokol Blosser EvolutionPrice: $13.99 @ Sokol Blosser*

What They Said:

Per Sokol Blosser “Every new bottling has its own subtle and fresh personality. The 9 grapes tie together perfectly, creating a smooth, layered white wine that can hold its own or stand up to just about any food pairing you dare to serve it with. It is extraordinarily food-friendly, from light salads to the hottest fusion-style cuisine. Regarding the question we’re most often asked: ‘Were you trying to do this or did your leftovers happen to work well together?’ We’ll let the success of Evolution speak for itself.”

What I Think:

(12%) A blend of Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Muscat Canelli, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner (no percentages available) – Made from nine grapes this is a varietal hodgepodge and strangely enough my initial thought once this hit the palate was of Viognier which happens to be one of the varietals not in this wine. Rich with a heavier body than expected this one is loaded with sweet peach flavors rounded out with guava, papaya and more. The finish shows more of the same with fading tropical fruit flavors and just a touch of spice. It’s missing the acidity I prefer which makes it seem a bit flabby at points. Made to match with spicy foods and I agree it is an apt pairing. Otherwise if you don’t typically like whites, or prefer them lower on the acidity side, this may be right up your alley. (39,950 cases made)

Rating: Not for Me

*This bottle of wine was received as a press sample.

2009 Erath Pinot Gris

I’m in Oregon for a few weeks on vacation and outside of the six pack I brought with me will be sampling what I can of the local wines. I’ll be spending the majority of my time in Bend and sadly won’t make it to Willamette though am hoping to stop in one of the southern wine regions on my way back home. Let me know if you have any favorites from Oregon I should be on the lookout for…

Price: $10.99 @ Safeway

What They Said:

2009 Erath Pinot GrisPer Erath Winery “Fragranced with mandarin orange, ripe pear, subtle talc and lavender notes, the 2009 Pinot Gris promises plenty. The promise is fulfilled when the silky texture and uplifting acidity come together with flavors reminiscent of melon, citrus, apple and honey. Classically Erath.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) Pale gold with a honeyed floral blossom nose. Crisp on entry with rich, peach stone fruits that lead to a dry, mineral finish. A bit flabby (could use a touch more acidity for my liking) but nice enough if you aren’t paying too close of attention…

Rating: Pricey

2009 VINTJS Pinot Noir

2009 VINTJS Pinot NoirPrice: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Wine by Joe (on the 2008 which goes for $19 on the winery site) “Listen to the fine and enticing “snap-crack” of the seal as you twist it off. Put the Band-Aids back in the medicine cabinet… this aint no cork sealed wine. This wine slips into your mouth with gorgeous rich blackberry aromas with a touch of leather, too. The flavors mirror the aromas with a soft and velvety mouthfeel which wraps around your tongue delivering the impression of sweetness from the soft ripe tannins. I know what you are thinking… How can Joe deliver such a good Oregon Pinot Noir for the money you are asking!!?? Yes, I know, you want to drink more…”

What I Think:

I found this Willamette offering from the same maker as the recently reviewed Pinot Gris and, as Gary Vee would say, I decided to give it a whirl. How did it go?

Faint in color at the core and almost brown on the edges this one is light from the get go. Bright on the nose this one starts nicely showing racy acidity which leads to tart cranberry and orange rind flavors before giving way to a slightly harsh finish. That’s the best that can be said. On the flip side I might look at this one as thin, sour and under ripe. Whereas the Pinot Gris was well made I don’t get that sense here as it seems disjointed at times. Not enough Jekyll & too much Hyde for me. I won’t be buying this one again. Anyone have a recent favorite Pinot favorite in this price range to share?

Rating: Skip It

2009 VINTJS Pinot Gris

2009 VINTJS Pinot GrisPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “VINTJS Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, from Oregon’s most renowned growing region, is a silky & vibrant wine, more full-bodied and lush than its cousin, Pinot Grigio. The Willamette Valley’s long, cool growing season challenges the grapes to ripen, which results in much more complexity of flavor and body than often found in wines from warmer regions. Bright flavors of pineapple, green apple & pear make this a good partner to a salad of Organic Baby Lettuce topped with our Goat Cheese Medallions. Our price of $5.99 makes this a great partner to your sense of frugality, too.”

What I Think:

Another in the series of VINTJS offerings I found this on page 8 of my most recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. I really wanted to like this one as it has been a while since I enjoyed a Pinot Gris. How did this one work out? Straw hued with a slight spritz on the pour (not the palate though) and a nose showing tart citrus, mineral and rock aromas. Green apples greet you on the palate before a mineral backbone kicks in leading to a crisp finish. Enough acid but I prefer a bit more snap (and truth be told a bit more fruit as well). This wine is well made but not a standout. You get what you pay for; a simple, solid sipper. I bought two bottles initially but don’t see this one making it into my cart again. That said guessing some might like this more than I do. If you are a Pinot Gris fan feel free to give this one a try.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2005 Belle Vallee Cellars Red Wine

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Rich and Velvety with incredibly deep cherry and blackberry fruit. Substantial concentration long and turning spicy on the finish. Not to heavy; smooth and appealing now. But will only get better with age.”

What I Think:

This one appealed to me as it was from an unheard of, at least for me, region of Oregon and I am always anxious to try something new. After the first sip I find it a study in contrast; both fruity and dry at the same time. The wine has some staying power and lingers on nicely. Still can’t put my finger on this one after two bottles. Perhaps I’ll try a third. If you’re up for something new give it a go. Otherwise stick to TJ’s Top 10 Wines of January 2008 which this did not make.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2006 Castle Rock Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Price: $10.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per quaffability “Is anybody doing bargain Pinot Noir better than Castle Rock Winery? Not that I know of. Trader Joe’s has been running their wines of late, and I have been impressed by every one I have tried. Too bad this one has crept up in price one dollar compared to the previous vintage.

It seems awfully early in the day to be bringing 2007 red wines to market, but that’s part of the philosophy behind these wines. They are light, fresh, and do not see a lot of oak aging.

The 2006 Willamette Valley is clone of the 2005. Not quite as light and transparent, the wine shows smoky, earthy, and sandalwood aromas, along with bright strawberry and raspberry fruit. The palate is simple, but it’s clean, without any green or other off flavors, leading to a nice but short finish. Like the 05, the texture as a bit of silk to it. To be clear, this isn’t great – it’s just a clean, nicely made wine. Regrettably, that’s the most you can hope for at this price point, and it’s more than many producers can provide.”

What I Think:

I had been eyeing this bottle at TJ’s for some time now so when our friends brought this one over on the 4th of July I was excited. We popped it open and drank it with some good old fashioned hamburgers. Given that we had guests my notes are extremely limited. The one thing I seem to remember most about this wine is strawberries. This wine is light and delicate, almost reminding me of a rose. Perhaps the burgers were a bit much for it. I certainly don’t feel that I spent enough time focusing on this wine to pass a verdict but given my initial impressions it has certainly lost some of the mystic that it once had. Next time I see it on the shelf at TJ’s it won’t hold my glance as long, but some day it may find its way to my house again. Typically I would rate this as a “12th Bottle” but at this price point I don’t find that relevant. Faced with labeling it as “Skip It” which seems unfair I decided to bend the rules and call this one “Pricey” though it doesn’t quite meet the arbitrary $12 price barrier.

Rating: Pricey

2004 Owen Roe Abbot’s Table

Price: $25.00 @ Adventures In Wine

What They Said:

Per the winery “This is our most popular wine and for good reason. It is such a rich, yet easy drinking red wine that can be paired with the broadest range of foods. The Zinfandel component pairs beautifully with zesty Italian fare. The Bordeaux varieties scream for hearty beef dishes. While the Pinot Noir makes the Abbot’s Table perfect with lamb and game. Of course, the Syrah and Grenache work masterfully with spicy cuisine. Then again, the Abbot’s Table just tastes great by itself.

Abbot’s Table is inspired by what the English call Claret – a rich red blend from Bordeaux. The Anglo / Bordelais wine trade of Claret (Clairet or clear wine) dates back to medieval times when the wine was pale in color from a shorter time on the red skins (ours is definitely not light in color). More than half of the blend of Abbot’s Table is the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc – it’s the non-traditional Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah that make this wine so drinkable.

Drink now or hold up to five years in your cellar. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.6% Syrah, 13% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 8% Zinfandel, 4.5% Grenache, 3.4% Malbec, 3% Pinot Noir, 1.5% Counoise”

What I Think:

Allow me to reuse this intro posted when I had the 2005 a few weeks back; “I still remember the first time I had this wine. Chez Papa in Potrero Hill. We had some friends in from out of town and were asking the waitress for recommendations and she pulled this one on me. At the time, and to some degree still, I was skeptical of blends, this one perhaps more so because of the sheer variety of grapes. As I didn’t want to have to deal with the fall out of ordering a crappy bottle after turning down the recommendation I ordered it. Boy was I surprised. Shortly after that I found their distributor here in the bay area and grabbed a case.”

My experience with the 2005 was slightly on the disappointing side so I was curious to see whether my perception of the 2004 would suffer from a halo effect. With my mom in town and meat loaf on the table it seemed like the right time to find out. All I can say is “Wow”! This wine once again knocked my socks off. I am not sure where to even begin around what it is about this wine, there it so many layers and flavors that build to a complexity that make it difficult to describe. Fruit flavors seem to run the berry gamut from red all the way to the darkest. In the mouth these blend with hints of spice and smoky undertones to form a nice, rounded flavor profile. With every sip the wine keeps changing, with different fruits and flavors showing their colors. Can’t wait for the next bottle, still 8 more to go!

On a random side note that I almost opted to omit, I found it a bit disappointing that the winery doesn’t update the wine description on their site from year to year, I could be wrong but it appears that they just update the blend percentages…

Rating: Cellar It

2005 Owen Roe Abbot’s Table

Price: $25.00 @ Adventures In Wine

What They Said:

Per the winery “This is our most popular wine and for good reason. It is such a rich, yet easy drinking red wine that can be paired with the broadest range of foods. The Zinfandel component pairs beautifully with zesty Italian fare. The Bordeaux varieties scream for hearty beef dishes. While the Pinot Noir makes the Abbot’s Table perfect with lamb and game. Of course, the Syrah and Grenache work masterfully with spicy cuisine. Then again, the Abbot’s Table just tastes great by itself.

Abbot’s Table is inspired by what the English call Claret – a rich red blend from Bordeaux. The Anglo / Bordelais wine trade of Claret (Clairet or clear wine) dates back to medieval times when the wine was pale in color from a shorter time on the red skins (ours is definitely not light in color). More than half of the blend of Abbot’s Table is the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc – it’s the non-traditional Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah that make this wine so drinkable.

Drink now or hold up to five years in your cellar. 34.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 15% Zinfandel, 9% Cabernet Franc, 7% Syrah, 6% Blaufrankish, 4.5% Sangiovese, 3% Pinot Noir, 3% Grenache and 1% Malbe”

What I Think:

I still remember the first time I had this wine. Chez Papa in Potrero Hill. We had some friends in from out of town and were asking the waitress for recommendations and she pulled this one on me. At the time, and to some degree still, I was skeptical of blends, this one perhaps more so because of the sheer variety of grapes. As I didn’t want to have to deal with the fall out of ordering a crappy bottle after turning down the recommendation I ordered it. Boy was I surprised. Shortly after that I found their distributor here in the bay area and grabbed a case. This was for the 2004.

When the 2005 came out I grabbed another case without even trying a bottle first. So when I popped the cork on the first one I must admit that I was slightly disappointed. Was it a good bottle of wine, certainly but where were the nostalgic feelings! As you can see with the build up here I may have been looking a little “too” forward to it. So I am going to give this bottle a rating of “Pricey” even though I have 11 more. Here’s to hoping the next bottle puts a smile on my face! The good news it that I am relatively sure that will be the case.

Rating: Pricey