Bubblefest 2017

My wife and I joined two other friends at Anne Amie Vineyards to enjoy a vast array of sparkling wines.  We don’t often find ourselves drinking sparkling wines, so we thought this event might peak our interest in some of the local purveyors and increase the possibilities of enjoying them more often as well as to fully appreciate all the nuances of them.

There were several wines, during this tasting, that I would have been happy to take home and only a couple that I really wasn’t fond of at all.  I have put asterisks (*) next to the ones I thought were those that shown as Best in Show (IMHO).


Willamette Valley Vineyards

  • They were introducing their newest member of the wine family. . . their Brut Sparkling.  Nice fruit on the nose, very clean and crisp.  A refreshing, quaffable wine.


Soter Vineyards

  • 2011 Rose’ – Nicely effervescent, and delicious fruit on the palate.  This vintage is 85% Pinot Noir – 15% Chardonnay.
  • 2012 Rose’ – This one was a bit more effervescent than the previous vintage, a dry mid palate and lightly fruity.  93% Pinot Noir – 7% Chardonnay.
  • Their Blanc de Blanc is a Honey bomb . . .


Sokol Blosser

  • Rose’ Bubbles– Earthy nose, brambly . . 100% Pinot Noir.
  • Evolution Bubbles – Surprising nose, tight and crisp.  Nice budget bubbly.


Raptor Ridge

  • 2013 Rose’ – Great fruit on the nose, less effervescent than others, very soft with delicious fruit on the palate. *


Edgefield Winery

  • 2014 Blanc de Noir – 100% Pinot Noir from Umpqua AVA.  Soft and crisp with a light fruit palate.


Division Wines

  • I missed the name on this wine, My bad.  It is 100% Pinot Noir and has a very unusual nose.  To me, it smelled like food.  There is a “meatiness” to it.  Unusual , but pleasant.  Light effervescence.


Elk Cove Vineyards

  • 2011 Brut Rose’ – 100% Pinot Noir – Nice bright fruit on the nose.  Crisp and clean mouth feel. *


Kramer Vineyards

  • 2014 Gruner Veltliner – Earthy nose, tight and slightly tart . . not as smooth as most.
  • 2014 Brut – Real nice nose, traditional flavor profile (Pinot and Chard).  Crisp and quite lovely. *


Left Coast Cellars

  • 2015 Queen Bee Bubbly – They use their estate honey as their second fermentation sugar source.  And it really shows.  Nice light honey on the nose.  Nicely crisp and clean.
  • 2012 Blanc De Noir – Very traditional flavor profile, a bit more effervescent.  Light and fruitful.


Maysara Winery

  • NV Sparkling Wine – 100% Pinot Noir – A blast of strawberry on the nose, though the actual flavor falls off of the promise given by the nose.  Still pleasant, nevertheless.



  • NV Brut Blanc de Noir – Nice fruit on the nose, Excellent on the palate.  Very fresh and crisp mouth feel.  A great option.  *
  • Xtra Brut – 100% Chardonnay – Light aroma, not as pronounced as the previous.  Bright and crisp on the palate.


R. Stuart

  • Rose’ D’OR – A 70-30 Pinot and Chard – A light, subtle nose, very solid fruit and baking spices on the palate.  A bit more robust than other entries.



  • Brut – 60-40 blend – Traditional aromas on the nose, a nicely round and encompassing mouth feel, less tart than many others and the flavors linger longer.  Superb choice. *
  • Rose’ – This is unique . . a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay (78, 15, 7)  Very nice berry aroma, and fruity mid palate.  The effervescence is extraordinary. *

This is obviously why ARGYLE is THE place for sparkling wines. 



  • Brut – Nice aroma, but a very austere flavor.  It lacks any finish at all.
  • Rose’ – 100% Pinot Noir – Slightly earthy aroma and the favor is slight as well.


Anne Amie

  • Brut – Very interesting and pleasing aroma, Fresh and crisp with a hint of citrus.
  • 2013 Rose’ – Very pleasing red berry aroma, good effervescence and strawberry flavor throughout that lingers at the finish. *



  • Blanc De Noir – 100% Pinot Noir – The nose had the scent of pears and green vegetation.  there was also a hint of yeast, a bread-like aroma and flavor that was really nice. *


  • Brut – A bit like sparkling lemonade . . Quite unremarkable


Roots Wine Co.

  • Brut – 100% Pinot Noir – Nice aroma, but a bit like lemonade.  Nothing distinctive.




2014 Petite Petit

I was intrigued to try this blend by an article in Wine Enthusiast.  The author described it this way:

The blend of sweet-seeming oak and bold, ripe fruit flavors is irresistible in this big and satisfying wine. The aromas are like vanilla, chocolate and black pepper, while flavors bring on blackberry jam, espresso and dark chocolate for volume and complexity on the palate. 

I have discovered that I am a big fan of the Petit(e) twins . . .Petite Sirah, otherwise known as Durif, and Petit Verdot.  This wine is created by Michael David Winery in the Lodi region of Central California.

My first aromas surprised me.  I noticed big, vibrant dark fruit like plums, blackberries and cherries creating an almost ethereal blanket of comfort.  But I was really surprised by what my brain told me was in there.  I smelled, just for a moment, S’mores.  That graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate aroma was a strange one to discover in a wine glass.  I kinda thought I was dreaming it.  But upon reviewing the bottle notes (above) I see vanilla, chocolate . . .espresso and dark chocolate.  I guess I wasn’t dreaming.

The color is this inky dark purple-red-garnet.  The flavors do not disappoint.  It has a palate filling mouth-feel and a smooth , lovely peppery finish.  If this is in your wheelhouse, I would encourage you to try it.  I got this one at Costco for $14.79 and have seen it at a couple of grocery stores in my area. And the label is cool. . . elephants are cool.

A fine vacation . . .part 3 of 3

October 2016

On a clear, sunny Friday morning in Southern Oregon,  we decided to venture to the far side of Jacksonville in search of Cowhorn Vineyards.  I was drawn to this far-flung vineyard for a couple of reasons.  They had very recently gotten some great press for their biodynamically created wines, and a friend I had made at another winery had moved here to be their tasting room manager.  So, two birds.  We started off with:

2014 Viognier – This was very tight and tart, not overly acidic . . . almost creamy.  It also had a nice crisp mid palate structure.

2014 Rousanne/Marsanne – Smooth initially then brisk and tart.  A really nice round mouthfeel.

2015 Spiral 36 – This one is a southern Rhone blend of Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne.  Tastes were brighter than the first two, a bit tart with an accent of stone fruit like nectarines.  Also a nicely round mid palate.  Took one of these home.

2013 Grenache 21 – Excellent nose of this guy.  Bright and vibrant dark fruit flavors (plums, dark cherries, etc), and a bit of a smoky mid palate . . . like grilled meat . . then a round full finish.

2013 Syrah 21 – Surprisingly prominent blueberry on the nose.  Silky smooth texture and very well balanced.

2013 Sentience – A Syrah reserve – Nice dark fruit, very smooth transitioning to a mineral taste and dry finish.


Back to Jacksonville for one of my favorites, Quady North.  Herb Quady is the Owner, Winemaker and all-around bon vivant at Quady North.  We first encountered his work when he was winemaker for Troon vineyards, in nearby Applegate Valley.  When he left Troon (about 2011?)   he took the flavors and structures that made their wines so good with him.  Following winemaker could not live up.  So naturally I had to visit and taste more of his delicious creations.

Let’s begin with a side-by-side taste test of Viognier.

2015 Ox Block Viognier – Light and bright with mild acidity and stone fruit on the mid palate.

2015 Steelhead Run Viognier – A bit more tart than the previous and has brighter fruit flavors . . . Winner.  Going home with me.

Now for the ones I’ve been wanting to taste for some time . . .

2014 La Battalla – A Cab Franc and Malbec (75/25) blend.  Brambly berries on the nose and delivered on the tongue.  Silky smooth structure and very nicely balanced . . . Two going home

2013 Table Wine – Didn’t write down the blend . . .definitely a smoky nose and silky smooth on the mid, with a bit of bbq flavor.  Great texture.

2011 Arsenal – Really rich aromas (I got Merlot immediately), silky mid  with a bit of spice . . which lingers for quite a while.  The tannins are superbly integrated.

And for dessert . . .

30 Brix – Pastel 13 – Early Muscat / Orange Muscat . . . From a tenant winemaker . . .Bright orange aroma and flavor.  Sweet but not syrupy.  Dangerously easy to drink.  Excellent . . A couple of those are going home.

I also had to take home some Starboard Batch 88 Port-style wine.   Traditional Portuguese grapes and made at Quady Winery in Central California.


Back in Central Point for the last wine stop of this vacation.  I had heard some good things about Ledger David . .so we decided to check it out.  And BONUS . . Rogue Creamery and Lille Belle Farms Chocolates are right next door.

2015 Chardonnay – Crisp and bright nose, sharp fruit, a bit tart and high acid.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc – Bright Floral and fruit nose, moderate acidity (the way I like these) and a crisp / clean finish.

2013 Cabernet Franc – Robust berry aroma, good fruit in the mid, spicy with a dry finish.

2013 Sangiovese – Good nose, smooth, and then NOT.  Moderate acid.  Could use more bottle time cuz this is a bit harsh.

2013 Orion Nebulla – Red bled – Great aroma, dark fruit is very evident.  Dry mid, not silky at all, but a long finish.  Mild spice and acidity.  Maybe would be better with some steak.

Another really great vacation has come to an end and I, as always, am grateful to my partner in crime (Teresa Rankin) for riding shotgun on my passion / obsession with wines.

A fine vacation . . .part 2 of 3

October 2016

We continued our southern Oregon vacation by visiting Abacela Winery which is just outside of Roseburg.  abacela_leaves









It was truly amazing. . the leaves were turning yellow, orange and a vibrant shade of red.  It was stunning.









I wish I had enjoyed their wines as much as the view . . .

2015 Albarino – Nice fruity floral nose, flavor was there and gone pretty quickly, as well as it going desert dry quickly too.  Not enough length for me.

2013 Malbec – Good nose, Fruit again hits really quick then gone totally to high acid.  Smooth body, but quite astringent.

2014 Fiesta Tempranillo – Again, good fruit on the nose and good fruit on first sip . . but then whoosh, flavor gone . . Desert remains.

Vintner’s Blend 16 – This one you can find in stores, so I was especially curious.  They have used 11 grape varieties in this blend . . .Spicy, full-bodied flavor, quite dry at the finish.  Par for the course.

2013 Barrel Select Tempranillo – Nice nose, well-balanced body and texture, spicy in the mid palate . . .this one finishes really well. . .long and flavorful.

2013 Estate Port – Traditional grape varietals in this port-style wine.  I typically LOVE port . . .this was is very HOT . . high alcohol (20.1%) . . not much else, unfortunately.

All in all pretty disappointing visit.


We then continued south toward White City and our next stop.  Kriselle Cellars is housed in a beautiful facility on 25 planted acres  of 7 different grape varietals.  We visited Kriselle Cellars during Roam the Rogue in June 2015.  i was taken with the beauty of the location and the building.  Oh yeah, the wines were good too.  So i had to come back and see if they are still as good as I remembered. I decided on the All Red flight . . .

2013 Cabernet Franc – Nice dark cherries on the nose, slightly hot on initial taste, also slight acidity in the mid palate and a quick finish.  hmmm  .not what I was hoping for or expecting.

2013 Malbec –  Great fruit on the nose, silky tannins. . very good balance and a good long finish.

2013 Di Tani – Cab Franc blend . . .Excellent nose, Smooth and silky mouth-feel with great texture.  Excellent dark fruit, very bright and fresh.  One of my faves.  I could drink the whole bottle.

2013 S / CS – A super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose wa a bit pungent and earthy.  Fruit falls flat in the mid. . . no length.Acidity much higher than I am used to. . in one of my favorite blends.  disappointing.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – Great nose and a silky smooth front end.  a bit of acid in the mid then finishes dry . . but not astringent.  All in all, as expected for a good Cab.

2013 Estate Tempranillo – This guy spent 30 months in barrel.  Bright nose with a strong hint of dried fruit.  It leans acidic and then the fruit disappears. . no length.

After reviewing all these wines, I began to think about the differences that vintages play in great wine, and how most artisanal wine makers strive to allow their land and the weather to dictate the flavors and nuances of their wines.  I’m not certain because my notes don’t include the vintages from last year, but I have to assume that those wines were 2012.  That was a superior year throughout Oregon and those wines rank amongst the best anywhere.  Last year I loved the majority of these wines . . . this year they, and I, are different.


Just a short distance from Kriselle Cellars is our next stop Agate Ridge Vineyard.  We had visited this boutique winery previously during Roam the Rogue as well.  At that time they served an excellent white blend that I didn’t buy and kicked myself after.  We were quite lucky that their close time was later than most tasting rooms around, so we slid in and got the lovely attendant’s full attention.

2012 Sauvignon Blanc – Awesome . .grapefruit and banana on the nose.  Tart and sweet simultaneously.  A great summer refresher

2013 Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc – A 60/40 blend.  Very light and bright, really nice fruit in the mid and tart acid.  Very nice.

2012 Viognier – This one has a fresh light aroma with a smooth mid palate, ending tart yet fruity.

2012 Aleash – An RMV blend (Rousanne, Marsanne, and Viognier).  Quite smooth, clean and creamy flavors.

2013 Pinot Noir – 100% Pommard clone.  Great nose that expresses the fruit very nicely.  It is medium bodied and the fruit flavor pays off what the nose set up.  Really nice.  Took one home

2012 Grenache – Good fruit on the nose, medium bodied, leans acid but the texture and solid structure bring it back in balance.

2013 Primitivo – Wow . . Excellent nose, the fruit just burst to make its presence known.  Full bodied and balanced really well.  Superb drinker.  Had to take this one home.

2010 Black Sticky – A Syrah Dessert wine aka port-style.  Delicious. .  . the fruit just jumps out and the flavors last ages.  It’s what I think of in a port-style wine.  Taking 2 home.

A fine vacation . . .part 1 of 3

October 2016

After a relaxing and rain-filled 3 days in Lincoln City, on the beautiful Oregon coast, Teresa and I headed south along Hwy 101 .  Our destination is Roseburg. . . and the beginning of this wine adventure.  We had lined up to visit 9 wineries.  So, for as much brevity as I can muster . . I will review them in threes . . . . starting with . .

Wednesday’s first stop – Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards.  Their tasting room experience is rather unique.  Instead of your standard bar-type tasting room, they have you sitting in their Wine Cave, amongst the barrels of sleeping wines.  A seated tasting is something that also includes some interesting bites to compliment the wines.

Our first taste was of their 2015 Viognier, one of the better more flavor intense Viogniers I’ve tasted.  From the label – “Elegance, power, and definition!!! Juicy-fruit gum and luscious tropical fruit aromas of ripe banana, papaya and pineapple are anchored by a distinctive mineral note. This wine offers a generous mouth-feel… full and round… with a distinctive oily texture that fills the palate and powers its way through a bright, balanced, long, spicy finish with an elegant “kiss” of oak.” 

Next up was their 2013 Pinot Noir – Winemaker’s Reserve.  IN the Willamette Valley we have a plethora of good to great Pinot Noirs to choose from.  It is sometimes a valid experiment to try those not grown here.  This pinot was very well balanced and fruit forward, with a level of acidity that produced a salivating desire for more.  From the label – “A feminine wine with aromatics of red berries, smoke and coffee notes. A mouthful of wild berry, red currant, spice and earth… silky fine tannins provide the framework for a lengthy, complex finish.” 

Third was the 2013 Syrah – Winemaker’s Reserve.  I personally labeled this one Unimpressive.  There are so many really good Syrahs in the Rogue and Umpqua valleys.  This, IMHO, is not one of them.  Really sort of  . . .blah.

Last was the 2014 Tempranillo.  Ending a tasting on a disappointment is never a good thing.  But, that is unfortunately where this tasting ended.  Another “almost there”.


In downtown Roseburg, in a former car dealership showroom, sits a relatively new winery tasting room . . . Paul O’Brien Winery .  I first met winemaker Scott Kelley at the McMinnville SiP in 2015.  I have been a huge fan ever since.  It would be time well spent to read the link about Scott and his business partner Dyson DeMara.

We began this tasting with their 2014 Pinot Noir. It started with an excellent nose, medium body and a superb mid palate flavor.  It was very fruit-forward with a bit of spice on the finish.  Excellent beginning.

The 2011 Grenache has yet to disappoint me . . .it is what drew me to Paul O’Brien in the beginning.  Great fruit, medium body and great balance through-out.  Moderate acidity and a silky finish.  Tough to beat.

His 2013 Tempranillo was superior to the previous one.  Higher in acid than the Grenache, and fruit driven; peppery through the mid and a really nice finish.

My personal fave of this tasting is the 2009 Petite Sirah.  Pure silk . . . with a hint of spice.  It begins with and excellent nose, fruit for days . . . .this wine, sometimes known as Durif,  is bold and fruit forward.  It is known for its extraordinary deep color and full-bodied flavors of blueberry, chocolate, plums and black pepper.

On to the Whites . . . 2013 Charlemagne . . Nice balance, bright acidity and “Candy” on the nose.  Very interesting. . . I’ll defer to the winemaker on this one . . “Made in the Burgundian style this blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Blanc has bright acidity, sweet vanilla oak and complex pear and stonefruit flavors. We pressed the Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc together before fermenting in small french oak barrels.  This wine spent a year in barrel to develop complexity, integrate the oak and allow the yeast to breakdown and enhance the mouthfeel.

The 2015 Rosato is next.  It is a Sangiovese rose’ . . .The nose opens with Strawberry, watermelon and wet stone. Bright acidity on the palate balanced by a delicate fruit core and refreshing finish.  100% Sangiovese whole cluster pressed and fermented low and slow to preserve the fruit.

Next 2015 Orsation Riesling . . again, candy on the nose (like Jolly Ranchers or something) . .smooth light bodied and a nice easy drinking flavor.  A tribute to the Rieslings of Alsace . . .[Read more]

We finished with the 2015 Gewürztraminer.  There was some amazing tropical fruit on the nose.  Smooth on the mid palate and light bodied.  A truly great palate cleanser.  From the winemaker – Fermented slow and cold preserved the amazing flavors this Alsatian known for. You will find aromas of Tangerine, lychee and spice in the nose with a off dry finish in the mouth. A wonderful wine to be served with spicy Thai food, Indian cuisine or sushi.


Oregon’s oldest estate winery and the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir . . .Hillcrest Winery is a location NOT to miss.  Started in 1961 by Richard Sommer, the proverbial Father of Oregon wine, and reborn in 2010 when it was acquired by Dyson and Susan DeMara, Hillcrest Winery has a unique history.  Dyson DeMara is one of those people who I could stand and listen to for hours. . .and I have done so.  He is a walking wine encyclopedia and very entertaining.

We started our tasting adventure with one of my personal favorites, 2013 Le Pig Barbera.  This wine is delicious, full-bodied and very well-balanced with supremely integrated tannins.  That integration creates a silky smoothness.  It is naturally smoky and has a spice that will go perfectly with anything pork.

The 2013 Jordi is a Spanish influenced blend of Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Tempranillo . . .which on paper makes no sense.  But in your glass it is very interesting.  It has a milder nose than I expected with an excellent mid palate flavor and a dry finish.

The 2013 Pinot Noir is from estate grown fruit, unusual for southern Oregon.  Very full fruit on the nose, a smooth mid palate, and a touch of acid.  This lovely pinot completes it’s sensory assault with a nice long finish.

Dyson introduced us to his 2013 Anonymus  which is a mystery blend, hence the name.  It begins with a moderately fruity nose and a silky mid palate.  This wine continues with excellent fruit flavors and a not too dry finish.  Had to take this one home.

We then tried 2 different Tempranillos . . .2012 Umpqua Ribera , and 80/20 blend with Cab Sauv.  Fairly pleasant with a light nose, great mid palate texture and a dry finish.  The second is the 2012 El Grande – 100% Tempranillo .  A really fresh fruity nose and good fruit in the mid palate, though it got very quickly astringent (mouth drying).

Our last big red wine was the 2011 Perfecti  . . .from the label – “Old vine Carignan, Syrah and Grenache farmed beyond organic with horse and plow. This wine we make with our good friends Marcel and Carrie in the village of Maury,France. The 2011 Perfecti has a deep black color and rich minerality. The most intense wine we make at ¾ ton per acre.”  I found it to have an unusual nose, sort of “earthy” . . .The fruit texture and flavors are wonderful and has a silky smooth mid palate which transitions to acidic and dry.  This wine would be awesome with some rich, fat-driven food, like Prime rib or fondue.

We then sampled a couple nice Rieslings.  Most folks in Oregon do a fairly light version of Rieslings, that are pretty forgettable.   Both of these examples were delicious and worth remembering.  2013 Slate Mtn Riesling, label – “Our first completely dry Mosel Riesling. Fermented in Fuder, this steely Riesling shows how classic a dry Riesling can be. Typical of the style the Germans drink, this wine reminds me of the flavors of Riesling with the architecture of Sauvignon Blanc. The ultimate red wine drinkers white wine!”  Light, bright and dry, but with a full mouth-feel . . 2013 Fuder Riesling – label – “Classic “Half Dry” German style. This wine is savory and not sweet. My favorite style when you drink the Fuder it’s almost like biting into a green apple. This wine is the wine of choice for us when were having spicy and medium and lighter textured foods. My go to wine. Recently this vintage of our Fuder took first place in a tasting of 14 Rieslings from around the world.”  Full and silky mouthfeel with a bright and cheery nose.

Lastly, we were offered a taste of some newly finished wine that hadn’t even been labeled for sale yet.  His 2015 Dry Gewürztraminer is and will be, our perfect Thanksgiving wine.  It is very bright and fruity, sparkling but not too sweet,  with a smooth mid palate and finish.  One of those that I could just keep drinking til it’s gone.  So we had to get two.













2013 Troon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Surprised is the first word that comes to mind.  Based on previous reviews of other Troon wines from recent years . . . this one surprised me.

Up until about 6 months ago, my wife and I were club members and avid fans of Troon.  But many of their recent wines began to make a turn toward high acidity and strong alcohol . . . and that’s just not my thing.  So, consequently we decided to move on to other adventures.

On our last visit, I tasted this Cab and found it to be enjoyable, but anticipated a much longer rack time.  Upon rediscovering it in my cellar I decided to give it a look and see.  Very pleasantly surprised.

The aroma is not heavy fruit, as some Cabs can be, but is quite smoky.  Upon first taste I noted that it is quite smooth, though typically astringent . . . but not overly so.  The fruit is subtle yet does make its presence known.  It is nicely balanced and would be excellent with a meaty entrée.  I would recommend this supple Cab . . . try it the next time you find yourself in Carlton, Oregon or on the Applegate trail outside of Medford.

2012 Quady North – Bomba

Most of the write-ups I’ve read on this wine call it a “fruit bomb”.  They ain’t lyin’.  There is so much dark glorious fruit on the nose it is mesmerizing.  Dark cherries, currants, plums and raspberries waft up into my senses like a blanket, filling my nose with warmth.

The first sip is tantalizing and warm, and a bit astringent with firm yet supple tannins creating a backbone.  From that first taste on, it is simply a heavenly journey.  It has a lush and smooth flavor that wraps around your tongue like a mink coat.  From the back label – “This wine is a ticking time bomb of absolute deliciousness.  Bright, soft, lush but capable of delivering a punch.”  I agree 100%.

Thanks Herb!  Another one out of the park!