About a month ago (my oh my this summer is flying by) Chris and I went on a weekend getaway to Willamette Valley wine country. We found ourselves spending most of our days discovering Carlton. A piece of Southern Oregon (or should I say a whole slab?) can be found in this quaint town. I had known about the three Southern Oregon wineries that have planted Tasting Rooms- Folin Cellars, Cliff Creek Wines and Troon Vineyard, but I was unfamiliar with how many other wineries were using grapes sourced from Southern Oregon to make some phenomenal wines.
Ken Wright, the legendary Pinot Noir master. Tryus Evan, named after Wright's two sons (their middle names), sources grapes from Red Mountain, Walla Walla and Southern Oregon to craft a Chardonnay, Viognier, two Clarets, two Syrahs and I've heard rumors of a Malbec and Cab Franc. It was a pleasure to taste the Clarets and Syrahs side-by-side to really experience the differences of the wines. How often do you get that chance? With wines made by the same winemaker? Rarely, if ever. All four wines were bold, intensely fruit-forward with long finishes. At that time on that day, I enjoyed the Claret from Southern Oregon over the one from Red Mountain, but preferred the Walla Walla Syrah over the Southern Oregon, but all were exceptional. The Del Rio Claret was one of my most memorable wines of the weekend, if not the year.
After hitting a few other Pinot Producers around the city, we stopped in to visit Solena Estates Carlton Tasting Room. I had no idea that Laurant Montalieu produced warm weather varietals or that they featured them at their Carlton Tasting Room, a very pleasant surprise, and reason to choose it over the Estate (not discounting the beauty of the Estate at all). It was fun to see Lynnette, Solena's Carlton Tasting Room Manager, again who we met a few weeks back at the Wine Bloggers' Conference. We started the flight off with a Pinot Gris that was unlike any Pinot Gris I have ever tasted. This Pinot Gris, a blend of Rogue Valley and Willamette Valley fruit, was a Pinot Gris renaissance. Pinot Gris typically does not make my white wine of choice list. I'm under the mindset that its entry is misleading, to just fall flat in the middle, and a good one can pick it back up in the finish. This was a superstar Pinot Gris with tropical and citrus nose and flavors, high acidity and a long finish. We continued on to try a mix of Laurent's Pinot Noirs (all delicious) then returned to the warmer-climate varietals with the 2006 Wooldridge Creek Vineyard Merlot and 2005 Wooldridge Creek Vineyard Zinfandel. The Zin was jammy and soft, another wine highlight of the weekend.
Southern Oregon should be flattered that two of the highest-regarded winemakers in Oregon have chosen to expand their offerings by using its fruit.
Other Willamette Valley wineries producing wines from Southern Oregon fruit are Penner-Ash (Viognier and Syrah from Folin Vineyard and Del Rio Vineyards), Genius Loci (Syrah from Folin Vineyard), and Wildaire Cellars (Tempranillo from Folin Vineyard).