Southern Oregon might be the single most undervalued wine region in the U.S. As I mentioned in three articles back in December (Is Southern Oregon Poised to Explode?, A Few Challenges Facing Southern Oregon: Part One, Part Two), the diversity of grape varieties (over 70 in the region), the conducive climate, and the indefatigable spirit of the growers all make for a region that is poised to potentially be “the next big thing.”
Recently, I was sent a few samples from a couple of wineries that I did not get a chance to visit, but I did meet with both of the winemakers. Like many in the appellation, both Girardet and Troon make wonderful wines, but they do so with some grape varieties that usually only come up in discussions between the geekiest of wine lovers (and yes, my wife considers me one of those).
2015 Girardet Vineyards Seyval Blanc Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon: Retail $28. When Phillippe and Bonnie Girardet decided to change things up a bit, they left their Oregon farm in their Volkswagen bus and drove across the country to the Finger Lakes region in New York. There they loaded up the VW with cuttings of several hybrid vines and drove them back to the West Coast and started a vineyard. Seyval Blanc is a cross between two different clones of Seibel, a variety that was developed due to its phylloxera-resistant properties. This wine is reminiscent of Chardonnay on the nose, with lemon curd dominant. Tart and juicy on the palate, really quite refreshing and tasty. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points. Wine Geek Factor (WGF): 7.5.
2015 Girardet Vineyards Baco Noir Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon: Retail $34. Another wine-geek freak out here with the Baco Noir. Another hybrid, this a cross between Folle Blanche (a rather obscure French variety that was really only used in the production of Cognac and Armagnac) and an unknown grape indigenous to North America. As with the Seyval Blanc, the cuttings used to plant the original vineyard were obtained in the Finger Lakes. Fairly dark in the glass with blackberry, ripe plum, and anise. A really fruity wine with nice acidity, and a bit of a tannic grab at the finish. This is a wine to pull out for your obnoxious wine blogger friend (you know the type—they think they know everything, but trust me, they don’t) to blind taste. I would be willing to bet that he/she will not say “Baco Noir” no matter how many chances given. Outstanding. 90-92 Points. WGF: 9.5.
2014 Girardet Vineyards Sangiovese Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon: Retail $48. There are several unique aspects to Girardet Vineyards, and perhaps the most interesting is that the current winemaker, Marc Girardet, after a trip to the Rhône Valley in 2010, decided to convert all new vines to Bush Training (also called Head-pruned or Gobelet), a method used since antiquity (but not all that common today). The wine itself is simply delicious with deep blackberry aromas along with some tobacco and tar. On the palate, though fruity, this is certainly reserved and elegant with round tannins coming in near the finish. This is lovely now, but should improve for the next 5-8 years. Outstanding. 91-93 Points. WGF: 5.
Troon Vineyard is now managed by one of the nicest and most generous people I have met in the wine industry, Craig Camp (who also writes a great blog, Wine Camp). While Troon produces a variety of wines, they perhaps specialize in Tannat, another variety about which wine geeks like to flip their collective lids. Tannat is fairly rare with its origin in the Southwest of France, in the relatively obscure appellation of Madiran. Tannat is also essentially the national grape of Uruguay, but the last time I saw a bottle of Uruguayan wine on the shelf was, oh yeah, never.
2014 Troon Vineyard Black Label M*T Reserve Southern Oregon: Retail $40. 39.9% Malbec, 60.1% Tannat. For a grape that is known for its harsh tannins (Madiran usually takes at least a decade of aging until it is even close to being drinkable), this inky dark, co-fermented wine is fantastic—blackberry, raspberry, and even some black cherry, parade in through the nostrils. The tongue is treated with supple fruit, integrated tannins, and a lovely vanilla aspect that references a very berry sundae. Outstanding. 91-93 Points. WGF: 7.5
2014 Troon Vineyard Blue Label Estate Tannat, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon: Retail $35. When I received this bottle and took it out of the box, I immediately cursed the B.A.B. (Big A** Bottle). There is absolutely no reason to bottle wine in these heavy bottles (unless the goal is to destroy the environment). I rushed to my desktop to fire off a nasty letter to the General Manager of the winery (whom I would consider a friend) to lament the winery’s choice of glass. I opened my email server to find a note from the aforementioned Craig Camp who explained that the glass had been purchased by a previous winemaker who thought the bottles were “cool” (which is on the verge of ironic since these bottles are decidedly making the planet less “cool”). Since the winery had already purchased the bottles, it seemed more prudent to use them. OK. I calmed down. Good thing: this wine is gangbusters. All kinds of fruit: black cherry, plum, cassis pepper the nose, and the palate introduces a bit of cobbler to the fruit with a side of vanilla ice cream. Yeah, this is Outstanding. 92-94 Points. WGF: 8.5.