This past year has caused many to reconsider how they go about their daily lives. From visiting restaurants, to watching movies, to even going to the grocery store, many adjustments have been made to our collective daily routines. There has been an even more profound impact on those events that are not daily, which in the past would result in rather large gatherings: weddings, funerals, anniversaries all have looked incredibly different, have be indefinitely delayed, or cancelled altogether.
As I write this, I am also in the process of trying to determine the best way to celebrate first my older son’s 18th birthday and then a couple of months later, his high school graduation. We are trying to thread a rather tiny needle of providing him with memorable experiences while trying to keep everyone safe and healthy.
I imagine similar thought processes occurred within the Sokol Blosser world this past year as they were preparing to figure out a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of one of the Willamette Valley’s storied wineries. Back at the dawn of 2020, they no doubt had some grandiose ideas of how to celebrate the history and wines that all began back in 1971 when Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser planted their first vines in what is now known as the Dundee Hills AVA.
As many of us have had to do this past year, the folks at Sokol Blosser had to scrap (at least for now) the plans to have a large celebration at the winery. A couple of weeks ago, however, they invited a few journalists to join Susan, Bill, and current co-Presidents (and siblings) Alison Sokol Blosser and Alex Sokol Blosser to celebrate the anniversary over Zoom (whether a Zoom call feels like a celebration to anyone at this point is the topic for another article). Thankfully, they decided to include me.
2018 Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuveé, Oregon: Retail $32. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Early Muscat, Müller- Thurgau, Riesling. 55% Oregon, 45% Washington. From the beginning, some fifty years ago now (happy anniversary!), the Sokol Blosser team had dreams of producing sparkling wine. That dream did not come true, however, until close to 40 years into their history when Alex Sokol Blosser took over the winemaking and started down the bubbly path. This Bluebird Cuvée is an interesting blend of historically French and German varieties and decidedly focused on that fruit with only 12 months of time on the lees. Pale straw in the glass with oodles of fruit (pear, green and yellow apple) with no significant evidence of yeastiness. The palate is bright, tart, and lively with all that fruit and a healthy dose of acidity. The finish is once again focused on the fruit and the sharpness carries on for some time. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $42. This wine I did not tate on that Zoom call, but rather it is another remnant of the Third Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir (I am going through the second bottle that many of the wineries sent) and this seems to be doing a little better today than it showed four months ago (it was also open for quite a bit longer as we tasted it over the course of the evening). A classic Dundee Hills nose of Bing cherry, violet (and perhaps lavender), and a forrest floor (although not pine) component mixed with a mineral aspect. The palate is quite balanced (although maybe a touch hot) between the fruit, minerality, and acidity. There is a reason that Sokol-Blosser is considered a stalwart in the appellation. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Estate Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $42. After a toast with the Bluebird Cuvée, we started with this Estate Pinot, long the flagship of the winery with 2018 being heralded as one of the best vintages of the decade. Fairly dark with classic Dundee Hills Bing cherry, a touch of herbaceousness, and plenty of dark earth. The palate is characterized by the fruit, but there is also a zingy acidity and a gritty (in a good way) earthy component that approaches umami. The wine finishes as elegantly as it began, still with all that fruit and tartness but also introducing a hint of soft tannins. This might not be a wine to hold onto for twenty years, but it will improve over the next 3-5, and, of course, is wonderful now. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Old Vineyard Block, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. B.A.B. Another bottle that I opened on Zoom with the kind people at Sokol Blosser to celebrate the 50th (!) anniversary of the winery. This wine comes from the original block, first planted in 1971 and then replanted about 30 years later with new rootstock (thanks to phylloxera). The vineyard contains the three original clones planted by the Sokol Blosser team: Wädenswil, Pommard, and a curious clone that the winery calls Pinot Droit. The result? Medium color, oodles of fruit, but not a typical bright cherry–it is riper, maybe cherry preserve-like, with earth, and a decided flintiness. Whoa. The palate is, well, not expected. I had envisioned a fruit-forward, busty wine, but this is much more reserved than I had envisioned based on the nose. Sure, there is fruit, but it is part of a well-coordinated orchestra including tartness, earth, and delicate tannins. Those tannins will help this improve for at least another five years, but it is hard to imagine it better than it already is. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2011 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Goosepen Block, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $80. This was the last of four bottles that I received from the kind folks at Sokol Blosser to celebrate their 50th anniversary (happy anniversary!) over Zoom (where else?). Whoa. By most accounts, 2011 was not a monumental vintage. In fact, it was maybe, maybe, the sixth or seventh best vintage of the decade. Maybe. But if you talk to those “in-the-know” it was a “classic” Willamette Valley vintage. That means, briefly, that the wines are much more defined by their acidity than by the fruit. While that certainly is the case here, there is still plenty of fruit in this medium-dark wine–cherry, earth, black pepper, minerality. Yowza. The palate, while wonderful, does not quite measure up to the nose, but that is a tall order–the nose is other-worldly. Subtle fruit, fantastic tartness, wonderful balance. Of the three Pinots tasted during the chat, this is easily the most “Burgundian” (a term I normally eschew): fruit, tartness, earth, none above, nor below, the other. A wonderful dance. Outstanding. 93 Points.