These days, there are not many wineries I would consider if I were to ever join a “wine club” again. In fact, the list is quite short, with just a handful of producers on it. What does it take to get on that list? (Let me just say that I am not pretending to be any sort of kingmaker or trend-setter, but if I did run the world….) First of all, and perhaps it is obvious, the wine has to be really good. Not necessarily knock-your-socks-off good, but clearly above the fray.
Second, it would have to be reasonable. While I typically will not shy away from paying for a nice bottle of wine, you will never see me paying in the triple digits for a wine that I personally plan to consume. (OK, I really should never say “never” since there are certain bottles of wine, mostly champagne, that I would consider paying over $100 to acquire, but the list is quite short).
Third, and perhaps most important, any winery that gets on my “list” would have to do things the right way. That is, among other attributes, producing wines at an honest price and always with a focus on protecting and preserving the planet. I know there are some out there that might think that this final point delves into the political realm, but I honestly believe that preserving where we live and breathe should be a concern for all of us and should transcend politics.
A man can dream.
Back to wine.
One winery that checks all the aforementioned boxes and would certainly be on my short list of wine clubs to join is Troon Vineyard in Southern Oregon.
On the surface, Troon might not be my kind of winery as the don’t produce any Pinot Noir (it is far too warm in Southern Oregon to grow quality Pinot) and the sparkling wines they produce tend to be a bit too funky for me (I am trying to get on the Pet-Nat train, but I am not quite there yet).
What Troon is doing, particularly since Craig Camp became the general manger (and the White Family purchased the winery), is truly incredible. Once an ailing, disease-ridden vineyard, Troon is now a model for what a modern winery should be. In the last several years, the entire vineyard (roughly 40 acres) has been replanted both to replace diseased vines and to plant varieties that make sense for the terroir.
The property has also been converted to a Demeter certified biodynamic farm (I need to write an article about biodynamics one of these days–spoiler alert: I am a bit of a sceptic), which alone would be huge news. But. Troon has gone a huge step further and has become the first winery in the U.S. (and only the second winery in the world) to become certified as Regenerative Organic. Simply put, Regenerative Organic Certification means that Troon meets the “highest standards in the world for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness.”
At a time when the politicians can’t seem to agree on anything, including what we can all do to protect and preserve the air we breathe and the food we eat, Troon has actually made a commitment to not only do no harm, but to actually improve the local environment and community.
Quite frankly, we need a lot more of that.
Here are a few wines that I tasted this week from the remarkable Troon Vineyard. I have included links to the Troon website (which I never do) if you want to learn more about the incredible work the folks at Troon are doing.
2021 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Piquette, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. This wine is made from, essentially, rehydrating the pressed skins from the whit (Vermentino and Marsanne) and rosé (Malbec, Tinta Roriz, Counoise, Tannat) grapes. This is the third vintage of this wine, a traditional farmers’ fizz that was made by vineyard workers in France shortly after harvest had finished. Light and dry with good red berry and delicious apple notes with bit of yeasty funkiness thrown in. Not a wine for heavy contemplation but rather one to pop on a warm afternoon, while watching the kids run around making fools of themselves without an apparent care in the world. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $30. Under DIAM5. 100% Vermentino. Of all the wines that Troon produces, the Estate Vermentino is the one I look forward to the most. It is not the most expensive, most complex, or most age-worthy in the Troon lineup but there are so few wines of this quality made from the variety in this country that I can’t help but get a little giddy when I crack a Troon Rolle (what the French call the grape). This 2020 is no exception. Light straw in the glass with rich tropical aromas of pineapple, guava, and honeysuckle. Delightful. The palate is ripe and full-bodied with just the right amount of acidity to combat all that fruit. Fantastic. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard Vermentino Amphora Rolle, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $60. Big ass bottle (Craig Camp indicated that these were left over bottles, bought locally, with a much lower carbon footprint than the alternative, i.e., Chinese, bottles). Under DIAM5. 100% Vermentino, aged for nine months in clay amphorae. Well, General Manager Craig Camp and winemaker Nate Wall are at it again. They have once again created a wine geek’s wet dream with this wine. Not only is it foot-stomped and aged in clay amphorae (is anyone else doing that in this country?), along with their Amber Rolle, it is the first wine produced in this country that has been Regenerative Organic Certified. Very cool. Quite pale in the glass with a slight effervescence, with plenty of pineapple, golden delicious apple, and a slight oxidative, funky note. Quite tart and mineral on the palate with a bushelful of fruit and citrus zest and that slight funkiness (which I really like). Excellent. 91 Points.
2021 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Rosé, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. 55% Malbec, 35% Tinta Roriz, 10% Counoise. True Rosé. Under DIAM5. Pale peach with a slight orange tint, this has always been a favorite in my Annual World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés but signals were a bit crossed and this landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks too late. On the plus side, I get to enjoy this wine all by its lonesome and will try to hide it from my wife. Red berry fruit abounds on the nose with some white flower and a decided minerality. Lovely. The palate is fruity, but in a more reserved, Provençal style, which certainly works for me. Tart, balanced, fun, this is just a fantastic rosé. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Troon Vineyard Syrah Estate, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $40(?). 100% Syrah. Under DIAM10. Out of the three Troon Syrahs I tried tonight, this was the hands-down favorite. Deep ruby in the glass with luscious black fruit and plenty of spice. Yowza. The palate is rich and full with a boatload of fruit initially followed by a wheelbarrow of spice, and then plenty of earth. Yowza. Syrah was once going to be the next best grape, but that never really materialized. The decision makers (whomever they may be) need to revisit that scenario and they need to start at Troon. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2019 Troon Vineyard Syrah Estate Cowhorn Vineyard, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $50. 100% Syrah. The fruit comes from the Cowherd Vineyard, which is quite a bit cooler than Troon’s vineyards, and is one of the first biodynamic vineyards on Southern Oregon. I guess this is slightly on the dark side of Syrah, at least in color with dark, brambly berry fruit, plenty of spice, and a truckload of verve. Yikes. I needed to brace myself for the palate. Fruity, weighty, ample tartness, and a healthy dose of gravitas. Nice. While the other two Syrahs in the lineup were more impressive, perhaps, this is a fantastic wine. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Troon Vineyard Syrah Siskiyou County, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $55(?). 100% Syrah. Under DIAM10. An Estate Vineyard, names for the mountain range that looms over the vineyard, this ruby-colored elixir exudes dark berry fruit, a flinty aspect, and tons of spice. The palate leads with the fruit, followed by a zingy acidity, and then plenty of chutzpah. Really a fantastic Syrah from what I consider to be the leader in Southern Oregon wineries. If you have never tried any Troon, do yourself a favor and buy a few bottles: red, white, rosé, sparkling. Then sit down and taste through the gamut: a fantastic experience. Excellent. 92 Points.