For this last Thursday of the summer season, let’s keep the #summerofriesling going strong with a selection from our first vintage, the 1987 Ultra Late Harvest Riesling.
What makes this wine “Ultra Late Harvest” and what takes it beyond what would be viewed as “Late Harvest,” such as the 1999 Late Harvest Müller-Thurgau that we discussed earlier this summer? There’s no legal distinction between the terms (nor is there a legal definition for what constitutes a late harvest wine either), so these terms don’t necessarily reveal much. However, when we look at the process involved in vinifying this particular wine, it’s quite unique and an amalgam of several styles used throughout the world to craft dessert wine.
About 35% of the Riesling grapes in the blend were strictly what we, and nearly every other vineyard, would define as “late harvest,” in that the grapes were some of the last harvested. Leaving grapes on the vine for a little longer at the end of the season allows them to develop additional sugar and flavors, thereby potentially allowing more residual sugar to remain in a wine.
Just over half of the Riesling developed the botrytis fungus on the vine. This “noble rot” partially dries out the grapes and concentrates the flavors and sweetness in the juice; some of the most renowned dessert wines in the world, such as Sauternes, Tokaji, and Trockenbeerenauslese are made in this method. The grapes aren’t pretty to look at when botrytis develops, but the grapes create luscious wines.
Additionally, after the harvest of these botrytized grapes, they were frozen at 20 degrees Fahrenheit and then pressed, further concentrating the sweetness in these grapes (the sugars and flavor compounds in the grapes don’t freeze at that temperature but the water does). This method of producing a wine in the style of an ice wine, called cryoextraction, is used in climates where true ice wine (when the grapes freeze on the vine) can’t be produced, such as the Willamette Valley.
About 15% of the grapes were a selection of dried Riesling grapes that had not developed botrytis but had shriveled on the vine, which also concentrates the sugar by essentially turning the grapes into raisins. This recalls the method used to produce vin de paille, or “straw wine,” where the grapes are allowed to turn to raisins on the vine or, traditionally, on straw mats in the sun. As with the ice wine method, it has the effect of increasing the sweetness of the grape by removing water, but vin de pailles are traditionally made in very warm regions that receive considerable heat (usually not the Willamette Valley either).
Having hyped up this 27-year-old wine enough, let’s get into the profile. The wine is viscous, pouring a very deep yellow color, bordering on orange. Stewed apples, cinnamon, and pears initially jump out on the nose, followed by orange and Meyer lemon and on the palate. A slight hint of a smoky note lingers on the finish along with an acidic zing to bring it all together.
We know wines with high sugar content and high acidity can keep aging for a very long time, and this wine still has a bright future ahead of it.
It is true that our fore-fathers crudely stomped grapes to make their wine. Obviously technology has progressed and we now use big expensive presses to crush our perfectly ripe fruit. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't have some fun and a little friendly competition (if you choose to take part in our Stomp Competition) at our fifth annual Crush Party!
When: September 27th
Time: Noon to 4pm
Our fifth annual Crush Party is just four weeks away! We always have a blast at this party and enjoy celebrating all things harvest with you, we decided to throw the party again!
Compete in the grape stomp competition, listen to bluegrass from GTM String Band, go on a vineyard tour via hay ride (weather permitting), drink freshly pressed grape juice and enjoy the fruits of our labor from years past (aka wine!) and BBQ from The Meating Place. Below is the schedule for the day, rain or shine:
12:00 - GTM String Band begins to play and the first vineyard tours departs from the tasting room.
12:30 - Grape stomp heats begin
1:00 - Second hayride vineyard tour departs
2:30 - Grape stomp semi-finals begin
3:00 - Grape stomp championship
4:00 - Festivities wrap up
For more information, reach out to us at email@example.com or give us a call 503.359.5012 x 106.
Hope to see you there!
Seeing how we're on track for 2014 to be the warmest vintage in ten years, let's take a look back at 1992, considered the warmest year on record for the Willamette Valley. Bud break began about a month early for us (in comparison, we were about two weeks early this year) and the season progressed quickly through a warm, dry summer. Many vineyards, Montinore included, started picking at the end of August; that year still remains as the only time that harvest started before September 1.
Pinot Noir relies on acidity to carry it through years of aging, and in warmer vintages where there's more sugar development in the grapes, the acidity drops and the wines are more suited for consumption in the short-term but may not hang on through the long haul. However, the 1992 Estate Pinot Noir does show promise; it clocks in at a respectable 12.9% alcohol with harvest taking place between August 30 and September 4. Perhaps the early harvest was a plan to maintain acidity?
With a dark brick color, the 1992 definitely shows its age. It opens with notes of leather, spice, and stewed plum and its brief finish is marked with cinnamon. It retains a nice balance of tannin and acidity, though. Perhaps a little past its prime, but it's still holding up well and does show that, even in a very warm year, Pinot Noir can be crafted to last.
Once upon a time, the definitive white wine of the Willamette Valley was Chardonnay. Pioneering wineries pinned their hopes on Chardonnay reaching the heights it had in Burgundy and, just recently, California. Chardonnay itself is an incredibly versatile grape with a great deal of its characteristics coming from terroir and winemaking style (or, if you happen to be a “Chardonnay-sayer,” that versatility can be seen as blandness in that the grape has few defining characteristics of its own). If Oregon Pinot Noirs could match up with their Burgundian counterparts, why wouldn’t Chardonnay as well?
The original clone of Chardonnay grown in the Willamette Valley, known as Clone 108, was obtained through the nursery of UC Davis. This particular clone of Chardonnay has a reputation for thriving in warmer climates and ripening later than other clones of Chardonnay… ideal for parts of California but not something the Willamette Valley can provide on a consistent basis. As a result, Oregon Chardonnay developed a reputation as a thin, under-ripe wine in all but the warmest of years, especially when compared to the richer style of California. When the opportunity arose, a majority of vineyards uprooted their Chardonnay and replanted to Pinot Gris, a white wine grape that had proven itself in the climate of the Willamette Valley and a grape that vintners now believed could ultimately find its niche in Oregon.
Chardonnay is undergoing a renaissance in the Willamette Valley thanks to the introduction of Dijon clones in the early 1990s. It’s now the third most planted grape behind (very far behind) Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. New plantings of Chardonnay are of various Dijon clones, sourced from the nursery at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France; these particular clonal selections thrive in cooler, wetter areas.
The last vintage of Chardonnay that Montinore produced was in 1999, after which the vines were ripped out. As I mentioned in a prior post, 1999 was a cooler vintage, and with Montinore only having Clone 108 planted in its vineyards, a warmer vintage would be more ideal to sample. Let’s head back a few years from that date to our wine today, the 1994 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay.
The wine pours a deep golden color and has an amazing nose, bursting with vanilla, lanolin, mushroom, and hazelnut. On the palate there’s a great balance of acidity and a slight oakiness with flavors of lemon curd, red apple, banana bread, and white truffle. The finish is all toasted marshmallow.
If you’ve had our Chardonnay before or this description made your mouth water, good news! Chardonnay will soon reappear at Montinore, as we sourced some fruit from Johan Vineyard last year and we’re currently in the final stages of barrel ageing and blending the wine. Like the 1994, initial impressions of the 2013 tell us that it definitely has the potential to age for a long time.
As a postscript, if you really want to geek out on Oregon Chardonnay, I recommend that you check out the Oregon Chardonnay Alliance website.
Happy Thursday! We're busy setting up for a weekend filled with rhymes and quips from the Willamette Shakespeare troupe, so we'll be abstaining from a visit to Montinore's past this week.
I invite you all to pay us a visit during the evening hours this weekend to take in a bit of culture and enjoy the performance of Twelfth Night. Remember, if after reading or watching a Shakespearean play you've thought it was "Such stuff as dreams are made on" or even if "It was Greek to me," we owe a literary debt to the Bard for adding some extra flowers and frills to the English language.
"Give me a bowl of wine. In this I bury all unkindness." I certainly hope this quote from Julius Caesar sums up how you all feel when imbibing the goodness of the vine.
“But be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Find out if love conquers all in "Twelfth Night" performed by the Willamette Shakespeare Theater Company here, outside on our back lawn August 8, 9 and 10. The Willamette Shakespeare Company is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing classic theater free of charge to audiences of all ages in and around Portland and the Willamette Valley wine country and we're happy to welcome them back to Montinore! These plays are free to attend, although donations are greatly appreciated. The performance starts at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday and 6 pm on Sunday.
Of course wine will be available for purchase by the glass and bottle; please, no outside alcohol, wine or beer. You are welcome to bring a picnic or treat yourself to dinner from 1910 Main - An American Bistro which will be available for purchase before and during the show. These special shows are outdoors so pack some mosquito repellent, warm clothes, a blanket to sit on or some low seated lawn chairs and a flashlight to help you find your way back to your car at the end of the night.
It is going to be a very special weekend; we hope to see you all there!