Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kudos for our 2015 Grenache Rosé!

 By Jade Helm DWS CS CSW 
Not sure why people are afraid of rosé wine.  I guess pink is scary?  This style gets a bad rep from the overly sweetened, mass produced, Koolaid colored wines that flood the market, and probably flooded most of our “sophisticated” parties in our younger years.  It doesn’t have to be like that. Rosé wine can be elegant, alluring, feisty and dry.   All we are saying is give pink a chance.

To get you started we organized the first, and we hope annual, Rosé Wine Bowl of Rose Street.  This gathering of wine tasting professionals and enthusiastic consumers met to bring you blind tasting notes for a few Oregon Rosé Wines.  Tasted in two blind settings: 1. Critics circle with written notes  2. Party atmosphere with casual discussion.
Oregon winemakers, take note.  At least in our small experiment consumers weren’t turned on by a passing whisp of aroma.  Don’t go too far in the opposite direction to avoid rosé’s reputation for being a bit of an overly made-up tart.  Nobody likes a tease either.  There is a middle ground between prudish and promiscuous.   We love the delicate, feminine charms of a rosé,  but can we have a little fun too?  Give us more of what our Oregon grapes can offer, even when they are pretty in pink.  We can handle it and we wouldn’t mind handling more of the following wines.  
Enjoyed by the whole group and a favorite of the critic’s circle.  This looks and smells like a girl’s childhood memory.  The color of heart shaped “fashion” pendants and the fresh perfume lavender talc scent you remember from you favorite Avon purchase.  The grown up girl in you, boys too, will love the palate of strawberry, honeydew, and the sweet tartness of a green apple. Layered and nuanced.
Read the full article.

Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 Cascadia Wine Competition Results are in!

Abacela takes home top honors at this year's Cascadia Wine Competition. (Formally know as the Great NW Wine Competition.)

2015 Blanco Dulce - Best of Class & Gold Medal
Southern Oregon winemaker Andrew Wenzl crafted a beauty of a dessert wine here, using estate Albariño that hung on the vines and accumulated sweetness well past its normal harvest time. Aromas of honey-glazed apricot and intense Christmas spices lead to flavors of candied orange peel, poached peach and vanilla ice cream. It is a stunning dessert wine.

2013 Tempranillo Fiesta - Double Gold Medal
The Northwest Tempranillo master has proved his expertise once again. Earl Jones’ Abacela estate grapes from 2013, put into the capable hands of winemaker Andrew Wenzl, were used in this fruit-forward wine aptly called Fiesta. And you’ll want to start a celebration of your own after sampling it. Its nose opens with mint, spicy oak and nimble cherries. In the mouth, the cherries are dark, dipping down toward dark Marionberry skin, then unearthing Abacela estate’s minerality and grippy tannins. It’s a huge mouthful – “Yuuuge, I tell you” – that calls out for a rare ribeye amply dusted with cracked black pepper.

2015 Muscat - Gold Medal
Annually, Abacela crafts one of the most beautiful and graceful Muscats in the Pacific Northwest. This new vintage is no exception, thanks to aromas of rosewater, lavender and clove. On the palate, it offers flavors of lychee, pink grapefruit and Golden Delicious apple. Its 3% residual sugar and gentle acidity make this a delicious and approachable sipper.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Eugene Magazine; Celebrating Oregon's AVAs

Abacela's 2012 Barrel Select Tempranillo was chosen to represent the Umpqua Valley AVA (American viticultural area) in the Eugene Magazine's "Celebrating Oregon's AVAs" article, Spring 2016 issue. 

In the early 1960s, the late Richard Sommer planted vinifera grapes in the rain shadow of the Callahan Ridge, reviving Oregon wine in that area. 

Since then, the Umpqua Valley and its many sub-valleys have boomed with fine wines. Earl and Hilda Jones, experimental scientists, traveled through Spain's Rioja region and encountered great tempranillo reds. They came back to the U.S., moved to Roseburg, and planted vines on the steep slopes of one of Oregon's most beautiful vineyards. 

Abacela 2012 Barrel Select Tempranillo is truly superb, rich and deep, ready for pairing with spring lamb or beef hot form the grill. It has gained well-deserved recognition internationally as a rival of the great reds from Rioja.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wine Enthusiast Ratings are in!

Abacela earns four 90+ point ratings and three Editors' Choice in the April 2016 issue of the Wine Enthusiast!

-    93 points & Cellar Selection, 2012 Northwest Block Reserve Malbec
The winery notes that this is their 16th vintage of Malbec, but just the first reserve bottling. Intense aromatics introduce a wine saturated with black fruits, coffee liqueur, soy and tobacco. It offers exceptional depth and power. Drink now through 2025.
-    92 points & Editors' Choice, 2012 Barrel Select Syrah
This terrific wine is classically varietal, with beautifully defined flavors of cured meats, tobacco, coffee, lavender and peppercorn, all in service to ripe purple fruits. Impeccably balanced, it conveys finesse.

-    91 points & Editors' Choice, 2013 Barrel Select Malbec
This outstanding Malbec dazzles with scents of tobacco and chocolate, flavors of sour cherry and plum, and impressive concentration and persistence. The flavors gather strength and focus, adding details of lavender and lemon curd, as they roll into a lingering finish.

-    90 points, 2013 Barrel Select Tinta Amarela
Abacela makes a fortified wine from Portuguese grapes, but this is a dry, varietal expression of one of the most obscure. Bone-dry, it's got tongue-scraping tannins that taste of black tea. It offers dried raspberries, vanilla and cocoa elements, and the overall complexity is impressive. This seems built for a thick steak.

-   89 points, 2013 Fiesta Tempranillo
Abacela makes up to four different Tempranillos in a given vintage, this being the entry-level bottle. And a fine introduction it is, with vivid red and black berries, a dusting of sweet spices, a gentle whiff of tanned leather, chalk and ample tannins. Aged in both French and American oak, 15% new, it is drinking quite nicely already.

  89 points & Editors' Choice, Vintner’s Blend #15
This 15th edition of this nonvintage blend, sourced entirely from estate grapes (principally Tempranillo), is a sure-fire palate pleaser. Fresh and youthful, it's bursting with plush boysenberries, loganberries and blackberries, annotated with a streak of coffee and cacao.

All reviews by Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast (c). Read on WineMag.com.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Abacela awarded the Greatest of the Grape

Abacela won both of the People's Choice awards for at the 46th annual Greatest of the Grape Wine Gala in Canyonville, OR on March 5th. 

The Greatest of the Grape: 
2012 Northwest Block Reserve Malbec

The Best Wine & Food Pairing: 
Sous Vide K-Bar Beef Tenderloin with Pomegranate Molasses Demi-Glacé, K-Bar Steakhouse at Seven Feathers Casino.

Read the full winners list.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Get to Know a New Side of Tempranillo

Discover fresher, lighter, New World styles of this popular red wine.

By Rachel Singer, Eater.com

Tempranillo is Spain's second most planted grape, after the the lesser-known airén, and it is the country’s signature varietal wine—one that’s a crowd-pleaser, yet also age-worthy and collectable. According to Australian economics professor Kym Anderson, global Tempranillo plantings have boomed, increasing almost fivefold between 1990 and 2010, bringing tempranillo from the world’s 24th most planted grape to the fourth.

Enthusiasts across the globe have grown particularly fond of Spain’s Rioja region, where winemakers rest tempranillo in new American oak, which lends structure and longevity to the wines, as well as a softness characterized by vanilla notes. In Rioja, red wines labeled Crianza and Reserva are required, by law, to have spent at least one year in oak; Gran Reserva signifies two years in oak. If a wine is aged only in stainless steel, it's labeled Joven.

Thanks to oak-aging, as well as central Spain’s hot climate, the tempranillo wines coming out of Rioja have traditionally been robust and high in alcohol. But a recent shift in Spanish winemaking, tending toward organic farming and fresher, younger styles of wine, is presenting the grape in new light. This new Spanish wave evolved in the last decade or so, and many of these modern wines have only recently been imported to the U.S.

A recent shift in Spanish winemaking is presenting the grape in new light.

One of Spain's most prominent producers leading this charge is an individual by the name of "Gonzalo Gonzalo," a biodynamic (all biodynamic agricultural products are, by definition, also organic) winemaker focused on low-sulfur wines like tempranillo, and the full-bodied white grape viura. Rioja, the region in which Gonzalo Gonzalo works, has one of the world's highest rates of Parkinson’s disease, according to Ross Bingham, who imports Gonzalo’s wines through his company Critical Mass Selections.

When Gonzalo’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about ten years ago, he made the connection between the illness and the use of pesticides. "His father sprayed the worst chemicals imaginable on all his vines because that’s what you did in the '70s and '80s," says Bingham. Gonzalo was inspired to go organic and natural by the 130-years-old estate López de Heredia, which had always made their wines without added yeasts or sulfur. He realized that Spanish wine had once been produced without pesticides or manipulation, and could be, again.

To be a natural winemaker in Spain is to "resurrect the culture of our abuelos," says Ramon Saavedra, who came from a family that always made small amounts of wine for their own consumption. Saavedra apprenticed at Andalucía's Barranco Oscuro, known for its natural tempranillo wines, before starting his own label, Cauzón. He emphasizes that vineyard work is just as important as what happens in the cellar—a practice that was forgotten as the Spanish wine industry grew and modernized. The naturalist winemaking approach is "a return to our origins, without chemicals," he continues.

Organic is only one aspect of a broader movement to update Spanish wine. In recent weeks, a group of Spanish winemakers, merchants, and journalists have released a petition aimed at changing the way Rioja wines are classified by the Denominación de Origen (DO) system. They wrote in the petition: "The Spanish wine appellation system has proved effective in protecting geographical names and origin, but it has been oblivious to soil differentiation and levels of quality. Efforts have been aimed at turning our vineyards into the world’s biggest, not the best." Instead of the current system, the petition asks for a more Burgundian approach to classifying Rioja: "Wines made anywhere in the region would be at the base; village wines would be a step above, while single-vineyard wines would be at the very top."

Vineyard work is just as important as what happens in the cellar.

Alvaro de la Viña, who imports natural Spanish wines (including Saavedra’s wine, and Malaspiedras mentioned below, through his company Selections de la Viña), feels that the petition is on the right track. "In my opinion, it’s an out-of-date and obsolete classification system," he says. "There’s a lot of politics and mixed interest. It’s a way for the DO to make money because you have to pay for each little classification that you add to your bottle."

Over on the American side, tempranillo counts a unique history. In particular, the grape has flourished in Oregon thanks to the pioneering efforts of Earl Jones of Abacela winery in the mid-'90s. Overall, the state's climate has proven favorable toward the grape, and Southern Oregon now counts 57 tempranillo producers.

Read on to discover great bottles, both classic and new, from Spain to the U.S. Experience the incredible range that tempranillo can display, from light and bright, to fruity and silky, to oaked and age-worthy.

Tempranillo Bottles to Try:

Producer: Abacela
Wine: Barrel Select, 2012
From: Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Retail: $32

Earl Jones, founder of Abacela Winery in Southern Oregon, was one of the first to plant tempranillo in the state, starting with four acres in 1995. He spent years researching the conditions that yielded top quality tempranillo in Spain, and determined that Southern Oregon had the ideal growing season, temperature range, rainfall, and elevation. This wine is aged partly in new French oak, which lends richness and silky texture, and it has notes of black cherry, mocha, and currant. Robust and inviting, drink now with duck, or feel free to cellar.

Read the full article on Eater.com.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A little bit of Spain taking root in Oregon

Lovers of the Spanish wine varietal called Tempranillo can take heart that this grape is taking root in the soils of Oregon.

In Southern Oregon, there’s a touch of Iberia.

Skeptical? What does Oregon have in common with the Iberian Peninsula (the geographic region of Europe home to Spain and Portugal)?

More than you might think, as I learned a couple of weekends ago at the 2016 Oregon Tempranillo Celebration down in Ashland.

There are about 57 wineries in Oregon now making Tempranillo, and there are about 400 acres of Tempranillo vineyards planted in Oregon, according to Greg Jones, a professor at the Southern Oregon University. Tempranillo is now the eighth largest varietal harvest in Oregon, with 839 tones of fruit harvested in 2014, according to statistics from the Oregon Wine Board.

According to Jones, Tempranillo is grown in about 80 percent of Spain, much of it in the Rioja region in northern Spain but also in the Ribera del Duero, just a little to the south of Rioja.

It turns out that many parts of Oregon have comparable climate during the growing season to regions in Spain, particularly the warmer parts of Oregon, according to Jones.

Jones is a research climatologist at SOU and has traveled extensively in Spain, studying the climate in the wine-growing regions there. He’s also the son of Earl Jones, founder of Abacela Winery, widely considered the best Tempranillo producer in Oregon.
Abacela's Cobblestone Hill Vineyard

“Although Oregon west of the Cascades gets more rain than most of Spain, in the Rogue and Umpqua AVA, rainfall is closer to Spain and Portugal,” Jones said.

“And growing season average temperatures in the Rogue, Umpqua and Applegate valleys are very close to Ribera del Duero in Spain,” he said.

The Columbia AVA on the Oregon side is close to Rioja and Toro in terms of temperature, Walla Walla Valley AVA on the Oregon side is close to Campo de Borja, and Rogue and Applegate are nearly identical to planted areas in Toro region of Spain, Jones said. “Vine growth timing and growth intervals are consistent between Oregon and Ibera,” he said.

What differs between winegrowing areas of Oregon and Spain is geology, according to Scott Burns, a geology professor at Portland State University who  also has done a lot of research on the geology of winegrowing regions of Spain.

In Rioja, the soil is a combination of limestone and siltstone that’s chalky and also has old clay and iron-rich soils, he said.

“These were sedimentary rocks that were created when Iberia crashed into Europe and was lifted up from the ocean floor,” he said.

In Ribera del Duero, the vineyards are on the banks of the Duero river, where the soil is limestone with silt, clay and sand, Burns said.

The best Tempranillos in Spain are made in areas with a combination of limestone, sandstone, soils that are rocky and have a little clay, he said.

Burns said the Umpqua area, with the convergence of the Coast Range, Klamath Mountains and Cascade Range, has both the geology and climate that happens to be perfect for Tempranillo.

Participants at the Oregon Tempranillo Celebration tasted more than 30 Oregon Tempranillos during the event on Jan. 22. Although they were vastly different, depending on barrel treatment and the region that the grapes were grown in, they had the same underlying characteristics of Spanish Tempranillo: dark ruby color, leathery mouthfeel, with varying degrees of spicyness, and flavors of plum or dried strawberries and good acidity. Some were lighter bodied, more fruity or had higher acidity than others.

If you’re interested in trying Oregon Tempranillos, keep an eye out for Tempranillos made from the following wineries: 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery, Abacela Winery, Aguila Vineyard, Belle Fiore Winery, Castillo de Feliciana, Coventina Vineyards, Dana Campbell Vineyard, Delfino Vineyards, EdenVale Winery, Folin Cellars, Girardet Wine Cellars, Holloran Vineyard Wines, Jaxon Vineyards, Kriselle Cellars, Ledger David Cellars, Naked Wines, Paradox Vineyard, Paul O’Brien Winery, Pebblestone Cellars, Plaisance Rance, Platt Anderson Cellars, Purple Cow Vineyards, Quady North, Red Lily Vineyards, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Schultz Wines, Serra Vineyards, Silvan Ridge, South Stage Cellars, Stone River Vineyards, TeSoAria Vineyard and Winery, Upper Five Vineyard, Valley View Winery, Weisinger Family Winery and Zerba Cellars.

Victor Panichkul is wine, beer and food columnist. Reach him at (503) 399-6704, Vpanichkul@StatesmanJournal.comFacebook.com/WillametteValleyFoodWine and on Twitter at Taste of Oregon.