Friday, May 28, 2010
Annette Solomon, Statesman Journal, May 27, 2010
This polished, young rosé offers a mélange of aromas backed by a well-balanced structure. The seductive flavors include lush strawberry, raspberry, walnut, cream and violet.
— Annette Solomon
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By Paul Omundson, The Register Guard, May 26, 2010
At Abacela Winery, in a Rioja-like climate, Earl and Hilda Jones coax lauded Oregon wines from traditional Spanish varietals.
It’s a dream of all wine aficionados — go from rank amateur to world-renowned winemaker in the wink of an eye. Well, it happened to Earl Jones and his wife, Hilda, who own Abacela Winery near Roseburg. They are pioneers in developing Spain’s flagship wine, tempranillo, and many other Spanish varietals on American soil.
Nobody had seen these warm-weather grapes in Oregon before the couple started building their vineyards in 1994 and planted their first grapes in 1995. Jones laughs when he recalls one neighbor thinking tempranillo meant “temporary,” and that Jones was just killing time until he planted the “real” vines.
Jones made his first tempranillo in 1997, and his second wine (1998) became the first American tempranillo to best the Spanish in international wine competition, taking a double gold medal and defeating 19 Spanish masters at their own game at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
The accolades have continued ever since. Last year, the 2005 Abacela Reserve Tempranillo won America’s first Medalla de Oro for a varietal tempranillo in Spain’s own Tempranillos Al Mundo competition. Jones also was named the 2009 Oregon Vintner of the Year by Portland’s Classic Wine Auction.
Jones, the granddaddy of tempranillo to his peers, was the founding president of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS), a national trade organization for which he is currently a director. Abacela also is one of just a handful of Oregon wineries to earn ratings of 95 points or higher from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator magazines.
Wine Business Monthly, in its February 2010 issue, recognized Abacela as one of 10 hot small brands for 2009. Jones considers this his highest honor, and it’s heady praise for a former physician, scientist and educator who never made a drop of wine before that first 1997 foray.
Tastes of Spain
The Joneses had traveled extensively throughout Europe, giving lectures and attending symposiums. While making the academic circuit, they fell head over heels in love with Spanish wine.
“We enjoyed all the wines on the continent,” Earl Jones says. “But what really struck us was the wine/food pairings in Spain and the culture of Castile. Hilda and I grew especially fond of their unique concept of tapas. At the day’s end, it seemed so remarkably civilized to sit down with friends and enjoy a small glass of wine paired with a harmonizing portion of food.”
His favorite Spanish reds are from the Rioja and Ribera Del Duero regions in central Spain. “I love all good wines, but the wines from these two regions simply hold up better than French and Italian wines in food pairings,” he adds. “I didn’t know the varieties they were made from because Spanish wine labels provide area of origin but not information on the wine grapes. But I discovered the principal grape used to produce Rioja and Ribera Del Duero wines was tempranillo.”
This variety of black grape, known as Spain’s “noble” grape, is grown to produce full-bodied red wines. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (early), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks before most Spanish grapes.
Based on their glorious experience in Central Spain, the Joneses decided to take on a major mid-life career challenge and plunge into the art and science of making fine wine. No matter that they had no previous experience. “We were rank amateurs with a passion for good wine,” Jones laughs.
It was an intriguing challenge they couldn’t resist.
“We admired what the Spanish were doing so much. But nothing was being done with that grape in America,” Jones says. “It was like, ‘There’s the mountain — can we climb it?’”
Indeed they did. “And growing tempranillo in the right climate was the key,” Jones emphasizes. “We noted the 19th and 20th century attempts to grow it in the central valley of California where the grape was only adequate for production of bulk, or ‘jug’ wine quality. We believe quality suffered because the growing season was too long making it too hot during harvest.”
But Oregon? Who’d figure that?
With the passion for science and the meticulous details a researcher must embrace, Jones went about seeking the ideal spot for growing tempranillo on U.S. soil. He used extensive data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other resources to match the climate of the two Spanish regions that grew the best grapes. All the data pointed to Southwest Oregon.
Jones hired a pilot to fly him over the region in a small plane, then drove around the area in his car with topographic maps and talked to locals about weather and geography. Most valuable was input from local pilots who knew the cloud patterns intimately.
The best match turned out to be south of Roseburg. And it doesn’t sound so crazy when one realizes its latitude is the same as Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, those prime areas in Spain for growing the best tempranillo grapes. The climate is characterized by a cool spring, a dry and hot summer, and a cool early autumn. Low growing-season rainfall and mild winters further defined the climate, making it ideal.
“This was it,” Jones says. “We thought we could grow great grapes here. Without great fruit you can’t make great wine.”
Since he first planted tempranillo, Jones has expanded Abacela into a 75-acre vineyard growing more than 20 varieties of grapes, and a winery producing an array of award-winning wines, many of which are Pacific Northwest firsts.
His crown jewel, of course, remains tempranillo, but Jones always experiments and produces a number of other notable warm-weather wines that Oregonians might consider unusual.
Jones touts his “latest,” albariño, a white varietal he calls “the best seafood wine, period!” His 2009 albariño took the silver medal in class at the 2010 Pacific Rim Wine Competition. (+ Gold Medal at the 2010 Riverside International Wine Compeititon)
Other unusual varietals produced at Abacela include tannat, dolcetto, garnacha (grenache), malbec, syrah and viognier.
Abacela’s tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The vineyard and winery are located at 12500 Lookingglass Road, about 6 miles west of I-5 Exit 119 south of Roseburg.
Oregon winery thrives on focused approach
Paul Gregutt, The Spokesman-Review, May 26, 2010
My general advice to small, startup wineries is to focus. Make something your calling card. Don’t try to make 30 different wines until you’ve figured out how to do three or four well.
Abacela, located in southern Oregon, is a fine example of a winery that started with a specific focus, built on it and now offers a breathtakingly large lineup of estate-grown blends and varietals, including some never before seen in the Northwest.
Owners Earl and Hilda Jones set out to find the optimal growing conditions for a single grape: tempranillo. Using a strict scientific, climate- and soil-driven approach, they settled (to their surprise, as much as anyone’s) on the Umpqua Valley.
The region, they contend, “has the most beneficial climate structure for growing grapes in the state … the longest growing season, the lowest risk of both spring and fall frosts, and low-ripening period rainfall and temperature extremes. The region is warmer than the Willamette Valley to the north, but cooler than the Rogue Valley to the south.”
On a hilltop site just outside of Roseberg, Ore., surrounded by three mountain ranges, with a massive fault line running through the heart of the property, they planted.
The Fault Line vineyards, Earl Jones explains, fall into “two distinct provinces. To the south lie boulder-strewn loamy soils derived from ancient Cretaceous to Jurassic bedrock, while on the north are sandy cobbled soils derived from comparatively youthful seafloor sediments.
“Some geologists have speculated that the soils of these steep cobbled hills were created by uplift about 25,000 years ago – just before Mount Mazama erupted to form Crater Lake. It is truly remarkable to think that the age of soils found feet apart on the north and south of a line could differ by as much as 224,975,000 years.”
Abacela’s vineyards were first planted in 1995 and the tempranillos were good from the start. Over the past 15 years the vines have matured, and there are now multiple versions bottled, including a reserve, and even some single vineyard wines from neighboring growers.
Along with tempranillo, Abacela has introduced a whole range of Iberian varietal wines, and co-founded an organization called T.A.P.A.S. – Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society ( www.tapasociety.org).
T.A.P.A.S. has its own Facebook page and sponsors an annual tasting (coming up June 5 in San Francisco) of Spanish and Portuguese varietals from Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Abacela alone makes albariño, garnacha (grenache), five different tempranillos and a Port-style dessert wine blended from authentic Portuguese varietals, all estate-grown.
In addition there are southern French and Italian varietal wines – cabernet franc, Dolcetto, malbec, merlot, petit verdot, several syrahs and a viognier – and a number of blends, including an excellent claret.
Too many choices? Well, for most wineries this would be a stretch, but Abacela keeps the quality high, the prices reasonable and the uniqueness factor in play. Among the current releases, here are some highlights:
Abacela 2009 Albariño ($18) – Captures the racy minerality of the Spanish grape, while amping it up to New World fruit standards. You get fruit-powered richness, with citrus and peach, along with lively acidity and a steely core.
Abacela 2009 Viognier ($20) – A dense, mineral-driven style, layered with citrus skins and fruits, notably grapefruit and pineapple. There’s even a finishing lick of honey, though the wine is quite dry.
Abacela 2009 Grenache Rosé ($14) – Quite dry, with lovely fruit character that brings an impression of fruit sweetness. Fresh and tangy, with a mix of cranberry and cherry flavors, it’s a perfect summer sipper.
Abacela 2008 Garnacha ($22) – The blend includes tempranillo, malbec and a splash of syrah. Cranberry fruit and lemony acidity, with some firm tannins.
Abacela 2007 Malbec ($22) – Its exotic scents immediately fascinate, weaving together incense, smoke, wild berry, baking spices and plum jam. The wine retains a delicacy and lightness, and showcases the fruit rather than barrels.
Abacela 2006 Estate Syrah ($30) – Packed with blue and black fruits, flavors of smoked meat and fresh herb, it’s substantial but not overbearing. Give it some extra breathing time.
Abacela 2006 Estate Tempranillo ($35) – The 10th release, a multiple gold medal winner, savory and scented with cured meats. This is a spicy red that marries black currant fruit to pepper and more exotic spices: curry, cumin and five spice.
Abacela 2009 Blanco Dulce Viognier ($30/375ml) – This late harvest Viognier is so dense, so lush with aromas, that it almost defies description. Flowers, candied fruits, caramel, vanilla, English breakfast tea, even a bit of tobacco – this is one of those wines that just keeps on going. Fascinating, rich, yet vibrant with excellent acidity, this is a wine that any dessert wine lover should experience.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
We look forward to sharing our wines with the residents of Kansas!
The Oregonian, May 24, 2010
A picnic is our favorite way to break up a day of wine tasting. But what to drink? We chose some tempting takeout foods and asked four local wine pros to pair them with affordable Northwest wines: 2009 Albarino "Cured meat... begs for a refreshing, bracing white wine, and this albariño is just the thing." - Kimberly Paley, Paley's Place
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Cellar Dweller: A summery choice
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 5:55 pm By Matt Meador, The Vancouver Voice
Viognier is one of those wines that seems to bridge the gap between reds and whites, at least to some degree. Red-lovers are inclined to appreciate the dry acidity of Viogniers while white-o-philes can acknowledge its crisp hint of sweetness with more than a wry smile. Altogether, Viognier is one of those wines that can be enjoyed by wine lovers from both sides of the aisle.
The Abacela 2009 Viognier from Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, released on May 1, is a grand example of just what Viognier is all about. They say that Viognier was introduced to the Rhône Valley in Roman times, but repeated invasions by bloodthirsty Huns and other undesirables drove it to near extinction. When the Romans left Gaul, which was really pre-France, the vines grew untended for many years until a handful of locals rediscovered them and began to recultivate them. What covered only a small number of acres in the 1960s has grown to be a very popular varietal in recent times, cultivated in France, Italy, Australia and the United States.
The Abacela 2009 Viognier presents a color of pale straw, crisply simple in the glass. For lack of a more appropriate word, the nose on the Abacela 2009 Viognier is simply gorgeous. Beginning with beguiling tendrils of pear, the nose blossoms into a cornucopia of stone fruit, exhibiting traits of pear, peach, apricot and apple along with seductive nuances of honey and the barest hint of vanilla. On the palate, the Abacela 2009 Viognier is loyal to its bouquet, introducing its characteristic fruits before subduing the taster with its dry acidity.
On the mid-palate stone fruits are framed by polite acidity but if you wait a moment, the ubiquitous honey reemerges to ease your palate into a delightful finish. Like the embers of a twilight fire, the Abacela 2009 Viognier’s finish is warm and reassuring, the acidity yielding to a lingering creamy finish that is mellow and perfectly suited to the wine’s defining character. I enjoyed this wine by the pool, warmed by the late afternoon sun and lost in thought. The Abacela 2009 Viognier was an engaging companion.
The Abacela 2009 Viognier retails for around $20 and is available at your favorite wine merchant or at www.abacela.com. Chill this wine to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and allow it to warm slightly as it breathes before you pour. Serve it with poultry, pork or even lamb. Buy
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Paul Gregutt, paulgregutt.com, May 18, 2010
Beginning today, I’ll do an occasional profile of a single Northwest wine that is especially deserving of your attention. This is a great bottle to begin with...
I did a search on the Wine Enthusiast database to see if I’d reviewed any other albariños from the Pacific Northwest over the years. Didn’t expect to find any, and none were there, except for previous vintages from Abacela.
Just out (and already a gold medal winner) is the 2009. From the estate’s Fault Line Vineyards, this was harvested at 22.5° brix; pH 3.26; TA 7.11 grams/liter. The AVA is Umpqua Valley, and the cooperage was stainless steel all the way. In keeping with the times, the winery has dropped the price from $23 to $18, which means you can probably find it for $16 if you look around.
Winemaker tasting notes: “This Galician style wine exhibits aromas and flavors of crisp golden apples, citrus fruits, fleshy peach, almonds, and delicate white flowers all carried on a frame that skirts the razor's edge between creamy textures and steely minerality.”
My notes: “Estate-grown, this captures the racy minerality of the Spanish grape, while amping it up to New World fruit standards. So you get a fruit-powered richness, with citrus and peach, along with lively acidity and a steely core. The new vintage marks a big step forward for this varietal at Abacela.”
I don’t have back vintages to compare to this latest, but it’s just as well. The winery recommends drinking these wines within three years – “earlier if you seek crispness, later if you prefer greater complexity. Dungeness crab and oysters are each a beautiful pairing, but this wine will embrace any fresh seafood entrée.” As with almost any Albariño from Rías Baixas, I believe fresher is better.
You’ve got to love racy, high acid white wines in order to love this wine. I think it’s great to see such wines being made in Oregon, and not just pinot gris and the occasional unoaked chardonnay. Kudos to Abacela for all their pioneering work with Iberian varietals. Full blog
Monday, May 17, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The most extensive annual tasting of domestically produced Spanish and Portuguese varietal wines in North America will take place this year at the Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA.
On Saturday, June 5, 2010, wine writers, retailers, distributors, and consumers will have an opportunity to taste wines produced by TAPAS members from grape varieties indigenous to Spain and Portugal that are now cultivated in America, in a delightful walk-around setting where they may chat with the TAPAS growers and producers. Tickets
June 5, 2010
2:00 to 5:00 PM
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA