I feel like a modern day James Marshall pulling that first nugget out of the river at Sutter’s Mill, in California. Only this is Oregon and what I found was a winery. But one that is worthy of its own “gold rush”. I/we could not have asked for a better time on our visit to their winery and tasting room.
Abacela’s beautiful new facility just opened in May. Designed by the owners’ daughter it is a multi-use building with a huge open beamed vaulted ceiling, and a spacious granite topped bar allowing space for plenty of tasters, (space not needed, as it was delightfully uncrowded) a meeting area, library and more. Outside there is a patio with a wood fired oven where they bake their own home made yummy sourdough bread, several picnic areas and gazebos with tables and chairs, lawns and walking paths, and interesting informational signs. The whole effect, though still a little raw because of its newness, was spacious and beautiful, and promises to grow gracefully into an enchanting place worth a visit for the ambiance alone. The views from here are spectacular.
Our server made us feel right at home (better actually I wish my home looked like this). With 5 flights to choose from, we were glad of a little friendly advice and soon we were tasting. We had three tasters (and one very much appreciated designated driver) and each took a different flight so we could experience as wide a variety as possible. There was a small tasting charge – between $5 and $15 per flight, reasonable in itself with wine of this quality - and refunded for a purchase of 3 bottles or more.
And the wines. I am afraid I am going to burst into song like in a bad musical. (Judy here, Craig is far too manly, and would never burst into song, nor get teary eyed about wine.) All I can say is, it has never been my privilege to try this many fabulous red wines at one go. Not a clinker in the bunch. Just one amazing wine after another. From the easy going vintners blend to the better-than-a-sinful-chocolate-dessert port (yes, really), we had smiles on our faces the whole time (along with some groaning and eye rolling which seemed to please our server immensely). Our sincere kudos go to winemaker Andrew Wenzl for his deft touch.
Abacela’s owners chose this site believing that it was a perfect place to grow Iberian varieties. And, though I am no expert on the “classic varietal expression” for these varieties, I do know that Abacela was the first American winery to have its Tempranillo judged superior to those from Spain (2001 SF International Wine Competition).
Among all these lovely wines, it is hard to pick favorites, some were more along the lines of “food” wines” and so difficult to really tell how much more they would shine matched with the right food. One that is still haunting me is the Dolcetto. What did we “have to” buy and take home? A gorgeous 2008 Malbec, the 2007 Estate Tempranillo – Intense, complex and joyful – and the silken rich Port. (Reviews to come when we open them.)
We didn’t get to try them all, so fair warning Abacela, the Catz will be back.