Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More kudos for our 2005 Paramour...

Recently, wine and food writer Janet Eastman published an article in the Mail Tribune that included our 2005 Paramour. The wine will be released to the public on November 13th at $90 per bottle or $540 for six bottles in a hand crafted wood box.

Janet commented, "if Abacela's wine-club members don't snag all 170 cases, you can spend $90 for a just-released bottle of 2005 Paramour, an American Gran Reserva-style Tempranillo”

In this article she quotes that Lorn Razzano of the venerable Ashland Wine Cellar wasn't shocked by the price:

"Earl Jones is one of the top five winemakers in the Northwest. As a quality statement, it might even be a bargain."

The 2005 Paramour
is Abacela’s finest and most age worthy wine to date. It represents the pinnacle of Earl and Hilda's quest to pioneer fine Tempranillo in America.

Have you tried it yet?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Abacela featured on NW Vine Time radio!

Earl Jones was interviewed by Brian Bushlach for NW Vine Time on Newsradio 101 FM-KXL. 

Listen to the first audio segment here: 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paul Gregutt reviews our new 2005 Paramour...

introducing abacela’s gran reserva – paramour

By Paul Gregutt, Monday, October 17, 2011
Yesterday afternoon I popped the cork on a bottle of Abacela 2005 Paramour, which is being officially released to the world today. I have followed the efforts of Abacela’s Earl and Hilda Jones almost since their very first wines were released more than a decade ago. And I have never failed to be impressed with their vision, dedication, and (at times) dogged efforts to pioneer the cultivation of Iberian grapes – notably tempranillo – in southern Oregon’s Umpqua valley.

“We moved here to make this wine” is the opening quote from Earl Jones on the one-sheet that accompanied the bottle. In a phone call a week or so ago he elaborated on that thought.

“We’ve been trying to put together the components for a Gran Reserva style wine,” he explained in his soft southern drawl; “it’s been a dream since we came to Oregon. We’ve been very impressed with those kinds of wines, which are so much better than fruit forward, oak crianza, or even a reserve wine in Spain. This 2005 had two years in the finest French oak. It’s based on Tempranillo; the rest is a secret. It’s been in bottle four years; it’s just now emerging and revealing its true character.”

Naturally I had high expectations for the Paramour, not only because of what Jones had to say, but also because of the very high standards that previous vintages of Abacela reserves had already set. My expectations were more than exceeded, but not in the way I imagined. My thought was that this would be some sort of über-reserve – super-slathered in oak, dark as the night sky in Waitsburg, maybe a 16 percenter in the alcohol department.

In fact, none of the above is true. It is what you might call an intellectual wine. At first it is the aromas that show the complexity and detail, but the flavors remain locked up. They breathe open gracefully over some hours, and as they do the wine broadens out and lengthens. I won’t bother you with a shopping list of fruits and flavors – you will find them in abundance when you taste the wine for yourself. Suffice it to say that it is subtle, engaging, provocative and deep. The alcohol is listed as 14.2 percent, and just 30 percent of the French oak barrels were new. “Reduced from 100 percent to enhance fruit aromatics” notes Earl.

Just 169 cases were made. It was bottled on August 9th, and is estimated to reach full maturity in the next 6 – 15 years. Certainly the wine has the structure and mettle to age at least that long. It is offered for $90 through the winery’s wine club. (...details  posted on the website... Try here! )

Postscript: One lesson immediately apparent from this lovely wine, is why context is so important in wine appreciation. Yes a more “objective” approach to reviewing would be to place the bottle in a blind tasting of other Tempranillo-based blends. Had I done so, in all honesty, the subtle elegance of this wine might have slid right past me. Blind tasting has an important place, and it is the sole approved method for my Wine Enthusiast scores and reviews. But in this instance, I chose to taste the wine solo and let the story impact me. I gave it extra time and consideration. I pulled so much more pleasure and value from the experience than I would have in a quick blind tasting. Sometimes, that is more important than a score.

Visit Paul Gregutt's Blog

Friday, October 14, 2011

2010 Grenache Rose rated "Outstanding!" and "Wine of the Week" by Wine Press Northwest.

Abacela 2010 Estate Grenache Rosé

Appellation: Umpqua Valley

Earl Jones and winemaker Andrew Wenzl earned a Platinum for their 2008 Rosado, and while they now name this after the variety from which that was made, this vintage shows continued brilliance. And its striking color does not mislead. It portends sensations of maraschino cherry, fresh cranberry, strawberries/rhubarb compote, raspberry and juicy currant. The finish is bone dry, and its tartness provides a delicious bounce on the palate for a wide range of appetizers on a summer afternoon. Rated "Outstanding" by Wine Press Northwest magazine. (180 cases, 13.2% alc.)
Food matches: Try this with a couscous salad, tapenade, antipasto or barbecued chicken wings.
We are almost sold out of the 2010 Grenache Rosé, thank goodness the 2011 is currently fermenting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Article: Earl Jones, trip to Spain and knowlege garnered...

Winston winery benefits from recent trip to Spanish vineyards
October, 12 2011; By Ryan Imondi, The News-Review
EARL JONES; Photo by Micheal Sullivan/The News-Review
A wine-centric tour of northern Spain may help Douglas County's wine industry flourish, according to some who made the trip.

A group eight wine producers, educators and enthusiasts recently traveled to the Ribera del Duero region as part of a cultural exchange with Roseburg sister city Aranda de Duero.

Besides enjoying the cuisine and observing the culture, some who went hope to forge an alliance between the Umpqua Valley and one of Spain's noted wine-growing regions.

The regions have in common the tempranillo, a black grape that makes full-bodied red wines.

For centuries the grape was confined to Spain, but eventually was planted in small areas of California, Chile, Mexico and Australia.

Abacela winery owner Earl Jones became enamored with Spanish wines during a trip to Spain with his wife in the 1980s. He planted his first tempranillo grapes at his Winston-area winery in 1995.

He said he was the first wine grower to produce the Spanish grape in North America outside of California.

“I was so puzzled why one of the world's greatest wine grapes was not being consumed in America,” Jones said.

Now more than 100 wineries produce tempranillo in the U.S., including many in Southern Oregon.

Jones said Tuesday he returned from the recent trip to Spain with more knowledge and plans to plant more tempranillo grapes.

“We're very excited. It will enable us to make a superior wine,” he said.

The associate director of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute, Dwayne Bershaw, said tempranillo grapes are relatively difficult to grow well, but Southern Oregon's short but hot summers are suitable.

While touring large barrel rooms inside century old buildings, the group saw how the Spanish region's wine industry contrasted with the relatively young Umpqua Valley industry.

“Their wineries are on a much larger scale. They are more like the wineries in Napa Valley, where we're more of a mom-and-pop setup,” Jones said.

The regions, nevertheless, may be able to learn from each other.

Bershaw and Umpqua Community College language professor Ni Aodagain hope to establish a student-exchange program with a Spanish school, Colegio San Gabriel

“An international internship is considered a right of passage in the wine industry. This is going to be a very valuable internship for our students,” Bershaw said.

Original Article

Monday, October 10, 2011

New blog from Sommelier Wayne Walker

Oregon Wineries: from the journals of Sommelier Wayne Walker

When people refer to AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) in Oregon, they usually think of two designations: Willamette and Walla Walla. But the Wine-Jedi would say, “There is another.” It is designated as Southern Oregon and is comprised of Umpqua Valley, Red Hills Douglas County, Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley.

The modern era of grape growing in Oregon began in the Umpqua Valley just North of Roseburg in 1961 with the first planting of commercial vines. The complex topography of this area is marked by the convergence of three different mountain ranges. Where there’s mountains, there’s valleys and where there’s valleys at this latitude with Oregon’s potential for rich soil and greenhouse effect; there’s wine! It is identified as having 2,001,430 acres. A good deal of the agricultural part of this is vineyards.

I headed South about 65 miles today to have a look and was very impressed by the size and development of the vineyards in this area. Rather than stop at 3 or 4 wineries, I decided to let GPS take me on a tour. She decided we didn’t have to get too far off the I-5 South. It was a very comfortable, scenic drive through the mountain ranges and valleys all draped in their cloaks of vines. Some vineyards are as large as in the Willamette, but for the most part, terroir-driven artisanal wines are predominant.

Of course, I couldn’t go by every tasting room so I chose to stop at a winery called Abacela, which is an almost-obsolete verb meaning “to plant vines” in three Iberian based languages, Spanish, Portugese and Galician. My reasoning was to taste the Iberian wines they were growing: Albarino, Garnacha, Tempranillo and Port. I thought they would be the best way to test the stories I’d heard about the warmer micro climates in the South.

The winery and the vineyard are very impressive. Preparations were being made via nets for the
soon-to-be-arriving bird migrations, in particular the droves of Cedar Waxwings that come down from Canada and fill up on vineyard grapes on their way to the Baja Peninsula. In evidence were the rows of grapes covered with nets, one of the many deterrents used to save the harvest.

As for the wines, they all had the aroma profiles you would expect of the same varietals grown in the Signature countries. They were all quite young and needed a bit more bottle aging. The Tempranillo was a good drink and a Dolcetto that was made onsite showed some good promise. The Albarino however was a winner with nice light body, great acidity, and lemon, pineapple, wild flowers, and honeysuckle all present and accounted for both on the nose and on the palate. I could hear the echo of Pacific white fish coming up the valley as I tried to capture it’s fleeting finish.

Abacela boasts three different terroirs on their property: cool North Slopes where they grow Albarino, warm bench lands where they grow Tempranillo and hot South facing slopes where they grow Port (I assume that would be Touriga Nacional or Xarel-ho).

There is a great deal of difference between the heat needed for Port as compared to Albarino and since the Reds were good I think it shows the vineyards amazing micro climate diversity. I also tasted a Syrah that was quite good with a lot of potential to be part of a full-bodied red blend. Full blog

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Verjus released!

We're proud to announce the release of our 2011 Verjus!

Verjus is made from the pressed juice of grapes that are not fully ripe. These grapes are harvested while green thinning the vineyards and instead of leaving them to waste, are made into a juice that is moderate in sugar and high in acid (low pH) giving it a zippy flavor. Verjus was made famous by French chefs and now in America it’s also a favorite of gourmet cooks.

Verjus is a non-alcoholic juice, made from Abacela’s estate vitis vinifera grapes. Uses include salad dressing, marinades, deglazing, and drinks. It is a good replacement when a recipe calls for vinegar or lemon juice because Verjus doesn’t compete with the wine you are serving. Verjus is particularly useful with chicken and pork dishes that can become dry during the cooking process; verjus simply puts “a snappy taste” back in these meats.

Verjus can also be enjoyed as a non-alcoholic drink over ice with equal parts seltzer water. Bartenders also use it as a intriguing mixer for martinis and specialty cocktails.

Look for Abacela’s 2011 Verjus through your local Oregon retailer or order online at Oregon distributors: Galaxy Wine Company (888) 550-9463, Crush Wine Distributors (541) 961-0300.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New article about recent trip to Spain... Tempranillo!

Tracking Tempranillo

Story and photography by Janet Eastman
Some people will go to great lengths to learn about wine. 

In early September, eight Roseburg residents flew 6,000 miles to study Tempranillo in Spain’s Ribera del Duero. For three days, the group, led by Earl Jones of Abacela, walked across silty soil and into damp wine cellars.

They toured high-production wineries with fortresses of American-made oak barrels, and they visited contemporary tasting rooms, where they sipped wine made in individually temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. 

But they were never far from the past.

In every village they entered, they discovered artifacts of this region’s 2,000-year-old wine history: Roman mosaics, hand-hewn wine presses, old bush vines. In the small town of Penaranda de Duero, the tourist office is inside a 300-year-old bodega with a fermentation tank that looks like a swimming pool. 

The group of winemakers, teachers and civic supporters even found a way for Oregon students to practice viticulture, enology and Spanish. 

In between serious meetings and fact-finding excursions, the group feasted on roasted lamb, Iberian ham and black pudding. They gave away American flag pins and weighed down their own lapels with badges representing Spain’s football teams and wine clubs.

When they presented the mayor of Aranda de Duero with a cowboy hat, the photo made the front page of the Diario de Burgos newspaper. 

Three of the eight visitors — Umpqua Community College assistant professor of romance languages Ni Aodagain, Southern Oregon Wine Institute associate director Dwayne Bershaw and Roseburg Sister City board member Dorothy Williams — extended their stay to join in the fun of the Festival of the Virgin of the Vines. 

Each year, under a sky filled with confetti, crowds gather around the Plaza Mayor in Aranda de Duero for the festival that honors the city’s patron saint and its vineyard workers. 

From the balcony of the Town Hall, the three Roseburg residents could survey the young people as they sprayed one another with carbonated soda and foam. Two men in wine-stained T-shirts held a cardboard sign proclaiming their addiction to vino tinto. 

The sign. The celebration. Fifty thousands acres of producing vineyards and 250 wineries prove it. In Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is king.

The Mission
If Earl Jones and other winemakers have their way, Southern Oregon will break out of the fog of growing too many varietals and settle on one bright light: Tempranillo. 

The complex red wine of Spain was first planted here 16 years ago, and Oregon’s version has since earned attention at international competitions and the interest of wine appreciators. 

Jones’ devotion to the noble grape goes beyond his Roseburg vineyard. In 2007, he paved the way for his city on the Umpqua River to become a sister city to Aranda de Duero on the Duero River. 
The relationship between the two cities is more than social. Behind the decree is the serious intention to expand education, cultivate distinctive varietals and grow world interest for Oregon wines. 

In 20 years, Jones thinks Oregon wine could reach high quality to compete with Spain. “People are beginning to understand Tempranillo and express its characteristics as well as or better than Spain,” he said.

The road that leads to the Southern Oregon Wine Institute’s new learning center is called Aranda de Duero Avenue. Officials from Aranda visited Roseburg last year. In September, Jones was a member of the eight-member delegation to visit Spain.

“The foundation stone of anything in the New World has to begin with the recognition of the Old World,” said Jones, after sharing a paella dinner and a magnum of Vina Pedrosa 2006 Reserva with his group and Aranda officials at the old town’s Restaurante La Raspa.

Tempranillo is cultivated across Spain, notably in the Rioja region and here in the northern plateau of Ribera del Duero. Vino titans Vega Sicilia, Tinto Pesquera and others benefit from the higher elevation and extreme temperatures during growing days. Here, most bottles are unabashedly 100-percent Tempranillo.

Ribera del Duero has acres of vineyards crossing the provinces of Burgos, Segovia, Soria and Valladolid. Almost half of its residents — 30,000 people — live in Aranda, where wine has played a part in the culture since the 12th century. 

Five miles of subterranean tunnels connect wine cellars. The cellars are maintained by men’s clubs, called penas, and are kept private, except during festivals, by unmarked entrances on the street level and iron gates under the ground. 

When Earl and Hilda Jones visited Ribera del Duero in 1986, there were no tasting rooms and not even a hint of an eno-tourism experience. The region had been deemed a Designation of Origin only four years before. Producers, however, were on a quest to revive the wine industry by blending labor-intensive old ways with modern processes. 

Now, Vina Pedrosa, which nurtures 80-year-old Tempranillo vines, has an efficient winery and a sleek reception hall where Pilar Gonzalez pours wine for the King of Spain and American tourists.

The Roseburg group also met silver-haired Benjamin Pérez Pascuas, whose father planted the vines before Benjamin was born. The winery opened in 1980, when the region was enjoying a wine revival. That continues to build.

The Score
Two days into their mission, the Roseburg group attained one of their greatest goals: to lay the foundation for a student exchange program.

It happened on the vineyard-laced campus of Colegio San Gabriel. Ten years ago, alumni turned to the Catholic school for help. The community needed trained vineyard workers. A request to Rome to pay for teachers and classrooms was approved on three conditions: 1) the school make good wine; 2) teach students to make good wine; 3) and make enough profit to send to its missions.

San Gabriel grows Tempranillo across 35 acres and sends 13,000 bottles of wine a year to China. Students receive on-the-job training and learn in high-tech labs better than where most of the graduates will work, said Alicia Vitores, head of the school’s enology program. 

Professionals and visitors are offered daylong courses and hands-on experiences.

Bershaw of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute explained to San Gabriel’s director, Jose Enrique Garcia Aguera, that Umpqua Community College offers one-year certificates in viticulture and enology. 

The director, dressed in a white lab coat, said through an interpreter that he would welcome an exchange. Notice of the meeting was soon posted on San Gabriel’s website (

Earl Jones says the sister city program depends on personal connections. He visits Aranda often, usually accompanied by someone who can help strengthen the relationship.

“I’d like to raise my glass to the Spanish people’s hospitality, kindness, generosity and great sense of humor,” said Jones at the end of a grand meal at the Hotel Palacio Ducal de Lerma, a restored 17th century palace. “We have enjoyed these days, and we welcome a delegation from Aranda to come to Roseburg.”

UCC language professor Ni Aodagain sees great possibilities for her students to spend five to 10 weeks studying in Aranda. “The root of an exchange program is to learn, to be exposed to other cultures and to make lasting friendships.”

It seems this is the foundation of a sister city program, too.

Janet Eastman writes for national publications and is the wine columnist for the Medford Mail Tribune. Original article