A look at the delightful wines from Oregon’s Sokol Blosser and R. Stuart & Co. wineries.
By Lou Marmon
Gazette Newspapers March 26, 2014
If the drive from Portland to McMinnville in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country only takes you an hour, then you have missed several opportunities to taste some of the region’s exquisite wines while enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding vistas and valley.
Instead, stop at some of the wineries along 99 west, particularly Sokol Blosser, who recently opened their new visitor’s center. An Oregon pioneer, Sokol Blosser has been creating award winning wines for decades while also being at the forefront of environmental efforts. In 2002 they built the first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified winery building in the country and their new visitor’s center is on track to be rated at the current highest level of environmental sustainability.
The gorgeous new visitor’s center is set in the hillside and fits seamlessly with the surrounding countryside. As co-president Alison Sokol Blosser said, it looks “like it just grew up out of the earth.” Featuring striated wood throughout, broad windows, large skylights and terraces that afford views of the valley, vineyards and distant Mount Hood, it is an ideal location to taste some of the region’s finest wines.
And Sokol Blosser does make some wonderful wines, several of which were served at a dinner prepared by Portland star chef Jenn Louis to celebrate the center’s opening. Beginning with their lovely sparkling wine served in the main tasting room followed by the equally enjoyable 2012 Estate Rose of Pinot Noir, the second course was accompanied by the Sokol Blosser Peach Tree Block Pinot Noir 2012, a silky smooth, dark berry and chocolate perfumed delight with red berry, minerals and accents of spice. Next was the also enjoyable, floral and blackberry scented Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir 2009 which displayed more muscle and tannins with its blueberry, dark fruit and herbal flavors that extended nicely throughout the lengthy finish. A surprise was their semi-sweet dessert wine, a Muller-Thugau 2012 which had honeyed peach and pear with good balance to accompany Italian cookies, berries and cream.
When you finally arrive in McMinnville, it will be easy to find places to try Oregon wines. However your first stop should be at the R. Stuart & Co. wine bar on Third Avenue where you will find Rob Stuart, his wife Maria and their many fans enjoying the fruits of Rob’s experience and passion. Rob is a reformed biochemist whose wine journey took him through Napa and Washington State until 1994 when he became the winemaker at the Erath Winery, another of Oregon’s iconic estates. Erath wines are known for their complexity and refinement, a characteristic that Rob has continued at his own winery where he bottles splendid Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, sparkling and dessert wines.
A dinner held by the Stuarts during IPNC began with their lovely floral and raspberry scented sparkler, Rosé d’Or that also had whiffs of caramel and biscuits along with bright red fruit flavors accented by herbs and cinnamon. Next was the Temperance Hill “Vin Tardine” 2008, a late harvest, food-friendly, 100 percent Pinot Gris with a slight sweetness that was perfectly offset by crisp citrus acidity along with peach and melon. One of their “Tuesday night” easy drinking wines, the Big Fire Pinot Gris 2012 followed and was delightfully complex with nutty and vanilla scents that led into pear, apple and ripe melon flavors. The Hirschy Pinot Noir 2010 was remarkably deep expressing cranberry, chocolate and earthiness while the Menefee Pinot Noir 2010 was somewhat lighter, with spicy tart berry and candied cherry notes. Their Klipsun Vineyards Tawny Cabernet Sauvignon solera dessert wine was another treat showing blackberry, cassis, dried currant, chocolate and orange peel.