Travel Tuesday Uncorked: One Stick at a Time

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." -- Frederick Wilcox

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the Wrigley's a few years ago while visiting Oregon's Wine Country on a press trip. The primary goal of my trip was to get to know the McMinnville AVA [also affectionately known as the Mac AVA] much better, I feel I accomplished that goal in spades. I stayed with the Wrigley's for two days, in their tasting room [which you see above, bathed in the glow of the rising sun] and more specifically the 'media-room' reserved for visiting writers and such.

The 'tasting room' is primarily constructed of re-purposed materials, a work in progress which John likens to the progress of a beaver building a dam, it's "one stick at a time." I believe from my observations, that he takes this philosophy into his daily life as well, as he and his wife Jody are building a winemaking legacy, one stick at a time.

As the quote above indicates, you can't steal second, while keeping your foot safely on first base. There can be no "playing it safe" if you want to progress in life. John and Jody Wrigley, know and live that quote every day in spades. During the early days of converting a Christmas tree farm into a vineyard, John was working full-time, and the vineyards still command much of his free time, while Jody manages the other aspects of running a winery, marketing and raising the children. The vines planted are coming up on their fifth leaf, and from what I've tasted thus far, this winery is going places.

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.~ John Steinbeck

Above is the picnic table, which sits just outside the tasting room door, looking into the Proposal Block. A place where all guests are invited [albeit indirectly] to take in the view after or before their tasting, to enjoy a picnic at their leisure and to take in the spectacular look. On this particular morning, I awoke early to catch the brilliant Oregon sunrise slowly etch its way over the vineyard, in the cold, clean and crisp morning air, where you can watch the fog banks roll around in the valley below. It's a take your breath away moment, one I will cherish in my wine-tasting travels memory banks for years to come.

You can just imagine the grapes growing in these idyllic conditions, soaking in the warm, but gentle morning sun, the temperature slowly rising over the course of the day, and then cooling down in the evening, sealing in the vine-ripened perfection day in and day out, until the harvest.

“Success always looks easy to those who weren't around when it was being earned...!”

Having spent a couple days up here, I can certainly see why the Wrigley's chose this spot, it's a premium wine-growing region located to the South East side of the Mac AVA. In the picture [corner left] above, way off in the distance, you can see the Van Duzer Corridor, what some call the 'freeway' for maritime breezes.

You'll find the Mac AVA is located due west of historic downtown McMinnville, home to top-notch restaurants, charming boutique wineries, and urban wine tasting rooms. You could spend a week in the down to earth town of thirty-five thousand folks and just begin to scratch the surface of all it has to offer the thirsty vino-sapiens. The only thing, I think I would add to enhance some of these fantastic rolling hills would be a zip-line. They have one in Sonoma County near the coast, and it's a blast.

Now for the wines, I believe I tasted everything they have to offer, my general impression is outstanding. I was duly impressed, with the overall complexity, finish, freshness and abundant acidity. 2011 as many folks are painfully aware was a vintage that tested the will of many good-to-great winemakers all over Oregon. Now that said, the 2011 Proposal Block, composed of Pommard, 117 and 115 clones I tasted, will need to see a bit of time in the cellar before it's ready for prime time. My tasting note, wet, damp earth, and cracked pepper.

The cross-flow filtration helped to suss out some of the reticent cherry, cranberry, and the subtle baking spices. I did find this wine more approachable and enjoyable the second day. This bottle sells for $45, again I believe it will develop further with extended time in the cellar, where the patient will be rewarded.

Now the 2012 Proposal Block Estate Pinot Noir, I tasted that same day and again experienced the same bottle the second day, it was a stunner. I also was offered, and I accepted a sample of this wine to take home, to share with @MrsCuvee. She also gave this wine a big thumbs up, pronouncing it very good. Her valuation scale is a bit different than mine, she was okay, good and outstanding.

For her to say "very good' it is near the equivalent of her being at least 95 points on wine. But of course, I can't speak for her directly. To say the 2012 Proposal Block "wowed me" would be a bit of an understatement, but that said, I was very impressed, and I highly recommend this Pommard Clone dominated wine to you. This wine is made for drinking now and drinking often, but that is not to say it couldn't hold its own with more than a few years in your cellar.

Over the period of another lovely week in Oregon's Wine Country, I had the good fortune to taste a good many of the wines from the MAC AVA, and I'd have to say that self-taught winemaker John Wrigley has winemaking skills sharply honed after just more than a handful of vintages under his belt. Kudos sir, kudos!

Jumping into the 2010 J Wrigley "Mac" Cuvée, Extended Barrel Aging: I found it a bit lighter in the core than 11 or the 12, a light garnet color. On the nose, baking spices, cracked pepper, and broken, wet earth. On the palate cut black tea, rose petals, bright recently ripened cherries. A rustic, short to medium finished wine, its high toned profiles makes it a better food wine, than the flashy cocktail hour dancer some Pinot Noir's tend to be.

Now on the other side of that Extended Barrel Aging coin, 2011 was greatly enhanced by the EBA it experienced. All those latent flavors missing from the non-EBA "Mac" Cuvée were out in spades. A silken texture, broadly approachable dark and red fruits, baking spices, black tea, and brightness and refreshing quality, which invited sip after sip, and perhaps even the final slurp or two when no one was looking, oh my.

One of the more exciting aspects of their property, the majority of which is east and south facing slopes, the large abandoned [amphitheater like] quarry you see pictured above. From this vantage point, you see the various soil types which the vineyards are planted in. The property starts at the 210-foot elevation and is 740 feet at its highest point. Their vineyards sit in various soils, which are currently classified as Jory, Nekia, Yamhill, and Peavine, although those designations are subject to change via the upcoming USGS reclassification of Oregon soil types.

But as John is fond of saying, "we are happy that we have both volcanic and sedimentary soils, and he is pleased to let others chose what the correct name should or will be in the future. If you ever wanted to have an in-depth conversation about soil types and the soil diversity found within the Mac AVA, then John Wrigley would be your man. He can talk to you about the soils at great length, similar to the way I could go on and on about the Packers chances this year after the draft and trade picks have been made. Oy, so don't get me started, I'm only hopefully optimistic, but more on that for another time.

You know I meet quite a few great folks, who find themselves in the wine business for one reason or the other, but in meeting John Wrigley and his wife Jody, seeing their passion, tasting their wines and the down to earth demeanor, hearing about their struggles and successes. It's my hope this winery takes off and launches into the wine stratosphere with all the best of success, that I think they deserve and have earned.

In the picture above you see John Wrigley, and I feel awful forgetting to have Jody jump into that picture. But what you see above is their simple tasting room, a quiet, off-the-beaten-path, place where you can experience world-class quality MAC AVA Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, if you find yourself in the McMinnville area, give them a call and then pay them a visit. Until next time folks, remember as always, life is too short to settle for the ordinary, when for a few dollars more in many cases you can experience the extraordinary, slurp long and prosper cheers!


Dan J. said…
Nice write up Bill! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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