Willamette Valley Uncorked: Redman Vineyards and Winery

Miles quote from the movie "It's a hard grape to grow - thin-skinned, it ripens early, it's not a survivor. It needs constant care and attention, and can only really grow in these specifics tucked away corners of the world."

Why is Pinot Noir sometimes considered the 'heartbreak' grape? That's a great question, I'm so glad you asked. Think of it this way; Pinot Noir is a heartbreak grape, not only for the grower, and the winemaker but also for the aficionado. How so you may ask, good question, it's because of the grapes nature. Here to explain what I mean is the character Miles (played organically by Paul Giamatti) from the groundbreaking movie 'Sideways' discussing his favorite grape in the quote above, when queried about why he loved it so much.

I took the meaning of his statement to mean, that you can't possibly presume to plant and grow Pinot Noir just anywhere in the world, with the expectation the end result being a mind-blowing incredible wine. His statement regarding Pinot Noir is not something the same cannot be said of too many of the other well-known grape varieties, like the highly adaptive, low yielding thick skinned wine-bearing grape known as Cabernet Sauvignon. The sentiments expressed by his character in the movie and the book it's based on holds tremendous truths about Pinot Noir. It's my opinion that many of the very best Pinot Noirs we'll enjoy, collect, write about and give deference to, are site specific. But I'm not sure Miles was only talking about Pinot Noir, I think he was describing his own personal experience with the affairs of the heart.
"Appropriately nicknamed the ‘heartbreak grape; no other varietal can claim to have simultaneously seduced and rejected as many suitors. The greatest wines made from the vine possess a complexity and beauty that trap consumers and winemakers alike in a lifelong search for its equivalent." ~ Appellation America.
Appellation America, in the quote above sums up nicely the love/hate relationship many growers have with this very fickle varietal. A general Pinot Noir Profile: Typically very light in body, featuring a medium to light intensity garnet core. When tasting Pinot Noir, many find the flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, cherries, and at times a notable damp earthiness or even alluring sandalwood flavors and aromas. There are many factors and depending on specific growing conditions, and the winemaker's decisions and barrel regimen. As for aromas, depending on style, sweet baking spices and whiffs of strawberry, cranberry, and possibly you will also find a barnyard (nope not kidding) smell or two on occasion. This aroma can either turn you away from ever wanting another Pinot Noir or entice you with its siren song.

A few weekends back, my wife and I went up to the Willamette Valley, for the anniversary celebration at Patricia Green, afterward, we decided it would be a good idea to visit a couple wineries in the area we were unfamiliar with. We looked over a map on our phones, and randomly picked Redman and one other. It was a fantastic weekend to be in the valley, the August heat wave had broken down and made the mid-eighties feel comfortable. The GPS directions oddly took us in a loop, a scenic drive, when if we had just turned up the road from where we had parked to ponder our next move, we would have been there in a snap of the fingers. The view from arriving via the roundabout path was much more pleasing than the alternative would have been, silver lining.

When we pulled up, we snapped a few pictures of a rustic old barn, but the afternoon lighting was not amenable to acquiring a good image. We noticed the crush pad slash tasting salon door was wide open and no other customers were in sight. So as we walked into the somewhat impromptu tasting room, we noticed the magnificent view of the vineyards you see in the picture above. They were generous enough to trust me with the glass outside the tasting room to take a few pictures. The wines we encountered that day were quite good, much better than I had anticipated, seeing we were the only folks there for the entirety of our stay. If you're familiar with the enormous blue directional sign on NE North Valley Rd, the road directly behind the sign as you're standing in front of it will take you right to their Newberg tasting room.

That day we tasted six wines, three white and three red, the tasting fee was twenty-dollars, so my wife and shared the tasting from the same glass, I spit, she enjoyed the remainder. The tasting fee was waived if two or more bottles totaling $75 or more. Despite the excellence of the wines tasted, I thought the threshold for waiving the tasting fee was a bit higher than average. But maybe, I'm off the mark on that assessment. So we tasted three Pinot Noir, one very good, but unexpected Arneis, one Pinot Blanc, and a Chardonnay. I dug all three of the white wines, but my wife was a no vote on the Pinot Blanc, so yeah it was a bit funky, but I really dug its funkiness.

2017 Areneis, Ribbon Ridge AVA: This wine was par excellence, okay, no really this was damn good. A grape whose ancestral home is in the northern reaches of Italy read that Piedmont, near the rocky hills of Roero, northwest of Alba and rumored to be a real pain to grow. This wine sported plenty of fruit, with enough acid to keep it from being flabby, faint minerality, a bee-bopping splash of pears, summer fresh nectarines and honey. The finish was round, rich and lasting. It had more of a Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino 'feel' to it. My score of 89 points.

2014 Pinot Blanc, Ribbon Ridge AVA: Now the 14 which I said had a 'funk' to it, appears to be no longer available. Perhaps, they realized its funk factor and moved onto the 15. Who knows? Either way, I still liked its funkier qualities. In the glass you won't find much color at all, the intensity was very light a hay colored PB, it throws off a bit of uber subtle copper color. A wine fermented dry, sporting woody, herbal, honey and floral aromas dominate and easily find their way to the palate as well. This wine had excellent weight and balance. It sells for $25, and I scored 87 points.

2012 Chardonnay, Ribbon Ridge AVA: In the glass, a golden hue hay colors the core of this wine shimmering in my glass. On the nose, this medium-bodied Chardonnay flaunts it nearly naked style with classic apple and citrus aromas, and tinged with floral notes, with just a touch of spice. After splashdown, the mouthfeel is creamy, hides its oak influences well, nicely complex, suggesting subtle baking spices, honey crisp apples, and a splash of citrus. A crisp mouth-watering wine perfect for pairing with grilled fish or chicken, that has not been fooled or fussed around with too much. An interesting aside to note that 16 acres of this fruit had been sold to Adelshiem that year. My score 88 points, nicely done.

2014 Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge AVA: I asked about the clones, sadly the tasting room attendant didn't know, their website doesn't say either, that said, this wines elegance, and acid brought harmony to the opulent fruit. In a word, this wine is plush. This wine has a long lingering finish, plumbed with baking spices, sandalwood, cut tea, cranberries danced and raspberry backup singers jammed in the background. It would be a steal at $35, but the going SRP is $50. Only 250 cases produced. I scored this wine 91 points. Still, I'd grab some for yourself before they disappear.

2012 Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge AVA: Here's another lovely example of Oregon Pinot Noir, with a lot going on.  One of my first thoughts, after spitting it out, 'wowsers' (technical term) intense, ripe mature aromas of dark cherry, red raspberry draw you in for the first slurp, a sweet spice box, rose petals, sandalwood flavors, wrapped around the smooth, well integrated, seamless tannins. Balance is excellent, length is good but most of all tantalizing, final impressions delicate, plus complex flavors and aromas which equal smiles all around. My score of 93 Points.

2011 Pinot Noir, Redman Reserve, Ribbon Ridge AVA: For those of you with short vintage memory, 2011 was the year, there was no summer on the west coast, it was cold, cloudy and somewhat soggy. In this unique bottling, a blend of different clone lots 777, 667, 115, 114 and Pommard. These different clones really bring home for me this wines elegance, which balances its opulent fruit. In a word, this wine has real soul and substance, a standout among dozens tasted that day.

Because the grape didn't see veraison until mid-September, that meant a much longer hang time for many grapes, including this Pinot Noir. I'm a huge fan of the vintage because the effort to make a great wine that year was challenging. The color intensity was a light cranberry color. Lovely nose, rich earthy, cigar box, and bouncy red fruits, a nice pop of Morello (a chef’s go-to) cherries on the palate, and spices, baked crust, and wet forest floor playing in the background. Spread across a canvas of well integrated, firm, yet silky tannins. This wine outclassed anything I tasted that day. My score of 96 points, a real stunner. 

I'm pleased we had a chance to visit and get to know their wines better, I'm glad to recommend them to each of you, except for the funky bottle, even though I liked it. I had a conversation about this visit with one of my contributors, she had a keen insight I want to share with you here. The two different wineries we visited on the same afternoon, the contrast between the two could not have been more stark. One, a brand new tasting room with a view that literally went on for miles, you could see the entire Willamette Valley. Their tasting room was pumping, it was shiny and new. 

It had a relaxed hang-out here vibe, and the tasting room staff were on top of their game, while the other tasting room, Redman had a more impromptu feeling to it, hastily put together and unassembled later in their crush-pad. But what the shiny new object didn't have was the quality of wine I tasted at Redman, don't get me wrong, they weren't awful, they just were not compelling. In fact, they were pretty much the typical fare of other Willamette Valley producers. I won't be naming them, because I don't think it's fair. 

Here's how that conversation went: I've spent a day in the Willamette Valley, and visited two new to me wineries, sampled their wines and took some pictures. While I didn't get to meet with any of the team players, I did get a good sense of the purpose and direction of both wineries.

"One interesting practice stood out between the two, the waiving of the tasting fee requirement. Winery One: We waive our $20 fee with a purchase of $75 or more. Winery Two: We waive our $20 fee with a purchase of any bottle on our tasting menu."

Result: Winery One, the only customers, my wife, and I. Whereas Winery Two were teaming with customers, enjoying, buying and tasting. Now granted those were not the only differences, but it certainly must have been a critical factor in customer decision making. Even more interesting than that, was that Winery One had much better wine than Winery Two. I queried the group, I'd like your thoughts on the experience I've described.

My contributor's Daniela Nebot's reply: Concerning your analysis between both wineries, it is clear that it is not only about having good products (wines) but also knowing how to market them. Also, a good marketing strategy is fundamental beyond the quality of the wine. Here in Argentina, some wines which sell thousands of cases and that are far from being the best in the market, but they have a robust communication and a solid marketing strategy.

I thought this was solid advice and something to ponder. That's all for today folks, remember until next time, uncork a great week, compromises are for relationships, not wine, slurp long and prosper cheers!


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