Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, May 22, 2006

Oregon Pioneers - Elk Cove

Oregon Pioneers –Elk Cove

David Lett at Eyrie Vineyards is the grandfather of Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Along with Erath, Ponzi, Amity, Sokel-Blosser and Elk Cove, Lett pioneered Oregon grape-growing and winemaking in the 1960s and ‘70s and put Oregon wine on the map. These six are on The Wineries And Vineyards Of The Northwest map we published in 1977.  By the late 1980s, a new wave of “pioneers” bought vineyard land led by the Drouhin family who recognized and acknowledged the quality of Oregon grown Pinot Noir. They created a virtual “New France”, buying a large parcel of rolling prime south-facing vineyard land near Dundee. Others followed so that there are now over 300 wineries and 700 vineyards in Oregon, most of which are devoted to Pinot Noir.

But many of the pioneers carry on the old tradition of making many different wines. A visit to Elk Cove begins with a drive up a one lane road off the highway to Forest Grove. In a small cul-de sac of rolling hills tucked behind the Coastal range, Elk Cove continues to make a wide array of very drinkable wines. I started my tasting with the 2005 Pinot Noir Rose which I found to be light fruity and floral, almost like a pink Riesling. The 2005 Pinot Gris seemed almost sweet, because the fruit seemed to cover its dryness. The 2004 Willamette Pinot Noir was light and bright with cherry flavors. The 2004 Windhill Vineyard Pinot Noir was medium-bodied with good fruit, but lighter than the EIEIO Windhill which was also made by Elk Cove for Joe McDonald.

The 2003 Del Rio Syrah was fairly light for a Syrah. It had a chewy texture, a somewhat astringent style, and a slightly hot finish. The Del Rio vineyard is a large holding in Southern Oregon that sells grapes to many wineries. I tasted several Del Rio Syrahs and they were all very similar, but quite different from the lush, spicy Syrahs from Washington.

I finished with two excellent, but totally opposite wines. The 2005 Riesling was made in a very dry Alsatian style with a freshness that was absolutely delightful. The 2004 Ultima was so good you just wanted to reflexively swallow and relish the taste of peaches and honeysuckle. Sweet, but light, this lovely wine was made from 60% Riesling, 30% Gewurztraminer, and 10% Viognier. Delicious!

Elk Cove is a beautiful place to linger. One half expects the Elk to emerge from the forest and join you for a fine repast of fruit, cheese and Ultima!

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