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

Friday, May 19, 2006

Oregon Terroiristes

Hard to believe that old McDonald is a terroiriste, but he is. He has wines from four different vineyards and so do many other Oregon wineries. The debate about terroir (microclimate) goes on, but anyone who doubts the importance of terroir need only taste Pinot Noirs from different vineyards made by the same winemaker in the same year. Contrast, for example, a wine from northern vineyards such as Bednarick or Windhill with, say, Shea. Bednarick is a difficult vineyard sometimes not producing any really usable grapes at all, but when it is successful in can be incredibly complex. Shea, on the other hand is an easier vineyard, usually producing easier wines.

It is true that globalization has affected wine from many regions. Bordeaux tastes more like Washington Bordeaux style wine which tastes more like Bordeaux. California Meritage tastes like Washington, Bordeaux and Australia. Italian Super Tuscans taste more like Bordeaux. Wines globally have become more similar to each other. They are fruitier and easier to drink, but they frequently have less character. So maybe it doesn't matter whether some Merlot is grown on flat, rich soil in Australia, California, or Eastern Washington. Maybe any wine can be manipulated to be intense, fruit forward, easy and drinkable when released. And winemakers can have their signature style. Mike Januik's wines are a delicious example of wines made in a similar style.

In Oregon, you just have to look at the countryside to see how important the exposure of a vineyard can be. In 2005, there were 734 different vineyards to choose from. Oregon wineries have pressed for specific AVAs(American Viticultural Areas) that they feel reflect important differences in terroir. Dozens of winemakers buy grapes from Shea Vineyard, for example. It would be fun to taste a variety of Shea Pinots from the same vintage made by different winemakers. Would the wines reflect different winemakers' signatures more, or the Shea terroir more?

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