We were greeted with a wave and a huge smile by the winery owner, Dave, as we entered the Arbor Brook Vineyards property; the renovated barn tasting room is beyond the 1910 farmhouse where he was coming out of the garage. Boutique, family owned, and fueled with the passion we recognize in ourselves this winery will always hold a special place in our hearts. Dave Hansen provided most of our tasting room experience, although Elke was tremendously helpful when we first came in. I have told you about Chuck Reininger at Reininger Winery (here) and how great it is to visit with him when we go to the winery; Dave has become our Willamette Valley equivalent. To geek out with like-minded people about the details of the soil, microclimate, vineyard management and winemaking strategies while tasting excellent wine pretty much sums up my idea of a great time. Who knew farming was so interesting? Certainly not me until very recently.
As great as the wines are, I will get to them, sharing with you some of the fun details that were new to me and just plain interesting. The homestead was originally established in 1866 with a filbert orchard, Dave and Mary purchased it in 1999, removed the orchard and began planting their vineyard in 2001. This isn’t unlike the apple orchards of the southern Walla Walla AVA, look for this to happen in earnest with the new sub-AVA, The Rocks, that has recently been accepted by the TTB. They opened the tasting room in 2005 with 400 cases of wine and additional plantings of clones Pommard, 667, and 115. 2012 saw three more clones and in the coming years there will be two more acres planted rounding out the Arbor Brook Vineyard property… unless a neighbor decides to provide more acreage? One can dream, right.
Dave has been working on an interesting project in recent years, his Terroir Anthology series. Pairing a Pinot Noir clone from the Arbor Brook Estate with the same clone in the same Chehalem Mtn AVA, of course, during the same vintage, utilizing as close to identical methods of production as possible to ensure both are quality wines, he bottles about 50 cases of each wine. (Yup, this was right up my alley.) He recently brought two large glass vases into the tasting room to showcase the soils of his most recent Anthology Series, vintage 2013: the Tresori Vineyard to the west (~330′, planted 1999) clone 777 from the Willakenzie sedimentary soil commonly found in this AVA in one vase while soil from Arbor Brook Estate Vineyard (~400′, planted 2001) same clone is planted in a sub-soil of the Willakenzie sediments called Dupee, essentially a bench of oceanic sediment that was redeposited as river sediment visible in the higher elevations facing into the Willamette Valley. Fun stuff, right?
Ok, you have been patient, I will get to the wines now. Dave’s wife and co-owner, Mary Lynn Hansen, likes white wines, Dave not so much. To balance the wines offered the decision was made to include the Oregon Pinot Gris, as it is a direct relative of the Pinot Noir Dave is most enthused about, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Both Pinot Gris are sourced from the Guadalupe Vineyard, 25 yo vines about 3 miles away on the Dundee Hill and Croft Vineyard further south, old vines within the Van Duzer Corridor, in the Willamette Valley AVA. The Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon grapes are from Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain. Dave drives his big truck to pick-up the fresh-picked grapes and drives promptly home as speedily as possible to ensure the grapes are in the best possible condition as processing begins. The Pinot Noir is all Estate and a hand-full of close vineyards for the Terroir Anthology series wines. As the oldest estate vines are entering their fourteenth leaf and the current youngest, from 2012, are just really getting into their fruiting-groove, there are exciting dynamics at work in the wines.
We began with the 2013 MLH Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc (named for Mary), there is 3% Semillon to smooth out the palate. Excellent complexity with a well-balanced acidic finish. The 2013 Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Gris spends 9 months in oak (1/3 each new, 2nd year and neutral) smells like a bouquet and ripe Anjou pears, this carries through with an addition of citrus and subtle nuttiness from the oak on the finish. (There is no 2013 Semillon.)
Beginning the reds we had 2012 Heritage Cuvee’ Estate Pinot Noir consisting of Pommard, 115, and 777 for a light, rose petal and raspberry nose becoming light red fruits and some subtle spice on the palate with a slightly herbal finish. The 2012 Origin 1866 Estate Pinot Noir, named for the original land grant of the Estate property, is an equal blend of Pommard, 115, 667, and 777. An award-winning wine opening with cedar, pomegranate and cranberry on the nose with vanilla and spice to warm up the red fruits through the finish. The 2012 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir with black cherry, ripe plum and roses following through with leather, fruit preserves and earth; a very nice wine. The 2012 Vintner’s Select Estate Pinot Noir, five barrels aged 16 months in all new oak with an additional three of the barrels being racked after 11 months into new oak barrels for a “200%” new oak, something I hadn’t encountered before this (knowingly anyway). Nutty, Cassis, caramel and lavender carry through aroma to palate with a touch of white pepper with the caramel on the finish. There is most definitely something for everyone here; really glad we had some Pinot Noir tasting under our belt so we could begin to decipher what we were expecting and why. Tasting of the 2013 Brendan Scott Pommard Clone Pinot Noir (named for son, Brendan) was a second bottling of this wine since the 50 cases of the 2012 sold out right away and the 2013 Coury Clone, pale red, coffee, cocoa and Marion berry were from a 1971 planting outside of McMinnville at higher elevations. Apparently the 2012 of this wine was more ‘California-Style’ and richer… we will eventually make some journey’s into California wine country.
Side by side we tasted the 2013 Estate 777 block Pinot Noir (which was a split harvest due to rain, like we had in Walla Walla) with the 2013 Terroir Anthology from Tresori Vineyards. The Estate wine was deeper red, more floral on the nose and more tannic than the 2012 wines we had been tasting. Dave told us that was because the 777 clone is known to be a more tannic Pinot Noir clone – good to know! Both wines were a mix of fruit,floral and leather with subtle differences in the balance of each. Unfortunately I wrote in corners and tracing which wine is which has been lost for now.
The final wine of the tasting is the 2012 “Sydney” Semillon, a Sauternes-style late harvest wine named for daughter, Sydney. Inhale a nose full of pineapples and honey, peaches and the buttery Bosc pear on the palate with a smooth, long, velvety finish hinting of soft caramel candies my grandfather used to sneak us when we were little. This wine was paired with a Danish blue cheese for a hint of heaven. My mouth is watering as I write this it was so very good.