We weren’t sure we were actually getting close to this vineyard as we followed the signs and the roads got narrower and then gravelled; but when we saw the lovely building up on the hill in the distance, we relaxed and took in the scenery, which was terrific as we drove, but was breathtaking when we climbed the hill to the Colene Clemens tasting room and looked back from where we had come.
The building was perfect for its setting, but take a look at the photos on the website because my phone wasn’t going to capture anything as appropriate as what is there. Besides, it was very busy both inside and out with lots of people in the way (have you noticed I don’t put many people in my photos?). It was so packed with visitors that we couldn’t get to the tasting bar right away. There was a chocolate pairing with the wines, so when we spotted an opening we stepped in feeling a bit of success. We were there to focus on the wine, and I didn’t really want to give up our spot, so we huddled close with our tasting notes page where I had enough room to write on it. Brandy, the tasting room manager and her assistant Ari, also her husband, would pour our tastes and answer our questions as they had a moment.
The background story is that Joe & Vicki Stark purchased this 122-acre property as a defunct orchard in 2005 and planted their Pinot Noir vineyards in 2006; it is named after Vicki’s mother Colene. Within the Chehalem AVA, the well-respected Ribbon Ridge is not far off and Bald Peak is viewed to the west on a clearer day than we had to visit. It was raining lightly as we walked from the car to the tasting room.
Eclectic lodge-style, the cozy tasting room reminded me of a miniature, modern version of the original lodge at Yellowstone National Park. Planed wood rather than logs, flat stone instead of river rock, dry wall instead of wood panels; timelessly elegant.
As you can see from the map Dijon Clones 115, 667, 777, as well as Pommard and Wadensville are the Pinot Noir varietals Colene Clemens uses to blend their wines. From the 2013 Rose’ of Pinot Noir, a blend of the five varietals that spent six hours on the skins before being pressed off is a lovely, stainless steel fermented rose’. Fruit salad in a glass with a bit of a punch with its 13.0% ABV, but I am sure it would make a delightful summer evening on the patio even better.
Vicki’s daughter is Adriane and Adriane’s daughter is Margo. The different reds are named for each of these females. Both the 2011 and 2012 vintage of Margo and Adriane as well as the 2012 Victoria Pinot Noir wines were open for tasting. Year to year the blends change and, of course, the weather influences the grapes making each vintage distinctive.
- 2011 Margo is all five clones from a cooler vintage. It is light, bright cherry,roses, wet earth and spice finishing with clean acids.
- 2011 Adriane, also from the cooler vintage is composed of clones 667 & 115 for a light bodied, warmer and deeper wine. A little more wood and spice on the nose and palate, the cherries and earthiness slightly more subdued but present finishing with more tannins with the acids carrying the finish further than the previous wine.
2012 Margo, a warmer year, this blend is smokey, spicy and rich with mushroom and raspberry for a warmer, more substantial bodied wine finishing more acidic than tannic.
- 2012 Adriane is all five clones blended with black cherry, lavender moving to spices and cocoa as the wine finishes.
- 2012 Victoria composed of clones 777 & Pommard from the lower vineyard elevations as a 50/50 blend is dark cherry, rose and lavender on the nose with citrus and spice melded with a light ‘oakiness’ at the back of the mouth and an acidic finish.
All of the wines are 13.0-14.5% ABV.
Our hosts were great to talk with when they had a moment to chat. Brandy spent ten years in journalism and Ari has an art degree (he actually uses that art degree in his ‘day’ job). They have a small vineyard with 777, Pommard, & Gainsville Pinot Noir clones; they hope to put in some white varietals also. The grapes are coming in to their third leaf and will actually begin producing fruit this year, which can only be exciting for them! Ari has been taking classes through the Chemeketa CC EV program, doing Crush at Colene Clemens and taking care of the vineyard they have at home. We wish them well on their adventure in the wine industry and we will have to catch up from time to time to see how each couple is doing in the industry; as it is a small industry and we are in neighboring states it is best to cheer each other on.