We have, on many occasions, had a sparkling wine from one of Oregon’s most well-known wineries, Argyle Winery. We were happy to have the opportunity to visit the tasting room in Dundee, Oregon while we were there this last visit. Of course, that is what was poured for us first – and although that flight was great, we had come into the tasting room to try wines we hadn’t been able to find locally. For as much wine as we produce in Washington, we don’t get much good wine from other regions; Europe, New York and the Eastern US, then the California region all get their first choice before Seattle and the west side of Washington State get much to choose from. By the time the smaller places on the east side of Washington, where Walla Walla is, get to see wine distributor wine books we seem to get much less quality and certainly less variety. So, we had high expectations going to the source.
We were in Pinot Noir country, yes, Chardonnay country too, but we decided to stick with red this trip. The warm, some Oregonians have said it was the ideal, year of 2012 was on the bar with four Pinot Noir tastings. Always looking for the story behind we discovered the current production facility was originally a Filbert (hazel nut) drying facility in its first life. The tasting room is in an old house, likely predating 1900, that was, for a time, the City Hall of Dundee. Argyle has been around since the late 1980’s, I believe at this site; they are building a larger, modern production facility with a new tasting room on adjacent property but there are no known plans to sell off any of the current buildings; they will be given new uses. The old house has a history of paranormal activity, lights mysteriously going off or on, puffs of air and a smell of perfume, harmless antics in all, that are attributed to a young woman who took her own life when the father of her unborn child told her he was going to leave her. The story is on Argyle’s website or you can expand the photo at the right to read it. Again, there were lots of people, and the sun was setting and the light outside poor by the time we exited the tasting room or I might have risked crossing Hwy 99’s traffic to take a picture of the house.
It may help to know the vineyards a little as they each have specific attributes that make the wines what they are.
- Knudsen Vineyard is 120 acres in the Dundee Hills AVA with some vines planted 1972 and 1974 in volcanic soils, ‘Red Jory soils’, between 630′ and 1000′.
- Lonestar Vineyard is 160 acres planted in 1996 in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA on both volcanic and sedimentary soils between 200′ – 400′ which makes it the lowest and warmest vineyard site Argyle pulls from.
- Spirit Hill Vineyard is 180 acres also in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA on volcanic soils at 700′- 800′ elevations. This site is a cool site within the Van Duzer corridor, meaning the marine winds bring cool moist air further into the valley due to gaps in the hills between the ocean and the valley: fog.
- Holstein Vineyards are the personal vineyards of Argyle’s viticulturist and one of Argyle’s founders, Allen Holstein, close by in the Dundee Hills AVA planted around 1980.
Our Pinot Noir tasting went like this:
- 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir from the Knudsen, Lonestar and Spirit Hill Vineyards, clones 115, 667, 777, and Pommard, is alight bodied fruit forward red plum, pie cherry and pomegranate with undertones of vanilla and toast after being barrel aged for 16 months (30% new oak) with a bright acidic finish with 13.5% ABV.
- 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir from Knudsen and Holstein Vineyards (Holstein is the viticulturist’s own vineyard) spent 16 months in barrel, same percentage of new oak as the Reserve. This is a deeper, spicier Pinot with black currant and cedar on the nose and black cherry through the palate.
- 2012 Nuthouse Pinot Noir from the Lonestar Vineyard, exudes rose petals and chocolate covered black cherry on the nose with licorice and cherry on the palate in a smooth, silky finish with a hint of acid.
- 2012 Spirithouse Pinot Noir, after Ms. Imus’s spirit, is from the Knudsen Vineyard and spent 22 months in oak. A blend of baking spice and lavender with less fruit aromas this is a young, tight wine ending with a pucker of acidity that should age nicely.
Argyle is Salmon-Safe and LIVE certified in all of the vineyards and works to be conscientious in all levels of the winery from production through shipping.