I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to the record-breaking 2017 Hospices de Beaune wine auction, and wanted to share a few images with you to get a flavor of the tour and all it entailed.
I’ll be hunkered down for the rest of the holiday season writing several pending stories for publication in a number of wine and lifestyle magazines, but be sure to share more information with you as deadlines loom after the first of the year. In the meantime, happy holidays, all – and safe travels.
I’m still en route to Hospices de Beaune 2017 wine auction in Burgundy, with sidebars to Gothenburg, Sweden to conduct interviews for a forthcoming article I’m doing on Swedish sommeliers, and to Paris for research on a pending project.
Please enjoy these photos of travels to date – you can follow my entire tour on Instagram or Twitter @binnotes.
As always, great to hear from you in the ‘Comments’ section below and on social media – cheers!
All images and text Copyrighted 2017 binnotes.com | L. M. Archer. All Rights Reserved.
Wine Writer on the Go – Yoga Paws + Lazenne Wine Carrier in tow.
I’m traveling on assignments for the balance of 2017, indispensable Yoga Paws and Lazenne wine carrier in tow.
First stop Sweden, followed by the fabled Hospices de Beaune wine auction in Burgundy, before returning stateside later this month for some South Bay sleuthing amidst a little US Thanksgiving gratitude. December brings me deep into Northern California wine making territory, and concludes with a long slog of elbow grease at the keyboard.
Find out about publication dates for pending features here later. In the meantime, feel free to follow along live throughout the tour:
“We all have two lives, and the second begins the moment we realize we only get one.” – Confucius
In another life, winemaker Dave Specter didn’t drive a forklift. Or a tractor. Or make wine in the Willamette Valley.
In a previous life, Dave Specter and his wife Sara suited up, sucked it up, and slugged it out in the corporate Midwest – the former as an attorney, the latter in advertising.
Until 2008. By then, Sara had endured three miscarriages within 13 months, Dave’s work obligations associated with his law career had devolved into a nightmare, and the couple’s seven-year marriage hung on life-support.
A couple of years earlier, a well-meaning marriage counselor had suggested that they find a ‘couples project’ to help resuscitate their relationship. They chose wine making. That project eventually restored Dave’s equilibrium, recalibrated their relationship, and catapulted the couple across country for a visit to Willamette Valley in 2008.
There, snuggled into a cozy B & B in Newberg, the couple dreamed aloud about someday buying land in the Willamette Valley and making wine professionally.
Shortly after they returned from that trip, Sara’s mentor and friend Kelly was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer, which ended her life 10 short months later. Explains Sara, “Kelly’s life, and her fight for it, was a key inspiration for our decision that Dave would leave his career as an attorney and chase the winemaking dream.”
In 2009, events dominoed with alacrity, and irony. Dave gave his notice, and found a professional winemaking mentor in Cincinnati, under whom he worked for three years. After Dave won two amateur national winemaking competitions, the couple sold their home in Ohio, and decamped to Oregon in 2012. Once in the Willamette Valley, while Dave worked a harvest internship at Alexana Winery, Sara discovered and purchased a site on NE Bell Road in Newberg – very near the B & B where they’d previously stayed.
The winery name “Bells Up” refers to a specific moment by classical music composers when they instruct French horn players to lift up the bells of their instruments in order to project sound with maximum intensity. Dave, a former French horn player in high school and college, alludes to the winery as his “Bells Up” moment.
I first met Dave and Sara at their winery for an exclusive tasting while in town for IPNC this past summer. These samples include some of their pinot noirs, as well a bonus syrah.
Note about serving Bells Up wines: I highly recommend decanting these wines approximately 30 minutes prior. Like any Burgundy-inspired wines, these require a little time to open up and best reveal their secrets.
Wine: Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, OR.
Producer Specs: “Named for Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Titan,” this classic Oregon pinot noir mingles 24% Chehalem Mountains Pommard (25-year-old vines) grown in volcanic Jory soil, with 38% each of Yamhill-Carlton Dijon clones 115 and 777 (15-year-old vines) grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged 10 months in French oak, the harmonious result epitomizes 2014’s perfect growing season.”
Robe: Clear ruby robe.
Nose: Red fruit aromas – currant, cranberry, raspberry.
Palate: Red fruit notes carry through on the palate. Light body, balanced acids and tannins, light finish.
Suggested Pairings: This lyrical, light-hearted wine pavanes across the palate with melodious ease. Inspired pairing with pan-seared sea bass, cranberry beans and celery coulis.
Wine: Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, OR.
Suggested Retail: $40 (116 cases produced.)
Producer Specs: “The 2015 edition of Bells Up’s flagship Oregon pinot noir mingles 42% Yamhill-Carlton Pommard (6-year-old vines) with 29% each of Yamhill-Carlton Dijon clones 115 and 777 (16-year-old vines), all grown in sedimentary Willakenzie soil. Aged 7 months in French oak (30% new), this bold, fruit-forward, well-structured Pinot is a result of 2015’s extremely hot summer, with 25 days of 95-plus-degree heat during the growing season and very little rain. The small clusters and berries yielded intensified flavors and aromas.”
“Both vineyards/growers [used] are side-by-side on Cooper Lane in Yamhill…Tonnelier Vineyard and Yamhill Vineyards (also a B&B)…The Pommard came from the one due south of Tonnelier. There’s a bit of a slope but it’s not dramatic. There’s definitely a little micro-climate right there that keeps it a touch cooler.”
Robe: Clarion ruby robe.
Nose: Savory black olive, dusty red fruit, potpourri on the nose, with an aromatic back note.
Palate: Red cherry, currant and cranberry carry through from front to mid-palate, with spicy back-palate notes. Light body, well-balanced acids and well-structured tannins, medium finish. Suitable for both early drinking and cellaring.
Suggested Pairings: A lovely harmony between dark and light notes, this wine adds coloratura to any meal, spurring lively conversation.
I’d recommend Bells Up 2015 Titan Pinot Noir for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, given its savory notes and crescendo of cranberry and spice on the palate.
Wine: Bells Up Winery Firebird Syrah – Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley AVA (Oregon side.)
Suggested Retail: $36 (70 cases produced.)
Producer Specs: “Released in April and named for Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” these grapes were sourced exclusively from Summit View, one of the highest elevation vineyards in Milton-Freewater, Oregon—at 1,150 feet. This site’s vines are rooted in Ellisforde silt loam, a deep, well-drained glacial soil that produces full-bodied fruit with concentrated flavors and vibrant acidity. Aged 7 months in French oak.”
Robe: Opaque porphyry robe.
Nose: Black fruit, ‘funk-free’, fragrant violet aromas.
Palate: Black currant, blackberry, brambled bouche. Medium body, well-balanced, plush tannins, lengthy finish.
Suggested Pairings: A deep-tenored wine of subtle power that pairs well with hearty winter fare in front of a roaring fire.
As a Burgundy and pinot noir aficionado, I do find occasional sucor among syrahs from of Walla Walla Valley and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. This wine ripples across the palate with surprisingly suppleness and grace.
Bells Up 2015 Firebird Syrah wine talks softly and carries a big finish.
Bells Up Winery | 27895 NE Bell Road | Newberg, OR 97132 | P: 503.537.1328
Napa and Sonoma wineries are open for business, folks – as today’s trade sample proves.
“Animo” in Italian means ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’ – an apt descriptor for this wine, and the Wine Country community.
Michael Mondavi Family Estate represents ‘Old Growth’ Napa, a firmly rooted fourth-generation winery with a prestigious pedigree. In 1996, they purchased Animo vineyard atop Atlas Peak, and Heritage Block in 2006.
Farmed sustainably employing 19th century trellising, Heritage Block contains Sauvignon Blanc vine cuttings sourced from Oakville’s historic ToKalon vineyard, vines considered the oldest in North America, and directly traceable to Bordeaux’s famed Château d’Yquem.
Animo Sauvignon Blanc seamlessly blends this old world heritage with a new world indomitability. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “If wine be the music of love, pour on!”
Wine: Animo 2015 Napa Valley Heritage Sauvignon Blanc
The Hedonistic Taster | № 29 | Cloudy Bay – New Zealand
by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML
“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer
Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster, an intimate showcase of artisan winemaker trade samples. The title “Hedonistic Taster” derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.
In 1985, pioneer David Hohnen founded Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, New Zealand. One of the first wineries established in that remote wine region, Cloudy Bay derives its name from the region’s body of water so named by the explorer Captain Cook for its hazy sedimentary floodwaters flushed bayside.
In 2003, opulent lifestyle group LVMH purchased Cloudy Bay, subsequently ensconcing winemaker Tim Heath and viticulturist Jim White. The winery offers luxury premium wines sourced from exceptional single vineyard sites, as well as high value and quality regional blends.
These samples represent both entry and luxury level wines.
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir blends fruit from a number of quality vineyards throughout the Marlborough wine region of New Zealand.
Wine: Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
Suggested Retail: $30
Producer Specs: Marlborough Pinot Noir “The Pinot Noir fruit was entirely handpicked and de-stemmed before being gravity fed into the fermentation vessels. 13% of the fermentation was comprised of whole bunches. The fermentations utilised natural occuring yeast populations under carefully monitored conditions. The grape skins were gently plunged with an average of 18 days skin contact. After fermentation the wines were matured in French oak for 12 months, of which 35% was new.”
Suggested Pairings: A versatile pour that pairs well with soft cheeses, charcuterie, and savories.
Rating: 90. Superb entry-level introduction to New Zealand pinot noir.
Cloudy Bay’s Te-Wahi 2014 Pinot Noir derives its label name from the Maori term for “the place.”
Wine: Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir
Suggested Retail: $74
Producer Specs: “Selected vineyards in the Bannockburn, Bendigo and Lowburn subregions of the Cromwell bassin. The first vintage born from the alliance of our two owned- vineyards – Calvert and Northburn.
90% of the fruit was de-stemmed. Before fermentation in stainless steel the fruit was cold-soaked for 5 days . Wild yeast fermentation took between 2-3 weeks. The wines were hand plunged between 1-4 times daily. After fermentation, batches were lightly pressed and racked to barrel with 14 months aging in French oak of which 40% was new. Racked before bottling and lightly fined with egg white.”
Robe: Medium dark, plummy garnet robe.
Nose: Dark plum, black cherry aromas, with a hint of spice.
Palate: Through-line of dark plum, black cherry, and blackberry on the bouche; medium light body, lyrical acids and tannins, plush finish. Opulent brilliance.
Suggested Pairings: A well-structured wine worthy of venison or richly truffled pasta.
I’m on hiatus this week spending some much-needed time with visiting family.
In the interim, my heart goes out my intrepid friends and colleagues in Napa and Sonoma enduring the wildfires. You will prevail. No doubt. #WineCountryStrong.
I leave you with a few images from two top-tier Reserve tastings I tippled through this past week, both showcasing stellar New World pinot noir and chardonnay.
The first, a 20th Vintage Vertical Tasting of Central Otago’s Felton Road at San Francisco’s Farallon Restaurant featured winemaker Blair Walter, who teed up four different flights before lunch, then continued the barrage of brilliance throughout a gorgeous four-course luncheon. In full disclosure, I arrived in time to taste through the final two flights of pinot noirs, (I missed the new releases and chardonnays) and had to depart after the second course. That said, genius attracts notice, however fleeting the encounter.
Generally speaking, the 2011-2015 pinot noirs from Cornish Point and Calvert vineyards sported clarion ruby robes, lean bodies, pristine fruited aromas, animated acids, keen minerality, and a lingering finish.
The final flight, however – 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 pinot noirs – proved heart-stopping in their grace, elegance, and finesse. Bouquets varied from stewed red fruits in Block 2003, to barnyard notes in Block 3 2005, leather notes in Block 3 2007, savory hints in Block 5 2009, and sous bois in Block 5 2010. Burgundy-inspired indeed.
Noble of tannins, seamless in structure, haunting in finish, these Felton Road reserve pinot noirs merit inclusion among the pantheon of finest Burgundians in their quality, complexity, and age-worthiness.
More to follow about specific tasting notes, variations in soils, microclimates, farming, and production techniques of Felton Road.
Link to my two-part series in Palate Press on Central Otago wineries here:
The second Reserve tasting, Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association’s annual Pinot Paradise at Pasatiempo Golf Club’s Hollins House, offered pours from local legends like Big Basin, Mt. Eden, King’s Estate, Mindego Ridge, and Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards.
A post-tasting Technical Session also featured Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards, Equinox & Barolo Winery, Silver Mountain Vineyards, Thomas Fogarty Winery, and Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards.
You’ll be hearing more about these local wineries in future posts, but the undisputed stand-out of the event was Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association show of support for Napa and Sonoma through #CAWineStrong.