November 2020 Wine Club Red

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(In October we featured wines from California, this month we feature wines from Oregon. We have decided to focus on our western states to show support after their disastrous summer and fall of heat and fire damage.)

Willamette Valley Vineyards was founded in 1983 by vintner Jim Bernau. Jim’s father was an attorney for California winemaker Richard Sommer, and secured the first winery license in Oregon since prohibition for Richard. In return, Jim’s father had access to the excellent wines created by Richard Sommer. He allowed Jim small tastes of the wines at the dinner table and that set Jim on a path to studies at UC Davis and Beaune, France. Jim fondly recalls his first instance of “winemaking” at the age of 10 when he “converted” his mother’s frozen Concord grape juice into wine following the fermentation process detailed in the family’s encyclopedia.

Since 1983 Willamette Valley Vineyards has grown its estate vineyards with partnerships and mergers with other Oregon wine pioneers. Today the winery sources all its barrel-aged Pinot Noir from its nearly 500 acres of meticulously hand-farmed estate vineyards. Since its founding, stewardship of the land has been very important to Jim who is one of the founders of the Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) program in the Pacific Northwest.

Whole Cluster refers to making wine with whole bunches of grapes including their stems. Normally grapes go into a de-stemming machine before pressing and fermenting. Fermenting whole clusters results in wine that is more complex, with spicy and herbal flavors, good tannin structure, and with any acidity smoothed out.

For the 2019 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, the winemaker used carefully selected clusters from several vineyards to create this unique style of wine. Whole grape clusters were gently placed into stainless steel tanks filled with carbon-dioxide gas. Yeast was then added and the lid was tightly closed to exclude any oxygen. When the aromatic and taste characters were ideal and the tannins were still gentle (as determined by the winemaker) the fruit was pressed. After pressing, fermentation finished over a 7-to-10-day period in stainless-steel tanks. The pH was monitored closely during malolactic fermentation to create a well-balanced wine.

This Whole Cluster Pinot Noir is described by the winemaker, “As refreshing as liquid fruit salad in a glass, this wine is garnet in color and opens with aromas of ripe black cherry, strawberry, black currant and raspberry. A fruit-forward and juicy entry leads to flavors that mirror aromas with the addition of pomegranate and a subtle hint of mocha that flow into a soft, round finish accented by balancing acidity.”

This is a very versatile wine, pairing well with sweet, tangy barbecue dishes, spicy Asian and Indian cuisine, burgers, and salmon. It makes for a great aperitif when served slightly chilled.
Because of the added tannins from the grape stems in the wine, this will cellar well untill 2025.
This certified vegan wine is a Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice, “The winery consistently hits a home run with this young, bright and delicious wine. It’s a perfect light red for picnics or garden parties, with effusive plum and cherry fruit lightly touched with milk chocolate.”

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This post was written by SFW&S