New World Wines with an Old World Twist
Old World vs New World, a classic debate. I’m sure once in your life you’ve been asked which camp you fall into, this inevitably leads into a discussion on which is better. One might argue that the Old World sees more dedication to the pursuit of terroir-driven & minimal interventionist winemaking, while another could say that the New World sees more innovative winemaking, not bound by rules, producing whatever style of wine they may please. Of course, these would be vast generalizations, and you really must take into account the individual winemaker.
This is certainly the case for these next three featured wines. Though they may all come from the New World, each of them have a unique Old World quality that makes these wines intriguing, special, and worth drinking!
2016 BIG TABLE FARM, PINOT NOIR — EOLA-AMITY HILLS, OREGON
Winemaker, Brian Marcy, worked in the Napa Valley and learned from many of the most esteemed winemakers and wineries including Turley Wine cellars, Neyers Vineyards, and Marcassin just to name a few. Brian also spent a Harvest working in Australia at Trevor Jones Fine Wines. These varied experiences have contributed to Brian’s ability to optimize each vintage and vineyard into the bottles of Big Table Farm wines.
Clare Carver, an esteemed artist, partnered with Brian not only to design their award-winning labels, but also to help market the wine and manage their 70 acres in Willamette Valley.
Not only do they have vineyards and a winery, but also a working farm where they raise pasture poultry, pigs, cows, and egg-laying chickens. They work towards a managed intensive grazing system of farming that builds their soil, sequesters carbon, and moves them towards a healthy, sustainable and diverse farm, all of which is for the betterment of their terroir — which equals better wine!
This Pinot Noir comes from their Pelos Sandberg vineyard in the sub-region of Eola-Amity Hills, where everything is done by hand — a notion that is represented on the label of the bottle. As the Pelos Sandberg vineyard has matured it’s wines continue to develop more complexity and depth. The 2016 is a solid wine that is pleasing now and will reward in a year or two.
Currently, this wine offers such a seductive perfume right out of the gate. There is a flavorful fruit concentration but it is supported by notes of forest floor, umami and iron. The tannins are present yet soft, and show a density without being cloying or overpowering, just pure elegance.
2017 IDLEWILD, THE BIRD FLORA & FAUNA RED — MENDOCINO, CALIFORNIA
Idlewild is a small winery the produces Piedmontese varietals grown in the elevated hills of Mendocino County. It is owned and operated by Sam Bilbro, a fourth generation California winemaker. Idlewild’s focus is two-fold: First, Piedmontese varieties as single varietal and vineyard wines of typicity, energy, and balance; and second, Piedmontese varietal blends that balance joy and depth while complimenting the table. Emphasis is on the vineyard followed by minimalist winemaking techniques (sounds like Old World winemaking to me)…
Sam grew up hanging out in a winery converted from an old cow barn, walking vineyards, and tasting blends with his dad. Later, while in the restaurant industry, he was exposed to wines from across the globe and was especially struck by the wines of Italy’s Piedmont.
Idlewild represents the essence of the New California. This movement, defined in Jon Bonne’s book “The New California Wine”, encompasses producers who are working with unusual varietals and making wines of balance and finesse that defy the traditional “new world-old world” divide. These are wines that have been inspired by the their old-world archetypes, yet with unique personalities unto themselves, and firmly rooted in the California terroir. And like their old-world brethren, they are crafted to work well at the dinner table.
The Bird, Flora & Fauna Red is a blend of 60% Dolcetto, 35% Barbera and 5% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from Fox Hill Vineyard, located southeast of Ukiah on Mendocino’s Talmage Bench, where the soils are well drained with high concentrations of gravel and sandstone. In the winery the grapes were left largely whole clustered and fermentation started with carbonic maceration, which gives the wine levity and an aromatic lift of bright, fresh fruit.
This wine has notes of black cherries, wild strawberries, dried herbs, dried roses, fresh soil, and a touch of orange peel. With a mouth feel that is a joyful interplay of brightness along with just enough chewy bass notes before the seriousness kicks in with a firm acid and tannin balance on the finish.
2016 PAETRA, RIESLING S — EOLA-AMITY HILLS, OREGON
Paetra produces Riesling using traditional European techniques on American soil. Bill Hooper, the winemaker for Paetra, spent a number of years working in vineyards and making wine in Germany as an apprentice. Bill, a Minnesota native, wanted to continue making Old World style Riesling in the US after his apprenticeship was over, so he embarked on a journey to find a wine-growing region that had the most suitable terroir to do so. He soon found the Willamette Valley to be the perfect place.
Although it accounts for only a few hundred acres, Riesling actually has a long growing history in Oregon. It was planted in the southern part of the State as long ago as the 1880s and made up a much higher proportion of the acreage of the Willamette Valley during the 1970s and 1980s than it does today.
The farmers who planted those first vineyards had excellent intuition about Riesling’s suitability to the Willamette Valley. The incredible array of soil-types have a lot in common with the great Riesling-producing countries of Europe, along with similarities in climate with the relatively mild winters and sunny, warm summers.
Bill’s goal is to use these similarities to his advantage and use the same traditional techniques in Oregon that he used in Germany both for farming and in the cellar, which he believes produces the finest Riesling possible.
This late-harvest Riesling has just a hint of sweetness that is balanced out by it’s piercing minerality and abundance of acidity! It has notes of juicy peach, and melon, along with underlying aloe and basil flavors. It has a relatively low residual sugar of a top-quality German Spätlese, and nothing like the massively sweet renditions that you sometimes find today. It’s the perfect companion for any type of spicy cuisine or sushi night, but it's perfectly acceptable to drink it all by itself.