In a recent issue of The Wine Advocate, reviewer Erin Brooks tips her hat to some of the Oregon favorites she’s currently tasting from the 2018 vintage. Once annually, Erin reviews hundreds of Oregon wines from the newly released vintage. Those reviews cover all Oregon regions and varietals. “In anticipation of hundreds of upcoming wine reviews from Oregon…” she writes, “I’ve highlighted a few producers whose latest releases stood out among their peers. They represent cellar-worthy wines, new brands and affordable selections appropriate for any occasion.”
Brooks’ experience with wine and food was highlighted in a Michelin Guide article published two years ago as having, “…spent a decade working the floors of some of the most revered Michelin-rated restaurants in America, including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Ken Frank’s La Toque and three-Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood as restaurant manager, sommelier and wine director.”
The article also foreshadows Erin’s love for something else; Chardonnay. Brooks tells the author, “Savvy consumers will be cognizant of the potential for great Chardonnay in Oregon. I was stunned by the quality of the Chardonnays crafted by producers like Bethel Heights, Goodfellow Family Cellars and Walter Scott, among others…”
Four producers from Oregon topped the list, with the sidebar listing three Chardonnays and one Pinot noir, all rated 95+ from 00 Wines. With tasting notes like this, it’s clear to see Erin is a fan: The 2018 Chardonnay Richard Hermann Cuvée opens with appealing touches of candle smoke and gunflint with a core of toasty red apples, hay and beeswax. The silky, medium-bodied palate explodes with toasty, mineral-laced flavors lifted by bright acidity, and it finishes very long and textural.
00 Wines’ produces wines from McMinnville, Chehalem Mountains and Eola-Amity Hills, with case productions of 630 or less, some as low as 23 cases, and all with ratings of 92 and up.
00 Wines sources premium grapes from 5 AVAs in the Willamette Valley – McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills, and Chehalem Mountains. The 2018 Richard Hermann Cuvée Chardonnay is a 23 case lot of the 2,000 cases that 00 Wines produces each year. 5 of the 10 wines reviewed scored 95 or 95+ (Richard Hermann Cuvée Pinot Noir, Richard Hermann Cuvée Chardonnay, Freya Hermann Cuvée Chardonnay, Kathryn Hermann Cuvée Chardonnay, and Hyland Pinot Noir.
On the reviews, 00 cofounder Chris Hermann said, “Everybody seems to be excited about the 2018 vintage. It was a nice, long growing season, and what’s interesting this year is the vintage holds a balance and lushness we don’t always see in Oregon’s vintages which tend to have a leanness to them. The 2018 wines are supple, rich and delicious with beautiful aromatics,” he said. “We just released them in October and we have had people call us after popping the cork to tell us ‘Wow! These wines are absolutely amazing.’”
Hundred Suns was also singled out as a producer to watch. Grant Coulter and Renée Saint-Amour were happy to see their five Pinot noirs achieve this acknowledgement. “We were really stoked to see the recognition for our 2018’s,” he said. “We always knew from the start that the 2018 vintage would be one for the books. The unusual warm and dry conditions coupled with high winds and low disease pressure gave us some crazy concentrated fruit that made for some gutsy, age-worthy Pinots.”
Hundred Suns Pinot noirs were all rated 92s and 93s and represent solid values priced at $50 and $55. The name Hundred Suns to the 100 or so days of the growing season between flowering and harvest. The Old Eight Cut Pinot noir, at only 371 cases made and attaining a 92 rating, is well-priced at $30.
Geodesy has four wines listed among the ones to watch. With grapes grown in the Chehalem Mountains and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs, two Chardonnays and two Pinot noirs grabbed scores of 90, 91 and 92 for their 2018 vintage. Made under winemaker Megan Baccitich, the wines can all be purchased online. No stranger to high scores with their 2017s, their first vintage was rated in the 90s as well, proving Geodesy is one you’ll hear more from.
Profits from the sales of Geodesy wines support the WG Edge program which supports women in agriculture. WG Edge awards scholarships to young women pursuing ag careers at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), which then connects these students to female leaders and internship sponsors to guide, inspire, and open doors for them.
L to R: Geodesy winemaker Megan Baccitich, Martin Woods Winery winemaker Evan Martin
Another A-lister is Martin Woods Winery, founded by Evan Martin, Winemaker-Vigneron. Martin produces 4,000 cases of Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Gamay noir, as well as Valley mainstays of Rosé, Pinot noir and Chardonnay. With no employees or staff, Martin has been experimenting with Oregon oak in the Willamette Valley, working with Rick DeFerrari at Oregon Barrel Works to make locally sourced barrels. In an interview with Erin last year, he said, “The idea is to make a market for this oak, to give it value, so that people will want to keep it, not cut it down as trash oak for paper. I want to help conserve and replant our oak groves.”
His 2018 Chardonnay claimed a 93 score in this newest report, of which he is particularly keen. “I think of all the recent Advocate reviews I’m most excited about the Chardonnay review, since Chardonnay has become a very close secondary focus for us behind Pinot noir…” he said. “We’ve been increasing our Chardonnay program exponentially and the 2018 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is an important milestone for us in terms of quantity and faith in the market, so to have it reviewed so well is heart warming and encouraging. Willamette Valley Chardonnay can be staggeringly beautiful, and it presents staggering value in the market.” Cost on this one is $32.
The Martin Woods 2018 Gamay received a 93 in this review, the highest rated Gamay in the past three vintages scored by Brooks. Martin Woods is a consistent performer, but this year is the highest. Said Martin: “The Willamette Valley is truly the home-away-from-home for Gamay, which ripens perfectly here,” he said. “I’ve worked with the same clone of Gamay, 284 from Beaujolais, on three different sites and this clone consistently expresses itself quite differently on each site—texturally and aromatically…it’s a go-to Somm preference so it’ll always have happy homes in the restaurant world especially—but I also don’t see it growing exponentially, considering that it simply doesn’t garner the price points that Pinot noir brings in the market. But Gamay will be there to present tremendous value and pleasure to those who seek it out.”
Martin sums up his happiness quotient with his chosen profession by stating, “At the end of the day, the Willamette is simply a very happy place to grow Vitus vinifera. So as much as I truly love and appreciate Pinot noir here, since here it can certainly achieve truly exceptional beauty (and it is most certainly the focus of production at Martin Woods), I also put the same drive and energy into producing the other varietals that we work with.”