The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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24 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015 { oregon } Ponzi in Full Gear When Dick and Nancy Ponzi founded the Ponzi win- ery in Oregon's Willamette Valley in 1970, they were unaware of the region's other wine pioneers, David Lett and Dick Erath. Four years later, the first vintage of Ponzi Pinot Noir was produced and introduced to the Portland market in 1976. The Ponzi family was the first to introduce Pinot Gris into the area, in 1978, packaging it in half bottles. Today, the second generation of Ponzi family vint - ners is in full gear, with daughters Luisa as Winemaker (1993 was her first vintage) and Maria as President, just announced this year; Maria had been Director of Sales and Marketing since 1991. With 140 certified sustainable acres of estate fruit, grapes from respected growers exclusively in the Willamette Valley are also purchased by the acre— one requirement is that they be certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic—and each contracted block is managed by Ponzi. The latest addition at this forward-thinking Oregon winery is the 30,000 square feet, four-level, gravity-flow winemaking facility, which they named Collina del Sogno ("dream hill"). The majestic, architecturally masterful building, designed by Dick Ponzi himself, is situated on the north slope of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. The soils of the north slope are classified as Laurelwood, composed of basalt base with sedimen - tary soils, as opposed to the south slope's ubiquitous well-drained, volcanic Jory soil. The Laurelwood brings in a spicy, exotic bramble, especially to the Ponzi Pinot Noirs. In an October visit with Maria Ponzi, I tasted through some of Ponzi Vineyards recent vintages. Here are my notes: Ponzi Vineyards 2013 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley ($17) Crisp, light notes of Asian pear, apple and spiced melon. Body and character mid-palate that shows bril - liance and edge. Ponzi Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay Reserve, Willamette Valley ($35) A paradigm of round and lean. Rich and textural with stone side-by-side with apple, vanilla/butterscotch side-by-side with tart lime. So lovely: a French bar - rel–fermented, balanced beauty. Ponzi Vineyards 2011 "Signature Blend" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($35) Sourced from ten different vine - yards, this exotic Pinot offers up eucalyp- tus, white pepper, jasmine, patchouli . . . then there's the fruit. Raspberry in the midst of bramble—that telltale Laurelwood soil. Great acidity. Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($60) All estate-grown from older vineyards; small parcels planted in 1975, 1980 and 1985. This wine is made for aging, spending more time in the barrel and again in the bottle. Tannins are teeth-coating. Brandied blackberry, graphite, Worcestershire and red tea lend complex notes that make you salivate—a sensational food wine. THE PIONEERING WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINERY IS UP TO NEW TRICKS by Meridith May Sunset at Ponzi Vineyards. PHOTO: JEREMY WADE Maria Ponzi is President of the family winery. PHOTO: COURTESY OF PONZI VINEYARDS

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