The SOMM Journal

October / November 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 46 of 132

46 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 { hands-on } UNDER CERULEAN BLUE SKIES, WITH MOUNT HOOD'S REMAINING SNOW pack glinting brightly in the distance, four sommeliers and one wine buyer gathered at Oregon's Brooks Winery in late June for an intensive two-day blending experience. The goal: to taste and explore the nuances of 50 barrel samples, each representative of individual lots sourced from nine distinct clones of Pinot Noir of varying ages, from 15 vineyard sites across five Willamette Valley AVAs. In attendance were Natalie Dulaney, Corporate Wine Director, David Burke Group, New York City; Raffaello Van Couten, Wine Director at The Butter Group, New York City; Cappie Peete, Wine Director at McCrady's and Husk, Charleston, SC; Matthew Kaner, owner of Bar Covell and Augustine Wine Bar, Los Angeles; and Michael Alberty, owner of Storyteller Wine Company, Portland, OR. "We make all these individual lots—it's a ton of work—in order to craft the blends we're looking for," explains Janie Brooks-Heuck, who now shepherds the winery along with Brooks' winemaking team. The wineries' estate vineyard lies on the northern spur of the Eola-Amity AVA, on a hill- side robed in terra cotta–colored Jory and Nekia clay loam soils. The entire region is flanked by the Coastal Mountain Range to the west and Cascade Mountain Range on the east, with cooling ocean winds funneling through the Van Duzer Corridor. It's a patchwork quilt of windblown loess, volcanic basalt and marine sedimentary soils laid down some 15 million years ago from tectonic plate action and more recent soil deposition from the Missoula Floods. Exploring the profiles of clones of similar age like 777, Wadensvil or Pommard on different sites is a rare chance to look through the winemaker's lens. Over the course of the afternoon, patterns emerge, like film developing in a darkroom. Pinots grown in volcanic soils are darker in color, with blue-violet reflexes and a sturdier frame. Laden with brambly dark berries, black cherries and plums underpinned by layers of peppercorn and earth, these wines are often the foundation in a blend. Pinot grown in marine-based soils produces lighter, brighter wines with high-toned red fruit, luscious market strawberries and raspberries, exotic spice and rose petals. The following morning, the group plunges headlong into blending, each somm creating a custom blend for their by-the-glass program. Greeted by a series of large Erlenmeyer flasks, they are armed with pipettes, blending trial sheets and a vision for the style of wine they hope to create. Post-blending, the group reconvenes to taste and discuss the finished wines. Cappie Peete focused on building a blend to complement the more delicate dishes at Husk and McCrady's. "I'm looking for aromatics of red fruit, but with funky earthy under- tones and lots of acid." Natalie Dulaney wanted to make a versatile wine that would stand on its own. "I want my guests to not realize they've finished their glass; they just automatically want another. It's not overly cerebral; it's just delicious," Her blend is predominantly clone 115 from two sites, Muska-Bement Vineyard and Crannell Vineyard with a dollop of Pommard. Matthew Kaner's holy grail is entirely different; both his Los Angeles wine bars serve wines by the glass only. His final blend comprised of clones 115, 777, and Pommard, is nicely balanced and silky, with red and black fruit and a lovely mineral undercurrent. "Vineyard site, the age of vine, elevation—it all matters. Like the recipe for a great dish, the end product is often greater than the sum of its parts. It was an amazing experience, I now know what a difficult task blending is," says Kaner. Brooks Estate Vineyard Pommard, planted in 1974. The Art of the Blend UNDERSTANDING CLONAL SELECTION, VINE AGE AND SITE SPECIFICITY IN WILLAMETTE VALLEY PINOT NOIR story and photos by Christine Havens Natalie Dulaney and Raffaello Van Couten momentarily break from the seriousness of the blending session. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - October / November 2015