Tag Archive | Ken Wright

2005 Ken Wright Cellars: Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir

Jon and I were planning to open this bottle on New Year’s Eve, but instead I was down for the count with a bad cold.  So we waited until this weekend, and uncorked the bottle.

We got this wine from Jon’s grandfather’s cellar after he passed away.  Each of his grandchildren were invited to choose a few bottles, and this was one of the bottles that Jon selected.  We have been waiting for a good time to open this one, and Jon has been watching the internet reviews on when the best time would be.  And what better time than to ring in a New Year!?  Even if it was delayed a few days so I could actually taste the wine.

2005 Ken Wright Cellars Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir

2005 Ken Wright Cellars Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir

We opened the bottle in the early afternoon, before heading out for a little trip to Nooksack Falls.  We wanted to give it a few hours to breathe.  We came home after giving it some time, and tried it for the first time.  The color of this wine was not your typical Pinot Noir; it was a darker brownish red that was much more like a mature Cabernet Sauvignon.  On the nose, I picked up ripe blackberries, smoke and a little bit of cola.

On the palate, this wine is fantastic.  It is a wonderfully balanced wine, with the flavors blending together.  There is not as much acidity as I would expect in a Pinot Noir (which makes sense since this is a 2005), and the tartness is almost non-existent.  It also doesn’t have the dominant cherry flavors that are so common with Pinot Noir.  Instead the flavors are muted blackberries, earth, and a hint of that same cola that it had on the nose.

Overall, a great wine – we paired it with a Gouda Pesto Chicken, which was delicious, and a big enough meal to have with this heavier Pinot.  Too bad we don’t have more!

The Post Race Wine Festival!

After I finished the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, it was time for the wine!  Never mind that it was only 10 am.  I had already been up for 5 hours at that point, and that totally counts right?  I had seen the sunrise, and sunrises are almost like sunsets, and a spectacular sunset calls for some wine!  Not to mention that almost 3 of those hours were doing high intensity exercise!  I was more than ready.

But where was my cheering section?  Where were my partners in wine?  Allysa and Bob were going to meet me at the end of the race and watch me cross the finish line, but I didn’t see them, and I couldn’t figure out where they were.  Carlton is not that big, so the possibility that they had lost me in the crowd seemed unlikely.  I texted Allysa that I was done!  I got a message back that the GPS had taken them on the scenic route, and they were almost there.  Oops…

So, while I was waiting, I got prepared.  I wandered around looking for water, and stumbled into a vendor booth where they were giving away cans of an all-natural juice/electrolyte/anti-oxidant/miracle drug concoction.  Score – sounds great!  I chose one in Nectarine and something else (Pomegranate?) and cracked it open.  Despite the fact that I had not yet imbibed anything alcoholic, I cannot for the life of me remember what the juice was, but it was tasty.

Now normally I might not wait for my friends – I would have just dug into the wine, but I had to pick up both my glass and the guest glass together, and my guest had to be present.  So, finally, Allysa showed up, and we were ready to taste!  And then Shelley showed up!  We picked up our souvenir etched Riedel wine glasses and headed over to the tasting area.  If you have ever been to Carlton, the festival was right outside in the parking lot of Ken Wright Cellars and the Carlton Winemakers Studio.  There were 29 wineries (Wow!) represented, most with tasting rooms in the immediate Carlton vicinity.

The Band at the Wine Festival

The Band at the Wine Festival

Here’s the list:

Anne Amie Vineyards

ArborBrook Vineyards

Argyle Winery

Carlton Cellars

Cathedral Ridge Winery

Cottonwood Winery of Oregon

Denison Cellars

Duck Pond Cellars

Elks Cove Vineyards

Ghost Hill Cellars

Ken Wright Cellars

Kramer Vineyards

K&M Winery

Left Coast Cellars

Lemelson Vineyards

Lenne Estate

Luminous Hills Winery

Monks Gate Vineyard Estate

Omero Cellars

ROCO Winery

Scott Paul Wines

Seven of Hearts

Solena Estate

Stag Hollow

Stoller Family Estate

Stone Griffon Vineyard

Torii Mor

Walnut City WineWorks

Wildaire Cellars

Each winery was tasting between 1 and 3 of their wines, with 2 being the norm.  I didn’t write down any of my impressions, and I must admit I found it somewhat difficult to pay particular attention to the wines (call it fatigue or adrenaline or whatever), so I won’t be giving you any tasting notes here.  Post half marathon wine tasting is an interesting experience, as I learned…  I will say that there wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch.  I tried to focus on wineries that I hadn’t visited before, but unfortunately there wasn’t time (or stamina) to try them all.  I did sample Arborbrook, Cottonwood, Duck Pond, Elks Cove, Ken Wright, K&M, Lemelson, Lenne, Luminous Hills, ROCO, Seven of Hearts and Solena.  I feel like I didn’t even scratch the surface!

Allysa, Shelley and I had a great time, and I made sure to have some big glasses of water in between tastes to rehydrate – I just filled my wine glass with water to make sure I would drink the whole thing before I started tasting again!  Ken Wright was one of my favorites, of course, and I loved the Pinot Gris from Solena Estate.  Lenne had two vintages of their Pinot Noir to sample, you could taste the robust, earthy 2010 next to the more fruit forward, elegant 2009.  Seven of Hearts was sampling a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend that offered something different than the Pinot Noir so many Willamette Valley wineries specialize in.  I think the server was a little surprised that I knew the blend in GSM though – I’m sure the half-marathon types aren’t necessarily wine connoisseurs too.

In the grassy patio area of Carlton Cellars, a band played for the crowd, and you could sit and rest your tired feet if you needed to.  We stayed until noon, when the festival was wrapping up, and then we wandered over to a small bakery/sandwich shop on the main street of Carlton to get some much needed food.  I ordered a Reuben sandwich that was delicious!  I had an orange juice too, to get some vitamins and anti-oxidants.  Shelley had a BLT without Dijon mustard, but unfortunately the dry baguette bread didn’t lend itself to a lack of condiments.  Allysa and Bob enjoyed their sandwiches too, but I can’t remember what they ordered.  We sat in the sunshine and soaked up some rays, and then Allysa told me she would do the race next year!  Yay!

Allysa and Shelley - Waiting For Lunch

Allysa and Shelley – Waiting For Lunch

So, hopefully, next year, we will have a big crowd of friends all coming down to test ourselves and then try some wine.  Perhaps this is the beginning of an annual tradition!

2006 Carter Vineyard Hillblock Pinot Noir

So, usually you hear about the winery being the star of the show.  Tonight’s wine turned that all on it’s head.  Tonight I’m drinking the 2006 Carter Vineyard Hillblock Pinot Noir.  Yes, that’s right, this wine is named for its vineyard.  This vineyard was planted in 1983 (long before I ever learned to like wine) and the wine is produced by Ken Wright.  Ken Wright also makes a Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir under the Ken Wright label.

This Pinot has a nose of earth, black cherry, raspberry and smoke, and it has a silky texture and a tart acidity.  It tastes of subtle raspberry, spice and smoke.  The new French oak that this wine was aged in provides a nice balance to the tannins.  2006 was a year for big, bold Pinots and this wine is no exception. I suppose my only critique would be that it is a bit short on the finish.

Jon opened it on a whim and it paired nicely with my frozen pepperoni and veggie pizza (in case you were thinking I was a wine snob, I think I just gave myself away!).  Tomorrow perhaps I’ll have my other glass with something more sophisticated – macaroni and cheese with cut up hotdogs maybe!  Ha!

All kidding aside – excellent vineyard, excellent winemaker, excellent wine.  Really, you can’t go wrong with Ken Wright produced wines, and I believe Carter Vineyard also supplies grapes to Domaine Serene, another standout wine producer.  Makes me wish we had more…

Tyrus Evan – King of the Claret

Jon and I took a little trip down to the Willamette Valley for Memorial Day weekend. Other than the day I took off to accompany my horse up to the vet clinic to have his tooth yanked earlier this month, I haven’t had a day off since the President’s Day Holiday weekend in February. Jon and I had been looking forward to this for weeks. Especially since the Willamette Valley is one of our favorite places on earth. If I were independently wealthy, I would work part-time in a tasting room in the Willamette Valley. And volunteer at an animal shelter.

So anyway, on Friday evening, I had to stay at until 5 o’clock, to grab job applications out of the application box because everybody that normally does it was out of the office. Then I just about locked myself out of my office, where my purse and car keys were waiting for me (damned security badge keycards!). That really freaked me out! So anyway, I headed home, threw a couple of things I forgot to pack into my suitcase, and then hit the road at about 5:30. Jon is great about getting things together while I finish packing, feeding the cats, putting out extra water, and putting more litter in the litterbox. We have a system.

We got down to Portland about 10, and vegged out the rest of the evening watching TV and playing on the internet, and talking about some of the wineries that we haven’t been to and intended to try. Jon has trouble making up his mind about an itinerary, and I don’t want to pick them all, so sometimes we just head in the general direction and then decide where to go as we drive by. It was that kind of day. We intended to start the day at Anne Amie, and I probably should have remembered this, but Anne Amie has a rather steep tasting fee on Memorial Day weekend. It is a $20 fee, that includes wine flight and food pairing. What we didn’t know is if you could share a flight. So, as much as we love Anne Amie, we decided to come back on a non-holiday weekend.

So, we headed into Carlton. Jon has been talking about visiting Tyrus Evan for awhile, so we took the leap. Tyrus Evan is Ken Wright’s second label, which specializes in the Bordeaux wines. They source a lot of their fruit from Washington and the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, and Jon has been curious about their Cabernets. They are located in downtown Carlton, in the old train station. The building is beautiful, with a lot of historic features. You can look out the window and see the old grain storage silos, which according to the tasting room staff, don’t get much use anymore.

Tyrus Evan started us off with their Viognier, which was good and not too floral. Their Chardonnay, although aged in oak, had a very light oak taste, and was quite nice. Jon particularly enjoyed it. Next we moved to two vintages of their Claret, which are Bordeaux blends, using slightly different blends (a Malbec one year and a Petit Verdot the other).  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are included in both vintages.  Their Clarets were what Jon had heard great things about, and we both agreed that they did a great job with them. They were very well balanced, have some time to age and soften, but could be enjoyed now. Neither were overpowered by the oak or tannins.

They showcased their Syrahs in a similar way, having us taste two vintages of the Syrah, one which had been made using Walla Walla Valley grapes and the other with Rogue River Valley grapes. You could taste the difference, but it was tough to pick a favorite.

We finished with a Port style wine that has been aging in the barrel for several years, because Ken Wright didn’t know what he wanted to do with it. You can’t buy it, but it is waiting for label approval from the ATF and will soon be on the market. It was a deep, syrupy Port, which reminded me a lot of a Marechal Foch Port I sampled at August Cellars last year, although this one was a Bordeaux blend. It was delicious, but it is always difficult to think of an occasion for a Port.

The verdict:  Tyrus Evan is certainly a winner.  Once we left Tyrus Evan, the next stop was the winemaker’s original label, Ken Wright…  Stay tuned!