Friday Feature, January 22nd, 2010


I’m back, and ready to roll with a really exciting Friday Feature!

Two wines today that deserve extra special attention.

In one corner, a really amazing ’08 Pinot Noir from a producer that I visited while away. Here is a glimpse into how good the ’08’s are from Oregon, and this example is a great value!

In the other corner, a wine that is highly sought after by the Rhône enthusiast, none other than the exciting ’07 Santa Duc Gigondas. With its big review and legion of fans, this is quickly disappearing.

One last note, tomorrow should be a great day to visit Perman Wine as I will have 3 or 4 interesting bottles opened for tasting. Stop on by!




As a whole, the 2008 vintage in Oregon has turned out some of the finest young Pinot Noirs that the state has ever produced. While I tasted many very good ’07 Pinot’s, I was told by one winemaker that “if you made a bad wine in 2008, you may want to find a new job.”

I will be focusing heavily on the ’08 Pinot Noirs this year here at the store, as many of these are must have’s for the Oregon wine enthusiast.

The other thing I learned, or really was reminded of, was that many winemakers in Oregon have stuck to their guns to produce wines that are not over-extracted, overripe, not to mention over-oaked. The producers are looking to showcase real Pinot Noir, and not the version that tastes more like Syrah. Those may get big scores from the media and they may taste good out of a shot glass, but when sitting down to enjoy a few glasses, the elegant side of the varietal is most impressive.

I visited with Brad McLeroy, winemaker and co-owner of Ayres. The winery and vineyards are located north of Dundee in the Ribbon Ridge district of the Willamette Valley. Their densely spaced vineyards sit on a slope that faces east. Their neighbor to the north is Archery Summit. The winery was founded in 2000 when Brad and his wife Kathleen, along with her parents purchased the vineyard and property.

Brad, a long time wine guy, including a stint as an owner of a retail store in Missouri, moved to Oregon with the desire to produce great Pinot Noir. He learned many of his skills while working under Véronique Drouhin of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, perhaps the most well known winery in the state. He was at DDO for six years, and while you can’t compare his current wines to DDO, there is a thumbprint of finesse that both seem to desire and achieve.

The production of Ayres is composed mainly of three Pinot Noir’s. A Willamette Valley, which is featured today, the Lewis Rogers Lane and Pioneer. Tasting through the lineup this week, what really stood out was the clear nuances and differences you could see in these three different Pinot’s. Clarity in wine and site specificity is difficult to achieve, it takes a talented farmer and winemaker to allow this to happen.

The 2008 Ayres “Willamette Valley” Pinot Noir is an amazing value. Brad uses estate fruit, blending it with purchased fruit from the southern part of the valley, the Eola Hills. During harvest, Bard pulls in his fruit much sooner than many of his neighbors. He also carefully manages his aging in oak, with very little new oak on the Willamette Valley. This wine smells and tastes great from the moment you open it, with beautiful aromas of plum, cherry, and a hint of baking spices. The palate highlights what the ’08’s that I tasted are all about, great richness of fruit, beautifully framed acidity, and terrific length. This one will make you happy!

Drink this beauty now, although it is worth stocking up as it will evolve for 3-5 years in bottle. A little grilled pork belly and a glass of this would go a long way in making my stomach happy!
$25.99 BTL. / $311.88 CASE


Another must buy on the Friday Feature, but this time for the Southern Rhône Valley enthusiast.

Gigondas is probably the most famous name in the Southern Rhône Valley of France, other than Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The vineyards lie along the Dentelles de Montmirail, and while driving through the area one can see gnarled head pruned Grenache vines dotting the landscape.

Santa Duc is a typical story in France, young son takes over from his dad who was selling in bulk to Négociants. In this case Yves Gras, took over from his father Edmond in 1985, and since then has arguably created the best winery in the appellation.

54 acres of land is owned, spread through the Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône appellation. In Gigondas, the family owns parcels of land located on the plateau facing onto the village of Sablet, as well as some prized vines on the terraced slopes heading into the hills.

Gras works late into the harvesting season preferring to pick when the grapes are very ripe. Other important steps in the winemaking process at Santa Duc is a long maceration of skins and juice, no destemming, and aging in a combination of vats and small new and used barrels.

With about 36,000 bottles produced, despite what the review says below about availability, this is a wine that will sell out. 30 cases came into the state of Illinois just a couple days ago, and it is already half gone. I taste a lot of Gigondas, and this is truly a special vintage from a very special producer. Secure your order today!

“The 2007 Gigondas Tradition, a 3,000-case cuvée, is a big-time sleeper of the vintage and well-worth latching onto, since its availability is very good. Dense purple to the rim, with an exquisite nose of charcoal, blueberry and blackberry fruit, chalk, and floral notes, the wine is rich, full-bodied, with sensational concentration, admirable purity, and beautiful texture and length. The wine is still young and unevolved, but it is very accessible. The acids buttress the wine’s substance, and give it vibrancy and focus. Drink it over the next 10+ years…The three cuvée’s of 2007 are certainly the finest wines I have tasted from Yves Gras since I started visiting him in the mid-1980s. 94 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate.”

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