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Numbskull Impulse

Mark Ryan Winery introduces two new wines

Fellow wine lovers, I try to refrain from name-calling, but today’s wine has Numbskull written all over it. Just when we thought life couldn’t get any better, Mark Ryan Winery does a thing like introducing two new wines under a distinct new label called “Numbskull”. Aside from the great wine and the fantastic value, the label itself is a big stand-out too. It features the likeness of a skull, one worthy of a second take.

You might not guess it at first glance, but it’s actually a skull which is hand drawn, not by pencil or brush, but by a lit match. Turns out Cherylin Andre, who works the Mark Ryan tasting room, is also the winery’s resident artist, and the Numbskull label is based on a “flame painting” which she drew by carefully maneuvering a lit match underneath a 22×30 inch piece of watercolor paper. From what Cherylin told me, the idea of flame painting is something which she herself developed, and I’ve personally never seen anything like it.

Mark Ryan 2012 “Numbskull” Bordeaux Style Red $35.99 (Normally $38)

(Regularly $38) The focus of the two Numbskull wines is Walla Walla. Mark Ryan opened a new tasting room out there last year, and has quickly become ingrained into the wine community of the valley. Being a good neighbor, they’ve taken up some local fruit in a show of support for their new cohorts, and the result is Numbskull.

My favorite of the two is the Bordeaux style red, a blend of 69% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot. On first taste, I was very impressed at how well they captured the Walla Walla terroir, especially since the majority of Mark Ryan wines are made with grapes from Red Mountain, which could be said to be Walla Walla’s polar opposite. While their Red Mountain wines tend to be big, bold, and dense, with firm tannins, these Walla Walla wines are relatively light, earthy, and delicate. This stark contrast is do to the very different climatic conditions of the two grouping regions. Red Mountain is hot and dry, while Walla Walla is relatively cool and with a touch more precipitation by contrast.

It’s off to a good start, but I think it can use another 8 months in the bottle, or at least a decanting, before it really starts to come alive. The Numbskull Bordeaux is smooth, soft, and plumy, with medium body- strong reflections of its Merlot base. The Cabernet in the blend gives it peppery spice, dried herb qualities, with added notes of cassis and blackcherry, and a backbone for ageability. That 3% Petit Verdot sneaks in a extra bit of acidity and reaffirms the tannins, adding further to the wine’s longevity. There were only 500 cases produced.


Region: Walla Walla Valley, Washington State
Vineyard: Super Secret Undisclosed Vineyards in Walla Walla
Grapes: 69% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot
Aging: 100% French Oak; 80% new and 20% used barrels
Drinkability: Now through 2022
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 15.1% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Pomerol, Saint Emillon
Food Pairings: Pot Roast
Production: 500 cases


Mark Ryan 2012 “Numbskull” GSM Rhone Style Red $29.99 (Normally $32)

(Regularly $32) The GSM is a blend of 58% Syrah, 26% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, and again really captures the elegant qualities of Walla Walla’s terroir, in many ways leaning towards the flavors of a French wine from the Rhone Valley. The fruit is harvested from two top vineyards in the region, Seven Hills Vineyard, and one of my new favorites, Les Collines Vineyard. I’ve been really impressed by the wines I’ve had from Les Collines, the Syrahs coming from here are especially phenomenal. I think this might be one of the most terroir driven sites in the valley.

Showing nicely now, though the GSM could use another 6 months in the bottle before drinking, it’s a prime example of what Washington can do with Rhone grape varieties. Aged in 100% French Oak; 40% new and 60% used barrels, it showcases fresh, ripe, juicy red and blue fruit. There are notes of red licorice, and raspberry freezer jam, blueberries, backed by black peppercorn, along with hints of cured olives and smokey meats. Perfect with a mouthwatering cut of prime rib. Only 1000 cases were produced.

Region: Walla Walla Valley, Washington State
Vineyard: Seven Hills, Les Collines
Grape: 58% Syrah, 26% Grenache, and 16% Mourvedre
Aging: 100% French Oak; 40% new and 60% used barrels
Drinkability: Now through 2020
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 14.9% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Cote Rotie, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley
Food Pairings: Prime Rib
Production: 1000 cases




Deviled Impulse

Gorman Winery Devil You Know and Devil You Don’t Know

Fellow wine lovers, I’ve always viewed Chris Gorman, of Gorman Winery, as a prince of darkness of sorts, so naturally he’s returned to tempt us once again with the second vintage of last year’s guilty pleasure. He’s been experimenting a lot recently, and that’s led to a few new labels from him, including two new red wines: The Devil You Know, and The Devil You Don’t Know. They’re both red blends, with the Devil You Know (DYK) made using vineyards and vinification techniques standard to Gorman Winery, while the Devil You Don’t Know (DYDK) employs new fruit sources, and experimental winemaking- hence the names. 

Gorman Winery 2012 Devil You know Red 26.99 (Regularly $30)

Last year’s feature on Impulse didn’t include the DYK, as we weren’t able to get a hold of any. With much advanced planning this year, we’re featuring both wines in this devilish duo, which is great because each one offers something different and interesting. Between these two, the DYK is more typical of the Gorman wines, with an added component of value, as it’s among the few reds in his lineup under $40. While both of these two wines are rather drink-worthy, I will say that the DYK is my favorite this year, and I’m betting if will get higher scores from the wine media if it gets reviewed, though last year it was the DYDK which brought home the bacon with a 93 point score from Wine Spectator. 

In true Gorman style, the wine is smooth, lusty, and powerful. It’s tightly concentrated, and will definitely benefit from another year in the bottle before you crack it- or at least an hour or two in the decanter is advisable. A blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 13% Petite Sirah, and 8% Petit Verdot, its nose is dense with stewed red fruit, floral hints, and oak notes. The palate is a concerted display of stewed raspberries and strawberries, wild berry bramble, a typical Cabernet black peppercorn, and perfumed rose hips, while the indulgent aging in new French oak Barrels for 16 months produces a showing of baked vanilla. 

It’s great with a tenderloin, and should be drinking nicely for another five to seven years. Gorman only made 825 cases of this still unknown gem. 


Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State 
Grapes: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 13% Petite Sirah & 8% Petit Verdot. 
Aging: Aged 16 months in French Oak Barrels 
Drinkability: Now through 2021 
Body: Medium-Full 
Alcohol: 14.7% by volume 
Drink This if you Like: Gorman Bully Cabernet 
Food Pairings: Tenderloin 
Production: 825 cases made 


Gorman Winery 2012 Devil You Don’t Know Red $26.99 (Regularly $30)

Ever intent on staying sharp, and never the type to sit still or get stuck in his ways, Gorman is using the DYDK label as experimental grounds. He ventured outside his comfort zone of Red Mountain, into the heart of the Columbia Valley to source fruit of a terroir which is distinct from the Gorman wines we’ve come to know. The body and mouthfeel here are a little lighter than the DYK, while again offering a great value proposition. The winemaking is nothing if not atypical of what we’ve come to know from this winemaker, exemplified best in the use of American oak barrels. All other Gorman wines have been aged exclusively in 100% French oak prior to the advent of the DYDK. French oak has garnered a reputation for being more subtle, and elegant, with a flavor profile which integrates better into wines, allowing the fruit to lead while the oak plays in back. American oak is known as the loud-mouth cousin who makes sure he’s always heard above others, and some are also said to taste of dill weed. Still, when used correctly, American oak is really flavorful, robust, and complex, and certain selections omit those herby dill flavors. The DYDK is a great example of what I consider to be a skilled usage of American oak. 

The DYDK is a little showier right now than the DYK, with lots of up character. Tons of candied black cherries, baked blackberries, and homemade pie jumping out immediately. The tannins are firm and can use another year in the bottle or hour in the decanter to calm them down. The blend of 52% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, 17% Grenache & 14% Petite Sirah offers up lots of smoky spiciness and hints of flint, calling to be paired with smoked meats and salumi. The 16 months of aging in new American oak barrels have packed this red with an abundance of vanilla bean, toast, and deep mocha character. After opening up for a few hours, it shows delicious blueberry notes, with even more vanilla, half baked cookie dough, and hints of cedar. 


Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State 
Grapes: 52% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, 17% Grenache & 14% Petite Sirah 
Aging: 16 months in New American Oak Barrels 
Drinkability: now through 2018 
Body: Medium-Full 
Alcohol: 15% by volume 
Drink This if you Like: Idle Hands, Napa Syrah 
Food Pairings: BBQ, smoked eats, salumi 
Production: 825 cases made 




Quilceda Creek Vintners 2011 Columbia Valley Red Wine

Quilceda Creek Vintners 2011 Columbia Valley Red Wine

Fellow wine lovers, we have a rare treat of Quilceda Creek today. Previously we had the pleasure of offering their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon – the one that goes for $200 or more – and today we have their value wine, the Columbia Valley Red, or CVR for short.

Quilceda Creek 2011 Columbia Valley Red Wine $54.99

The Galitzine family, who owns and operate Quilceda, have built a following based on their 100-point getting, hard to find Cabernet Sauvignon label which hogs the spotlight year-round. Even so, for many insiders, the CVR is the back-stage favorite, because it’s made using the same quality fruit, with the same careful craftsmanship and attention to detail. Meanwhile, it’s just as hard to get a hold of, since Quilceda produces about the same amount of it as their flagship Cab, while offering it at a quarter of the price.

2011 was a cooler one year, so Alex and Paul Galitzine thinned their crop down to 40% of its typical yield, in order to maintain the level of depth and concentration we’ve come to expect from Quilceda. These remaining grapes receive the added benefit of extra hang-time, which came with the 2011 vintage, making for especially complex fruit. The result is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, and the crop is reaped from, hands down, some of the very best vineyards in Washington State, including Champoux, DuBrul, and Klipsun, as well as Quilceda’s recently activated estate vineyards, Galitzine and Palengat.

The CVR is always big and bold, one of the bigger 2011 reds I’ve seen, driven by waves of black fruit, sweet vanilla, and toasty oak. Still, it endeavors to preserve the subtle intricacies of the vintage, with esoteric qualities of graphite, toasted star anise, and wild rose buds. The palate is medium-full bodied with assertive yet polished tannins and balanced acidity. There are additional notes of black currant preserve, and the generosity of aging in 80% new French oak for 22 months makes itself known with an announcement of half-baked cookie dough flavors. Approachable now, but can surely age given the structure; if you open it in the next year or two, be certain to decant for an hour or two ahead of time.

The Galitzines have been generous enough to grant us 3 cases of the 2011 CVR, to offer on Impulse, and they are first come first serve

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Vineyard: Champoux, Discovery, DuBrul, Galitzine, Klipsun, Palengat, Shaw, Tapteil, Wallula
Grape: 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 80% New French Oak for 22 months
Drinkability: Now through 2020 Quilceda Creek Vintners 2011 Columbia Valley Red Wine
Body: Medium/Full
Drink This if you Like: Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
Press: 91 pts Jeb Dunnuck, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Food Pairings: Filet Mignon with demi-glace
Availability: 3 cases




Epic Impulse

Longshadows Vintners Beers, by Epic Ales

Fellow wine lovers, it’s a long standing fact that deep in the heart of any wine lover, beats the pulse of a beer lover as well. Much of what we like about wine, is also true of beer; its flavors, its handcrafted nature, its place in history. Today we have one more reason every wine lover can enjoy a good brew, rather we have three.

Longshadows Vintners has joined forces with Epic Ales of South Seattle to bring you a crossing of wine and beer by providing Master Brewer Cody Morris with juice from three of their wines, to be incorporated into the recipes for three very unique Ales. A self proclaimed Mad Man, Cody Morris believes that, “The possibilities for what a beer can be are only bound by your imagination”, and he exemplifies this belief in these three outstanding beers. As far as I know, the only place these Ales have been available is through the Longshadows tasting room where they went for $12 per bottle, and I got the last 12 bottles of each from them so that I might offer them to you, on Impulse, as a 3-PACK, which includes 1 of each beer in larger 22oz (650mL) bottles.

3-PACK of Epic Ales made using juice from Longshadows wines $33.99

Sour Ale made with Riesling Juice of 2013 Poets Leap

The lighter more refreshing brew of the three, it’s made with Pilsner Malt from Canada and Hops from Yakima, while hinting at a Hefeweizen-like cloudy turbidity. The addition of Riesling juice – from the Longshadows 2013 Poets Leap – gives it classic characteristics of meyer lemon, mineral, and orange blossom, while its Sour Ale base which is fermented using a yeast called brettanomyces has a signature sour touch with notes of banana bread and hints of toasted grain. It’s bottle conditioned, meaning it can be aged for a year or two to gain complexity, and will likely have sediment develop in the bottom. In many ways, it reminds me of Champagne, or even well made Normandy Cider (French Apple Cider), and comes in at 5% alcohol by volume in a 22oz bottle. Great with oysters and soft aged cheeses.

British Style Ale made with Sangiovese Juice of 2013 Saggi

Made with British and American malt, hops from Yakima, a dose of Sangiovese juice from the Longshadows 2013 Saggi, and brewed with a classic British Ale yeast. Showing notes of dried figs and caramelized dates, with toffee and dehydrated apricots, while flavors of raspberries and spice come through from the Sangiovese. Best at 42-49 degree Fahrenheit, drink it now and through the next 2 years, as it develops nutty sherry-like qualities with age. Medium bodied, and a good match for cured meats, and hard aged cheeses. This one is at 7.5% alcohol by volume, in a 22oz bottle.

Belgian Abbey Style made with Syrah Juice of 2013 Sequel

This Abbey style Ale is the product of both domestic and imported malts, along with domestic hops, with the addition of Syrah juice from the Longshadows 2013 Sequel. Fermented with a classic Belgian yeast strain, it’s fairly full bodied for a beer with notes grapefruit, orange peel, tart cherries, and a black pepper finish. Best between 42 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and will drink well for the next 2 years; a great pairing with grilled meats, dried fruit, and ripe cheeses. It’s 8.5% alcohol by volume and comes in a 22oz bottle.




Lucky Impulse

Forgeron Cellars 2012 Chardonnay & Blacksmith 2012 Chardonnay

Fellow wine lovers, we can all use a little bit of luck, and while Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars in Walla Walla could be said to have plenty of it, it’s more than just luck which makes her wines outstanding.

Forgeron is the French for Blacksmith, and they named the winery so because it is operated out of the former site of an old blacksmith shop in Walla Walla. When they acquired the property they found within it hundreds of horseshoes, which they promptly buried in the foundation to bring them good luck.

Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla, Paris born, has a Masters in Enology from the University of Dijon, in Burgundy – where better to learn the ins and outs of Chardonnay. She’s been making wine in the Northwest since 1991, and at Forgeron her aim has always been, “blending an Old World perspective with the pioneering spirit of Walla Walla.”

Today, it’s us who are the lucky ones, with an outstanding deal on two great Chardonnays.

Blacksmith 2012 Chardonnay $13.99 (Regularly $20)

Great at its original $20, made even better at 30% off, the Blacksmith wines are the little brother to their main Forgeron label (below), bringing similar quality in winemaking with added value factor with this fantastic, everyday drinking Chardonnay.

This is a blend of vineyards including Kestrel and Weinbau Vineyards, and is 94% Chardonnay with just a small 6% hint of Roussanne, which adds extra depth and hint of stone fruit. Compared to the Forgeron Chardonnay, it’s a bit lighter and more austere, with just 11% new French oak, the rest being neutral. The nose has tropical hints of pineapple and fresh citrus, the palate is light and crisp with lemon, just a kiss of oak, and hints of apricot and cantaloupe melon. Only 443 cases were made.


Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State Blacksmith Chardonnay
Vineyards: Kestrel, Lonesome Springs, Four Lakes Vineyard, Weinbau
Grapes: 94% Chardonnay 6% Roussanne
Aging: 100% French Burgundian Oak, 11% new, 89% neutral
Drinkability: Now – 2016
Body: Medium/Light
Alcohol: 14.2% by volume
Press: Listed in Seattle Magazine’s August 2014 issue as one of the top value Chardonnay
Food Pairings: Tilapia, Clams
Production: 443 cases


Forgeron Cellars 2012 Chardonnay $27.99 (Normally $35)

Their main label, Forgeron, includes a selection of well made red and white wines which aspire to be elegant, graceful, and full of character. My favorite of their lineup every year is the Chard, and always has been since first tasting it back in 2008.

Made extra complex by blending grapes from sites of varied climate, with warmer sights like The Benches Vineyard of the Horse Heaven Hills contributing riper tropical fruit flavors, while cooler sights such as Underwood Mountain Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge offer balancing acidity and minerality. Made with Washington fruit, honed by Marie-Eve’s French sensibilities, using 100% French Burgundian Oak barrel, 32% of which is new, and 68% used, giving it elegance and complexity, not unlike a White Burgundy.

The nose is alive with notes of white peaches, freshly baked croissants, and hints of vanilla bean. The palate is medium bodied, with rich texture and custard creaminess. It shows flavors of crunchy yellow apples, toasty grilled bread, bosque pears, and hint of butterscotch and toasted hazelnuts.

Paul Gregutt of Wine Enthusiast Magazine gives it 91 points, and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report gives it 4 out of 5 stars, a rating of “Excellent”, and calls it, “An aromatically alluring wine with pear, toasty spices, peach, and touches of tropical fruit. The palate is medium bodied, rich and ripe but avoids going over the top, maintaining well balanced acidity with an open finish.”


Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Vineyard: Crawford, Kestrel, Upland, The Benches, Weinbau, Conner Lee, Underwood Mountain, Lonesome Springs
Grape: 95% Chardonnay 5% Roussanne Forgeron Cellars 2012 Chardonnay
Aging: 100% French Burgundian Oak, 32% new 68% used
Drinkability: Now-2018
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
Drink This if you Like: White Burgundy, Meursault
Press: 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast
“Excellent” from Washington Wine Report
Food Pairings: Halibut, Salmon, Grilled Chicken
Production: 1014 cases




Bubbly Impulse

Schoenheitz Cremant d’Alsace Sparkling Brut and 2013 Riesling

Fellow wine lovers, the region of Alsace is one of the most unique in France, a long disputed territory on the border with Germany, this area has changed hands between the two countries numerous times. A fun, non wine-related, fact – Alsace is the historic home of boutique auto company Bugatti, makers of some of the worlds most beautiful, and expensive, cars. Founded in 1909, the story goes that Ettore Bugatti actually buried his cars 6 feet underground at the start of both World Wars, only to return after, dig them back up, and re-start his business, which still thrives today.

In addition to fast cars, Alsace is world redowned for it’s racy white and sparkling wines. Though now officially a French region, German roots are very apparent here, with most of the vines planted being of German origin, such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. In the 1970’s, the Schoenheitz family came to Alsace with the intention of reviving historic vineyards, once devastate by the fighting of World War II. They focused on vineyards nestled in the heart of Alsace’s Munster Valley, where the slopes are so steep, no tractor can traverse them and all work and harvesting here must be done by hand.

Schoenheitz Sparkling Brut, Cremant d’Alsace $17.99 (Regularly $20)

One of my favorite French Cremants, this is comprised 98% of Pinot Auxerrois, a unique grape in this area, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and a lesser known grape, Gouais Blanc. Often compared to Chardonnay, thus a perfect candidate for sparkling wine, it’s typical to blend Auxerrois with Pinot Blanc which makes up 2% of the mix in this case. Coming from vines as old as 25 years, planted in granite rich soils on the south facing foothills of the valley. This rich bubbly has qualities of mineral, fresh acidity, Anjou pears, yellow plums, quince, and toast from having aged 24 months on lees in the bottle. The bubbles are fine and tight, like that of well made Champagne. Medium bodied, and low in alcohol at 12%, this is a great summer bubbly with oysters and aged hard cheeses with sliced pears.


Region: Alsace, France
Vineyard: Schoenheitz Estate
Grape: 98% Pinot Auxerrois, 2% Pinot Blanc
Aging: 24 months on lees in the bottle
Drinkability: Now through 2016
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 12% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Champagne, Cava, Prosecco
Food Pairings: Oysters, aged hard cheese with sliced pears


Schoenheitz 2013 Riesling $16.99 (Regularly $18)

The most popular of the Germanic grapes, Riesling is naturally the pride of Alsace, which in many ways resembles Germany more than France. This Riesling comes from vines as old as 30 years, planted in highly decomposed deposits of mica rich granite, on the lower slopes the southwest facing hills of the valley. An off dry style, with a hint of sweetness and a clean and light finish thanks to the crisp acidity, this beauty is plump with fresh white peaches, and clementine orange on its minerally nose. The palate is creamy, with a crunch of golden delicious apples, hints of hazelnuts, saffron, brown sugar, and bake lemon slices. A great pairing with Asian influenced preparations of fish, such as miso ginger salmon and sake curd marinated black cod.


Region: Alsace, France
Vineyard: Schoenheitz Estate
Grape: 100% Riesling
Drinkability: now through 2020
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 12.7% by volume
Drink This if you Like: German Riesling, Washington Riesling, Eroica, Poets Leap
Food Pairings: Miso Ginger Salmon, Blue Cheese, Crab
Production: 230 cases


Heart of Impulse

Coeur de Terre Vineyard Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, if you follow along much with vintages and reviews, you might remember just a few years back the stark contrast between the Willamette Valley’s 2007 and 2008 vintages. 2007 was a cooler year and was panned by critics early on as being thin, boring, and incomplex. Then came 2008 which was a warmer and riper year by comparison, and it was praised by critics, like a breath of fresh air, come to rescue us from the drudgery of 2007. Then something unexpected happened – some wineries had a lot of trouble selling their 2007’s, so they cast them aside and hid them in the back of their warehouses, while the 2008’s sold out so quickly that wineries were left with nothing to offer, so they desperately went back to their stockpiles of 2007. Only then did we all realize, over a year later, the true nature of 2007, that it wasn’t boring, it just needed time. After an extra year or two of age, the 2007’s were waking up, and they were stunning!

Fast forward to today, and history is repeating itself in the form of the 2011 and 2012 vintages, with the former being a lighter cooler vintage, and the latter being a bigger, bolder, warmer one. Only this time, we have the benefit of experience and know exactly what to expect. We are going to drink our 2012’s sooner, and hold the 2011’s for another year or two, when they have had a chance come into their own.

As it happens, we have the perfect opportunity here with Coeur de Terre Vineyard, who is just releasing their 2012 Pinot, and still has just a bit of 2011 left for us.

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard is at the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, with the mountainous terrain blocking the harsh ocean winds from battering their vines, while still offering the benefit of cooler temperatures from the seaboard. Scott and Lisa Neal came by this land by accident in 1998, when they got lost trying to locate a different prospective property during a scouting trip. Seeing potential in the landed they happened upon, Scott and Lisa spent weeks walking the earth and analyzing the soil before confirming that this would be the site of their future vineyards, which are now farmed sustainably and organically. They named their estate Coeur de Terre, meaning simply, “Heart of the Earth”.

The 2011 vintage was a tricky one, starting out so cool that many wondered if it would ever get hot enough. Then an Indian Summer brought beautifully warm weather near the end, helping the fruit to catch up. Grapes were harvested later in the season than any other vintage on record, meaning they have benefitted from extra time on the vine. 2011 really came through in the clutch, and it is known valley wide simply as “the miracle vintage”.

This Coeur de Terre 2011 Pinot Noir is the lighter, earthier, and spicier of the two we are offering today, with notes of bramble, dried herbs, cranberries, bing cherries, a hint of crimini mushroom, and dried rose petals. It’s aged 11 months in 20% new French oak, with the rest being used, and the alcohol level is a low 13.3%, as is typical for a cooler vintage. Drinking tight right now, and will benefit from another year and a half age in the bottle, before it really starts to shine.

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrels, 20% New, 80% used
Drinkability: 2016-2020
Body: Light Bodied
Alcohol: 13.3% by volume
Drink This if you LIke: 2007 Vintage of Willamette Pinot or Red Burgundy
Food Pairings: Grilled Herbed Salmon

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

The 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are just now coming into the market, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster vintage, much like 2008, with lots of high scores from the critics. It was hot and dry pretty much throughout the vintage, giving way to juicy ripe fruit with deep, dark character.

The Coeur de Terre 2012 Pinot is bolder by comparison to the 2011, with more dense fruit. The nose has a hint of cocoa, smoke, fresh lavender, and toast. The palate is full of ripe morello cherries, a touch of blueberry, and hints of smoky tobacco leaf. It has much more fresh fruit character in general, with less earth and herb. Aged 11 months in 20% new French oak barrels, 40% once used, 30% twice used, and 10% neutral. It’s drinking well right now, though it can benefit from another year in the bottle.

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrel, 20% new, 40% once used, 30% twice used, 10% neutral
Drinkability: 2015-2019
Body: Medium Bodied
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: 2008 Vintage of Willamette Pinot
Food Pairings: Grilled Marinated Pork