2007 Cuvee Des Amis Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Grand Moraine, Vidon, Monks Gate, Anderson Family
Oregon: Willamette Valley
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s selection from Oregon’s Grochau Cellars deserves a Superior Wine Alert. If you are a fan of fantastic Pinot Noir then this wine is sure to please.
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Mission Codename: A True Friend
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Roam Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley in search of a Pinot Noir that delivers
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grochau Cellarstate
Wine Subject: 2007 Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir
Winemaker: John Grochau
The Oregon’s Willamette Valley, just south of Portland and along the Willamette River is well known for Pinot Noir and other Burgundian varietals. Its deep and fertile volcanic soil, cooler climate most directly effect viticulture. Most of the vineyards in this area are planted in the valley’s and hillsides along the river.
With a focus on Pinot Noir, Grochau Cellars has met its goal of crafting wines that are, first, a joy to drink. Proprietor and winemaker, John Grochau, believes in making without exerting too much influence over them. That is, without the aid of modern winemaking technology, John allows the wine to progress and evolve more naturally. As a result, John’s wines present fruit that sings out, offering a true expression of the unique terroir of the lush Willamette Valley. Today’s exceptional Crochau Pinot Noir is special treat that will thrill Pinot Noir fans of any regional preference. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below for the full scoop
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – With hues of a French Burgundy, and the clarity of a domestic Pinot Noir, this wine shows slightly purple to ruby in color, with concentrated color out to the pinkish edges of the wine. When swirled, this wine appears soft and springy. When it settles, it leaves behind tight clusters of skinny legs that take a very long time to emerge before they move slowly down the glass
Smell – Lush and deep with a delightful medium intensity and a balanced nose of red cherry, baking spices, blackberry and a hint of ripe raspberry. These are underpinned by a delicious earthiness with truffle, cut violets, fresh mulch and the slightest hint of oak
Feel – This soft, round and medium-bodied wine start off tart and tangy with a bright acidity, velvety tannins and a touch of minerality
Taste – Well integrated flavors of red-fruit of ripe red cherry, raspberry and tart cranberry with hints of soft spice, earthiness and subtle gunpowder , which is something I have smelled and really like in Pinot Noir!
Finish – Earthy and soft, with round fruits that linger long after you sip. The gunpowder flavor is more pronounced as the fruit flavors tails off, giving this wine a truly unique finish
Conclusion – This is an incredible Pinot Noir! This delicious wine is beautifully balanced in its flavors, aromatics and feel. The unique flavor of gunpowder, which is present on the palate and at the tail of the finish, is really my impression of what gunpowder might taste like, rather than direct experience. I enjoyed this wine directly on opening and then again several hours later. I usually expect a wine to soften and become more fully integrated after spending time exposed to the air like this, but this wine was equally delightful in both instances. The wine did become a little more soft and round on the palate, but the flavors and aromas maintained a remarkable consistency. If you have never tried an Oregon Pinot Noir, this is the one to try. It is certainly the best Oregon Pinot that I have had the pleasure to enjoy!
I was able to catch up with John Grochau recently. What follows is an extract of our conversation:
AGENT RED: Hey, John! Thanks for taking some time to chat with me. Good bike ride today?
JOHN GROCHAU: Yes! I had to take advantage of the 80-degree day. We don’t get too many of them up here!
RED: I won’t keep you long, but I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. First off, though, I have to say that I love your flagship wine. Your 2007 Cuvee Des Amis Pinot is a gorgeous wine.
JOHN: Thanks, Red. Glad you like it. 2007 was a very interesting year for Pinot. It was a cooler year, which means that the flavors are not as extracted as, say, even 2006 was.
RED: And yet, there is a plethora of flavor and character in this wine!
JOHN: Yes, and a great earthiness – with mushroom and minerality. There was a great deal more rainy days in October of ’07, right before harvest, and far fewer really hot days. This made for a really unique wine.
RED: Again, I love it. In a sentence, what is your overall winemaking philosophy?
JOHN: Just don’t screw it up! I believe that great wines come from great vineyards. Vineyard selection is key for me, so is blending, but when it comes to the winemaking process, I try to have little influence over the wine. Sure, sometimes I have to fine tune a little, just like any winemaker.
RED: How involved are you with the vineyards?
JOHN: I have great relationships with my growers. All of them allow me to make recommendations. Some even follow them! This time of year, I try to visit each vineyard every 2 to 3 weeks.
RED: Who do you make your wines for, John?
JOHN: (pause) For me, but me of 7 years ago.
RED: When you started Grochau Cellars…
JOHN: Exactly. Hey, you spies really gather your intelligence. What else do you know about me?
RED: We know that you started your wine career by way of your 15 year restaurant career. We know that you developed a keen interest in wine, which led you to spend a harvest in Sonoma County in 1999. That harvest with spent with our friends at Deerfield Ranch Winery, where you spent your first day powerwashing buckets…
JOHN: And then?
RED: Then you hopped through a series of winery positions, working in almost every role within a small handful of respected wineries. Eventually you became winemaker. You did this until you were inspired to start your own winery. Your first vintage was just under 300 cases, and your biggest recent vintage was 3000 cases. Yes, we know quite a bit about your impressive career. We’ve had you under surveillance for quite some time.
RED: So, back to winemakeing. If you make wines for you of 7 years ago, what would you make for the you of today.
JOHN: Wines so tweaky that nobody else would probably even like them!
RED: So, you’d say that your current wine are pleasing to a wine-drinkers palate?
JOHN: Exactly right. I am sensitive to that, to be sure. I make wines that are flexible, in that they can be enjoyed on their own or with a meal. Some wines are distinctly either-or.
RED: And, are your wines built for aging, or are they drink now wines.
JOHN: You can definitely enjoy my wines on release, and they will continue to develop for another 5 to 8 years. Personally, I would encourage people to buy enough bottles to drink and hold. Revisit the wine after a year and a half, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
RED: I’ll do that myself. Thanks for spending this time with me today, John. Are you off to dinner now?
JOHN: Yes, I am hungry after that bike ride.
RED: What will you be drinking tonight?
JOHN: Are you kidding? My Cuvee Des Amis!
RED: Cheers to that!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Anderson Family Vineyard, one of the two vineyard sources for today’s wine, can be seen in this satellite photo.
The location of the Monks Gate Vineyard, the second of the two vineyard sources for today’s wine, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Fermentation: Once the grapes reached the winery, most were fully destemmed and chilled for five days of cold maceration. On the sixth day, the fermenters were warmed, and fermentation began soon after. The fermentation generally lasted 10 to 14 days with a few lasting as long as 24 days. In the beginning, the cap was punched down three times daily. As fermentation progressed, the punch down regime was adjusted so as to not over-extract. Once fermentation was complete, the wine went directly to barrel on their gross lees. The must received a light pressing with the resulting wine being barreled separately.
About The Vineyards:
The 2007 Cuvee des Amis Pinot Noir is a special selection of what we think is this best and most representative of the vintage. Every year the composition changes based on how well the vineyards did through the growing cycle and how the wine fermented and aged at the winery. The 2007 vintage is composed of the following vineyards:
46% Grand Moraine Vineyard: This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA just west of Carlton in the foothills of the coast range. The GC block in this large vineyard is at 400 ft. elevation on Willakenzie soil. The vines were four years old, and the clone is Dijon 777.
20% Vidon Vineyard: Located on the Chehalem mountain range, it sits at 350 ft. elevation on Jory soil. The vines were seven and eight years old, and the clones are Dijon 115 and Pommard.
6% Momtazi Vineyard: This site is just northwest of Meredith Mitchell Vineyard and sits a little lower in elevation. The soil is Yamhill-type, and the vines were eight years old. The clone is Dijon 113.
6% Monks Gate Vineyard: The site is located due west of the Dundee Hills in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The vineyard sits at approximately 350 ft. elevation on Willakenzie soil. The vines were seven years old, and the clone is Wadensvil.
22% Anderson Family Vineyard: Located on a “knob” on the northeast side of the Dundee Hills, it has severe north, east and south slopes; its elevation ranges from 250 to 400 ft. GC leases two small blocks of this vineyard which are composed of Dijon 667 and Wadensvil clones. The vines were eight years old.
About The Winery:
At Grochau Cellars, we come to wine as appreciators first, explorers second and creators third. We try to always remember that balance. Drawing inspiration from the landscape around us, and the classic, nuanced wines of France and Spain, we craft the kind of wines we hope to drink at the end of the day: pure, honest and delicious.
Established in 2002, Grochau Cellars is anchored to our Oregon homeland, and we approach each vintage with the same goals: Create complex, genuine wines true to their origins and to the distinct flavors of Oregon.
Origins – Grochau Cellars is the project and passion of John Grochau, and his wife Kerri. John has been fortunate enough to learn the trade from some of the Willamette Valley’s finest winemakers. From the pioneering cellars and large-scale work of Erath Winery to four years as Doug Tunnel’s assistant at the esteemed Brick House Wines, John has logged the numerous hours of careful attention, expert advice and forklift skills necessary to risk his own money on his own undertaking.
John grew up in Portland, and watched his backyard evolve into a world-class wine area. After years of selling wine at some of Portland’s finest restaurants, including a 13-year stint at Higgins, it was John’s desire to learn the craft behind the wines we loved, and to try and approach the process of making wine with the same blend of curiosity, respect and excitement that we feel when drinking it.
Inspiration – We look out the window at it every day: a magnificent valley, shot through with a tremendous river and overlooked by the peaks of the Cascades. We’re blessed with a region rich with world-class grapes and dedicated farmers. We seek out vineyards dedicated to non-interventionist farming techniques (organic when feasible, sustainably focused, environmentally sensitive) and work closely with the growers so that our fruit sources can become the wines we strive for, with as little interference from us as possible.
Philosophy – It’s simple really: Don’t screw it up. Resist the urge to do too much. Modern winemakers have such an array of options available to them it’s staggering. Micro-oxygenation. Wine concentrators. Enzyme addition. Not to mention the temptation so many indulge to beat an otherwise fine wine over the head with a battery of new oak. We eschew all this. Minimal handling, subtle coaxing, oak as a seasoning not as main dish: These are the hallmarks of our wines. Honest, accurate, true to their roots and to the wonderful subtleties of vintage variation.
Cooperage: 27% of the barrels were new, 27% were used once before, and 46% were neutral. All of the oak came from France with four forests represented.
Bottling: The wine was bottled in August of 2008.
Production: 350 cases.