When three strong women winemakers join forces for a night to show their private label, very limited production wines, people come out of the woodwork. Such was the case this past Tuesday at Alu Wine Bar in Portland, Oregon, where the crowd was thick with those eager to taste wines from Kelley Fox Wines, Ghost Hill Cellars and 1789 and steal a few moments with each of these impressive women.
Kelley Fox of Kelley Fox Wines was pouring her 2007 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir, which sells for $40 retail. Kelley has been making wines for the past decade, most recently with Scott Paul Wines in Carlton, Oregon. In 2007, she purchased fruit from famed Maresh and Momtazi Vineyards to craft Pinot Noir under her own label, producing 100 to 500 cases annually.
Kelley Fox Wine’s 2007 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir was very light, elegant and seemingly delicate in structure. Bright acids were complemented by moderate alcohol in this thin and almost translucent wine. The flavors were well integrated, with cranberries, black cherries, graham and violets composing the primary profile. This wine was classic Burgundian in style, restrained with a genuine expression of fruit and a tribute to minimalistic winemaking techniques. In a word… exquisite.
Next up was Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis of Ghost Hill Cellars with her version of 2007 Pinot Noir. When not making wine for Ghost Hill Cellars, Rebecca also manages the Trappist Abbey Wine Warehouse, is co-founder of Northwest Wines to You and is a Staff Sergeant in the Oregon Air National Guard… unlike a French wine bottle, you won’t see dust settling on her. Ghost Hill Cellar’s name commemorates a spirit from the Gold Rush period who’s said to still roam the land searching for his lost gold. The 2007 vintage (retailing for $38) was produced using grapes from the Bayliss-Bower Estate Vineyard. The wine possessed more intensity than Kelley’s, with darker fruit characteristics, including juicy plums, sweet blackberries and even some currants. This wine seemed to have a higher alcohol level, indicated very ripe fruit, and I detected both earthy and mineral qualities, softened and balanced by a feminine fragrance of rose petals. A deliciously drinkable wine.
The last woman standing was Isabelle Dutartre of 1789 showing her 2007 Pinot Noir from Eastburn Vineyard on Parrett Mountain, east of Newberg. Isabelle has a long history of winemaking in France and the United States, and since 2001, she’s been busy creating the wines for De Ponte Cellars in the prestigious Red Hills of Dundee. The name 1789 is a tribute to Isabelle’s French nationality, referencing the date of the French Revolution, and she said it also reflects her own personal revolution as well. The 2007 1789 Pinot Noir (at $48) was as powerful and graceful as an Olympic gymnast. It was slightly jammy with red raspberries and cherries while layers of Vanilla Coke and truffles came through adding thought-provoking complexity. I enjoyed the broad, velvety mouth as the acids and tannins, in perfect balance, competed for space on my tongue.
Opportunities to explore wines from extremely small producers like these are a rare and special treat; Alu did a fantastic job showcasing them. Alu provided a chic yet friendly tasting space, cozied up with a warm fireplace, low wood ceilings and rustic brick walls. The wines were properly ordered from light to heavy and low to high acid/alcohol, allowing the beauty of each to be revealed without taking anything away from the next. Check out your local wine bars for special winemaker events like these. Besides tasting extraordinary wines not widely available, you get the chance to mingle intimately with the winemakers, gaining a greater understanding of and further appreciation for the wine that filled your glass. Until we sip again…
Photo by Robert Canaga of Oregon Wine and Music Project