Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oregon Winemaker Tributes Valentine Break-Up With Nefarious Pinot Noir

You could feel the excited energy stirring about Patricia Green Cellar’s winery, warming up the cold facility rarely open to the public. Guests stood poised to taste her illustrious wines and with an odd twist of irony, I found myself alone on Valentine’s Day afternoon—a day typically spent honoring relationships, love and togetherness—celebrating Patricia Green’s 10-year anniversary punctuating her divorce from Torii Mor instead. In homage of the dispassionate occasion (one of the best break-ups on history I might add) Patty released her wickedly sinful, 2008 Nefarious Pinot Noir.

The 2008 Nefarious Pinot Noir ($85) was as beguiling as it was balanced. The wine opened with a soft fruit and lightly floral nose. In my mouth, blackberries gave way to ripe cherries, a touch of spice and playful acids, which swept across and awakened my sleepy tongue (it was barely noon, but already wine-o’clock for so many). The tannins were firm, showcasing the moderate structure, yet supple enough to provide a lush, velvety feel despite the wine’s youth. It was a nice wine, yes. But was it worthy of its lofty $85.00 price tag? Of that I’m not so sure.

I liked the wine and I loved the name, but for me, it was still missing a key component—a good label to tie it all together. It might seem trite to you, but being a graphic designer and marketing specialist, what it all boiled down to was that I was confused when I looked at the bottle. The wine’s called Nefarious, which means infamous by way of being extremely wicked, but the front label shows a soft, sweet and simple muted oil painting of Patty with her nose in a wine glass—is that supposed to signify nefarious? The label design felt like an afterthought, even more so when I looked up and saw the painting larger than life on the cellar wall… a bit incongruous and disappointing if you ask me. To come up with such a great concept and then fall through on the visuals and packaging felt like an enormous waste of a tremendous opportunity and my mouth was (and still is) literally salivating over the potential of such a campaign. Moving on and off my soapbox now.

The 2008 Notorious Pinot Noir ($70) showed similar themes of sweet and spice as Nefarious, but with more intensity and greater depth. Black fruit and plums immediately introduced themselves to me, while tart cranberries, truffles and a captivating white pepper finish snuck up from behind and made their presence known. I preferred Notorious to Nefarious and actually thought it seemed more wicked, more sinful and more decadent with its seductively ripe fruit and sneaky yet showy spice.

One of my favorite wines of the day was the 2008 Estate Old Vine Pinot Noir ($40) with wild berries, violets, great acid, subtle minerality and a brilliant, long finish. A showstopper in my book; the wine possessed tannins substantial enough to benefit from a little age, but to enjoy a bottle now would certainly be no crime. Patricia Green’s wines are consistently lovely and, if I had generous disposable income, I probably would have been right there alongside the others loading cases into my expensive car to take home and age in the temperature-controlled cellar. But, sadly I don’t… so feeling a bit like I was on The Walk of Shame, I left the winery escorting a lonely bottle of Old Vine Pinot Noir back to my practical Jeep instead… making my own small tribute to Patricia Green and the strength it took her to walk away.

We all know breaking up is hard to do. And in the professional setting, it can be that much harder. Patty’s tumultuous relationship with Torii Mor is one example of some of the unseen and unspoken challenges of working in the “glamorous” wine industry, and how ultimately to make it work to your benefit. Wineries are often small Mom-and-Pop shops, run by very passionate people (often families) with little room and even less stability for outsiders. People can easily become commodities and are far too easily replaceable (the line goes clear around the block, believe me!). Personally and unfortunately, I’ve been witness to and victim of some very unethical treatment in this industry and it’s probably for that reason I hold Patty in even higher regard, admiring her for taking a risk, believing in herself as a winemaker and stepping out on her own—may she serve as a model to us all. As if a message from the wine goddess, I happened to notice the bumper sticker on the car next to me— “Nullum Vinum Flaccidum” —and took note (and a photo) as I reminder to look up later. I learned the expression is Latin for “No Wimpy Wines;” almost poetically appropriate, no? Here’s to strength! Until we sip again…



Bill Eyer said...

Tamara, great post! I've been a big fan of PG ever since I visited Patrica Green Cellars in 2005 and have been a buying their wines ever since.

Many of their PN's are just exceptional. I agree with you about the label of the Nefarious, it does not seem to match the name of the wine and is a departure from their old label. One of my fave PN's from PG is the Goldschmidt vineyard. If you like the PN from PG, then a trip to Bergstrom is a must!

Sip with Me! said...

Thanks Bill! I hope to try the Goldschmidt Vineyard Pinots one day. I'm in total agreement about Bergstrom whom I did visit (you can easily search my blog for that post) and found to be truly exceptional. Thanks for stopping by, don't be a stranger!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being honest in your review. Two things came to mind - I wonder if there is any infrigement with Nefarious Cellars from Lake Chelan, WA and do you ever get back-lash from the wineries? Just curious - I don't see why you should, your just providing an opinion.

It's interesting how the least expensive wine was your favorite.

Cheers Josh @nectarwine

Sip with Me! said...

Thanks for your question about Nefarious Cellars, curious, but I really don't know copyright law. As far as winery backlash is concerned, I don't get any directly. But, there are probably a number of them who aren't beating down my door to offer me jobs!

And I thought it fascinating the least expensive was my favorite too, goes to show you!

Clive said...

What is further interesting is when the least expensive is $40. Oregon Pinot, so incredible, and so incredibly expensive. Still, I love it so.

Sip with Me! said...

Yes Clive, a most excellent observation. Scary, right? It's really sad how overpriced Oregon Pinot noir can be, it makes so much of it unattainable for the average Tamara. Not just a problem for Oregon, California set the bar and Washington's not far behind. Though some of Oregon Pinot is undoubtedly worth every penny, I still believe it suffers from inflated prices… perhaps it will balance out at some point. I welcome your comments and hope you keep reading!!

6512 and growing said...

Tamara, nice pictures. I love seeing that brilliant green under the dormant vines.
FYI: The San Francisco Examiner had a story on wine bloggers in their Sunday food/wine section. Maybe you can find it online?

emily garnhart said...

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