The first day of Spring brought with it cornflower blue skies and temperatures pushing 70 degrees… not exactly Portland weather, but welcome like a long lost friend. I arrived at Solena Grand Cru Estate Winery eager to taste their vertical of Cabernets (vintages 2003-2006). I’d previously tasted at Solena’s downtown Carlton location, but since then, they’ve opened their brand new estate winery, located on 80 acres in Yamhill, Oregon. The desire to visit their new location, a special tasting of Cabernets in the vast land of Pinot noir and getting out to enjoy the amazing weather made for an irresistible tri-fecta.
Emily Stoller-Smith (wife of Dundee Bistro Executive Chef extraoridinaire Jason Stoller-Smith) had an unexpectedly large turn-out for their Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting, but she handled it with grace, wit and style when she asked if any guests had their OLCC card and invited them behind the counter to pour. I felt inclined to do so… for a fleeting moment. Then I remembered I already work for nothing (except the pleasure writing my blog and hope that I’m entertaining my readers) and decided one unpaid job was quite enough.
Emily started off my tasting with a 2008 Pinot Gris. I took my glass outside to the peaceful deck overlooking the young vines and solar panels because nothing invites a glass of good white wine like the warmth of the sun’s rays. The day was a perfect pairing with my wine, which was almost equally perfect. The Pinot Gris was bone dry with intense aromatics of Asian pear, white flowers, starfruit and a delightful minerality, which added both body and character. I sat alone on the deck, tasting my wine while quietly absorbing my surroundings. To be completely honest, all I really wanted to do was buy a bottle, grab my sweetie and hold up with a picnic and some witty conversation while we lied in each other's arms soaking up the dreamy sunshine.
I returned to the company of the bar to start my Cabernet tasting and was slightly disappointed when one glass of 2003 was set out before me. I know it’s an obscene amount of glassware, but if you’re going to offer a tasting of four consecutive vintages, you should be able to revisit the wines for comparison of color, clarity, viscosity, and taste them all side by side; just my opinion. Here’s my impression of the wine (which by the way were being offered for sale as a collection for less than $100—screaming deal):
2003 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — A sweet and fragrant nose of blackberries, root beer, violets, tobacco and mint. The distinctive peppery finish was long and smooth. Well structured with a nice, dark garnet color and medium-heavy weight viscosity.
2004 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — Same black fruit core and same white peppery finish as the 2003, with firmer tannins, a big bite of dusty earth, licorice and savory cured meat.
2005 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — My favorite of the line-up, and probably because it was the most Pinot-like. It was silky and well balanced with a full nose of blackberry, mocha, violet and licorice that carried through on in the palate. I thought this wine was so good I even brought a bottle to take to dinner at my friend Todd's (who's also a fellow blogger and Pinot connoisseur). I hope it's as good as I remember!
2006 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — Still young tasting and very fruit-forward, thrusting wild raspberries in your face (compared with the black fruit core of the three prior vintages). The nose was soft, the tannins light and I just didn’t see a whole lot of complexity in this wine.
I was slightly amused when I sat down to take some notes and glanced at the guestbook next to me; the first name was Kevin Bacon with his email address, followed by George Clooney, of course. I think someone had a little too much Cabernet that day.
Witnessing me take notes with an old-fashioned pen and notepad, a conversation with a guest ensued about his helpful iPhone application for tasting notes. The world continues to get more high-tech and I struggle to keep up, yet I rest assured knowing there will at least never be an app for making wine. That’s one thing that will thankfully remain a form of art—an individual, beautiful and creative expression of fruit. Until we sip again…