Monday, May 10, 2010

Hawks, Eagles and Exceptional Wines

What does it mean when you’re driving and you see three separate coyote roadkill carcasses? My first thought was to call my friend Rachel and ask her if she’s ever tried coyote for dinner. My next and almost simultaneous thought was, “Oh shit, it’s a Three-Coyote-Roadkill Day, that can’t be good. I should probably just turn around and head back home right now!”

Sometimes, while out touring the countryside, often lost but looking for a specific off-the-beaten-path winery, I make a game out of spotting hawks. It goes back to living in the mountains in Colorado where my main source of entertainment on long daily drives to town was catching glimpses of those magnificent birds of prey who made their presence known only when their empty bellies forced them to find the quickest and easiest meal around—carrion (kind of like fast food for animals). That gift (the sight of these impressive birds) while beautiful in and of itself, always seemed to serve a greater purpose, feeling much like an omen, a prophecy of what the day held in store for me. If it was a One Hawk Day, it would probably be a good day, Two Hawk Day—even better. A Bald Eagle Day? Well, who knew what could happen—and so on and so on.

So when I passed not one, not two, but three separate (and fresh) coyote roadkill incidents in the span of 10 miles or so (without seeing a single hawk), I naturally wondered what kind of bad sign this could be. Thoughts of spiritual warnings were flitting like spring birds in and out of my head as I pulled into Kramer Vineyards, where instead of spotting hawks or eagles, I turned my head and saw the familiar twists of my friend Fred Gunton’s handlebar mustache instead and knew all would be just fine.

Kramer Vineyards, located just outside Gaston, was founded by Trudy and Keith Kramer in 1983 after some earlier experimentation with berry wines. On their 20-acre parcel, they’re growing Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Riesling, Muller Thurgau, Carmine and Muscat with four acres scheduled to plant to Petite Munier and Gruner Veltliner.

When you arrive at Kramer, expect to be greeted by either or both of the resident labs, Cassie and Kosmo, and rest assured, they’ll keep you company while you linger on the delightful deck savoring the estate-driven wines. There’s a lovely wine barrel fountain (with fish), which serves a dual purpose, both providing guests with a little ambiance and also being the town’s largest dog bowl.

Kim Kramer-Kreiger, one of the winemakers, was pouring a selection of 2005 and 2006 vintage wines in their Reserve tasting lineup that were quite memorable. The 2005 Pinot Noir Heritage was a deep red color with a strong nose of red fruit (cherries, plums, raspberries) and a pleasing perfume of roses and a hint of vanilla. This wine opened up slowly, then revealed cherries, strawberries, cola and attention getting spice that’ll keep you coming back for more and make you wish you had a case.

Kramer Vineyards also produces a fantastic Merlot with from grapes from Walla Walla, Washington. The 2007 Merlot was rich and lush in my mouth, layered and complex showing pretty blackberry and plum fruit flavors on top of coffee, chocolate and a seductive finish of clove that’s spicy and sweet at the same time. I wasn’t crazy about their whites, didn’t try the Rosé, but the reds give anyone good reason to visit.

Still not knowing what message those coyote’s were trying to send me, I left Kramer feeling a bit mystical, wondering if there was a story there I’m supposed to tell. I often look to the universe for signs about which direction I should take at a certain crossroad, so I wondered. Am I at a crossroad? Is this a sign that’s meant to detour me? I realize now, in reflection, that I haven’t visited many wineries since this day… perhaps I took that detour after all. I’m a bit unsure of where I am, but I'm pretty sure it’s exactly where I need to be and with hope, my next day will be full of hawks, eagles and exceptional wines! Until we sip again…


Fred Gunton of Entertaining Wine Tours provides amazing personalized and customized tours of the Willamette Valley’s small boutique wineries, large estates and hidden gems. Give him a call to arrange your unique wine country visit today, you’ll be glad you did.


Brian said...

Thanks for the beautiful imagery. My head is most certainly going to be in the clouds today. You paint an amazing picture with every post.

Oh and that Merlot sounded awesome!


Sip with Me! said...

Hey Brian, thanks for the kind words and for coming back!! I was afraid I lost everyone with my Mother's Day post. :)

Josh Wade said...

What are the odds you'd see 3 coyote roadkill in the same trip. I guess it means they must be hungry and are coming out of the hills.

The seductive Merlot sounds right up my alley.


Sip with Me! said...

Josh: I know, right? It was actually very sad, they're such beautiful and misunderstood creatures—and of course hungry, it's spring and there's pups to bear and feed.

Leave it to Washington's Walla Walla fruit to win my heart in the land of Pinot. A little secret—it's happening more often than I'd care to admit. Shhhhhhhh!

Matthew mmwine Horbund said...

Great post, thanks.I'm curious what about the whites you didnt like. Of course, you cant like every wine from every winery, but I'm just wondering what wasnt pleasing your palate.

I'll actually be in OR in a week visiting the folks from Dr Loosen Wines and J Christopher. I cant wait!


Sip with Me! said...

Just thought they were a little flabby and overworked. Many Oregon wineries make whites that'll make your head spin, Kramer's just didn't do that for me. Their reds on the other hand…

Glad to hear you're making a visit this way, J. Christopher is a wonderful winemaker, I especially liked a wine he made for Bella Vida's winemaker series. Hope you enjoy every minute of your stay!!

Kim Kramer said...

In defense of our white wines, I would like to add a couple of points of clarification. The wines I poured during Tamara’s visit were the 2006 Chardonnays and the 2007 Pinot Gris and Müller-Thurgau. These wines are lower in acid than wines we’ve produced from other vintages, but for very different reasons. The ’06 Chards were from a warmer vintage, and wines produced in warm vintages tend to have lower acidity. In ’07, rain late in the season diluted the acids. Then, we had difficulty getting the Pinot Gris and the Müller-Thurgau (a relatively low acid varietal to begin with) to go dry, resulting in higher residual sugar than usual. The sugar further diminished the perception of acidity in these wines. Instead of manipulating the acid or forcing the wines to go dry, we left the wines alone, showing the characteristics of the vintage. Folks who like fruity whites with soft acidity love these wines. However, if you like crisp whites with bright, lively acidity, our ’07 Chardonnays and all our ’08 whites will be more your style.

Sip with Me! said...

Kim, Thanks for adding a winemaker's perspective with your thoughtful response. I love your winery and I think you're starting to really find your style. I look forward to tasting future vintages and hope everyone can make it out there to see what you guys are doing!