adelsheim shines

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recent releases from Adelsheim wrapped up my month-long tastings of Oregon wines, and there couldn’t have been a prettier ribbon put on the package. The two chardonnays presented a compelling case for Oregon – not California, and not Washington – as the west coast capital for truly Burgundian chards. The four pinots left me grabbing the bottles for second and third tastes – I finally threw in the towel and stopped spitting.

Adelsheim’s Willamette Valley chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir are well-made, moderately priced wines, as are the Ribbon Ridge vineyard auxerrois and Chehalem Mountains pinot blanc. But in this tasting, the focus was on the more expensive, limited production efforts. These are not cheap wines, but from a strictly critical point of view, and looking only at the quality in the bottles, and the cost of comparable wines from Burgundy, never mind pricey chards and pinots from California and elsewhere in the New World, these Adelsheim wines stand head and shoulders above the competition. I give these all very high scores, 91 – 96 points across the lineup.

Adelsheim 2007 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay ($40) is stylish and deep, its plump green and yellow fruits buttressed with sweet spice and toasted hazelnut flavors from barrel fermentation. It’s round and full and seductive.

Even better is the Adelsheim 2007 Stoller Vineyards Chardonnay ($58) – just 36 cases made. Clearly Burgundian in style, in all the best ways, it is steely, structured, a bit stiff even, but laced with impressive minerality, and the tightly etched fruit flavors could pass for Chablis.

Adelsheim 2007 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir ($48) was first introduced in 1986, a blend of best barrels from best lots. Eight vineyards contributed in 2007, from three different AVAs. Nicely blended into a seamless whole by winemaker Dave Paige, it opens with smoke, red licorice, and plump red and black fruits, rounding into forward, fruit-driven flavors. It’s persistent, with ripe, polished tannins and some cinnamon spice – very sophisticated winemaking.

There are three vineyard designates. The Adelsheim 2007 Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir ($68), from the Chehalem Mountains AVA, has a peppery note, sharp spices, firm tannins, and tart, chewy, acidic red fruits. It is vertically structured, and will probably need more years in bottle to open horizontally. It is also the highest in alcohol, at 14.5%.

The Adelsheim 2007 Boulder Bluff Vineyard Pinot Noir ($58), also from Chehalem Mountains fruit, is the first vineyard-designate for this vineyard. The wine has pinpoint focus, bright fruit, natural layering of spice, fruit and herb, and a punchy, briny spine that seems to gather force and go on forever. If a wine can ever be called salty, this is the wine.

Last and best is the Adelsheim 2007 Winderlea Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75) from the Dundee Hills. Formerly the Goldschmidt vineyard, it’s a magical site, and in my opinion one of the greatest Oregon Pinot vineyards. The wine has the majestic plumpness of grand cru Burgundy, with potent cherry fruit, laced with sweet spices, that seems to expand through a generous mid-palate and keep on keeping on as long as you are paying attention. Glorious.

I’m not certain if the vintage or the winemaker (or both) kept alcohol levels in check, but the wines are almost all in the low to mid-13% range, and that gives them the structure that bigger, riper wines simply cannot retain. And notice that these are from the 2007 vintage, a vintage that really required some kind of voodoo to manage. Some really mediocre wines were made in that year, but these are the best Adelsheims I can ever recall, and there have been some really good ones. This is the problem with “rating” vintages. It’s meaningless at the producer level. Somebody makes brilliant wine in every vintage. In 2007, it was Adelsheim Vineyards.

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