Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What a difference a year makes. Though I have known Myron Redford, and written about his wines, for more than 25 years, it was with some regret and dismay that I found myself struggling to appreciate Amity wines in some recent vintages. Though Myron has been growing grapes in Oregon since 1974, and producing wines at Amity since 1976, his wines seemed to miss the mark with uncomfortable frequency.

But after tasting through some of the current Amity releases, I am delighted to find that every bottle is crisp, fresh, fine-tuned, expressive, and true to Redford’s long-held goal of making wines that are modest in scale, and suited for mealtime. I can only guess that much credit goes to Darcy Pendergrass, who began working at Amity in 2001, and was named winemaker in 2007 (in partnership with Redford, who is presumably focusing more on marketing and being the face of the brand).

Granted, these five wines are just a sampling of the winery’s 17 or 18 different SKUs, but they include some of Amity’s most important offerings. The Amity 2007 Dry Gewurztraminer is a welcome return to form, after a very disappointing 2006. Exceptionally concentrated, unctuous, even oily, and revealing the floral/spicy character of the grape in all its glory, this complex wine just keeps on going. Jasmine, lemon polish, citrus and more flesh out the flavors, yet the moderate alcohol – 13.5% – and dry style keep it perfect for a range of foods, especially Thai.

The Amity 2007 Pinot Blanc also trumps the 2006, where both bottles I tasted were badly corked. I wish Amity would join the scores of Oregon wineries using screwcap closures for their white wines, but the new releases were all sound, and the pinot blanc, which Redford famously proposed years ago as a far better option than (pre-Dijon clone) chardonnay, mixed honeycomb highlights with juicy fruit flavors of yellow apple and Asian pear. Dry, with good grip, it’s another wine to add to the trio of outstanding pinot blancs profiled on this blog last week.

Amity Vineyards 2007 Riesling comes in at just 11% alcohol, yet feels vividly dry in the mouth. It’s less floral than many rieslings, but brings dried herb, paper, dried apple and other fruits in a range of flavors with plenty of dry extract and concentration. This will be a very fine autumn/Thanksgiving wine.

A pair of 2007 single-vineyard pinot noirs – from Crannell and Sunnyside – both out-perform their 2006 siblings. The Crannell is done in a high acid, low alcohol style with a range of rhubarb, citrus, crabapple, cinnamon spice and milk chocolate flavors that add elegant complexity to what might have been a rather simple, less than optimally ripe wine. The Sunnyside, my favorite by a slim margin, offers a very pretty nose of rose petals and cherries, then dives into a surprisingly substantial, even chewy mid-palate with nuances of earth, leaf and lots more of that rhubarb/pie cherry fruit.

None of these wines showed the sweaty, excessively stemmy character that I have found in some Amity wines in the past; all were very polished, nicely reflective of the vintage, and fine ambassadors for the house style. The pinots, I noticed, have also come down substantially in price, from $40 to $30.

1 comment:

JHD said...

I have struggled with Myron's wines for years. Sometimes delightful, they have often been disappointing. I met him in '87, and thought he was a talented and gracious host. Somewhere along the way however, his wines started to wander. While he has hit some high notes, I have often wondered what he was doing. He served a searingly acidic/dry Riesling to me at that first meeting, and I questioned the lack of fruit. He indicated that he made it that way because he loved raw oysters, and wanted to serve them with something other than Chardonnay. Would the wine match with the food? I don't know. You have to admire his chutzpa; making wines that satisfies his vision, regardless of the marketplace. I am glad to hear he is doing well.

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