Monday, December 21, 2009

Auxerrois seems to be a grape that only a true geek can name, let alone love. A bit of auxerrois is made up in British Columbia, and there are a couple of wineries in Michigan that are also trying the grape. But I don’t know of any other domestic versions other than Adelsheim.

Along with Ponzi’s arneis, Abacela’s albariño, and a couple of gruner veltliners, Adelsheim’s auxerrois is as rare as it gets for a varietal white wine in the Northwest.

Cellartracker reviews the last few vintages. The 2007 gets three notes, averaging 86 points, and agreeing it’s pleasant, straightforward, “a nice crisp wine.” THe 2006 has five notes, no scores, but pretty positive descriptors: “flowers and minerals,” “green apple and pear,” “lemons, straw and vanilla on the nose, flowers, lemon pie, lime zest and spice notes.” Notes on the 2005 are less enthusiastic. Two people rated it 87, one gave it an 85, and a fourth found it “quite boring” and handed it a 75. The single review of the 2004 gives it an 84, but carries a very nice description, noting its “soft nose of pear and orange blossom... ripe pear and hints of grapefruit and melon.”

On the Adelsheim website the history of this unusual wine is detailed:

“When two clones of auxerrois (ohk-sair-wah) arrived in Oregon from Alsace in 1977, we had barely heard of the variety. Still, after tasting some experimental wines made at Oregon State University, our interest was piqued. It turns out that auxerrois, like chardonnay, aligoté, gamay, and 10 other varieties, is a medieval cross between the noble pinot noir grape of Burgundy and an ignoble variety, gouais blanc. Auxerrois is the name of the duchy around the town of Auxerre, near Chablis, but the variety is not grown there now. In fact, there are probably only 500 acres of the variety worldwide. It is only a major variety in Luxembourg, where its early ripening is a real plus. It is considered a second-class citizen in Alsace, used somewhat interchangeably with pinot blanc, but the occasional bottlings of this variety alone have remarkable purity.

“Starting in the mid-1980’s, we planted the variety sequentially at three different vineyard sites. Wines made from the first two plantings never gave us reason to bottle them on their own. However, our third planting, at our Ribbon Springs vineyard, coincided with our increased understanding of how to grow and produce white wines in our region (specifically by avoiding drought stress in the vineyard and bitterness in our winemaking regime.) The Ribbon Springs block, just 1.65 acres, was planted in 1990. The 2003 vintage was the first significant crop.

“The techniques to produce our auxerrois mirror those of almost all our other white wines. The juice is gently pressed, it settles for one day, then is pumped into stainless steel tanks and 5% goes into an older barrel. Malolactic fermentation is prevented in order to retain as much of the gorgeous fresh fruit aromas as possible. The wine sits on lees (dead yeast cells) to gain more complexity and depth in flavor. When auxerrois grapes become fully ripe, the resulting wine takes on aromas of quince, Asian pear and honey. A subtle minerality is present, followed up by great structure and backbone. It would pair beautifully with shellfish, salmon or a triple cream cheese.”

PG: I really love this wine, for its elegance, purity, uniqueness and bracing acidity. Neither simple nor one-dimensional, it is the sort of unoaked, mineral-soaked white wine that consumers seem to be turning to more and more these days. Personally, I think the Cellartracker scores are too low; they seem to penalize the wine for being light, rather than applauding it for its food friendly attributes. But scoring aside, if you are in the mood for something new from Oregon, this is a great wine to try. The online price is $22.


Jeff Miller said...

Sounds great Paul. Thanks for the heads up - I'm looking forward to trying it!

Chris said...

My wife and I tried Adelsheim's Auxerrois down at the winery where they paired it with a trout mousse on an apple slice. It was a great pairing and we have since served the same pairing at a couple of dinner parties to rave reviews.

RayJ said...

The 08 Pinot Blanc from them is very nice as well. And the regular Chardonnay, mostly stainless with a little neutral oak for mouthfeel, is a great value every year.

Kevin said...

I haven't tried the Adelsheim version of Auxerrois, but I have actually tried a number of the ones from Michigan. Bel Lago Winery near Traverse City probably makes the best one in the state. It is hard to come by though, available only in Michigan.

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