thistle wines

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Nothing warms the cold cruel heart of a wine reviewer more than making an unexpected discovery. Out of the hundreds of wines that arrive unheralded into my locker, hoping to be tasted, favorably reviewed, and written about, once in a blue moon something leaps out and really rings my bell.

I am the designated Wine Enthusiast reviewer for both Washington and Oregon. The wines and wineries of those two states are always on my priority tasting list. And this month, Oregon wines have been in the spotlight.

In the course of tasting through new releases from dozens of familiar wineries, a new one appeared. Thistle. Hmmm.... unusual name. Lovely label design. Good AVA – Dundee Hills. Estate-grown. That’s all I knew when I pulled the corks on the 2008 Thistle Pinot Blanc, 2007 Thistle Chardonnay, and 2006 Thistle Pinot Noir.

Wow! These wines really knock it out of the park for me. The pinot blanc – huge amounts of dry extract, grapefruit, pineapple and citrus rind. Sharp and penetrating, with a hint of toasted hazelnuts. The chardonnay – clean and bracing with tangerine, Meyer lemon, lime, green apple and tonic. Very long and very fresh. The pinot noir – great purity of fruit, tremendous focus and concentration; strawberry and cherry flavors set in a perfectly balanced, moderately alcoholic wine with lovely details of baking spice, cola and cocoa.

Prices are well below peer group pricing. $15, $18 and $24 respectively. These wines score like wines costing double those prices. Sold only through the winery mailing list or at a few local (Oregon) outlets, I suggest you snap ‘em up if you can, and let the owners know you read about Thistle on this blog.

The website is short on info but long on humor. Jon and Laura Jennison are the owners. They describe themselves this way:

“Jon Jennison is the winemaker, tractor driver, sales guy, etc, etc. Jon was a banker in a prior life. He caught the bug from a phenomenal glass of you know what. This whole thing is his fault. Laura Jennison is a CPA who takes care of our accounting, compliance and marketing in her "spare" time. In other words, she has all the jobs Jon doesn't want. Alex and Drew Jennison are twins. They are teenagers. Need we say more?”

As for the wines (the lineup includes a bit of pinot gris as well), the Jennisons note that “Although our particular madness is pinot noir, we also make small lots of chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot blanc to keep life ever more interesting. Future production will be kept intentionally small so that we can dedicate our time and attention to growing grapes, making wine and enjoying life rather than managing employees.”

In answer to my further query, Jon Jennison explains that “the 2007 pinot will probably be released next spring. We have been primarily self-distributed in the past and recent economic conditions have led to a bit of a back up in inventory.”

Hard to believe wines this good, priced this well, and made in such small case quantities can be backed up in inventory. But I would urge you to help them out with that little problem. These are seriously good wines.


@nectarwine said...

Paul - I love it when I have unexpected surprises too. While my palate is not nearly in demand as yours, I truly appreciate your insight. I'm contacting these guys right away to see if I can purchase some for Christmas. Do you post your specific tasting notes somewhere or is that reserved for Wine Enthusiast only?

Josh @nectarwine (twitter)

Ray said...

Paul, did you try any of the library wines on their web site? They list a 03, 04 and 05 PN as well.

PaulG said...

This is the first time I've had wines submitted by Thistle, and quite honestly, I'd never heard of them before. I hope to visit them when I swing thru OR early next year. As for specific tasting notes - I have put up relevant flavor notes on this blog, but scores will run in W/E. They will be very good scores.

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