breaking news from archery summit

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oregon’s Archery Summit is announcing a new General Manager/Winemaker, Christopher Mazepink, who has previously worked at Lemelson, Shea Wine Cellars, and Benton Lane. He replaces long-term winemaker Anna Matzinger, who has been with the winery since 1999.

One can’t help but wonder at the full story behind such changes, whenever and wherever they occur. What prompts them? In some situations, it is just time for both winemaker and winery to move on. In others there are creative differences. And sometimes, no matter how good the wines and how high the scores, sales are not keeping up, and the owners decide a change is needed.

I am speaking generally here, and not speculating on the particulars at Archery Summit. The reality I do know is that, as far as my most recent tasting notes show, the Archery Summit wines I last reviewed (in 2011) generated very positive scores and notes for virtually the entire lineup. All these reviews are available for free on the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide.

Archery Summit is well-located in a prime part of the Willamette Valley, and is best known for its vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. But I recall that I was particularly excited about the Archery Summit 2010 AB OVO Pinot Gris, of which only about 87 cases were produced. I gave it 94 points, named it an Editors’ Choice, and wrote that “This very limited, fermented in a concrete egg, and thoroughly splendid Pinot Gris is a good indication of the potential for PG in Oregon – if the price limitations are lifted [I believe it carried a $42 price tag, which may be an all-time record for Oregon]. Stunningly rich with citrus, lemon curd, ripe apple and light tropical fruits, this concentrated, deeply driven wine is both roundly full and amazingly dense. Certainly the best Oregon Pinot Gris in memory.”

I mention this again because Mazepink’s focus, according to the press release, will be on “expanding the winery’s impressive Pinot Noir program... as well as raising the profile of the winery’s Pinot Gris production.” I take this to be very good news. He is also quoted as saying “I firmly believe that the best wines in Oregon are made from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. With Archery Summit’s six estate vineyards planted in these regions, we have all the ingredients to build upon the winery’s past successes.”

No argument from me.

I had some further questions for Erle Martin, CEO of the Crimson Wine Group. He was kind enough to reply quickly despite both of us having impossible schedules. Here are my questions and his replies:

1) Will there be any stylistic changes to the wines as a result of a new winemaker/GM?
Archery Summit wines are known for reflecting the unique terroir from which they come and we believe that the vineyards and farming are key factors in crafting exceptional Pinot Noir. While Chris will respect the continuity and quality that Archery Summit is known for, we expect him to make a personal contribution to the style and quality, which will evolve over time.

2) How will the Pinot lineup expand? Why the focus on Pinot Gris?
This July, Archery Summit is excited to introduce a new single vineyard estate Pinot Noir – Archer’s Edge Vineyard. Retailing for $85, this limited-production wine club-only bottling will mark the sixth single vineyard estate offering in the portfolio.

As Pinot Gris is a classic companion varietal in Oregon, we wanted to explore the opportunity to produce a nationally-distributed Pinot Gris, having previously only offered a limited production bottling for our wine club members. Our winemaking and viticulture teams have found this wine to be a good challenge, stretching our experience, and is a nice complement to our existing portfolio. Our upcoming Pinot Gris release is a class cool-climate expression of this varietal sourced from a small collection of prime Willamette Valley vineyards.

3) Was it Anna's decision to leave at this point, and if so, why?
In her more than a decade of service at ASW Anna’s work stands unparalleled and we are so proud of everything she has accomplished. Anna decided to leave her full-time position at Archery Summit in order to focus her energy and efforts on Matzinger Davies Wine Co., the wine label she owns with her husband Michael Davies. Anna will continue to consult with Archery Summit through the end of 2013.

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