Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Drink(s) of the Week: The Renegade Wines of Indie Wine Fest

As a self-professed wine obsessive, I had been looking forward to the Indie Wine Festival for months: Nowhere else can you taste through Oregon’s best small-production wines in one place (and in one day). And last Saturday, the event proved to be better than ever, with 40 wineries pouring 64 different wines. Wine enthuusiasts packed the Portland Wine Project’s 10,000-square-foot winery and warehouse to taste expertly crafted, artisan wines all hand-selected by a panel of industry pros and wines experts.

Over the past three decades, Oregon has made its indelible mark on the wine world by producing first-class Pinot Noirs, and as to be expected, this year’s festival Pinots were fantastic: delicate and floral with soft yet vibrant fruit. Standouts included the 2007 McMinnville Pinot Noir from Kelley Fox and the 2007 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir from 1789 Wines. But this year’s Indie Fest showed that Oregon is quickly becoming a serious contender in a number of different styles, varietals and blends.

Ribbon Ridge Vineyards Dewey Kelly Early Muscat 2006, $20/375 ml
Fortified with a Muscat Grappa from House Spirits Distillery, this aperitif’s inviting nose of orange blossoms and honeysuckle gives way to flavors of apricots and peaches with just a hint of minerality. Low residual sugar (3.5 percent) makes this wine perfect with shrimp skewers or grilled scallops.

Boedecker Cellars Rogue Valley Grenache 2007, $22
After working this past harvest with Stewart Boedecker and Athena Pappas, the husband-and-wife team behind Boedecker Cellars, I was excited to taste their organically farmed, single-vineyard Grenache. Fruit-forward and spicy (imagine ripe raspberries flecked with white pepper), with herbaceous undertones of basil and spearmint, this Southern Oregon-grown Grenache makes a great match to lamb burgers.

Zenas Wines Meritage 2006, $33
This Bordeaux-style blend of 60 percent Cabernet Franc and 40 percent Merlot is one serious wine. Aged for 15 months in both new and neutral French oak, look for flavors of dark berries laced with a touch of tobacco, and lots of vanilla and caramel on the finish. Perfect with grilled strip steak.

Gino Cuneo Cellars Columbia Valley Tre Nova Secopassa 2006, $40
Perhaps the most intriguing wine of the festival, this Italian-varietal blend of 50 percent Barbera and 50 percent Sangiovese is made in the passito method, a labor-intensive approach in which the wine grapes are first laid on racks and allowed to partially dry out before fermentation. Highly concentrated and intensely dark, this Amarone-like wine is a powerful one with rich, raisiny flavors on the palate and a finish of dark chocolate. Try it with soft, pungent cheeses or with a piece of bitter dark chocolate.

—Tracy Howard