Welcome back to our exploration of the Rogue Valley – Oregon’s undiscovered wine country. In our last article we gave a history of the Rogue Valley Wine Region and a rundown of the geography and climate. In this article we are going wine tasting in the Rogue Valley! Ok, ok…we’re not quite in the smell-vision, taste-vision future yet (seriously, weren’t we supposed to have flying cars by now?!) but we will give you two examples of how the Rogue Valley Wine Region is filled with great winemakers by sharing two of our favorites.
Join us for a miniature wine tasting in the Rogue Valley then grab a few of these two wines yourself and compare your notes to ours. After all, that’s the best way to learn about new wine styles, producers and regions!
Let’s Go! Wine Tasting in the Rogue Valley
When you think “Oregon Wine” no doubt Willamette Valley comes to mind. Willamette Valley is well known for producing world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That’s why we found it fitting to start with one of those quintessential Oregon varietals: Chardonnay. Irvine and Roberts Vineyards used to source grapes from north of the Rogue in Willamette Valley to make a Pinot Noir before focusing on their estate grapes in the Rogue Valley. This presents an interesting dichotomy for us to explore. Here we have a winery that sourced grapes from Willamette Valley before, but now makes Pinot Noir & Chardonnay with grapes grown in a completely different climate. How do they manage to produce wines of the same varietal and quality in this contrasting climate? Let’s take a look at the flavor profile of the wine we’re drinking as we start wine tasting in the Rogue Valley to understand exactly that…
Irvine and Roberts Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, Rogue Valley, OR
This Chardonnay gives off light floral aromas of citrus blossom and then slightly stronger fruit aromas of yellow apple and honeydew melon, finishing off with similar strength aromas of lemon curd, lemon tart, and butter. In the mood for a lemon curd tart anyone? Yeah, me too! You may be wondering where those last few aromas even come from. They certainly aren’t fruit, so how does this happen?
Well, the Chardonnay goes through malolactic fermentation. This is a specific type of fermentation that changes malic acid (this is the acid in foods that our brain associates with sour tastes, like green apple) to lactic acid (this is the acid in food that our brain associates with creamier textures and flavors, like milk). So, after alcoholic fermentation winemakers may choose to put wine through malolactic fermentation. This Chardonnay underwent malolactic fermentation which will often produce the aromas I listed above as lemon curd, lemon tart, and butter.
The flavors of the wine just about match the aromas but with the added flavor of ginger spice. The tingling sensation of ginger spice. This wine has great acidity, it makes your mouth water. It also has a very ‘rounded palate’, meaning that although it may start like biting into an apple tastes, it ends like taking a spoonful of whipped cream. This is also due to….you guessed it…the malolactic fermentation.
Is your mouth watering yet? If so, go ahead and grab a bottle of this Chardonnay to enjoy and assess yourself. Ready to continue our wine tasting of the Rogue Valley?
Rogue Valley Red Wine Time!
One of things we mentioned in our last article on the Rogue Valley Wine Region that makes it so special is that it is open to a much hotter and drier climate than that of the Willamette. This allows winemakers from the Rogue to grow grapes that just can’t ripen fully in Willamette Valley’s cool climate. So you Napa wine lovers out there? Wine tasting in the Rogue Valley might be a bit more your jam than Willamette Valley given some of the wine styles you’re more likely to find here. And it’s usually better weather for sitting in those Adirondack chairs to soak up some sun while you sip.
Edenvale Winery 2008 Syrah, Rogue Valley, OR
This next wine is a prime example of how the Rogue Valley can produce some of the best full bodied wines available. What’s more? Look at the year on this wine. Just passing 10 years from harvest date, wines of this quality and age are hard to find without spending a pretty penny. A cursory look at Edenvale Winery’s lineup of wines will show you one very important thing: They like to age the wines for you before they release them to drink. This is fantastic because it offers us the opportunity to see what aging does to a wine. So let’s jump in!
First, this wine is cloudy and thick in appearance. The winemaker in this case did minimum filtration. Also aging often produces long strings of sediment in the wine. The aromas of the wine are impressive and robust. Strong aromas of cooked blueberry and plum preserves followed by raisin. All of these aromas are what you would expect from a full bodied wine that has gone through aging. Over time the fruit aromas turn from fresh fruit to cooked fruit to dried fruit to almost non existent upon further aging.
The beauty of this wine comes after the fruit aromas. Here, we are presented with lighter aromas of sage, eucalyptus, allspice, and even peppercorn, smoke, and leather. The latter two aromas (smoke and leather) are also products of aging. Fresh savory aromas will give way to more aged aromas over time (think smoked meat vs. cured meat), the extreme of this being the leather aroma. As you can see, we have an incredibly layered wine on our hands.
The flavors of the wine deliver as well. Strong and bold but with fresher fruit flavors, as opposed to aged fruit flavors. Instead of cooked blueberry and plum sauce, the flavor is ripe, fresh blueberry and plum. The apparent contradiction between the age of the aromas and the age of the flavors can happen in a wine that is just about to go over its peak and become fully developed. The wine is still good after that, but can soon become over aged and flat. Following fruit, the flavors in this wine are layered with licorice, pepper, sage, espresso, and cured meats. Immensely savory and with a long finish, the wine tastes like a meal in itself! It is so satisfying to drink. Grab a bottle…at under $40 it’s a steal and we’d love to hear what you think!
Wine Tasting in the Rogue Valley: So Much To Offer
While we only tasted through two wines today, very few wine regions have the ability to boast such a wide range of wines. We chose Chardonnay and Syrah as prime examples of this. Rarely do you find these two varietals in the same region. A quick look back at the first Rogue Valley Wine Region article and you’ll find even more examples of how diverse a wine region it is. As we’ve indicated, both of the wines listed above can be purchased and shipped to most states from the wineries themselves.
If you like what you taste, don’t be shy…these two wineries alone have so many varietals to explore, and often at a more reasonable price than similar quality Californian wines. Go wine tasting in the Rogue Valley from the comfort of home until you can plan a trip. Especially before the wine snobs find it and ruin it for everyone. I kid, I kid! Kind of…there is something to be said about a relatively undiscovered region of such craft and we love spreading the news to Tippler Nation and other true craft enthusiasts as often as we can!
Have you tried these wines or others from the Rogue Valley? We’d love to hear your thoughts and favorites in the comments below…