Scott Fisher

Scott Fisher

About Scott Fisher

French Wine Scholar living in the Pacific Northwest. From the Burgundian grapes of the Willamette Valley to the Rhone and Bordelais varietals of eastern Washington, we have a great selection of wines, climates, and terroirs. And in the company of my wife Julie, a French-trained chef and recipe developer, I'm exploring the wine and food of this wonderful region. Follow us here, and on Facebook as Bella Culinary Adventures!

Marshall Davis Winery: Great Value in Northwest Wines

Marshall Davis Winery is a family-run winery — the silhouettes on the label represent Sean Davis, Ryan Marshall, and Matt Marshall, the three brothers responsible for creating wines sourced from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and from eastern Washington. We’ve been fans of their accessible, fruit-forward wines since they began pouring in 2013, from the family’s other business, The Horse Radish cafe in Carlton. Each vintage has gained in finesse while retaining the winery’s characteristic freshness and approachability, as well as the refreshing price point, with several wines under $25 a bottle, a rarity among Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.

Marshall Davis recently moved from the wine bar at the rear of the Horse Radish to a lovely, bright spot a few doors down on Main Street in Carlton, one of our favorite wine-country towns. They share the space with an art gallery featuring work by local artists. With vintage brick down one side and a smooth white wall on the other, the tasting room is a wonderful place to be inspired by artworks, or just to sit and sip from the Marshall Davis list of wines.

Marshall Davis sources their grapes from two locations: the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, including their Beacon Hill estate vineyard, and the Seven Hills Vineyard in Washington’s Walla Walla AVA. Oregon provides Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while Washington provides Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Chardonnay represents classic Oregon brightness, with only a portion of the wine going through malolactic fermentation; this results in bright, tart green-apple aromas and vibrant acidity, excellent for spicy foods with a high fat content. (Try it with the Italian sandwich at the Horse Radish, where the hot Italian charcuterie is the perfect foil for this crisp, tangy chardonnay.)

Their first rose of Pinot Noir ($23), produced from the 2017 vintage, is already sold out but that’s just an inducement to keep in touch for next year. With only 3 to 4 months of barrel age, this whole-cluster fermented rose carries the typical cherry aromas of pinot noir, but with additional florality and just a hint of residual sweetness. As with so many roses, this one pairs best with a sunny day and good friends.

Their reds, though, are what drew us in and keep us coming back. At $23, their 2016 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir would be an excellent house wine. But even their higher-priced offerings rarely break the mid-$30 price point, remarkable for an Oregon Pinot Noir of such flavor and finesse. And for those who love wines made from southern French varietals, their Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah is beautifully intense, expressive, and lush, with the classic Syrah character of blueberries and pepper over beautifully managed, firm tannins. We’d serve this with a green-peppercorn steak, and then sip the last glass while lingering by a fire pit.

Their wine club offers three levels of participation, all with two shipments (spring and fall). At an estimated $90 per shipment, the Sampler Series comes with a 10% discount on purchase in the tasting room, three bottles per shipment, and an invitation to all events. Estate Series members pay about $170 per shipment and enjoy a 15% discount, 6 bottles per shipment, first access to limited releases and complimentary tastings for the member and up to two guests. The Reserve Series (about $300 per shipment) boasts a 25% discount on purchases, 12 bottles per shipment, an exclusive invitation to the annual Winemaker Dinner, a 1-% discount at The Horse Radish, and complimentary tastings for you and up to 4 guests.

Marshall Davis Winery

125 W. Main Street

Carlton, Oregon 97111

http://marshalldaviswine.com

 

David Hill Vineyards: Old Vines, Beautiful Wines

David Hill Vineyards & Winery is located along a few miles of twisty gravel road near the extreme northern edge of the Willamette Valley, just outside Hillsboro. Don’t let the crunch of gravel and the rising plume of rock dust put you off: at the end of the trail waits a beautifully restored 1883 farmhouse, surrounded by 40 acres of grape vines dating back to the 1960s, when founder Charles Coury was among the first wave of winemakers discovering Oregon’s climate and terroirs.

Visitors to the tasting room have a choice of the Estate Tasting ($10), which includes five wines produced from estate-grown vines, or the Old Vines Tasting ($14), which offers seven wines from some of the oldest vines on the property, including Gewurztraminer ($20, also available on the Estate tasting) made from vines planted in 1965, and now covered with moss as a sign of their age.That wine is produced in a completely dry style, more like an Italian Gewurztraminer than the more typical German (or Californian) style. It’s tart and very refreshing, but with the varietal’s classic spicy notes on the palate. The creamy aroma carries hints of tropical fruit, with lychee, papaya, and banana candy on the nose leading to a puckery grapefruit finish on the palate. We can’t wait to pair this with maultaschen, a Bavarian dish that combines filled pasta with sauerkraut and layers of melted Gruyere.

The Estate tasting is almost a misnomer, as the five wines highlight the older vines as well; in addition to the Gewurztraminer, this flight offers their 2017 Pinot Gris and 2016 Chardonnay ($20 each). The ‘16 Estate Chardonnay is 100% fermented in stainless steel, aiming for a Chablis-style wine; the aroma of tart green apples and Bartlett pears makes this almost a champagne without bubbles. Crisp vegetal flavors combine with the tart fruit essences to make this an ideal pairing with oysters. The ‘17 Pinot Gris offers green olive aromas over pear and apricot, with a very slight bitterness that makes this an especially refreshing white.

Reds on the Estate flight include two Pinot Noirs, one each from the 2014 and 2015 vintages ($24 each), which make an interesting comparison of two recent vintages. The ‘14 comes across with more acidity and minerality, delivering spice and a hint of forest leaves, cedar, and blood orange, with robust acidity (great for pairing with salmon, for example, or pork roast) but very soft tannins. The ‘15 presents as a creamier wine, with scents of earth in the nose, and very delicate on the palate. Compared to the ‘14 it showed more earth and very little fruit, almost reminiscent of the ‘11 and ‘12 vintages in structure, but softer and more approachable. The ‘15 finished with hints of anise, black pepper, and allspice.

The Old Vines tasting flight ($14 for 7 wines) starts out with a 2017 Estate Rose of Pinot Noir ($20). Very pale pink color, more cotton candy than strawberry, precedes the aromas of persimmon and pomengranate on the nose of this totally dry, Provencal-style rose. We wanted to serve it alongside cold prawns, butter clam ceviche, or any cold shellfish.

This flight then proceeded to David Hill’s 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay ($24), which immediately signaled its fermentation in French oak with a glorious aroma of buttered toast. The palate opens up to hints of cured meat, followed by ripe fruit and butter. We wanted to serve this with a more fully-flavored white fish; opinions ranged from simple broiled lobster with drawn butter, to grilled whole sea scallops with their roe. It’s even a big enough Chardonnay to stand up to plain baked Chinook or King salmon (though we’d save their Pinot Noir for the more fully-flavored sockeye from the Keta or Copper Rivers).

The 2016 Estate Riesling ($20) is described as medium-dry, and that’s a good assessment. We found an aroma of jasmine on the nose, with ripe apples on the palate, distinct from the tart apples of some of the other whites. It did present good acidity along with the approximately 1% residual sugar, suggesting something like crab Benedict where the sugar would pair nicely with the sweeter seafood and the acidity would balance the buttery, egg-yolk-rich Hollandaise.

Red wine lovers who choose the Old Vines flight get to sample the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, described previously, but they can then compare it with the 2015 Estate Winemaker’s Cuvee ($50), representing barrel selections from the same vintage. We found a wonderful aroma of toast from the French oak barrels, with hints of spice cake and savory elements; it’s a classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from the lighter end of the spectrum, soft and elegant but with good acidity and structure.

The final red from the Old Vines tasting is their 2015 Tempranillo ($30), sourced from the Quail Run vineyards in the Rogue Valley. This wine spent two years in American oak, with the result giving an aroma of black fruit, leather, chocolate, cloves, and allspice. In the mouth, these blossom to include black pepper, stone, and black figs. We’d pair this with a good charcuterie plate, especially with Spanish chorizo, jamon iberico, and of course a salty, robust Manchego cheese.

The Friends of David Hill Wine Club offers benefits at two levels: the Cellar Sampler (2 bottles quarterly) or Cellar Builder (6 bottles quarterly). Either level includes complimentary tastings for up to four people, discounts on wine purchases (15% for Sampler, 20% for Builder) and for onsite merchandise, and savings on glass pours in the tasting room. Combined with the stellar views and lovely grounds, David Hill Vineyards & Winery represents an attractive destination for summer picnics in a quiet, idyllic setting for those looking to expand their winery haunts beyond the usual southern Willamette Valley wineries.

David Hill Vineyards & Winery

46350 David Hill Road

Forest Grove, OR 97116

Hours: 11 AM – 5 PM daily except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day

https://www.davidhillwinery.com

Apolloni Vineyards: A Taste of Tuscany in the Northwest Woods

We first encountered Apolloni at an event called “Italy in the Valley,” which celebrates producers of Italian-varietal wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, so we expected to find Sangiovese and Nebbiolo on the wine list. But it was a beautiful surprise to turn off Oregon’s busy highway 6 at the northern edge of the Willamette Valley and find an ochre-colored, Tuscan-styled winery set amid the Oregon maples and Douglas firs, with two full-size bocce courts just athwart the entrance.

The estate vineyards face south, with enough eastern exposure that the morning sun warms the vineyards and dries any evening mist from the vines, an important factor in promoting healthy plants. Plantings on the property include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Viognier, with most of their Italian varietals sourced from AVAs in eastern Washington state. And in the shade of some of those glorious Oregon maples, which could almost be stand-ins for the ever-present plane trees of European vineyards, there’s a lovely patio with a water feature made from wine barrels — a restful spot for us to sip a couple of glasses of their wine while enjoying a sunny midsummer Saturday.

On entering the tasting room, visitors can choose between two flight options (either waived with a $50 purchase, and complimentary to Cellar Club members). The basic wine flight tasting, at $10 per person, offers two whites — currently the 2016 Pinot Blanc and 2016 Estate Chardonnay — plus a 2017 Rose of Pinot Noir and a 2012 Estate Pinot Noir. Their Rose was noteworthy for blending Pinot Noir with Viognier, lending strawberry and watermelon notes to a rose in line with southern French production.

In addition, two red blends in the Italian mode are included: the non-vintage Fiasco Vino Rosso, named after the straw-covered bottles familiar from Italian wines of yore, meant to be a quaffing wine for hearty food. Their Soleggio blend (from the Italian word for sunshine; $29/$24.65 club) receives a vintage designation and varietal percentages; we tasted the 2013, with a blend of Sangiovese (59%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), and Merlot (17%) that couldn’t help but remind us of the Bordeaux varietals planted in some parts of Tuscany. In the glass, the Soleggio hints at the cherry-like character of some Sangiovese, but with complexity from the Washington-grown Cabernet and Merlot.

Their Premium Wine Flight ($15 per person) starts off with a 2015 Blanc de Noir ($18/$15.30 club), a white wine made from Dijon 115 clone Pinot Noir extracted with no skin contact and fermented in stainless steel. It’s reminiscent of a blanc de noir sparkling wine, unsurprisingly; in aroma and flavor, it’s crisp, with mineral and herbal components, and a meaty, mouth-filling character that suggested persimmons.

Their 2015 L Chardonnay (named in honor of Laurine Apolloni; $26/$22.10 club) shows time spent in neutral French oak, offering toast and butter on the nose. In the glass it shows classic Chardonnay flavor and very mild tannins, refreshing and crisp. Their 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir ($50/$42.50 club) included in this flight represents select barrels from the vintage, and shows up as a classically light Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, smoky and delicate but with good structure and an herbaceous nose, which the tasting room staff suggested might come from the Wadenswil clone prominent in this Pinot.

Three Washington-sourced wines, all from the 2011 vintage, round out this tasting; the Sangiovese ($60/$51 club) hails from the Ciel du Cheval vineyard, and displays classic Sangiovese strength, with moderate tannins. The Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($35/$29.75 club) displayed that rich, meaty aroma that the French call “animal,” opening to classic Cabernet flavors of dark cherry, tobacco and anise. Scrupulously dry in spite of the strong fruit component, this suggested pairing with a pepper steak.

Their Nebbiolo ($41/$34.85 club), from the Klipsun vineyard in the highly esteemed Red Mountain AVA, delivered dark plum, cloves, and blackcurrant pastilles.

We sipped a glass of their rose and Soleggio, first near the water feature and then while playing a few rounds of bocce. It’s a charming, idyllic setting, and we left refreshed.

Apolloni Vineyards

14135 NW Timmerman Road

Forest Grove, OR 97116

Hours: 11 AM – 5 PM daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

http://apolloni.com

 

Penner-Ash Combines Stellar Views with Exquisite Single-Vineyard Pinot Noirs

First-rate Pinot Noir and fabulous views of the Willamette Valley and the Cascades help Penner-Ash stand out from other high-end Willamette Valley wineries. With an emphasis on single-vineyard bottlings, Penner-Ash highlights the soil types and climate characteristics that make up the distinctive terroirs of the Willamette Valley.

Open 7 days a week from 11 AM – 5 PM, the Penner Ash tasting room offers an incomparable view of the Willamette Valley and the Cascades. The breathtaking view is reason enough to visit; on a clear day it’s possible to see three snow-capped volcanoes at the horizon, and the vineyards sloping away from the patio produce their estate Pinot Noir. There’s nothing quite like sitting at the edge of a vineyard while sipping wine made from the vines you’re gazing at, and this is one of the best places in Oregon to experience the combination. Tastings are $25 per person; the fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of their single-estate wines. Special seated tastings (by reservation only) are available for up to 10 people at $35 each, waived with a single-estate purchase.

The winery offers stunning architecture, with a majestic log fireplace for cold and rainy days and a patio and lawn for sunny afternoons. Their custom-made Adirondack chairs include a slot in the right arm designed to hold a wine glass, and they make the perfect place for a picnic lunch. The aging tanks and barrel room are located downstairs from the tasting desk, and are the location for a number of special events.

But it’s not all about the view, as majestic as it is. Penner-Ash makes beautiful, subtle Pinot Noirs that reflect the unique character of the soils and settings in each of the single-vineyard designations they produce. Their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($40) is the exception, containing grapes from a number of their properties blended to create their flagship wine. The single-vineyard Pinot Noirs reflect a more limited production and selection, and are priced accordingly, at around $65 (Cellar Club members receive a 10% discount which rises to 20% for purchases of 12 bottles or more.

The winery’s location and setting make it a natural for special events, often shared with other local wineries, such as the “Roll In The Shea” (pictured here), an event that brought together ten wineries all using fruit from the stellar, highly respected Shea Vineyard, located just over the hill from the Penner-Ash tasting room. These events, plus other activities such as pick-up parties, complimentary tastings for up to four people, and the opportunity to obtain special limited release wines make the Cellar Club a worthwhile proposition. Three levels of club participation (from $236 to $629 per year, depending on the number of bottles shipped) offer the same participatory rewards.

Penner Ash Wine Cellars, 15771 NE Ribbon Ridge Road, Newberg, OR 97132

WillaKenzie Estate’s Stunning Views Are Reflected In Top-rated Pinot Noirs

“Dirt matters.” That’s the tongue-in-cheek, but also very serious, message sewn into caps available for club members (and for general purchase) at WillaKenzie Estate, located atop a hill offering beautiful scenic vistas in Yamhill, Oregon. Founder Bernard Lacroute purchased a 420-acre cattle farm here in 1991, with the first wines produced in 1995. Lacroute determined that the site provided soil, drainage and sun exposure comparable to his Burgundian roots, and their lush, mineral Pinot Noirs bear the truth of his original vision. Even the name, WillaKenzie, represents one of the primary soil types of the Willamette Valley, the marine-sedimentary layer which was once an ancient sea bed before titanic forces thrust it up some 15 million years ago, during the formation of the Cascade Mountains.

The winery uses authentic-looking French road signs to guide tourists from parking to tasting areas. There’s a lovely terrace on the northeast side that offers views of the surrounding hills, and visitors can purchase charcuterie plates and a glass of wine to take in the rolling countryside.

Lacroute’s knowledge of cool-climate viticulture, coupled with the concentration on local terroir, produces Pinot Noirs of both elegance and strength. As in Burgundy, the traditional home of the Pinot Noir grape, hillside exposures produce some of WillaKenzie’s most respected wines, including their Triple Black Slope Pinot Noir ($75). Named for the black-diamond ski slopes loved by founder Lacroute, the Triple Black Slope vineyard has areas as steep as 45 degrees facing due south. Southern exposure at these latitudes not only gives great sun during peak growing season, it also helps dry overnight mists on the vines, giving a natural protection from disease. Other vineyards are situated to take advantage of their own characteristics.

Apart from soil type and vineyard location, the other key variable in Pinot Noir production is clonal variety, and here WillaKenzie offers a distinctive advantage to Cellar Club members: the opportunity to taste single-clone (as well as single-vineyard) bottlings of some of their Pinot Noirs. It’s a beautiful, and delicious, educational tool for enthusiasts looking to identify the characteristics of individual clones of Pinot Noir.

Wine prices start at $23 for their WillaKenzie Estate rose, rise to $30 for their Laughlin Road Pinot Noir (a blend of barrels from throughout the estate), and climb to $55 and up for their respected single-vineyard bottlings. In addition, WillaKenzie produces a Pinot Meunier — a varietal typically seen as a blending grape in the Champagne region — and a Gamay Noir, using the food-friendly grape from the Beaujolais region, just south of Burgundy ($30 each).

Cellar Club members not only receive regular shipments of a variety of single-vineyard wines at a discount, they also benefit from members-only selections such as the individual clonal bottlings, the annual “Day In The Vineyard” event, and curated library wines. (Club pricing depends on the specific vintages, which vary depending on the club selected.) In addition, club members receive discounts of 20% to 30% on purchases.

In addition to prize-winning single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, WillaKenzie’s greatest strength may be the knowledge shared by friendly and knowledgeable staff in the tasting room. You’ll come away with more than just memories of delicious wine: you’ll feel the connection between wine and soil that is at the heart of the Oregon winemaking experience.

19143 Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR; open 11 AM – 5 PM daily

Cana’s Feast Winery Review

750 W. Lincoln Street, Carlton OR 97511

Cana’s Feast specializes in Italian and southern French varietals, many sourced from some of the best vineyards in eastern Washington, as well as Oregon-derived fruit. Tastings are $10 per person for 6 different wines, waived if you spend more than $25. Open Tuesday – Sunday 11 AM – 5 PM (Mondays by appointment).

The setting of Cana’s Feast calls to mind a Tuscan villa, with classic gold stucco and green shutters. A pair of bocce courts stretch out to the west, flanked by two outside patios with expanded-metal tables for enjoying the Willamette Valley’s mild summers with a glass of something refreshing.

The solitary oak tree stands at the edge of a hillside overlooking the Oregon Coast Range.

Cana’s Feast is best known for bold, complex red wines from Italian and southern French varietals. Their stellar 2014 Sangiovese Grosso ($45) offers lush black cherry and orange zest aromas, and the fragrance of fresh rain on earth that is the hallmark of wines from Tuscany. The 2014 Joie de Vivre ($32) blends classic Rhône varietals (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Counoise, and Grenache), producing a wine with hints of blueberry, redcurrant, earth, herbes de Provence, and citrus zest.

The pastoral, European setting of Cana’s Feast is ideal for their many events. “Italy in the Valley” is an annual summertime festival bringing dozens of local wineries specializing in Italian varietals. Their Wine Club offers three levels, from 2 bottles per quarter ranging from $60-$80 per shipment, to the top-line membership at 12 bottles per quarter at a price of $305-$385 per quarter (price dependent on wines selected). They also offer members a varying selection of exclusive club-only wines, such as their 2013 Slide Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, perfumed with blackcurrants, violets and semi-sweet chocolate.

Sunlight, shadows, and reflections on a glass of 2014 Joie de Vivre express the joy of a great glass of wine.

Club members typically pick up their quarterly shipments at the winery, where the festive air is augmented by food pairings specifically prepared to highlight the quarterly wine selection. Pick-up parties are held in the barrel room, which adds to the festive charm. Members also get a sliding discount on wine of up to 20% on full-case purchases (non-members can still enjoy 10% off a full case), and complimentary tastings for up to four.

Ken Wright Cellars Review

120 N. Pine Street, Carlton, OR

With an emphasis on single-vineyard bottlings, Ken Wright’s Pinot Noir selections emphasize the importance of place in the production of award-winning wines. Located in a renovated 1920s train station at the edge of Carlton, the tasting room is open Friday & Saturday 11 AM – 6 PM, Sunday through Thursday from 11 AM – 5 PM. Tasting fees are $20, refunded on a two-bottle purchase; current prices range from $24 for their bright 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc (fresh, with an herbal acidity redolent of fresh sorrel) to $62.50 for their 2014 Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir (notes of blackcurrant and plum overlay the dusty earth aroma from the marine-sedimentary soil of this site).

On cool days, enjoy a seat around the firepit while you sip a glass of first-rate Pinot Noir.

The tasting room opens onto a charming covered patio and garden; on cool days, the firepit is a favorite spot. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and sit outside; wines by the glass are $8 for white wines, $10 for Syrah and Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and $15 for single-vineyard Pinot Noir.

Wright’s Pinot Noirs combine great delicacy with fabulous structure. The combination of varied soils with vineyards of different elevations, different sun and wind exposures, and different clonal varieties of the Pinot Noir grape make a wide and appealing variation, even within the same vintage.

Club members get to talk with winemaker Ken Wright as he pours for them at a club pickup event.

One of the best ways to experience these subtleties is to join the wine club. Two levels are available: the Northwest Club at $175 includes a selection of white wines, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and club-exclusive bottlings. The Pinot Club, at $250, includes a selection of Pinot Noir, including exclusive bottlings.

Even more appealing, though, are the other club perks: special members-only pours at club pickup events, no-charge tastings for up to four people, and best of all, the Wine Club Picnic, a festive affair set in one of the Wright vineyards and catered by some of the Willamette Valley’s most sought-after producers of first-class food, such as Red Hills Market.