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Erik Kramer, Associate Winemaker for Adelsheim Vineyard is joining WineGuyMike, Scott and Paula from The Ranch on today’s radio show. Erik is going to talk about Adelsheim Vineyard and share with us a snap shot overview of what it’s like to be a winemaker at one of the premier vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley, the finest Pinot Noir terrior in America.
A month ago I was invited to a wine luncheon by George’s Distributing of Helena, Montana. The luncheon/tasting took place at a local restaurant Scotty’s Table, a fine dining establishment in Missoula, Montana. I was intrigued by the invitation as the winery was from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a region with terrior that is second to none, and I’m including Burgundy.
I love the Willamette Valley as it reminds me of what the Napa Valley was three decades ago, still an area rich in its roots of agriculture. For me wine is terrior and winemaking. Terrior is like poker, you start with great land and the right vines but the weather is never completely predictable. The grapes are what they are each year and that is the hand the winemaker is dealt. They have to work with the hand they’ve received, that’s where their particular experience, skill, and intuition take over and the process begins.
As I was sitting with my new friend Kevin O’Neill from Georges Distributing, a Certified Sommelier, who really knows his wine and Bill Blanchard, Sales Manager, from Adelsheim Vineyard as I was pondering the wine flight before us. We began the luncheon by introducing ourselves; there was a handful of Missoula restaurateurs also attending the wine luncheon. I was fortunate enough to be sitting across from Bill Blanchard as he began sharing his 30 year background in wine. I found Bill to be approachable, sharp, and in command of his market. This man speaks genuinely from his experience over the last three decades, and what a great ambassador of the Adelsheim Vineyard and their wines. It was with great pleasure that I listened and learned about the Adelsheim story.
Once the wine luncheon had ended I approached Bill and asked him if Adelsheim Vineyard might be interested in being a guest on The WineGuyMike Radio Show. I emailed Bill all of the WineGuyMike Social Media links and within a few days I received an email indicating that in fact he or one of the winemakers for Adelsheim would be a guest on my weekly radio show. I was excited to have Adelsheim as a guest simply because they have taken what the earth has yielded and the result is beautiful wine. Their wine is consistent throughout the brand in all label series.
In my tasting and research for this article I’ve grown to love everything Adelsheim. David and Ginny Adelsheim get it and they got it a long time ago, way back in 1971 when Adelsheim Vineyard was founded. A trip to Europe inspired their desire to bring the artisanal nature of food and wine they wanted to recreate in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley.
As I spoke today with Winemaker Erik Kramer of Adelsheim today I mentioned to him that my sole reason for wanting to write about Adelsheim and its wines was very simple. The wines are beautifully made and they are terrior, a direct representation of the land they’re grown on. In other words “these wines are a taste of the earth from whence they com”.
What I have really grown to appreciate is the simple approach that Adelsheim employs in its vineyards, all the way from growing and management of the grapes, to making the wines. They utilize a real Burgundian style in growing and making their Adelsheim Vineyard Wines. In 1972 the Adelsheim’s had planted their original 15 acre piece of land on Quarter Mile Lane with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling varietals. The Chehalem Mountain viticulture area was an unknown commodity at this point and time.
By 1978 Adelsheim’s vineyard was producing twice as much wine every two years, the vineyard was bearing a full yield, grapes were being sourced from other growers, the winemaking conditions were very cramped. They managed to bottle 1,300 cases for commercial release that year. Five years later in 1982 a new 6,000 square foot winery was built and filled with barrels, bottling equipment, and tanks.
The first vineyard land expansion began in 1989 with the lease of 19 acres known as the Bryan Creek Vineyard that continues to be a great source of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.
David and Ginny also purchased 52 acres known as The Calkins Lane Vineyard. This vineyard is lower in elevation and was planted with Pinot Gris, and Burgundian clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 1994 Jack and Lynn Loacker became co-owners of Adelsheim Vineyard and planting began at Ribbon Springs Vineyard in 1995, this is an exceptional 120 acre site on the Ribbon Ridge spur of the Chehalem Mountains.
This vineyard has provided Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes for Adelsheim since 1998.
A new wine facility opened in 1997, a 35,000 square foot operation capable of producing 40,000 cases of wine a year. There is a two – level, gravity‐flow fermentation room that allows for gentle grape movement and four underground barrel caves
that utilize pre‐cast concrete arches and temperature‐controlled floors to provide perfectly optimized temperature and humidity control for slow, cool aging of their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
Dave Paige joined forces with Adelsheim in 2001, bringing with him twelve years of experience working with Pinot Noir. Dave Paige also brought with him a kindred spirit in terms of wine making philosophy that paralleled that of David Adelsheim. Dave Paige is a winemaking guru who is responsible for the consistency of excellence known by wine drinkers as Adelsheim. Dave has recently received great acclaim for Adelsheim’s Deglace which is a rarely produced Pinot Noir dessert wine.
Erik Kramer, Adelsheim’s Associate Winemaker, has worked for Adelsheim Vineyard since 2005. Erik left a successful profession as a corporate geologist to pursue a career that allowed him to follow his passion for science and appreciation for fine wine. Erik’s career change prompted him to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, a program that specializes in cool climate viticulture and winemaking. In addition to his winemaking experience in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Erik has also worked for several well reputed wineries in New Zealand and Washington.
In 2006 viticulturist extraordinaire Chad Vargas joined the Adelsheim team. Chad spent two years with well known Kendall-Jackson as viticulturist. Chad is responsible for quality control and sustainability programs, financial planning and training related to our expanding vineyard operations.
David Adelsheim, as the original winemaker he established the winery’s focus on rich, complex Pinot Noirs and elegant white wines. Today he focuses his attention on marketing and sales, financial planning, and overall direction of vineyard and winemaking activities. He has also been a leader holding wine related political and association positions that have made the Oregon wine country what it is today. David Adelsheim is one of the visionaries of the wine industry since he founded Adesheim Vineyard in 1971.
An extensive addition was added to the winery in 2008. This increased the ability to handle more fruit, now allowing fermentation capacity the matches harvest demands. The great news for wine drinkers is that it facilitates Dave Paige’s ability to craft small lots that insure a greater variety of distinctive single vineyard Pinot Noirs.
A new tasting room was built in 2009 and is a must visit destination while visiting The Willamette Valley. The tasting room features a beautiful view of The Calkins Lane Vineyard that provides a wine experience for the visitor, along with amazing Pinot Noir of course. Adelsheim Vineyards has grown to encompass 190 acres of the best wine terrior there is and the Adelsheim wines rise to the occasion. They are in fact what WineGuyMike seeks out to share, “a true taste of the earth”.
Our red wine grapes are carefully sorted by hand and gently destemmed into small, open-top fermenters. Following a pre-fermentation maceration, slow, cool fermentations emphasize the nuanced flavors and aromas of our Pinot noir and Syrah, and the must is punched down two to three times daily for greater extraction of flavor and color. After fermentation and gentle pressing, the new wines are slowly transferred to barrel for aging.
The winery’s four underground barrel caves utilize pre-cast concrete arches and temperature-controlled floors to provide optimal temperature and humidity for slow, cool aging of our red wines and our Caitlin’s Reserve. During barrel aging, the wines typically undergo a secondary, malolactic fermentation to add further richness and complexity, and are bottled following 10 to 12 months in small French oak barrels.
The Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge AVAs reflect millions of years of soil accretion, mixing, blowing, and uplift, creating a rich geological experiment in one tightly packed geographical area. Within this one region there are ancient, uplifted sedimentary seabeds; weathered rich red soils from lava flows down the Columbia River; and relatively new glacial sediment scoured from western states and blown onto north-facing hillsides in tumultuous windstorms.
More than any other grape varietal, Pinot Noir reflects where it is grown. The diverse topography of the Chehalem Mountains provides a wide variety of opportunities for Pinot to express itself. Mountains set our AVAs apart from others and pull together a variety of unique conditions that influence our wines.
While best known for Pinot Noir, the Chehalem Mountains are also ideal for other cool climate wine grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gamay Noir and Gewurztraminer.
Adelsheim Current Release Wines
Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay 2008
Wine Spectator: 91 points, Mar. 2010
Composition: 100% Chardonnay
Production: 304 cases (750 ml)
Alcohol: 13.8% by vol
“This bottling shows artful layers of figs, Asian pears, apricots, apples, nutmeats and minerals. Beautifully balanced by the acidity found in our Northern wine region, it features a long, polished finish. Pair it with poached salmon, lobster, smoked meats and cheeses.”
Dave Paige, Winemaker
Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2008
Alcohol: 13.5% by vol
Production: 3,084 6-bottle cases (750 ml)
Under optimum cellar conditions, this wine will certainly improve through 2020, perhaps through 2028.
“This complex and intriguing wine offers layered aromas of red and black raspberries, fresh Oregon strawberries, brown spice and cedar. Its aromas are reflected on a palate that speaks of purity and elegance, and is exceptionally balanced with firm tannins and a persistent finish. This wine will pair beautifully with the Pinot noir classics – lamb, duck, grilled salmon, and aged cheeses.”
Dave Paige, Winemaker
Bryan Creek Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2009
Alc: 13.8% by vol
Production: 532 cases (750 ml)
“This 2009 Pinot blanc features Granny Smith apple, tangerine and meadow foam honey aromas, accented by hints of fennel. There’s a rich mouthfeel that is offset by the wine’s general raciness. It pairs superbly with a wide range of foods – from shellfish to quiche to spicy Asian food.”
Dave Paige, winemaker
2008 Deglacé of Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 10.2% by vol
Production: 349 cases (375 ml)
Cellaring: Recommendedanywhere from 5-8 years, optimal storage temperature 55-60° F
“Even with this sweet wine, we stay true to our winery philosophy that a wine’s highest use is in pairing with meals. That means retaining enough of the grapes’ natural acidity to ensure that the wine never becomes too cloying. Our Deglacé has amazing strawberry, nectarine and orange blossom flavors that should prove to be a perfect match with red berry tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, and a wide range of other desserts.”
Dave Paige, Winemaker
2008 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley
2009 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley
Alc: 13.8% by vol
Production: 11,052 cases (750 ml)
850 cases (375 ml)
“Crisp, bright flavors have always been the hallmark of Adelsheim Pinot gris. In this 2009, you’ll find hints of papaya, apples and pears. It pulls off the difficult feat of providing a gentle creaminess that lends a rich, mouthfilling texture and long finish, yet still impressing as a wine that’s crisp and clean. Try it with mildly spicy foods (such as ceviche),
not so mildly spicy Thai cuisine, rich fish entrees, and even classic oven-roasted fowl.”
Dave Paige, Winemaker
2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
90 points, March 2010
Composition: 100% Pinot noir
Alcohol: 13.3% by vol
Production: 10,212 cases (750 ml)
1,000 cases (375 ml)
186 bottles (1.5 L)
Cellaring: Under optimum cellar conditions, this wine will certainly improve through 2018, and perhaps through 2028.
“With its broad array of origins and clones, this wine displays both red and black fruit aromas (cherries and raspberries), on the nose and the palate. In addition, one finds a light touch of brown spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice). True to our house style, it is elegantly
textured with satiny, polished tannins showing in the finish. Pair it with salmon or ahi, veal or pork, poultry (think duck) or beef, or hearty vegetarian entrees.”
Dave Paige, Winemaker
Auxerrois Willamette Valley 2009
When two clones of Auxerrois (oak-sair-wah) were brought into Oregon from Alsace in 1977, we knew next to nothing about the variety. Still, after tasting some test wines made at Oregon State University, our interest was piqued.
DNA testing has shown that Auxerrois, like Chardonnay, Aligoté, Gamay and 10 other varieties, is a cross dating from medieval times between Pinot Noir and an ignoble variety called Gouais Blanc.
Auxerrois is also the name of a duchy surrounding the town of Auxerre near Chablis, but the variety has disappeared from that area and all other parts of Burgundy. There are probably less than 500 acres of it planted in the world.
Its early ripening has allowed it to flourish in Luxembourg (even achieving Premier Cru status), but in Alsace, the variety is now treated as a second-class citizen, consigned to blends often with Pinot Blanc. In the U.S., we know of only two other producers.
The wine was then completely tank fermented at a low temperature to retain fruit purity and aromatic freshness. Malolactic fermentation was prevented in order to preserve the wine’s varietal character.
These wines all receive The WineGuyMike™ Seal of Approval®