Saturday, February 13, 2010

Two Sparklers From Argyle

Argyle 2002 BrutDundee Hills producer Argyle makes a range of still wines but they are best known for their sparkling wines. Partly that's because few Oregon producers make sparkling wine, but Argyle's also receive a lot of acclaim of the "why-drink-Champagne-when-at-this-price" type as well as high scores in rags like the Spectre [sic].

The first thing Argyle does after pressing is store the juice at a cold temperature so it "settles" without fermenting. After a few weeks, they then innoculate with a proprietary yeast, achieve at least partial malo, age the fermented juice on its lees in barrique for at least three years, and add what tastes to me like a fairly standard level of dosage. The result, as far as my palate is concerned, is solid, consumer-friendly sparkling wine that is complete and satisfying. The wines are tasty and fairly priced, but while the two bottles I tried each had a story to tell, the story is about the vintage more than the terroir, which seems to be obscured.

2002 Argyle Brut
At Argyle, the vintage decides the blend (all their sparklers are vintage dated) and in 2002 the wine is 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir. This verges toward the austere, in a good way, like some Loire brut chenin that I've had. It showed a touch of heat when first opened, but that dissipated, and I got herbs and yeast on the nose. The mousse shows nice texture, and then there are herbs and citrus and pear on the firm, linear, well-structured finish. I was hoping that after 7 years this would show complexity or perhaps a mushroomy aspect, but it was not to be. This was satisfying nevertheless.

2005 Argyle Brut
Here the blend flips to 65% pinot noir and 35% chardonnay. On the nose, subtle hints of yeast march in lockstep with red fruit aromas. The palate is generous but still dry (RS clocks in at 1.2%), with a fine mousse and nice layers of strawberries, apples, pear, and dry stone. The acidity is nicely energetic, and the wine paired well with a peppery, fennel-laced vegetable soup.

I can't decide if I prefer the 2005's more generous texture or the 2002's relative austerity. I'm happy with both. Still, I would have liked to have seen greater depth and more of that Dundee Hills minerality. As I said, the wines are fairly priced at $25, but if I can find deeper and more terroir-expressive Cava and Loire sparklers at a slightly lower price — and I can — I'm in no hurry to return to Argyle's lineup.

No comments: