Monday, October 11, 2010

Visiting Evesham Wood, Eola Hills OR

Erin Nuccio, Evesham WoodLongtime Evesham Wood followers were likely surprised by the note that owner Russ Raney posted back in July: "After 24 years of a mixture of euphoria and despair (only a little bit of the latter) - Mary & I faced the golden opportunity to retire early... So as of August 2010, Erin & Jordan [Nuccio] will be the new owners of Evesham Wood Winery & Le Puits Sec Vineyard."

Myself, I'd never had the wines before, but I knew their rep as some of the more elegant from Oregon, and so I set up a visit in mid-September. As we (my friends and I) discovered after winding our way up the gravelly drive, one reason you need to set up a visit is because there's no fancy tasting room: just a cellar, a tin shed, a house, and a vineyard. And dang, that vineyard: the basaltic, reddish-brown soil was gorgeous, completely uncompacted, covered in dry grass, with not an irrigation hose in sight. After all, Russ helped found the Deep Roots Coalition, which advocates for non-irrigated grape farming, and the home vineyard, Le Puits Sec, is certified organic.

But it was Erin, as the new owner, who greeted us and began the visit with a brief tour of the vineyard. Erin's a peach (new rule of thumb: the coolest people make the best wine) and he exuded a quiet respect for the soil and the grapes. Here, he said, you can see we missed a weed, but we'd rather plow than spray Roundup. Yes, Russ planted some savagnin. Savagnin? Far out! We also talked about the difficult 2010 vintage (see my previous post for details).

Erin will, for now, keep things the same at Evesham Wood: he will continue to cork bottles by hand, rack the wine twice a year from bunghole, rather than speed things along with a bulldog pup, and inoculate using yeast that Russ isolated from a bottle of Jayer rather than inoculate with a commercial yeast or leaving things to native yeast. On the other hand, Erin will continue to run his own label, Haden Fig, and on these wines he will allow himself to experiment with, for example, native fermentation. Surely these experiments will cross over to the Evesham Wood wines, with time.

Erin was kind enough to have us taste from barrel and bottle both.

2009 Le Puits Sec Pinot Noir (from barrel) - This shows tasty blueberry and good acidity despite the heat of the vintage. It's somewhat simple right now but will won't be released until September, 2011, so it has time to develop.

2009 Temperance Hill (from barrel) - Temperance Hill is a high elevation vineyard in the Eola Hills which survives the hot vintages much better than lower vineyards. I smell a very sweet herb / syrup nose that's really familiar but which I cannot put my finger on. Erin helps: "Some people say wine from this vineyard has a cannabis quality." Ding! That's it! Amazing. The texture is really smooth, and quite fresh and light, and the wine persists on the finish.

2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - This was just released and we tasted it from bottle. It's made all from purchased fruit (mostly from local, Eola-Amity vineyards) and it shows a long, orangey profile. Taken together, the three 2009s demonstrate that while all are made in (mostly) the same way from the same isolated yeast, each is specific.

2008 Le Puits Sec Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir - Now this is great stuff; top of the pops here, my friends and I agree. It's a complete wine that shows red and black fruit, lovely acidity, gracious structure, and the kind of length and finesse you look for. My cheeks quivered with acid and fine tannin. It's one of those wines that seems necessary: it's a wine with soul.

2009 Haden Fig Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - This shows a bit of the sweet herb thing, which is present mostly at the sides of my tongue — it's enough to distract me from the midpalate. I also get some peppery spice.

If I were a better writer I'd more ably convey how good it was to be there. The wines were terrific and the vibe was right. It's not just about what's in the bottle, it's about the land, and what people are doing, and how, and why. Obviously Erin's barely into his tenure but I'm betting things will continue to go well at Evesham Wood.

1 comment:

Jason Zenobia said...

Such a fun visit and such marvelous wine.