I received an email inviting those in the wine trade to a special presentation of wine by Argyle Winery out of Oregon. In the invitation it said that they would be pouring several of their sparkling wines, including a line-up of four at differing dosage levels. How could I pass on an opportunity like that. I signed up, and was off to Seattle to experience the wines of Argyle and their sparklers.
Argyle Winery is one of the first in Oregon to dive into the sparkling wine category in 1987. Today they are well-known for their sparkling wine which includes a brut, blanc de blanc, rose, and an extended tirage version. They are also well-known for Pinot Noir (of course), Chardonnay, and Riesling. I thought I would give you a quick report on the tasting and some of my notes.
Wine maker Nate Klostermann led the tasting group taking us through the line-up of wines they had prepared for us. The first thing he did was to take the group outside the restaurant and two volunteers had the opportunity to disgorge a bottle of sparkling wine. Disgorge means to take a bottle of sparkling wine with the yeast sediment still in it, pop the cap that keeps the bubbles alive inside the bottle, and disgorge the yeast from the wine. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch and the streets smelled of sparkling wine and yeast (loved it). What I love about the city, is that even though there was a group of people standing around a person with a bottle in hand and an opener,popping the top and wine spewing out all over the sidewalk, nobody stopped to watch. I bet I could have come out in my underwear, and nobody would have noticed. Anonymity is so much easier in a crowded city than in a small town.
Back in the restaurant, we tasted through three sparkling brut that were at different dosage levels. Dosage is the mixture of grape juice and sugar that is put back in the bottle after disgorgement. The amount of sugar determines the level of sweetness that is desired by the wine maker. A brut can be up to fifteen grams of sugar. However, it is not only the sweetness that they are looking for, but it is the mouth-feel and texture that determines the quality of the sparkling wine. This is all decided by the dosage treatment. We tasted one with zero grams of sugar (very dry), one with 4 grams, one with 8, and one with 12. The finished product, 2010 vintage brut, which we also tasted, came from the one at the eight gram level. It was well-rounded, had great acidity, with notes of apples, bread dough and hints of pear.
Next we tasted the Blanc de Blanc. 100% Chardonnay from Knudsen Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills appellation. Like the brut, it was classic sparkling wine. Nice cutting acidity with a creamy edge to it. Next came a special treat…The 1995 Blanc de Blanc which had actually been in the bottle on the yeast for 18 years before disgorgement. We found out that at Argyle, they only disgorge the bottles when they need them on the market. This creates subtle variations in the wines, even in the same vintage (makes for some interesting fodder…You think?). The ’95 Blanc de Blanc was full of baking spices, bread dough, marzipan, and honey. Absolutely delicious, still showing the acidity that we desire in a good bottle of bubbles.
The 2002 Extended Tirage Brut was very nutty on the palate with hazelnut and almonds coming through. Yeast and marzipan notes joined the party with that signature honey element of the Argyle line-up. The Extended Tirage is left on the lees for no less than ten years before release. We will be seeing the 2005 vintage released in the spring of 2015. The 2010 Argyle Brut Rose` is a beautiful sparkler with notes of ripe cherries and strawberries with a touch of rhubarb. This is a bone-dry rose`with just a touch of yeast…Delicious!
The group had and opportunity to taste the ’91 Argyle Riesling and it had aged beautifully, with petrol notes joined by notes of apples and stone fruit, still showing some vibrancy. The 2012 Argyle Nuthouse Riesling is classic. Good acidity with notes of petrol, apricot, minerals and orange pith. After Riesling, we tasted ’05 and ’12 Nuthouse Chardonnay. The 2005 displayed aromas of pears, figs and orange blossom. High intensity on the palate with notes of fig, pears, honey and a touch of butter. Creamy fruit front to back with oak notes that were well-integrated. Bone dry finish. The ’12 showed aromas of ginger, pears, apples and white flower blossoms. Pears all day on the palate with oak more prominent.
Pinot Noir was next in the line-up and we tasted the reserve 2001 and 2011, along with the Nuthouse 2000 and 2012. All of them are drinking beautifully, showing vintage variations. The 2011 Argyle Reserve was feminine and loaded with red flower notes. 2011 was a difficult vintage for Oregon, but Nate did a nice job with this one and it is showing well. The 2012 Nuthouse Pinot is a powerhouse, yet it remains earthy and minerally with cherry and root beer notes dominating the palate, backed by beauty bark and red flower elements. Argyle produces classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
If you are looking for classic domestic bubbles, I would strongly recommend Argyle. As far as the rest of the line-up, I would have no problem putting Argyle on the list of wines to try.
Stan The Wine Man