Thursday, September 24, 2009

Winery Finds - Seven of Hearts

Byron Dooley and his wife Dana chucked their high-tech careers several years ago to do more rewarding things - making wine for him and making chocolates for her.  After a short stay in the Napa Valley where he studied winemaking and interned at the fabled pinot noir producer, Williams-Selyem, Byron and Dana moved to Oregon in 2004 and purchased a vineyard property in the Coast Range foothills northwest of McMinnville.  He makes his wines under the Seven of Hearts label at Dundee's 12th and Maple Wine Co.

They planted the vineyard to five clones of pinot noir in 2006, and 2008 was the first crop.  It's called Luminous Hills Vineyard and I'm anxious to get out there to see it.  In the meantime, while they waited for their baby to produce and to give himself the ability to bottle AVA and vineyard designate wines from a variety of locations, Byron arranged to purchase fruit from some vineyards in both the Dundee Hills and the Eola-Amity hills for 2006, 2007 and 2008.

I'm not going to post detailed tasting notes on the wines, party because I don't want to be like every other self-appointed "expert" on the web and partly because I harbor a huge fear that most normal people find that kind of stuff mind-numbingly dull.  Instead, I'll tell you that, IMNSHO, Byron "gets it".  I mean, the guy really gets it.  Instead of pandering to critics he's making wine for purists.

I've already ranted a bit about the "more" wine style that gets high scores from the critics.  There's no shortage of that kind of wine around, but it's not for me and especially not when it's applied to pinot noir, a grape that reflects where it is grown perhaps more than any other.  When that place shows through it's called transparency; picking the grapes extra ripe so the alcohol is elevated, giving it extra time on the skins and whacking the hell out of it with new oak tends to obscure the view into the wine's place of birth.  It makes the wine more opaque in not only a philosophical sense, but in a visual sense as well.  And, since depth of color doesn't necessarily correlate to quality in the world of pinot noir, the result isn't necessarily better.

Byron has a deft touch with the finicky pinot noir grape.  His wines show their roots (pun intended) and are a delight to drink.  They're light on their feet instead of ponderous and boring, almost begging you to come back for another sip, and they're the kinds of pinot noirs that match up well with food, especially salmon.  His chardonnay is one of the few I'll drink because it resembles its lovely ancestors in Burgundy more than it resembles the more homely of its cousins in California.  Be sure to try it.

Be sure to stop by Byron's tasting room in Carlton.  He's open Fri-Sun afternoons and is an engaging host.  Dana makes her chocolates there so be sure to try some along with the wine.  They're wonderful.

Next up in the wine world, the crazy crowd at Stone Wolf in McMinnville.

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