Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The "Weekend Before" in the Willamette Valley - Brick House

Last Saturday, Tracey and I ventured out to visit some of my favorite wineries. I won't be giving detailed notes, just basic impressions, but her pictures are really good, so please enjoy them. The notes from Brick House are especially brief because, for whatever reason, Doug hadn't turned on the heat save for the stove adjacent to the office, and the temperature in large areas of the winery was about the same as it was outside - mid-40s. All the volunteers who were pouring looked like they were headed for Mt. Hood Meadows for a woosh and schuss.

Brick House is, interestingly enough, named after the brick house on the property. Clever, huh? Doug Tunnell, former international correspondent and war reporter for CBS (he downplays his experience amidst the flying lead in such garden spots as Beirut and Kosovo) has been farming his plot of land and his 36,000 grape vines organically since they were first planted almost 20 years ago. It's his desire to do his part to reduce the agricultural pollutants that are fouling the Willamette river - the same river he swam in as a child.

Doug's is a true low-key operation. As you can tell, there's nothing fancy going on here. The old barn (with some additions) acts as the winery building and contains the crush pad, barrel room storage, Doug's office and his lab, which is an alcove near the front door. There's no tasting room, no staff, no tchotchkes for sale . . . he might have t-shirts, though . . . just fine wine. 

There's even a cool old red pickup truck that's housed along with the farm machinery. I'm guessing it runs, but I don't know for certain.

Doug makes wine from three grapes; pinot noir, chardonnay and gamay noir. The gamay in particular is in great demand because of its scarcity, being produced in the vast quantity of somewhere around 400 cases per year. The only disappointing part of our visit was that he wasn't pouring gamay. Why should he? He sells it all anyway and there's no mystery as to why. Doug's gamay can rival the finest gamays from Beaujulais' villages of Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon and the rest. Why? Because he works at keeping the yields down and treats it with care in the cellar to keep it from being an insipid, diluted wine.

The first wine we tasted was the 2007 chardonnay. This is not for those who think chardonnay should taste like Carmen Miranda's hat. It's loaded with minerals and subdued apple/pear/hazelnut fruit. Right now it comes across as a little oaky but I have no doubt the oak will integrate nicely with a year or two in the bottle. This is a wine meant to cellar.

Next up was the 2008 "Select", or Doug's entry level pinot noir. It shows all the beautiful things about the 2008 vintage, with intense aromatics, lovely color and a great balance of juicy fruit, ripe tannins and acids. That's it in the picture, though I think Tracey intended (as is her wont) for the pic to be of the floral/vegetable/fruit/nut arrangement. It's a steal at $25.

Last but not least was the 2007 "Les Dijonnais" pinot noir. Firmer. slightly leaner and a bit more structured than the 2008 Select, this is nonetheless a lovely, seductive bottle of wine. Give it a couple of years in the bottle and I predict it will blossom into something very, very pretty - but that's not to say you couldn't just drink it right now. You could. 

We bid adieu to Doug, rubbed our hands together rapidly to warm them and headed for our next stop right down the road - Ayres, where we were to visit with the ever-excited Brad McLeroy. 

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