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Adelsheim Deglace Pinot Noir (half-bottle) 2006
There are two ways in which dessert wines of moderate alcohol content are traditionally produced: the grapes can become desiccated by botrytis cinerea ("noble rot") or they can be pressed when still partially frozen. An Oregon Pinot Noir producer would never want "botrytis" to spread in the vineyards (it ruins red wines), and Adelsheim can't remember a fall when they had an early freeze (i.e before the winter rains started.) Thus, in winemaker Dave Paige's first year with Adelsheim, one block of grapes was chosen for the experiment – which was to take the grapes to a freezer instead of the winery. The resulting faux "ice wine" was delicious, and a hit, so they have continued to produce it every year.
Even with this sweet wine, Adelsheim stays true to its philosophy that a wine's highest use is in pairing with meals. That means retaining enough of the grapes' natural acidity to ensure that the wine never becomes too cloying. Deglacé has amazing apricot, fig and honeysuckle flavors that should prove to be a perfect match with red berry tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, and a wide range of other desserts.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.
The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked late so that sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.