Johan Vineyards Blaufrankisch 2014
The Vikings sailed most of the North Atlantic, reaching west to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, south to North Africa and east to the Middle East, as looters, traders, colonists, and mercenaries. Like his forefathers some 1,000 years earlier, Dag Johan Sundby, a native Norwegian, came to North America in 2004 seeking a new life. The descendant of a long line of tillers of the soil, young Johan sought to sink his roots deep into the Willamette Valley, to make his mark on the ancient Pinot Noir grape. Inspired by the legendary vineyards of Burgundy, he sought the ideal terroir, finding it in the similar latitude and climate of Oregon. Driven by New World optimism and youth, he is anchored by Old World values and a fierce determination to make premium wines that will stand the test of time.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture and the production of elegant wines.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation vineyard sites.
The valley's three prominent soil types (volcanic, sedimentary and silty, loess) make it unique and create significant differences in wine styles among its 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. In the most southern stretch of the Willamette, the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA soils are mixed, shallow and well-drained. The Hills' close proximity to the Van Duzer Corridor (which became its own appellation as of 2019) also creates grapes with great concentration and firm acidity, leading to wines that perfectly express both power and grace.
Though Pinot noir enjoys the limelight here, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Chardonnay also thrive in the Willamette. Increasing curiosity has risen recently in the potential of others like Grüner Veltliner, Chenin blanc and Gamay.
Inky magenta in color with aromas of violets, herbs and spices, Blaufrankisch was first documented in Austria as far back as the 18th century and today is the second most planted red variety in Austria after its own offspring, Zweigelt. Blaufrankisch thrives in Burgenland as well as in the warmer sites of Niederösterreich (including Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal). While most of the global acreage of Blaufrankisch remains in Austria, the variety has travelled a bit outside of its homeland and taken on a few different names. In Hungary it remains well regarded and goes by Kékfrankos; in Bulgaria it is Gamé; in the Czech Republic, Serbia and Croatia, Frankovka; and in Friuli, it is called, Franconia. The Germans call it Lemberger. Oregon claims a small amount of acreage; there it goes by its Austrian name.
In the glass
Blaufrankisch typically has a deep red to purple color, medium body, fine tannins and a racy acidity. On the palate it is full of blackberry, black cherry, tart red cherry and accents of black pepper, herbs and allspice.
Versatile because of its deep fruit, and medium tannins and acidity, Blaufrankisch goes well with smoked sausage, lighter meats, vinegar marinades, balsamic dressings, tomato-based sauces and of course, traditional Austrian dishes like red potato goulash and creamy spaetzle.
In pre-Medieval times grapes were divided into superior quality, that is those whose origins lay with the Franks, called “Frankisch,” and then all others, which were deemed inferior. Because this grape was well revered, it got the name, blau (meaning blue or dark) and “Frankisch,” or Blaufrankisch. The grape was actually born from a crossing of Blauer Zimmettraube and Gouais blanc, the latter also a parent of many of our modern favorites: Chardonnay, Gamay, Aligoté, Riesling and Furmint!