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Leah Jorgensen Loiregon Cot Malbec 2014
In 2004, Leah made her way out west to her father’s home state of Oregon. "Dad grew up on a small family farm just outside of Eugene. It seemed natural to return to my Oregon roots."
Jorgensen started out working in national sales, marketing, and communication for pioneering wineries in the Pacific Northwest, first at Erath Vineyards, and through its sale to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, as well as at Adelsheim Vineyard. She began offering marketing consulting for a handful of wineries, including WillaKenzie Estate, Raptor Ridge, Le Cadeau, and R. Stuart & Co., while studying enology for two years at the Northwest Viticulture Center in Salem. She worked harvests at Anne Amie Vineyards and Alloro Vineyard, completed two years of cellar work at Shea Wine Cellars, while making plans for her own wine – debuting the 2011 vintage with an unusual choice – just a barrel’s worth of her now signature, limited Blanc de Cabernet Franc.
Her Blanc is the first commercial still white Cabernet Franc in the world, inspired by some of the Cremant de Loire bubbly made in blanc de noir style from Cabernet Franc juice without skin contact. The Blanc de Cabernet Franc has landed on the lists of top restaurants and has been the perfect introduction to her Cabernet Franc program.
As the the largest region in the greater Southern Oregon AVA, bordering California, the Rogue Valley AVA grows the most diverse array of grape varieties compared to any other Oregon appellation.
The Rogue Valley AVA is actually made up of three adjacent river valleys—not just one as its name suggests—Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois. These valleys extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, a coastal sub range of the Klamath Mountains. Most Rogue Valley vineyards are planted on hillsides at elevations of 1,200 to 2,000 feet where soils are metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic.
On one end Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc benefit from a warm and dry climate. To the west end of the Rogue Valley, cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Gewürztraminer do best. Dolcetto, Grenache and Zinfandel also grow in the Rogue Valley AVA.
Early European settlers first started growing grapes here in the 1840s, the most famous of whom was a pioneer named, Peter Britt. He also opened Oregon’s first official winery (which later closed in 1907). Today, besides its great wines, the region is known for the Britt Music & Arts festival, which inhabits Peter Britt’s former hillside estate, and the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Known for its big, bold flavors and supple texture, Malbec is most famous for its runaway success in Argentina. However, the variety actually originates in Bordeaux, where it historically contributed color and tannin to blends. After being nearly wiped out by a devastating frost in 1956, it was never significantly replanted, although it continued to flourish under the name Côt in nearby Cahors. A French agronomist who saw great potential for the variety in Mendoza’s hot, high-altitude landscape, brought Malbec to Argentina in 1868. But it did not gain its current reputation as the country's national grape until a surge in popularity in the late 20th century.
In the Glass
Malbec typically expresses deep flavors of blackberry, plum and licorice, appropriately backed by aromas of freshly turned earth and dense, chewy tannins. In warmer, New World regions, such as Mendoza, Malbec will be intensely ripe, and full of fruit and spice. From its homeland in Cahors, its rusticity shines; dusty notes and a beguiling bouquet of violets balance rich, black fruit.
Malbec’s rustic character begs for flavorful dishes, like spicy grilled sausages or the classic cassoulet of France’s Southwest. South American iterations are best enjoyed as they would be in Argentina: with a thick, juicy steak.
If you’re trying to please a crowd, Malbec is generally a safe bet. With its combination of bold flavors and soft tannins, it will appeal to basically anyone who enjoys red wine. Malbec also wins bonus points for affordability, as even the most inexpensive examples are often quite good.