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Back to Oregon for some outstanding wines

May 16, 2016

This week we’re back in Oregon. When you break over Grants Pass, the Route 5 gateway, between California and Oregon, you will shortly arrive at the very beautiful ridge-top Abacela Winery. The name is derived from the Spanish verb abacelar, meaning to plant a grapevine. The winery and vineyard are nestled in the lovely Umqua Valley, which is capped with giant Sequoia and running with sparkling clear mountain rivulets. It is situated on property that is multifaceted, allowing for several different “terroir.” A thoughtful planting grid allows them production of several varietal plots. Their wide variety of wine is the primary reason I was interested in visiting. You see, unlike so many Oregon wineries that are focused on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, Abacela grows an array of grapes normally found in warmer, drier climes, particulary Spain and Portugal. I was curious whether these varietal wines would do well in the wetter, cooler mountainside region around Roseburg. I’m happy to report that winemaker Andrew Wentzl was spot on. Abacela grows Alvarinho, Viognier, Garnacha (Grenache), Tinta Avarela (indigenous to Portugal), Muscat, Syrah plus an array of grapes used to produce Port. Best of all, most are very fairly priced. In 2009 Abacela won Spain’s Medala D’Oro for varietal Tempranillo, no mean feat.

I’m sorry to tell you my notes are a bit cryptic but I hope they will suffice. The Tempranillo first came on my screen in 2001 when the 1998, made of grapes from 3-year old vines took double gold in the Tempranillo division at the 2001 San Francisco International Wine competition. The wino writers went into adjectival shock. Since then the Barrel Select has been rated 88-90 points in most vintage years. The 2012 are at the top of the scale. Very dark purple with a bouquet of black cherry, anise, cola and spice box aromas. On the palate, dark fruit, graphite and oaken spice, all riding a nicely balanced frame with chewy tannic grip, 14.8 percent abv, 91 McD points under $32. Needs at least another year. The 2013 are $23 and 89 points. The double gold 2009 Reserve is awesome right now. Magnums and 5 L bottles are available at the winery. Probably you will pay the local wine shop $200-$600 to bring some in. You guys know how thrifty I am. Trust me, these are worth it. The Reserve Syrah Jasper block 2013 was too young but showed a lot of potential. My notes say “buy under $60, 91 pts. The 2012 Malbec Reserve also won double gold priced at $55. I would go with the Barrel Select Malbec 2013 at $27. Sweet fruit, dusty black currant, plum, dark toast, and lavender bouquet evolves into elderberry, pomegranate and anise on the palate. A very bold Malbec with sharp tannins should come together with barbecue, or pepper-encrusted meat.

The whites were equally impressive. Alvarinho 2014 is pale green-tinged, floral, apple-citrus nose, round mouth, proper acid to carry fruit, good persistence, $21, 87 McD. The 2015 Viognier is 14.5 percent abv, herbal nose, huge fruit on palate a bit short on the finish but very clean, $26, 86 McD. I liked the 2014 better. Time did it well; $22, 88 points McD with 2 qpr points. Pineapple, grapefruit, and peach nose. On the palate, dried apricot and lime riding a dry, creamy frame through a lovely, long, clean finish. A very good Viognier at this price point. Try to buy a case of the '14. Finally the 2012 Port can be had for $25. These are made in the traditional Port style. Wenzl blended Tempranillo, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cao, and Touriga Nacional. Fermentation was halted at 20 proof for this ruby-styled port. Very dark, nearly opaque, and the bouquet is complex with fig, plums, cocoa, roast hazelnuts and spices that continue to the palate. Add smooth tannins then sip some with stilton and a seegar. You’ll be sitting pretty. I can’t say enough good things about Abacela. You owe it to yourselves to try some.


Email John McDonald at chjonmc@yahoo.com.