Oregon wine country revisited, part 10



First visit of the day – a bright, sunny one – was with winemaker David Paige (below) at Adelsheim. By Oregon standards Adelsheim is quite a bit producer with annual production of 45 000 cases, but this is a state of small wineries. 'There seems to be a natural limit of 45-50 000 cases,' says Paige, 'which seems to be as much as you can make in this state and still focus on quality. This isn't a convenient state to do viticulture in at all. We have rolling hills, and a 40 acre parcel is considered pretty big.'

This was one of the pioneering Oregon wineries, with the Adelsheims planting their first vineyard in 1972. First commercial vintage was in 1978, which is ancient history by Oregon standards. They’ve now got 223 acres across 10 sites.


Paige says that Oregon is on the edge of being able to pull viticulture off, but it's often at the margins where more interesting wines are made. 'Our wines have to be interesting enough for you to give a damn that it came from here. Our wines have to be special. In production this is something we talk about all the time.'


Paige thinks Chardonnay is showing real potential in Oregon, which for so long has been a practical monocepage region. 'The real emerging story is probably Chardonnay, but it has been emerging here for a long time,' he says. 'Chardonnay from here has been the semi-ignored, underutilized step child. In the beginning not everyone made great Chardonnay.' Paige reckons the wrong clones and sites were too often used. 'We are also talking about a variety that is grown in every wine region on the planet. 15 years ago the new world definition of Chardonnay was Californian Chardonnay, and you couldn't sell anything else. Now we have Dijon clones, and this really helps. The other synchronicity here is that the whole wine world is much more receptive to new styles of Chardonnay. We have what people are looking for and we have got better.' Paige adds that 20 years ago wine nerds didn't really drink white wine. 'Now the wine nerds are drinking white wine and really good Chardonnay is part of serious wine geeks' interest in white wine in general.' But he notes that Chardonnay is still just 5% of plantings in Oregon.


Pinot Gris is more widely planted, but its success has been limited. 'I don't think the world has a definition of fabulous Pinot Gris,' he adds. 'I think we do it, but we have made as much traction as we can for it.' At Adelsheim, Pinot Gris is a quarter of production. And Riesling? 'Riesling is a noisy up and comer,' says Paige.

'Balance is a word that is thrown around carelessly,' says Paige. 'Everyone thinks they make balanced wines.' His definition? 'A wine in which aromas, flavours and textures are all in sync with each other. Wines that trail off in a true way: in a way that makes sense. You lose this is you blow a wine out of whack with too much oak or ripeness.'

'When I pour myself a second glass, if I think that's yummy that's OK, but it's better if I think “wow, that's fascinating.”'

Paige adds, 'sometimes we dial down the impressive aspect for the reserve, choosing to turn down the volume to get something more elegant and complex.'



Adelsheim Pinot Gris 2013 Oregon
This has 10% barrel fermentation in neutral barrels, enough to gain richness but not enough to lose fruit. Fruity, lively, aromatic and grapey. Fresh, bright and crisp on the palate. Very pretty and grapey with delicate citrus notes but it has plenty of flavour. 88/100

Adelsheim Chardonnay 2013 Willamette Valley, Oregon
30% barrel fermentation. Very fresh and quite delicate. Fruit driven with supple fruit, some tangerines notes and hints of herbs. Delicate but rounded with some lemony notes. 92/100

Adelsheim Caitlin's Reserve Chardonnay 2013 Oregon
100% barrel fermentation. Toasty and nutty with a spicy nose and a hint of mealiness. Fresh and a bit nutty with some lemony notes and a bit of toast. Real finesse with keen acidity. This needs time to integrate. 92/100

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2012 Willamette Valley, Oregon
Lively fresh, juicy cherry and berry fruit nose. Very pretty and quite floral with lovely cherries and real purity. Juicy, bright and pure with fresh cherry and raspberry fruit. Nice acidity. 92/100

Adelsheim Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
Spicy, cedary nose leads to a lovely focused, fresh, detailed palate. Nice tight structure. This shows restraint, a hint of pepper and raspberry an cherry fruit. Nice savoury streak. Fresh and detailed. 94/100

Adelsheim Bryan Creek Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
From an 800 ft site, own rooted vines planted in the 1980s. Pommard clone. Taut cherries. Pure with real finesse and a silky texture. Lean yet generous. 95/100

Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
100% Pommard clone. Floral nose. Fresh, supple, peppery palate with nice acidity and some generoisity. Elegant style with red cherries and subtle herbs. 94/100

Adelsheim Calkins Lane Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
From an early site near to the winery. Juicy, bright, fresh and berryish with lean, focused, elegant red cherry fruit and some nice sappiness. 93/100

Adelsheim Boulder Bluff Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon
Structured and quite dense, but still made in a bright, light style, showing cherry and plum fruit. Fresh, youthful, focused and savoury. 93/100

Adelsheim Zenith Pinot Noir 2011 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Fresh and quite restrained with black cherry fruit and some plums. Rounded with a bit of juiciness. Fresh and focused. 93/100

Adelsheim Syrah 2010 Oregon
A small block with two early ripening clones. Fresh, juicy and bright with raspberry and cherry fruit, as well as a bit of pepper. Very red fruit focused with good acidity, and a grippy finish. 92/100

UK agent is Boutinot 

Johan Vineyards
J Christopher
Big Table Farm
Walter Scott
Antica Terra

See also:

Visiting Oregon, July 2008 (series)

Wines tasted 07/14  
Find these wines with


Back to top