Three days in Portland, Oregon


Powell's, Portland's world famous bookshop

Powell’s, Portland’s world famous bookshop

Portland is one of the USA’s most vibrant cities. It’s known for its food and drink scene, and for being a hub for artistic, creative and alternative types. And I’ve only ever spent a few hours there. So on this trip, I decided to take some time to look around, spending three days here, with some local guidance about where to go. Here are some of the things I experienced and loved.


The Woodsman Tavern, in the suburb of Richmond, is proper old school. We had a lovely seafood tower in all its retro splendour, paired with a bottle of Domaine de l’Ecu Gneiss Muscadet, which was gorgeous. The wine list here is exceptional, with a brilliantly chosen selection that’s particularly seafood friendly.


expatriate pix

Expatriate (pictured above) is a really nice bar. You come here for cocktails and small bites. There’s a wine list, but it’s pretty bad. The cocktails are fab, though. And the bar snacks are brilliant. Expatriate’s bar is run by Kyle Linden Webster, and the snacks are from his wife Naomi Pomeroy, a celebrity chef whose restaurant Beast is over the road from here.


One of the highlights was the informal street-like Indian food at Bollywood Theatre. This is a casual restaurant serving deliciously eclectic Indian dishes, and it’s counter service. You can eat well and inexpensively. There’s some decent craft beer on tap to wash it down, too.


Suckling pig, Chesa

Suckling pig, Chesa

Chesa is a new Spanish small plates/tapas restaurant that’s run by chef Jose Chesa. The food here is superb, the ambience great, and there’s a really good wine list to boot. We had a really lovely 2005 vintage from Juve y Camps, and the beautifully bright, elegant Bastión de la Luna, a red from Rias Baixas that includes some Caino and Loueiro, among other varieties.



Bar Vivant

Bar Vivant

Perhaps the highlight, though, was Bar Vivant. It’s the tapas restaurant that’s a sister establishment to Pix Patisserie, and it’s a proper tapas bar. You can stand up here, eat delicious pintxo, and throw your napkins on the floor. You can also sit down, like we did, and raid the USA’s best list of grower Champagne. The tapas is delicious and authentic, and there’s also an amazing sherry list. With a Champagne list like this, it’s hard to look elsewhere. If you don’t have a Champagne budget, the the sparkling wine list is impeccable, too.









What else to do in Portland? Well, if you are wine and beer shopping, there’s a really superb selection at World Foods, which is highly recommended. There’s also coffee: lots of it. Two of the best are Heart and Stumptown in the ACE hotel. And I was really impressed by Made Here PDX, which showcases local craft. Expensive but beautifully made local items.



In Oregon: Beckham Estate Vineyard

andrew annedria beckham

Andrew and Annedria Beckham (pictured above) are making some of Oregon’s most compelling wines, and they have a great story, too.


We visited their property in Parrett Mountain (in the Chehalem Mountains AVA) on a gorgeous afternoon. They have 6.5 acres of Pinot Noir, plus an acre of Riesling, which they farm organically. They are planning to move to biodynamics in the near future. Allied with this transition, winemaking has moved from conventional towards natural.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They are best known, though, for the use of clay amphorae. Andrew is a high-school ceramics teacher (he still teaches), and he has spent the last few years perfecting the art of producing amphorae suitable for wine.

They’ve just build a new worksop, shuttle kiln and a jigger, to make the manufacturing of these amphorae less labour intensive. Soon Andrew will be selling them, at a price that undercuts the Tuscan amphorae that some producers are now importing.


By next September, 500 and 1000 litre amphorae will be on the market, and then in time a 2000 litre version. Different sizes and shapes suit different wines: conical bottoms are best for Pinot Gris, Qvevri for red wine ferments, and Tinajas for storage (they have smaller openings).

They bought their home in December 2004, and it was in the middle of woods. They cleared the area for planting with vines, and made their first wine in 2009 (just 250 cases). 2013 was a pivotal year because it was when they started with organics, started making their own wine, and also started making some wine in clay.


They have just planted another 8 acres with rootstock, on more cleared ground. This rootstock will establish itself, and when they can get the new vinifera planting material they will graft it over. The varieties they are planning to plant include Trousseau, Savignan, Ploussard and Chardonnay – spot the Jura influence.


The Beckam Estate wines are made using more conventional elevage, and the AD Beckham wines are made using clay. Both are fabulous.


We began with the dry Rosé 2015, which is pretty and bright with lovely texture and finesse. Then we looked at the regular Pinot Noir and the Dow’s (a reserve bottling) in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 versions. I really liked these: particular preferences were for the 2014 Dow’s, the 2013 Estate and the 2012 Dow’s. They are brilliant.


Then: the amphora wines. There are two versions of 2014 amphora Pinot Noir: Lignum and Creta. Both are fermented in amphora, but Lignum leaves and spends the rest of its upbringing in oak, while Creta stays in amphora for its entire elevage. Both are quite brilliant. The Lignum is probably my favourite, with less impact from the amphora, but still a lovely elegance and mouthfeel that sets it apart from the regular conventional elevage Pinot, made from the same fruit. The Creta is a distinctive wine, and it’s lovely. There’s an impact from the clay in terms of the flavour, but it works really well.


In 2013 just the lignum-style version was made. It’s also compelling.

We also tried the Creta from 2015 (an amphora sample!), which for me was potentially profound. It is early days for this wine, but it looks very pure and expressive.

Pinot Gris is also made in amphora here. The 2014 is a complicated, detailed, edgy wine that spent 40 days on skins in amphora, and it’s just remarkable. I’m not sure how it will develop, but it’s just so interesting.

In Oregon: heading to the coast and Cannon Beach


In a gap between visiting wineries in the Willamette Valley, I had the chance to visit the Oregon coast for the first time.


We stayed at Cannon Beach. It has a spectacular beach, with a distinctive feature – Haystack Rock. This looms up some 230 feet from the beach and is home to seabird colonies, including puffins.




Cannon Beach is famous as the location for 1985 film The Goonies.


We stayed in the Stephanie Inn. It’s a lovely beachfront hotel. There’s something special about staying close to the sea like this. And walking on the beach is quite special: the slight saltiness in the air; the light; the sand underfoot.


Just under two hours’ drive from wine country, the Oregon coast is a really great destination. It’s worth thinking of combining a trip to the Willamette Valley with some time in Portland (a really great city) with some time on the coast. I’m itching to get back.


The 2014s from Evening Land: Oregon's new pacesetter

evening land seven springs

Yesterday I got to taste the as yet unreleased 2014s from Evening Land Vineyards. This is the first step in a new phase of the project, which is based on the Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman (Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi from the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, California) took over in 2014 and saw the finishing of the 2012 and 2013 vintages that were then in barrel. And 2014 was the first vintage that they were completely involved in from start to finish. So there’s been a label change to coincide with this regime change.

Sushi Moorman's drawing of the Seven Springs Vineyard

Sushi Moorman’s drawing of the Seven Springs Vineyard

The wines are fantastic. I really like the Pinots, which are both quite different in personality. But it’s the Chardonnays that impress the most. These are serious expressions of Oregon Chardonnay, and the Summa is truly world class.

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
This is from old vines on deeper Jory soils. Elegant, fresh, slightly sappy nose is floral and bright with a lively green edge. The palate is focused, juicy and elegant with lovely fruit. Fine, expressive and bright with red cherries and subtle herbs. Lovely sappy detail here with real purity and a red fruit quality. 94/100

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard La Source Pinor Noir 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
From old vines planted in very shallow soils: Nekia, Ritner and Wetzel volcanic soil types. Really fine, detailed and expressive with a red cherry and plum nose. The palate is fresh, open and expressive with detail and finesse. This is a wine of precision and focus, showing red cherry and plum fruit with bright acidity and a mineral core. Superb. 95/100

seven springs chardonnay evening land

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
From 2008 plantings of Dijon clones, this is lively, fresh, lemony and taut with mineral-laced citrus and pear fruit. Finely spiced and detailed, this has a supple personality with some mealiness. Very fine. 94/100

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard La Source Chardonnay 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
From deeper soils at the bottom of the hill, this has a mealy, spicy, mineral nose. Amazing precision here, with real finesse. Supple and complex with a mineral spiciness under the ripe citrus and apple fruit. Such a lovely expression of Chardonnay. 95/100

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Summum Chardonnay 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Made in two 500 litre Stockinger barrels. From the top part of the slope where the soils are shallower. Detailed, spicy and mineral on the nose with citrus and pear fruit. Astonishing aromatics here. The palate is fine, fresh and mineral with a lovely precise citrus character. Lovely precision and focus with thrilling detail. 96/100

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Extended tasting note: Brooks Ara Riesling 2008 and Brooks Janus 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon

brooks winery

Sometimes, short tasting notes don’t really tell you all that much about a wine. So, in the past, I’ve tried to write the occasional extended tasting note, bringing in the context of the drinking experience and dwelling a little longer on the wine. I tried this sitting outside in the late evening yesterday, here at the Brooks winery in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills.

brooks ara riesling

Brooks Ara Riesling 2008 Willamette Valley, Oregon
A blend of two older vineyards, one on sedimentary soils and one on volcanic. I’m sitting outside the Brooks winery, drinking this, in the setting sun. It’s just approaching 8 pm and the sun is about to dip behind the brow of the hill, here in the Eola-Amity Hills. The estate vineyard, which forms half the component of this wine, is east facing, and as I sit I’m looking out towards the Cascade mountain range in the far distance. Visible are Mount St Helens, with its missing top, and Mount Hood, which is the largest. There’s also another to the right of these, which I can’t identify. The eagles that were soaring earlier in the thermals are nowhere to be seen, and all I can hear is birdsong, and the faint hum of the winery air conditioning in the distance.

Brooks are Riesling specialists. But with a ceiling on Riesling prices of around $25, it’s Pinot Noir that pays the bills round here. The latest release, 2014, saw some 14 different Riesling bottlings. This is awesome. It’s bonkers commercially, but wonderfully bonkers. This is their flagship Riesling, and the one I’m drinking has almost eight years’ bottle age. How is it?

Well, first of all, it is fabulous to be drinking the wine in situ. I’m staying here tonight, in the farmhouse, and by this stage of the evening, the busy tasting room has closed and all the winery employees have gone home. So on a peaceful, warm, blue-sky evening like this, it’s the perfect time to be drinking this wine.

The nose is aromatic, with a mix of bright citrus notes (lime, lemon, grapefruit), some pithiness, and a fusel oil sort of intensity. There’s also a hint of toast. The palate is dry with a faint touch of sweetness, and complex flavours of grapefruit, honey, lime zest and buttered toast. This wine has some development, but it also has a youthful personality still. Complex and quite intense, it has a bit of mint on the finish. Such detail and focus.

This is recognizably Riesling, but I haven’t had enough Oregon Riesling to be able to comment on how well it expresses place. This is an interesting debate: if a wine is complex, interesting and compelling, is there a need for the taster to recognize place? Surely, one part of terroir is the identification of sites that are able to yield interesting wines, irrespective of whether those sites are immediately apparent in the wines. After all, this wine is a blend of two distinctive terroirs. These terroirs together have fashioned something compelling. That neither may be immediately identifiable in the wine doesn’t detract from the quality of the wine.

So how do I score this wine? I’m really enjoying it. On the latest sip, I’m getting some tangerine characters quite distinctively, along with pink grapefruit. Like many excellent wines, it is changing in the glass. I am changing as I consume it, too. This is the nature of wine: we interact with it, and our perception is a result of that interaction. It’s not a perfect wine: there’s a slight grip here; it’s not obtrusive, but it limits the wine’s potential, I reckon. That said, it is really good, and I am enjoying it a great deal. I will give it 93/100.


Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2008 Willamette Valley, Oregon
So, I’m still sitting outside at Brooks Winery, and at 2015 the sun has set over the west brow of the hill. To the east, sunlight still bathes vineyards and farmland in the distance; Mount Hood, capped by snow, looms ever larger, taking on a slight pink hue in the late evening sun. The temperature has dipped a little, and the breeze is dropping. It will be cold tonight with no cloud cover. The diurnal temperature shifts here in the Pacific Northwest can be huge; this is one of the reasons why the wines retain good acidity, even with ripe fruit flavours.

This Janus is a blended Pinot Noir from Brooks. It was first made in 1998, and it’s the definitive Pinot from this estate, even though it’s not the most expensive. Sourced from a few vineyard sites on this hill in the Eola-Amity Hills, it’s named after the goddess of new beginnings (the month  of January was named after her, too). The soils here are volcanic.

So, here we are, almost 8 years after vintage, looking at a New World Pinot Noir. Many of the top New World Pinots taste great on release, only to age quite rapidly. How has this wine fared?

Before I answer that, I take a pause to breathe in the scenery. The Oregon view: gently rolling hills, leading down to a plateau. Vineyards dotted around, not wall to wall, as in some wine regions. It’s so rare that we sit outside of an evening. We lose the connection with nature and our environment by being stuck in boxes with electronic heroin (television) distracting us, and losing the natural rhythm of day, evening, night, morning.

Back to the wine. Age has given this a lovely savoury character. There’s some red cherry and plum, but also a slightly earthy, spicy savouriness. The balance between the sweet fruit and the savoury, citrussy, quite mineral characters is lovely. Fine herbs, a hint of beetroot, and some rhubarb notes. Some crunchy raspberry too. Alcohol is just 13.4%, and you can tell this from the lack of mid-palate sweetness. This allows the wine to hold a mid-palate tension. Drinking really well now, this has focus and definition and it’s showing the first signs of maturity. I wouldn’t hold it for a lot longer, but there’s no hurry to drink it up.

Do wines have to be able to age in order to be considered fine? This is a question that needs to be answered with a sizeable essay. But, in short, if you are charging a certain amount for your wine, then the customer expects to be able to cellar it. For New World Pinot, it’s fine to be delicious. But if you want to charge $$, then it needs not to fall over with a few years in bottle. This wine has passed the test, and it’s delicious. 93/100

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In Oregon: Goodfellow Family Cellars

Marcus Goodfellow and Gaironn Poole

Marcus Goodfellow and Gaironn Poole

I visited Matello/Goodfellow Family Cellars last a couple of years ago (see report here), and it was great to go back on this trip to catch up with Marcus Goodfellow and Gaironn Poole. What’s changed? A few things. First, they have a kid, Fletcher, who entertained us as we tasted – he was well on the way back in July 2014. And second, there’s been a shift away from the Matello label towards the Goodfellow label, which focuses on a select bunch of dry-grown vineyards that Marcus sources from. These include the Whistling Ridge vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. With shallow marine sediment soils, this is the jewel in Goodfellow’s crown: they have exclusivity on its 14 acres, which were planted in 1990 by Richard and Patricia Alford. Richard is a WW2 veteran now aged 92 who in 2012 finally got kicked off the tractor by Patricia. Marcus names one of his wines after him.


They also source from the Durant vineyard in the Dundee Hills, first planted in 1973. The soils here, which are volcanic (known as Jory), are quite different to Whisling Ridge. Goodfellow get some of the 1973 Pommard clone Pinot, plus also some Dijon clones plated in 1993. He’s also started sourcing from the Johann vineyard.

820 litre barrel

820 litre barrel

For elevage, Marcus is turning more to larger oak, rather than focusing on just 225/228 litre barriques. ‘Shifting into 500 litres makes a difference,’ he says, ‘but shifting to the 820 litre barrels makes a huge difference.’ This is especially apparent with his Chardonnays, where the later volume and reduced oxygen exposure makes it easier to get a nice mineral reduction on the wines.

Marcus is also stirring the yeast during fermentation. ‘We talk a lot about wine chemistry,’ he says, ‘but we should be talking more about wine physics.’ During fermentation the yeasts release CO2 and this rises upwards. They get sent downwards and form a compact layer at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. So he likes to stir this yeast layer to prevent a horizon being formed. This creates a lot of yeast bodies and in the Pinot Noir this can lead to yeast bleach of colour. But it does help with fermentation dynamics. What Marcus finds is that the colour then returns to the wine after some time in bottle. He also posited that one of the benefits of limestone soils is that it allows growers to produce cellars with rounded ceilings, which then recirculate the heat from the fermentation and allow the wines to get a bit drier.


The wines are lovely. Particular highlights are the Clover Pinot Gris Reserve 2014, which is textured, spicy and detailed after elevage in large format acacia barrels. Chardonnay is a strongpoint for Goodfellow, and I loved the 2014 Durant Chardonnay with its lovely noble reduction and detailed, precise palate. This is serious. The 2014 Richard’s Cuvée from the Whistling Ridge vineyard is also pretty serious, and outperforms the Durant in the 2013 vintage.


I very much like the Pinots here, too. I find a preference for Whistling Ridge over Durant, and a cask sample of the 2014 of the former was compelling. The 2013 is grippy and firm, and needs some time. I’m also a fan of the Matello Fools’ Journey 2012, which is a Syrah with 10% Viognier co-ferment, made 100% whole cluster. This is an elegant, expressive Syrah in a Burgundian style.


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Walking through the historic Eyrie Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Oregon


For the last few days I’ve been in Oregon, staying in a house with a view of one of the great historic Pinot Noir vineyards of the world. It’s the original vineyard of The Eyrie Vineyards, and this is an important vineyard for north American Pinot Noir.


Back in 1965, the pioneering David Lett moved to Oregon from California. He’d caught the wine bug, studied viticulture and enology at Davis, and wanted to plant Pinot Noir, but he’d come to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anywhere cool enough in California to do this variety well. [Of course, there is, but at the time the existing Pinot Noir plantings were in warm-ish sites.]


Lets wasn’t a believer in the heat summation (GDDs, growing degree days) work of Amerine & Winkler which was so influential in deciding where to plant specific varieties. Instead, he was heavily influenced by the work of Victor Pulliat, the French ampelographer of the late 19th century. Lett was convinced that Pulliat’s Period 1 grapes were best suited to western Oregon. So Lett chose Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay as his favoured varieties.


So Lett arrived with 3000 cuttings in a horse trailer, towed behind his VW. He planted them in a temporary nursery in Corvallis: these consisted of a range of varieties, but crucially included the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be planted in Oregon. He was just 25 years old. The first Pinot Noir went into the ground 22 February 1965.


To earn a living he worked as a textbook salesperson, which gave him a chance to drive around the state, prospecting for vineyards. In the summer, he went to a sales conference in Chicago, and there he met Diana, who was working for the same company. Clearly, the attraction was strong because 6 weeks later he married her, and she moved up to Oregon with him. The wedding present he gave her was a set of rain gear with a flannel lining.


Lett stumbled on an interesting volcanic anomaly, the Dundee Hills, and here he brought an old prune orchard and began planting a 13 acre vineyard. This was the Eyrie Vineyard, and the first vintage was 1970.


It was the 1975 Pinot Noir that caught the attention of the world, in 1979 when it did really well in a blind tasting with other Pinot Noirs in Paris. This brought Oregon into the spotlight. Considering the fame of Oregon Pinot Noir today, it’s amazing to consider the bravery of this 25 year old pioneer, with no money, who had the vision to do something crazy, and it paid off.


The vineyard, historically important, is making some amazing wines. Sadly, parts of it are succumbing to phylloxera, because it is all planted on its own roots. But Jason Lett (David’s son, who now runs Eyrie) won’t replant these vines. They’re still producing, and there’s the possibility that there may prove, in time, some way of recovering them.


It’s truly special to spend time in a historic vineyard like this, and to watch it at different times of the day. These days we are so familiar with Oregon as a serious wine region, but it was just a generation ago that someone had the bravery and ambition to bring this to pass.


I’ll be posting on Eyrie today in a couple of days. In short, David Lett’s wines went through a phase of not being well received by the influential critics, who favoured riper styles. His son Jason took over in 2005 and thankfully stayed true to his father’s style of making elegant, site-expressive wines of moderate alcohol levels. The pendulum has swung, and these superb wines are now receiving the critical acclaim that they’ve always deserved.

Mount Abora Saffraan 2014 Swartland, South Africa

mount abora saffraan

This is a lovely wine. It defines smashable. I had it while I was solo dining last week, and if you are solo dining then you need something like this to drink.

And: I love the term smashable. I don’t know where I picked it up. Maybe Australia. Or South Africa.

Not all wines need to be ‘great’ to be perfect. The perfect wine is often the one you are with in that moment. Quality is fitness for purpose. It’s a relationship, drinking a wine. You interact with the wine. You interrogate it. It asks questions of you. It sets you free to imagine and think brave and interesting thoughts.

Wine is best shared. But sometimes a bottle enjoyed solo can be a good experience too. This one was, even though I didn’t quite finish it. I’ve reviewed the Mount Abora wines before here.

Mount Abora Saffraan 2014 Swartland, South Africa
This is a Cinsault, a grape with a talent for making lighter, perfumed red wines. It shows silky smooth black cherry fruit with a lovely texture. Supple blackberry and black cherry fruit with a silky personality and ripe glace cherries on the finish. So smooth. 92/100

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Two rarities from Eyrie Vineyards, Oregon: Pinot Meunier Rosé fizz and Chasselas Doré

eyrie vineyards rose of pinot meunier

I’ve just arrived in Oregon, after landing in Vancouver via Calgary last night. It’s a fair drive down, but on the way back I’ll be stopping in Seattle for the Riesling Rendezvous. Another first: entering the USA via a land border, which took a while, but was uneventful. I’m staying tonight at the Eyrie Vineyards, and got to try these two small production wines, which are full of interest.

The Eyrie Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Meunier Brut Nature NV Dundee Hills, Oregon
Disgorged Jan 2015, a special 50th anniversary bottling to celebrate David Lett’s original 1965 plantings that kicked things off in Oregon wine. Old vine Pinot Meunier (1965 vines), with the base wine basket pressed and then fermented and aged in old oak. It’s a blend of 2009 and 2011 vintages, and it was bottled on the cork for the second fermentation in 2014. Pale pink. So harmonious with lovely finesse to the textured red cherry and pear fruit with a hint of ripe apple. There’s such class here, with a touch of rosehip syrup sweetness on the finish, even though there’s no dosage. Just lovely fruit intensity and breadth, but also lovely focus and attractive savoury notes. Lovely and distinctive. 93/100

eyrie vineyards chasselas

The Eyrie Vineyards Chasselas Doré 2015 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Remarkable stuff, weighing in at just 9.5% alcohol. This is just so pure, light and stony with a bit of lemony fruit but also this lovely transparent mineral character, and a faint touch of smokiness. Such a distinctive, fresh, transparent light-bodied wine of real charm and drinkability. 91/100

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In the Okanagan, BC, Canada: Laughing Stock and Bella


The last couple of visits in the Okanagan were really interesting. The first was at Laughing Stock Vineyards on the Naramata Bench. Cynthia and David Enns (above) were financial people who caught the wine bug, and they bought this property in 2003. They were the ninth vineyard on the Bench, and now there are 30. They have 5 acres planted to Bordeaux varieties. However, they found that Cabernet Sauvignon struggles on the Bench, and in 2007 bought a 22 acre vineyard in Osoyoos.


Initially they’d decided that it would be best two own 20% of the vineyards they sourced from, and buy 80% of their grape needs. But they realized that such is the difficulty of doing red viticulture, that they needed to reverse these figures. Currently they buy in 30% of their needs, and most of this is white varieties which are less tricky to farm here. Currently their fruit is 50% Naramata, 50% Osoyoos, and production is 7000 cases.




The winery is gravity fed, and there’s a mix of elevage vessels here, including concrete eggs and a couple of amphora from Tuscany (one lined, one unlined). The wines are pretty good. The Viognier 2015 from Osoyoos is rich (14.9% alchol), but it has lovely texture and tastes quite fresh. The Amphora 2014 is a blend of Roussanne and Viognier that spends 2.5 months on skins, and it’s honeyed, nutty, spicy and broad with some apricot flavours.




I really liked the Pareto’s Blend 2014, which sees a whopping 20% Viognier co-fermented with Syrah, and is a tangerine/orange colour, and flavours of glace cherries and smooth pear and peach fruit. The sleek Syrah 2013 is really nice, the 2013 Blind Trust is supple, smooth and berryish, and the flagship wine Portfolio 2013, a Merlot-led Bordeaux blend, is supple and quite serious with nicely managed tannins.

jay drysdale bella

The second visit was one of the most interesting of the trip. It was at Bella, with Jay Drysdale. ‘I love bubbles,’ says Jay. He started his sparkling-only project in 2011 making just a couple of hundred cases at Okanagan Crush Pad, and three years ago found his current property on the Naramata Bench. The previous owners had been here for 15 years and had never sprayed, and he farms Gamay and Chardonnay here biodynamically.

Since becoming friends with Matthew Sherlock (who makes wine at Nichol, but also has a natural wine import business), Jay has taken his winemaking in a more natural direction. ‘I have the confidence to use less,’ says Jay referring to winemaking additions, ‘and my PetNat programme has been awesome.’
Production is currently 1300 cases, and he’s planning to grow to 3500. Everything is still done by hand. ‘It has been an incredible journey so far,’ he says.
‘I’ve always believed that the Okanagan can be a world class wine region,’ says Jay, ‘but we still chase consumers rather than hunker down and focus on what we are good at. It’s coming.’

We tasted through a wide range of Bella wines. I loved the three Blanc de Blancs in the regular range – the Keremeos Chardonnay 2015, the B2 Blanc de Blancs 2015 (which is half from the Cerqueira Vineyard with its limestone content), and the Orchard House Blanc de Blancs 2015, which has a faint hint of matchstick. Then it is a step up for the 2012 Reserve Brut Nature pair, one of which comes from Oliver westside, ad the other which comes from the Cerqueira Vineyard on Oliver eastside. They are both brilliant. I also really liked Jays’ Pet Nats, with a slight preference for the Ancestrale West Bank Rosé 2015.

Bella is an exciting project, and one of the gems of the Okanagan.