Eugene Weekly : Wine : 8.6.2009


Cool Beauties
For the sizzle before the drizzle
By Lance Sparks

Hot? Nononono: We baked, we boiled, broiled and roasted. We traded thermostats for pyrometers. For one fiery week in July, sweet, misty Bluegene became as thermic as Phoenix. We didn’t slather on the sunscreen; we basted in the stuff. Maybe it was more like a marinade. Then, a swell cooling trend, temps dripping down to the 90s.

When our little domain dials up to swelter, it’s hard to ponder wine — or anything else — but we keep working, keep our heads in the game even when the house is burning. And we scored some cool beauties this month.

BUT FIRST: If you missed this year’s Art and the Vineyard AND you also love good food/wine/beer/music/art, the verdict is in: You messed up and should not let that happen to you again. In order to make up for the error, you should plan to rev August to the red-line. This month is dense with events involving music, food, fun and lively libations, low-cost laffs abounding. And remember, living well is still the best revenge.

Back to wines, cool wines. Note, for any beverage: If it’s nasty and you don’t want to taste it, make it really cold; if you actually want to savor flavors, just cool it down to but not below 45 degrees. Exception allowed for sparkling wines only because low temps preserve bubbles, but that’s still putting tingles before taste. Good, flavorful wines, including some reds, make their sweetest music in the 54 to 64 degrees range. ‘Nuff said. 

A really cool rosé: Penner-Ashe 2008 Roséo ($14) is noted on the label as “pink, pink wine.” Sounds diminutive and shy but is actually kinda sassy. The back label (Tip: often worth checking, for attitudes and admissions) reveals the contents as a “cheeky blend of hand-sorted Pinot noir.” The delivery is a pretty pink color and a rush of pinot flavors, a medley of red berries, a dash of spice, a hint of roses. Adds up to one of the most charming of dry rosés we’ve tasted this season.

John Paul, owner/winemaker for Cameron Winery in Dundee, probably has the legitimate monopoly on warped whimsy for all of Oregon wine. But he’s also really smart, and fun, and talented. Cameroni 2008 Giovanni Oregon Pinot Bianco ($9) deserves a place on any picnic table. Behind the Italian dressing on the label are Oregon pinot blanc grapes, which, in Paul’s hands, means a bright, versatile white wine with no pretentions to self-importance. The flavors flow through pears, apples, whiff of quince maybe. Match this vino with light summer fare, maybe
some Asian cold noodle salad — béne, béne.

Some folks we know (no names), when we come to wine, think if it ain’t red, it ain’t wine. Doesn’t matter that the sidewalks are molten or that a glass of Big Red goes down like lava and might melt a fore-brain: OK. Terra Blanca 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.50) is an outstanding value and a fine wine. From the Red Mountain region of Washington, it’s intense, rich in dark fruit flavors, with a sturdy frame of French oak, finely balanced for easy drinking with roasted red meats or dense cheeses.

Hot town summer in the city, folks — come on out, enjoy the sizzle before the long drizzle, even if you have to handle your glasses with tongs.