Thanks to winemaker Marcus Goodfellow’s patience, this newsletter contains one heck of a Pinot Noir opportunity. If you doubt me, just skip down several paragraphs to the highlighted section where pricing is discussed. To quote philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” This is Jean-Jacques and not Armand, so I’m fairly confident he wasn’t talking about wine. Nonetheless, this bottle perfectly illustrates his point.
2011 Matello Wines Whistling Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir (original release price: 36.00)
2011 was the coolest vintage on record in these parts and only a nice little rally of warmth in October saved the day. Just as in 2007, early reports from various critics were less than enthusiastic and folks who prefer louder, fleshier wines made their thoughts known in all the usual forums. Even Marcus Goodfellow, the owner and winemaker at Matello, wondered if this particular wine would ever come around. After a year of waiting, he stashed 40 cases away in his library and pushed the wine from his mind.
A few weeks ago Marcus was being interviewed by a pair of local wine enthusiasts for their podcast and as they discussed various vintages, Marcus pulled out a bottle of the 2011 Whistling Ridge to make a point. It was lovely. The awkward duckling had unfurled its wings and become a magnificent swan. As a pleasantly surprised Marcus put it, “the wine had definitely turned a corner.”
The timing was perfect for the readers of this newsletter. I had just attended a Matello library tasting and was swept off my feet by the charm of one of Marcus’ 2007 Pinot Noirs. Marcus recalled that conversation and emailed me to see if I would like to taste the 2011 Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir. There were, after all, 40 or so cases to reintroduce to the wine world. I sat down with the wine a few nights ago and thought it was superb. Forget virtue, patience can also be delicious.
If you have been reading this newsletter for any length of time you know I hold Marcus Goodfellow’s winemaking skill in high regard. He cut his teeth in the business working with David Autrey and Amy Wesselman at Westrey and Steve Doerner at Cristom. That’s a darn fine group to learn from and you can see their influence in the wines Marcus makes today. Marcus seeks out vineyards with mature, dry farmed vines and then strives to stay out of nature’s way to make wines with balance and restraint. On the Matello website it says “Matello produces handcrafted wines that tell an honest story….[where] the vineyard gives the melody of the wines.” One sip of this wine and you will immediately know what that means.
Whistling Ridge Vineyard is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, nestled on the hillside above Beaux Freres’ estate vineyards. The days are warmer and drier up there than its neighboring AVAs, but Ribbon Ridge benefits from constant breezes and relatively cool evenings. The Whistling Ridge vines are never irrigated and after 25 years of meticulous farming by Richard Alvord and Patricia Gustafson, they have driven deep down into marine sedimentary soils in search of water and nutrients. Marcus loves working with this vineyard so much he agreed several years ago to make Richard and Patricia’s own wines for them.
In 2011 Marcus picked enough fruit from his sections of the vineyard to make 100 cases of this Matello Whistling Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir. According to Marcus it’s made with “a melange” of the clonal material (Pommard, Wadenswil, Dijon) Richard and Patty planted back in 1990. Marcus left 45% of the grapes in whole cluster form and placed the juice in French oak barrels, only 20% of which was new. Marcus makes wines that reward cellaring and his patience has paid off in a big way with this one!
I only had to look at the pale, transparent ruby color to know it was going to say 12.8% alcohol on the label. No sacrificing of pinot aromas and flavors for the sake of concentration here! I was very happy with the wine’s aromatic set as well. Tart red raspberry fruit mingled with scents of dried hay and thyme as pieces of red chalk were crushed in the background. The nose of this wine is bright and fresh, seemingly eager to get outside to show its red fruit and mineral qualities off to the world.
The palate is graceful, with the kind of disarming delicacy one would expect from the 2011 vintage. But after a few years of bottle age the fruit is beginning to come to the fore. That fruit is a bit darker than the fruit I encountered on the nose, tip-toeing up to blackberry without being sweet in any way. Instead, the darker fruit flavor is wrapped up in a savory cloud of smoky meat fat (think fat dripping off your favorite cut of meat and making contact with the fire’s red hot coals.) and an herbal note that complements it nicely. In addition to pronounced minerality (wet rocks and saline), there is a note lurking in the background that tasted like a wee bit of flaky pastry crust. The tannins have begun to soften a bit but the acidity is still crisp and zippy. What was once closed and sharp is now inviting and friendly.
I could not have extracted any more enjoyment out of this bottle if I tried. And trust me, I turned the decanter every way I could to get at those last few awkward drops. This is a serious, age worthy wine that gets my highest recommendation if you enjoy Oregon pinots that are lithe and nimble. Eric Asimov wrote an article in the New York Times several years ago titled “Why Oregon Will Fondly Remember 2011.” In the concluding paragraph he predicted “I don’t doubt this vintage will be polarizing. Those who do prefer richer, warmer wines may find some of these puzzling, as if they lacked sufficient flesh. Others may be charmed by their unusual delicacy. Either way, 2011 is proof that among wine’s best qualities is its power to surprise.”
This wine surprised its maker and is a poster child for the advice we are always giving customers about patience being rewarded by cellaring. In this case, however, Marcus has done all the work for you. I can offer the 2011 Matello Whistling Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir to you for 30.00 a bottle. That in and of itself is a beautiful thing. I would advise true fans of the Willamette Valley’s more delicate side to grab a six-pack for 168.00 or go all-in for a case of 12 bottles at 298.00. Buying a case basically gets you the wine for original wholesale, making it easily the finest pinot proposal I have made in several years.
I deal with wines that are limited in quantity so I’m always advising you to act quickly, don’t wait for the paint to dry, etc. This time I mean it 100X over. Marcus has begun to show this wine to his tasting room customers and it is making quite an impression. Marcus sent me an email yesterday describing one such customer interaction. “I opened it the Thursday before IPNC and had one gentleman say it reminded him of Chambolle Musigny. About 5 minutes later the ‘lead’ taster in another group remarked it reminded him of Vosne Romanée. The first person overheard and immediately began to debate the choice of commune. This is a ‘Top 5’ possible outcome for an Oregon winemaker. Seriously, it’s a bit behind ‘this reminds me of Rousseau’ and ‘wow, this tastes like La Tache,’ but I was happy. Bottle had been open for almost 5 hours at that point.” Nuff said.
If you would like me to set aside a stash of this compelling wine for you, please let me know as soon as you are able. After 10AM Tuesday August 4th I will be out of reach by computer or phone so you may not hear back from me until Friday morning. But rest assured I will do my best to fill every order for this wine!
Friday Night Wine Tasting, August 7th, 6:00-9:00PM: New Arrivals from British Columbia, Oregon and Spain!
Defeating the “dog days” of August requires a special wine tasting filled with exotic offerings. If you join us this Friday evening you will have the opportunity to taste new wines from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and Spain’s Basque country (thank you Ameztoi!). In addition, I’ll have Marcus’ 2011 Whistling Ridge open (provided there’s any left to sell) and two new wines from a local outfit known as 5Q. This winery has intentionally operated in secrecy for a couple of years now, but the four people involved recently revealed their identities and are anxious to tell their story. Intrigued? All will be revealed Friday night. There will be no charge for this tasting.
To offer you one last temptation, I will be sharing free bonus pours from Josh Bergstrom’s new project, Gargantua! Josh is anxious to make world class Syrah while at the same time exploring the different terroirs of the west coast. Even though these wines won’t be released until the fall of 2015, I will be pouring them Friday night to see what folks think. Both wines were made in Oregon but one is made with fruit from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in California and the other with grapes from the Folin Vineyard in southern Oregon and two Willamette Valley Vineyards owned by David Adelsheim and Steve Doerner of Cristom fame. Josh does plan on making a third wine using fruit from Washington, but that has to wait until next year. If you would like to be the first kids on your block to try wines from the Gargantua Project, be sure to head over here Friday night!
Store Hours Saturday August 8th, 11:00AM-5:00PM
We’ll be open for wine pick-ups and shopping. Might even have a few leftovers from Friday night to sip on while you shop!