First look at my 2014s

With my 2013s in short supply – fall releases are long sold out, spring releases available in small amounts – I tasted through my barrels of 2014 Pinot noir on Saturday.

Wow, what a surprise. I’ll be the first to admit I was nervous tasting through the wines. 2014 was a very warm summer with an early harvest. As a wine geek, I tend to find warm years in pretty much any wine region of the world to give at best generous but perhaps overly fruity wines that taste great but aren’t compelling. At worst, wines can lack freshness, taste raisiny and even tired in their youth. Think 2003 in Burgundy, the home of Pinot noir. That’s not at all what I’m looking for in my own wines.

Still, I’m true to vintages. My wines change from year to year, reflecting the story of each growing season be it hot, cold, or somewhere “normal.”

When I put the 2014s into barrel last fall, they were pretty darkly colored and full of ripe fruit, exactly what I’d expect from a warm year. I’ve always learned you can properly judge a red wine until the malolactic fermentation is done in the following spring, and as a wine maker the reasons for that grow more apparent each year.

Before ML, acidity is sharp. The wine softens from the malolactic process. The color and density of the wine can change during the process, even dramatically, as pigmented particles in the wine settle out. ML also causes a temporary pearlescence in the wine, an oily sheen that further complicate color evaluation until things settle out.

Translucent Pinot noir, 2014 Vincent Crowley Station Vineyard

Translucent Pinot noir, 2014 Vincent Crowley Station Vineyard

That’s why I haven’t done a comprehensive barrel tasting of the 2014s until now. Things weren’t quite set, and while the wines will continue to evolve before bottling late this summer, things are set enough at this point to get a pretty good sense of what I have in cask.

So how are my 2014 wines? In a word, surprising. Remarkably fresh with good fruit intensity, of course, but no candied or fruit juice qualities the hotter vintages can give. Colors are much more moderate than I expected, even translucent in many casks. Acidities are bright, thanks to picking at appropriate ripeness. I did add tartaric acid to a few fermenters to allow for lower sulfur additions post fermentation, the pH of a wine directly relating to how effective the sulfur you add will be. But across the board, the acidities in these new wines are terrific, and again surprising.

I work with four vineyards for Pinot noir and each of course gives a different wine. So too each barrel takes a life of its over the winter and spring, going through ML at its own pace, and otherwise settling out and “curing” during barrel aging, or elevage, on its own. The result is a variety of material to select the top barrels from each vineyard for my single vineyard bottlings, then blending the rest by appellation for my Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity Hills cuvees. It only happens in some years that there are a few barrels just not good enough for either level of bottling, and I blend them as general Willamette Valley designation and sell to my mailing list and restaurants for super cheap. I don’t release any wines that aren’t good, but that WV level allows me to cull out tasty but otherwise simple wines and sell them for the right price for drinking pretty soon.

All together, I’m changing my tune on the 2014s. No more talk of the hot vintage and “big” wines. What I have in the cellar is much more elegant and lithe than I ever expected. That’s great news for people who appreciate delicate and nuanced Oregon Pinot noir. And even better news given the warmth we’re already seeing in 2015. If I can make wines this coming year to rival the 2014s, I’ll be a happy guy.

Interested in these 2014s? Join the Vincent Wine Company mailing list and you’ll receive a special offer on pre-release pricing in August. Wines are being bottled in September and shipped to mailing list customers in the fall when weather has cooled. Some of my wines never make it to retail shelves, so buying from the list is the best way to go. Plus I offer terrific discounts for mailing list buyers. Sign up today and look forward to the latest offer in August.

Sales trips coming up

As spring moves to summer, it’s time to hit the road to support my distributors in New York and California.

I’ll be in New York City the first week of June working with SolStars, which purchased my previous distributor Ice Bucket Selections. I’ve been selling my wines in New York since 2012 and am excited to visit accounts like Frankly Wines and Astor Wines & Spirits, both terrific supports of Vincent wines. And I’m looking forward to establishing some new relationships now that my wines are available through a larger company with several sales reps.

Then I’ll be in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the middle of July to work with Return to Terroir in both markets. That’s two days in San Francisco and two more days in LA and Orange County. Plus a still secret interview on a national wine podcast that I’ll share more about once that’s done and actually scheduled to be released. Still hard to believe that’s happening. Stay tuned.

If you’re in any of these cities and interested in my wines, let me know and perhaps we could even meet up while I’m in town. I started this wine journey years ago thanks in part to connections I’ve made online, and I’m always happy to meet new wine friends.

Vincent wine dinner at Daily Cafe in the Pearl, Saturday May 9

Please come to a wine dinner with me at the terrific Daily Cafe in the Pearl, Saturday May 9 at 6:30pm.

This event is part of the Daily’s artist dinner series, Cooks & Corks, pairing a local artist and a local winemaker with a lovely meal.

This month’s artist is Anna Kodesch, a painter of animal portraits, oil on canvas.

This month’s winemaker, naturally, is me. I’ll be pouring three wines paired with a spring-inspired menu:

2014 Guild Winemakers Rosé Willamette Valley (this from my project with fellow vintners Anne Hubatch and John Grochau)
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard

Full menu details and reservations available here. The event costs $75 per person. Hope to see you!

PDX Urban Wineries tasting May 3 in Portland

Come to the annual PDX Urban Wine Experience tasting of wine producers in the city of Portland. This year’s tasting is Sunday, May 3, from 3-6pm at Union Pine in inner SE Portland.

Member of PDX Urban Wineries, the association of Portland wineries, will all be there pouring new releases, including special, limited bottlings that rarely make it out of Portland.

I’ll be there pouring two of my spring release Pinot Noirs. All wines poured will be available to buy, with quantity discounts available on mixed purchases. Come taste local wines made in the city of Portland, then take home your favorites at special prices.

Hope to see you there. Discounted tickets are available here through the end of April.

Vincent is moving to the Eola Hills this fall

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Grochau Cellars in the bucolic Eola Hills of Oregon

Yes, it’s true.

And if you follow me on Twitter, perhaps you guessed it. I’ve been hinting for weeks, actually months, that something big is happening.

Beginning this fall, Vincent Wine Company is moving wine production from Portland to the new location of Grochau Cellars in the Eola Hills in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country.

It’s a big change, moving out of Portland where I launched Vincent in 2009. I’ve been all about making wine in the urban core of Portland, and I still believe so much in the urban winemaking culture we have in the Rose City. It’s not an easy decision to leave Portland or my comrades in PDX Urban Wineries, our association of Portland-based wineries.

I just have an opportunity to continue to grow my production – nearly 1,000 cases in 2014 – with a now longtime friend and mentor in John Grochau at his new home, close to the vineyards I work with and the growers I want to spend more time around. It’s simply too good an opportunity to pass up, and it’s the right time.

I met John Grochau more than a decade ago, when I was working harvests at local wineries and working at a local university. I did harvests with John in 2007 and 2008, then I started Vincent in 2009 at his old facility in NW Portland.

I stayed at Grochau Cellars for the first three years on my own, continuing to learn from John and growing to where we became partners with two other friends in Guild Winemakers, a negotiant wine project that has been lots of fun and given me a ton of wine business experience.

I moved to the SE Wine Collective in 2012, where Kate and Tom Monroe and a terrific group of talented winemakers, chefs and servers really helped me grow both my production and my business. Things were great before I got to the Collective, but things got even better for me during my time there and I’ll forever be part of that crew. Thank you Kate and Tom for all we’ve done together, I’m a lucky guy to have crossed paths with you two.

Now I’m entering the seventh year of production as Vincent Wine Company, and I’m moving to the country to reconnect with John and take up a little space in his new facility. He’ll have a tasting room but I’m not planning to be part of that. I still don’t make enough wine and this is his place, I’m just happy to spread out a bit in the cellar and make more wine to sell across the country and beyond.

Instead of a tasting room, I’ll continue my tastings by appointment with mailing list customers and other interested buyers, and I’ll continue to participate in a variety of public and private tasting events. For my customers, the only real change will be the cellar location amid the lush vines and red soils of the astonishingly beautiful Eola Hills. Seems like a fair trade.

I’ve loved my time making wine in Portland, where so many wine lovers live. Now I get to return to wine country where the grapes live. They can’t commute, so I’m going to them and hoping you all can come out and visit us soon.

Vincent – New Location starting Fall 2015 at Grochau Cellars, 9360 SE Eola Hills Road, Amity, OR. For tastings or purchases, contact Vincent Fritzsche at 503-740-9475.

New releases for spring

I’m delighted to release the final three wines from 2013, all reds perfect for spring and summer dining.

2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills – $27
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard – $39
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Bjornson Vineyard – $39

Each year, my top wines are my single vineyard designate bottlings. For spring, they are Zenith and Bjornson, both from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA but different in soil type.

The 2013 Zenith Vineyard is from our rows in block 6-G, a south facing knoll with little top soil over sandstone where the leaf canopy of the vines barely fills the trellis most years. This year’s wine is all Pinot Noir elegance, with ripe but restrained fruit, floral and earth elements, the texture worsted and a touch firm. I enjoy my single vineyard wines young, but they do have more structure with the goal of lasting several years in a cool cellar. This Zenith is a classic representation of this historic Eola Hills vineyard, formerly O’Connor Vineyard and a long time source of terrific wines from St. Innocent Winery. $39

The 2013 Bjornson Vineyard is a slightly more powerful Pinot Noir, with a touch deeper color and already complex fruit and earth interplay, the acid bright and finish long and satisfying. The soils here are volcanic, with a thin band of red clay over fractured basalt bedrock. The wines here are always more masculine, but like neighboring vineyards I’ve enjoyed for years, Bjornson always shows perfume and grace to balance its natural power in a way very few sites can achieve. Like the Zenith, this wine is delicious now and yet has the structure to age well for several years. $39

The 2013 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills is our village wine for spring, a blend of barrels from all three of our vineyard sites in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA – Zenith and Bjornson, as well as Crowley Station Vineyard. This wine is a bit lighter in color than either single vineyard bottling, with less intensity but still lovely grace and perfume intended for drinking now over the next few years. $27

BerserkerDay deal

Today is BerserkerDay VI, the 6th anniversary of the founding of wineberserkers.com. As usual, we are part of the fun, with a special discount offer to add to the celebration.

If you’re interested, you have to go to Wine Berserkers, register for free, then go to the BerserkerDay VI forum (register to access) and look for the Vincent Wine Company offer around 1:05pm PST. It’s a special 3-pack of 2013 wines for $59. It’s our best deal of the year outside of buying from our annual futures offering to our mailing list.

Limit one 3-pack per person, shipping is $15 extra, and there are about a dozen left to sell. But no worries, if you can’t get my wine this time, find other great offers from lots of wineries, wine shops and food purveyors, all in the name of celebrating wine love craziness. And there’s terrific wine discussion and a great community of people at Wine Berserkers from around the world. Check it out.