Category Archives: Oregon

Maison Roy Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Beaux Freres Impulse

Maison Roy 2014 “Petite Incline” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR

Fellow wine lovers, you may have picked up on the fact that I’ve found myself extremely bored with Oregon Pinot Noir for the past several years. There are still some great ones out there, but for the most part, I’m finding much of them to be boring and overpriced. One Willamette Valley Pinot Noir which has kept my interest throughout time is Beaux Freres. While their flagship wine may run for $95 per bottle, I do think it’s worth the dollar. As luck would have it, the families which founded and still own and run Beaux Freres have launched a completely new project, Mason Roy. It’s one of the better Oregon Pinot Noirs I’ve had recently, and it’s very affordable.

Back in 1991 Mike Etzel and Robert Roy came together to found the now famous Beaux Freres. Fast forward to 2012 and their Sons Jared Etzel and Marc Roy have started their owner winery, Maison Roy, after spending years working under their fathers and learning their craft. I’m a born skeptic, and I’ve seen other second generation wineries pop up with less than impressive wines, so I was pleasantly surprised with how much I’m enjoying the Maison Roy.

Maison Roy 2014 Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Maison Roy 2014 Petite Incline Pinot Noir

Maison Roy 2014 “Petite Incline” Pinot Noir $34.99

I’ve consistently found Beaux Freres to be among the biggest, most dense, and most complex Pinot Noir out there, and the Maison Roy follows in those same footsteps. It stands on it’s own, without trying to be a clone of Beaux Freres, but you can definitely see that Jared Etzel and Marc Roy are their fathers’ sons in terms of their wine philosophies. It’s not quite as complex as a $95 bottle of Beaux Freres, but it’s beautiful and among the most complex Oregon Pinot Noir in the $35 range.

It’s not as “Petite” as the name might suggest, though they do offer a higher end bottle simply named “Incline”. The Petite Incline is unfined and unfiltered, which gives a bit of extra texture and slightly cloudy appearance. It’s 100% Pinot Noir grapes, sourced from a handful of great  vineyards around the Willamette Valley. The nose is packed with lush fruits, spicy herbs, and hints of forest floor, while the palate is medium-full bodied, for a Pinot Noir. There are flavors of preserved black cherries, dehydrated strawberries, hints of pepper and tobacco. It’s shows a mineral essences with notes of plums and raspberries. Overall, a very pleasant and lovely Pinot Noir.

We were able to get our hands on just 15 bottles to feature on Impulse, and they’re first come first serve

Vineyards: Gran Moraine, Terry, Merriman, La Collina, Stoller, Kelly
Grape(s): 100% Pinot Noir
Drinkability: Now through 2021
Body: Medium-Full for Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Beaux Freres, Cameron
Food Pairing: Salmon, Pork Tenderloin, Lamb
Availability: 15 bottles



Ambassador Boushey Sauv Blanc

Ambassador Impulse:

Ambassador Winery 2015 Boushey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley

Fellow wine lovers, it’s no secret that I’m rather fond of Boushey Vineyard. I firmly hold the opinion that it’s one of the best vineyards in Washington State, and if you’ve had the wines, chances are you know what I’m talking about. Owners Dick and Luanne Boushey are meticulous stewards of the land, and their passion for what they do shines through immediately when you converse with either of them. Aside from knowing exactly how to farm their land, they’re also very particular about what wineries they will sell grapes to, making certain to only sell to the best of them. I’ve witnessed first hand, as they regularly collect and taste wines which incorporate their fruit year after year to ensure they are up to par.

Ambassador Winery 2015 Boushey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc $21.99

This is the first year that Ambassador Winery has made a Sauvignon Blanc, thus the production is a mere 300 cases. If you’re not familiar with Ambassador, they’re a smaller winery on Red Mountain, established approximately 10 years ago. Their own estate Red Mountain vineyards are planted only with red grapes, which are more suited to the hot climate of the region. For this reason, when they decided to make a white, they went to a cooler climate vineyard- Boushey.

I think Dick and Luanne Boushey will be pleased with the results, as Ambassador Winery has done right by their grapes. The wine is rather tightly wound for a Sauvignon Blanc, and really opens up with time, which can be good sign that it will age nicely for a few years. The nose shows hints of flint and mineral with a touch of citrus. The palate is bigger than the average Sauvignon Blanc, about medium-full in body for a crisp white. It’s fresh, and soft with notes of white peach, hints of tarragon, green and yellow apples, and asian pears. It’s a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon, co-fermented in a combination of neutral French oak barrels and stainless steel, the result of which is a wine that is complex, subtle, and pleasing.

Ambassador Winery 2015 Boushey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Ambassador Winery 2015 Boushey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Click here to order the Ambassador Boushey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Yakima Valley AVA, Washington State Wine
Vineyard(s): Boushey Vineyard
Grape(s): 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon
Aging: Co-Fermented and Aged in Neutral French Oak and Stainless Steel
Drinkability: Now through 2020
Body: Medium-Full
Alcohol: 13.8% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Fume Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, Avennia Oliane, Efeste Sauvage
Food Pairing: Oysters, Soft Cheese
Production: 300 cases



Leah Jorgensen “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc

Pirate Impulse

Leah Jorgensen 2014 “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc

Fellow wine lovers, last year, Leah Jorgensen Cellars was named “Winery to Watch” by Northwest Wine Press Magazine. Leah is an up and coming winemaker who is working at the venerable Evening LandWinery, while making small quantities of wine under her own label.

Back in the day, she worked wine sales in Washington DC, but fell in love with what Oregon has to offer during a trip to the state’s wine country. She has a real passion for the grapes of the Loire Valley of France, and has gone against the grain in Oregon by putting the focus of Leah Jorgensen Cellars on varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, which can grow well in the slightly warmer parts of Southern Oregon. I’m told that in Oregon, Leah Jorgensen is known by her nickname, The Pirate Queen, and the imagery on the wine’s label is of her depicted as such.

Leah Jorgensen 2014 “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc $23.99 (Regularly $26)

The name “Loiregon” comes from combining the words Loire and Oregon, since Leah Jorgensen’s ultimate goal is to make Loire style wines in Oregon State. For this Cabernet Franc, she tapped two vineyards in two separate regions of Southern Oregon: Sundown Vineyard in the Rogue Valley, and Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley.

True to the French style, this is a lighter style of Cabernet Franc, aged in a combination of used French oak barrels and stainless steel vessels. The nose shows delicate fruit notes of dried cherries, crushed rose petals, hints dried leaves. The palate is medium-light in body and dry, tasting of preserves plums, brandied cherries, black tea, wet stones, and spicy herbs. I’m of the opinion that a gentle style of Cabernet Franc, such as this, is very versatile with food and can pair if a really wide variety of dishes.

Leah Jorgensen 2014 "Loiregon" Cabernet Franc

Leah Jorgensen 2014 “Loiregon” Cabernet Franc

Click here to Order the Leah Jorgensen Cabernet Franc

Region: Rogue Valley & Applegate Valley AVAs in Southern Oregon
Vineyard: Sundown Vineyard and Mae’s Vineyard
Grape: 100% Cabernet Franc
Aging: Used French Oak Barrels and Stainless Steel
Drinkability: Now through 2019
Body: Medium-Light
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Lorie Valley Cabernet Franc, Savage Grace Cabernet Franc,
Chinon, Bourgueil, Saumur
Press: Named “Winery to Watch” by Northwest Wine Press Magazine
Food Pairings: Roast Beef or Lamb, Roasted Vegetable
Production: 260 cases



Ross Andrew “Glaze” Cab & “Meadow” White

Meadow Impulse

Ross Andrew Winery 2012 “Glaze” Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 “Meadow” White WIne

Fellow wine lovers, we have a couple of easy-going, every-day drinking, kind of wines from an old pal of mine, Ross Andrew Mickel, of Ross Andrew Winery. For those not familiar with Ross and his off the radar winery, he started his winemaking career at DeLille Cellars and went on to become assistant winemaker at Betz Family Winery, where he worked under the tutelage of Bob Betz, Master of Wine. He then launched Ross Andrew Winery in 1999, and is today one of the few winemakers invited to make wine under the highly revered Grand Reve/Force Majeure label.

Ross Andrew 2012 “Glaze” Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again that 2012 was a superb vintage for Washington State, from which we are seeing outstanding wines from most every region and vineyard. When a vintage is great like this, where great wine is made up and down the range, it’s an ideal situation for value driven wines, as the quality of all wines is at an elevated level.

The Ross Andrew “Glaze” Cabernet is a nice, casual drinking, Cabernet with a bit of Merlot blended in to smooth things out and add extra complexity. It’s aged in just 30% French oak barrels, so it’s far from being an oaky Cabernet, and it weighs in at a very approachable 13.8% alcohol.

The wine shows qualities of red and black berries, hints of Valrhona chocolate, earth, and Grand Marnier, with a touch of ripe plums. Andy Perdue of Great Northwest Wine calls it a “Best Buy”, and I would have to agree.

Ross Andrew Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon

Ross Andrew Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon

Click here to order the Ross Andrew “Glaze” Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Columbia Valley AVA, Washington State
Grape: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot
Aging: 30% French Oak Barrels for 20 Months
Drinkability: Now through 2017
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 13.8% by volume
Press: Andy Perdue of Great Northwest Wine calls it a “Best Buy”

Ross Andrew 2011 “Meadow” White Blend $16.99

11.19 The Ross Andrew “Meadow” white is a really fun, unique, and well thought out wine. Year’s ago, Ross told me that he had conceptualized it when inspired by the wines of Marcel Deiss, from Alsace, France. In order to make a white wine with richness and complexity juxtaposed with fresh exuberance, Ross has done what few winemakers do and blended grapes from both Oregon and Washington States. He’s gathered up a handful of traditional Alsatian varieties: mostly Pinot Blanc from the Willamette Valley with bits of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling from the Columbia Gorge, and co-fermented them. The resulting wine is aged for 5 months in 100% stainless steel, to maintain its freshness, while on lees to add a creamy mouthfeel and additional layers of flavor.

The final product is a wine which is rich yet crisp, complex yet refreshing with just a slight hint of sweetness, and truly emulates the wines of Alsace better than most any other from the northwest. When I was the Sommelier at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, I often paired this with our richer seafood dishes such as crab, spot prawns, and squid, and it was extremely well received. It’s an excellent seafood food wine!

A great white to drink during colder times, given its richness, yet also perfect on a sunny day, given its refreshing crispness. The nose is aromatic with white flowers, Asian pear, and a slight nuttiness. The palate is fresh and vibrant with tangerine zest, white peaches, and hints of minerality. In the classic Alsatian style, there’s a touch of sweetness in the mid-palate, which really opens it up to serious food friendliness, then the acidity on the back end helps give it a clean and dry finish.

Sean Sullivan calls the Meadow White, “exquisitely balanced”, giving it 91 Points in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, where it is also an “Editor’s Choice” wine.

Ross Andrew Meadow White

Ross Andrew Meadow White

Click here to order the Ross Andrew Meadow White

Region: 53% Columbia Gorge, Washington and 47% Willamette Valley, Oregon
Grape: Mostly Pinot Blanc, with Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer
Aging: 100% Stainless Steel Aged on Fine Lees for 5 Months
Drinkability: Now through 2018
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 12.7% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Alsatian Whites, Marcel Deiss
Press: 91 Points and “Editor’s Choice” from Sean Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Food Pairings: Spot Prawns, Squid, Crab, Lobster, Skate



Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir

Gold Medal Impulse

Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, not too long ago I had the pleasure of being a judge at the Great Northwest Wine Invitational competition, where over 400 Northwest wines were tasted by 16 judges, over 2 days. When the blind tastings came to a close, one winery had won a gold medal for all four wines they had entered, and one of their wines even won best in class for Pinot Noir- leaving most every wine expert there wanting more information about this little known estate, Colene Clemens Vineyards.

Located in Newberg Oregon, Colene Clemens Vineyards is a newcomer who is surely getting a bit of attention from local lovers of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This family owned winery belongs to Vicki and Joe Stark, a former librarian and a small business owner, respectively. They found an old derelict orchard and abandoned farmstead, with excellent soil on a south facing slope, and planted their vineyards there

Colene Clemens 2011 “Margo” Pinot Noir $31.99

The 2011 vintage of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is very light and delicate, perhaps even a bit shy at first, similar to what we saw with the 2007 vintage. The 2007’s took a few years to come around, and once they did, they really shined. I think we are seeing similar patterns with 2011, and that these wines are just now coming alive, and will continue to do so for another year or two, hence the gold medal at the Great Northwest Wine Invitational!

The Colene Clemens “Margo” Pinot Noir comes from their sustainably farmed estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains of the Willamette Valley. It’s a blend of all five Pinot Noir clones which they grow – three Dijon clones, Wadensvil, and Pommard – cropped to low yields of just 1.4 tons per acre. After fermentation, the wine see just the right amount of new oak, spending 11 Months in French Oak, 23% New and 77% used barrels. Then it’s bottled, unfined and unfiltered.

It’s a delicate Pinot Noir for those who like this more subtle style, with less fruit forward qualities. It shows hints of bing cherries, red plums, and tart Northwest berries. It’s not a big wine, about medium-light bodied on the palate, with medium-high acidity and a low alcohol of 13.2%, as is typical for the 2011 vintage in Oregon. There is a hint of rose petal and orange peel, just a touch of vanilla and baking spice, and a component of earth and dried leaves.

Click here to order the Colene Clemens “Margo” Pinot Noir

Colene Clemens 2011 Margo Pinot Noir

Colene Clemens 2011 Margo Pinot Noir

Region: Chehalem Mountain AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Vineyard: Colene Clemens Estate Vineyards
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 11 Months in French Oak Barrels, 23% New and 77%, bottled unfined and unfiltered
Drinkability: Now through 2019
Body: Medium-Light
Alcohol: 13.2% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Oregon Pinot from 2007 and 2010 Vintages
Food Pairings: Truffles, Mushrooms, Pork, Salmon



TTB Approves The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA

TTB Approves New AVA: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater

Located in Northeastern Oregon, within the Walla Walla Valley AVA

WALLA WALLA VALLEY, FEB. 6, 2015 – The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) today announced it will establish The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater as the newest American Viticulture Area (AVA) on Monday, Feb. 9. The AVA is situated on an alluvial fan of the Walla Walla River, where the river exits the foothills of the Blue Mountains and enters the Walla Walla Valley. It lies entirely within the state of Oregon and includes part of the town of Milton-Freewater. The area contained within the Rocks District also lies within the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which in turn is entirely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA.

The distinguishing feature of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is its soil, which consists primarily of dark-colored basalt cobblestones. The cobblestone-rich soil is very well drained, which encourages the vines to root deeply. Due to their coarse texture, the soils are not easily eroded, so cover crops are not required and the cobblestones can be left exposed on the surface where they absorb solar radiation. Heat from the sun-warmed stones promotes growth early in the season and assists ripening during the late summer and early fall.

Nineteen wine producers have vineyards within the boundaries of The Rocks District of MiltonFreewater AVA, which contains approximately 3,770 acres and currently has approximately 250 acres of commercially producing vineyards. The AVA application effort was organized and managed by Steve Robertson of Delmas/SJR Vineyard along with seven other wine growers and producers. Dr. Kevin R. Pogue, a professor of geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, submitted the petition to the TTB.

Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology

Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology

Dr. Pogue is pleased the growers shared his idea that the AVA be highly uniform with regard to the physical environment within its boundaries. “The concept behind AVAs is to recognize regions that have truly unique growing conditions that are expressed in the wines. I believe we have remained true to that spirit, creating an AVA with the most uniform terroir in the United States”, he said. “The Rocks District lies on one landform, with very uniform topography and climate, and 96-percent of the soils belong to the Freewater soil series.”

The Walla Walla Valley AVA as a whole spans northeastern Oregon to southeastern Washington and has a long agricultural history. A wide variety of crops have been cultivated in The Rocks District since the late 1800s, and in addition to wine grapes the area still produces commercially-grown apples, cherries, prunes and plums. Wines produced from vineyards planted in The Rocks District in the mid-1990s were quickly recognized by wine critics as among the finest in the country.

The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater Page 2 of 2 “Wines from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater have been earning accolades for years,” said Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “The Walla Walla Valley has a proud tradition of growing world-class wine grapes, and this designation will help winegrowers better tell the story of the unique terroir on which their grapes are grown.”

“The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater marks Oregon’s 18th AVA, another important step in designating the distinctive and high-quality wine growing regions within our state,” said Ellen Brittan, chairwoman of the Oregon Wine Board. “By gaining AVA status, producers who grow or source fruit from these vineyards can better differentiate the unique characteristics of their wines.”

“Washington State Wine is excited to collaborate with our partners in the Walla Walla Valley AVA and in Oregon to share the story of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater,” said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine, which promotes awareness of wineries and growers in Washington State and its cross-border AVAs. “This isn’t about state borders. It’s about the Pacific Northwest and our growing reputation as home to world-class wines. We feel this new AVA designation further recognizes the unparalleled terroir of this area.”

About the Oregon Wine Board:

The Oregon Wine Board (OWB) is a semi-independent Oregon state agency managing marketing, research and education initiatives that support and advance the Oregon wine and wine grape industry. The Board works on behalf of all Oregon wineries and independent growers throughout the state’s diverse winegrowing regions. To learn more, visit

About Washington State Wine:

Washington State Wine represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, WSW provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines. Funded almost entirely by the industry through assessments based on grape and wine sales, WSW is a state government agency, established by the legislature in 1987. To learn more, visit About WWVWA: The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a non-profit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is the marketing of the Walla Walla Valley’s American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Wine Alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media and trade interested in learning more about the Valley’s wine industry. More information about the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and its’ mission can be found at

Heart of Impulse

Coeur de Terre Vineyard Pinot Noir

Fellow wine lovers, if you follow along much with vintages and reviews, you might remember just a few years back the stark contrast between the Willamette Valley’s 2007 and 2008 vintages. 2007 was a cooler year and was panned by critics early on as being thin, boring, and incomplex. Then came 2008 which was a warmer and riper year by comparison, and it was praised by critics, like a breath of fresh air, come to rescue us from the drudgery of 2007. Then something unexpected happened – some wineries had a lot of trouble selling their 2007’s, so they cast them aside and hid them in the back of their warehouses, while the 2008’s sold out so quickly that wineries were left with nothing to offer, so they desperately went back to their stockpiles of 2007. Only then did we all realize, over a year later, the true nature of 2007, that it wasn’t boring, it just needed time. After an extra year or two of age, the 2007’s were waking up, and they were stunning! 

Fast forward to today, and history is repeating itself in the form of the 2011 and 2012 vintages, with the former being a lighter cooler vintage, and the latter being a bigger, bolder, warmer one. Only this time, we have the benefit of experience and know exactly what to expect. We are going to drink our 2012’s sooner, and hold the 2011’s for another year or two, when they have had a chance come into their own. 

As it happens, we have the perfect opportunity here with Coeur de Terre Vineyard, who is just releasing their 2012 Pinot, and still has just a bit of 2011 left for us. 

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard is at the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, with the mountainous terrain blocking the harsh ocean winds from battering their vines, while still offering the benefit of cooler temperatures from the seaboard. Scott and Lisa Neal came by this land by accident in 1998, when they got lost trying to locate a different prospective property during a scouting trip. Seeing potential in the landed they happened upon, Scott and Lisa spent weeks walking the earth and analyzing the soil before confirming that this would be the site of their future vineyards, which are now farmed sustainably and organically. They named their estate Coeur de Terre, meaning simply, “Heart of the Earth”. 

The 2011 vintage was a tricky one, starting out so cool that many wondered if it would ever get hot enough. Then an Indian Summer brought beautifully warm weather near the end, helping the fruit to catch up. Grapes were harvested later in the season than any other vintage on record, meaning they have benefitted from extra time on the vine. 2011 really came through in the clutch, and it is known valley wide simply as “the miracle vintage”. 

This Coeur de Terre 2011 Pinot Noir is the lighter, earthier, and spicier of the two we are offering today, with notes of bramble, dried herbs, cranberries, bing cherries, a hint of crimini mushroom, and dried rose petals. It’s aged 11 months in 20% new French oak, with the rest being used, and the alcohol level is a low 13.3%, as is typical for a cooler vintage. Drinking tight right now, and will benefit from another year and a half age in the bottle, before it really starts to shine. 

Click here to order the Coeur de Terre 2011 Pinot 

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon 
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir 
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrels, 20% New, 80% used 
Drinkability: 2016-2020 
Body: Light Bodied 
Alcohol: 13.3% by volume 
Drink This if you LIke: 2007 Vintage of Willamette Pinot or Red Burgundy 
Food Pairings: Grilled Herbed Salmon 

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir $19.99 (Regularly $22)

The 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are just now coming into the market, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster vintage, much like 2008, with lots of high scores from the critics. It was hot and dry pretty much throughout the vintage, giving way to juicy ripe fruit with deep, dark character. 

The Coeur de Terre 2012 Pinot is bolder by comparison to the 2011, with more dense fruit. The nose has a hint of cocoa, smoke, fresh lavender, and toast. The palate is full of ripe morello cherries, a touch of blueberry, and hints of smoky tobacco leaf. It has much more fresh fruit character in general, with less earth and herb. Aged 11 months in 20% new French oak barrels, 40% once used, 30% twice used, and 10% neutral. It’s drinking well right now, though it can benefit from another year in the bottle. 

Click here to order the Coeur de Terre 2012 Pinot 

Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon 
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir 
Aging: 11 months in French Oak Barrel, 20% new, 40% once used, 30% twice used, 10% neutral 
Drinkability: 2015-2019 
Body: Medium Bodied 
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume 
Drink This if you Like: 2008 Vintage of Willamette Pinot 
Food Pairings: Grilled Marinated Pork