Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell Showcase their Exciting New Oregon Wines in Cape Town…

This is an exciting wine project I have been hearing about for the past few years from winemaker Emul Ross as well as its proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell every time I met up with them in either Cape Town or London. But this year also marked the release of their maiden offering of their new Oregon Chardonnay 2019 produced from the Maple Grove Vineyard in the Willamette Valley AVA, joining their premium Eola-Amity Hills AVA Pinot Noir.

During a quiet moment of the Cape Wine 2022 trade fair, I met up with Anthony and Olive to taste their new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir over a quick lunch. As we sat there discussing this exciting Oregon project, photos of the new Chardonnay 2022 harvest fortuitously started popping up on Olive’s phone, sent by Emul Ross as they had just commenced picking in the Willamette Valley.

Tasting the new Oregon releases in Cape Town with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in October 2022.

Sadly, these wines are not yet available in the UK or in the South African market but are available in 21 different US states through Vineyard Brands. But judging from the excellent quality, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some stock finds its way out of the USA!

Hamilton Russell Oregon Maple Grove Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Willamette Valley AVA, 13.8% Abv.

1.9g/l RS | 5.70g/l TA | 3.40pH

Maiden vintage and second crop from this Jackson Family owned Maple Grove single vineyard Chardonnay. South West of Salem, from an area due to become a new AVA, just south of the Van Duzer corridor. Pure Clone 95 in 2019, this wine was fermented with the Hamilton Russell’s own indigenous yeasts and was then aged in 34% first fill and 66% third fill Francois Freres barrels. The nose displays fabulous creamy leesy lemon biscuit notes, vibrant layers of waxy yellow citrus and a saline, stony minerality. The palate shows a fabulous lemon butter opulence, a honied leesy savoury complexity and a broad, soft, harmonious, fine boned persistent finish. Very classy, nuanced and pure. Fruit from a great terroir shaped and nurtured by the winemakers hand. More porcelain than pottery. Drink now and over 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

286 x 6 cases produced and exclusively sold in 21 states in the USA at circa $65pb. Vegan friendly. Distributed by USA Vineyard Brands.

Hamilton Russell Oregon Zena Crown Pinot Noir 2019, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, 13.3% Abv.

1.2g/l RS | 5.30g/l TA | 3.58pH

A classically orientated style of Pinot Noir aged for 14 months in 1st fill 23%, 2nd fill 30% and 3rd fill 47% French Francois Freres oak barrels. The aromatics are very exotic and seductive boasting delicate red and black cherry fruits, cranberry, pomegranate and hints of foresty bramble berry and wild strawberry. The palate is beautifully cool and sleek, light on its feet and finely textured with a real light touch elegance, a stony volcanic minerality and delicate silky tannins with an aspirational grandeur. Just love the effortless beauty of this wine. Plenty of appeal here for Burgundy lovers. Drink now and over the next 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

565 x 6 cases produced and exclusively sold in 21 states in the USA at circa $85pb. Distributed by USA Vineyard Brands.

Tasting the Kelley Fox Skin Contact Pinot Gris 2017 – An Exciting Benchmark Example From Oregon…

2017 finally broke the pattern of the unusually warm vintages in Oregon since 2011. The winter rainfall and snowpack were excellent and the spring was generally wetter and cooler than average. Bud bloom in the Maresh Vineyard began around 22nd June and most of July was warm and even with morning clouds burned off by the afternoon. One could feel the ocean coolness behind the summer warmth. 

By 23rd August, veraison had begun in most of the blocks and by 28th August, during the return of hot weather, it was 80-100% complete. Mid-September brought cooling and some pre-harvest rain with the average highs being 19.4 degrees C the last ten days. Blocks at Maresh were picked in early October.

Kelley reduced the usual whole cluster usage to 0% for the Maresh Vineyard Pinot Gris in 2017 making the wines extra elegant, bright and perfumed with low alcohols.

Kelley Fox Wines Maresh Vineyard Pinot Gris, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 12.8 Abv. 

A fascinating copper blood orange tinted Pinot Gris produced from the fruit of vines planted on their own rootstock in 1991 in the northeast corner of the Maresh Vineyard. The wine saw 14 to 16 days of skin contact and elevage in a concrete amphora tank for 5 months with malolactic completed. The bouquet is loaded with dusty minerality of volcanic basalt, wet slate and crushed rocks complexed by pithy strawberry, red cherry skin aromatics, ripe quince and sweet ripe figs. Beautifully fresh, vibrant and light on its feet, the wine tiptoes across the palate with smokey sappy spice, resinous blood orange nuances, quince purée and wet river pebble minerality. There are delicate pithy phenolics from a fortnight of skin contact but also such a bright purity and crisp linearity. More complex and vinous than a lookalike Rose wine, this is a wonderful creation with an earthy savoury salinity that finishes with a long lasting complexity and intrigue. Lovely wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Seduced by the Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir from Kelley Fox Wines, Oregon…

I first met the wonderful Kelley Fox around 3 years ago at the Real Wine Fair in London. After several years of buying and selling a plethora of great Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, a spell of tasting disappointing Pinot Noirs from Oregon followed despite being such a committed convert after attending the Oregon Pinot Camp in 2009.


But my good friend Doug Wregg from wine importer Les Caves de Pyrenees showed me the way to the superb Kelley Fox Wines and once again, my faith in the finest potential of Oregon Pinot Noir was restored. 


The Momtazi Vineyard is a fully Demeter-certified biodynamic vineyard in the McMinnville Foothills A.V.A. (American Viticultural Area), in Northern Oregon, planted in 1998 with 114 and 115 Pinot Noir clones.


The 2013 vintage in the Willamette Valley was a year of consistent warm, dry weather until late September, that is. After a relatively dry winter and early spring, bud break in the Willamette Valley overall was the earliest since 1992. Summer was consistently warm, but with none of the heat spikes over 37 deg C like in 2009, for example. Veraison in relevant blocks occurred around the end of August/early September. Then the rains came. Not just any rains but typhoon-like rains at the end of September. But picking still only occurred on the 7th of October in the Momtazi vineyard with fruit considered some of the best quality in years.


Kelley Fox Wines Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, McMinnville, Oregon, 13 Abv.

This is one Pinot Noir worth investing some time in. With a nose this expressive and pretty, there is no point rushing. Contemplation is required. The bouquet is seriously seductive and beguiling, revealing subtle perfumed cherry blossom, cherry confit, blood oranges, polished rosewood and ruby grapefruit complexity. But this wine possesses an extra dimension, an inner core of Pinot beauty that marries red and black forest berry fruits, dusty chalky minerality, subtle sappy notes and dreamy resinous oak spice. The palate is no less impressive, with such a fine knit texture, creamy finessed talcum powder tannins and an inseparable, integrated acidity balance. Layers of black spicy cherry fruits roll into pomegranate, juniper, red liquorice stick, bramble berry and sweet creamy musk. There is such a feminine, harmonious gentleness to this wine that surely has to be one of the finest Pinot Noirs produced in the Willamette Valley. A real treat. Drink now to 2025+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Alternative USA, but not as you know it…

Today I was invited to one of the most exciting tastings of the year… there have been many … and it’s already November!! A fantastic mix of California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont wines expertly presented by Doug Wregg of Les Caves des Pyrene.

Detritus of the USA tasting
Craig Hawkins’ El Bandito Cortez 2014 gate crashing the USA tasting

This was a timely tasting of new releases as we prepare to finalise the final wine selection for our annual Thanks Giving Tasting. I expected a few gems but was not prepared to be confronted by over 24 individual, intensely profound white and red wines.

Ryme “Hers” Vermentino 2015, early picked, fresh lime and lemon crystalline style
A spectacular Ribolla Gialla aged 6 months skin contact. A profound wine.
La Clarine Albariño from the Sierra Foothills

I’m certainly no new comer to Californian wines and no new comer to even many of the producers on taste today. But the quality of wines was expertly chosen and thoroughly exhilarating. Some fantastic new vintages. 

Beautiful Grenache Gris from 105 year old vines on own rootstock bush vines
Cortese grapes a low pH and long extraction in eggs
70 year old Carignan, 90 year old Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon blend
A 40% Arneis, 30% Dolcetto, 15% Barbera, and 15% Nebbiolo

While there were too many wines to individually single out, I was massively impressed with Ryan and Megan’s wines from Ryme Winery and certainly the selection from Ruth Lewandowski Winery.

Mutated Pinot Noir that yields white grape a la Pinot Blanc like Henri Gouges Nuits St Georges white
Sauvignon Blanc aged 4 years under flor. Spectacular and uber rare.
 

Reacquainting myself with the Lo-fi Wines and the superb micro cuvees from Minimus, Golden Cluster, Kelly Fox and Ovum also made for a tantalising tasting.

The beautiful, ethereal Momtazi 2013 Pinot Noir from McMinnville AVA
Ovum “Off the Grid” Riesling fermented 6m and aged 9m on lees. RS 10-12g/l and TA 9.5g/l
Ovum “In The Dark” Gewürztraminer from Rogue Valley.

Last but not least, an exciting Vermont AVA Petillant Naturelle made from hybrid grape La Crescent, wrapped up a superb tasting and freshened up the palate nicely. A real eye opener tasting.

La Crescent Grapes aged 14 days on skins, with no added Sulphur

Most of the micro cuvees were made in tiny quantities, many being indeed single barrel volumes. But quality was never compromised and attention to detail was pinpoint. 

Epic langoustines at Terroir Restaurant
Golden Cluster Coury Old Vines Semillon 2014

I look forward to securing allocations of some of these fantastic wines and making them available to my customers for Thanks Giving and beyond, if they last that long!

Exotic, rich vibrant Chenin style
Golden Cluster Dion Syrah from North Oregon
Own rootstock Pinot Noir vines regrafted to Syrah