Friday, February 5, 2016

Wine Country: Oregon

Earl Jones grew up in a farming family, and when he was of age he couldn’t wait to turn in his tractor keys for good. But in college, he discovered fine wine and the culture surrounding it. Later, when he met his wife-to-be, Hilda, they shared that interest.

When Mr. and Mrs. Jones moved from the Gulf Coast to Oregon 20 years ago, It was for the purpose of planting vines and making wines.  They wondered why the Tempranillo grape was so widely ignored in American vineyards. A lot of research and a trip to Spain led to the selection of that Iberian grape as the one that would carry the Abacela name.

The research showed them that Tempranillo likes “a short growing season with a cool spring and hot, dry summer cut short by autumn.” The Umpqua Valley site matched that criteria, plus it offered distinct microclimates from one part of the land to another. It wasn’t long before they packed their trailer, hung an "Oregon of Bust" sign on the back and hit the road.

What’s in the name? It’s a third-person conjugation of the archaic verb abacelar, which meant "to plant grape vines." That could hardly have been more perfect.

Besides Tempranillo, the Joneses also grow Syrah, Grenache, Malbec, AlabriƱo and Tannat along with five Portuguese varieties which they use to create a dessert wine patterned after tawny Port.

The Abacela wines have been lauded for quality and awarded for taste. Last year, the Joneses were given the Oregon Wine Industry's highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. They are only the tenth recipients of that honor.

This barrel-select wine was crafted by winemaker Andrew Wenzl. The grapes came from the esttate’s Fault Line vineyard.  French oak was used for about two years of aging, less than half of it new. Alcohol tips 14.8% abv. The wine retails for $32.

This wine is inky dark, and that’s no exaggeration. It actually looks like indigo ink. No light gets through at all. It’s the black hole of Tempranillo. One sniff demonstrates that darkness to my olfactory sense. There is major dark fruit, like black plums, blackberries, what’s darker than blackberries? Whatever it is, it’s in there, too. Shovel in a little dirt and light a campfire and you have the savory side figured out. The palate is fruitier than I expected, but don’t get the wrong idea. I just mean it isn’t completely given over to minerals and spices. That dark fruit is there, but it’s in a battle with the savory notes. Tannic structure is amazing - even after it’s open for three days. Bring on the red meat. This wine will not be tamed.


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