As we drove slowly along Oregon Road I began humming “Country roads, take me home…” We had just paid our first of what I hope will be many visits to the East End Mushroom Company, and two baskets of mushrooms sat in the back seat, awaiting culinary inspiration. Meanwhile, we were enjoying the bucolic scenery along Oregon Road, on our way back to Shinn’s tasting room after more than a year away.
I like the cozy rustic look of the tasting room, and today we had it to ourselves for a while, and then later a few other small groups arrived. No buses are allowed here, and limos or groups of more than six by appointment only, which makes sense, given the small room. Check out their web site for info on their B and B in the adjoining farmhouse.
But we are here to taste some wine. The menu offers four wines for $14 out of a menu of 16, plus a few other choices which cost $7 per taste, including their brandy, about which more later. We decided to do one tasting of whites and another of reds, not sharing tastes because I have a bit of a cold. I’ll tell you about the whites first, then the reds. We sit at a small table for two and are served each wine as we choose it.
- Sparkling Brut 2012 $40
Given the festive season, I decided to start with their sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle. The first pour is from a bottle that has been open and is clearly somewhat flat, so our server quickly opens a fresh bottle. Ah, nice frothy bubbles! Typical yeasty aroma, then a nice dry light taste, with good acidity. I recently learned that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and this one does. I like it better than Sparkling Pointe’s sparklers.
- Coalescence 2014 $16
I liked Coalescence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a touch of riesling, the first time I had it, then didn’t care for it the second time, and now I have to say third time is not the charm. Although it has a pleasant aroma of gooseberry and honey, the taste has a funky forest floor edge that does not appeal to me. Not that it’s bad, and I think it would be nice with a plate of salumi, but it’s just not for me.
- Pinot Blanc 2014 $35
I’m happy that the server gives me a new glass, since I don’t want the taste of Coalescence to influence the next one, which turns out to be a happy choice, since I like it very much. This wine spends eleven months in new oak, we are informed, and it has a bit of that oaky vanilla scent. However, the taste is quite nice, with some interesting layers of flavor, a bit tingly on the tongue. It has just a touch of sweetness, especially at the end, and is sippable on its own, but would be even better with some Catapano goat cheese.
- Veil “Sherry” 2009 $48 (for a small bottle)
Why is sherry in quotation marks, I wonder? Because it is not fortified, they can’t actually call it a sherry, we are told. However, it does taste very like a medium dry sherry and smells like sherry, too. Made from late harvest savoy, sauvignon blanc, and semillon grapes, it is fermented for so long that a “veil” forms on the top of the wine, hence the other part of the name. 19% alcohol, this would make a great aperitif. I would drink it! It has tastes of baked pear and a bit of oak, and would be perfect with some toasted almonds or manchego cheese.
- Estate Merlot 2012 $26
My husband admires the beautiful dark color of the wine, which seems to be typical of all their reds. Not much aroma, he says, and a spicy tart taste, ending with black cherry. Somewhat mono dimensional, he adds, with not much tannin and over the top on acid. (Acid does not mean bad, remember!)
- Estate Merlot 2009 $32
Always fun to compare different vintages of the same grape, we say, and our server agrees. This merlot has more aroma than the 2012, with some notes of forest and wood, plus sweet cherry, with more tannin and less acid. It would be good with a meat that was not too flavorful, like a filet mignon.
- Wild Boar Doe 2012 $32
Say the second two words quickly and you’ll get the joke. Yes, this is a Bordeaux blend, of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for 20 months. When my tasting buddy sniffs, he says he smells toast, which must come from the oak aging, plus some fruit. Again, it has a beautiful dark color, but, he adds, it lacks gravitas. If you compare it with a French Bordeaux, he says, you’ll say the French is better, but there’s nothing wrong with this. It would pair well with a veal chop, since it does not have too much acid or body.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $40
This has just been released, we are told, and again, this is a pleasant if not complex wine. There’s “more at the end,” my husband notes, than the other reds. Overall, I think the whites fare better than the reds.
- Julius Drover Alembic Brandy $75
We have some discussion about this additional taste ($7), since there are several “hard” liquor options to try, and settle on this brandy. It is named for owner David Page’s maternal grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger in Wisconsin during Prohibition. Since it is 86 proof, we are perfectly happy with the very small taste, which I give my companion first. Mmm, mellow. Smells like brandy, with some vegetable and wood aromas. Dried fruit taste. Warms the cockles (whatever those are) I say. Doesn’t bite you back, says my pal.
Reasons to visit: a chance to drive down a country road; the Sparkling Brut, Pinot Blanc, Wild Boar Doe, Veil “Sherry,” and Julius Drover Alembic Brandy; a winery that is quiet and relaxing; their use of wind and solar power and biodynamic farming (check out their web site for details); the chance to taste some types of drinks not made in other places, like the brandy, eau de vie, and “sherry.” And do stop and get some mushrooms from East End Mushroom Company on Cox Lane: http://www.theeastendmushroomcompany.com/ .