If Oregon had the good fortune of becoming an established wine region a few hundred years ago, the wines would undoubtedly be ranked among the Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Burgundy and Riojas of the world. But this region only came into being a wine grape growing region about 40 years ago. It started as an experiment; no one thought it would be possible to grow wine grapes in Oregon. UC Davis professors discouraged 2 young graduates from even trying it. But, thankfully for us, they ignored the advice and trekked up to the Umpqua Valley and the Willamette Valley to plant some cool region varieties. Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling took root and made Oregon an important wine-growing region with world-class pedigree.
These men knew they had an interesting uphill battle on their hands to get great vinifera varietals to grow. A dicey and erratic climate makes the vines work hard and they don’t have the ability to just burst in to desired ripeness, a luxury their neighbors to the south can have. Instead, winemakers must wait for the vines to reach a slow maturity. Cajoling the grapes and patiently waiting, Oregon winemakers must contend with a harsher climate than California. But if the growing season is good to them, what is produced at the end of crush, fermentation and bottle aging is nothing short of amazing. This state produces wines that are comparable to the finest wines of Burgundy and that is something we can all agree is a good thing.
For the last 25 years Wendy and Don Lange have focused on making artisanal wines that promote sustainability in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills. Lange Estate and Winery is considered by Matt Kramer (Wine Spectator) to be the benchmark for Oregon wines. Perhaps their careful attention to their products (from growing to fermentation to bottling to distribution) is why Wine & Spirits Magazine named them “Winery of the Year 2012.”
When asked about the evolution of Oregon wines over the last 25 years has been like for them, Don responded with how others knowledge of Oregon wines have changed:
“You went from ‘You’re trying to grow grapes in Oregon?’ to ‘Where’s the Willamette Valley?’ to now ‘Oh. You’re in Dundee? I want to taste your wines.’”
On Thursday, September 20, Bauer was blessed with getting 2 hours of time with
Wendy Lange, co-owner and resident dog-lover at Lange Estate and Winery. Wendy was utterly charming, funny and patient with everyone who came to her tasting table. We shared cat and dog stories with her and had a good laugh at Archie, the ever so flatulent Collie who once resided at Lange many years ago.
During all this chatter, we did manage to taste some wines.
2011 Lange Willamette Valley Pinot Gris: aromas of peach, mango custard, lemon zest, and flint, with notes of mandarin-vanilla, crisp white peach, and lemon-lime on the palate.
2010 Lange Three Hills Chardonnay: Supple flavors of passionfruit, ripe peach, and almond are balanced by racy notes of lime zest, lemon cream, and sweet basil. This Chardonnay demands your attention from first sip to supple finish and is truly a wine not to be missed!
2010 Lange Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: The nose initially hints at boysenberry jam with a touch of sweet pea flower, then opens in to sweet cherry and savory notes of black pepper and game. The palate is bright yet complex, with red cherry, cranberry, and herb, cascading in to subtle oak spice, caramel, coffee, and fine-grained tannins.
2010 Lange Reserve Pinot Noir: Clean, snappy aromas of deep, dark cherry and sweet barrel dust give way to flavors of bright red cherry, pomegranate, cranberry spice, hints of blueberry skin, and fine-grained tannins. This exceptionally balanced Pinot noir is a greatexample of a finely-crafted Lange wine.