Storyteller Wine Company
Last year I introduced the inaugural vintage (2010) of Analemma's Atavus Blanc de Noir and said I thought it was the best Pacific NW sparkling wine I had ever tasted. Nothing I have tasted in the past year has made me walk that statement back. Until now. I just tasted the 2011 vintage and it was like drinking something from the Ambonnay region of Champagne. Forget the Pacific NW, I believe this is America's best sparkling wine. It is being released today and it won't last long, so please excuse the brevity and let's get to it.
2011 Analemma Atavus Blanc de Noir Sparkling (56.00)
Steven Thompson and Kris Fade's winery, Analemma, is in the Columbia Gorge near Mosier, Oregon, far from the hue and cry of Willamette Valley tourist traffic. When they first decided to make a sparkling wine folks thought they were nuts, but then locals began tasting it and buying it up at a feverish pace. The critics discovered it next after David Schildknecht of "The Wine Advocate" described it as one of the best things he tasted ("profoundly complex") on a trip to the Pacific NW. Soon after, Jon Bonné, formerly of the "SF Chronicle," described it as "a stunning expression of Pinot Noir that… marks a major step up for small-scale artisanship in American sparkling wine” before placing it on his "Top 100 Wines of 2014" list.
The key to the quality of this wine is the nearly 50-year old Pinot Noir vines Kris and Steven get to work with. The organically farmed Atavus Vineyard sits on a south facing slope above White Salmon, Washington at an elevation of 1,600 to 1,800 feet. This site in the Columbia Gorge was selected for the owner, Charles Henderson, back in the early 1960s by legendary viticulturist Dr. Walter Clore. Dr. Clore even selected the grape varieties that would be planted there in 1968, including the Swiss Pinot Noir clone (Mariafeld) this wine is made with. Given the cooler temperatures and the fact the site receives almost three feet of rain a year, the vineyard has been dry farmed since the beginning.
Steven and Kris take that glorious fruit and whole cluster press it before allowing it to rest on its lees in neutral oak barrels. According to Steven, the Analemma Blanc de Noir is "a true Methodé Champenoise, aged sur lie for 42 months before we disgorged it on October 13, 2015." Steven and Kris have strong wine backgrounds, having worked in Washington and New Zealand at wineries like Cayuse, Craggy Ridge and Seresin Estate. But when it comes to sparkling wine they are strictly self taught. Given how amazing this wine is, they should consider teaching themselves more stuff!
Their 2011 Blanc de Noir has the kind of pale gold color that conjures up images of Autumn moonbeams and faded wedding bands. If you pour it in the biggest wine glass you can find and hold it up to the light, you'll swear you possess an orb of fireflies.
The magic continues with the wine's aromatic set. The scents are so crisp they positively snap each time you inhale. Aromas of citrus peel, yeast, Bosc pear and Granny Smith apples fresh from the refrigerator will make a fine first impression, followed by bursts of saline, almond and a talc-like minerality that's like powdering your nose.
Once in the mouth the Analemma Blanc de Noir is clean and zippy, with the kind of acidity and mouthfeel I'd expect given its 12.7% alcohol. Fruit and bread dominate here, with lots of tart lemon and quince mixing it up with a warm poppy seed brioche. The bubbles are elegant and refined as opposed to frothy and frisky. This is a serious sparkling wine, one I'd easily put into a blind tasting with bubblies from the Champagne region. Yes, this wine is that good.
As I read over Steven's tasting note there was a sentence that caught my eye: "this wine is precise with vibrant acidity and hints of autolytic character, showing long aging potential." The 2011, in addition to being better than the 2010 (something I didn't think was possible) has the acid and frame to suggest a long life ahead. But fear not, if you are like me and lack significant willpower, it's quite delicious right now.
The 2011 Analemma Atavus Blanc de Noir Sparkling sells for 56.00 at the winery and that is Storyteller's "every day" asking price. Order as few bottles as you like but three- packs are 163.00. Six-packs are 309.00 and if you go for a full dozen I'll give you my mom's (she's the undisputed champagne fanatic in our family) case price of 588.00. She is in Palm Springs for a few more days so if you'd like to get your order fully filled I'd suggest not waiting too long.
Friday Wine Tasting, Dec. 4th, 6:00-8:00PM: Champagnes from Lelarge-Pugeot, with Special Guest Clemence Lelarge!!
Speaking of bubbles, a fresh batch of champagnes from one of my favorite families on the planet just arrived in Portland! This Friday we'll be pouring everything from the Lelarge-Pugeot Brut Tradtion (our biggest selling champagne ever) to the brilliant 100% Pinot Meunier that was inspired by Clemence Lelarge (daughter of domaine owners Dominique Lelarge and Dominique Pugeot). Oh yeah, once she heard about the tasting Clemence emailed me and said "I'm booking a flight right now!"
Clemence's family has been growing grapes in their premier cru vineyards since the 1800s but it was only in the past 30 years they have made their own wines. Their wines represent a rare pairing of incredible quality with amazing pricing (it really helps to be abler to buy direct) and they are pretty much the only champagnes I sell these days. If you have tried them already, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then by all means get yourself to this tasting!
Light appetizers will be served, including Fossier champagne biscuits. There will be a 10.00 tasting fee for this event but that will be merrily refunded with the purchase of any Lelarge-Pugeot champagne. I'm thrilled that Clemence will be joining us for all this bubble fun this Friday, I hope you are able to join us as well!
Saturday Hours, December 11th
Storyteller will be open this Saturday from 11:00AM until 5:00PM.