Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk
Aspen Times Weekly
It was a dark and stormy night, or at a least a dark and snowy afternoon, when the Pinot Posse pulled up to pour at the Hyatt Grand Aspen on a recent Wednesday. In other words a perfect day to grab a glass, hang out in the clubby confines of the Grape Bar and taste some great wine.
Dan Kosta shared a sample of his Sonoma Coast-grown Kosta Brown Kanzler Vineyard Pinot Noir at one table. At another, Ed Kurtzman poured his August West single vineyard wines from Rosella’s in the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Graham Family Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. As I tasted, Kurtzman told me tales of his home in the heart of San Francisco, smack-dab where Haight and Ashbury streets cross and just ’round the corner from where the Grateful Dead lived during the Summer of Love.
And, while this was billed as a Pinot pouring, the gang gave David O’Reilly a little leeway, allowing him to open some of his big and beautiful wines from Oregon and Washington, made from many of the 14 separate varietals he grows for the Owen Roe label.
The storm outside seemed a perfect pairing for the 2009 Owen Roe Sinister Hand, a Rhone-style wine built on Columbia Valley Grenache and Syrah. And though it may be obvious (as in every one loves this wine), my favorite of the Owen Roe wines was the Abbott’s Table, a basket full of fruit featuring eight grapes including Sangiovese, Malbec and Blaufrankish. A melange of grapes with origins across the old world but a decidedly new-world wine emanating from the great Northwest.
It was a great way to spend a winter afternoon, but my face nearly froze solid as I walked back to my ride and I began to daydream about places where the growing season was in full flourish. Places where, instead of standing inside pouring their wares, winemakers were in the vineyards toiling away on their next vintage.
I began to wish that I were in the Southern Hemisphere.
While it is the deepest depth of winter here in America and the vineyards of California and Oregon and Washington are brown and dormant, down south the sun is shining, the heat is on and the vines are at their greenest. January is July, if you get my drift, in the Southern Hemisphere and it is shorts-and-Panama-hat season.
Where do I begin in my fantasy? Perhaps South Africa, among the Dutch Colonial white-washed walls of Stellenbosch, just outside of Capetown where Ken Forrester checks the progress of his Chenin Blanc and Grenache on a cloudless day. There are those who say that the wine fields of SA, pressed hard against the rocky mountainsides, are the most beautiful in the world.
Or, assuming I had a Net Jet credit (this is, after all, my fantasy), I could head due west across the South Atlantic and Brazil (a wine region that is beginning to stir in its’ own right) for a visit to Argentina. While I would love to go to Salta in the north and Mendoza in the central part of the country, I think Patagonia and the Rio Negro region is the spot that intrigues me most. Arid and dry vineyards are producing Pinot Noir that is nothing like those I tasted this week from California and Oregon, and the wild nature of the place intrigues me.
Continuing west on this route I would, having been there before, likely eschew the spectacular Hawkes Bay region on the North Island of New Zealand and head straight to Queenstown for a visit to “Central,” as the locals refer to Central Otago, the world’s southernmost quality wine region. There, in the shadows of the great mountains still topped with snow even in the middle of summer, I would try some more Pinot Noir, this time from what is literally the other end of the wine-growing earth from Oregon.
But my final stop would be the place I consider paradise on earth. This past spring, fall in the southern hemisphere, I found myself in a place that is all about wine and, at the same time, all about the sea and surfing. The Margaret River wine region of Australia, south of Perth on the Indian Ocean, is the place where wine fantasies were born. Splendid Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and a thousand summer surf breaks with pristine green and blue waters.
I love a snowy day and great American wine, but it is always fun to consider the sunny options. As they say, the vines are always greener on the other side.
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