Driving through Shasta National Park, five hours into an eleven hour road trip to Oregon from Northern California, I was on my way to visit Barnaby and Olga Tuttle at their rented garage space in Oregon City, Oregon. A far cry from the majestic Willamette Valley, the landscape supports more Christmas tree farms than vineyards, but somehow, further north, there's enough space for Barnaby to create some of the most interesting and sought after wines from the West Coast today.
While going over the Mt. Shasta pass, at about 5,000 feet with snow on the ground, I started to think about the first wine that I'd tasted from Teutonic Wine Company–a bottle of 2009 Pinot Meunier from the Bargo Pass Vineyard in Southern Oregon, of which 30 cases of the 2011 vintage will arrive this week.
The Pinot Meunier from Teutonic was a wine for me that challenged the conformity of New World wines. It was the first and still is the only 100% expression of this varietal that I've tasted from America. This is a grape that thrives in cool climates and benefits from being picked at brix levels that are much lower than those of Pinot Noir at the time of harvest. And as I was driving through the snow, it all started to make sense that I was on my way to taste with Barnaby again.
Partially planted to Pinot Meunier, Bargo Pass vineyard lies west of Eugene, Oregon; not in the picturesque Rogue River Valley, but west of the flats of lower Oregon about two hours from Portland, where the limits of the Willamette Valley are stretched. On the fringe, one must be determined and resourceful to find a home site; one must be willing to not listen to his critics or fans but to the desire that drives the making of the wines that he wants to make.
The Tuttles farm two other parcels near Bargo Pass: their home vineyard in the town of Alsea lies just 30 minutes west and the Crow Valley vineyard lies just a bit north. The Alsea Vineyard enjoyed it's best harvest to date in 2012 and Crow Valley continues to be one of their best sites for mineral driven Riesling and Pinot Noir. So much so, that Barnaby has decided to produce a Sparkling wine from the site in the Sekt style of his brethren in the Mosel. The wine will enjoy an extended triage, and will be released in 2019. The Pinot Noir and Riesling will come out in next year's Spring release.
Sparkling Riesling: release in 2019.