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Pinot Talk with Rudy Marchesi

A 1978 Beaune Premier Cru changed winemaker Rudy Marchesi’s perspective on wine. Funny, then, that he would become one of the top producers of Oregon Pinot Noir today, at Montinore Estate. He made his first wine 40 years ago, a student of wine since youth thanks to a winemaker grandfather. He remains a student, though, constanting looking for new and innovative techniques, biodynamic practices, and different grape varieties to grow in the Willamette Valley climate. His fascination with native northern Italian grapes led to his white wine blend, Borealis. His love of food has him producing cheese, cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, and verjus, a pressed juice of unripe grapes that falls somewhere between wine and vinegar. Oh, and did we mention he’s a jazz pianist?

What sets your wines apart from other Oregon Pinot Noir producers?
“We try to find that balance between elegance and concentration of flavor. We are more interested in our wines being seductive than big. And, consequently, I think that our wines are more European in style as opposed to new world.”

What is your favorite dish to pair with one of your wines.
“It’s difficult to answer that question with just one dish because Pinot Noir by nature is so versatile. For example, I recently had a fluke ceviche at ABC Kitchen with our Red Cap Pinot Noir, and it was one of the most interesting and pleasurable pairings I have had in awhile. Likewise, the Red Cap was spectacular with a pork roast I recently had. But I think one of my favorite pairings, as the weather gets warmer, is our Almost Dry Riesling with any kind of grilled seafood.”  

What is the most memorable bottle you have had?
“It was a 1978 Beaune Premier Cru. It was the first time I experienced Pinot Noir at that level of quality. And it completely changed my perspective on wine.”

More on Rudy Marchesi, and his Montinore bottlings here.

Oregon’s Montinore Estate: An Evening with Rudy Marchesi

Join USQ as we welcome our good friend Rudy Marchesi to the Salon tonight, from 6pm to 8pm, for an evening of top-flight wine from his Willamette Valley-based Montinore Estate. Attendees will enjoy luscious white wines like the honey-scented Pinot Gris and Borealis, a unique blend of Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. We’ll also uncork four Pinot Noirs, including two single-vineyard offerings from the superb 2008 vintage.

Since purchasing the farm in 2005, Rudy has turned the estate into one of Oregon’s finest producers of organic- and biodynamically- farmed wines. A staff and customer favorite of ours since 2006, we feel the wines at Montinore have never been better. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet and mingle with Rudy Marchesi during this limited two hour tasting event.

Admission is free, and reservations are not required.

Tasting Romanée-Conti with Aubert de Villaine

Romanee-Conti Tasting

What we saw on the sorting table was beautiful, some of the best Pinot Noir you can dream of.

This is how Aubert de Villaine, self-described “steward of the domaine,” referred to the 2009 harvest at yesterday’s trade tasting in the The Library at The Palace Hotel. One of the highlights of the year for each that I’ve been in the business comes with tasting the new vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, an event comprised of wine writers, sommeliers, and buyers like me. As the wines are well beyond my means, it is a privilege to taste them, and listening to de Villaine’s synopsis of each vintage is more informative and enlightening than any wine course in which I’ve sat. His dissemination of the vintage from winter through harvest and élevage is not dissimilar from the way in which Ishmael tells his tale of the white whale, slowly and surely, building gravitas with inclement weather and pulling victories from sunny afternoons. Yesterday, he stumbled quietly in French for the first few words before explaining that his English was out of practice and apologized for the volume of his words: “My voice as I get old gets less and less." Naturally, when he finishes with the tale of the vintage it’s impossible not to have a deeper reverence for the wine in the glasses before you.

New to the lineup this year was the Corton, a bottling crafted with fruit from Clos du Roi, Renardes, and Bressandes. De Villaine described these parcels as among the original part of Corton, vineyards that existed before the appellation grew to its current size. When paired alongside the other wines there was a marked difference in both the aroma and flavor of this Beaune-based beauty which de Villaine summarized as only a master Burgundy Jedi could: “The wine of Corton looks towards the ground, and the wines of Vosne look towards the sky.”

As the tasting continued de Villaine made constant reference to the “airiness” of Vosne, a description that made perfect sense given the aromas that permeated the room. In past years (‘07, ‘04) the wines haven’t shown at their best at this tasting, but yesterday’s exposition left smiles on just about every face in the room. Comparing the ’09s to the ‘59 vintage, de Villaine remarked, “I don’t think I’ll ever see them at their peak. You may.

You may if you’re flush and lucky enough to find some. Each year the retail allocations shrink as demand grows. I find it amazing to think that given the current economy it is possible to sell as many bottles from this estate as one can get their hands on. The good news is that magnum lovers will be rewarded with more magnums in 2009. More magnums at the expense of larger formats, of which there will be none. Aubert explained that “95% of big bottles ended up at auction,” which elicited chortles from a grinning John Kapon seated at the table behind me. Once the subject of auctions and the parallel market came up, de Villaine discussed a number of new anti-fraud features they were planning to incorporate into the labels in coming vintages, “things that only we at the Domaine are aware of.

The tasting ended with a few sips of Le Montrachet. The 2009 seemed less melodramatic than in previous vintages, “more mineral,” as de Villaine described it, and completely devoid of botrytis. Sitting there among my colleagues I enjoyed the Montrachet from sip to swallow, savoring it as I read through my notes and quotes from de Villaine. I’ll spare you my impression of the wines (it’s obvious I enjoyed them), but a note scribbled between some nouns and adjectives reminded me that as we’d settled into the degustation Aubert ended his vintage report and encouraged us to taste in silence and avoid using words “for something that doesn’t need words.” His voice might be getting “less and less,” but to me his words have never been more resonant. -Jesse Salazar