What’s My Interest in Gamay Noir?
Gamay Noir is new to some people who’ve had a true appreciation for the Beaujolais style of Gamay, and also for people who tried but didn’t especially care for that style. The Beaujolais style is bright, juicy and fresh and is the lighter side of what the Gamay wine grape can become. At an almost polar opposite of this style is what I think of as the Grand Cru of Gamay, which is made in a Burgundian sense, is more serious, and can age as long as a Grand Cru Burgundy. Personally, I feel a real winemaker kinship with this variety; it’s so different than the others that are grown in Willamette Valley in that it’s the last one we bring in during harvest. It takes a long time to get ripe and the natural environment of the Valley is very good for this grape. I sense a growing, underlying momentum for Gamay Noir and think we’ll all hear more about this variety as Willamette Valley develops.
The LÜK Brand
LÜK was a brainchild of mine; I always intended to work with more varieties than Pinot Noir. Since my intent has always been to keep Aberrant Cellars exclusive to Pinot Noir and for each of my brands/labels to have its own unique identity, I began to develop the concepts of additional brands and labels that I could bring to the market. I decided to adapt the style of LÜK to be more modern-edged than Aberrant or Sidecar. The mouth feel is a little different in that the textures are more polished and more focused on developing the gentle side of the wines. These wines are more fruit focused and will be more approachable at the onset of their release.
We recently released our 2017 Chardonnay and our 2017 Gamay Noir. They were both sourced from the Havlin Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA of the Willamette Valley, in which there was a cool, long growing season. The Chardonnay is a unique, Chablis-minded style, with bright focus and approachability. I wanted it to have a restrained, balanced style, which is what I believe Willamette Valley naturally lends to the Chardonnay grape. The Gamay Noir, as described above, is fresh and bright but has weight and will cellar well. I do not expect that Gamay will approach or exceed the popularity of Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley, but I do believe we’ll see more of these wines from this region.
The Sidecar Brand
The 2016 Off The Wagon was a Claret that did not contain any Gamay. There was very little Gamay available in 2016, so although the 2015 blend did contain Gamay, 2016 did not. For 2017, Off The Wagon is a Rogue Valley Claret-minded blend (Claret is a French term that describes a Bordeaux-type blend). The blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carménère and Cabernet Franc. The wine has a beautiful coffee-ground scented nuance, which comes from the Carménère. The tannins are well-balanced and the wine has been very well received, so far. It is delicious with grilled meats, it will drink really well right now, and it will continue to get better with age. So far, it’s been very popular with consumers who know Bordeaux blended wines.
Carménère is unique by Oregon standards, in that it grows really well here because Rogue Valley is so similar to Chile with its high elevation and cool evening temperatures. On paper, the comparison between the regions seems obscure, but they are naturally similar and there is a real opportunity to grow more here.
An Early Harvest Assessment
At the beginning of October, our harvest was at about its mid-point, (maybe the 6th inning, in baseball terms). It is a glorious vintage so far; we had a warm, dry year but it was never extreme. There is a lower yield than 2017, and the fruit is more fresh and concentrated. I see excellent potential for very high quality wines. There were no signs of mold or disease this year; it was a healthy crop. September cooled and delivered just a little rain to give the vines a reprieve from the last stretch of sun. Temperatures moderated toward the end of the season so the grapes had good hang times. This allowed vintners to really hone in on timing the harvest just right, with no pressure from Mother Nature to hurry up. I’m eagerly anticipating working with this fruit.