Wine critic Steven Baker follows the cool climate back roads of Oregon Pinot noir country and shares his journal. His business, Authentica Wines, is a membership based wine club.
~ June 2010
Heading east past the old schoolhouse on the way out of the
small town of Amity, Oregon one is transported back in time.
As the white clapboard houses give way to burnished golden
fields and rolling evergreens that climb the gradual slopes of
the Amity Hills to the north, the occasional farmer in a pickup
gives the universal greeting of a open hand on top of the
steering wheel as you pass.
Its easy to miss the long gravel drive that leads up the hill to
Iota Cellars and the home of Johanna and Don Sandberg, two
native Minnesotans who have found a home in Oregon's
Willamette Valley. The gray steel infrastructure of the new
winery building stands against the hillside, surrounded by
Dijon clone planted vineyards that wind their way back among
the oak and fir framed hills. Its a beautiful spot for sure.
An Indie Wine Fest pick, the Iota Cellars, Pelos-Sandberg
Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir stood out from the crowd, like a
beacon on a dark night. Talking with Don & Johanna just
confirmed my initial impression. These two "get it" and it
shows in everything they do.
The Pelos-Sandberg vineyard occupies a transition zone
between sedimentary and volcanic soils. As we walked up the
hill with Johanna and Don, we passed large rocks in every row.
"Look, there's an erratic" expressed Don as he bent to
turn over a large gray stone, evidence of the difficulty involved
when discing this vineyard.
The view from the top of the hill looking southwest shows the
beautifully tended vineyards of several neighbors and the sight
of the hawks circling below was accompanied by the drone of
a distant tractor. "Its a beautiful view from here" said Johanna.
These are exactly the people that I love to
champion. A hard working family with no pretensions,
imbued with the desire to make the best wine they possibly
can and for a reasonable price. They're not seeking to build an
empire - just to make a wine they and their family can be
proud of. And they are succeeding admirably.
Only their second vintage, the 2007 is rich and balanced, with
a purity of fruit and a lovely texture that are as easy on the
palate, as the aromas are enticing to the nose. Charming now,
this wine will age well for 3 to 5 years and should be in
anyones cellar who appreciates fine, small
production Oregon pinot noir. Get in on the
ground floor now - you're going to want to follow
these guys in the coming years.
~ Steve Baker
Pelos Sandberg Vineyard, 2007
Release Price: $36.00
Pinot Underground Recent Columns
January, 2010 ~ Crowley
February, 2010 ~ Evesham Wood
March, 2010 ~ Westrey
May, 2010 ~ Evening Land