We’re not California, and we aren’t France, and we’re ok with that. Oregon is unique and so is our wine. ~ Union Wine Company
Sometimes it is so challenging to transition from abstract to concrete, to put my thoughts and emotions into words. At that moment, I struggle. Will my mere words do this winery and/or wine justice? This happened with this post. Then I picked up one of my five Union Wine Company samples, graciously provided to me by the producer, and read this,
Oregon is a place where opposites come together. It’s a place where community is built on the strengths of individuals, where wild open spaces coexist with industrial cities, and farmlands are full of inspiring artists. It is a place united by the belief that what goes into the glass is more important than the type of glass it is being poured into. Union brings this spirit and character of Oregon to wines you can put on your table every day.
When I read this quote, it clicked. Union Wine Company personifies Oregon. It is authentic. It is real. The wines are examples of when chemistry and art come together in harmony. Union Wine Company gets wine consumers and what they want: quality wines they can drink every day without breaking the bank, as per their gorgeous video below.
I have never visited Oregon, but after this experience with Union Wine Company’s wines, I am ready for my November trip to Portland for the Wine Tourism Conference. I cannot get enough of Oregon.
I tasted these wines initially with the president of the wine companies for which I work. These first tastings proved to be an invaluable learning experience for me. He has been a wine enthusiast turned wine professional since the late 1990s. I am new to wine, having had my first wine moment in 2008 and my first formal wine education in 2012. Once you start learning about wine, you realize how much you still have to learn.
Together we tasted the wines three times: at opening, a little while later, then a third time after a quick and easy aeration technique that I had never seen before. With our first tasting, we sensed there was so much potential in the wines. A little later when we revisited the wines, they began to open up and we realized there was a whole lot of aroma and flavor in there just waiting to be released by more oxygen. To speed things along a bit, my colleague picked up each wine bottle, sealed it with his thumb, shook it vigorously, and then released his thumb to a pop of air. We tasted again. Ah, sweet release. It is amazing what oxygen can do to wines that are a little hesitant right out of the bottle.
I was curious about the winemaking process, so I asked my contact for Union Wine Company to reach out to the winemaker for a few comments. Below is what owner and winemaker Ryan Harms had to say:
My winemaking philosophy for Union Wine Company is simple with no-frills attached. We craft quality, affordable, everyday wines that capture the spirit and character of Oregon. We’re able to do this by being efficient in the way we combine our craft winemaking techniques with small-scale manufacturing…Less is more, start with great fruit, and then work efficiently and stay out of the way.
Union Wine Company wines are also sustainably produced and bottled.
I took the wines home with me and tasted them again a couple of days later. They were the best they had been over the course of three days they had been opened. These wines were made to evolve into something you can enjoy over a few days, so do not rush yourself trying to consume them in one sitting. Below are my impressions based on these multiple tastings, suggested prices are from wine-searcher.
2012 Underwood Pinot Noir, Oregon, average price $12.00
Underwood draws from the diverse palette of Oregon grapes to create noble, everyday wines.
The grapes for this Pinot Noir are sourced from multiple areas of Oregon: 90% Umpqua Valley and 10% Willamette Valley, which gives it a good balance of fruit and acidity. This wine is one of the best quality-to-price ratio wines I have tasted recently. You cannot go wrong with a Pinot Noir that has juicy dark and red berry aromas and flavors, as well as nice acidity, at this price point. It was one of my favorites of the multiple tastings.
Kings Ridge expresses the crisp fruit flavors native to the heart of the Willamette Valley.
2012 Kings Ridge Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley Grown, average price $12.00
(The 2010 vintage rated 88 points in Wine Enthusiast)
The grapes from this wine come from cooler vineyard locations in the Willamette Valley, which experience temperature swings that yield a wine with more complexity, mouthfeel, and ripeness. The wine is fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks. This Pinot Gris is delectable, with lots of sweet fruit aromas and flavors like melon, nectarine, peach, and pear, and mouth-watering, cool climate acidity, or as the tech sheet describes it, lush acidity.
2012 Kings Ridge Riesling, Willamette Valley Grown, average price $12.00
(The 2011 vintage was a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy, 90 points)
The Riesling grapes for this wine are sourced from some of Oregon’s oldest vineyards, dating back to 1968. Like the Pinot Gris, the vineyard is located in a cooler area of the Willamette Valley with similar temperature swings. It is aged on lees in 100% stainless steel tanks to give it more texture and weight. When I tasted this wine, it was so reminiscent of the Rieslings I’ve tasted from the Finger Lakes. It had amazing acidity, which I love, along with succulent aromas and flavors of peach and tart green apple. This was my favorite wine of the tastings.
2011 Kings Ridge Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Grown, average price $17.00
(The 2010 vintage was a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy, 91 points)
This Pinot Noir is crafted from Willamette Valley fruit. The grapes were fermented in closed-top 1.5-ton to 35-ton boxes, aged 10 months in a combination of stainless steel tanks and neutral oak barrels, then blended and bottled. It has more red berry aromas and flavors than the Underwood, such as cherry and raspberry, with a hint of chocolate. It, too, has great acidity. The longer this wine was open, the more spice that began to appear on the palate as well.
2011 Alchemist Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, average price $22.00
(The 2010 vintage was a Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice, 89 points)
This Pinot Noir is more vineyard-specific, made from fruit from Carabella (41%), Chehalem Mountain (32%), La Colina (22%), and Temprance Hill (5%). The fermentation time is from 12-26 days and it is aged 12 months in 228-liter French oak barrels. This was the most complex and elegant wine we tasted, with aromas and flavors of red berries, cinnamon, and herbs. As the tech sheet states, this is a wine for elevating everyday moments to the realm of art.
For those in the Portland, Oregon area September 19-22, 2013, Union Wine Company will be sponsoring Feast Portland (PDX) for the first time this year. Do not miss these events and do not miss a tasting experience with Union Wine Company, wherever you may be.