Welcome to the New Kids
A fresh breeze has blown into the southern Willamette Valley in the form of Sarver Winery. As an enthusiastic wine appreciator I have a tendency to view wine much like I do people: Nearly all have some redeeming quality if you give them and chance. But occasionally a wine or winery just steals my heart from the first sip. That was the experience I had at our new neighbors, Sarver Winery, this weekend.First off, it is difficult to resist falling in love with the site. The Sarver's Elhanan vineyard is on a southeastern facing slope. Thrity-five acres are planted in Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Early Muscat and Gewurztraminer.
The place offers a spectacular and vast view of the southern Willamette Valley to the east. We were there late in the day, and the winery was just falling into shadow while the opposite easterly mountains were still gorgeously illuminated.
View to the North
View to the East
View to the South
But no; the view wasn't enough. Sarver isn't a winery whose flash evaporates with the first sip. Red wine typically has a gravitational pull on me, and Sarver offers some terrific reds, namely an 2008 estate grown Pinot Noir that is gorgeous. Their Pinot Noir offers an elegant and unmanipulated impression of the varietal. Their 2007 Petite Sirah is lush, elaborate and big. Their 2008 Syrah is structured, spicy and sassy. I'm sure that I'll go into greater detail soon about those, but it is their Pinot Gris that I really feel compelled to point out to you today.
Sarver Winery offers three distinct and impressive iterations of their 2009 estate grown Pinot Gris. I was floored by meeting these wine "triplets". Each from the same vineyard yet with individual and sometimes even contrasting voices.
First is the classic stainless steel aged Pinot Gris. This was as clean and crisp as crunching into a fresh juicy apple. We also observed the tangy high notes of grapefruit that the very southern end of the Willamette Valley terrior frequently offers its Pinot Gris. I wouldn't hesitate to serve this with shellfish, anything laced with dill, or any number of other food combinations. I was already a fan with my first tasting.
But then we were offered their Pinot Gris that had been sur lie aged. Sur lie aging gives this Pinot Gris a lush, apricot-like texture and an aromatic complexity, much like champagne without the bubbles. I adored this Pinot Gris, and look forward to playing with food pairings, as my hunch is that it will sing the melody at the table. That said, it would also solo beautifully as an aperitif. This wine made a fabulous first impression on me.
The "big sister" of the Sarver Pinot Gris triplets is made in the barrel-aged Chardonnay style. It is round and lush, with a buttered toasted hazelnut subtlety. The alto voice of the three, this is a golden, full experience you don't regularly find in this varietal.
Erin Sarver, Proprietress and Libation Producer
Chris and Erin Sarver are a young family who moved to Oregon from Michigan merely two years ago to begin this venture, and opened their tasting room just this summer.
The Sarvers are currently a no-wine-club operation but offer generous case discounts on their already approachably priced wines. May I tell you how much I love this business model? I am far more apt to purchase a case, and have found that this actually builds our "brand loyalty" as it give us a chance to really familiarize ourselves with the wine in our own home setting. By having the chance to really play with it at our table with no wine club commitment, somehow these find their way into our repertoire.
Preparing for Low Country Boil
The afternoon we were there, this gentleman greeted us. He was preparing for an event: Sarver Winery's first annual Low Country Boil dinner. Low Country Boil is one of my favorites, as its communal nature is such fun with friends an family. We didn't know about the evening's event before we arrived and already had plans, but it dialed me in to the fact that the Sarver's make serious business out of having fun. And, get this: They were only charging $15 a head for the dinner. I was a smidge disappointed we couldn't stay.So, while I enjoy all of our local winery treasures, Sticks Forks Fingers warmly and enthusiastically welcomes the new Sarver kids to the neighborhood. We hope that we get to play together often.