Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cliff Creek & a Southern Oregon Sangiovese

Admittedly, I haven't quite gotten around to writing about our entire road trip this Spring. I think we were still stopped for a couple of days in Sonoma - on our way to San Fran - before I had to jump through a bit of a blog-based time warp and put a "few" bottles on hold. I'll still have to get back to posting those "missing" bottles; however, in the meantime, we opened up one of the wines that we picked up while stopped in Southern Oregon on our way back to the Great White North.

I may still have to write about our winery visits from that trip but I suppose we can enjoy the fruits of our travelling efforts.

1456.  2009 Cliff Creek Sangiovese (Southern Oregon)

Knowing very little about Oregon wines in general, I think it's darned safe to say that I know even less about the wineries in Southern Oregon. It's my understanding that winemaking in the region is quite a recent phenomenon - at least from a commercial standpoint - and that the climate is quite a bit different from the better known Willamette Valley and its Pinot Noirs. I happened upon a couple of Southern Oregon producers at the opening night event held at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last year - however, I don't believe that Cliff Creek was one of the wines I tasted. We "stumbled" upon the winery when our hosts at our Grant's Pass accommodation - the marvellous Weasku Inn - pointed them out as one of their favourite wineries in the region.
Cliff Creek is owned and operated by the Garvin family and, even though their first vines were only planted in 2000, there are already three generations of Garvin's at work at the winery. We had the pleasure of working our way through a full tasting with Roy Garvin. He normally wouldn't have been pouring in the tasting room but the young lady who started out with us had only been with the winery for a week. After stumping her on our first two questions, she went into the back to run our questions by Roy and, rather than simply passing along some answers, he wandered out and proceeded to keep the tasting going for well over an hour.

The winery now has around 70 acres under vine and - despite being in Oregon - there isn't any Pinot Noir to be found in their vineyard. The climate down South receives more heat units and sunlight than anywhere else in the state. Accordingly, it is nicely suited for warm-weather loving varieties such as Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Syrah.

Although producing Sangiovese wasn't an original goal for Cliff Creek, a small block of the variety was added in the second round of plantings. The first so many vintages of the Sangiovese were sold to other producers; however, with the '09 vintage, the Garvin's decided to keep the fruit and make their own wine. The Sangiovese is definitely a limited release bottling and was earmarked for release only to the winery's Wine Club members; however, we'd managed to sweet talk Roy long enough that he not only let us try the wine before its public release but he allowed us to buy a bottle.

As a rule, varietal Sangiovese isn't a wine that is perpetually found in my glass. Many of the Chianti's that I've tried in the Vancouver market are a little too acid-driven and light on fruit - or too expensive - for my taste. The Cliff Creek, however, had a little more body and a touch more red fruit on the palate. I think it could definitely stand its ground against its Tuscan brethren.

The fact that it's a bottle I'd normally only run across once in a blue moon makes it even more of a treat.

And, speaking of treats, Cliff Creek also produces a limited release Super Tuscan that we were able to snag a bottle of as well. More news on that one down the road.

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