(Photos by Jai Soots)
Whether used as a marketing plan or an expression of terroir, single vineyard releases have become something of an American standard. True to terroir or not, they are viewed by consumers as unique and desirable compared to their cuvéed counterparts. Fortunately, some vineyards deliver that sought-after distinction. One of these is the Momtazi Vineyard, in McMinnville, Oregon. I’d recently attended a similar event celebrating Shea Vineyards, so the Momtazi’s Seven Wonders of Pinot Noir tasting at Maysara was of particular interest. The Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville AVAs are next door to each other but quite different”night and day different, really. Yamhill-Carlton tends toward softer wines with more acidity. McMinnville has a dark, dusty, chewy structure. Think of Napa Valley’s famed Rutherford Dust; it’s like that. Momtazi Vineyards is equally distinctive.
Whereas the wines showed a tremendous variety at the Shea event, at Momtazi there was a fascinating similarity. The real variables seemed to be the age of the wines and the vintage, less the winemakers’ style. Such is the distinction of the McMinnville AVA in general, and Momtazi vineyard in particular.
The pounding heart of it all is the Momtazi family. Our hosts Moe and Flora greeted us while daughters Hanna and Naseem circulated through the crowd and took turns covering the tasting room. Winemaker Tahmeine Momtazi poured the 2012 Maysara Jamsheed at the first tasting table. Unfortunately, she was so barraged with people that she had to stick to her pitch rather than field questions from me. They’re surely the most glamorous ladies of the Willamette Valley and as a family, gracious hosts.
The first ever Momtazi customer was Mark Vlossak from St. Innocent, who brought a line up of three vintages. The first was the 2012, which was full of the expected black fruit flavors. It had just been released and showed potential but still needed time for the flavors to fully focus. The 2008 Fujin, on the other hand, was full of bright, beautiful fruit. The nose was chock full of jammy blackberries and plums. On the palate were blackberries, black and red plums, all focused and integrated. But the 2007 was amazing in that it really showed “the place.” The same catalog of aromatics and flavors were there”blackberries and plums”but this time, thanks to the cooler year, the fruit flavors were younger, more tart.
Kelley Fox was next, with her 2010. Ripe raspberries, blackberries and plums. A lighter style than most of the others, or maybe that was just the vintage. Then came Soter Vineyards’ 2012 that was rounder and softer still; ripe, rich, all black fruit. The nose popped with almost bubble gum or soda pop exuberance. The 2012 Spoiled Dog had a similarly bright but more soda poppy nose of cherry and raspberry. The flavors were simpler but still delicious, easy drinking black cherries.
Last up was Dobbes Family, and I chatted with Joe Dobbes for a good while. Momtazi fruit is an important element in his cuvees. “I look at Momtazi as a strong base note,” he explained, the deep purple color, acid, tannin and blue-black fruits adding another dimension to red-fruited wines. The sturdy structure and the black fruit flavors that are Momtazi were shown with the confidence and competence in his 2012 Momtazi Vineyard release. With production of over 100,000 cases, he can buy fruit from anywhere and do anything he wants”and this vineyard gets a special 125 case release.
It’s a special place, as distinct and unique in the character of its wines as any vineyard could be”perhaps even more so, considering how that character comes up in other people’s cuvées. The Momtazis showed us all the warmest hospitality and how great a vineyard can become.