Cristom Vineyards Review
Address: 6905 Spring Valley Rd. NW Salem,Oregon 97304.
Phone Number: 503-375-3068
Tasting Hours: Tues-Sun 11:00-5:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 10/30/2013
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
The Eola-Amity Hills AVA may be a little further south from Portland than most people care to go, at least on their first visit to Oregon Wine Country; well over an hour. But the payoff is tremendous. One of the area’s best wineries, Cristom, turns out to be fun to get to: take the ferry. When presented with the word ferry, we thought things like Staten Island or Golden Gate, so it was with amusement that we boarded with five other cars (full load) for the fifty yard dash across a tight spot in the Willamette River. But the operator was jovial and put everyone in a good mood, not that it was difficult because half of the people that day were wine tourists. You can get information at taketheferrytocristom.com. Doing so shaves twenty minutes from the trip, for a mere two dollars, and puts you within a stones throw of Spring Valley Roadand a loop full of nice wineries.
Despite the preponderance of oak and elegance, theres still something understated about Cristom Vineyards tasting room. Walking up the steps from the parking lot is like walking into a nice houseand because our visit was during harvest lunch time, it smelled like Thanksgivingbut its hardly the most opulent tasting room in the Valley. Theres a sense of coherence thats pervasive, with none of the quirky non-sequiturs like dog pictures or hothouse flowers that other tasting rooms throw at you. What Cristom offers is a unique sense of permanence, as well as a satisfied feeling of Of course there is. Paul Gerrie, Steve Doerner and Mark Feltzowner, wine maker and vineyard manager, respectivelyhave been working together for over twenty years, with a staff that turns over only slightly more often. Theyve got it all down, and show it to visitors in a convincing but very easy way.
At seven years, tasting room maven Jeri Moser is relatively new to the organization. Theres not anything about Cristom wine that she cant answer and like the best in the business, she makes it fun. Her presentation tipped off with a white, the Estate Viognier, which showed lychee nuts and lemons, and a nice, bright, food-ready acidity. The vines were planted in 1993, and as with all the Cristom wines, show that unique, complex elegance that only comes from older plantings.
Two thirds of the winerys production goes into the Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir. Its 80% Eola-Amity fruit and spends a quick twelve months in barrel. But it still ages gracefully like all the othersthe 2011 vintage showing yummy cherry and red plums at this early stage, just after release.
The single vineyard Pinot Noirs are where its at, but everyone has his or her own favorite, of course. The youngest, highest and largest vineyard is called Eileen, named for Paul Gerries wife. The wine showed tart cherry flavors that seemed to splash back and forth between young and ripe fruit. Jessie Vineyard is the rockiest and its spicy nose made it my preference (rumor has that its the winemakers favorite, as well). The ripe, round cherry and strawberry flavors of the 2011 are clearly defined and integrated, with a long, luscious finish (actually, they all had a lingering finishno quaffers, these).
The next part was intriguingOK, this is where wine lovers geek out: a tree line causes the Louise Vineyard to have both the earliest and latest harvested fruit, due to how it blocks the sunlight. But all the other variables of terroir, soil, drainage and whatnot, are otherwise equal. There was a hint of spice in this wine, too, but the fruit flavors were the most ripe of the bunch. The propertys original plantings are the Marjorie Vineyard, from 1982. The 2011 vintage showed spicy, round, rich fruit flavors but alas, this ones on its way out. These vines have been afflicted by phyloxera for some time and will soon have to be replanted. But there still may be a vintage or two left, and these will be treasures.
Last up was the 2010 Sommers Reserve, which is a barrel selection and not always estate fruitsometimes there is Canary Ridge and Guadalupe fruit from Yamhill-Carlton, sometimes Arcus from Dundee Hills, each region offering its own, unique profile to the wine. The 2010 offered very ripe cherry and raspberry flavors, with a long, beautiful finish.
As mentioned in AWGs 2013 Oregon Buyers Guide, Cristom Vineyards is what winemakers order in restaurants (when theyre not drinking beer). Almost every winemaker Ive talked to in the state has put Cristom on their own best-of lists and its no accident. They really are that respected. Twenty years in, the Cristom team has proven themselves, and theyd love to show you. Youll leave knowing how good Oregon gets.