Island Mana Wines Review
Address: 526 SW Yamhill St. Portland,Oregon 97204.
Phone Number: 971-229-1040
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 4/17/2012
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Because vineyards often reside in the hinterlands, its not uncommon for a winery to put their tasting room in town. The goal is the same: put the wine in the hands and mouths of as many people as possible. The difference is which people: While a winery tasting room attracts a tourist specifically looking for a wine from the area, an urban tasting room catches random tasters from all walks of life. The advantage to the latter is the wine drinker who finds something unique that they would otherwise not have tried.
Island Mana caters to that customer in the extreme by offering Hawaiian wines in downtown Portland, a half block from the Pioneer Square train stop. While tropical wines made from mango, pineapple and passion fruit might not be for everyone, its an interesting detour on the tasting road and not to be missed.
The first surprise is that all the wines are fermented dry. Winemaker Mark Proden is making a serious artistic statement with these products, but they can be challenging because the taste is a long way from whats expected. This aint no tropical punch.
A passion fruit wine called Luana Lilikoi had a petrale nose and was pungently floral (think of a geranium) very much like an aged German Riesling. On the palate there was a distinct pineapple and citrus flavor. That part was expected, if the nose was not. Nor did either of us expect it to be as good as it wasfrankly, any good at alland you might never know that it wasnt made from grapes. The acid is very highblinking high*–which can work well with food, but its not really a cocktail wine.
Pineapple Makani offered a smoky nose and again, high acidity (winking* acidity, this time). To say that it has pineapple flavors seems rather like saying a Cabernet Franc tastes like grapes, but thats the flavor profile. Again, this would be a food friendly wine as long as its not too spicy. This much acid paired with any manner of chili pepper would set a persons head on fire.
Mr. Prodens roots are, actually, in the Willamette Valley. A graduate of the Northwest Viticulture Center and veteran cellar assistant, Proden offers more traditional varietals in the tasting room, as well. The 2009 Chenin Blanc is well crafted and complex. A nose featuring pineapple, citrus and mandarin oranges doesnt come as a surprise after the tropical tasting. Nor does the palette of tropical fruits, peaches, nectarines and tangerines.
His 2006 Contemplative Cabernet is a balanced wine that doesnt need kitsch in its name to attract attention. The nose showed tar, anise and black cherry followed by a palette of dusty blackberry, raspberry, cherry, currants and briars. A nice long finish revealed black plum and espresso notes. Top notch winemaking this, although at $31.99 the price is a little steep.
The last wine in the flight, a 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir solidified the winemakers credibility. The crushed cherry and raspberry nose was classic Oregon Pinot. Nice, young cherry and raspberries and mild acidity were refined and respectable, but the $38 price tag is out of line. This is a good, very respectable wine but it doesnt command that price.
Theres a pervasive, tourist trap kitsch infusing the tasting room, from the surfboard tasting bar to the beach videos looped endlessly on televisions behind the bar. Virtually everything in the room is for sale, from the pictures on the walls to the lavender products and tee shirts on the rack by the doorall made by Mark Proden. Its as easy to see guests from the half dozen surrounding hotels walking out with bags full of merchandise as it is imagining the cooler than thou Portlanders ignoring it. But what cant be ignored is the wine. Island Manas tropical offerings arent for everyone, but every wine aficionado needs to try them at least once. Its a unique wine tasting experience not to be missed.
*Winking aciditywhen acidity is so high, so tart, it makes one eye squinch up. Blinking acidity is extreme enough to affect both eyes.