TeSoAria Portland Review
Address: 4003 North Williams Ave. Portland,Oregon 97212.
Phone Number: 971-229-0050
Tasting Hours: Mon-Thurs 1:00-9:00, Fri-Sat 11:00-10:00, Sun 11:00-9:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 5/10/2014
Reviewer: Rob Boss
(Photos by Jai Soots)
While it’s not unusual for a winery to open their tasting room in town, rather than on premises, that usually means no more than a dozen miles away in the winery’s hometown. Troon Vineyard has a lovely tasting room in Carlton, Oregon where Willamette Valley tasters can recover from “Pinot fatigue” with their Southern Oregon wines. But TeSoAria Winery has taken it even further with the daring step of opening a tasting room in Portland, two hundred miles away from their base of operations in Roseburg. Frankly, we couldn’t be happier to have them in our backyard.
The tasting room is also a very upscale, neighborhood wine bar that offers small plates and assorted nibbles of exceptional quality. Actually, that’s quite an understatement. Chef Max served us his highly addictive house made cheese crackers, just to make us feel at home as we tasted the wine. Between that and the selections the tasting room attendant put in front of us, we were in for quite a tour.
The crackers turned out to be a brilliant pairing to the 2012 Verdichio that started the session. The wine showed starfruit and lychee in the nose. More lychee and nectarines on the palate were a great pairing with the cheese. Up next was Bella Bianca, 2013 vintage; it had a vegetal, almost “weedy” noselike a hot summer day. That might not sound as good as it was, but nectarine, apricot and ripe, white peach flavors balanced it out nicely. And then there were the crackers, which made the fruit flavors really pop.
What could be better than a rosé on a hot summer day? TeSoAria’s Bella Rossa Rosé is made from Primitivo and it doesn’t get better than this. Lots of fresh, crushed strawberries in the nose, then follow up with more strawberries raspberries and Pink Lady apples in the mouth. This wine is just fun. Refreshing, quenching, relaxing, fun in a glass, and a good representative for this tasting room.
As Oregon gets more accolades and headlines for its Pinot Noir, it’s easy to forget that the state’s first vines were planted in southern Oregon, where Pinot Noir has a very different character. The crushed raspberry and cherry nose, and the defined black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, marionberry and ripe black plums of the 2012 Pinot Noir is an excellent expression of this place. It was not my favorite of the flight, but I think the tasting notes reveal a ruthless competence that winemaker John Olson applies to his work. Posers don’t get this level of complexity. This is quality.
TeSoAria’s focus is on Italian grapes like Vermentino, Primitivo, Dolcetto and Barbera. There are also a few obscurities like Kadarka and Durif, and the tried and true like Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals.
This is where the rubber meets the road for these guys. The very light, pretty 2012 Dolcetto showed the young, dusty strawberry and raspberry that was true to the varietal. Similarly, the 2012 Primitivo offered crushed fruit on the nose with beautiful, light raspberry and cherry flavors, and bright but balanced acidity. Cooked, stewed cherry fruit showed on the nose for the 2011 Barbera. It was a beautifully refined, elegant wine with ripe strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavors, all integrated, clear and defined. The brighter, fuller fruit flavors defined all of them as New World, rather than their leaner Italian counterparts. But each offered a clear picture of both the grape in general and where it was grown in specific. Any new wine taster can learn a lot here.
How much? Well, Laura, our excellent tasting room maven explained that there are 22 wine regions in Hungary. Who knew? Next, she poured TeSoAria’s 2013 Bull’s Blood. Predominately a Hungarian grape named Kadarka, the rest of the cuvee is a secretexcept that it’s younger fruit. It’s an easy drinking wine with bright raspberry and strawberry flavors. A touch of residual sugar pops those fruit flavors into an even bigger party. This is their flagship wine, which makes sense in that it’s something of a bridge between serious tasting and eminently guzzleable. Frankly, no barbecue should be without it.
A classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot makes up Vindetta. The short story of this is the winemaker wanted something to offer his detractors (you’ll have to go to the tasting room for the blow by blow). Shorter story is it’s great: dark, black and blue fruit flavors, ripe red fruit flavors, and overall a pretty good New World take on original Bordeaux.
Last up was the 2010 Durif, which is to Petite Sirah what Primitivo is to Zinfandel. Vanilla and jammy fruit in the nose, blackberry, raspberry and black plum jam on the palate will satisfy anyone who loves Sonoma County‘s finest. Delicious. So much so, we decided to buy a glass to enjoy on the patio.
And then came the fresh, truffle oil and sea salt potato chips. The concept of an in-house chef for a winery isn’t exactly new, but they’re usually relegated to banquets and other large events. The appetizers brought a new dimension to the wines and the pairings are not just vague guesses, they’re spot on. We ended our visit by sipping wine and savoring Chef Max’s other worldly potatoes while watching the bicycle commuters whisper by. It was easy to say that life doesn’t get better than this.