TN: Wineries in glass houses (Oregon, pt. 9)

15 July 2006 – Willamette Valley, Oregon

[McMinnville Turkey Rama dancing]McMinnville Turkey Rama – Some things cannot be described, but simply must be experienced. This is one. It must be said, however, that there appears to be a general undersupply of turkeys.

Van Duzer – Once upon a time, I had great affection for this winery as a commercial but solid producer of nice pinot noir, plus eminently drinkable pinot gris and bubbly. So, despite it being a really, really long way from just about everything else, we make the long drive from Dundee to the extreme south of the winemaking Willamette Valley to check up on things.

And so it is with dismay that I must report a significant downturn in quality. I don’t know where to place the blame – some sort of change in vineyard or winery practice, ownership, or the inconsistencies of my palate – but this is a very disappointing lineup of wines. What’s not exceedingly commercial is disjointed and unbalanced, the newer wines are decidedly worse than the older versions, and there seems to be a rather disheartening wandering of the winery’s attention towards other labels and regions.

Van Duzer “Stone’s Throw” 2005 Sauvignon Blanc (Lake County) – Slightly fetid grass and pink grapefruit with gooseberries on the finish. The wine has a strange texture that turns gummy as it rests in the mouth. Disturbing.

Van Duzer 2005 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley) – Tart pear and grapefruit. Big and fruity, this tastes more like freshly-crushed grapes than wine. It’s not bad, just uninspiring.

Van Duzer 2005 Pinot Noir Rosé (Willamette Valley) – Raspberry bubblegum and tart green beans wrapped in plastic. Odd, and very acidic.

[Van Duzer]Van Duzer 2005 Pinot Noir “Vintner’s Cuvée” (Willamette Valley) – Smoky plum and juicy blueberry with Juicy Fruit Gum™, jam and canned peas. Red apple and raspberry emerge on the finish, but the vegetal thing is a deal-breaker.

Van Duzer 2004 Pinot Noir “Estate” (Willamette Valley) – Big spiced blueberry and blackberry with anise liqueur. There’s some structure, but heat will always be the wine’s dominant feature.

Van Duzer 2003 Pinot Noir Homestead Block (Willamette Valley) – Roasted cashew, dark plum and moody blackberry with leathery black earth underneath. This, at least, shows remnants of the quality I remember from this winery. The fruit edges towards liqueur (kirsch or mure, perhaps?), but there’s structure and aging potential here.

Van Duzer “Stone’s Throw” 1999 “Skipping Rock Red” (Mendocino) – A blend of syrah and zinfandel, still full-bodied and fat despite seven years of age, showing wild blueberry and leather with a smooth, creamy texture. It’s all quite enticing, until one realizes that the wine is absolutely formless, as if its skeleton had simply been removed.

Van Duzer “Windfall” Port (Oregon) – This is, to my knowledge, the first “port” of pinot noir that I’ve tasted. It’s big and strong, with strawberry and red cherry cough syrup sweetened by milk chocolate. It nods, briefly, towards balance, but soon slips into unstructured flabbiness. Plus: cough syrup. Blech.

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