A sparkling knit
Part 7 of a 2006 Oregon travelogue
by Thor Iverson
Argyle – We pull into this well-known winery’s busy parking lot just as the Valley- and coast-bound afternoon traffic from Portland really picks up, turning Dundee into a slow-moving parking lot of its own.
Argyle produces a wide – possibly too wide – range of wines, but for me they’ve always been best-represented by their often terrific sparkling wines, contenders for the absolute best of the United States.
Argyle 2001 Brut (Willamette Valley) – 53% chardonnay, 48% pinot noir. Soft grapefruit, geranium and banana with notes of too-old papaya and carambola. Too fluffy and imprecise.
Argyle 1998 Blanc de Blancs (Willamette Valley) – Clean and crisp, showing mixed apples and great balance between sharp fruit and bracing acidity. Essence of walnut emerges on the finish. A very nice wine, with medium-term aging potential.
Argyle 1998 Knudsen Brut (Willamette Valley) – 70% pinot noir. Full-bodied for a bubbly, showing strawberries and leaves with apple skins. It’s nicely structured, and in this respect acts more like a still wine made from pinot, but there’s also the elegance and sophistication of a fine sparkling wine. A fine particulate softness suffuses the wine, which has balance and length to spare. Marvelous.
Argyle 2003 Brut Rosé (Willamette Valley) – Raspberry, mango and strawberry in a bit of a fruit explosion, but there’s minerality underneath (mostly graphite), and a perfect, dry-but-not-desiccated finish. Terrific stuff.
Argyle 2005 Riesling (Willamette Valley) – From relatively new plantings, after an outbreak of phylloxera. Lime, grapefruit and some sourness with a strange, off-putting finish.
Argyle 2002 Merlot (Oregon) – Oak and oakspice with roasted cashew, blueberry jam and chunky peanut butter. Those with gluten allergies who nonetheless crave PB&J sandwiches might do well to consider this wine as an alternative.
Argyle 2003 Chardonnay “Nuthouse” (Willamette Valley) – From the Stoller and Knudsen vineyards, with 30% seeing new oak. Sulfurous and bland, with apricot and an unmistakable coal aroma. Perhaps the barrels weren’t just toasted, but were instead blackened? Did Paul Prudhomme have a hand in this?
Argyle 2004 Pinot Noir “Reserve” (Willamette Valley) – Gorgeous, crowd-pleasing strawberry and plum in a big, fat but muscular package. There’s no complexity now, but this has the construction and raw materials to age.
Argyle 2003 Pinot Noir “Nuthouse” (Willamette Valley) – Chewy and big, with huge plum flavors soured up by orange and blood orange. There’s decent acidity, but a hefty whack of alcohol, and the fruit is a little on the bizarre side. A confusing wine.
Argyle 2005 “Minus Five” (Willamette Valley) – Freezer wine…in this case from pinot noir, which is a first for me. It’s pretty good, with sweet, silky corn syrup, raspberry and rhubarb in equal measure. There’s enough acid to supply balance. A fun wine.
(Disclosure: tasting fee reduced, wines purchased at “trade” price rather than full retail.)
Copyright ©2006 Thor Iverson.