Can Oregon wine catch Champagne’s coattails? Our climate is too warm, our soil too rich, and our winemakers too impatient, but our grapes are Pinot and Chardonnay. So, why not try?
Well, most Oregon bubbly from Argyle to Argyle tastes nice, dry, but a bit fruity and simple. That sexy, nutty, chalky, dry, autolytic character that Champagne can have seemed elusive.
Luckily, I stumbled onto a bottle of Mellen Meyer Brut. The maker behind it is Bobby Rowett. He left philosophy, then a wineshop launched his tour of France, next apprenticeships with the wine world’s precious producers: from France’s, cheap geek staple Mas de Gourgonnier, Australia’s answer to S. France, Hewitson Wines, Idaho’s edgy Cinder Wines, and Portland’s darling, Goodfellow.
Bobby now makes about a thousand cases above Winter Hill’s winery in Dundee. He has a website and club and a few placements around town, but no brick and mortar.
Mellen Meyer, Brut, Willamette Valley OR NV $26-$30
Age is key to making MM’s Brut echo Champagne. Even before the long (and costly) 27 months of bottle aging, Bobby sneaks 30% of the wine from a tank topped off, solera-style, from multiple vintages (he claims to be inspired from grower champagne, but this is a classic negociant move). 20% is from a Dundee vineyard, the rest comes from a mix of clones from biodynamic Johan Vineyards south near Van Duzer.
Pinot Noir leads the blend at 65%, with 35% Chardonnay. Oak also tacks on complexity. The Chard ferments in used Oregon oak barrels. Meanwhile old French oak barrels tame the Pinot Noir.
The APPEARANCE looks a mild bright straw with a rapid super fine fizz. Medium intense AROMAS smell the color of green, very green: green pear, granny smith apple, limoncello, clove, and shaved almond. The PALATE feels dry, cracking with medium plus acidity, mild alcohol, and a medium minus body, and fine vivacious . FLAVORS jump at you with fresh cold pear, green apple, lemon zest thankfully balanced by classic autolytics: baguette core, almond, and chalk ash that carry a long while.
In sum, Mellen Meyer’s Brut is bebop jazz, still lively yet serious, fresh yet aged. It is very good, nay outstanding fizz (5 of 5) for its complexity and ringing tone. It tastes different than Champagne but is as good as many.