At first sip, Pinot Noir begins her soft siren call. Romantics are drawn to Oregon wine country by her sophisticated lull. In the Willamette Wine Valley, a bevy of tasting room enchantments await.
In one, the owners themselves are pouring while sharing family winemaking tales. While in another, a Margaritavillesque crowd gathers. A wrong turn can quickly break the spell.
That’s half the fun of the Willamette Wine Valley. Finding the right tasting room and by extension, finding just the right wine for you.
Wine Tasting At Le Cadeau
During our visit to the Le Cadeau tasting room in Dundee, Assistant General Manager Brian Matta was our guide. I first met Brian a few weeks prior at SIP in McMinnville.
A lover of old world, northern Italian and northern Spanish wines, I sheepishly admitted to Brian, I was new to Oregon Pinot Noirs. Brian didn’t skip a beat, translating my preferences into where to begin exploring Oregon Wine Country.
It was Brian’s knowledge and openness at SIP that brought me into Le Cadeau’s tasting room.
ALOR: Brian, as you know, I’m fairly new to Oregon Pinot Noir, do you mind if I ask questions?
1. Questions Are Welcome in Wine Tasting Rooms
BM: “Actually, I love when people admit they don’t know something I just said. It gives me an opportunity to talk about something different. To teach something new. Not long ago, a woman came in and admitted she knew very little about wine, that she drank White Zin from a pint glass. I loved it. She was awesome. As we went through the tasting, it was fun for me. I could see all these lightbulbs going off right and left. She really appreciated what I had to say, it was great.”
Oregon tasting rooms are very open to teaching. Which means there is no need to worry about what you do and do not know.
“All that really matters is finding what you like. There is no wrong answer when it comes to what you like.” — Brian Matta
Here are four more of the fun things we learned while wine tasting at Le Cadeau. Simply because we felt free to ask questions.
2. Taste Wine Without Opening The Bottle
During the tasting, another couple curious about a 2012 Pinot Noir had arrived. Out came a Coravin. Never having seen one before, I asked.
ALOR: Brian what is that thing and why are you using it?
BM: “Oh the Coravin. This clamps on the bottle and it puts a needle through the cork. It pumps in argon which doesn’t react with the wine. So you can pour out a little bit of wine without taking the cork out of the bottle. [A natural cork will reseal itself.] One of the things I tell people with the Coravin is, say you’re going to a dinner party with some friends and you want to bring an older bottle. You don’t want to show up with a bad bottle of wine. With a Coravin, you can taste it beforehand. You don’t even have to take the foil off if you don’t want. You can go straight through it. We take the foil off to ensure we never sell a bottle that’s been tasted.”
Curiosity struck again.
3. Older Wine Goes Bad Faster Once Opened
ALOR: Brian, if you open an older bottle of wine, does it go bad faster than a younger bottle of wine?
BM: “Normally, if you’re opening an older wine, chances are good, you’re having a nice dinner and will finish the wine that night. But yes, the older the wine, the less it’s going to hang out in your house for a while once it’s opened. So I would say you should plan on drinking it quicker if you open it.”
Having never seen a Coravin or for that matter an older bottle of wine not be consumed in one sitting, I’d never thought to ask that question before. Finding a tasting room where my curiosity was welcome, enabled me to think about wine in new ways.
As we moved on to tasting another wine, Brian mentioned cloning.
ALOR: I keep catching that phrase “cloning” and honestly, I’m not sure what that means with wine. Are we talking about, cloning, cloning?
With a smile and a good-natured joke.
BM: “That’s alright that you don’t know. You haven’t lived in Oregon long enough to.”
4. What Cloning Means In Wine
BM: “The only other place that talks so much about it is Tuscany with Sangiovese clones. Other than that, Oregonians, talk about Pinot Noir clones. There are genetic differences within the family of Pinot Noir or Sangiovese fruits. Where we [Oregon winemakers] get the term from, is cloning clippings. In France, in Burgundy. That’s where the use of the word clone comes in. So they were clipped and cloned and regrown here. Well in California actually.”
Motioning to the tip of his pinky to indicate the clippings are small in nature.
BM: “They take a small cutting from the vine and propagate that. Clone it, so to speak. The names and the numbers come from the catalog numbers. UC Davis were the ones that were behind all that. They are the ones that gave the numbers. So for example, these ten are from Dijon, so we’re going to call this Dijon 115, 116, 117 and so on. The other factor with cloning that’s important is genetics. Genetically, each one adapts differently. So one clone might like the shade more than others. So that’s why we use so many clones. You need to find the right piece of the puzzle for your vineyard.
We’re actually doing some consulting with a gentleman from Burgundy. We, focus on the palate, finish, and flavor but we wanted to know more about getting that nose we love. We know it comes out in warm years, but we wanted to know if there was something we could do to bring that out more in cold years.”
Cloning is about getting desired characters in aromas, tannins, acidity, crop size and even when the fruit ripens. It’s fascinating stuff and the analogy of a puzzle to fit the land suddenly made sense of cloning. Since most wineries grow from clippings or cloning, not seeds. Thus ensuring a better chance of getting the desired qualities in the bottle.
5. Wine Vines Are Planted According to the Sun
Walking to a large format picture of the Le Cadeau vineyard hanging on the wall behind us, Brian went on to explain Le Cadeau Diversité.
BM: “Aside from the diverse clones we use, it’s from the north end of the vineyard, where three blocks get the most diverse exposure to sunlight. While this center crest we call Equinox gets the most sun during the day. ”
All of the sudden, something new made sense. Flashing back to driving through wine country that morning, the classic visual of rows zipping by came to mind.
Talking about wines and their vines made the connection. Wine vines are planted running south to ensure the vines get maximum exposure as the sun passes over throughout the day.
The Le Cadeau tasting room is not on the vineyard property. Yet the tasting room has photographs, rock samples, wine barrels, and maps. All of which connect what was in the glass to the vineyard.
For someone new to the seductions of Pinot Noir, the Le Cadeau tasting room proved to be the perfect place to start exploring. We learned a lot during our tasting. Simply because we felt free to ask questions of the experts with answers.
Le Cadeau Tasting Room Address and Hours
Located next to Babica Hen Café and The Inn at Red Hills, the Le Cadeau Tasting Room is open 11-5 Monday through Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday. Most people stop in Dundee on their way out of the Willamette Valley towards the end of the day.
Stopping at Le Cadeau for an early tasting provides a chance to ask more questions with fewer tasters around. Just a fun tip from one wine lover to another.
Le Cadeau 1326 N Highway 99W
Dundee, OR 97115