Last but certainly not least in this year’s Black History Month focus on black winemakers and winery owners, is Abbey Creek Vineyard & Winery in Oregon. The winery is located just west of downtown Portland in North Plains, OR, so it’s an easy drive if you’re visiting Portland – and even closer than the Willamette Valley. Owner and winemaker Bertony Faustin is the first black winemaker in Oregon and has become a major voice for other minorities in the wine industry. He is the mastermind behind the soon to be released documentary film Red, White, and Black which highlights what it’s like to be Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBT, or any other minority in the historically white world of the wine industry.
Faustin, who is the heart and soul of Abbey Creek, is a First generation Haitian-American and former anesthesia technician. For decades, Faustin’s in-laws grew grapes on their land and sold them to others in the wine industry. It was Faustin who had the crazy idea to keep those grapes and start their own wine label. Their first wine was produced in 2008 and they have been going strong ever since. Faustin does everything from planting the vines, to harvesting the fruit, to making the wine, and everything in between. He’s there from dirt to glass! The vineyards of Abbey Creek consist of Pinot Noir (of course), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Gamay Noir, and Albarino. The wines are sold on the winery’s website. And don’t be deterred if you don’t see your state listed when you try to purchase. Texas wasn’t listed when I tried to place my order. So I simply emailed them and they quickly responded and added Texas as a ship-to state. Lucky me!
Now on to the wines. So I took the day off to do this wine tasting. OK, I also needed a mental health day as my husband was traveling all week for work and I’d been on morning and evening duty with Thing 1 and Thing 2 for days. Plus I’m training for a wine run and really needed to get in a good run (more on that foolishness later). And I have to say that my intent was to JUST open the sparkling wine and use my new, handy Coravin for the other bottles since I was home alone, but the best laid plans…
2014 Sparkling Pinot Gris
I was trying to recall if I’d ever had a sparkling Pinot Gris and I can’t remember one, but who knows.
This was an extremely pale yellow, almost clear with beautiful tiny bubbles. On the nose was some pear, citrus, and it seemed a bit grassy. Tasting it revealed a bone dry wine that was tart with bright zesty acidity, some lemon, green apple, and a bit of a nutty finish. I didn’t pair any food with this but given how light and acidic it was, I imagine shellfish would be perfect.
2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Next up was the 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
I didn’t know much about the Pinots so I just went in order of vintage – seemed like a good system. The wine was a brilliant ruby red that was extremely translucent. On the nose was lots of dried dark red fruit, almost like sticking your nose in a box of raisins. Tasting it revealed a very light-bodied and earthy wine with lots of acidity and tart cherry and cranberry flavors. It’s interesting because given all the fruit on the nose, when I tasted it the fruit was much more restrained – which seems to be typical of Oregon Pinot Noir.
2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Reserve
After the “regular” 2012 Pinot, I tried the 2012 “Reserve” Pinot.
This was a similarly translucent and brilliant ruby red like the first Pinot, if not a tad bit more clear. But on the nose, this wine smelled more earthy – OK, like dirt (which is not a bad thing!). But tasting it revealed some pronounced cherry fruit. So it was almost the opposite of the first wine in that the fruit wasn’t as much on the nose as on the palate. Compared to the “regular” Pinot, though still light-bodied, it seemed a bit more fuller bodied than the first wine. It also seemed a bit less acidic. Overall, I liked the mouthfeel of the Reserve more than the “regular” Pinot.
2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Next was the 2013 vintage.
So this is where I got stopped in my Coravin happiness tracks! There was no cork in this wine! It had a small glass stopper instead. I don’t think I’d encountered this before. I’d seen cork stoppers but never a glass one like this. So since I was really having to open more wine instead of using my trusty Coravin needle, I had to invite some friends over later that evening. Lucky them! And it’s not all bad because it is nice to get other people’s impressions of the wines and to hear what they taste and smell. I usually rely on my husband for his input but since he was out of town, the neighbors would have to step in. On this one I picked up some dark berry fruit on the nose. Tasting it revealed some tart cranberry and a hint of smokiness. The wine evolved over several hours (Thing 1 and Thing 2 were happily sleeping away) as we drank it, but I think it could definitely use some more time in the bottle to really reach its potential.
2013 Mélange Noir
The last wine, and I’ll have to say the most interesting (and by that, I mean different) of the bunch was the Mélange Noir.
This wine was a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Petite Syrah. And unlike all of the other wines, the grapes were from the Umpqua Valley AVA instead of Willamette Valley. If you’re like me, the first (and for some folks, only) AVA you’d heard of in Oregon was the Willamette Valley. But Oregon has so much more to offer. This wine was definitely much different from the lighter bodied Pinot Noir that I had been tasting. Like the 2013 Pinot Noir, it too had one of the fancy glass stoppers. Overall the wine was well balanced with some nice acidity and medium tannins. I actually expected it to be more tannic given the grapes but that’s why you taste the wine, right? Unlike the clear, translucent Pinots, the Mélange Noir was dark and brooding – OK, not really brooding but since my boss and my husband claim I have a flair for the dramatic, I just thought I’d live up to my reputation. But it was definitely much darker and inky, with purplish, burgundy hues and not at all translucent. I would have to attribute that inkiness (is that a word?) to the Petite Syrah. One sniff and I picked up lots of plums, raisins, and fig. Tasting it revealed more plum and some chocolate. This wine was very rich and velvety in the mouth.
So after tasting the wines, I made the “smart” decision to do my run for the day. BIG mistake! Not only did I think I was going to pass out and die, I ended up with a slight calf injury. But at least I did the run, right?
Anywho, on my next trip out to Oregon, I will definitely pay a visit to Abbey Creek. I love a great story, and more than that, I love it when people reach back and help others on their journeys. I think The Red, White, and Black film is such a fantastic idea.