For a long, long time, the Willamette Valley of Oregon was known for one wine; Pinot Noir. As the region and its reputation has grown, so has its diversity of offerings. Originally it started out with Pinot Gris, but as viticulture has adapted and evolved, the offerings in this part of Oregon have become far more broad. These days in addition to Pinots Noir and Gris, Chardonnay is making a massive stake as the white wine of record in the Willamette. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Auxerrois, and we’re even seeing Tempranillo and Syrah in the Valley.
For a long time, one of the most novel and interesting non Pinots in the Valley was made by one of its Pinot pioneers, Sokol Blosser. They had a house brand called Evolution and a blend of white grape varieties that made for an exceptionally drinkable white wine called Lucky No. 9. It was a blend of nine white grapes and it was affordable,and frankly outstanding. The Evolution brand has evolved for Sokol Blosser and added a few new components that give Pinot Noir drinkers, as well as those looking for some variety a number of great options.
Take Oregon’s signature variety, strip down the outside noise, like oak and let it be what it can be. The Evolution Pinot Noir emphasizes the bright beauty and fruit forward nature of this wonderful grape from this wonderful wine region. Aromas are bright and bounding out of the glass with fresh bramble berries and clove. The palate is bright and classically Oregon Pinot, maybe with the intensity turned up just a bit. Blue and black fruit flavors dominate, with brightness and lift from soaring acidity that make this an absolute zinger of a food wine.
Taking a page from their Lucky No. 9 this is an unconventional blend that includes grapes from beyond Oregon, and so it’s Appellation is listed as “American.” A mixture of Sangiovese, Syrah and the Italian grape Montepulicano, as well as a bit of the Lucky No. 9 white blended in this makes for a fun wine. Aromas of fig and savory spices and a palate that is rich and robust. Flavors of currant, blackberry and anise compliment a layered and complex wine at a real value price.
This sparkling ancestor of the Lucky No. 9 uses much of the same wild blend. Semillon, Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, and two different Muscat grapes. Despite the thumbing of the nose at tradition, this sparkling wine is done in the traditional style from Champagne, known as Method Champenoise. Secondary fermentation happens in the bottle, as contrasted with say, Prosecco which uses steel tanks. The wine as a result has a creamy and traditional mouth-feel but it pops with all manner of fruit forward. Apple and pear flavors along with honeysuckle and chamomile and a citrus finish make for a sparkling good time.