A unique single vineyard wine from Crooked Acres Vineyard in Underwood, Washington situated at 1500 feet elevation below the extinct volcano, Underwood Mountain. This is a “field blend” of Rülander clone Pinot Gris co-fermented with Pommard and Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir. We wanted to make a wine that reflected both the year and vineyard as a whole. Since the vineyard is planted half/half to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, the blend is equal parts of both varieties.
This wine drinks more like a Pinot Noir, but has the freshness and floral notes of Pinot Gris. 100% Whole Cluster fermented. Foot stomped once a day for 30 days. Native yeast/malolactic. No fining/filtration. Aged 11 months in neutral French oak Burgundy barrels. Hand bottled directly from barrel into bottle. A whopping 12.2% alcohol.
100 Cases produced
" Storyteller Wine Company
It's almost Halloween so I should have known not everything is as it seems. I was staring at my glass of red wine, fully expecting a fine Oregon Pinot Noir experience. Then I took my first sniff and my brain had a hard time making sense of it all. I could make out briary raspberry fruit, dried hay and a mineral note that reminded me of wet concrete. But there was something else going on here, something lurking just beneath the surface. When the secret was revealed, I asked myself "why would anybody do this?"
- 2014 Swick Wines "Gris Foncé" Crooked Acres Vineyard
Then I took my first sip and I had my answer: this blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Gris is mighty tasty. It's a diabolical co-fermentation from one of our state's fast rising "young turk" winemakers and I love it. Even though I call Joe Swick a "young turk," the guy already has a lifetime of winemaking experience under his belt. In one stretch he even somehow managed to cram 15 harvests into a decade.
It began with stints at Owen Roe, Sineann, Penner-Ash,Domaine Serene, Siduri, Kosta-Browne and three years making sparkling wines in the Yarra Valley and Tasmania. After that it was off to Villa Maria in New Zealand, Felton Road in Central Otago, Niepoort winery in Portugal and Cerretto in Piedmont. By then Swick felt he was ready to return to Oregon to make his own wines. A few years ago he rented space in the Willamette Valley and in 2013 the first vintage of Swick Wines hit the Portland market. Joe's wines are now well known in these parts for their faith to place of origin, lifted acidity, elegant touch and lower alcohol percentages.
His Gris Foncé owes it inspiration to the time Swick recently spent working with friends in Portugal's Duoro Valley. Joe told me "I'm not a big fan of the term 'field blend' but i wanted to make a wine that was a snapshot of the vineyard as a whole. Similar to the Douro, where they harvest everything together."
With the Gris Foncé, Swick's snapshot was taken in the Columbia Gorge at a vineyard by the name of Crooked Acres. The soils there are almost pure basalt and they benefit from the cooler night time temperatures and high winds one finds at 1,500 feet above sea level in the gorge. The vineyard is planted half to the Rülander Pinot Gris clone and half to Pommard and Wädenswil Pinot Noir, so a 50-50 blend made perfect sense to Swick. The fact Pinot Gris is a mutation (cue the spooky music) of Pinot Noir made his decision even easier. All the grapes were co-fermented whole cluster and Swick aged them for 12 months in four neutral oak barrels. He added a bit of sulfur at bottling, but otherwise the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, directly from the barrels.
When Joe first tasted this creation I wonder if tilted his head back and cackled with glee, àla Dr. Frankenstein? If he did, I wouldn't blame him. The Gris Foncé has a mysteriously murky, opaque magenta color and in addition to the raspberry, hay and mineral scents I described earlier, the wine's nose has a spicy/blossomy quality that reminded me of a juicy white nectarine that has been hit with a bit of black pepper. The wine is also fresh and earthy, with a scent that closely resembles a downed redwood tree that's busily transforming itself into forest floor mulch. Exotic stuff to be sure.
Just smelling this wine was worth twenty bucks to me, but the way it tasted put me into the bonus round! The fruit is a wicked combination of mulberries and the cherry Dum Dums lollipops we would get when trick-or-treating the neighborhood. In addition to the fruit there are wee bits of thyme and cedar, along with a dusty mineral quality I found quite enjoyable. The Gris Foncé clocks in at a typically swickian 12.2% alcohol but I was surprised by the wine's impressive tannic structure. It was in almost perfect balance with the acidity, providing an interesting sensation of getting wet and then drying out. It was like hopping out of a pool in Palm Springs when it's 115 degrees F outside!"