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Here at Chambers Street we end up tasting a lot of wine, with a seemingly constant stream of reps shuffling in and out with an endless supply of lovely liquids. It's not often that a tasting generates the type of buzz across the entire staff as when our friend and Polaner rep Hannah comes by with new Kelley Fox wines. Everyone stops what they're doing and grabs a glass, eager to taste some of the most consistently well-made and ethereal wines coming out of Oregon or really anywhere. The wines never disappoint and often expand our perception of just how precise, elegant and soulful dometic wines can be.
This precision might stem from Kelley's background in academia, earning a B.S. in Psychology from Texas A&M and a Masters in Biochemistry and Biophysics from Oregon State. The soulfulness no doubt comes in part from her time working with Oregon legend David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards, where a philosophy of letting the land, the vines and the grapes speak for themselves has carried over into her winemaking. She's also worked at Torii Mor, Hamacher, and spent ten years as winemaker at Scott Paul Wines. Since 2015 she has been exclusively making her own wines, working directly with farmers at some of the best vineyard sites in the Willamette. All of her wines are farmed biodynamically and/or organically and fermented with native yeasts, with minimal input and a goal of attaining the purest expression of a time and place. To quote Kelley herself, "The wines are made to reflect the land, the vines, the fruit of the vines, the year, and everything else unknown and unseen that comes with those things. They are Oregon wines, and hopefully, they are wines specifically of their vineyards. That said, the wines are not really “made” at all. I am not Pygmalion, imposing my idea of what they should be onto them. It is a vulnerable approach, but to me, it’s how this work becomes non-hierarchical and respecting life. What I am doing-and it still takes a lot of inner and outer work-and being in the silence- is responding to the essence of the fruit from each block, which I hope is carrying the essence of the earth that bore it, along with the details of the year (the weather, the stars, and the planets, etc. etc.). As I age having worked like this for so long, I feel profound gratitude to be on this walk."
We feel profound gratitude to be able to offer a selection of her incredible wines, including two very special single vineyard Pinot Noirs. The Gruner and Pinot Blanc are also not to be missed, and her Nerthus rosé is one of the most intriguing and delicious rosés we've had the pleasure of trying. We also have a small amount of her single vineyard Chardonnays, which will turn your perception of domestic Chardonnay upside down. Lastly, we still have a couple bottles of her 2020 vermouth, which is as good a vermouth as I've ever tasted. Don't take my word for it though - try some for yourself! Jeff DiLorenzo
***Wines are arriving Tuesday 7/18 and will be available for pickup/delivery Wednesday***
From a dry-farmed parcel of vines planted in 1991, in ancient sedimentary soils. "The 2021 is pale golden yellow, brilliant, and transparent. The nose begins with an almost heady, whirling nose of powdery minerals, ocean air, tropical fruits, and honey. These aromas are repeated in the mouth that has beautiful texture and racy acidity. " (KF)
This is from a vineyard planted in the Dundee Hills with cuttings from Cameron's legendary Abbey Ridge vineyard. "Its appearance is that of pale spun gold with brilliant transparency. Because of both its youth and seriousness, the nose as I type these words is restrained while also delicately perfumed with vanilla, pears and cream, along with a hint of salinity. This character continues in the mouth on a lovely frame and texture, ending with a long finish. I can’t wait to see what this Chardonnay does over time. I would suggest holding this wine for a few years before opening. There’s this alluring golden pear energy that it has." (KF)
The Weber Vineyard is a gorgeous old site in Dundee Hills surrounded by trees, giving it protection and a natural ecosystem that contributes to the vines' health. The Pinot Noir comes from Pommard clones planted in 1983 on their own roots. The grapes are fermented with native yeasts with about 40% whole clusters and the wine spends 10 months in neutral barrels. It's an elegant and captivating expression of Oregon Pinot, but perhaps Kelley has a more poetic description: "The Weber 2021 is a medium, youthful, and rich tone of red with brilliant transparency. The classic Dundee Hills nose is pure-fruited, inviting, and full red and blue berries and subtle spices. The mouth has beautiful, silken texture full of strawberries and raspberries. It has nice acidity and fine structure that has a long, silky, and weightless finish. When I wrote these notes, this wine felt like it should be in a fairy tale." We couldn't agree more!
"Beyond the physical attributes of the plants, like all of Kelley's wines, this is a wine of time and place, with crystal-like transmission. It's a wine born of fire. In a year of personal and systemic hard truths, tragedy and grief. The vines felt it all, as did many of the other plants which were growing in fields, forests and riverbanks of Oregon. Already, some of these plants, as successionary species, have answered their call to restore the burnt forest floors; in fact, some actually wait as seeds in the soil for fire to spark their germination. The plants remind us that in death is healing, restoration, transformation and new life. In this way, this wine was born from death and passed through several re-births: from grapes to wine, wine to brandy, fresh plants to liquid extracts, and the final birth of the merging of them all." (Stephanie Sprinkle)
Sourced from the Chehalem Mountain Vineyard and Hotel Vineyard, consisting of a mix of sedimentary and volcanic soils, Kelley Fox's Gruner Veltliner is hand-harvested and fermented with native yeasts, undergoing full malolactic conversion and spending five months in concrete amphora tank. It's always been a standout and the 2022 is incredible - clean, lifted, full of energy, with a beautiful texture and perfectly balanced acidity. There's some delicate citrus fruit, a hint of spice and a stony minerality that all intermingle effortlessly, giving it depth and complexity while still feeling weightless. Outstanding! JD
The Freedom Hill Vineyard is situated on the border of the Eola-Hills AVA in the Willamette Valley upon an ancient seabed, which lends its seashell minerality to this wine. The grapes are pressed whole cluster into stainless steel for fermentation and then racked into neutral French oak and aged for roughly six months. The 2021 is all about texture - it has that melt-in-your-mouth sensation that envelopes the palate and finishes clean and dry, with a deep saline minerality and lively acidity. There's a nice balance of fruit and savory notes with enough body to hold up to a variety of foods but light enough to enjoy on its own. It's a perfect balance of richness and brightness, somehow feeling both powerful and lithe at the same time. JD
The 2022 Nerthus Rosé is sourced from a handful of vineyards in the Willamette Valley - Eola Springs, Willig, Durant, Weber, Resplendor, and Barnes - and is a blend of 34% Early Muscat, 34% Pinot Gris with some skin contact, 18% Riesling and 14% Pinot Blanc. The grapes are fermented separately and then blended together after each wine is finished. The result is a striking rosé that feels like pure sunshine. It's bursting with bright peach and floral aromatics while refraining from being overly perfumed. The palate is a rush of honeydew, lychee and peach fruit with a salty mineral streak that cuts through and adds depth, with plenty of acidity and a crisp, dry finish. It's truly a singular rosé, endlessly enjoyable while still shifty and complex. If I could drink one rosé every day this summer this would be it! JD
Carter Vineyard is located in the southwest end of the Eola-Amity Hills A.V.A. and consists of volcanic jory soils with south-facing exposure. The grapes are fermented with about 40% whole clusters and spend ten months in neutral French oak. There's slightly more density here compared to the Weber Pinot, but it's still delicate and pretty with nice tension and a mineral core. Delicious and approachable now, it would be fascinating to see how this develops over the next five years if you can manage to keep some around. JD