Cathedral Ridge Winery
2008 Dampier Vineyard Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Dampier Vineyard
Oregon: Hood River
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Holy WOW! That pretty much sums up today’s wine. Not at all what we expected from a Pinot grown in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, today’s wine really impressed us. Enough to issue this special alert.
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Mission Codename: Riding the Ridge
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red to Oregon’s Columbia Gorge to procure an exclusive Pinot Noir for our Oregon Pinot-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Cathedral Ridge
Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Michael Sebastiani
Backgrounder: Our Operatives have spoken. They love Oregon Pinot Noir. For today’s impressive wine, we sent Agent Red to the Columbia Gorge AVA, a region made famous for producing some of the finest Pinot Noir in Oregon. Today’s winery was voted Oregon Winery of the Year and one sip of their 2008 Dampier Vineyard Pinot Noir reveals why. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes, below, followed by his interview with 4th generation winemaker Michael Sebastiani.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark ruby red hues, with a shimmering fine rim of brighter ruby. The wine is deeply concentrated, but clear through its darker heart. This wine settles quickly when swirled. As it becomes still, skinny legs start high up on the glass, and then run down slowly.
Smell – Big Bing cherry with a hint of smoke leads the way. This is followed by chocolate covered cherry, blackberry, cranberry and a hint of soft spice.
Feel – Soft and light on the tip of the tongue. Then, immediately, the mouth becomes bright and mouthfilling, with an ultra-bright acidity that makes the mouth water. This acidity brings out the flavors of the wine.
Taste – Bold and bright cherry on the initial attack, then cranberry, young blackberry and earthy strawberry, with soft violet and a hint of tobacco.
Finish – Bright and mouthwatering, this wine brings additional flavors after you sip, evolving from bright and tart to slightly dusky with red fruit and a hint of soft spice.
Conclusion – Michael Sebastiani and Cathedral Ridge are a potent pairing. This is a bright and delicious wine that delivers on so many levels. Not a characteristic Oregon Pinot Noir, perhaps, but I mean that in the best possible way; This wine is a very bright and super delicious delight that I could not stop marveling over. Certainly more fruit forward and bright than one might expect from an Oregon Pinot, this wine still has plenty of character. With enough acidity to make this wine very food-friendly, we also love sipping it on its own. Kudos to Michael and the rest of our friends at Cathedral Ridge. We love this wine!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Michael Sebastiani
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker for 10 years with Italian wine varietal focus; current owner/winemaker of Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: 80% of winemaking is in the vineyard, and the less we have to touch the wine thereafter, the better the wine will be – though it takes decades to learn how to do this.
MICHAEL QUOTE: “Winemaking is just another form of cooking.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1993
AGENT RED: Greetings, Michael. We are thrilled to be showing your single vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
MICHAEL: Thanks for sharing Cathedral Ridge Wines – sharing them is the best way we can enjoy them ourselves.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that led to your love of wine?
MICHAEL: I guess you could say starting to work in the vineyards at age 10 thrust me into the industry….and 8 years later, after moving up “through the ranks,” I realized that I can do anything in wine industry…from farming, to science, to business/sales and finally hospitality.
RED: You literally grew up in California wine. What inspired you to make wines in Oregon?
MICHAEL: CRW owner, and longtime friend, Robb Bell asked me to come look at his new winery project in Hood River- when I arrived and saw the town and surrounding area and vineyards, I said yes before I even made it to the winery!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MICHAEL: I’ve pretty much absorbed what I could over the years, and experiment every chance I get (at 1 vintage per year, you have to do multiple per vintage). If I approach it like I’m in a kitchen, it erases any parameters.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MICHAEL: We’re a food ‘product’ for people to enjoy….so I always embrace feedback from consumers. I just make what they like, given the ingredients we have at hand. For example, I compare Chardonnay to chicken most of the time – it’s the white wine that everyone compares others too…lighter than a Chard, more fruit than a Chard, etc. And Chardonnay can be made is so many styles…overdone then covered in sauce (ie. oak, ML) or true to form where its delicate flavors are showcased and only seasoned with oak and lighter, softer highlights (like a perfectly cooked chicken with no sauce).
RED: I love that perspective! Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
MICHAEL: For me, the 2008 Pinot Noir highlights the part of Gorge right at Hood River….on both sides of the Columbia Pinot can grow in the chilly weather, and when the acidity is tamed, Pinot’s true cherry flavors can come through. We like to keep it in barrel, untouched since harvest, at least 10 months, sometimes 14 or 15 months.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MICHAEL: I’m always say that everybody’s preferences are different, so I’d suggest that you pair it with whatever you like! But for me, this style of wine is fun with lighter, or “gourmet,” style pizzas maybe with spinach and/or feta, sun dried tomatoes and maybe figs….outdoors before sunset would definitely set the scene.
RED: Yum! In your opinion, what makes the Columbia Gorge so special?
MICHAEL: The Gorge carries such a diverse climate in its approximate 20 mile span…from Hood River to The Dalles, we can grow our cold and warmer climate varietals that are true to their desired region.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MICHAEL: How about everything?! With small wineries you pretty much do everything you can… kinda like the chef and dishwasher routine – it’s a small group that makes everything happen, and everyone helps out at every level. That’s where that family aspect comes from for so many wineries.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
MICHAEL: Simply – wine is food, and we all have to eat. So you’re the expert of what you like, so don’t be afraid to speak your mind – when you don’t like a dish, you don’t eat it, right? But also never stop trying new wines (and foods); and sometimes when you don’t like a particular wine, most times you can try it again later and like it. I never was an eggplant fan, but have figured out different possibilities for it!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MICHAEL: Luckily for me, wine has been the hub to so many things in life – that tells me wine is about the people you’re with when enjoying it. Back to food…aren’t meals always better with friends? Wine is the same way, it’s something you do with friends – so it’s friends that come together and drink wine that makes life good.
RED: You’ve had a remarkable life, Michael! Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Cathedral Ridge Winery in the Columbia Gorge AVA can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
This single vineyard pinot playfully tickles the nose with hints of vanilla and ripe cherry. The Dampier vineyard’s elevation and ancient volcanic soil composition lays a foundation of complexity including tart cranberries and rhubarb, followed by soft balanced oak.
About The Vineyard:
On the north side of the Columbia River sits Dampier Vineyard on Underwood Mountain, WA. At a higher elevation, approximately 1100 feet, this vineyard benefits from south facing slopes with great exposure to both the sun and cool gorge winds throughout the growing season. Underwood Mountain is an extinct volcano with well drained, ancient soil resulting from wind blown loess over thousands of years. The soil is a sandy, clay loam almost 100 feet thick in areas with great drainage. The vineyard is not irrigated but instead fed from approximately 58 inches of rain per year, most falling in the winter and early spring.
About The Winery:
A Place Like No Other – The Columbia Gorge is a special place known for stunning vistas, pristine landscape and world famous windsurfing. It’s also a premier grape growing region like no other, recently christened the Columbia Gorge AVA and the area is becoming famous for its wines. This Oregon winery sits in a terrific location high on a ridge above the Columbia Gorge with Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams as a backdrop. Robb Bell purchased Cathedral Ridge Winery (formerly Flerchinger Vineyards).
What’s in a Name – Mt. Hood towers over the area at 11,239. Called Wy’East by Native Americans, legend has it that the passionate rivalry between two chiefs over the same woman led to their fiery transformation into active volcanoes, with Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams competing in majestic beauty for the affection of Mt. St. Helens.
When you look at Mt. Hood you’ll notice a striking feature, a knife edge ridge running off the summit to the Northwest. This is Cathedral Ridge. Awe inspiring in its ruggedness, it is known by the local climbers as some of the most amazing climbing in the Pacific Northwest. Hard to find, but worth the trip. We thought it was a fitting moniker for our winery.
Magic in a Bottle – Due to the ideal micro-climates in the region, our Oregon winery boasts lovingly tended grapes and they are magnificent. The credit goes to our fabulous grape growers such as Lonnie Wright, John Bangsund, Clark Ziegler and others. Our Oregon wine harvests are locally gathered and wine crafting begins onsite using time honored traditions. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Our winemaker is Michael Sebastiani, a fourth generation winemaker. He has an innate talent for creating magic in every bottle. Try our wine today.
Wine Philosophy – We excel in this business because we truly love producing great wines. Our philosophy is simple: Give every guest a warm reception, a rich experience, and plenty of good reasons to come back again.
Hospitable Surroundings – We hope you’ll plan a visit to the area to see the sights, walk our grounds and sample all that we have to offer. We know you’ll enjoy everything you see. And you’ll enjoy what you taste, even more.
There are many ways to enjoy the Columbia Gorge and its’ wines, we’d like to invite you to start with sampling our wines, and we’re grateful you’ve chosen to spend time with us. We’re devoted to producing the best wines and becoming your personal Oregon winery.
Appelation: Hood River, Oregon – Dampier Vineyard
Varietals: 100% Pinot Noir