Teutonic Wine Company “Laurel Vineyard” Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir 2010
I’m always on the lookout for wines that challenge preconceptions and the status quo. In fact, this has been a trend with everything in my life, whether it was the years I spent studying how to use art and aesthetics to think about social and political theory, the literature and music I have tended towards over the years or even my current legal career. Something special happens when one is forced to rethink.
Of course, such rethinking is hard work. It often requires us to throw away ideas that we have personally invested in for a very long time. It often means writing off considerable time spent pursuing a mistaken path. This is why ideas (or wines) that challenge will never be the big sellers – it’s just too much work to get to know why they matter. Nonetheless, they remain the critically important catalysts for change.
Teutons in Oregon
Teutonic Wine Company was founded by Barnaby and Olga Tuttle on the principle that cool climate wines have greater nuance and complexity. Inspired by Alsace and Germany (in particular, the wines in the catalogue of US Importer Ewald Moseler), Barnaby and Olga have sought to emulate these regions by choosing to work with similar varieties and seeking fruit from sites that share climactic similarities and allow for longer hang times with lower ultimate brix. Grown in the Chehalem Mountains (their Alsea vineyard is west of the coastal range and only 22 miles from Oregon’s Pacific coast), all of their wines range from 9-12% alcohol and are made in a fresh acid-driven style to pair with food. Teutonic has even spent considerable time working with producers from the Mosel to learn effective techniques for producing wines with similar character and vivacity. If you remain unconvinced, Teutonic even imports a few very small family wineries from Germany and sells them through their website.
These guys are also ‘biodynamic’, use indigenous yeasts, etc. etc. You know, they put a lot of effort into respecting natural ecosystems and treating their vines as part of a greater whole.
An Oregon Pinot with Ideas
There is little point comparing this Pinot Noir on some sort of unified rating scale to other wines being made in the region. It is also not inherently superior to the other style of Pinot Noir being made in Oregon. However, it is fundamentally unlike any other Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from the United States.
Grass, minerals, ripe wild bush berries and a fundamental wireyness characterize the fruit, much like German Spatburgunder. This is not, however, lean wine. Nor is it acidic or washed out. It is easy to drink lip smacking wine that is the antithesis of the confected Pinot Noirs that have dominated consumer buying since Sideways. In fact, the Teutonic is so focused on cool-climate freshness and brightness that it managed to make the other ‘restrained’ Oregon Pinot Noirs (from the likes of Brick House and White Rose) we tasted with it seem overly rich.
There are ideas in this wine. The idea that not all wines need be alike and not all palates seek sledgehammer flavours. The idea that idiosyncratic wines can be made in a sea of mediocrity. The idea that $20 can buy far more profundity and character than $80. These are not new ideas, particularly in Europe. But these are ideas that I very rarely encounter in Oregon or anywhere in the New World. It is also a sign that a few have started to rethink. These are made in very small quantities but are worth seeking out.
Very Good+ to Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$20 at Soul Wine in Seattle