Umpqua Valley AVA

One man’s basin is another man’s valley.

The Umpqua is formed by three mountain ranges:  The Cascades, the Coastal Range and he Klamath, but often the area is often known as the 100 valleys of the Umpquas.  The Umpqua River runs through the valley but is no way responsible for the formation of this appellation.  The soils are a diverse mixture of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks with alluvial and clays dominating the valley floor and clays.  In fact, the contains at least 150 separate soil types.  The climate of the region is also varied with the northern areas being cool and  moist, the southern being warm and dry and the central area transitional.

Viticulture has been active since the 1880s when German settlers left California and headed north.  In the modern era winemaking was established in the early 1960s and has grown to at least 60 vineyards and 12 wineries.  The appellation also distinguishes itself by being the first place in the U.S. growing Grüner Veltliner.  Other varietals being produced include:

  • Albariño
  • Baco Noir
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminers
  • Grenache
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Kadarka
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinot gris
  • Pinot noir
  • Pinotage
  • Riesling
  • Roussane
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvigon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Valdiguie
  • Vermentino
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel





















Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The Wines of Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery ~ Black Dirt Red

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Of Warwick Valley’s five reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Black Dirt Red, I chose the Black Dirt because the shelf notes indicated this was a 100% Baco Noir.  Never having heard of the grape, at least not to my knowledge, odds were that I’d never tasted it before either.  And what’s the point of adventuring if you don’t take a chance on new experiences?  And thus, the Black Dirt Red made the cut and joined the Chardonnay and the Riesling in my basket that afternoon.

Before trying the wine, I decided to learn a bit more about the grape.  A quick Google search turned up several articles, including a Wikipedia entry.  Baco Noir is a hybrid grape produced from a cross of the Folle Blanche and an unknown American varietal.  First cultivated in Europe, and once fairly common in France, Baco Noir grapes were introduced into North America in the early 1950s.  Today, the grape is grown primarily in cooler regions, and while you may find it grown in the mid-Atlantic states, you’ll most often find it across the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and Canada, particularly Ontario.

First the grape, then the wine…  The Black Dirt Red is a medium-purple color with flashes of ruby.  The nose is dusky and earthy and rather subdued.  Given the description, I expected the nose to be stronger and fruitier, and at first was concerned that I had perhaps gotten a bad bottle.  But no fear, the first sip dispelled any fears, and the grape lived up to its description.  I was quite taken aback by the almost overpowering presence of the fruit with that first sip, but by the second – or third – sip, it started to grow on me.

The predominant notes are tangy cherry and rich plum.  Together they give the wine both a brightness and a sweetness that is rather distinctive.  Based on my initial reaction, I expected the wine to be off-putting over time.  But I wasn’t quite ready to walk away and by the end of the first glass found the wine to be more intriguing than I had first given it credit for.  Over time the fruit layered in the mouth providing a depth I hadn’t expected.  I poured a second glass to pair with dinner, which was a simple grilled strip steak and a creamy risotto with fontina and parmesan cheeses.  The food didn’t cut or even subdue the strength of the fruit, but it did bring out a touch of warm spice on the finish, a welcome balance to the brightness of the fruit.

According to the articles I found online, New York is one of the larger producers of Baco Noir, and I wonder if this is a grape at the heart of many of the Finger Lakes Reds.   I haven’t yet been to the Finger Lakes although my good friend Greg Rogers and his family live nearby, and Greg has kindly gifted me with some of his favorite Finger Lakes wines over the years.  I’ve generally found the Reds to be somewhat sweeter than I tend to prefer and definitely very fruity.  I chalked that up to  Greg’s personal preferences or the general style of the region’s wines, but now I’m starting to suspect it may also be due to the grape.  The bright tangy cherry I’m finding in the Warwick Valley Black Dirt Red reminds me of the hallmarks of some of those wines Greg has brought me over the years.

Definitely calls for more research.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the remainder of the Black Dirt Red, and my next encounter with Baco Noir.

Four Sisters ~ The Reds & Ports

Marguerite BarrettFour Sisters Winery vineyards
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, December 8th

After the Blush wines both Maree and I moved on to the Reds.  Four Sisters produces 7 reds overall, but two were already sold out.  Of the remaining 5, 2 were described as sweet or semi-sweet wines, generally not my preference, so I skipped those and settled on the remaining 3, dry, reds.

Chambourcin The wine is a beautiful deep rose-garnet color and has a very strong cherry nose.  In the mouth the wine has strong notes of cherry which provide just a hint of sweetness to balance out the dryness of the wine.  The oaking adds touches of vanilla which give the wine a smooth finish.  Overall not a bad wine, although it felt a bit young and as a result the cherry was a bit strong.

Papa’s Red Made from Baco Noir grapes, which I’d never heard of no less tried before, this is a very pleasant medium-bodied red table wine.  Garnet colored with a light earthy nose which was a nice change from the fruity noses I so often find in the northeastern reds, the Papa’s Red has pleasant notes of berries and a nice balance of acid on the palate.  There’s a “bite” at the end which I found very reminiscent of Marechal Foch grapes, and while not unpleasant, was a bit of a surprise.

This being my first exposure to Baco Noir, I did a bit of research when I got home.  A hybrid variety that while once grown in Europe is now predominantely grown in the colder climates of the US and Canada, particularly the Upper Midwest US and Ontario.  According to Wikipedia there are 250 hectares of Baco Noir under cultivation in New York, so we’ll have to check in with the folks over at Lenndevours to see what they can tell us about New York Baco Noir wines.

In the meantime, I was on to my third red, the

Warren Hills Red Named for the surrounding area, also the name of the AVA, the Warren Hills Red was my favorite of the three reds I tasted that afternoon.  Like the Papa’s Red, this also is a deep garnet color with an earthy nose.  In the mouth, the wine has lovely notes of wild berries.  The finish has the same “bite” as the Papa’s Red leading me to suspect there were Baco Noir grapes in this wine as well, although our host for the tasting couldn’t find her notes and wasn’t sure what was included in the blend.  Overall I found this wine to have more depth and complexity than the Papa’s Red, very likely due to the fact that this is a blend.

Overall the three reds I tried were nice, pleasant table wines, although I found I was more impressed with the whites than the reds.  But, we weren’t done yet, and there were still two Ports to try.

In addition to the two Ports, Four Sisters also produces 5 fruit wines and 1 sparkling wine.  I’ve never been a fan of fruit wines and given the range of other wines available, decided to skip that category altogether, and given a choice between port and sparkling wine, I’ll generally select port.  I can’t remember, and my notes don’t indicate if Maree tried the sparkling wine, Maggie’s Magic, but I went straight to the first port:

Pop’s Port Named in honor of owner Matty’s father (grandfather of the “four sisters”), Pop’s Port is made from Baco Noir grapes.  Like the Papa’s Red, the wine is garnet colored with strong notes of cherry on the nose and in the mouth.  Semi-sweet with a rich, soft mouth-feel, this is a nice port, although the tangy “bite” at the end from the Baco Noir grapes is a bit of an unexpected surprise.

The last wine of the day was

Matty’s Apple Port Made from late harvest apples grown on the Mattarazzo farm and brandy fortified.  The nose is much lighter than I anticipated and in the mouth the flavor of the apples is rich without being overpowering.  The apples provide a slight tartness which balances out the overall sweetness, resulting in a rich, smooth and very satisfying port.  I definitely preferred this one to the Pop’s Port and found it to be a great finish to an interesting and extensive tasting.