Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phelps Creek Vineyard Offers Hellfire & Brimstone

Last week I shared that I made my way down the Gorge to Portland for a conference and made a few stops along the way to see vintners that I hadn’t tasted before. One of the fun places that I visited on my treck was Phelps Creek in Hood River.

The tasting room is in the golf course club house. Golf clubs and spiked shoes just a few feet from $40 bottles of Reserve Pinot Noir. I have to admit that after the initial shock of realizing all this I thought how cool would that be to be able to get a great glass of Pinot after gangsome rather than a Keystone light.

The tasting room manager, Dave, was very friendly and knowledgeable about the winery and the region. For a Monday, the winery was bustling with activity. Open 7 days a week from 11a.m. to 5p.m., it was one of the few wineries open and ready to greet guests.

Phelps Creek, and it’s parent Mt. Defiance Wine Company are owned by Robert (Bob) Morus. Bob moved to Hood River back in 1989 to follow his passion of growing wine grapes and his family. His profession of flying Boeing 777 as a commercial pilot keeps him busy outside of growing, making, and selling wine.

The winery employs two winemakers. The famed Rich Cushman is the principle winemaker for Phelps. His many years throughout the Willamette Valley have brought many different award winning wines over the years. The winery added Alexandrine Roy, a fourth generation winemaker from Burgundy this last year. Her work as consultant and winemaker has brought a new level to the winery’s Pinot Noir line.

I tasted through a pretty complete lineup of the current Phelps Creek vintages. This included the opportunity to taste the winery’s second label. Named after local legend and famous baseball player gone Pentecostal preacher Billy Sunday, the winery has a line of prohibition era labels that are downright fun and affordable blends.

“Hellfire” is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, and Savignon Blanc. Tons of apple and honeysuckle on the nose and front palate, with a flint and balanced finish. “Brimstone”, the red blend is a complex blend of several of the winery’s Syrahs, Cab, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Beautiful fruit and anise on the nose, followed by rich flavors of blackberry and licorice. “Wow” good! This stuff even comes in a prohibition style 3 liter jug for those who want to kick it old school.

On to the more serious lineup of Phelps Creek wines. The winery offers up both an unoaked Chardonnay, and a Reserve Chardonnay. The unoaked offers up bright, crisp apple and Bartlet pear flavors, with a light acidity on the finish. On the other hand, the Reserve offers up both fruit and a light butterscotch on the palate.

The winery’s Pinot Noirs were also a delight. The one that blew my mind was the 2007 Reserve Estate Pinot Noir. Incredibly complex and bold, with earthen tones, fruit, rainforest, and silky finish. No wonder it scored in the 90s.

Next time you’re in Hood River I suggest stopping by the Golf Course and having a glass at Phelps Creek.

On a closing side note, I want to take a moment to congratulate the Pendleton High Dance team for their 4th year as state champions. What a fine group of young female athletes. Your community should be proud!


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