Welcome to The Spirit Haus, Amherst's Specialty Beverage Center

And so Friday's evening with thoughts of wine to taste comes again. Colleague Michael is away on a birthday weekend. For simplicity, we focus on Mark Vlossak's St. Innocent Winery of Salem in Oregon's Willamette Valley, a producer we have been following for about two decades. Tomorrow we'll open his 2016 Freedom Hill Vineyard Chardonnay [$23.99]; two vintages of his Villages Cuvee, 2014 and the current 2016 [$25.99]; and two vintages of his Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2008 and 2014 [$44.99]. Over the years, with proper aging, St. Innocent has produced perhaps the most “Burgundian” of all Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, so we will tease our pallets with a 2008 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes from Georges Mugneret-Gibourg [internet price over $230].

St. Innocent makes seven single-vineyard Pinots which by definition means that if one tasted through them all, their differences should be apparent, otherwise why bottle them separately! Over the years, their Shea, Seven Springs and Freedom Hill bottlings have been my favorites. Tomorrow's Freedom Hill Vineyard sits just outside the Eola-Amity AVA in the town of Dallas, ten miles southwest of Salem. Along with St Innocent, Ken Wright, Patricia Green, Evesham Wood, Lange Winery and several others make wine from grapes grown in the Freedom Hill Vineyard owned by Dan and Helen Dusschee, who began their vineyard in 1982. Soils here are marine sedimentary because they were once part of an ancient seabed. In general, the Freedom Hill Vineyard has a reputation of producing large scaled, structured wines. Tasting two vintages will offer an honest glimpse.

Vlossak's goal at St. Innocent is always to produce beautifully balanced wines that reflect their terroir. But, over and against his single vineyard wines stands his Villages Cuvee, a blend of vineyards that for us has come to quintessentially define the best of a regional Willamette Valley Pinot. It is this special excellence we will examining tomorrow with the two vintages of the Cuvee. They are nicely ageworthy.

Sisters Marie-Christine and Marie-Andree of Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg make a range of some of the most sought after wines of Burgundy, from a “regional” Bourgogne to a Vosne Romanee and Gevry-Chambertin, to three 1er Crus, to three Grand Crus. If we are lucky, we are allocated one mixed case per vintage. Next month, one of four special, limited seating Thursday evening tastings which we will be holding downstairs in our “checkered room” will present the range of their wines, so if tomorrow's 2008 Chambolle Fuesselottes excites, please stay tuned. More information on this series of in-Haus tastings coming soon.

Thus, six wines in all will make up our afternoon accompanied by cheese, salami and crackers. We begin at 2 pm. The paid portion of our tasting will be $7. Please see some reviews below.

And once again, thank you so much for your time and interest.



St. Innocent – Pinot Noir Villages Cuvée 2014

Josh Raynolds, Vinous, September 2016: Deep red. Bright and focused on the nose, displaying fresh raspberry and cherry scents, along with hints of peppery spices and licorice. Juicy and seamless on entry, offering gently sweet red fruit and spicecake flavors that slowly tighten up in the midpalate. Clings with very nice tenacity on the finish, which features rounded tannins and an echo of sweet red fruit. Drink: 2018 – 2022. 90 points.

St. Innocent – Pinot Noir Villages Cuvée 2016

Josh Raynolds, Vinous, December 2017: Brilliant red. Spice-accented raspberry, cherry and rose scents show a hint of underbrush in the background. Juicy and light on its feet, offering lively red berry and spicecake flavors that put on weight as the wine opens up. Fine-grained tannins sneak in late on the long, smooth finish, which leaves behind a jammy red fruit liqueur note. Drink: 2020 – 2025. 90 points.

St. Innocent – Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard 2008

Jay Miller, Wine Advocate, Oct. 2010: The 2008 Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard is the first Vlossak has made since 2003 due to the replanting caused by phylloxera. It gives up aromas of pain grille, spice box, incense, black cherry, and black raspberry. Structured and a bit straightforward compared to its peers, even so it is a strong effort that will benefit from several years of additional bottle age. 91+points.

St. Innocent – Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard 2014

Josh Raynolds, Vinous, September 2016: Limpid ruby. Heady, smoke-accented red and dark berry scents pick up hints of succulent herbs, candied flowers and minerals with air. Deeply concentrated yet lithe on the palate, offering intense black raspberry and cherry cola flavors and hints of star anise, rose pastille and mocha. Closes very long and smooth, with displaying resonating dark fruit character and gentle tannic grip. Drink: 2019 – 2026. 93 points.

Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, Jun 2016: The 2014 Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard has more complexity on the nose compared to the 2013 with better mineralité and tension. The fruit is very clean and precise with redcurrant and crushed strawberry scents unfurling from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with undergrowth-tinged red berry fruit, a touch of bitter cherry lending tension, a keen thread of acidity (apparently this has the lowest pH) with a dash of spice on the aftertaste. Drink: 2018-2028. 91 points.

Georges Mugneret-Gibourg – Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes 2008

Antonio Galloni, Vinous, May 2011: The 2008 Chambolle-Musigny Les Feusselottes is notable for many outstanding qualities, starting with its totally striking, captivating bouquet. Firm yet elegant tannins frame the fruit in this hugely promising yet very young wine. The balance is simply first-class, suggesting the future is very bright. Drinking window: 2018 – 2028. 93+points.

Allan Meadows' Burghound Tasting note: A classic Chambolle nose of high-toned and wonderfully airy red raspberry, sour cherry, blue berry and discreet spice hints introduce rich, delicious and generous medium-bodied flavors that retain a fine sense of detail on the firm and sappy finish that displays an attractive delicacy while it's lingering. Lovely juice. Outstanding. Drink: 2015+. 91 points.


St. Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

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Appearance: Deep ruby colored. Aroma: Pungent dark cherry and cassis aromas with roasted spice, sweet earth and clove notes. Flavor: Initially the spice and rich dark cherry penetrate your palate with an impressive depth of flavor. The richness of ripe tannin and acidity reveals the power behind this Pinot noir from this famous site. Them suppleness of the fruit and earth notes extend into a very balanced and lengthy finish. Pairings: Best served with rich dishes, it is a great match for steak, lamb, rich pasta dishes.



Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Chambolle Musigny Les Feusselottes 2008

These are hauntingly individual, ethereal Burgundies that emphasize purity over power, elegance over muscle - and, with an annual production of only 2,000 cases, there is simply never enough wine to satisfy a world hungry for wines as soulful and unique as these.