story teller wine company
Story Teller Wine Company

I really like Johns Landing, my adopted neighborhood and the location of Storyteller Wine Company. I can walk out into my parking lot and see the Willamette River, Mt. Hood, a Swiss-style gondola tram that goes up into the West Hills and at certain times of year, Cirque du Soleil tents down on the waterfront. I also like the fact that two of my favorite winemakers, Jim Prosser and Tyson Crowley, live within three blocks of my shop. That was driven home for me yesterday when Tyson dropped by to share his new Chardonnay and then a few hours later Jim and his family stopped in to taste some wine on their way home from dinner. Given their new wine releases, it was clear to me what the next newsletter had to be!

Tyson and Jim are like salt and pepper, and I’m not just talking about their respective hair color. They have different styles of interacting and different styles of winemaking and yet it makes perfect sense they are friends and live within a few blocks of one another. If they were actors they would make the perfect good cop-bad cop team, with Jim as the bad boy who is constantly bending the rules with good cop Tyson always running interference for him with the captain (to be played by one of Jim and Tyson’s former bosses, Doug Tunnell of Brick House).

2008 J.K. Carriere Provocateur Pinot Noir (22.00)

J.K. Carriere is Jim Prosser’s winery and the name was created by combining the names of his two grandfathers, J.K. Prosser and Paul Carriere. The brand spanking new J.K. Carriere winery is a beautiful 40 acres on top of Chehalem Mountain and from that lofty perch Jim is making some superb wines. But I think the real reason I like Jim and his wines so much is the tortured path he took to becoming a winemaker. It’s just as crazy a path as the one I took to end up selling wine.

Jim grew up in a large family in Bend, Oregon. In his younger days he wheeled and dealed at the highest levels in the business and commercial real estate worlds, but then somehow managed to also sell Christmas trees and go overseas to help the Peace Corps. Once he caught the winemaking bug he could be found toiling in vineyards and cellars from New Zealand to Burgundy, with stints at wineries like Erath, Chehalem, Domaine Drouhin and Brick House in between. His love of downhill skiing and all things outdoors even got him a spot on Outside Magazine’s list of the “25 Coolest People” in America. After all of this, he has still managed to keep, to the chagrin of many in the Willamette Valley, his boyish good looks, jet black hair, dry sense of humor and killer moves on the slopes. At some point it is likely Jim will become the new “world’s most interesting man” spokesperson.

I first became aware of Jim and his wines at a most unlikely place, a Burgundy luncheon held in honor of Clive Coates in Chicago. I had heard Coates had just returned from a trip to review wines in Oregon so I asked him which wine or winery had impressed him the most. His answer was immediate and enthusiastic. He said the biggest surprise to him were the wines from a winery that had a name that reminded him of a Savile Row haberdashery. That winery turned out to be J.K. Carriere. So on my next trip home to Oregon I bought some Jim’s wines and was so impressed I started bugging him by phone to start distributing in Illinois. I have happily and proudly sold Jim’s wines ever since. And of all of Jim’s great Pinot Noirs, none are as eagerly anticipated and as quickly sold out as his “entry level” wine, the Provocateur.

Ever since its first release in 2001, year-in, year-out, the Provocateur has been one of Oregon’s best Pinot Noir values. The Provocateur is lots and lots of quality packed into a modestly priced bottle. And this is the Provocateur from one of Oregon’s most eagerly anticipated vintages ever, the already deified 2008. So be prepared to act quickly, because we won’t have it for long. The wine is named in honor of Jim’s grandfather, J.K. Prosser. The family diplomatically refers to him as a bit of a “provocateur,” but you can tell from the picture of J.K. that appears on the label he cut quite the rakish figure in his day. With that snappy hat and wry grin, you can tell J.K. was a guy you would want to hang out with on a Saturday night. The wine named in his honor is just as bold and fun loving.

The 2008 vintage of the Provocateur clocks in at a wonderfully modest 13% alcohol and is made with fruit from some very nice vineyards: Temperance Hill (28-year old vines), Anderson Family (18 years), Black Walnut (5 years), Shea (11 years), Gemini (17 years), Momtazi (10 years) and Sheppard (10 years). Jim aged the wine for 17 months in French oak, only 4% of which was new and then bottled the wine without fining or filtration. This is hardly the level of care and treatment you would expect for a wine in this price range. But Jim’s motto with this wine is “when times are hard and vintages great, give them more, then give them more.” I can quite firmly state that Jim has succeeded in spades with this bottling of the Provocateur.

The 2008 Provocateur starts off a little closed when first opened. But after a bit of decanting all sorts of nice scents starting curling up out of my glass. Dark, dark cherry aromas emerge, followed by some briary black cap raspberry scents and a little bit of brown spice. And the longer I swirled it it in my glass the darker the fruit seemed to get. After about an hour or two of air time there was even a nice little bit of meatiness in the nose, along with a touch of bitter dark chocolate.

But the palate was everything I had hoped right off the bat. Just amazingly deep and rich flavors of red cherries, white peaches, quince and a wee bit of wet slate. So for those folks who think you can’t get deep flavor at 13% alcohol, I offer you exhibit A, the Provocateur. But don’t worry about all that beautiful fruit being too much for you. There is a structure here, as well as a nice dose of acidity that, offers a nice, perfectly balanced teeter-totter platform for the fruit to play on. Jim feels you can get a solid five years of ageing with the 2008 Provocateur and I can’t say I disagree in the least. But when opening your bottles in the near future, be sure to give the Provocateur a bit of decanting.

I read once where Jim described his goal with the Provocateur. Jim stated, “I want it to be like biting full mouth into a perfectly ripened cherry…one that’s the size of a peach.” Think about that image as a little of this juice dribbles from your lips and onto your chin. That’s right, this wine is so darned much fun to drink you will get giddy and sloppy. So keep a napkin around at all times when quaffing the Provocateur!

2008 Crowley Wines Chardonnay (22.00)

You think the Provocateur disappears quickly? Well, allow me to introduce you to the fastest selling white wine in the brief history of Storyteller Wine Company. Tyson’s Chardonnay sold out at Storyteller in about 18 minutes last year. Which isn’t too surprising because (a) it is really good and (b) he makes a very tiny amount of this stuff. This year he has increased his production in order to squeeze out a whopping 97 cases. So as with the Provocateur and Brigadoon, blink and it will be gone.

Tyson Crowley is a very talented young winemaker who has earned his stripes by working at wineries like Erath, Brick House and, drum roll please, J.K. Carriere. But for the past many years, Tyson was the assistant winemaker to John Paul up at Cameron Winery. And when you sip Tyson’s Chardonnay, you can see the influences of Doug Tunnell and John Paul. And those are two might fine Chardonnay influences in my book!

The 2008 version of Crowley Chardonnay is a 50-50 blend of fruit from the Maresh and Walnut Ridge Vineyards. the previous vintage was all Maresh Vineyard fruit, but yields were lower in 2008 and Tyson wanted to bump up his production a bit so fruit was purchased from Walnut Ridge, a nifty little low-yield vineyard just south of Corvallis. The Maresh block Tyson uses is still the section that was planted to 108 clones back in 1983 and it sits at a very nice 825 foot elevation. And as if there weren’t enough themes running through this newsletter, Tyson believes quite emphatically that his 2008 Chardonnay is way better than the stunning 2007. I tasted it a few days ago and all I wrote down for a tasting note was “Wow! Get as many cases as he’ll hand over.” Unfortunately, the amount of cases I will be getting is about five. And I’m a neighbor. I’m hoping to figure out some way to persuade Tyson to sell me more but I’m not holding my breath.

After one sniff and one sip with Tyson, I told a customer that was visiting the store from Baltimore that I could probably slip Tyson’s wine into a blind tasting of my favorite Oregon Chardonnays (all of which are in the 30.00 to 60.00 range) and folks would be hard pressed to pick out the 22.00 wine. Tyson used four French oak barrels to make this wine, only one of which was new. The juice sat on its lees for 15 months and was then bottled unfined and unfiltered. The result is a rich, complex Chardonnay that should go for a lot more money than this. Not that I’m complaining.

We tried this wine straight from the bottle, which was probably at about 55 degrees F. The aromatics made me immediately think of Meursault, with all its toasted filbert nutty goodness. And lemon peel. Nuts and citrus, with a little touch of beeswax. This was very nice start. After that we kind of let the wine warm to our touch a bit before beginning to drink. Like I mentioned earlier, wow. Citrus and wet rocks fight it out a la Jets and Sharks while white peaches wearing fuzzy sweaters and poodle skirts dance around the perimeter. There is a fullness of body here, a malolactic richness that I really enjoy in Chardonnay. And I’m now starting to drift into the camp of folks who like a little bit of new oak treatment for their Chardonnay. That’s all I’m going to write about this wine. It’s great and if you love Chardonnay you should buy some. And if you don’t, no worries as I’m buying whatever is left for my household.

These wines are both 22.00 a bottle. If you order 12 or more bottles, mixed or matched in any combination you like, there will be a 10% discount. And to whip up a little enthusiasm, allow us to offer you the following shipping options. If you live west of the Mississippi River UPS ground shipping will be 1.00 per bottle. If you live east of the Mississippi, UPS ground shipping will be 2.00 per bottle. Considering that shipping a case of wine to the Midwest is usually around 36.00 for a thirty eight pound box and shipping that same box to the East Coast is closer to 40.00, this represents quite a savings in shipping.

Friday Night Wine Tasting, April 30, 6:00-8:00PM: An Evening With Steve Edmunds!

This is going to be a great tasting as well as an opportunity to chat with one of the best winemakers in all of California, Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John fame. Steve is an old school Rhone master who prefers to make and drink wines that aren’t all muddied up with too much oak and too much alcohol. Steve is also a philosopher and a very talented singer and song writer that plays a pretty fair guitar. Perhaps Steve will bring a long some of the CDs he has recorded over the years. The lineup Friday evening will be the Heart of Gold (Vermentino-Grenache Blanc), Bone Jolly Gamay Noir Rose, Bone Jolly Gamay Noir, That Old Black Magic (Syrah and Grenache from the Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards), Parmalee-Hill Syrah and the legendary Bassetti Vineyard Syrah. Amazingly enough, there will be no charge for this tasting. Steve considers the 2009 vintage of the Bone Jolly Rose to be his best ever and I guarantee you we will sell it out Friday night as there isn’t a lot to be had in the Portland market. Folks, this is going to be a great tasting, so please drop by and show Mr. Edmunds a little hospitality, Portland style.

Michael Alberty
Head Storyteller

PS For all of the fans of Jim Prosser’s white Pinot Noir (the one Domaine Serene thinks only they know how to make), the 2009 Glass was just released. It is 20.00 a bottle and supplies are very limited, hence its burying in a footnote. In Jim’s words, the Glass is “white Pinot noir, or rather, an unpretentious, utterly dry and serious rose. It’s fashioned in the manner of a turn-of-the-century rosé Champagne, with no bubbles, a slight spritz and a luscious ripe sip-of-summer taste.”

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5511-B SW Hood Ave, Portland | (503) 206-7029 | 1.800.753.2531

story teller wine, portland oregon