story teller wine company
Story Teller Wine Company

My last name is Alberty. Most people assume it is spelled Alberti and that my family has Italian origins. I always just nod my head in affirmation and try to steer the conversation to another subject. For you see, my family has a dirty little secret or two. Secrets I rarely share. But I came across a wine yesterday that made me think about that sordid past. And after about three glasses I have decided now is the time to tell the tale. After all, if I’m going to lay it all out there for the world to see, I want to be using the story to sell some wine!

In the 1400s the Alberti family was thriving in northern Italy. They were for the most part either successful merchants or prominent men of the sciences. But then the Medici family decided to get involved. The Medicis were prominent clients of many of the Albertis so it was very difficult to say no to them. But one day they went too far. The Medici clan decided that two cousins, both members of the Alberti family, should be married. To each other. Now some members of my family, even in the 1400s, knew inbreeding could be a bad thing. After all, they had been able to observe the day-to-day activities of many of Europe’s royal families so they had more than a few data points to work with. But how could they refuse the powerful Medici family? So in the middle of the night, a whole section of the Alberti family packed up like Art Modell leaving Baltimore and headed to Austria. But they didn’t want to lose their family name. So to distance themselves from the others, they changed the spelling of their last name to Alberty. Which in Italian translates roughly to “hand shaking cousins.” To this day Alberti is about as common a last name in Italy as Smith is here in America. It’s funny how there are so many of them in Italy now. But evidently the part of the family that left for Austria wasn’t the overly skilled section. So while the Albertis in Italy produced lots of folks like Leon Battista Alberti (a famous humanist and the inspiration for the Renaissance term “universal man”), the Albertys that eventually made it to America weren’t so lucky. Our most famous son is Shad Alberty, the man who invented the dance “the Shag.” That and an obscure actor named Karl-Otto Alberty. His first movie role was playing the German officer who captures Richard Attenborough in The Great Escape. Movie-goers must have thought old Karl made a great Nazi because he went on to make a career of playing them in a series of films, notably The Battle of the Bulge, Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, and Kelly’s Heroes. This isn’t exactly the kind of lineage one can brag about in a bar. Unless it is a bar in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where Shad and the Shag are still worshipped like gods. So to this day the Medici family doesn’t come up much at our family gatherings. Which is where the wine comes in.

About a week ago I received an email from a customer on the East Coast. He had been to Oregon on vacation and by chance he had stumbled into the Medici tasting room in Newberg. While there he came across an Oregon Pinot Noir that was so good and so reasonably priced that he was motivated to sit down and write me an electronic love letter. To the wine, not me. So I thought I better check it out. After a nice conversation with Hal Medici I found out that his representative for selling his wines was none other than Cal Erath, the son of Oregon wine pioneer Dick Erath. I was also happy because Hal showed no interest in any of my cousins. Within 48 hours Cal was standing here in Storyteller pouring a sample of the wine in question. I don’t jump up and down literally about a wine very often. And I’m not talking metaphorically, I’m talking about physically jumping up and down. Folks, this is one of those wines. I haven’t been this impressed with an Oregon Pinot Noir since I had my first sip of the 2002 Eyrie Reserve Pinot Noir last summer.

2001 Medici Vineyards East Block Pinot Noir 26.00

Medici Vineyards isn’t exactly a household name, even in these parts. Maybe it’s because Hal Medici is such an earnest and humble guy that he doesn’t get out and toot his own horn very much. He’s a gentleman farmer that quietly goes about his business. So while may not be a marketing wizard, he was savvy enough to talk Peter Rosback of Sineann fame into being his winemaker. That’s right, Peter “the Mad Fruit Bomber” Rosback. as he was once referred to in a magazine article. Peter and his Sineann wines are a household name and he’s beginning to stretch his wine empire from Washington and Oregon to Napa and New Zealand. All those wines are made up on the hill above Newberg, Oregon in Hal’s old barn. And it’s there Peter quietly makes the Medici wines on the side. But this 2001 East Block Pinot Noir is definitely not your average Peter Rosback wine!

The East Block of Hal’s property was planted with Pinot Noir vines by Dick Erath back in 1976. The fact that Dick’s son, Cal Erath, is now the sales director for Medici perfectly completes the circle. Cal is now working hard to get the word out about the Medici wines. And during an inspection of the Abbey storage facility he discovered a treasure trove of back vintages of Hal’s wines. For those of you who don’t live in Oregon, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey near Lafayette has a huge underground wine storage facility that is used by many Willamette Valley wineries. See, even today we have religious orders protecting Medici treasures. Anyway, Cal started popping bottles to see how they were holding up and let’s just say he was impressed. So these older vintages are slowly being released to a few select restaurants and retail accounts in Oregon.

Ladies and gentlemen, the East Block Pinot Noir is drinking beautifully right now. It represents one of the very best values I have come across since returning to Oregon. Cal told me that last week was the seventh year anniversary of this wine being bottled and that time has been well spent, ageing gracefully in the cool confines of the Abbey. I’d even hazard a guess that it has another good three years left. Maybe more. When Cal dropped by the other day to make a delivery we opened up a bottle with a few customers that were in the store at the time. Not only did we sell every bottle Cal brought with him that night but the general consensus seemed to be that this wine would be an acceptable buy at 35.00 to 40.00 a bottle. I made sure Cal didn’t hear those conversations!

The East Block is not your average Peter Rosback wine. In fact, according to Cal, Hal Medici specifically asked Peter to make him a Pinot Noir that wasn’t like his Sineann Pinot Noirs. Which, knowing Peter, was probably met with a snappy retort like “what, you want me to make you a bad Pinot?” No, Hal wanted his Pinot Noir to be more like the wines he drank on a regular basis from places like Eyrie and Evesham Wood. Boy did Peter succeed on his mission. This East Block is graceful and ethereal, clocking in at a lovely 13.2% alcohol. And for all of you out there that enjoyed the McKinlay, Evesham Wood, Eyrie or Cameron wines that I shipped to you, I can tell you with 100% confidence that you will flip for the East Block.

The color will get your attention right away. It’s a nice pale ruby color, with just a hint of brickishness. Just like an Eyrie, you most definitely will be able to read your morning paper through a glass of this wine. Which, by the way, will also make your news look better. The aromas that drift up out of the glass are really nice. It’s one of those wines that will make you take a bit of time before you get around to actually taking a sip. It’s a classic Oregon Pinot Noir nose, with scents of forest floor, red cherries, wet stones, coffee, spice and black truffles. But it’s more than just forest floor. People use that phrase a lot but in this case I have a very specific aroma in mind. My family for decades has had a favorite beach and camping ground area in a state park on the Oregon Coast. You have to park your car in a lot on the highway and then hike through the woods to get to the beach. There is a fresh water stream running through the woods and the clean smell of salty sea air drifts through the woods. It’s a damp, dark forest and the ground is covered with decaying pine needles and shade-loving vegetation. Moisture, a saline breeze, damp ground and pine needles. That’s what I smell in the East Block Pinot Noir. Now if that forest floor had black truffles growing in it, the bouquet would be complete. I would pay 26.00 just to be able to smell this wine.

Luckily, the wine tastes as great as it smells. There’s a very nice combination of tart cherry and red currant-like fruit to go along with a cascade of flavors, running the range from espresso and minerals to mushrooms and crushed brick dust. It is really nice to be able to buy a bottle of wine that someone else has taken the time and effort to store it and age it for you. This is the intersection of optimal pleasure and instant gratification and that’s a corner I want to hang out on. So grab some of these bottles and enjoy them because a wine drinking experience like this doesn’t come along very often.

This wine should be 34.00 a bottle. But I’m not going to argue with Hal Medici. The lowest price I know of around here for this wine is 29.99 so I consider 26.00 to be a great bargain. I’m putting my 200% stamp of approval on this one. No questions asked, if you like Oregon Pinot Noir I firmly believe you will love this wine. If you get a six-pack I will offer you a 5% discount. For a case of twelve bottles it will be a 10% discount. This is not an offering to be shy about. Oregon Pinot lovers, this is one to go all out for while it lasts.

Michael Alberty
Head Storyteller

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

story teller wine, portland oregon