On the Trail

Tasting the Trail: Domestic

David Driscoll

While we love to fawn over the foreign imports here at K&L, it's always wise to remember that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of small, undiscovered wine producers right here in our backyard. The guy who never lets us forget that for one second is Bryan Brick, our main domestic wine buyer. Yesterday was his habitually over-extended staff training session—a veritable marathon of more than seventy wines from California and Oregon that we needed to get up to speed with. I always enjoy watching some of younger staff members come to terms with the task being put in front of them when Bryan sets up shop. 

There were many intriguing new selections in the bar yesterday, but one producer who particularly caught my eye was Eisold-Smith: a husband and wife team of winemakers out of Oregon making aromatic whites, chardonnay, and pinot noir. Lauren Eisold is the German-born vintner who previously worked in Europe and South Africa before relocating to the States. Her roots come shining through in the Eisold-Smith "Edel"—a field blend of Washington-grown gewürztraminer, pinot gris, and riesling that's just a touch off-dry, in typical Edelszwicker fashion. It was the chardonnay, however, that really stood out—just an old school wine with beautiful purity of fruit and clean acidity; no frills. We don't see enough stuff like that these days with big butter and toasty oak still dominating much of the scene. It was both literally refreshing on the palate and figuratively in terms of something different.

Bryan pulled out a few other under-the-radar gems as the tasting rolled along. The Cameron wines from the Dundee Hills region of Oregon showed very well—a series of electric pinot noirs that showed a real sense of place. The 2013 "Clos Electrique" in particular lived up to its name with a jolt of crunchy red fruit charging the palate under accents of violets and earth. Mr. Brick even poured a pinot noir/trousseau blend from the Central Coast of California by producer called Harrington—a peppy and peppery little number very reminiscent of classic Jura reds. You should pick Bryan's brain a bit if you're on the hunt for out-of-the-ordinary domestic wines. But be warned: you may end up with a long, long list of contenders should you do so.

-David Driscoll