To hear president and winemaker Mark Vlossak talk about the wines of St. Innocent is like listening to a conductor describe conducting a symphony. Each element in crafting a wine has its own role, whether it’s the grape, soil, weather, yeast or oak (new barrels, used barrels or none). When the winemaker brings together the melody of the grape with the harmony of all other variables, the finished wine is a true work of art.
St. Innocent Winery produces small lots of handcrafted, vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and white wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The name comes from the middle name of Mark’s father, though apparently he acted not so innocently every once in a while. Mark aims to produce wines that capture the essence of the grape and the terroir of each site, using oak only when complementary. The texture of each wine is important to Mark, as is its ability to pair with and enhance food.
St. Innocent practices sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming on its estate vineyard of Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and leases blocks of vineyards from other Oregon growers who use these methods.
Mark shared five exceptional wines from St. Innocent Winery during the High Museum Wine Auction:
The 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Blanc is Alsatian in style. Most of the wine was fermented in stainless steel, while a little less than one-third was fermented in neutral barrels; this was done to preserve the delicate fruit flavors while adding texture. The wine spent eight months aging on the lees before it was bottled. The St. Innocent Pinot Blanc has apple, melon and white apricot flavors that mingle with white flowers and ginger. Refreshing minerality and well-balanced acidity add depth and structure. The finish is crisp and dry. The Pinot Blanc is great at lunchtime or with hors d’oeuvres outdoors on a warm evening; it also pairs well with shellfish, ceviche, white fish, salads or Asian or spicy dishes.
($20, 12.5% alcohol)
The 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Chardonnay is made entirely from Dijon clones. In crafting this wine Mark sought the fully ripened fruit and rich texture of white Burgundy while capturing the terroir of Freedom Hill Vineyard. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, then barrel fermented in used French oak barrels. The wine aged on the lees for one year. The mineral makeup of the vineyard comes through in this Chardonnay, layered with delicate flavors of golden apple, pear and lemon. The finish is clean, with just a whisper of toasted almond. Pair this wine with seafood, risotto, chicken or other small birds.
($24, 13% alcohol)
The 2011 Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from Vitae Springs Vineyard and grapes from young vines at Zenith, Freedom Hill and Momtazi Vineyards. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged for 12 months in 16% new French oak barrels. Red berry and violet aromas introduce a palate of fresh raspberry and cherry, with layers of black pepper and baking spice. Pair the Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir with chicken, pork, full-flavored pasta dishes, duck or sausage. ($24, 12.5% alcohol)
The grapes in the 2010 Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir came from the McMinnville AVA in the northern Willamette Valley. After fermentation in small stainless steel barrels and French oak the wine was aged for 16 months in 38% new French oak. Complex and intense, this medium bodied wine has flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, cherry and blueberry. These are complemented by earthy notes of spice, black truffle and forest floor. The Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir is silky smooth in the mouth, with gentle tannins and well-balanced acidity. Mark suggests pairing this wine with braised meats, stews, sausages, cassoulet or cheese. ($32, 13% alcohol)
Like the previous wine, the 2010 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir was fermented in small stainless steel barrels and French oak, then spent 16 months aging in French oak barrels (31% new). Rich and elegant, this Pinot Noir has flavors of boysenberry, red currant and olallieberry layered with roasted fig, white pepper, allspice, dried rose petals and a hint of candied orange peel. Pair this wine with hearty chicken or pork dishes, ratatouille, lasagna, grilled lamb or filet mignon. ($42, 13.5%)
For more information on St. Innocent Winery visit stinnocentwine.com.