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Anam Cara Wines are Quintessential Oregon in 2011

Like so many Oregonian vintners before them, Nick and Sheila Nicholas and their family arrived in the Williamette Valley from California. In 2001, they bought a rundown walnut, filbert and plum orchard in the Chehalem Mountains on the outskirts of Newberg, and established Nicholas Vineyard and Anam Cara Cellars.

The 33-acre Nicholas Estate Vineyard is situated on a southeast-facing slope at an elevation of 350 to 650 feet, benefiting from cool, drying winds through the 99W Highway corridor that keeps mildew and frost pressure at a minimum. Soils are primarily Loess wind-blown ice age sediment with some outcroppings of Jory volcanic soil.

The original 27 acres planted in 2001 include 5 5-acre blocks of Pommard, 114, 115, 667 and 777 on varying rootstocks, and 1 acre each of Riesling and Gewürztraminer. An additional 6 acres was planted in 2-acre blocks to Riesling, Chardonnay and Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir in 2008. The vineyard is certified both L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon Safe and the wines qualify for OCSW status.

The cool 2011 vintage brought Oregon back to its roots. The Anam Cara wines show the lower alcohol, bright acidity and consuming elegance that made Pinot Noir from Oregon famous. Anam Cara held back the wines before release and this was beneficial as they are more open and mature. 2011 is a vintage where the wines need time to evolve and take on weight, similar to Oregon’s 2007 vintage. I call the Anam Cara Pinot Noirs “quintessential Oregon” because they honestly reflect the Oregon style of Pinot Noir that I find so charming.

Sheila’s comments on the 2011 vintage and wines are as follows. “The 2011 vintage was a difficult year to ripen tomatoes, let alone our wine grapes. Fortunately, our vineyard is situated in a wind tunnel which keeps the fruit dry and disease at bay, allowing us extra hang time for flavor development. We pulled leaves early to expose the grapes and we were lucky that the bird problem of 2010 was virtually non existent in 2011. For the first time, we started harvest in the first week of November, wrapping up with the Riesling pick just before Thanksgiving. We would have held out longer, but there comes a point when the grapes are simply not going to progress. We picked at around 21º to 23º Brix. The resulting wines are low in alcohol and high in acidity with pure Pinot Noir flavor profiles. As with previous Pinot Noirs from our vineyard, we still see that entrancing dusty rose character which is solely terroir. As always, our wines remain true to the vineyard and are a testament to Nick’s attention to the vines throughout the growing season, especially in 2011.

The winemaker is Michael Collier who oversees the boutique winemaking at 12th & Maple Wine Co. in Dundee. Nick and Sheila significantly contribute as well. As I noted, the wines took a while to come around, much like the wines from the 2007 vintage, and that is why they have only recently been released.

The Anam Cara tasting room is located at 306 N. Main Street in Newberg and is open daily from March to December Thursday to Sunday (other times by appointment). Tours of the vineyard in Sherwood are by appointment only.

2011 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.4% alc., pH 3.60, 1,700 cases, $32. Released winter 2013. Clones 114, 115, 777, 667, and Pommard. Aged in 21% new French oak. The winery’s flagship wine reflecting all five original blocks of Pinot Noir. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of strawberry, red cherry, spice, red rose petal and dried herbs. Demure and elegant with flavors of red cherry, red plum and strawberry. Very giving with soft, dry tannins and juicy acidity. A delightful wine that exudes pinot elegance. Score: 90

2011 Anam Cara Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., pH 3.60, 420 cases, $45. Release winter 2013. 10 rows in each block are set aside as reserve potential and maintain a yield of no more than 1.5 tons per acre. The final blend is determined by barrel selection. Clones 777, 115, 114, 667 and Pommard. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. The aromatics are engaging with scents of black cherry, blackberry and spice. Modest in weight but big in flavor with mouth coating tastes of dark stone fruits and berries, finishing with a delightful candied cherry note. The wine has balanced firm tannins and bright acidity for aging, with a welcome integration of oak. Not as open as the Estate bottling, but possesses more layered flavors and age ability. Score: 92

2011 Anam Cara Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.4% alc., pH 3.60, 90 cases, $65. Release late fall 2013. The most elegant expression of the Nicholas Vineyard. The wine is selected from reserve row once-filled oak barrels. Clones 114, 777, 667, and 115. Aged in 100% once-filled French oak barrels. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of black cherry, baking spice and underbrush. An elegant wine with charming flavors of darker red cherries and berries accented by savory herbs. The supple tannins make for easy drinking now, but the wine may pick up more weight and interest over time in the bottle. Score: 89

2011 Anam Cara Mark VI Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.4% alc., pH 3.50, 90 cases, $65. Release spring 2014. The highest percentage of new oak in the vintage. Intended to be a big and rich wine, blended from the reserve rows and barrels. Named for the Nicholas’ son Mark, the Roman numerals denote the wine’s place in the series. Clones are Pommard, 777 and 667. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Light reddish purple hue in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and raspberry with a hint of dried herbs lead to a flavorful core of intense black raspberry fruit which fans out in peacock tail fashion on the huge, grand cru finish. Not as concentrated as previous vintages, but has the tannic structure to last. Score: 91

2011 Anam Cara Wädenswil Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.2% alc., pH 3.70, 95 cases, $55. Release fall 2013. The inaugural wine from a 2-acre block of Wädenswil clone, planted in 2008. Picked at the highest Brix of the vintage (23º). Aged in 25% new and 25% 1-year French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy but pleasant aromas of darker berry preserves, dark chocolate and rose petal. The most extracted wine in the 2011 lineup with bold, flamboyant flavors of black grape, blackberry and boysenberry underlain with toasty oak. Brooding and fruit-driven with rugged tannins. Should benefit from 2-3 years in the cellar. Score: 88

2012 Anam Cara Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Williamette Valley Chardonnay

$32. Inaugural release. Dijon clones. Fermented in 2 new French oak barrels and 8 neutral French oak barrels. Stirred weekly on the lees for 4 months before settling for another 4 months. · Light golden yellow with a faint apricot hue in the glass. Likable nose with fresh aromas of tropical fruits, grapefruit, vanilla and roasted nuts. Bright, clean and refreshing with flavors of lemon and pear with oak in the background. Soft in the mouth and easy to like with some finishing lemon-driven persistence. Score: 90

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