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Daedalus Cellars

The name Daedalus ((DAY-de-lus) is borrowed from Greek mythology and James Joyce. According to myth, Daedalus was an inventor of the Labyrinth at Knossos, a stylized version of which is represented in the winery’s logo. He was later imprisoned in his Labyrinth along with his son Icarus. They escaped, but only Daedalus made it to freedom. Stephen Dedalus appeared as James Joyce’s alter ego in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and like Daedalus in the myth, represented the freedom that can be gained in creative pursuit and the costly consequences if humility is cast aside.

The origins of this family owned winery read like a fairy tale. Aron Hess followed his interest in wine to the wine regions of France in 1996. One afternoon, Pam Walden was assisting a friend at an inn in the Dordogne where Aron stopped looking for lunch. The two were smitten by love and subsequently traveled together to Paris, Bordeaux and Burgundy. Aron was sent back to the United States after an encounter with a young steer in Pamplona and Pam followed him. Together they followed their dream of making Pinot Noir by packing everything they owned into the back of their car and heading for Oregon in 1997. Aron worked at Flynn Vineyards and Evesham Wood Winery before joining Rex Hill Vineyards in 1998 as an assistant winemaker working with Lynn Penner-Ash before becoming the winemaker there for three vintages (2002 to 2004). In 2000, Aron and Pam produced four barrels of Pinot Noir from Phelps Creek Vineyard in the Hood River region and Daedalus Cellars was born. In 2005 production was moved to 12th & Maple Wine Company, a custom crush facility in Dundee Oregon, where Aron is the head winemaker and crafts wines for over 20 clients (including Maresh Red Barn and Anam Cara) as well as wines for his own Daedalus Cellars and Jezebel labels. Along the way, the couple became a family with two small boys and a large dog.

The focus at Daedalus Cellars is Pinot Noir, particularly from grapes grown in the Dundee Hills AVA. Long-term leases are in place at Maresh Vineyard consisting of just over 9 acres of Pinot Noir and at Murto Vineyard which in the Dundee Hills. An estate vineyard was planted to 12 different Pinot Noir clones on Red Hills Road in 2008. The style of Pinot Noir reflects what Aron prefers and that refers in part to age ability. He suggests that his Pinot Noirs be cellared for five to ten years after release. If you just can’t keep your hands off them, he recommends decanting to improve the aromatics and depth of flavors. For that reason, I decanted the wines reviewed below (except Jezebel). All the Daedalus Pinot Noirs are crafted in a rich and bold style with plenty of Noir to the forefront. Generally, Aron prefers native yeast fermentations and avoids color enhancers, enzymes, tannins, flavor builders or acid. He employs minimal sulfur dioxide. The wines are aged at least six months in the bottle before release.

Daedalus wines are available through retail channels in multiple states, from a mailing list and directly from the website at A tasting room is located at 990 N. Hwy 99 W, Dundee, Oregon. Hours are 11:00 to 5:00 Weds thru Sun. The phone is 503-538-4400. Production in 2007 was approximately 3,090 cases of Daedalus Cellars wines (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay) and 5,000 cases of Jezebel (Pinot Noir, Rouge and Blanc).

2007 Jezebel Oregon Pinot Noir

13.0% alc.,4,674 cases, $20, screw cap. Second label of Daedalus named after a biblical whore. This wine is a blend of several vineyards ranging from the Columbia Valley to the Umpqua Valley to the Willamette Valley. Fermented in 60% stainless steel, 5% new and 35% neutral French oak. · Lightly colored with very demure Pinot fruit flavors. Oak char and herbs are to the front. Light and silky and ready to go now.

2007 Daedalus Cellars Labyrinth Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 620 cases, $45. This wine is a cuvée of some of the best barrels in the cellar in any given vintage. Primarily Pommard clone with some Dijon 114 and Wädenswil clones from old-vine fruit sourced from Seven Springs, Maresh and Murto vineyards and younger fruit from Carabella Vineyard. Cold soaked for 7 to 32 days, 15% whole cluster fermentation, processed entirely by gravity, total skin contact 17 to 42 days, aged 14 months in 28% new French oak, unfined and unfiltered. · Aromas of toasty oak, hay, earth and barnyard dominate the demure dark fruits. The wine has a tasty core of black cherries and black raspberries with an underlying woodiness and a touch of citric peel on the persistent finish. The tannins are reigned in nicely. This wine should improve in the bottle over the next several years.

2006 Daedalus Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 1,330 cases, $30. A blend of seven Willamette Valley vineyards. 20% whole cluster. Aged 14 months in 17% new, 8% second fill and 75% neutral French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Aromas of oak dominate the dark red fruit with secondary notes of hay and herbs. There is a tasty black cherry and berry attack with a hint of spice. Velvety in texture with supple tannins, ending with a lively tang on the finish that leaves an oak hangover.

2006 Daedalus Cellars Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 140 cases, $60. Aron has worked with fruit from the Maresh Vineyard since his time at Rex Hill Vineyards starting in 1998 and is his favorite vineyard. Maresh Vineyard is the oldest planting on Worden Hill Road in the Dundee Hills. Yields are naturally low (1 to 1.6 tons per acre). · Very fruity scents of dark red berry compote with oak playing a pleasing supportive role. Luscious and vibrant core of raspberry fruit with a hint of brioche. Harmonious in every way with an unbelievable persistence on the aromatic finish lasting at least 30 seconds. The pedigree of the fruit really shines through. In my experience, it is extremely rare to find a Pinot Noir with such remarkable persistence.

2005 Daedalus Cellars Nyarady Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 220 cases, $60. A blend of the best wine in the cellar from three vineyards: Carabella (Chehalem Mountains) 42%, Maresh (Dundee Hills) 38% and Seven Springs (Eola Hills) 20%. Dijon 114, Pommard and Wädenswil clones. 10 to 17 day cold soak, partial whole cluster fermentation, aged 15 months in 20% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. The name of this wine was auctioned to benefit the Jimmy Mancbach Memorial Scholarship Fund. Pablo and Lynanne Nyarady won the bid and named the wine in honor of Pablo’s 85 year-old father. Hess likens this wine to Labyrinth ‘squared,” meaning a little broader shouldered than the Labyrinth bottling. · The floral nose is highly perfumed with violets initially, evolving and becoming more expressive over time to reveal demure dark fruits, spice, oak and fir. Very plush in the mouth with plumy dark fruits, notable oak accents and an underlying earthiness and stemminess. The most striking feature of this wine is its rich and velvety texture.

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