Apr 10, 2012

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The Amazing Abacela

The Vine and Wine Center

During my recent first time visit to the gorgeous rolling hills of the Umpqua Valley wine region, I experienced the stellar wines and beautiful winery of the much talked about Abacela.

On a rainy day in March as we were driving through wine country, we listened to the robotic voice coming from the GPS as we followed instructions to the entrance of Abacela Winery. A large boulder sports the name of the winery, so it would have been hard to miss. We drove along the paved winding road up through the vineyards and arrived at the winery that sits at the top with a gorgeous view of the vineyards and surrounding hills.

An orange tree sits next to The Plaza

Their new Vine and Wine Center, which was designed by Abacela owners Earl and Hilda Jones’ daughter, boasts a large tasting room with an exquisite granite bar, a stone fireplace and vaulted beamed ceilings which create an inviting and airy ambiance. Large picture windows take advantage of the vineyard views while french doors allow access to exterior decking and an area the Jones’ call The Plaza. An outdoor Spanish style oven, called a horno, is The Plaza’s center of attention, but the surrounding palms, orange trees and olive trees had me remembering a sun-filled trip to Ibiza, Spain years ago.  Back inside the tasting room, stairs lead to a second level viewing room where wine enthusiasts can soak in the spectacular surrounding views inside or at a bistro table outside on their Beuna Vista decking.

2010 Albarino

The first of the many estate grown Abacela wines we tried was the 2010 Albariño.  Albariño is the primary white grape grown in the coastal Rias Baixes wine region of Spain, and Abacela is the only vineyard in the state of Oregon to grow it. Abacela’s 2010 Albariño displayed gorgeous aromas of peach, apple and pineapple. On the palate, super crisp lime and lemon zest were accompanied by loads of juicy grapefruit with a hint of pineapple.  Bright and lively acidity carried through to a medium length, delicious finish. Our first thought, with this beauty of an Albariño, was to get a bottle to share by the fireplace, but we instead purchased a case to take home and share.

From the Albariño, we sampled the newly released 2011 Grenache Rosé. Abacela’s beautifully pink-hued and dry style Rosé is exactly the kind of Rosé I love. Aromas of strawberries and watermelon exploded on the nose and flavors to match with the addition of bright cherries, including a tiny detection of eucalyptus on the lively, crisp finish.

Vine and Wine Center tasting room

After the Rosé, I was ready to sample the varietal that put Abacela on the map: Tempranillo. Abacela owner, Earl Jones, discovered in the 1960’s that the food he loved paired well with affordable red wines from the Rioja and Ribera Del Duero regions of Spain. Jones later learned that the wines from these regions were made with Tempranillo grapes, a varietal that was not produced in the Unites States. To try to understand the mystery of the Tempranillo varietal, Jones and his wife Hilda went to Spain so he could improve his understanding of the Tempranillo viticulture, and this is when they became fascinated with the Spanish culture. The Jones’ decided they would face an exciting challenge of trying to grow and produce Tempranillo wines in the United Sates, and because the climate in southern Oregon is similar to the Spanish climate where Tempranillo thrives, their challenge and dream became a reality when they purchased their 19th century homestead in the Umpqua Valley in the early 1990’s.

Abacela Sourdough

While sampling the impressive 2007 Tempranillo Reserve, with dark fruit,  floral and cedar aromas that led to big, juicy plums full of vanilla spice and oak ending with a lengthy finish, we were learning the rich history of Abacela from the winery’s gracious Hospitality Manager, Linda Kistner. Kistner offered to give us a tour of the winery, and we eagerly accepted.

Our tour started in the kitchen, where Kistner makes the sourdough bread that is served in the tasting room. This bread isn’t your average sourdough, however, it is uniquely created using a Tempranillo yeast starter simply called “clone one” Tempranillo. Kistner refers to the bread as Abacela Sourdough because it’s a starter made from Abacela grapes and it was made at Abacela. I refer to it as absolutely delicious.

The Bacchus Room

With access from the kitchen, we entered into a beautiful private tasting room called the Bacchus Room. On the opposite wall from the door we came through, two large sliding doors give access to the main tasting room. Windows at the top of the very high ceiling allow for natural lighting and one chandelier hangs down above a large farm-style table perfect for private tastings.

From the Bacchus Room we headed into the Library Wine Cellar where concrete walls were lined with shelves holding Abacela’s library wines. A long thin table sits amid the lined walls of wine, and running through the middle of the table is an illuminating white portion which is used for evaluating a wine’s appearance, color, clarity and consistency.

Abacela Barrel room

From the Library Wine Cellar, Kistner took us to the barrel room where we tasted some of Abacela’s future wine, straight out of the barrel. Using a wine thief, a device used to pull small amounts of wine from a wine barrel, Kistner first thieved a little of what Abacela is known for, Tempranillo. We moved on to taste a future Dolcetto, Syrah and Malbec. Everything we tried was outstanding, but I’m most looking forward to the release of the Dolcetto. Intense berry aromas led to dark fruit and licorice flavors ending with a sort of nutty finish.

2005 Paramour

After the tour, we headed back to the tasting room where Kistner gave us each a bowl of her delicious house-made clam chowder with some slices of the Abacela Sourdough – perfect for dipping into the soups creamy goodness.

Kistner insisted, though she did not need to twist our arms, that we end our visit to Abacela with a sample of the Gran Reserva style Tempranillo Estate Cuvee, the 2005 Paramour. The base of this wine is Tempranillo, but the rest is a secret.

“We knew that this 2005 vintage would be the first Paramour release right at the crushpad. The exquisitely ripe fruit was in perfect condition, and we selected only the finest lots for the Paramour concentrating on making a proprietary Tempranillo blend that is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Earl Jones

Before being released in the Fall of 2011, this Tempranillo based cuvee spent almost two years in French oak and then another 4 years in the bottle.

Tasting room fireplace

Only 170 cases of the Paramour were produced, and at first silky sip of this fruity beauty, I was amazed that a Tempranillo based wine could showcase such elegant complexity and depth of character. I was expecting juicy plums on the palate, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised by loads of currants, dark cherries and blueberries. A luscious creamy caramel mid-palate leads to a lingering earthy finish, and I can fully understand why this is considered Abacela’s ‘finest and most age worthy wine.’ 

Hospitality Manager Linda Kistner

Before departing, we spent a few minutes by the fireplace to savor the last few drops of the stellar Paramour. Then it was back out into the rain and off to the next Umpqua Valley winery on our list.

Abacela Winery is simply amazing. The incredible views, people and wine of Abacela are not to be missed when visiting Oregon’s Umpqua Valley wine region.

The Vine and Wine Center at Abacela is open daily from 11 am – 5 pm, except for New Years Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Abacela Winery~ 12500 Lookingglass Road, Roseburg, OR 97471 (541)-679-6642

For stories about other wineries I’ve visited in Oregon including a list of wine happenings in and around Eugene, check out Eugene Daily News and the weekly Wine Down Eugene.