Monday, December 16, 2013

Roots Klee Pinot Noir Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park

Roots Klee Pinot Noir and Cain Cuvee' at Hemingway's Authentic French Bistro in Oak Park

Located in the center of the historic district in Oak Park amidst historic architecture and homes of historic figures sits Hemingway's Bistro, an authentic French dining experience. A few doors away is Ernest Hemingway's home, across the street from the Ernest Hemingway Museum, and a couple blocks away is Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio (where I am a docent/interpreter). (See my Frank Lloyd Wright site dedicated to Wright and Prairie Style architecture.)

After a day holiday shopping in Chicago with Linda and our friend Kay Z, we stopped enroute home for a festive wine and small plates tasting experience. While we deviated from the French wine selections, the rest of the experience could have been from the Languedoc or Loire. Chef Christopher Ala has worked as the opening Executive Chef of the Historic Allerton Hotel in Chicago after their 80 million dollar renovation, has also run the Le Meriden Hotel and the memorable classic Chez Paul Restuarant in Chicago. We remember dining at Chez Paul back in the early eighties. Most will recall it from its classic lunch scene in the movie Ferris Bueler's Day Off (Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago!).

Our small plates (see below) consisted of Oysters on the half shell, Foie Gras, Pate, a cheese selection plate, followed of course by desserts - creme brulee. For the wine selection we chose a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Roots Vineyards. With desserts, our second wine was Cain Cuvee' Napa Valley NV9. Hemingway's wine list is primarily French and also American with over 60 selections by the bottles and 30 by the glass.

As I often write in this blog, it is easy to find a great Pinot Noir for $80. It is hard to to find a good, well priced Pinot for under $25, let alone under $20. A high QPR (Quality Price Ratio) Pinot Noir is one of the toughest varietals to find. Start with a producer who tends to over achieve with a value brand. Chris Berg,  from “five family vineyards” in the Willamette Valley brings us this respectable value priced offering with the stylish art inspired whimsical label.

Born is Racine, Wisconsin, raised in the midwest, Chris Berg moved when his family relocated to Oregon to start a business. In 1999, the Bergs planted seven acres of mostly Pinot Noir on the 20-acre property near Yamhill in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. Chuck and Dian Berg built a small house on the vineyard, and son Chris lived in Portland with his wife, Hilary. After Chuck and Dian moved to Arizona, Chris and Hilary took over the vineyards and winemaking duties.

The Roots name on the label is from the French word Racine taken from Chris' birthplace.

In 2002, the Bergs picked their first harvest of a mere three tons, which were made into 72 cases of Pinot Noir. Today, Roots produces approximately 3,800 cases annually. Wines include their flagship estate Pinot Noir, as well as eight single vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, sourced mostly from neighboring vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Other wines include an estate Pinot Gris, Melon de Bourgogne, Viognier, Riesling, Dessert Riesling, Syrah and a methode champenoise sparkling, Theo, named after their son. All these wines are made in very small lots and handcrafted using indigenous yeasts.

In homage to one of Chris' favorite artists, Roots' second label, Klee (named after Paul Klee), makes up the largest portion of their case production with 2,000 cases made annually. The artwork is their own adaptation of a Klee painting. An art lover would recognize the artist Klee style artwork, the label is a clever rendition of a brilliant melange of color with a take-off of the Chesire Cat and a wine bottle.

Klee Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011

Ruby colored, medium bodied, classic in the style of  Roots with the soft core fruits of black cherry, cranberry and plum with accents of spice and a hint of earth. The fermentation is done with indigenous yeasts, and the wine sees 10 months in neutral oak.  This is a pleasant easy drinking Pinot that is a great value - a rare find indeed. Credit Hemingway's for finding and offering such a feature.

RM 89 points.

Cain Cuvee' NV9

Cain's Cuvée project began over 20 years ago as a multi-vintage, multi-varietal blend based primarily on Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The grapes are sourced from Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, Spring Mountain, and Atlas Peak. Each vintage is a new, carefully made blend and many of the same rows of the same vineyards are included in each cuvée.

Cain Cuvee' NV 9
From winemaker Christopher Howell: "The facts will explain nothing. The NV09 is 53% Merlot (the balance being Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot), and it’s a blend of two vintages: 2009 (57%) and 2008 (43%). What sets the wine apart is how it tastes... This has everything I want in a red wine: smooth entry, mouth filling, sits gently and lightly on the palate, just enough mouthwatering tannins to cleanse the palate. Aromas of black cherries, red cherries, cigar box. Core of red fruit carries through from beginning to end. Nicely refined. Nothing sticks out."

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex, firm and a bit tight, black berry and black cherry fruits give way to cigar box and tea with moderate lingering tannins. May soften and open with a few more years in the cellar.

Merlot 53%, Cabernet Franc 26%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Petit Verdot 1%

RM 89 points.

Hemingway's dining room
Foie gras with red pear
Pate' plate

Danielle preparing the cheese plate
Wine and cheese plate

Creme brulee