By Mark Stock
Fourth-generation French winemaker Alexandrine Roy recently returned to check in on her 2008 Oregon wines. In 2007, Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River invited her to share the harvest with resident winemaker, Rich Cushman. The two made Pinot Noir in their own distinct styles that year, beginning a unique Franco-American tradition now in its third year.
Sophie’s Restaurant celebrated the newest batch of wines, paired with a full meal of Northwest cuisine. Salmon tartare was served with her 2009 Fleur de Roy Rosé and pan seared black cod with her just-bottled Pinot, the 2008 Cuvée Alexandrine. Roy’s return came in time for bottling, affording her a chance to not only tell her story from the Phelps Creek tasting room, but to gauge the quality of the exciting 2008 vintage.
Roy’s 2007 Phelps Creek Pinot Noir earned a 91 in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and has sold out. Although in ’07 Rich and Roy picked within two days of each other, the gap in style was much wider in 2008. That year, warmer weather inspired Roy to pick 10 days before Cushman so as to obtain the acidity and lower sugar levels associated with her French approach. Roy incorporated 30 percent whole clusters to her ’08 pinot and gave it a lighter oak influence to preserve what she describes as “freshness” in the finished wine. Her traditional methods were stretched a bit by the bigger 2008 year, but Roy adapted without sacrificing Old World techniques like punch downs by foot and fermentation via native yeast.
Roy spends most of the year in Gevrey-Chambertin, the wine village south of Dijon in the Cote de Nuits. She crafts her French wine under her father’s label, Domaine Marc Roy. Annually, the European company produces about 1,700 cases of wine.
“We love the story of our winemakers’ contrast,” said Phelps Creek General Manager Nicole Backus. “The old guy from the New World and the new gal from the Old World.” Although rare to be able to taste two independent Pinot Noirs from the same region under one roof, Phelps Creek’s continuing dedication to the Franco-American program suggests 2008 may be their best vintage yet.
Mark Stock, a Gonzaga University grad, is a Portland-based freelance writer and photographer with a knack for all things Oregon.