Jon Larson (left) and Boyd Pearson of Redolent Wine Co. ##Photo provided

Brother of a Winning Combo

Burgundy, Piedmont split the difference in the Willamette Valley

By Michael Alberty

Somebody put Nebbiolo in my Pinot Noir. After one sip of Redolent Wine’s “Brother From Another Mother” (BFAM), my only question was, “what took so long?”

Redolent Wine is Jon Larson, Boyd Pearson and John Grochau. Larson is a graphic designer who homebrews everything from beer and kombucha, to cider and mead. Pearson once took a stab at playing football for the Clemson Tigers. Sanity prevailed, and he now handles sales and marketing for Anne Amie Vineyards, where concussion protocols are few and far between. Grochau is the two-decade veteran of winemaking at Grochau Cellars.

Pearson and Larson first met in 2008 when they were neighbors in S.E. Portland. Larson was impressed by the number of wine bottles Pearson jammed in his recycling bin every week. Pearson was impressed that Larson had beer on tap in his basement. “Ours is truly a friendship built from alcohol,” Pearson says.

Redolent Wine began in 2015 when a Willamette Valley producer offered Pearson a ton of Pinot Noir grapes. Pearson quickly said, “Yes.” The only problem was he didn’t know how to make wine. Pearson turned to Larson, but a ton of grapes was going to be too much for his basement. Pearson decided to ask another friend, Grochau.

Grochau rented winery space to the pair and also agreed to act as their advisor. The relationship means more than just a rent check to Grochau. “Their excitement and thirst for knowledge remind me of when I started, and I feel fortunate to feed off their energy,” Grochau says.

In their first two years, Larson and Pearson limited themselves to making Pinot Noir. In year three, they discovered a source for Nebbiolo and used the grapes to make rosé. That laid the groundwork for the BFAM. And no, Larson and Pearson did not bump into each another while carrying beakers of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, à la a 1980s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial.

Redolent Wine 2018 Brother From Another Mother ($25) ##Photo by Rusty Rae

“We were scheming over beers and cigars one night, and I told Jon that I love Burgundy and Barolo, so why not blend Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo? I also remember shouting, ‘We could be the only people doing this,’ “Pearson recalls. Larson remembers telling Pearson, “There might be a reason for that.” Thankfully, they soldiered on.

Redolent Wine 2018 Brother From Another Mother ($25)

Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo have so much in common an equal partnership makes perfect sense. Pale hues, rose-perfumed noses, red fruit and transparent reflections of their soil of origin are just a few of the similarities. It’s no wonder British wine writer Jancis Robinson once observed, “If Pinot Noir is the world’s most tantalizing grape, Nebbiolo runs it a close second — for very similar reasons.”

The Pinot Noir half of BFAM comes from Zenith Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. The Nebbiolo hails from Waving Tree Vineyard, located just below the Maryhill Stonehenge on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

“To truly be brothers we felt the Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo needed to be co-fermented,”
Larson says. Native yeasts were used for fermentation, and the only addition was a homeopathic amount of sulfur added at crush and before bottling. After fermentation, the wine rested in two neutral French oak barrels for seven months.

The resulting wine has a striking dark cranberry color highlighted by flecks of orange marmalade. The aromatic set includes blackberry, blueberry, lavender and an exotic mix of notes hard to describe. At first, there’s a dusty red quality that smells like two red bricks being smashed together. After a few swirls, there’s a clean, fresh scent like the wet concrete apron of a city swimming pool on a hot day. That could be minerality or it might just be rocks in my head. Either way, I could sit and smell this wine for a very long time.

The palate shows off black cherries, bittersweet dark chocolate, saddle leather and a savory seared meat quality Larson attributes to the use of 100% whole-cluster Pinot Noir. The acidity is in the zippy range, and Pearson lays the wine’s massive tannic grip at the feet of Nebbiolo.

For those Walla Walla wine enthusiasts who think Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is too wimpy, here’s your wine. Same goes for you Pinotphiles who think anything north of the state line is too concentrated. Think of this wine as a bit of “hands across the border” diplomacy and pay heed to its back label advice: “Fear not the other.”

*As this article went to press I discovered Marchesi Vineyards & Winery in Hood River makes a 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo comprised entirely of Washington fruit.

The Changeup, a monthly column by Michael Alberty, is a baseball pitch designed to disorient and confuse. It’s the perfect representation of the unknown and its mastery over those who think they know what to expect. This column is devoted to those unorthodox Oregon wines you never saw coming.

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