Winemaker Alex Neely of Libertine Wines with his friend, Jerry. ##Photo by Michael Alberty

Troy Patterson, Don’t Drink This

Libertine concocts goofball beverage defying convention

By Michael Alberty

A New Yorker staff writer calls orange wine an “assault on pleasure,” and the wine world draws its battle lines. Whatever you do, don’t pour Libertine Wines’ Hopped Up on Goofballs for Troy Patterson.

In early September 2019, Patterson, a writer who typically covers television and fashion, attacked extended skin contact “orange” wines with an over-the-top fervor usually reserved for white worn after Labor Day. Patterson described orange wines as “challenging” and “a test of stamina.” He accused one wine of having “undertones of acid reflux.”

Patterson concludes orange wines are more about the cerebral than the carnal, suggesting they are designed to be talked about, not enjoyed. That’s pretty rich coming from the guy who covers New York Fashion Week.

In his next column, Patterson featured a designer who had models walk the runway in tight, transparent strips of plastic. I wish I could have burst into the auditorium shouting “Those outfits aren’t meant to be worn; they are just meant to be written about.” Next, I would turn to Patterson’s front row and yell, “Those outfits are an assault on comfort.” Then I’d go looking for my comfortable, easy-drinking bottle of polar fleece sweats.

Libertine’s “Hopped Up on Goofballs” is not an orange wine. It is, however, a “drink outside the box” that relieves vinous boredom. It can’t be easily pigeonholed, and it definitely strays boldly into Patterson’s challenging cerebral zone.

Libertine Wines' Hopped Up on Goofballs

The wine, a 60-40 blend of Sémillon and Riesling infused with hops, wears a provocative label featuring a psychedelic painting by Larry Carlson, “Wave Rider.” According to winemaker Alex Neely, the painting’s subject ingested a substance made famous by Owsley Stanley and “her mind is turning into the wavelength.” Stare at the label long enough and you’ll see James Franco tending bar.

Neely is a Reed College alum whose senior thesis, “Breaking the Maximus Code: A Systematic Exposition of the Mystagogia,” is still talked about with awe by certain religious cults — this might help explain his wines.

After graduation, Neely blogged about food while mongering cheese and purchasing wine for Foster & Dobbes Authentic Foods in Portland. In 2014, he shifted to assisting Barnaby and Olga Tuttle of Teutonic Wine Company. Neely also tends Barncat Vineyard with his wife, Veronica.

While most of Neely’s wines are inspired by libertine-style frolicking, the “Hopped Up on Goofballs” is inspired by revenge. During the 2017 harvest, Neely discovered a local brewery was making a Rosé IPA. “It was horse sh%t. The beer people came on our wine turf, and I had to respond,” Neely says.

In a gesture that Delta Tau Chi’s Eric “Otter” Stratton would have admired and respected, Neely decided to make a wine and turbo-charge it with hops. “I even called it a dumbass name like they did. You can’t out-stupid this idiot,” Neely writes on his winery website.

He loaded up a batch of Citra and Mosaic Cryo hops and got busy. “The guy at BrewcraftUSA said they paired well and would boost acidity,” Neely says. After a series of small-batch trials, he released 57 cases of the “Hopped on Goofballs” to an unsuspecting public.   

The dry white wine is made the same way Neely makes his other Libertine wines. He uses native yeast ferments, neutral oak barrels and does not fine or filter. Other than a wee bit of sulfite and a massive muslin bag filled with hop pellets, nothing was added to this wine.

The Goofball’s color is the kind of hazy yellow that will likely make folks like Troy Patterson run in the opposite direction. The Riesling comes screaming through on the nose, with scents of cling peaches and dried apricots. Floating in the background is a sativa-like note that conjures memories of the Dead trying to find a way to end “Dark Star.”

Tangy acidity smacks you in the face with the first sip. It’s a lean 12% alcohol with a white grapefruit-driven citrus bite. The bits of pine resin and toasted grains only add to the flavor fun. After two glasses, it finally dawned on me: This wine reminds me of Great Notion Brewing’s Juice Jr. New England-style IPA, which I love.

It is possible an act of revenge created a perfect bridge beverage to bring brewers and winemakers together in hoppy harmony.

Some of you will love this beer; some of you will loathe it. If you try it and hate it, don’t buy any more bottles. That’s the beautiful thing about a particular style of wine. If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. And remember, Mr. Patterson, pleasure is in the nucleus accumbens of the beholder. 

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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