September 2, 2018

Argyle on the Rise

by Dan Berger

Oregon’s Argyle Vineyards has been one of the state’s best with winemaker Rollin Soles as its style-setter and craftsman.

In the last year, several new releases have begun to show how Soles’ vision is being carried out by his hand-picked successor, winemaker Nate Klostermann.

The Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are notably more delicate, yet do not fail to deliver dramatic fruit. The reds, though, are more graceful they have been.

In the last generation, perhaps a bit longer, many fine-wine consumers were led to believe that darker red wines were better than lighter ones. This is a gross over-simplification and has been fostered by many wine critics. It may have been, as some have argued, a good thing for the entirety of the wine industry to try to simplify wine for new consumers, but oversimplifications such as this one about color depth, unfortunately, ignored many side issues that were never corrected over the decades.

One of the factors that may have been detrimental to some Oregon PNs was that along with color intensity came tannins that made the wines awkward in some vintages. A more graceful style of wine clearly benefits the expression of fruit, but which Oregon can rightly boast.

It may be another generation or two before many such misstatements about the color of wines are corrected, and Klostermann has made a distinctive step in that direction.

His PNs show the producer’s hand: he knows that color is insignificant when other issues are at play. Such as personality, grace, and varietal character.

Since people do not usually buy wines based more on color than they do on aroma or taste, or both, restraint is here used as a point of drama.

His 2015 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir should be seen as a perfect refutation of the notion that color plays any role at all. A press release says that Nate crafts ‘graceful and complex wines,’ a statement I agree with entirely. One more thing: his wines have an Oregon bent with hints of herbs and lovely delicate fruit, and none of the annoying hardness of tannin that has often plagued so many of the state’s producers over the last several decades.

Argyle, even though it has been around a long time, is a winery to watch.

2016 Argyle Pinot Noir – Exceptional
“This medium-weight red has the same gorgeous (lighter) structure and similar fruit of the prior wine, with not quite as much intensity of fruit. A year younger, but showing excellent potential for 3-4 more years.”

2015 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir – Exceptional
“Stylishly balanced and fairly delicate in some ways, the fruit of this wine is a surprise since the color is lighter than most people usually see. The wine itself has excellent Pinot character and is silky yet still deeply flavorful without overt oak to lean on. A superb rendering of an Oregon favorite.”

2015 Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay – Exceptional
“Acidity must be Klostermann’s mantra because this wine has enough of it to make the wine cry out for seafood. Flavors of crisp apple/pear, flint, and subtle spices are superb, balance is impeccable, and it will be better in a few years. Better with lighter foods than alone, but those who love crispness will delight in how it works as a patio-sipper!”

2014 Argyle Vintage Brut – Exceptional
“Not many sparkling wines have this combination of fruit, acid, and perfect linear austerity than this wine with its nearly 9 grams of acid! Lees contact added a faint note of complexity that will reward 3-5 more years in a cellar. Purists will love the lower dosage.”

View on Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences (Subscription Required)