May 3, 2018

The Willamette Valley’s New Take on Sparkling Wine

By Paul Gregutt

On its face, Oregon sparkling wine is a no-brainer. Cool-climate grapes, with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are the lynchpins of Willamette Valley viticulture. Soils—though not the Kimmeridgian chalk found in southern Champagne and other regions of France—do have some spots where ancient sea beds have risen to the surface. And one pioneering winery, Argyle, has been turning out highly regarded bubbly for more than three decades.

Argyle was founded in 1987 by Brian Croser and Rollin Soles, with grower/vinter Cal Knudsen joining in later. It made a splash when they started selling 1991 with 12,000 cases of brut and brut rosé. In search of authenticity, winemaker Rollin Soles began to use heavy flocculation yeasts obtained from French Champagne icon Bollinger and Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC).

For the next decade, Argyle crafted quality sparklers that no other Pacific Northwest producer could match…

Argyle 2007 Extended Tirage Brut Sparkling (Willamette Valley); $75, 91 points. A shift from the 2005, this is one-third Pinot Noir and two-thirds Chardonnay, disgorged in July of 2017. It’s tasty and surprisingly young, with tart apple and peach flavors dominant, along with light custard and some lovely toast. This may be enjoyed now or cellared for up to five years.

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