Vermentino — a grape predominantly celebrated in Italy, is a rare find in the New World of wine. Although a few West Coast producers (Bailiwick, Tablas Creek, and Uvaggio to name a few) are beginning to see the benefits of working with this sturdy grape variety. A vigorous grower, Vermentino does well in warmer climates: it’s resistant to drought, thrives on less fertile soils, and usually ripens at the peak of the harvest cycle. Vermentino vines are often planted along slopes facing a major body of water so they’re exposed to additional light and warmth due to the reflected light. In fact, if you look at those three major producers previously mentioned, you’ll notice that they source their grapes from similarly situated terroir, despite the fact that one sources from Lake County, while the others source from Sonoma Coast.
Troon Vineyard, located in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon also benefits from ideal Vermentino conditions. Situated amongst the Siskiyou Mountains, the lowest of Troon Vineyard’s vines sits at 1400 feet. Here, where the soil is predominantly granitic in nature, the vines will receive even more warmth, as granite is heat-absorbent. All this elevation and warmth is balanced by Troon’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean in relation to their position near the Rogue River Valley: the cool marine air funnels through the valley, decreasing the temperature of the vineyard up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the nights. Thus, the grapes are allowed to ripen while still maintaining a naturally high level of acidity.
About the Wine: Troon Vineyard 2014 Vermentino is made from 95.5% Vermentino grapes and 4.5% early harvest Muscat. Troon takes its Vermentino inspiration from Sardinia, Italy (where the majority of Verentino is grown), where the wines are quite crispy and, generally, unoaked.
The thing about Vermentino is that, in its pure state, though lively with citrus aromatics, it can have a bit of a bitter texture to it — more akin to citrus pith than fruit. In keeping with their “all natural” philosophy, Troon Vineyard has rounded out the taste and texture by barrel fermenting the wine for just about a month, and then aging on the lees for a year. According to Craig, “the interaction of the oxygen that the barrel lets in, combined with the breaking down of the lees, gives a richer mouthfeel along with added layers of aromatics, without losing the bright, fresh fruit of Vermentino.” The addition of the early harvest Muscat is meant to add just a bit more to that depth — given Muscat’s natural floral bouquet and slightly higher RS level.
Flavor Profile: From the bottle, there’s an almost yeasty, alcoholic aroma. It’s faint, not unpleasant, and peaked my interest as well as my appetite. Served significantly chilled (standard refrigerator temperature), there were very few aromatics in the glass and the primary palate of the wine is simply refreshing with a sideline and surprise finish that hinted at sourness. As I let the temperature rise, a more depth of flavor and texture came through. I’ll pause here to say: recommended serving temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
There’s a background texture of soft, raw nuts like cashew, pine nuts, or even Brazil nuts — some kind of nut that’s borderline “sweet” in its natural state (though not as sweet as hazelnut, for example). Served at this proper temperature, these “nutty” aromas on the palate give way to an almost “parmesan cheese” taste and texture — there’s some grip on the tongue and a bit of funk in the background. And through all of this, a good, delicate line of acidity that continues to keep that initial impression (simply refreshing) as the takeaway message on the finish.
Food Pairing: I paired the Troon Vineyard 2014 Vermentino with a very simple mozzarella and spinach quesadilla next to an herb-based salad sprinkled with parmesan. Yes, this wine loves cheese and the stink of cooked spinach. Perfect pairing? For a mid-week meal absolutely. And part of the joy of Troon’s Vermentino is that for all its depth and complexity, it is the perfect wine to enjoy mid-week with an easy at-home dinner.
Feeling fancy? Then absolutely find yourself some stinkier cheeses with age on them — the wine would love to play with those as well. If you’ve got fresh baked bread to go alongside that, so much the better. But also don’t underestimate the power of a cool, crisp salad lightly garnished with those same ingredients (protein-lovers will want to add some seared scallops or grilled octopus to said salad).
More Info: Other Troon Vineyard wines to try: Troon Vineyard 2014 Estate Tannat; Troon Vineyard 2014 Tannat-Malbec Reserve; Troon Vineyard 2016 Whole Grape Ferment Riesling (“Orange Wine”). Learn more about Oregon wine history and Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley AVA.
I received the Troon Vineyard 2014 Vermentino as a sample for review. (Cheers, Craig!) Retail: $25. For more information and to purchase wines directly from the Troon Vineyard website.
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