As the world turns orange, maybe you should start thinking about orange wine. Our state is already home to several exceptional orange wines—that ancient, recently cool-again winemaking style that exposes white grapes to extended skin contact. The result is a wine with the viscosity of a red, the complexity of a white, and the color of a Thanksgiving cornucopia. Johan Vineyards' "Drueskall" pinot gris and Paetra Wine's "O" riesling are already two local favorites. But this fall, young winemaker Sterling Whitted of Portland urban winery Holden Wine Company has released the best Oregon orange wine of the year.
With distinctive label art by graffiti muralist Eat Cho (you've seen his work on Alberta), Holden's orange wine starts with the Malvasia grape—a hearty, expressive grape variety that grows across the Mediterranean, from the Canary Islands to Croatia. Malvasia is famous as an orange wine grape variety, used in Italy's Friuli valley by standard-bearers like the late Stanko Radikon.
But back here in Oregon, Holden's Malvasia begins its life in the Applegate Valley, in the hands of Oregon vineyard legend Herb Quady. Borrowing from the ancient wine techniques of Georgia in Europe, Whitted stomps these grapes with his feet and keeps them in clay amphorae for eight months with skins and stems intact.
From there, Whitted's orange wine hangs out in the barrel for two and a half years. It's an agonizing wait, but for Whitted it's worth it. "Not taking short cuts ultimately lends to more bad-ass wine," the winemaker tells us.
We agree. This is a big, round, utterly beguiling new Oregon wine—honeysuckle, persimmon, squash blossom and tangy orange curd cuddled up next to yammy autumnal sweetness. It's great when you open it, and it's great three days later—a testament to the winemaker's patience and hands-off approach. (Only a tiny amount of sulfur was added.) Just 75 cases were made, making this a limited-quantity offering. Drink it with roasted pork or squash ravioli, or by itself on your front porch as you watch the leaves fall.
Holden Malvasia is $45, available at Division Wine, E&R Wine Merchant, Liner & Elsen.