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New take on Oregon Pinot Noir

Listen, this gig's not just about swilling some awesome grape juice and pontificating. I do research and grueling after-hours field study.

Such was the case last week when I sat through a wine and food-pairing class led by the young wine merchant Casey O'Rear of National Distributors/Atlanta Wholesale Wine held at Kitchenware Outfitters.

It was a perfect class for beginners -- and this old dog tasted some new wines, too. Which brings me to this week's tale.
In spring of 2008, a dinner companion handed pioneering Oregon wine maker David Adelsheim a blank piece of typing paper. Adelsheim made two pencil marks -- and from that obtuse pair of lines he gave a geography lesson explaining why he makes wine in Oregon and illustrated how he benefits from the state's unique weather pattern.

You think you know Oregon Pinot Noir? You don't know anything until you sit across from this talented storyteller during dinner. He's due back in Savannah in 2010 -- I'll give you plenty of heads up.

That night, I tasted a half dozen or so of Adelsheim's wins, but last week O'Rear sprung one I had not sampled -- Adelsheim 2007 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley.

The valley is a legendary terroir for Pinot Noir. The Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area ) consists of 5,200 acres -- and encompasses about 200 of the state's wineries. Its mild, year-round weather is perfect for Pinot Noir, something Adelsheim capitalized on when he planted his first 15-acre vineyard there in 1972. Original plantings were Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

Four years later, Adelsheim facilitated the first import of Pinot Blanc clones from Alsace. It was 13 more years before an Adelsheim Pinot Blanc was bottled. It was worth the wait.

Grapes for this wine come from Adelsheim's Bryan Creek Vineyard, across the road from his original Quarter Mile Road Vineyard. The vines were planted in 1993 -- and by the wine maker's own admission, he becomes more entranced with this block of grapes with each passing year.

What you should find is a bright, crisp white wine that presents with plenty of citrus characteristics. It's no big fruit bomb, but a gentle, well-balanced wine that gives of itself over time in the glass. Ultimately, you should pick out hints of melon -- a subtle, acidic finish is clean, but there is some lingering of the wine's freshness.

The wine drinks beautifully by itself, but for the ultimate experience pair it with foods ranging from spicy Thai dishes to mild fish to grilled chicken. A variety of cheeses would also go nicely with this wine, -- from tangy blues to sharp cheddars.
Adelsheim 2007 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, is about 20 bucks, and most of the city's package stores have it on hand or can order it for you.