It speaks volumes of Darcy Pendergrass that she's worked for the iconic Myron Redford for more than a decade.
Redford, owner and founding winemaker of Amity Vineyards, which he started in 1976, remains one of the most outspoken personalities in the Pacific Northwest wine industry.
"Lively is a good description of him," Pendergrass said with a chuckle. "I know his palate pretty well, and I do know what not to put in front of him. My goal is to make a wine that we can both agree on, and our palates are very different."
The synergy obviously works. Pendergrass took over in 2008 as head winemaker of Amity Vineyards, and her release of Pinot Noir from the stellar 2009 vintage shows the skills that she's gathered since being first hired for Redford's tasting room in 2001.
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"I was moved pretty quickly from the tasting room into the lab and the winery once Myron found out that I had a degree in microbiology and was taking winemaking classes," Pendergrass said. "The things that I'm really good at are different than what Myron is really strong with. It's a good thing he loves to teach."
Redford learned winemaking in Seattle from the late Lloyd Woodburne, a dean at the University of Washington and co-founder of Associated Vintners, which became Columbia Winery. In 1974, Redford purchased a vineyard that had been planted a few years earlier and launched his winery with the 1976 vintage.
Pendergrass' development allows Redford to spend more time at home and return to growing grapes.
"I love our vineyards. I love our growers, and I love the fruit that I'm fortunate enough to source because of Myron and his history," she said. "And Myron is very encouraging."
When Pendergrass left Florence, Ore., as a teen, she harbored dreams of becoming a brew master.
We recently tasted through Amity's newest wines. Look for them at your favorite merchant or contact the winery directly.
Amity Vineyards 2009 Crannell Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35. This is a fruit-forward Pinot Noir that opens with whiffs of dark strawberry, boysenberry, black cherry and smoky milk chocolate. A sip makes for a smooth drink of black cherry that evolves into cherry pie flavors with lingering lip-smacking blueberry acidity and a late showing of blueberry skin tannin. Enjoy with a pork loin.
Amity Vineyards 2009 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35. Cassis, raspberry, Marionberry and white strawberry aromas include hints of tobacco leaf, leather, cedar and cardamom. The flavors start with cherry before giving way to strawberry and pink raspberry on the midpalate with Meyer lemon acidity.
Amity Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22. This opens with aromas of dried cranberry, strawberry candy, raspberry, blueberry and a scrap of slate. Blueberries lead the flavors, followed by cassis, white strawberry and more cranberry. That lighter structure of racy acidity and a near absence of tannin will serve this well with a wide variety of food, including alder-planked salmon and lean meats such as flank steak.
Amity Vineyards 2009 Sunnyside Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35. The focus of this wine is entirely on fruit with almost no hint of barrel, starting with aromas of dried strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb compote and black cherry Jell-O. There's more black cherry on the entry and almost no tannin to get in the way of the strawberry/rhubarb jam and twist of orange peel.
Amity Vineyards 2009 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, $17. The nose conjures up thoughts of fruit cocktail, chock-full of pineapple, pear and grapefruit, a hint of green banana, anise root and starfruit. The refreshing drink is dang tasty and remarkably dry, featuring flavors of Asian pear, lemon, lime, melon and gooseberry. Acidity akin to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and some slatiness combine to give it traction. Enjoy with basa or baked chicken.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.