The Wine: The Great Pretender Syrah 2017
St. Reginald Parish The Great Pretender Syrah is a red natural wine born from the friendship between Adam Smith, formally of Eisold-Smith wines / now head winemaker at Skinner Vineyards in El Dorado, and Andy of St. Reginald Parish. Working in the same facility in Eola-Amity, these wines show Adam’s love of richness and fruit with Andy’s love of Glou Glou and delicacy. The Great Pretender Syrah is made from sustainably farmed grape from Southern Oregon and Willamette Valley with minimal intervention in the cellar.
The Producer: St. Reginald Parish
Andrew Reginald Young left behind a career as a New Orleans rock drummer in 2012 to make low-intervention natural wine from cooler climate vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley. He works with a lot of carbonic maceration to keep the wines light, all fermented with native yeasts and minimal intervention in the winery. The name of the winery is an amalgamation on his middle name, Reginald, and his neighborhood growing up in New Orleans, St Tammany Parish.
The Region: Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley AVA is located in western Oregon, stretching for about 120 miles south of Portland. The Willamette River runs through the entire region. Willamette Valley is famous primarily for its Pinot Noirs, and it’s become one of the world’s benchmark for this cold-climate grape varietal, in some cases rivaling Burgundy.
The development of viticulture and winemaking in Willamette Valley can be attributed to the curiosity of a handful of University of California Davis students. In the 1960s they explored the area’s potential for viticulture and found that Pinot Noir would have adapted the best, and the rest is history.
In 1979, a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley took part in the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades, beating several Burgundy Pinot Noirs, which at the time were regarded as the best expression of this fascinating grape varietal. This put Oregon and especially Willamette Valley one the wine world map.
Willamette Valley has been its own AVA since 1984, but in 2002 a movement to differentiate the valley’s terroirs started. As a result, several new sub-AVAs have been established in the past fifteen years: Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton District, and Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge.
The Terroir of Willamette Valley
The climate of Willamette Valley is predominantly maritime with rainy winters and dry summers. Temperature variation between day and night can be substantial. Pinot Noir, a grape varietal which tends to ripen early and favors cool climates, has adapted perfectly to the region.
The characteristic soil formation of Willamette Valley is rich in iron and is called Jory. It can be found pretty much everywhere in the valley and it’s responsible for Willamette’s signature Pinot Noir profile.