Tom Eliott, wine merchant and founder of Northwest Wines, joins Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger on California Wine Country.
Dan Berger has brought his house white wine for the moment. It comes from Claire Valley, just north of Adelaide in Australia. The brand is JB, Jim Berry Wines. It sells for $11.99 at Bottle Barn. It’s called Jim Berry W Riesling. Dan has brought this wine to compare it to Tom Eliott’s wines. Tom brings wines in from three regions which are all cool climates.
Tom started Northwest Wines in 1985 in Calistoga. Back in 1979 he had a red burgundy which he describes as his first Nirvana moment. “It was transcendental, I had never had a wine like that before.” In 1980 he was a wine buyer at Café Lido in North Beach and he tasted a lot of wine there.
André Tchelistcheff used to come in to buy wine in All Seasons market in Calistoga, where he was the buyer. He was a pioneer in bringing the cool climate wines that emphasize acidity and longevity.
In the 80s and 90s he found other similar cool climate wines and built his business on cool climate wines from Oregon, Washington and Germany. When Tom got into the business, there was nobody distributing these wines. The problem was that these wines needed explanation. Dan Berger has known Tom Eliott for close to 40 years.
Silvaner in a Bocksbeutel
The Silvaner comes in the Bocksbeutel-style bottle. It’s a traditional bottle for German wines, and is known in the US as the old Mateus Rosé bottle. German wine country mostly the south west but this Silvaner comes from Franconia, in central Germany. The bottle shape is protected for that region. The best Silvaners in the world are grown here, although it is grown in many countries around Europe.
The next tasting is a 2020 Chardonnay, from Cooper Mountain in Willamette Valley. Dan describes it as very delicate and needs some more time in the bottle. It’s a wine oriented toward food. It comes from a second-generation family owned vineyard. They were the first winery to be certified organic by Oregon Tilth in 1995, and the first certified biodynamic by Demeter in 1999. Half stainless steel, half neutral oak aged, no yeast added, unfiltered. Dan would decant it and not drink it too chilled.
Moving along, they taste the Washington Rosé, Gramercy Cellars 2022 vintage. “Amazing,” says Dan. It’s all from a single vineyard in Columbia Valley. They farm the coolest blocks for Rosé, with more shading and a lower brix, so it comes out 13% alcohol. The blend is 50% Cinsault, 25% Grenache and 25% Syrah.
Oregon Pinot Noir
The final tasting is an Oregon Pinot Noir, Elk Cove 2021 from Willamette Valley. Dan says it has a little bit of black cherry, but not only that. It also has vibrancy. It was planted in 1973 and since then the son and daughter of the original owners are running the winery. They have added vineyards and got certified sustainable. The nose is bright and vibrant.