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Quick Bites: Spring is the small wine time

Wine making is a tricky business. I recently visited my friend Mark Huff, owner of Stag Hollow Vineyard, who along with his wife Jill Zarnowitz,

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Wine making is a tricky business. I recently visited my friend Mark Huff, owner of Stag Hollow Vineyard, who along with his wife Jill Zarnowitz, generates about 1800 cases of classic Oregon pinot noir, dolcetto, and dry-style muscat each year. Bud break is slow this year, and the clock is ticking. By mid-October, the rains come and the ripening game is over. Some years, it just doesn't happen, and green, unapproachable wines are the result. For small producers like Mark and Jill, who shoulder much of the hard labor and all of the risk, distributors often pass them over and the profit margins are slim. But they sit on good dirt - south-facing Willakenzie soil, and have produced some very fine wines over the years. Their modest Yamhill-Carlton spread has only about 6 acres in vines, but is nestled among big players like Ken Wright Cellars and Willakenzie Estate, and they are able to purchase the extra fruit required to finish a vintage from adjacent vineyards. And there is considerable creativity too, with an alternative trellis design, and a focus on old-world Burgundian style wines. They also grow 8 different pinot clones, including 3 acres of the esteemed Pommard clone, and, with 15 years experience, skillfully blend these into very rich wines of surprising depth and character. And I swear I can taste the patience in these wines too, a calm undercurrent, refocusing the characteristic black cherry and cedar box flavors into a harmonic convergence that lights up your palate. Google Stag Hollow and arrange for a tasting visit next time you head to the Valley, or simply purchase a few bottles on good faith over the phone. You might see a few bottles on the store shelves as well, so keep your eyes peeled. These are really special wines that are worth searching out. For something different, try their dolcetto and muscat offerings, you won't be disappointed.

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