The very positive evolution of Troon Vineyard is becoming more clear. Founded in 1972, it was the Applegate Valley’s first commercial winery and has long been a reliable producer. But, in recent years, it’s been making qualitative, and philosophical, leaps. The 2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment —a terrific orange wine—is a great example.
But first, what in the heck is orange wine? Is it made from oranges? Nope. The name comes from their orange hue, as opposed to red, rosé or yellow (aka white).
That color results from fermenting the juice along with the grape skins, essentially the way red wines are made. But, with orange wine, white wine grapes are used.
White wine grapes aren’t really white. They are generally greenish or yellowish, but can also have a pink or rusty color to them. Some varieties remain fairly pale, others show a lot of color. White wine grapes also take on more color as they get more sun and/or get riper. (Grapes get suntans and can get sunburned too.)
The 2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment spent about 12 days on the skins in all. During fermentation, the floating cap of grape solids was punched down daily to enhance extraction of color, flavor and texture from the skins. The wine isn’t fully orange, but has a clear, bright, amber-orange tone. Regardless, it looks striking and not at all like a typical, young white wine.
As with all of the new wines from Troon, fermentation was wholly with indigenous yeast and without any additives. After pressing, the wine matured for three months in neutral French oak barrels. (All neutral oak is another new, positive direction at Troon.)
2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment, Applegate Valley, Oregon 92+ pts 12.0% 750ml screw cap $20
The nose is intense and very attractive. Baking spices (cinnamon, allspice and candied ginger) come first, following by dried tangerine peel and then the core aroma of dried apricot. With time and swirling, more nuances are revealed. These include tropical flowers, sweet herb, candied pineapple and a hint of salty Marcona almond.
In the mouth, it is fully dry with medium body. Skin contact during fermentation gives the wine a very gentle structure with the texture of very fine silk. This creates compelling—and appetizing—tension with the acidity.
Flavors match the nose, again focusing on dried apricot and baking spice with mysterious tropical notes and whispers of salty Marcona. At just 12.0%, the alcohol is barely noticeable.
The 2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment is as delightful as it is unusual. I always spit, rather than swallow, wines as I taste them for review. I did that with this wine too, but I also found myself going back and pouring more repeatedly for the sheer enjoyment.
The wine is versatile from a service perspective. It’s satisfying on its own, but the structure lends itself to light proteins as well. Roast game hen would be perfect. You can pour it cold out of the fridge, a bit warmer like a regular white wine or even warmer like a light Pinot Noir.
As good as this wine is, it will also be polarizing. It’s not like 99.9% of other wines you’ve tasted. The unusual combination of color, texture and intensity may be off-putting if one tries to compare it to typical white wines. Think of it as an entirely different type of drink, or perhaps a super good, non-carbonated cider. Better yet, don’t think. Just enjoy it.
Check out my past coverage of Troon Vineyard
Troon Vineyard: Reviews of Current Releases (with background info), August 2016
Copyright Fred Swan 2017. Winery photo courtesy of Troon Vineyards. All rights reserved.