BY RICK RIOZZA
Anyone who loves and adores the Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley already knows well about Duck Pond wines. Actually, we can modify that further: What Pinot Noir lover hasn’t already enjoyed the famed Oregon wine that joined in to set the standard in the area a couple of generations ago.
Just to prick our minds again—and to possibly alert our new vino enthusiasts in the valley, let’s reminisce back to the original ducky times in Dundee when the Fries family set up shop. Check out their website at http://www.duckpondcellars.com
As their winery history notes state: “Despite its status as one of the larger wine producers in Oregon, Duck Pond Cellars remains small at heart and is a family-owned winery through and through. Originally from California’s Central Valley, lifelong farmers Doug and Jo Ann Fries moved their young family to Central Oregon. In 1984, they purchased property along the banks of the Willamette River in Dundee, Oregon, where they planted a 500-acre hazelnut orchard. As devoted wine aficionados, they also planted a small 13-acre vineyard with the hopes of producing a few hundred cases of their own wine.”
In 1990 son Greg Fries began college at UC Davis with the intent to study agribusiness but changed his focus to learn the art and skills of winemaking. As daughter Lisa neared her own college graduation, the four family members crafted a plan to begin their own small winery in Dundee which opened its doors in 1993. The initial offerings totaled around 1,000 cases, which were mostly hand sold by the family to their tasting room customers.
In the early to mid-90s, the family continued acquiring land throughout the Northwest that they felt would be suitable for vineyards. In Oregon, the family has focused exclusively on Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Wishing to try their hand at warmer-climate varietals, they purchased a large parcel on Eastern Washington’s Wahluke Slope where they planted a wide variety of grapes including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. The family’s Washington State brand, Desert Wind, launched in 2001, showcases the exceptional fruit from the area.
Okay—so how fortunate was it for me to hang out with no other than the lovely wine wise gal Heidi Daniels and her staff this last weekend at the Palm Desert Food & Wine festival. And talk about location, location: when entering the south side of the Grand Tasting Tent—voila! At first sight, at the wine booth in front of us, the goo-goo-eyed guests got to dive right into the pond of delicious wine.
Listening in on Heidi’s real spiel about her Duck Pond, Desert Wind & Fries Family Wines that she was pouring at the event, I witnessed firsthand all the enthusiastic responses. As one would expect, the wine’s loyal fawning fans agreed and chimed in with Heidi, and, could speak on and on the quality themselves! Those who had no doubt heard of Duck Pond but hadn’t really experienced a glass—well it was their lucky day.
Before we get onto the wine chat, I know many of you appreciate hearing about the wines consumed—but granted, it’s kind of an after-the-fact thing. So let’s keep the party going, for Heidi will be decanting her Duck Pond line-up this Friday, March 30th, from 4 to 6pm at Desert Wine Shop on 111 (formally Dan’s Wine Shop) in Palm Desert 760.674. 0305. The tasting is only $5.
Duck Pond Pinot Gris 2016
This is just a charming fresh wine where you can “taste the grape”. It displays aromas of nectarine, lemon zest, elderflower & melon and finishes with flavors of white peach, backed by Granny Smith apple and gooseberry acidity.
Duck Pond “Rosé of Pinot Noir” 2017
This limited production Willamette Valley Rosé was made in the traditional saignée method—which brings out the best in the crowded rosé game. Robed in brilliant salmon pink color, look for aromas of guava, jasmine flower and abundant strawberry that flows into the palate with a crisp backbone of citrus.
As Easter weekend came quickly this year, this is the perfect time to announce this wine as my Easter dinner pick. It’s the rosé that will bring both red and white wine folks together. While at the Food & Wine Fest, I matched this Rosé of Pinot Noir with steak, poké, whipped potatoes, various vegetarian dishes—you name it! With its fresh acidity, it was textbook food & wine pairing
Duck Pond Pinot Noir 2016
This is one the most recognizable Pinot on the market shelves with its patented bright berry-cherry fruit. The compact tannins are present to succor a firm blackberry and black cherry core, following with a clean crisp finish.
Duck Pond “Dundee Hills” Pinot Noir 2016
With its ducks all in a row, this wine opens with aromas of bright red cherry, blackberry, ripe strawberry and subtle notes of smoke that follow into the palate with a silky-smooth finish laced a hint of cedar. Yet another Easter dinner wine! Problem is: there were only 64-six packs available in California!—which is dwindling down—so act!
Duck Pond “Reserve” Pinot Noir 2016
This “Reserve” is the “big brother” of the above and offers another layer of complexity and pure expression of Willamette Valley. The wine is lively, with aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, black raspberry and spice. In its final flavor finale, enjoy the balanced acidity and just enough French oak to influence the lush finish. Pairs nicely with duck breast, lamb or cedar plank salmon. And yes!—it’s my final Easter pick. Bon Appétit & Cheers!
Rick is the valley’s somm-about-town entertaining and conducting at restaurant venues, wine events and tastings. He is the brand ambassador to The Historic Galleano Winery and this April he’s off to Verona attending the VinItaly 2018 Wine Festival. Ciao Bella! Contact at email@example.com