Dobbes Family Estate Review
American Winery Guide
July 9, 2014
by Rob Boss
They’re bigger than you thought, and a lot bigger than they look.
Situated in a plain, reddish-brown building on the edge of Dundee on the way out of town, Dobbes Family Estate‘s tasting room is actually a powerhouse of production. They’re one of the largest producers in the state, but you wouldn’t know it on first glance at the understated, deceptively large building. Not that it matters, as long as the wine is good. That turned out to be the case, in unexpected ways.
The tasting room is simply but amply appointed, with a curved bar and layout that accommodates a bustling Saturday, yet seems intimate when the crowd has moved down the road to the next tasting room. Our tasting room guide, Paxton, was seasoned and sure, offering plenty of information, answering questions, but still stepping back to give me a moment to ponder the pour.
The first wine was a 2011 Chardonnay. With only 20% new oak and no malolactic fermentation, the wine showed bright fruit flavors; pineapple, nectarine and Granny Smith apples. Oregon Chardonnays tend toward tart acidity to begin with and this was no exception. I like this particularly food friendly style but it’s often met with confusion by those who love California butter bombs, because it’s not a cocktail wine.
Grenache Blanc is a rarity in the New World, and Dobbes is the only Oregon grower. The 2012 had a lot of citrus in the nose, kiwi fruit and pineapple flavors, and the high acidity of the best fooders so much so that we bought one to enjoy with seared tuna the next week. It was wonderful.
We jumped to Pinot Noir after that. The first two were 2009 vintage and showed the raging red fruit that’s typical of the vintage. The Quailhurst Vineyard from the Chehalem Mountain AVA was a little hot with 14.1% alcohol but still showed some nice cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors. This was followed by the Meyer Vineyard from Dundee Hills. It made a better show of it with a crushed fruit nose, bright red fruit flavors and smoky finish. The overall quality is there, the wines express the terroir and vintage like they should, but if you’re not a fan of the vintage (I’m not), they won’t make a believer of you.
More to my taste is the 2011 vintage, and the just-released Patricia’s Cuvee was full of bright, fresh fruit aromatics and a mouthful of cherries, raspberries and strawberries fresh off the tree and vine fruit flavors, almost but not quite ripe. While it seemed like a wild card when Paxton poured it, the Amelia Rosé Cuvee from the Rogue River Valley was lush, even opulent with its cherry and strawberry flavors. This is one of the best rosés of the year.
The parting shot of Pinot Noir was the 2009 Youngberg Hill from the McMinnville AVA. McMinnville tends to be dark and chewy, and this was no exception. The nose had white pepper, cedar and forest floor notes. The bright red cherry flavors were to be expected from an ’09 but the long cocoa finish was not. The McMinnville terroir was gracefully but intensely expressed.
The bonus pour was the 2011 Grand Assemblage Syrah, which, in finest Rhone tradition, has a smattering of Viognier to make the wine “pop.” That it does. The nose is dark and plummy, with a bold licorice note. The acidity was pretty high more bottle time will help a lot but there were cascades of plums and blackberries on the palate. Great stuff.
Much like David Hill Winery, we visited Dobbes Family because of their entry-level wine: the infamous Wine by Joe, a low priced, high production quaffer with a friendly, unintimidating label that’s fun to take to parties. It’s a brilliant entry-level wine, good enough to raise your antennae to look for other Dobbes products, like we did. The Dobbes Family label represents 5500 cases of top flight wine, but Wine by Joe and Dobbes’ custom wine making brings the operation’s production up to a staggering amount (over 100,000 cases), making them one of the largest producers in Oregon. The quality doesn’t seem to suffer with the products that carry the family name. Wine by Joe is easy to find and it’s a good introduction, but there’s plenty of quality wine to be had in the Dobbes Family tasting room.