When Ed Fus arrived in Oregon in 1997, he was intent on getting into the wine industry. His path ended up being a little different than most.
By 2001, the Penn State grad found a cherry orchard in the Eola-Amity Hills. After clearing the blackberry bushes, he planted Pinot Noir. But his first love was Zinfandel, something you don’t find much of in Oregon. So Fus looked north when he decided to launch Angel Vine.
But Washington, while it has a warmer climate, doesn’t have a lot of Zinfandel — fewer than 100 acres. In 2006, he bought a little Zin from the Walla Walla Valley and began his quest to focus on the grape most often associated with California’s Dry Creek Valley.
Today, Fus crafts no fewer than five Zinfandels — and one Primitivo, which is a clone of Zin — making him the only winery in the Pacific Northwest to put such focus on the red grape. His red blend The Hellion also is primarily Primitivo and Zinfandel.
Rare is the Oregon winery that seeks the majority of its grapes from north of Columbia River. But Fus, who makes his wine in the tiny Yamhill County town of Carlton, does just that. His lone Oregon wine uses grapes from his estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, but his other nine wines all come from Washington.
Here are a few Angel Vine wines we’ve tasted in recent weeks. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or order directly from the winery.
• Angel Vine 2011 Alder Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This wine produces aromas of raspberry-chocolate sauce, black cherry reduction, plum skin and white pepper. On the pour is a rich entry of raspberry, plums and pomegranate.
• Angel Vine 2011 StoneTree Vineyard Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $22: The aromas for this big red come with hints of ripe dark plum, blackberry, black licorice, moist earth, crushed walnut and black pepper. There’s a bold core of dark fruit with tannins akin to Western serviceberry skin and an undercurrent of boysenberry acidity.
• Angel Vine 2011 Primitivo, Columbia Valley, $20: This produces gorgeous aromas of black cherry, raspberry and dark chocolate. On the palate, it shows elegance and richness with Bing cherries and dried strawberry amid refined chocolaty tannins. Accents of minerality and black pepper extend the finish.
• Angel Vine 2011 StoneTree Vineyard Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20: Classic Zin aromas of strawberry fruit leather along with black cherry, dark chocolate and violets lead to complex flavors of Bing cherry and raspberry. The brightness of the structure provides a pleasing contrast to many California Zins.
• Angel Vine 2011 Avery Vineyard Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $20: This vineyard near Goldendale, Wash., produces some of the Northwest’s best Zin grapes. The nose is reminiscent of black cherry, black pepper, pipe tobacco and toasted oak. The drink is bright and straightforward with dried strawberry, cherry and pomegranate.
• Angel Vine 2011 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, $19: Loads of aromas of raspberry, pie cherry, home-canned President plums and strawberry candy and sarsaparilla give way to flavors of raspberry and strawberry juice with good acidity. Mild tannins, good length and dialed-in alcohol make this a bright and delicious Zin.
• Angel Vine 2011 StoneTree Vineyard The Sweet One, Columbia Valley, $25: This Port-style red uses Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. The nose is filled with hints of a freshly opened can of pie cherry filling, backed by plum, raisin and Tootsie Roll. It’s a plump and sweet drink of cherry and plum, and the structure shows sturdy tannins and skillful integration of alcohol.
• Angel Vine 2011 Three Angels Vineyard The Morgster Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $30: Complex aromas of red plum, dried cherry and red plum, along with accents of saddle leather, sweet herbs, smoke and black truffle lead to rich, dark and brooding flavors.
• Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.