Grizzly Peak Winery revs up for distribution

New winery owners and vineyard managers Al and Virginia Silbowitz are finally approaching the threshold of making enough wine to start distribution.

For any newly established winery, many different objectives must be met before vintners can get their wine into consumers' glasses. For the Silbowitzes, it's been a matter of waiting for their 40-acre vineyard to mature.

Vines have to be about three years old before they are ready for harvesting. Since last year, about two-thirds of the vineyard has come into maturity, which means new wines can be released this year.

"We were doing about 450 to 475 cases," Al Silbowitz said. "Last year, we went up to close to 1,600 cases, so that was a big jump."

Grizzly Peak Winery has three, new white-wine releases this fall, ready from last year's harvest. The new 2010 vintages are a pinot gris, a white blend, called Intrigue, and an oaky chardonnay, each with Grizzly Peak's newly designed label gracing the bottles.

The 2010 Pinot Gris is the first vintage from the newly planted vines, and according to Al Silbowitz, has a little extra character in it. This vintage is described as having an oaky aroma with hints of apples, slate and minerals.

"This is Virginia and I's favorite," said tasting-room host Naomi Fuerte.

Intrigue is a blend of roussanne, marsanne and viognier that Silbowitz describes as more suggestive of French blends.

"It's spent a little time in oak; it has a great floral scent," Silbowitz said. "It has a little lime flavor in there ... which may have been a sign of it being less ripe."

But as Silbowitz explains, a little less ripe is what winemakers are looking for in whites anyway, so if they have a little more of the fresh and fruity character, it's not a bad thing.

"What we're shooting for was a very soft, very delicate, white wine that would be soft, pleasant, pleasurable and that sneaks up on you," Silbowitz said.

Last of the new releases, Grizzly Peak's 2010 Chardonnay took a bit of evolution to get where it is now.

"The first time, we did no oak at all, and the wine was really nice for summer use," Silbowitz said. "But it really wasn't what people recognized for chardonnay, so last year we did partial oak, and that worked out pretty well."

The latest Grizzly Peak chardonnay is a nice, oaky, wet white that Fuerte describes as "velvety."

"Our special thing has been to produce wines that are really soft and comfortable, so we'll see what we're able to extract for this year," Silbowitz said. "That will happen after crush."

Harvest for Grizzly Peak and many other, local wineries is just around the corner, likely in the next two to three weeks.

The new Grizzly Peak releases can be found at Harry & David Country Village in Medford or the winery's tasting room, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland. Intrigue and the chardonnay are priced at $17; the pinot gris is $18 because there is a limited supply. The tasting room is open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday but will be open weekends only starting in November.

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