Tartan Wines and Scottish Roots …

I’m going to start with Scottish Roots.

You’ll perhaps understand why I was very curious when approached to taste Tartan Cellars’ wines. With the early help of a family member, and then with the help of the Internet, I’ve traced my roots. Making it somewhat brief here:

  • Charlemagne (April 2, 742 – January 28, 814), also known as Charles the Great
    • Alfred the Great (Born in 849, died October 26, 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899
    • Ancient Kings of Scotland
      • House of Alpin (848–1034)
      • House of Dunkeld (1034–1286)
      • House of Sverre (1286–1290)
      • Skipping many Houses (1290–1660) ~ link to those missing here
      • House of Stuart (1660–1707)
      • The Reverend William Blackstone of Durham County, England (March 5, 1596 – May 26, 1675), was sent to the New World to preach the King James Version of the Bible, “The Pioneer of Boston”
        • Ten generations later, I was born


Blackstone and I have links back to Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and the Kings of Scotland; so, this is what winemaker Darcy Pendergrass and I have in common… links to Scottish heritage and our love of wine. I was delighted to receive her four bottles of wine… Then I went into a furiously busy time, while her wines collected a bit of dust. Not a lot of dust, but a wee bit, none-the-less. I’m sure she thinks I’ve forgotten her, but that wouldn’t be correct. In my office sat her bottles, seeing them everyday, since the day they arrived.

Darcy Pendergrass is the winemaker at Amity Vineyards, as well as having her own brand, called Tartan Cellars. Darcy writes on her site: “The tartan on my label is my family’s tartan. A tartan however means something more to me; it stands for something greater, heritage.”

Ah, yes, me too….

Years ago, when I was a wine sales person, I used to attend tastings with Myron Redford, the owner of Amity Vineyards. I always like Myron’s style, and now I know more about it. From The Prince of Pinot: “Darcy Pendergrass, who has been Redford’s assistant at Amity since 2001, became the winemaker in 2008 with Redford in a senior consulting position. As Redford’s protege, Pendergrass upholds his winemaking traditions including minimal manipulation and limited oak aging.”

Last evening, Jose and I tasted Darcy’s two Dolcettos, side by side with Lonnie Corey, one of my childhood friends from Maine (more roots).  Only 89 cases of this wine was produced.

  • 2007 Dolcetto, Sunnyside Vineyard Tartan, Willamette Valley ~ We tasted this one first, because it was younger, and I wanted to taste a brighter wine first. It was worth it… Only 86 cases of this wine were produced. Élevage, the French name for the progression of time between the wine being fermented and bottled, was for 18 months. The wine, coming from cool Willamette Valley is only 13 percent alcohol. A bit bigger than the 2006 (as we later found out) has the ability to age a bit more, enjoying until 2017, if not longer.
    • Our tasting notes included tart cherry, cranberries, and blue berry flavors. I found a bit of tobacco on the finish. A really delicious wine that also did really well after being opened and breathing for an hour.
  • 2006 Dolcetto, Sunnyside Vineyard Tartan, Willamette Valley ~ Only 89 cases of this wine were produced. Élevage was for 11 months. The wine received 100 percent neutral French oak. “Neutral” barrels don’t impart oak flavors, because the wines are aged in barrels that have been used before the current use. The lack of flavors from the barrel means that the usual smoky and nutty flavors from barrel aging no longer impart anything to the palate of the wine; however, being in neutral oak does allows for a more rich wine than aging in stainless steel would have allowed. This wine is also only 13 percent alcohol. Darcy believes that this wine can be enjoyed now through 2015. I agree with her.
    • Our tasting notes included deliciously soft red fruit of raspberries and cherries on both the nose and the palate. The finish also included chocolate, to the red fruit. Jose said, “It goes down very easily.” We all agreed.

During a separate tasting for the Tempranillos a couple of months ago:

  • 2007 Tempranillo, Sunnyside Vineyard Tartan, Willamette Valley ~ Only 82 cases of this wine were produced, with an élevage time of 18 months. The wine experienced 100 percent neutral French oak. Thirteen percent alcohol seems to be Darcy’s magic number, making this a very food friendly wine.
    • This wine has deep, dark black cherry fruit on the nose and has pretty flavors dark fruit, leather and chocolate on the palate and finish. Let it breathe and the violets will come through. Darcy recommends decanting, and so do I. I find myself using my Host or Vinturi aerators, whichever one is handy at the time. They both do a great job on younger wines with big flavors.
  • 2006 Tempranillo, Sunnyside Vineyard Tartan, Willamette Valley ~ Only 82 cases of this wine were produced, with an élevage time of 11 months. The wine experienced 80 percent neutral oak, , with 20 percent of it being in new French oak. Darcy calls this wine, “A youthful wine with an old soul.” Who can beat that? Jose and I loved this wine, because the fruit had softened a bit, as compared to the 2006. A delicious wine, I’d think of this one paired with lamb dishes.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect more deeply with Darcy Pendergrass, another Oregon vintner, especially one with Tartan roots. I didn’t even bring up another family member of mine, but it makes for a balanced closing, with my maiden name of “Clarke.” John Clarke (a great grandfather, eight generations removed), was a Scottish ship builder and arrived in the 1660s to Massachusetts. It was his son Josiah Clarke who married Patience Blackstone, William’s granddaughter. Only in America could a Scottish carpenter’s son marry someone of Blackstone’s heritage… Thankfully… imparting some humility with the nobility… All of it bring us the wines of today, Scottish or otherwise.