I first met Anne Hubatch, proprietor and winemaker of Helioterra Wines, at a wine tasting during the WWET Willamette Conference in 2019. She was presenting at the “Other Varieties from Willamette” Seminar and Tasting. She presented her Melon de Bourgogne and an Arneis. I loved them both and subsequently ordered wine from her to enjoy and write about. (There are two posts -The first, her wines were included in my Boutique Winery Must Buys, and you can Oregon Wine in My Glass.) I felt an immediate kinship with Anne, and I knew I needed to promote her wines as best I could.
My next task was to get her to agree to partner with me to share her wines with my tasting clients. Covid hit and…, well, you know what happened. All things stood still for a long while. Fortunately for us all, virtual tastings became a reality, and we could get one on the books. It happened last Thursday and was a huge success.
Helioterra Wines – Background
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Geology and Environmental Studies, Anne moved to Portland, Oregon. While working in her chosen field of study, she also got a part-time job working in a winery, and then another, and another until it became her full-time gig. She thus gained hands-on exposure in Oregon’s wine industry. Over a decade-long winemaking training with some of Oregon’s best winemakers: Eric Hamacher (Hamacher Wines), David Adelsheim, and Dave Paige (Adelsheim Vineyard), Joe Dobbes (Dobbes Family Estate/Wine By Joe), and Alfredo Apolloni (Apolloni Vineyards).
Anne made her first solo vintage in 2009 and thus began Helioterra Wines. Without the capital to create and farm her own vineyards, Anne took a different route and took advantage of the relationships she had created over the past decade. She created an urban winery on the southeast end of downtown Portland while sourcing her fruit from many of the extraordinary grape growers throughout the Pacific Northwest, creating wines that honor the fruit and the people who grow it, without limiting herself to any particular style or type of wine.
The Helioterra Wines Virtual Tasting
One of the positives that came out of Covid-19 was the creation of virtual wine tastings. Without the pandemic, I doubt a single winery would agree to do such a thing. But now they happen almost every day. This is such a great way for small, direct-to-consumer wineries to reach new customers that may never make it out to their state, let alone their winery.
This tasting included several tasters from South Carolina as well as some from New Hampshire, Illinois, and Ohio. Each tasting group orders a set of wines to taste and then gather, taste, and eat suggested foods to pair with the wines. It can be a couple or a group of friends or any grouping. Just have fun, taste some excellent wine, and hopefully, order your favorites to be shipped to your door.
We had six wines to taste, three white wines, and three reds. The price range for these wines is from $18.00 to $48.00 a bottle. Trust me when I say that all of these wines have excellent QPR (quality to price ratio).
Helioterra Wines – The White Wines
The three white wines are ones that most folks have never had. And if you have, they would barely resemble what you would taste here, especially for the price. These whites sell for $18.00, $18.00, and $24.00, respectively. Trust me when I say that all of these wines have excellent QPR (quality to price ratio).
2017 Starthistle Cuvée, Willamette Valley OR
This wine is a blend of Riesling (60%) and Huxelrebe (40%). Huxelrebe is one of the rarest grapes in the world – so rare that the US does not recognize the variety nor allow it to be used in wine labeling. If you love trying Unicorn wines (rare and hard to find regardless of price), then this is a wine for you.
This wine is named in honor of the Yellow Starthistle—a spiny vineyard weed that produces incredible honey. This balanced wine has notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, and cardamom. 1.5% residual sugar (meaning this wine is off-dry). While it has a tad of sweetness, there is a blast of acid in the finish that makes this wine perfect as an aperitif paired with a bleu cheese appetizer or with spicy Thai food or Chinese Szechuan dinner.
Vineyard: Yamhill Valley Vineyard; High Pass Vineyard AVA: Willamette Valley
Anne does not make this wine every year. But do not worry, as you can see, this wine is from 2017 and is drinking beautifully right now and will continue to age for several more years.
2019 Pinot Blanc, Redman Vineyard, McMinnville AVA,
Willamette Valley OR
This delicate wine is made from vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley. Each vineyard’s grapes are fermented in their own barrels with their own yeast selection to achieve a specific result/characteristic. The wines are then blended to make this complex yet affordable wine. Look for tropical notes with a creamy mouthfeel and a cleansing finish.
For folks that like the weight of Chardonnay without the buttery effects of malolactic fermentation or new oak barreling, this may be a wine for you.
2018 Melon de Bourgogne Concrete
Willamette Valley OR
Anne’s stainless steel fermented Melon de Bourgogne was the first of Anne’s wines that I sampled. It was an immediate love affair. When I saw that she now makes a concrete egg fermented Melon, I was all in. The explosion of acidity that Anne says cuts like a diamond with clean lines is the main attraction. The minerality and subtle orchard fruit and citrus notes then seal the deal. The symphony ends with a long, intricate, and ultimately creamy finish.
Fermented and aged entirely in a concrete egg-shaped tank, the mass of concrete provides one of the important requirements for good winemaking. Specifically, long, slow changes in temperature and the slow but constant circulation inside the egg that adds depth, volume, and texture to the wine.
Melon de Bourgogne, aka Melon, aka Muscadet, originally hails from the Muscadet region on the Loire Valley’s western edge on the Atlantic Coast. Its bracing acidity makes it a perfect wine to pair with seafood. In the US, this grape is also known as “Oregon Muscadet.”
Helioterra Wines – The Red Wines
When you think about red wine in Oregon, most folks immediately think of Pinot Noir. And that is for a good reason, in the most well-known wine region in Oregon – Willamette Valley – 70% of all grapes grown in Pinot Noir. The next most grown red grape variety is Syrah, and it comes in at a whopping 1%, followed by Gamay at .5%. So, of course, Anne makes Pinot Noir. As a matter of fact, she makes three different Pinot Noir. But she also makes Syrah and Mourvèdre that she sources from Washington state vineyards. And I wanted to showcase the breadth of her red wine portfolio.
2016 Mourvèdre Red Mountain AVA
Columbia Valley, WA
Mourvèdre, aka Mataro, aka Monastrell, is widely planted in central Spain. It is also now grown in most wine regions worldwide, albeit at a much smaller volume. Outside of Spain, it is most commonly used in GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blends originally from the Southern Rhône region of France and now wherever Rhône varieties are grown rather than as a singular varietal wine. Its uniqueness is one of the many things that I love so much about this wine. The biggest reason is because of how Anne makes this wine. It is big, bold, and packed with black cherry and baking spice flavors. The tannins are well integrated and smooth. This wine was by far the most popular of the three reds we tasted. Probably for the same reasons that I stated.
Vineyard: Heart of the Hill Vineyard – Planted and run by the Williams family – an early proponent and developer of the Red Mountain AVA – and situated halfway up the mountain’s slope, this vineyard’s fantastic exposure and distinct soil characteristics make for some of the best Mourvèdre grapes around.
2017 Pinot Noir Björnson Vineyard
Willamette Valley OR
Pinot Noir is THE grape variety in Willamette Valley. It was originally planted in the valley in 1965 and has become the wine for which Oregon is known. Björnson Vineyard is located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which happens to be one of my favorite AVAs in the Valley (the other is McMinnville).
Bjornson Vineyard is unusual in its ability to ripen fully and yet retain abundant natural acidity. Layer after layer of finely knit, fruit-driven tannins frames it’s the long finish of lush bramble fruit and blueberry.
Sourced from the two best barrels from this vineyard in the Eola-Hills AVA. The thin, volcanic, rocky soils of the vineyard produce Pinot Noir grapes with grace, strength, and deep intensity.
2016 Syrah Oasis Vineyard
Columbia Valley, WA
Anne makes two Syrah wines. One from the warmer climate of Yakima Valley in Washington and a cool climate wine from Willamette Valley. Having never tasted either, I chose the warm climate Syrah because of the price point as I was looking to offer a wider price variation.
Gary really loved this wine as it had a “dusty” quality to the wine. Anne described it as dusty blueberry pie. The tannins were a bit more forward in the wine, which is another quality to which Gary gravitates.
Oasis Vineyard’s farming philosophy is one of managed minimalism; while Oasis is committed to doing everything that needs to be done, they remain wary of over-managing. In other words, they let the plants do what they are designed to do, or, as Oasis explains it, “We are here to shepherd that process rather than determine it.” Oasis planted the vineyard, including their first block of Syrah, in 1999. Helioterra’s release is sourced from this – the oldest – block of Syrah on the farm. With that age, the block has settled well into maturity.
Well, folks, that is all I have for now. If you are local and wish to attend any of my future in-person tastings, please sign up below. If you are from out of town or prefer virtual, then be sure to sign up for the virtual tastings that will continue well after we can gather again.