Even great Pinot Noir winemakers need a break from the finicky, noble grape once in awhile.
Ken Wright, known for his highly-rated, single-vineyard Pinot Noir, introduced a new label in 2003, Tyrus Evan, producing Claret, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The bottlings are limited—less than 1,300 cases were produced in 2003—but the winemaker says the wines are here to stay.
"We''ve had a lot of fun with it," Wright said. "My first love is Pinot Noir. But the blending of these varietals is a great challenge and I am excited with the results."
Wright used the middle names of his two sons, Cody and Carson, for the new label. It is a way for his boys to enter the winemaking business, if they choose to do so. Carson is in college and Cody is now in Australia, working the harvest and learning about the wine industry. Wright said he expects them to collect some experience in the world before coming back to the winery. "Regardless of whether they choose to be involved in this process, we will continue to make the wines," said Wright. "We won''t overstep the demand. Our goal is to start small and establish the brand."
Reaction to the new label has been positive, and Wright said the new wines have sold well.
Over the Memorial Day weekend of 2004, Wright nearly sold out of Tyrus Evan. He said there are some fine wine shops and restaurants in the Northwest who have the wine, but even those establishments have small amounts.
"We didn''t make much, and most of these wines will disappear with very little marketing," Wright said. "If the quality is there, the wines will sell, as long as you don''t push the market too hard. We're not doing that."
The plans are to keep Tyrus Evan a small label. He has his hands full with Pinot Noir, but making the new varietals will not take away attention from the his drive to make the best Oregon Pinot Noir possible.
In a recent tasting, the wines are vibrant and young, but a worthy addition to Wright''s established reputation as an intense winemaker. He produces two Clarets, one from fruit sourced in Walla Walla and one from grapes purchased from the Del Rio Vineyards in Southern Oregon. Two Syrahs are also produced from grapes from both regions. He has plans to add grapes from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyards to the blends.
People were curious at the recent tasting. Clara Gibson, from Portland, OR, said she stopped by the winery to see if the wines met up to the Ken Wright standards.
"I enjoy his wines," Gibson said. "My thought is that if he gives as much care and attention to these new wines as he does his Pinot Noir, well then, I wanted to see what he came up with. I am not disappointed."
Another taster from Seattle said he wanted the opportunity to purchase the new wines before they sold out.
"I''d heard he didn''t produce many cases, so I wanted to be there in case everyone snapped it up," he added. "From what I tasted, I think the wines are very good and I look forward to anything he produces in the future."
While Cody and Carson Wright figure out their futures, Ken Wright will continue making wines under the Tyrus Evan label. He hopes, someday, his sons will find a niche of their own and he if he is fortunate, he may end up working next to those young men in Carlton, OR.
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