Bow & Arrow are a relatively modern (c.20yo) winery based in the Willamette Valley. While this incredible region is dominated by Burgundian style wines and vineyards, Bow & Arrow have always trodden a somewhat different path, taking inspiration from the more modest winemaking of the Loire Valley. In reality Oregon is just as suited to Loire varietals as it is to grand Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Loire Valley 101
The Loire Valley runs across the centre of France - think of it as the second hand of a clock pointing at 9 and you have an idea of where the Loire lies. It’s a valley roughly defined by 3 white wine sections - Muscadet (or Melon) to the west by the coast, Chenin Blanc a little further inland, and Sauvignon Blanc even further inland, near the centre of France. Alongside this you find crunchy, rustic red wine made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay play supporting roles.
What do these wines taste like?
If Burgundy is magisterial and magnificent, then the Loire is more humble and rustic, on the whole. But there are few regions whose wines are so consistently food friendly, so highly detailed and powered by high acidity and structure. As such, when tasted they tend to be light, savoury and energetic, whites with tangy freshness and reds with bright, crunchy fruit. But they have intensity and complexity, they age excellently and can be hugely unique and of their place.
What makes Oregon so good for these grapes?
Many commentators believe Oregon to have more in common with the Loire than with Burgundy, even.
Climatically there are certainly parallels - high diurnal range (the change from day to night - warm days and cold nights), a slow growing season, characterised by moderate temperatures in Summer, and no big heat spike are very Loire-esque.
From a soil perspective there is a lot in common too - pockets of granite, limestone and clay allow grapes like Sauvignon, Gamay and Cabernet Franc to thrive.
Combine these two features with topographical similarities and the terroir profile becomes very recognisable.
Air Guitar is the top wine from Bow & Arrow, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The name is a tongue in cheek nod to the fact you don’t see this blend at all in the Loire (it doesn’t exist, like an air guitar), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Loire-ish in style.
In fact it’s a real treat for any wine lover, and while an oddity, odd it most certainly is not. It’s a restrained, elegant, sophisticated wine that floats and flutters with incredible aromatic liveliness and perfume. As you’d hope, and expect, it’s crunchy and taut, but there’s a little (typical American) ripeness and plumpness alongside substantial juiciness, unbridled energy and acid which balances it all out.