Of Pinot Noirs and Sitars

Physician gradually building a mini-wine empire in Napa, Oregon and beyond
Aug 18, 2010

It seemed like serendipity that Dr. Madaiah Revana would be coming to visit friends in Aspen, where I spend a good part of the summer. I liked the first couple of vintages from his Oregon vineyard, made by Lynn Penner-Ash, but I had not met the man behind them.

He wanted to show me the first bottling of a Pinot Noir, called Sitar, which will carry a series of beautifully-drawn labels honoring Dr. Revana’s Indian heritage and his love of music. My wife and I are devotees of the music festival here in Aspen, and a musically themed wine was too good a coincidence to pass up.

“The sitar is a complex instrument,” Dr. Revana mused. “You have to work to make something with it. That’s an awful lot like wine.”

Only 300 cases of Sitar were produced in the first vintage, 2008, and the wine will be offered only to a mailing list at $95 a bottle. Tony Rynders, the winemaker for this project, fashioned a lithe, supple wine of focus and elegance from grapes grown at Revana’s vineyard. The wine has lovely red berry and mineral flavors and impressive length.

Dr. Revana is a quiet-spoken guy. He is still a practicing physician, with a cardiology practice in Houston, but he has wine projects popping up all over. His first was Revana Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. Planted in 1998, the vineyard has produced some outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, made by Heidi Peterson Barrett. Tom Garrett, who made some nice Cabernet Francs from his family’s vineyard, Detert, is the general manager and assistant winemaker.

Much as he likes his Cabernet, Dr. Revana allowed, “I was always drawn to Burgundy.” But instead of expanding into one of California’s regions for Pinot Noir, he looked north to Oregon. Penner-Ash, whose own family winery rates among the best in Oregon, met Dr. Revana at an event in Houston and agreed to work with him. She found the Oregon property, an existing vineyard on Worden Hill Road in the heart of the Dundee Hills AVA. Bergström’s estate vineyard is a stone’s throw away.

Chuck Ortman started the vineyard, planting 16 of the estate’s 80 acres to Pinot Noir before selling it. Dr. Revana named the vineyard after his daughter, Alexana, and has since added more clones of Pinot Noir plus Pinot Gris and Riesling.

Penner-Ash makes the Alexana wines at the winery she and her husband own near Nerberg. Tasting through the 2008 wines non-blind with Dr. Revana, I liked the light, refreshing qualities of the Riesling and almond and mineral tang in the Pinot Gris. The great ’08 vintage produced 1,100 cases of lovely, fragrant, vibrant Pinot, showing wild raspberry and a touch of bitter almond. At $38, it’s priced appropriately.

With the ’08 vintage, a new wine, called Signature, joined the Alexana lineup. Barrels selected for their complexity made 140 cases of a tighter, earthier wine with more tannins and spice to the profile. It does feel longer and more expressive. It costs $75.

Dr. Revana’s latest project is in Mendoza, Argentina, where he has planted 11 acres of Rhône and Bordeaux varieties. The first grapes are scheduled to be picked in 2011.

United States Oregon Red Wines Pinot Noir

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