Wines like the Pamplin Family Winery JRG Red Wine are part of what makes drinking wine so exciting – the joy of discovery.

Robert Pamplin Jr. founded Pamplin Family Winery in 2007 in Dundee, Oregon with the goal of “making the best Bordeaux varietal wines from the Pacific Northwest.” While this may seem an audacious goal, Pamplin’s life is nothing if not marked by success and accomplishment.

Born in August, Georgia, Pamplin seems to have lived many lives rolled into one. Pamplin’s resume is as long as it is diverse. He holds three Bachelors degrees (Business and Administration, Accounting, and Economics), an MBA, a Master of Education, a Ph.D. in Business Administration, and a Doctor of Ministry.

Pamplin’s business experience is equally long. He is Chairman, President and CEO of R.B. Pamplin Corporation, which oversees milling, mining, media, and other interests. His Columbia Empire Farms focuses on berries, hazelnuts, alfalfa, and cattle. He was founder and senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Newberg, Oregon (he has since retired). His foundation owns Pamplin Historical Park in Virginia. His 13 books include One Who Believed and A Portrait of Colorado. Did I mention that he holds a black belt in Kempo Karate? You get the picture.

Pamplin started out in the wine business in 1997 purchasing Oregon’s Chateau Benoit. The winery was subsequently renamed Anne Amie Vineyards after Pamplin’s two daughters. This winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

With an interest in founding a separate winery focused on Bordeaux blends, Pamplin looked to the vineyards of Washington State. For its wines, Pamplin Family uses top sources including Klipsun, Seven Hills, Canoe Ridge Estate, and Wallula for the 2008 vintage. The winery has since added Ciel du Cheval, Tapteil, Champoux, and Alder Ridge.

Robert Henry serves as Pamplin’s winemaker. Henry started out as a research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry before a career change brought him to the world of wine. His first job was as a cellar rat at Virginia’s Horton Vineyards. After studying viticulture and plant science at Fresno State, Henry went on to work for six and a half years at Pahlmeyer Winery as assistant winemaker before joining Pamplin.

Art North, Pamplin’s son-in-law, says of the winery, “We are, first and foremost, wine enthusiasts. As a result, we approach winemaking from a consumer perspective – handcrafting wines for true wine fans, not from a business-directed approach with specified annual production goals.” Indeed, Pamplin’s production is microscopic. 370 total cases were produced in 2008, the winery’s second vintage.

Pamplin makes two wines, a Proprietary Red Wine, which is released in the fall, and a JRG Red Wine – reviewed below. The JRG is named in tribute to Pamplin’s three grandson’s Justin, Robert, and Grant.

North says one of the winery’s goals is to, “over deliver on quality for the given price point.” With the 2008 JRG Red Wine, the winery surely succeeds. The 2008 JRG is one of the more attention getting wines I have tasted this year, not for it’s brashness or brawn, but for its subtlety. The fruit flavors are soft and textured. The oak is pleasantly restrained. The result is a thoroughly delicious, sophisticated wine.

You never know what you’re going to find when you open a bottle of wine from a winery you are unfamiliar with. Coming across wines like this is one of the things I look forward to most.

Pamplin Family Winery JRG Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $30
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color. A pleasingly aromatic wine marked by brioche, plum, black cherry, wood spice, and incense. Palate is medium bodied with tart, focused cherry fruit flavors that linger on a long finish. An impressively throttled back wine. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 14% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot. Seven Hills, Klipsun, Canoe Ridge and Wallula vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (46% new). 14.7% alcohol. 205 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.