Monday, March 31, 2008

By The Glass - Oregon Pinot Edition

In the past month or so I've tasted a few 2005's, some old familiar faces and some from producers that are pretty much new to me. Although there are problems with the wines in general (too sweet to my palate), on the whole I much prefer them to the 2004's we tasted during our recent Five Nights of Oregon Pinot festivities. And one of them was excellent by any standard.

They're calling 2005 a "classic" vintage in Oregon. If you haven't tried Oregon wine because you're a Burgundy lover, you might try something from 2005. Alcohol levels are on par with Burgundy at about 13%, there is very good acidity, and the wines are pretty well balanced. This is an Oregon vintage that can please Burgundy lovers. Fine - the wines are still very sweet, but it is what it is.

2005 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard, $44. The finest wine of this group, by a few lengths. This is why I got into Adelsheim in the first place. Unmistakably Oregon in the wild cherry cough syrup department, but there is much more going on here too. There is a great earthy mushroomy note on the nose, and the sweet wild cherry aspect is quite lovely. The flavors echo the nose, and the mid-palate expands to include slightly rusty minerals, the sweet cherries ride the acids all the way through to the finish, which is complex with herbal notes, and very persistent. This is delicious wine, no doubt about it. And at 13% alcohol, you can actually taste your food while drinking it. It improved on day 2, gaining both smoothness and complexity. This is the same price as an 05 village-level Burgundy and it offers at least that level of pleasure.

2005 St Innocent Pinot Noir White Rose Vineyard, $41. White Rose Vineyard is St Innocent's smallest lot. It's at an elevation of 820', pretty high up there for Oregon Pinot vineyards. This vineyard generally does well in hot years - St Innocent's White Rose Pinot was my favorite Oregon wine from the incredibly hot 2003 vintage. In 2005, not a terrible hot year, there were only 234 cases made of this wine. I didn't enjoy it as much as I did either the 2003 or the 04, this one was more simple. Certainly very pleasant - sweet red fruit flavors, lots of cherry cola, pretty good balance too and not too high in alcohol - 13.5%. It's just that there was little complexity, nothing to think about. Maybe it needed more time in the bottle, although I always drink White Rose a year or two from release and enjoy it.

2005 Cameron Pinot Noir Arley's Leap Vineyard, $28. I've tasted Cameron's wines before, but only once at home with dinner, and that was a solid four years ago. This is from a parcel of younger vines, and the wine is not meant for extended cellaring. On the nose this is brimming with dark cherries and there are also herbal hints, but there is some cherry cough syrup too, and it's a bit cloying. Beautifully ripe fruit though, and nicely balanced with acidity. Hard to put my finger on what, but there is something missing here, something preventing me from really sinking my teeth into this wine. It's kind of a one-hit-wonder. At only 12.5% alcohol, though, they've made a sweet and enjoyable young drinking Pinot that will not make you fail your breathalyser on the trip home.

2005 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir en Dessous Seven Springs, $26. Not sure why they don't just call this "Anden," as Anden is the vineyard that is en dessous (underneath) Seven Springs, but anyway...I like Evesham Wood so far, and I've tasted five or six wines, but never at home with dinner, so this was a first. Lots of cherry cola on the nose, verging on cough syrup, with hints of earth underneath. There is alcohol too on the nose, although it's only 13% according to the label. The palate is blueberry skins, vanilla, and a bit of prune. How do they make wine this sweet in an only moderately hot year, picking in early October? It's magic, I tell you. This is simple and pleasant, but it is not a style of Pinot that I prefer.

2002 Bethel Heights Flat Block Reserve, price unknown. Just for kicks, a more mature wine from Deetrane's cellar. My first ever taste of a Bethel Heights wine, and this is supposed to be their top cuvee. I thought this was in a great place for drinking, as some of the primary cherry fruit had receded and been joined by silky wet soil and iron minerality - a well balanced and elegant wine that left lovely mouth aromas of cherry and earth.


Anonymous said...

Interesting comment on the sweetness (cherry cough syrup). It's why I generally avoid American Pinots. The Bethel Heights sounds interesting, maybe I have been just drinking them too young?

Had a 2006 Pinot from Clos Du Val yesterday though, and there are exceptions. It's Careneros fruit, which generally means really sweet (although higher acidity) fruit. This Clos Du Val, though, was very restrained, with the earth and mushroom stuff and only a hint of sweet fruit. If Clos Du Val can make an elegant Carernos Pinot, why not everyone else?

Brooklynguy said...

Brian - maybe too young, but more and more I am inclined to feel that there are very few producers in Oregon making great wines. If you age huge and overly extracted, super sweet wine, it will still be that way with age. Aging St Innocent, Belle Pente, Brick House, Adelsheim, and maybe Bethel Heights might offer better results. I know nothing about Cali Pinot, sorry.