Wednesday, September 30, 2009

By the Glass - Oregon Pinot Edtion

I bought a lot of Oregon Pinot when I rediscovered wine about 6 years ago. My red wine palate has changed since then, moved away from overt fruit and concentration and towards transparency and intensity. I still love Pinot, but moreso the wines of Burgundy, Cheverny in the Loire Valley, or the Jura.

Are there Oregon Pinots that I enjoy today? Yes, but the key for me is to drink them without comparing them to Burgundy, to accept them as fruit-driven wines and to enjoy them as such. Am I going to buy these wines today? No, but that's because my tastes have changed, not because they are bad wines. Within a new-world framework, I think Oregon is making some excellent wines.

BrooklynLady and I hosted our wine group this month and we used this occasion to drink a load of Oregon Pinot. I also drank a few Oregon Pinots with my old pal Deetrane this month, and so all of the sudden I have a decent sample of Oregon wine notes to share with you. Here is what I found, in the approximate order of my preference:

2002 Panther Creek Pinot Noir White Rose Vineyard, $35. Courtesy of Deetrane, my favorite of the bunch, and by a wide margin. White Rose is high up in the hills and is cool at night, so the grapes should theoretically have good acidity. I've had wines from White Rose before and they've been overly extracted, but not this one. This wine was dried rose petal red, translucent to the core, with lovely ripe red fruit and floral aromas. Well balanced and with an intense core of red fruit, this was delicious wine.

2004 Brick House Pinot Noir Cuvée du Tonnelier, $45. Started off strangely - salty umami notes, something like balsa wood, kind of medicinal, perhaps not entirely clean. But I came back to it two hours later and it was much better, with bright red fruit, good acidity, length, and intensity. Clearly this wine needs time in the bottle, as it wasn't pretty at first. Made with organic grapes, for you hippies out there.

2004 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard, $35. If I had to pick one Oregon Pinot to buy every year, it would be this one. The vines are old, the vineyard is farmed cleanly (organic and using some biodynamic principals, I believe), and the wine maker seems to be going for balance and elegance, over extraction. And at $35, I don't feel like I'm getting ripped off. This was not the best bottle I've had of this wine, but it was quite good, with floral and citrus infused red fruit aromas, and a light and graceful texture.

2002 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard, $35. I'm not sure where this wine is in its evolution, but it probably will be better in a few years than it was on this evening. The nose is about dark fruit and it isn't revealing all that much, even after a few hours open. The fruit feels mature on the palate, stewed cherries, the tannins have begun to melt into the wine. Pleasant wine, but int he end, not all that interesting.

2005 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Ribbon Springs Vineyard, $44. BrooklynLady and I visited Adelsheim back in the winter of '05, when the grapes for this wine were just a twinkle in the vine's eyes. We have a soft spot for Adelsheim, but as the years go by I find myself less interested in the wines. They are well made, but they are so much about fruit, kind of one-note-wonders. This wine did have lovely ripe red fruit, very clean, and there was a nice herbal note. But that's really all I can say. About a quarter of the bottle was left out overnight, uncorked, and when I tasted it the next afternoon there was more focus and intensity, but still not a lot of complexity. Very good wine, but not the style of Pinot that I'm interested in these days.

2005 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Elizabeth's Reserve, $44. This is a blend of grapes from Adelsheim's various vineyards, and it has Oregon's prettiest wine label, I think. This wine has great fruit, others in the group liked it very much in that way, but the oak is very prominent too. There just isn't a lot else going on, so it's hard to get excited.

2005 St Innocent Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard, $35. I liked this better a few years ago when it was first released. Now it's a bit muddy, with coffee and other wood elements obscuring the fruit. I drank this with Deetrane alongside another St Innocent 2005, and it is amazing how the two wines from two different vineyards showed almost exacltly the same. We fooled around, tasting each other blind on the wines, and I could identify Justice based on its slightly lighter texture, but the aromas and flavors of both wines were pretty much dominated by wood.

2005 St Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, $39. This raw material in this wine doesn't seem to be able to absorb the wood treatment. Although I liked the 04, Shea just isn't my favorite St Innocent wine. If I drink St Innocent now, I prefer Anden or Seven Springs, both of which are no longer made.

2005 Thomas Pinot Noir, $45. This is a cultish producer who makes tiny amounts of wine, that's basically impossible to find outside of the Wilamette Valley in Oregon. We loved the 2002 and I brought a few of these home with me from Portland a year ago. I will tell you now that everyone on CellarTracker loves this wine, and that John Thomas has a great reputation as a wine maker, so take the following with a grain of salt. This wine was just no good. The alcohol on the nose was overwhelming, the fruit was candied, and the wine was utterly simple. Even those in the group whose palates are far more forgiving than my own regarding new world wines, even they didn't enjoy this wine.


Authentic Seacoast Company said...

We enjoy Oregon Pinot Noir at our Nova Scotia luxury inn DesBarres Manor as we find it pairs nicely with Atlantic Salmon. The Firesteed Pinot Noir from Oregon was among our fall wine picks in 2007. You can read our Firesteed Pinot Noir review and pairing notes here:

Fall Wine Picks from DesBarres Manor Inn

elwood said...

Interesting note on the 2005 Thomas. I also had the 2002 and loved it. We've stashed away a few bottles of the 05 and 06, so I'll be interested to check on my bottles.

I think some of the better Oregon wines are hard to find outside of the Willamette Valley, which is unfortunate. But, if you get a chance, try either Cameron "Clos Electrique" or Evesham Wood "Cuvee J." Both are excellent examples of what Oregon wines can be in the right hands.

Also, just to throw something else in, there is a lot of talk about the 2007 vintage being a loser. It certainly isn't a great vintage, but some of the better producers still made great wines.

Weston said...

Firesteed Pinot Noir not bad for the price works good in dessert because its so Cherry Fruity.

On Pinot Noir from USA, I was at a Sonoma Tasting and all the 2007 Were Fantastic!

Wine Gift Online said...

"2005 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Elizabeth's Reserve"

As usual, this is a wine that, though quite approachable in its youth, will only show its best after years of aging. Archetypal Lizzie flavors abound, a mix of pie-cherry and Indian spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc). As the vines have gotten older, each vintage seems more structured, but the gentle handling ensures a graceful, elegant Pinot Noir.