I am so incredibly excited! About what, you ask? The 2012 Oregon Pinot Noirs, a vintage the Wine Spectator called, “Ideal conditions produced generous wines; not over the top.” The magazine rated the vintage 92-95 points. I am on a mission to taste 50 or more of the current releases from some of the best wineries in the state. This process will take a couple of months. I will have a full report by the first of July. The following wineries are among my hit list: A to Z Wineworks, Adelsheim, Argyle, Chaehalem, Domaine Serene, Elk Cove, King Estate, Ponzi, Rainstorm, RouteStock and Seven Hills Winery. I have a few others that I will include as well. So what about recent vintages?
Oregon is one of the wine world’s most marginal growing regions. Over the past four decades, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris have been the stars, especially in the Willamette Valley. Even adding to the fun are the growers and vintners themselves. If any of you have ever spent quality time with these folks you will have learned that they can be cagey, cantankerous and collaborative. If you are not into it, they won’t even acknowledge your presence (I am only kidding here). But one thing that is undeniable is that the Oregon wine folks are super passionate about what they do. The result is: they live in a growing region that is reserve for the strongest souls in the wine biz. Potentially, the Willamette Valley can have some really difficult vintages. Hearts are anxious and spirits are strong as each harvest comes into view.
I have tasted some 2010’s and 2011’s and there are so many very good wines. The 2011’s are by and large a bit leaner and reticent of recent years. As I begin to taste the 2012’s I am really liking them. The first few have come across a pleasingly plump, yet nicely balanced. Yes, this promises to be a vintage to remember. Seems those guys at the Wine Spectator are very much on target! My current favorite for all to try is the 2012 Argyle. The wine is so pretty and ready to enjoy. This wine is a precursor of what is to come. Stay tuned, you may even be able to forget about Burgundy for a while… Well, maybe not. For the time being, 2012 Oregon Pinots will be the envy of the marketplace. By the way, May is Oregon Wine Month, wouldn’t this be a great way to celebrate?
Our wine alert today is the Cristom 2008 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. If you haven’t heard, the 2008 vintage in Oregon for Pinot Noir is, as the New York Times stated, superb. As is this wine! You can read more about the wine and winery on our website, or watch our tasting video below. And as a special treat, here are a few questions we were able to ask the very talented Cristom winemaker, Steve Doerner.
Q: Before coming to Cristom, you worked in California wine country. What are some of the main differences you see in winemaking in Oregon vs. California?
A: Well, it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been in California so I’m not sure I’m even qualified to answer this question any longer – a lot has changed in both places in both vineyards and wineries. But if I had to answer in a general way I would say that because of a higher degree of vintage variation in Oregon the winemaking has to be a bit more adaptive. For example, adding acid verses chaptalizing are at opposite sides of a spectrum. You hope you don’t have to do either but in some vintages we do one or the other, where as in California not only is chaptalizing illegal but it would rarely be necessary if it were not.
Q: What do you find most challenging about working with Pinot Noir?
A: Pinot Noir is very transparent – it reflects what is done to it in both the vineyard and the winery more than most varieties. Because of this it doesn’t hide any errors made as well as some varieties can. I try to mitigate this by doing as little as possible in the winery so that what the wine is reflecting is coming mostly from the vineyard and the particular season in which it was grown. In that sense I don’t find it as challenging as it’s reputation. We just try to grow and obtain the best grapes possible and then get out of the way.
Q: What did you think about the 2008 vintage of Pinot Noir in Oregon?
A: It was a great vintage but enough has already been said about it that I think I can defer to others – it really doesn’t need any more hype.
Q: Can you describe the essence of Oregon Pinot Noir in one or two sentences?
A: In general Oregon Pinot Noir seems to have a great balance between fresh fruit, lively acidity and a touch of earthy complexity.
Wine: Acrobat 2009 Pinot Noir
Rating: 4 stars
Review: The Acrobat Pinot Noir is produced and bottled by King Estate winery, one of the more prominent wineries in Oregon. The color is a bright ruby, and clear (as in, you can see right through it). On the nose, I got lots of bright cherry, and I mean bright! Very fresh fruit, a touch of tobacco and sweet spices. The palate is almost zesty in its acidity. Again, this is a bright fruit wine – lots of fresh cherry and raspberry and a really lively acidity as its backbone. This is a light-bodied wine, one that is perfect with food (particularly food with acid) and a great red to drink in warm weather. Totally refreshing.
Read more of my reviews on my Wine.com community page.
Wine: Adelsheim 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Reviewer: Jason Carey
Paired with: Mediterranean Mezze Platter
Rating: 4 stars
Review: This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir for the price , showing just why everybody is snapping at the 2008 Oregon wines.
They are structured, yet zingy with acidity. They are ripe but are not just about fruit. This is the entry level PN from Adelsheim, yet every year this bottle shows an elegance and purity that is hard to beat.
Adelsheim is known for its wines more on the lithe spectrum, along with Eyrie.
This particular wine starts with a nose has an interesting darker fruit component than normal for this cuvee, yet, as time moves on in the glass, it develops some earthy and cherry notes, along with a tiny bit of smoky pleasant oak, which does not intrude. There also is an interesting wee bit of chocolate and California Bay Leaf. This wine is stupendous on the nose.. really great. Upon entry to the palate, the wine has a powerful sour and sweet cherry sensation , along with a very smooth and elegant feel. It has a good whack of acidity (the sour cherry) and the spice coming from the tiny oak. There is something very alluring about this wine, and shows how in this vintage this wine which is usually a good value is extra special..
This wine will develop over at leat 5-8 years into something really great, with many complex and alluring secondary characteristics, but is hard to resist now.. a great wine for mediterranean fare, or duck. I have to agree with Wine and Spirits on this one. A warning however to those who like a bigger style, this is not that.
Bravo Adelsheim, sweet fruit along with firm acidity.
This is what makes Oregon Pinot done right a really wonderful thing.
Read more of my reviews on my Wine.com community page
I was on BART when I read this great wine article in the New York Times http://nyti.ms/hJNHAO. One of the wines, Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2008, was available in our Berkeley warehouse, so I bought two bottles. I brought one of them to a get-together last night. There were four of us at the gathering, though only three drinking wine. So we poured three big glasses of this Pinot, which we paired with excellent pizzas … BBQ chicken and Vegetarian on whole wheat crust.
I liked it … it’s a good Pinot, but not a phenomenal Pinot to me. To be fair, the article really built up the vintage and called it superb. Again, they called the year of 2008 superb, not necessarily the wine. In fact, the judges described the Adelsheim as “lively and structured,” which it is. But beware of the alcohol content – my partner and I woke up with a slight headache from our one big glass each.
When drinking the second bottle, I’ll be careful to share it between four instead of three and also try pairing it with something a bit more sweet and savory (like roasted pork with a fruit sauce) to bring out more of the sweet notes.