Tag Archives: pinot noir

Q&A with Cristom winemaker, Steve Doerner

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.

Staff Pick: Acrobat Pinot Noir 2009

Wine: Acrobat 2009 Pinot Noir
Reviewer: Gwendolyn
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.

Adelsheim 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

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 

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2008

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.

 

When the “big” wine guy helps the “little” wine guy

Last Friday our company outing took us to two wineries for tours and tastings, one of which was DeLoach Vineyards. If you've ever visited DeLoach, nestled in the lovely Russian River Valley of Sonoma, you'll know how impressive it is. As well it should be. The winery is owned by Boisset, one of the largest French wine companies – they own and import a number of wines from France and run a few properties in California, too. The family's line up ranges from easy-drinking quaffable wine to collectible Burgundies. They have positioned themselves at the forefront of the eco movement in wines, packaging a few of their wines in PET bottles and converting DeLoach to organic and then biodynamic farming.

DeLoach is pretty cool in that it has an organic farm, with herbs and vegetables galore, as well as chickens laying fresh eggs and sheep roaming about. It's what you'd call self-sustainable.

Walking through the vineyards with Lisa Heisinger (yeah, she knows her stuff), the general manager, we heard all about their biodynamic practices, as well their efforts to recycle (water & grape pumace). In the barrel room they described the artisan practices used in making Pinot Noir – manual punchdowns, natural yeasts, minimal oak, etc. While I love all of these efforts, it's still wine made from a big company. With a lot of money, who can afford to implement these practices. That said, they are a big company that helps the little guy. We were joined by one of the "little" guys that day.

His name is Ulysses Van der Kamp and he owns Van der Kamp vineyard, which is located in Sonoma Mountain and has been around for over 100 years. You immediately want to talk to Ulysses due to his rugged good looks and piercing blue eyes. He's a farmer. He grows grapes. Pinot Noir grapes, to be specific. That's pretty much it. This man lives and breathes Pinot Noir. His passion is contagious and draws you in. He's the kind of guy that does not take vacation because the grapes don't take vacation. He personally visits each vine at least 12 times a year, doing the pruning himself, focusing on the entire life of the vine. I actually asked him if he gave the vines proper names! (he doesn't)

Ulysses (I choose to call him by his first name because I love it) loves DeLoach and DeLoach loves him. They've been working together for a few years and in 2006, DeLoach released the first Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir, part of their Vineyard Designate series. As a grower, dedicated to organic farming and sustainable living, I think Ulysses wants to sell to a winery that feels the same way about the vines. Though he has no say in what happens after DeLoach takes the grapes, he is clearly pleased with the outcome in the bottle – as are we. This wine was fantastic. Bright fruits, lots of dried herbs on the nose. And the palate, while bright with acidity and red fruits, is also coating with its texture, savory character and super lingering finish. A great food Pinot and we loved it with the myriad of foods we had on our plates for lunch.

While it is still a wine run by a big wine family, who makes everything from artisan Pinot Noir to easy-drinking value bottles, they are a big company that thinks like a small one and they represent what you want a "big" company to do – use their money to give back to the earth (organic, recycling, etc) and utilize the artisan growers of the region, like the very lovely Ulysses. Hats off to DeLoach for all that they do up there – making fantastic wine, maintaning a beautful place to visit and most importantly, doing what they can to better the earth they use and the people around it. 

Stay tuned for the Van der Kamp Pinot Noir to show up in our selection. And we hope to head down to Sonoma to talk further with DeLoach and Ulysses.