For years the Willamette Valley, with its sun drenched summer days and cool nights, has been highly touted as a thriving wine region for Pinot Noir, and that didn’t happen by chance. Meandering through the picturesque valleys through northwest Oregon this month confirmed my previous positive impressions of well crafted wines from the Willamette Valley, and uncovered new discoveries as well. Pinot Noir certainly captures the lion’s share of the attention, and there are other varieties that also thrive here that should not be overlooked:
Arborbrook Vineyards 2009 Croft Vineyards Pinot Gris: Captivating aromas of honeysuckle and juicy pear sprinkled with fresh squeezed citrus draw you into the glass and keep your attention fully engaged with generous ripe tree fruit, grapefruit and lemon-lime notes holding firmly from first sip to lasting finish. Bright acidity is a bonus with this 100% stainless steel fermented Pinot Gris; yum!
Arborbrook Vineyards 2008 Vintner’s Select Pinot Noir: The black cherry and spice that fill the nose and the palate richly are nicely offset by tangy acidity and beautiful oak integration (aged 18 months in 100% new French oak). This is a well balanced pinot noir with refined tannins and a sprinkling of delicate floral notes on the pretty, persistent finish.
Vidon Vineyard 2008 Brigita Pinot Noir: This 777 clone displays aromas of juicy cherry and earth notes and the pleasing aromas mesh nicely on the palate with sweet and tart cherries, hint of cassis and earthy notes. Aged 15 months in new French oak, the barrel influence is well integrated. The finish offers attractive cherry vanilla tones and a pleasant hint of toast, too.
Vidon Vineyard 2008 Mirabelle Pinot Noir: A smoky note on the nose adds a nice dimension to the dried cherry aromas and leads to a rich mouthful of black cherry and raspberry compote and a dash of spice adding complexity. There is a silky elegance about this well balanced pinot noir that keeps you wanting more.
Trisaetum 2009 J & A Frey Vineyard Josahn Riesling: Aromas of fresh picked flowers, juicy white peach and lime zest rise from the glass and leave you anxious to bring it to your lips. Brimming with peach, pineapple, citrus and a sprinkling of roasted nuts, this wine is fresh, clean and beautifully balanced; a scintillating expression of Riesling from the Willamette Valley.
Trisaetum 2008 Artist Series #5 Pinot Noir: This pinot noir carries an intriguing subtle smoky note that nicely frames the sweet, dense black cherry and wild cherry fruit at the core. Focused and pure, with earthy mushroom and spice nuances that add complexity to this classy example of Pinot Noir, packaged in a stylishly designed Artist Series label.
Beaux Freres 2007 Upper Terrace Pinot Noir: From Dijon 667 and 777 clones, this sophisticated jewel of a wine expresses earthy, dried cherry notes alongside spice, black licorice and a pretty touch of oak that contributes to its charm. Tannins that are refined and smooth hold firm from entry through the everlasting finish.
Beaux Freres 2008 Beaux Freres Vineyard Pinot Noir: Forest floor and wild cherry waft from the glass and intoxicate your senses. Layers of damp earth, savory truffle and spice infused cherries intertwine artfully and fill the mouth richly and the finish is long and memorable. Pure finesse in a glass!
Lachini Vineyards 2007 Cuvee Giselle Reserve Pinot Noir: This Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir boasts wild berry and minerality in the nose, with generous ripe cherry and berry fruit accented with appealing flinty, wet stone notes on the palate. Balanced and nicely crafted with a finish that lingers memorably.
Although not made from Oregon fruit, I also had the opportunity to taste the Lachini 2006 il Mulinello Bordeaux Blend during my visit to their Newberg Oregon site. This impressive blend, comprised of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot and 8% Cab Franc, is crafted from Klipsun Vineyards fruit in the Red Mountain AVA in Washington. The sweet cassis, blackberry and dark currant flavors at the core are complimented by hints of tobacco, toffee and spice. Nice depth and intensity with very good aging potential.
Bergstrom Wines 2009 Old Stones Chardonnay: A blend of 50% Bergstrom and 50% Shea Vineyards, here is a stunning example of a complex chardonnay that displays both old world and new world characteristics. The minerality showcases Burgundian style chardonnays; and the gorgeous purity of fruit is all about the new world. Aged in 100% French oak, the hint of toast is subtle but refined, and the rich, creamy pear and fresh apple fruit complimented by a sprinkling of nuts and lively acidity intertwine simply beautifully; wow.
Bergstrom Wines 2008 Bergstrom Vineyard Pinot Noir: From the volcanic soils of the Dundee Hills, intoxicating mushroom and truffle notes fill the senses and mesh heavenly with decadent cherry and raspberry at the core surrounded by forest floor notes, spice and florality. Deeply flavored and complex yet lifted and graceful on the palate with subtle oak and refined, velvety tannins.
Ayres Vineyard 2009 Lewis Rogers Lane Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir: A blend 667, 777, 115, 113, and Pommard clones, this complex pinot noir opens with alluring floral and cherry cola on the nose and leads to a dense mouthful of black cherry, raspberry, anise spice, savory mushrooms, a hint of cigar box and the essence of forest floor. Full bodied, juicy and nicely textured from start to finish.
Ayres Vineyard 2009 Pioneer Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir: Scents of sweet cherries and boysenberries lure you into the glass and remain focused with a pleasing earthiness alongside baking spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice weaving throughout. This polished and elegant single estate 667 clone pinot noir boasts lively acidity and a good depth of flavors that keep it beautifully balanced through the long, lingering finish.
White Rose 2007 Dragon’s Bluff Vista Hills Vineyard: Vibrant sour cherry and herbal aromas delight and lead to layers of rhubarb, spice, dusty wild cherry and forest floor notes delectably unraveling on the palate. Beautifully textured and complex with a persistent finish.
White Rose 2007 Dragon’s Bluff White Rose Vineyard: Floral notes grab your attention and remain as a nice accent on the palate with juicy cherry, a dash of black and pink peppercorn and herbs at the core. Gorgeous silky mouth feel, pleasing acidity and perfect oak integration lead to an unforgettable finish.
White Rose Estate 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir: Dazzling cherry and red licorice aromas rise from the glass and steer you gently and seductively into a mouthful of rich concentrated cherry, black raspberry and herbal notes. From the Dundee Hills sub-appellation of Willamette Valley, this pinot noir is round and generous on the palate with great length.
De Ponte Cellars DFB Estate Melon: Crafted 100% from Melon de Bourgogne grape (aka Muscadet), here is a perfect match for freshly shucked oysters and clams. Floral aromas and subtle tropical fruit flecked with fresh lemon and lime peel stay focused and refreshing on the palate. The lively acidity really keeps the wine lifted and vivacious from first to delicious last lingering sip.
De Ponte Cellars 2007 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir: Provocative forest floor notes scream pinot noir, and the powerful burst of flavors on the palate handsomely showcases wild cherry, savory spice, mushroom and earth notes. Firmly structured and full bodied yet ever so elegant and refined through the memorable finish.
De Ponte Cellars 2008 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir: This beautifully hued PN (aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels, the balance in 2 to 3 year French oak barrels) opens with alluring aromas of wild raspberry hints of vanilla bean and expands broadly on mid palate with layers of juicy cherry, minerality, spice and subtle earth notes. Smooth as silk and deftly balanced; a Pinot Noir that should age gracefully for years.
The summer is still lingering in Oregon and this year’s later than normal harvest keeps grape growers and wine producers on their toes; a visit there may help lift their spirits, and will surely lift yours!