Small Sips of Oregon Pinot
Below are a mix of Oregon Pinot Noirs that are either still in the marketplace (2006 vintage), or recently
released (2007 and 2008 vintage). Note the generally low alcohols for easy drinking. There are many solid
and a few spectacular wines.
2006 Brandborg Benchlands Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $18, screw cap. From vineyards on the alluvial benches above
the Umpqua River.
Light garnet in color in the glass. Shy nose
featuring subtle aromas of cherries, oak spice, popsicle stick and
herbs. Tasty cherry and strawberry fruit flavors with a hint of red
licorice. On the lighter side with supple tannins and a dry finish. A
very good daily drinker. Decent (+).
2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
The aromas draw you in with an enticing perfume of red
strawberries and cherries, spice, red hots and the slightest hint of oak.
Impressive richness for a 2007 vintage Oregon Pinot Noir but still
discreetly concentrated. Highly nuanced flavor profile with the focus on
red cherry and berry fruit accented by citrus, herbal, mineral and earth
notes. The fruit is still a bit reticent showing increasing leg with time in the glass.
Soft in the mouth with dusty tannins, a lively spark of acidity and a dry finish.
Impeccable balance and impressive vibrancy. This is a dependable wine that is
consistently fine with a track record of age ability, regardless of the vagaries of
2007 Evening Land Vineyards Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.38% alc., $40. The historic Seven Springs
Vineyard was originally planted in 1984 in the Eola Hills with additions from 1993
to 1995, now spanning 65 acres. Clones are 114, 115, 777, Pommard and
Wadenswil. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels.
This is a strange wine whose
medium-weighted cherry and berry fruit is dominated by smoke and old wood on
the nose and by an unpleasant oily flavor on the palate. Tasted three times over
the past 6 months and discussed with the winemaker, Isabelle Meunier, who
recommended giving the wine more time. Unsatisfactory.
2007 Evesham Wood Le Puits Sec Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $30. From organic grapes grown on
non-irrigated vineyards. Unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Restrained nose with faint red fruits, oak and a floral note. Light
and elegant on the palate featuring spiced raspberries and cranberries
and a touch of green herbs. Bright acidity creates a refreshing finish.
Understated and feminine, with enough charm to satisfy. Very good.
2008 Evesham Wood Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Demurely scented nose of strawberries, baking
spice and a hint of cedar showing more intensity with time in the
glass. Tasty core of strawberry, cranberry and cherry fruit in the
redder spectrum. Light in weight and elegantly crafted. A highly
approachable back porch wine. Decent (+).
2008 H Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $20, screw cap.
Second label for Hamacher.
Very shy nose exhibiting aromas of cherries and
new sawed wood. Slightly confected core of cherries and cranberries with hi-tone
acidity and a noticeable oak feature. Too tart for my taste, but should work fine at
the dinner table. Decent.
2006 Hamacher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $40.
cherry aromas with a sidecar of oak . Pleasing cherry, berry and plum core that
is medium-weighted and supported by healthy tannins. Very smoothly textured
and stylistically very appealing, but just doesn’t deliver an impact. Decent (+).
iOTA Cellars is a new name on the Oregon Pinot Noir scene. The name, iOTA, refers to small quantity,
reflecting the winery’s commitment to small yields, small lots, and small case production. In 1999, Don and
Johanna Sandberg moved to Oregon from Minnesota, purchased land in 2000, and began a commercial
winery in 2006. The pair have been making wine on a non commercial basis since 2002, initially from
purchased grapes and then from their own beginning in 2004. The 2007 wine is the second commercial
vintage. Like a number of Oregon winemakers, Johanna gained her basic winemaking knowledge at the NW
Viticulture Center in Salem, Oregon along with well-known winemakers Tina Hammond (Privé) and Laura
Volkman (Laura Volkman Wines). She interned with the Casteel family at Bethel Heights and Bryce Bagnall
when he was the winemaker at Witness Tree. The estate Pelos Sandberg Vineyard (PSV) consists of 11.5
acres in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA planted to Dijon 667 and 777, Pommard and Wädenswil clones. The vines
are farmed sustainably and non-irrigated. Grapes are sold to Rex Hill, Bergström Winery and EIEIO &
Company. The website is www.iotacellars.com.
2007 iOTA Cellars Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 345 cases, $42. Aged 10 months in 50% new
third year air-dried French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Aromas of black raspberries, cherries and strawberries
with overtones of herbs and smoky oak. Medium-weighted core of darker stone
fruits flanked by an oaky, herbal tone that persists on the long finish. Tasted
Most winemakers dream of having their own eponymous label at some time in their career. Kelley Fox has
been crafting wines in Oregon for ten years including terms at Hamacher, The Eyrie Vineyards and Torii Mor.
Since 2005, she has been co-winemaker with Scott Wright at Scott Paul Wines, where she emulates the style
of elegant Pinot Noir that her mentor at The Eyrie Vineyards, David Lett, taught her. As she notes on her
website, www.kelleyfoxwines.com, “What I love most about Pinot is its transparency. I prefer authenticity and
even grit to armchair idealism. Pinot does this. There is something so real about it, for the better or the
worse.” With the 2007 vintage, along with her father, Gerson Stearns, she has launched Kelley Fox Wines.
Two vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Momtazi Vineyard and Maresh Vineyard have already created a
buzz among pinot aficionados. The tiny production will have a small window of availability. Contact Michael
Alberty at www.StorytellerWine.com in Portland, Oregon (503-206-7029, 800-753-2531).
2007 Kelley Fox Wines Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13% alc., 69 cases, $49, screw cap. Sourced from
self-rooted Wädenswil vines that are over 30 years old. Aged in 30% new
French oak barrels.
Light garnet color in glass. Showy nose of
strawberries and cherries with a hint of brown spice. Delicately
composed, yet delivers plenty of pleasure. Delicate fruit core of
strawberries and red cherries accented by spice, clove and graham, gossamer
tannins, bright acidity, finishing with impressive aromatic persistence. A well perfumed
Dundee Hills debutante that grabs your attention.
2007 Kelley Fox Wines Momtazi Vineyard McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13% alc., 133 cases, $39, screw cap. Sourced from a 10-year-old
block of Dijon 113 and 115 clones. Biodynamically-farmed vineyard.
color in glass. Mineral-infused aromas of cherries with a whiff of iron, wet stone
and funk. Discreetly composed core of earth-dusted dark red fruits, especially
bright, juicy cherries. Moderate tannins with balancing acidity. Very good and
2007 Le Cadeau Vineyard Rocheux Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
$47. Sourced from the west side of the Le Cadeau Vineyard and vinified by the
Chehalem winemaking team including Henry Peterson-Nedry.
raspberries and plum, sage and herbs from Provence, and a hint of green
veggies. Pleasing core of black cherries and plums with hints of cola, brier patch
and green beans. Moderately firm in structure with noticeable tannins and a
smooth mouth feel. Decent.
2007 Patricia Green Cellars Ribbon Ridge Estate Old Vine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $39. From a 26-acre vineyard with non-irrigated vines
dating back to 1984. Mix of clones.
Moderately deep garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of dark stone fruits, oak, tobacco and a little barnyard. Oak-kissed black
fruits on the palate with an herbal underpinning. Nicely balanced with soft
tannins and a good acid cut on the finish. Decent, but not exciting.
2007 ROCO Private Stash Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 300 cases, $70. Fifth vintage from the Wits’ End Vineyard farmed by
the Solle’s family.
Reticent scents of black cherries, oatmeal and oak. Flavors
veer to the redder fruit spectrum with soft tannins and some citrus peel evident on
the persistent finish. Copious pinotypicity. Not up to the last two vintages but
delivers plenty of pleasure. Very good.
2007 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $38. A blend that expresses the overall vineyard and contains every
clone grown at Shea Vineyard (several Dijon clones, Pommard and Wädenswil).
Estate grown, produced and bottled.
Restrained aromas of cherries, strawberries
and a hint of toasty oak. Moderately fat in the mouth featuring earth-dusted dark
stone fruits and berries with supple tannins and a lively acid tang on the oaktinged
2007 Shea Wine Cellars East Hill Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $55. From five different blocks, 60% Dijon
clones and 40% Wädenswil clone. Aged 10 months in 43% new
Deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Flashy aromas of
stone fruits and berries, plum sauce and spice. The fruit-infused nose
really gets your attention. Rich, full, sweet and beautifully complex
array of stone fruits and berries on the palate with an appealing underlying
earthiness. Real density here and one of the boldest Oregon Pinot Noirs
tasted from the 2007 vintage. This wine offers a clear and unmistakable sense
of Yamhill-Carlton terroir.
2007 St. Innocent Villages Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $22.
Very enticing nose of cherry and berry fruits, nicely
spiced with a wooded forest note as well. On the palate the melange
of strawberries, raspberries and cranberries is light in weight but tasty
augmented by a tinge of oak, herbs and spice. An ethereal wine with
a velvety texture and a dry, refreshing finish. Always a dependable
and excellent value wine from St. Innocent. Decent (+)
2006 The Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Original Vines Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $55. Sourced from estate vines planted between 1967 and 1973.
Light ruby color in the glass. Aromas of fresh cherries, toast and herbs.
Moderately light and elegant with appealing flavors of cherries and strawberries
with an accent of savory herbs. Silky in texture with a good grip of acidity and
mild tannins. An austere style that will appeal to lovers of delicate Pinot Noir.
Very good (-).