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Recent Sips of Oregon Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

2012 Beckham Estate Vineyard Dow’s Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 70 cases, $45-$50. September or October 2014 release. Since 1857, more than 20 sons in the Beckham family have carried the name Dow. The wine honors Andrew Beckham’s father, grandfather and son.From the Beckham Estate Vineyard, a dry-farmed site with rocky volcanic soils at 412 to 568 feet elevation. Clones are 777 and Pommard. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, raspberry and earthy flora with a hint of peppery spice. The rich fruit of the 2012 vintage is on full display buffered by well-integrated tannins. A mix of ripe cherry and berry flavors is accented with notes of dark chocolate, a hint of confection, and an iron-driven minerality. The finish is robust and lingering. Score: 92

Beckham Estate Amphora Raised Wines

I wrote recently about the experimental work Andrew Beckham is doing using upwards of thirty-five different terra cotta vessels of varying size and shape from egg to round, as well as variable firing of the pottery to vinify and age wines. It is a natural extension of his expertise as a potter and his winemaking skills. The vinification of wine in amphorae dates back to ancient times, but has engaged the curiosity of both Old and New World vintners over the last two decades.

It is well known that the traditional oak barrel imparts tastes and tannins to wine. Amphorae are thought to be rather inert, but wines raised in these vessels are definitely different and may exhibit more “minerality” among other qualities. Considerable trial and error looms ahead for those interested in this new approach to discover whether this is a novelty or has real benefits.

When I visited Beckham Estate most recently and tasted with Annedria Beckham, I briefly sampled the 2013 AD Beckham Pinot Noir and the 2013 AD Beckham Pinot Gris. The Pinot Noir was a barrel sample made with purchased fruit (1 barrel total production). Clones 777 and 115 were cold soaked and fermented in an amphora for 21 days, then pressed to neutral oak. The wine will be bottled in September unfined and unfiltered. The Pinot Gris, also 1 barrel, spent 30 days in an amphora on the stems and then aged in second fill acacia barrel. The wines are definitely unique.

The Pinot Noir was highly aromatic with bright scents of fresh, juicy cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. With swirling there was a hint of clay or terra cotta. On the palate, the wine displayed light to mid weight cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors backed by fine grain tannins and zippy acidity. There was a slight earthy, gamey undertone and a slightly tart finish.

The Pinot Gris was light pink in color with aromas of cherry and strawberry and baking spices. The palate offered more white stone fruits, floral notes, and an iron minerality. The finish was tart with electric acidity.

The AD Beckham amphorae wines will be offered first to the winery!s Wine Club members.

2012 Pali Wine Co. Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 110 cases, $56. Wädenswil clone. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Highly perfumed, featuring bright aromas of violets, black raspberries, ollaliberries and oak-driven notes of tobacco and vanillin. The full-flavored dark red and black fruits are long and expansive, and wrapped in gritty, husky tannins and bright acidity. The wine is a bit of a puzzle that has not been put together, but the pedigree of the fruit and the huge, racy finish indicate superb potential with further cellaring. Score: 92

2012 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.60, 7,050 cases, $25, screwcap. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Plenty of oak (wood spice and toast) is evident in this Bing cherry-themed wine. Pleasant and forward drinking, with a seductively soft mouthfeel, lively acidity, and some finishing intensity and length. Score: 88

2011 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.54, 1,300 cases, $45. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 114, 115, 667 and 777 planted on the 373-acre estate. Barrel aged in French oak for 10 months. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Forward aromas of cherry, strawberry, herbs and baking spice. The flavorful mid weight core of cherry, raspberry and strawberry is supported by modest tannins and generous oak treatment. The finish stands out for its handsome display of lasting cherry and raspberry fruit aromas. This wine should improve over time. Score: 90

2012 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Willamette Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.18, TA 0.79, 1,218 cases, $35. Grapes are from the oldest plantings in the estate vineyard. Aged up to 10 months. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A little reduction upon opening resolves over time revealing aromas of lemon zest, pear and peach cobbler. Rather reserved and graceful, but with nuanced flavors of lemon, pear, white peach and almond. Smooth in the mouth with a good cut of underlying lemony acidity. Score: 91

2012 TREOS Estate Founder’s Choice Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 195 cases, $48. Clones 667 and 777. Yields 0.8 tons per acre. Intention to create the richest, boldest expression of Pinot Noir that can make. Aged in Sirugue French oak barrels. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The winemaker has achieved his objective for this is a BIG, weighty, lush wine playing in the realm of Syrah. The aromatics are muted with demure scents of raw beef, dark berry, vanilla and spearmint. Soft and velvety on the palate, the sap is intense, brooding and earthy with flavors of purple and black berries, spice and vanilla. The palate is much more interesting than the nose at this stage. There is plenty of backbone to back up the fruit. The alcohol is well hidden but still peaks out a skosh on the finish. Score: 88

2012 TREOS Estate Elegant Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

15.0% alc., 170 cases, $48. Yields 0.75 tons per acre. Five Dijon clones. Aged in Sirugue French oak barrels. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of red cherry, cherry tart and cutting board. Plenty of spring in its step, this wine trends toward the darker red fruit spectrum. A big wine that is well-structured with good integration of oak and alcohol. Finishes lively and upbeat with generous fruit. Score: 89

2013 Jezebel Oregon Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 2,300 cases, $18, screwcap. Second label of Willful Wine Co.. Sourced from several vineyards in the Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley. Fruit was cropped to one and a half to three tons per acre and fermented in small lots with a variety of yeasts. · Light reddish purple hue in the glass. Aromas and flavors of red and blue berries with hints of spice, tar and oak. Light and elegant, with modest tannins, and bright, citrus-infused berries on the tangy finish. A solid, easy drinker for everyday enjoyment. Score: 87

2012 Willful Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 411 cases, $35. From a 7- acre densely planted estate vineyard that includes 12 different clones of Pinot Noir. A blend of Pommard and Dijon clones. Native yeast fermentation. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A suave, mid weight wine with pleasurable aromas and flavors of black cherry, red berry, and plum fruits, and complimentary oak seasoning. Easy to like, with lively acidity, mildly firm tannins and some finishing length. Score: 89

2012 Willful Winemaker’s Cuvèe Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 200 cases, $45. A blend of eight select barrels. 100% Pommard clone with 95% from the estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills and 5% from Northridge Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. Native yeast fermentation. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose satisfies with bright aromas of berry pie filling, rose petals and toasty oak. Very tasty on the structured palate featuring an array of dark red, pomegranate, and purple berry flavors enhanced with subtle oak. Very harmonious and smoothly textured with a racy finish of good intensity. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when the finish was filled with plenty of sweet cherry goodness. Score: 91

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