Sips of Recently Tasted Oregon Wines
Ayoub Vineyard & Winery, Dundee, OR
Owner Mo Ayoub produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from estate fruit and sourced grapes. The Ayoub
Vineyard consists of 4 acres of Pinot Noir, clones 667, 777, 114, 115 and Pommard 4, planted in Jory soils in
the Dundee Hills in 2001. The first release from the Ayoub Vineyard was 2004, and beginning in 2009,
additional fruit was sourced to include Chardonnay and other Pinot Noirs in the lineup. A small winery was
constructed on the Estate property in 2010 and completed in 2011. In recent years, the wines have been
crafted with the assistance of veteran winemaker Robert Brittan. Production is less than 2,000 cases annually. I
had seen glowing reviews in the wine press recently and acquired these bottles to review. Visit
www.ayoubwines.com. In addition to the wines reviewed here, Pinot Noir from Overlook Vineyard, Brittan
Vineyard and a single-barrel reserve, Latifeh, were offered. The wines are crafted in a very bold, sappy style in
this vintage and are still tightly wound.
2014 Ayoub Memoirs Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $38. A blend of several select vineyards.
Photo on front label was taken with winery owner Mo Ayoub, his father and siblings in 1964 on the beach in
Beirut, Lebanon. Memoirs is a tribute to fond recollections of Mo Ayoub’s family.
Moderate reddish purple color
in the glass. Nice harmonious blend of fruit and oak on the nose, with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry,
mocha and vanilla. Good heft in a mid weight plus styled wine, with flavors of blueberry, black cherry and black
raspberry framed by modest dusty tannins. Juicy, with a pleasing satin texture and a satisfying finish of good
length. Still very appealing when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle the following day.
2014 Ayoub ??? Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 280 cases, $55. Fruit
sources intentionally concealed but come from three highly-regarded vineyards in the Dundee Hills.
light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark chocolate coated black cherry, toast and underbrush.
The core of sweet boysenberry and blueberry-pomegranate fruit flavors is quite generous, flooding the mouth
with fruit goodness. The ripe fruit veers to compote and is backed by vigorous tannins. There is plenty to like in
this wine, but it needs more time in bottle to fully integrate the tannins and shed some oak overlay. Still a bit
tight when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Ayoub Estate Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.50, 440 cases, $60.
light reddish purple color in the glass. This wine is clearly an
outstanding example of this vintage. Intoxicating aromas of
black cherry, spice box, dark red rose petal and burnt tobacco.
Revealing harmony with the first sip, this beauty is both elegant
and silky on the palate, offering a mid weight array of black
berry fruits supported by feathery tannins. Very giving at this
early age. Even more striking the following day, when tasted from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, with an exuberant nose and
Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR
In the final issue of 2016, I raved about the 2014 Cristom single vineyard Pinot Noirs and two of them were
Oregon All-Americans. Here are additional wines from the 2014 vintage. I try to keep my reviews limited to
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but couldn’t curb my inquisitiveness for the other Cristom varietals. Visit
2014 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $30. Named after
the second tallest peak in Oregon that was named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, a
personal hero of both Cristom founder Paul Gerrie and winemaker Steve Doerner. Made from a
blend of grapes from each of the estate vineyards along with fruit sourced from neighboring
vineyards. Stylistically consistent. Whole cluster fermentations with native yeast followed by 12
months aging in French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass.
Virtuous aromas of cherry, spice, rose petal and burnt tobacco. Light to mid weight in style, with bright flavors
of red cherry, cranberry and red currant. Simple and straightforward in the characteristic Cristom style, with
good attack, mouth presence, notable but silky tannins, and good intensity on the juicy finish. The most
approachable Pinot Noir in the Cristom stable and an exceptional value.
2014 Cristom Estate Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $50. A new bottling
beginning in 2013 that represents the winemaker’s blend from the four single vineyard estate Pinot Noir sites.
Whole cluster fermented with native yeast and extended aging in French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, red gumdrop, wilted rose and mulch lead off. Both savory
and fruity, with a mid weight plus core of cherry, cranberry, spice, and herbal flavors. The fruit is less ripe in this
bottling, offering a red spectrum, and is slightly tart. The tannins are well balanced, and the wine finishes with
an acidic tang.
2014 Cristom Estate Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Syrah
14.5% alc., 251 cases, $50. Sourced from
1.25 acres of estate Syrah, planted in 2001 by grafting over Chardonnay. The vineyard is the warmest on the
property. Four Syrah clones are picked separately and blended together. First bottled in 2003 when it was the
first estate grown and bottled Syrah in the Willamette Valley. A rarity, since only about 32 acres of Syrah are
planted in the Willamette Valley.
Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry compote, leather
and tobacco lead to a middleweight style wine that drinks like a Pinot Noir. Flavors of blueberry and blackberry
are strikingly glorious and nicely spiced with a peppery note. Balanced fine tannins make for easy
approachability and my only nit is a hint of alcoholic warmth on the finish. A wine like this makes you think that
Oregon should be doing more with Syrah crafted in a cool climate style.
2015 Cristom Vineyards Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
14.0% alc., $20. Grapes
planted in 1993, and this 5-acre vineyard is the only Cristom vineyard confined to sedimentary soils.
Fermented in stainless steel tanks with no oak barrel exposure. The wine spends several months on
Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Nicely appointed aromas of citrus, spiced
pear, honey, vanilla and flint. Slightly viscous on the palate, with appealing flavors of pear, apple,
lime and honeydew melon. Bright, clean and very Alsatian in character. I never get particularly
excited about Pinot Gris, but this one piqued my interest.
2015 Cristom Vineyards Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Viognier
14.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.58, RS 2.4 g/L,
674 cases, $30 1.25 acres planted on the estate in 1993 by
Paul Gerrie, based on the success Cristom’s winemaker,
Steve Doerner, had in California at Calera with this varietal.
This 1993 planting was a pioneering first for the Willamette
Valley as was the first estate release in 1996. The original
vines are planted at high density of 2,311 vines per acre in
Columbia River basalt soils. Between 2003 and 2010, Cristom planted
and grafted just over 2.5 acres of young Viognier vines making the total
block 3.744 acres. Fermented in a combination of neutral French oak
barrels and stainless steel drums with 2/3 of the barrels fermented with
native yeasts. partial malolactic fermentation, aged on its lees in barrel
after partial malolactic fermentation for 9 months. Minimal effective additions of sulfur. Lightly fined and filtered.
Very light platinum color in the glass. Inviting aromas of jasmine and other white flowers, pear, peach and
tropical fruits. Delicious flavors of pear, apricot and pastry cream, with a hint of tropical fruit and nuts. Slightly
creamy in the mouth, with impeccable balance, finishing with a lingering and refreshing presence. One of the
New World’s best examples of Viognier.
Phelps Creek Vineyards, Hood River, OR
In 2014, bud break came very early and the season progressed rapidly due to a generous span of moderate
heat. Heavy fruit set led to extra cluster thinning. Harvest was the earliest in the winery’s 24 years of growing
vines. The wines are crafted by notable Burgundian, Alexandrine Roy, of Domaine Marc Roy, who travels to
Oregon periodically to direct the vinification of Phelps Creek wines. Visit www.phelpscreekvineyards.com.
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Corduroy” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir Blanc
13.7% alc., 53 cases, $59. Dijon 115
from the Homestead Block in the Estate vineyard, as the first and highest acid pick of the season. Harvest Brix
23.3º. Fermented in oak barrel, 50% new, on the lees with battonage as needed.
Very light white pear color in
the glass. Aromas of cut apple, pear, melon and warm waffle are fresh and appealing. Sleek on the palate with
good verve, offering flavors of pear, melon, lychee, nutty oak, lees, and even a bit of lemon-lime that shows up
on the finish. Easy to like, with a good cut of acidity on the finish and some length of appeal as well. The flavor
profile is similar to Pinot Noir’s white brethren, Pinot Gris. One of the best examples of Pinot Noir Blanc from
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 892 cases, $34. Estate grown
Pommard, 115 and 777 clones. Barrel aged in French oak, 15% new.
Moderately light reddish
purple color in the glass. This is an embracing wine, offering aromas of black cherry, raspberry,
clove and burnt tobacco. Medium bodied, with noticeable depth of black cherry essence making an
impression on the mid palate and finish. Lifted and lively, with a silky texture and supportive toasty
oak, this refreshing wine offers immediate gratification but has enough backbone to please for
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Beehive” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 117 cases, $38.
Estate grown. Sourced from Dijon 777 block that was originally home to abandoned
beekeeper boxes before vines were planted. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 20%
new, 80% second-use.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Intriguing aromas of
black cherry, cola, spice and forest floor hold up majestically over considerable time in the
glass. Flat-out delicious and very showy, with a mid weight plus core of black cherry, spice,
dark chocolate and cedar flavors. Both plush and smooth on the palate with balanced
tannins, skillful oak management, and an incredibly glorious cherry finish. Even better when
tasted several hours later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Enjoy this one for for its exuberant
cherry fruit now.
2014 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Cuvée Alexandrine” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 416 cases, $54. Winemaker Alexandrine
Roy selected the finest 15 barrels of wines made from estate
fruit in 2014 for this wine. Harvest Brix 23.8º. Clones are
Pommard, 115 and 777. Native yeast fermentation. Aged in
French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light reddish purple
color in the glass. The nose is remarkably complex, offering
scents of dark red and black cherry and berry, rose petal, aged leather,
and turned earth. A noticeable contrast to the “Beehive” bottling, with
more structure, more savory and earthy facets, less flashy fruit, and
slightly more oak contribution at this young age. A very sophisticated
wine that is clearly built to age. The mid weight flavors of black raspberry
and blackberry are set off by notes of spice and toast and emerge slowly
in the glass over time. The finish is uncommonly generous as all great wines are. When tasted several hours
later, the wine was more giving, indicating that it should be decanted if drunk now, but will benefit from more
time in the cellar. Still evolving when tasted from an opened bottle two days later. Enjoy this one for its
complexity and longevity.
Winter’s Hill Vineyard, Dayton, OR
The Winter’s Hill Vineyard was planted by the Gladhart family on a 150-acre farm beginning in 1990. The initial
12 acres of Pinot Noir was own-rooted. In 1997, the family owners added a second phase of Pinot Noir planted
on phylloxera resistant rootstocks. The vineyard now consists of 21 acres of Pinot Noir, clones 114, 115,
Pommard and Wädenswil, and is LIVE and Salmon Safe certified (since 1999). Plantings of Pinot Gris and
Pinot Blanc bring the total acreage to 35 acres. The vineyard is bordered to the East by Domaine Serene, to
the South by Stoller Estate, and to the North by Vista Hills. A winery was completed on the estate in time for the
2009 vintage. Delphine Gladhart has been the winemaker since 2004. All wines are estate grown. Visit
2015 Winter’s Hill Estate Watershed Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 1,500 cases, $25.
Stemmed grapes were allowed to cold soak for 3 days before yeast inoculation. Aged 8 months in oak barrels.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Discreetly concentrated, with cherry fruit at the core of the wine and
a thread of leafy herbs in the background. There is compost and barnyard aromas upon opening with some
fruit expression arriving later. The tannins are supportive, the acidity is brisk, and the herb infused cherry
essence shows up on the finish with good intent.
2014 Winter’s Hill Estate Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 143 cases, $39.
Stemmed grapes underwent a 3-day cold soak before yeast inoculation. The wine was aged 16
months in oak barrels.
Light cherry red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, cranberry, strawberry
and green herbs lead to a light to mid weight styled wine with flavors that echo the aromas. There
is more power than the color would suggest, and the polished texture makes for easy drinking.
Very forward, with deft oak management, and well-proportioned tannins. Quite typical of the
Dundee Hills in character.
2014 Winter’s Hill Estate Block 1 Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., 44 cases, $49. This bottling
is part of the Single Block Series began in 2006. Block 1 is part of the original planting in 1990 and consists of
own-rooted Pommard clone. It is at a lower elevation and easterly exposed so it is a cooler block that is usually
the last block of Pinot Noir harvested.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherry,
cranberry and turned soil. A solid, but somewhat lean wine with pleasurable cherry and blueberry flavors
infused with a savory thread of herbs. Nicely composed with good harmony and noticeable acidic verve.
Winter’s Hill has been sending me wines to review for several years.I retrieved two older wines from my cellar
to see how they have progressed with aging.
2006 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc. Aged 11 months in French oak
Great color of moderate reddish purple. Aged nose, offering scents of must, marzipan, cigar, decayed
stump, seasoned oak and medicinal awareness. Modest in weight, with flavors of black cherry, root beer and
white pepper. The fruit still has good freshness and intensity. Nicely balanced, with good length on the fruit-driven
finish. The tannins are noticeable yet find their place among the ripe fruit flavors that hold on to a finish
that exposes a slight hint of alcoholic warmth. Drink up.
2005 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Reserve Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 146 cases. The best six
barrels out of forty in the 2005 vintage.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cigar, old
wood and leather vest lead off. More fruit expression on the palate, offering delicious mid weight flavors of black cherry fruit accented with brown spice and nutty oak. Surprisingly alert, lively and highly pleasurable, with modest tannins
still in action. A terrific aged Pinot Noir that will please all pinotphiles. Drink now to 2020.
2015 Broadley Vineyards Zenith Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $30. One
of the first 2014 Oregon Pinot Noirs I have reviewed. 30% whole cluster, aged one year in onceused
French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of
blackest cherry, dark rose petal, woodshed and nice barnyard. Impressive attack of black cherry
fruit that sustains through the mid palate and finishes with a flourish. A little earthy and meaty with
uplifting acidity. Structured, but not noticeably tannic. Still young, but like many ingenues, just
starting to hint at predictable future success.
2014 Dominio IV Rain on Leaves Stermer Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Oregon Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.55, 148 cases, $36. Released November 2016. Vineyard is surrounded by old
growth Douglas Fir trees. Willakenzie silty clay loam soil. Harvest Brix 24.4º. Clones 777,
Pommard and Wädenswil.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but very
pleasing aromas of black cherry, spice and brioche. Very polished on the palate, in a mid weight
plus style, offering delicious flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, plum and pomegranate.
The wine has a strong backbone, yet the tannins seem to be fruit based and not bitter. The finish is notable
for its generosity and glorious fruit persistence. This is quite an indulgent charmer and a great value