20 at 10 from 12
Older vintages of domestic Pinot Noir are rarely reviewed in the wine literature, yet copious words
have been written about old bottlings of red Burgundy. It has been traditionally thought and taught that
red Burgundy ages extremely well, but I believe the age-ability of domestic Pinot Noir has been
Most domestic Pinot Noir is ready to drink upon release since they are not created with aging in mind.
The winemaking techniques used for these wines favor fruitiness and freshness, not extraction of the
tannins needed for a wine to age well. Tannins are natural preservatives that give wine the potential
for long life.
Historically, domestic Pinot Noir may have lacked the quality to stand up to aging. Only quality wines
evolve into something more interesting. Wines that are of poor quality and lack balance will not be
expected to improve simply by cellaring them. A wine cellar is not a wine hospital. Poorly balanced
Pinot Noir wines may show exaggeration of elements that were not harmonious upon release, such
as oak and alcohol as the fruit fades, and faults in wine may exaggerate over time.
Estimating how long a wine will live is a common practice, but it is impossible to tell exactly how a
wine will smell and taste at different intervals along the way. Noted winemaker Zelma Long has noted,
“The truth of wine aging is that it is unknown, unstudied, poorly understood, and poorly predicted.
There are many disappointments and surprises along the way and this is the enticing attraction of
opening a well-stored, old bottle of domestic Pinot Noir.
After my retrospective tasting of aged California Pinot Noirs reported in 2017 at
www.princeofpinot.com/article/1916, I found more disappointments than epiphanies, with most
Pinot Noir wines beyond ten years of age were at or near the precipice. I recommended that
pinotphiles avoid being encumbered by worrisome thoughts about how long to cellar a domestic Pinot
Noir. Just pop the cork when you feel like drinking a wine. It is a gospel truth that it is better to drink a
domestic Pinot Noir too early than too late. Remember the old adage of Frank Sinatra, “Better to revel
in the joy of youthfulness than the decrepitude of old age.”
This retrospective tasting of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs encompasses 18 wines from the 2012
vintage at 10 years of age. All wines were cellared perfectly in my commercial wine locker since
release with very little or no movement. I have included scores from previous reviews and some
comments I made several years ago when reviewed. I did not look at the scores from
2014-2015-2016 before the recent reviews. My findings and impressions follow.
There was considerable buzz about the 2012 vintage in Oregon, not all favorable. Generally, the
vintage produced wines that were riper, more extracted, and with more tannin and higher alcohol
levels than in the previous two vintages and the 2013 vintage to follow. Some wine writers were
critical of the wines, claiming they were more fruit-driven and California in style (whatever that
exaggerated generalization means). At the time, I said enjoy what the vintage gave and celebrate in
the opulent fruit flavors. How has a sampling of twenty of these wines aged after ten years?
2012 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.3% alc. Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Pleasant aromas of dark cherry compote, spice, and rose petal. Over time in the glass, oak-driven
aromas of toast and vanilla come out. Mid-weight flavors of black cherry, boysenberry, and
black tea are fresh and vibrant upon opening. Modest tannins with a hint of oak and a modestly long
finish. Drink up. 92, 2015 93 (“tannic backbone to age”)
2012 Gresser Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Vineyard Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc. Moderate garnet color with slight bricking of the rim in the glass. Aromas of black cherry
and earthy flora lead to a disappointingly thin-fruited mid-palate and finish. Root beer is the most
evident flavor. Past its prime with few redeeming features. Drink up. 85, 2015 91 (“age ability”)
2012 Amalie Robert The Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.6% alc., <50 cases. A barrel
selection of the most desirable wine in the cellar. A portion of whole cluster, aged 18 months. Moderately
light garnet color in the glass. The nose lacks fruit, offering only aromas of forest path, oak, and
medicine cabinet. Mid-weight flavors of cherry overshadowed by oak and tannin. The fruit has faded. A
quenching finish of some length. Drink up. 89, 2016 97 (“needs time in cellar for full enjoyment, firm
tannins, nutty oak”)
2012 Amalie Robert Pommard Clone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.0% alc. Moderately light
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, braised field greens, and cardamom spice. Definitely
shows aging qualities with tannins superseding the black cherry fruit. Frisky acidity with a slightly tart
finish. More acid and tannin than fruit. 88, 2016 93
2012 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.6% alc. Moderately dark
garnet color in the glass. This bottling is meant for early consumption but has held up surprisingly well
over the past ten years. Nuanced nose displaying aromas of dark red cherry, sandalwood, and spice.
Darker fruited on the palate with a sweet tone to the fruit. Mild fine-grain tannins ply the background.
The wine ends with a sweet blackberry flourish. Drink up. 89 2016 89
2012 Domaine Serene Mark Bradford Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc. Dark garnet color in the glass. Oak (smoke, caramel) dominates the aroma profile that also
includes black cherry and white pepper. Better on the palate, with black cherry fruit that seems a bit
faded. Silky textured, with gentle tannins and a shadow of oak in the background. Fine but not
exciting. Disappointing for a very expensive ($125) bottling. Drink up to 3 years. 89, 2016 94 (“smart new oak”)
2012 Antiquum Farm Passiflora Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.3% alc., 50 cases. Dark garnet
color in the glass. aromas of blackberry syrup, pomegranate, toasty oak along with some bruised
apple volatile acidity. Loaded with sweet purple and blackberry fruit and tannin. Linear, with a
sweet tone and a modest finish. Drink up. 88, 2014 93
2012 Antiquum Farm Juel Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.3% alc. Dark garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of blackberry, black currant, root beer, and tilled earth. Loaded with very ripe and sweet dark
fruits. Tannins are evident but not imposing. Finishes on a richly-fruited note. May be ever so slightly
corked. Drink up to 3 years. 90, 2014 91
2012 Van Duzer Bieze Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.1% alc.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Alluring aromas of black cherry compote, new leather,
sweet pipe smoke, and subtle toasty oak. Rich and ripely fruited in a mid-weight plus style, displaying
black cherry and black raspberry fruits and a shadow of toasty oak in the background. Suave in
texture with a decent finish. Impressive age ability. Drink now to 5 years. 93, 2015 94
2012 WildAire Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.2% alc. Moderate
garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark cherry with a campfire (oak) accent. Black cherry is the
featured fruit taste but is dominated by well-toasted oak. Mild tannins with good acidity that propels a
juicy finish. A bit of alcoholic heat is evident on the finish. Drink up. 89, 2014 94 (“ aroma of smoky
2012 Winter’s Hill Estate Reserve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.0% alc., 138
cases. Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of oak-kissed black cherry and elderberry with a
touch of barnyard. The purple and black berry fruit floods the palate with goodness. The sweetness
and heft of the fruit reflect a warm vintage. Enough tannin so that the wine is still going strong. Drink
now or within 5 years. 92, 2014 91
2012 Harper Voit Bieze Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.2% alc.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of black cherry and black raspberry evolve
over time in the glass. Impressive longevity, with a mid-weight plus core of fresh black raspberry and
pomegranate fruit flavors. Long in the mouth, with restrained tannins and a pleasant, quenching
finish. Drink now to 5+ years. 93, 2014 92
2012 Harper Voit Antiquum Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.4% alc. Moderately dark
garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of blackberry jam and savoury spice. Full-bodied,
with a charge of well-spice, sweet black cherry flavor. Complimentary tannins have preserved the
wine that offers a generous finish. Drink now to 5 years. 92, 2014 90 (“ long and generous finish”)
2012 Coeur de Terre Reserve Renelle’s Block McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.4%
alc. Dark garnet color in the glass. Lovely aromas of blackberry, black plum, and exotic spices. Mid-weight
plus in heft, with prominent tannins overwhelming the remaining black fruits. The perfume of
anise and scorched fruit are featured on the astringent finish. Drink up. 87, 2014 90-91 (“substantial
2012 Hyland Estates Coury McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.5% alc. Moderately light
garnet color in the glass. Very nice array of aromas including cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and baking
spices. Elegant in style, offering the essence of juicy red and black berry fruits framed by moderate
tannins. The wine ends on a very agreeable thirst-quenching note. Drink now to 5 years. 92, 2015 94
2012 Hyland Estates McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.7% alc. Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. Inviting aromas of strawberry, wilted rose petal, and sawdust. Impressive life for an
AVA blend, with earth-toned flavors of red cherry and raspberry. An enjoyable lighter quaff. Drink up.
89, 2015 90
2012 Broadley Vineyards Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.1%
alc. Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of spiced blackberry, earth, and oak. Mid-weight
plus in style, with a core of husky blackberry, pomegranate, and earthy flavors. Upbeat, still showing a
good amount of vibrant fruit with a juicy finish. Reflective of Yamhill-Carlton earthiness. Drink now to 3
years. 92, 2014 95
2012 Broadley Vineyards Claudia’s Choice Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.7% alc. Dark garnet
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of cherry, strawberry, and cardamom spice. Still
showing good life with a mid-weight core of dark fruits supported by a good spark of acidity and
healthy tannins. The finish offers good length and intensity. Drink now to 5 years. 92, 2014 89 (“will
benefit from aging”)
2012 Broadley Vineyards Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 14.1% alc. Moderate garnet color
in the glass. Reserved aromas of a crushed berry medley. Flavors of blackberry, Marionberry, cassis, and licorice in a mid-weight style. Linear, with notable tannins and a mildly astringent finish but with
good underlying acidity. Dense fruit lacks charm. Drink up. 90, 2014 94 (“big boy wine that has the
structure to age”)
2012 Antica Terra Antikythera Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.9% alc.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of tilled soil, ash, campfire, and fruit on the grill.
Uninspired flavors of dark red cherry and berry with juicy acidity and modest tannins. Oak has
overtaken what fruit is left. Drink up. 85, 2015 94 (“a whisper of oak chimes in”)
Findings & Impressions:
1. There were more disappointments than surprises in the ten-year-old Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs
from the 2012 vintage. About half of the wines scored significantly lower over time, some
2. Issues with the older wines included faded fruit, oak creep, more apparent faults, and overall
3. About one-third of the wines scored about the same as a previous review several years ago and
only two wines scored noticeably higher.
4. The results one must take into account bottle variation and the vagaries of wine scoring.
5. Although I did predict age ability and the value of cellaring in a few wines, this was not a
consistently reliable suggestion.
6. Most wines lacked well-aged, and appealing tertiary characters.
7. Based on this relatively small sample, I would not suggest cellaring the 2012 vintage Pinot Noirs
for future consumption.
8. The results in this survey must take into account vintage differences and do not reflect the age-ability of all vintages of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.