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Compton Cellars: Pinot Noirs Kissed by an Angel

Matt and Tabitha Compton operate a small, family-owned boutique winery located in the town of Philomath in the southern Willamette Valley. Philomath is not on the tip of the tongue of most Pinot Noir connoisseurs, but there are two other highly-respected Pinot Noir focused wineries in the locale including Lumos Wine Company and Cardwell Hill Cellars. Philomath is located in Benton County at the base of Marys Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range, and 80 miles south of Portland. The area enjoys the mild climate of the middle Willamette Valley.

The winery was originally founded as Spindrift Cellars in 2004 but has since changed its name to Compton Family Cellars. The focus now is on Pinot Noir from special vineyards that Matt manages through his West Vine Farms vineyard management company. Besides a farmer, Matt is an experienced winemaker with well over twenty years of experience in the Oregon wine industry. As a result, the Pinot Noir wines have the handprint of an experienced grower and talented winemaker.

I last wrote about this winery in 2019 and what I said then still holds: The wines represent extremely good value, especially since I consider them equal in quality to any Pinot Noir wines currently being produced in the Northern Willamette Valley.

Tasting is offered at the winery and the wines are easily obtainable through the winery’s website at The three wines reviewed here are part of the winery’s Old Vine Collectors Series.

These wines are true to the Pinot Noir ethos and the classic Willamette Valley style - perfectly ripened but not over-ripened fruit, modest alcohol levels, good, refreshing acidity, and elegant demeanor. All three wines were noticeably better when re-tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle and held up for another two days suggesting high quality, balance and age-ability.

2017 Compton Alpine Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $34. Release planned for 2022. A blend of two dry-farmed vineyards in the Alpine area that is about 20 miles south of Compton winery: Woodhall Vineyard planted in 1976 at Oregon State University and BoVine Vineyard planted in 2008 to Pommard and Wädenswil clones. Basalt, red Jory series soils. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass.The nose exudes red cherry goodness with a side of spice and red rose aroma. Easygoing in a harmonious, mid-weight style, driven by cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with a shadow of oak and a mossy, forestry undertone reflecting its Alpine origins, Focused tannins and a raspberry-themed finish of some length complete the picture. Score: 93

2017 Compton Llewellyn Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $34. Release planned for 2022. A blend of three vineyards located about 1-2 miles from each other: Compton Family Farms Vineyard, planted in 1998, Hoot & Howl Vineyard planted in 1986, and Mary’s Peak Vineyard planted in 1977. Sedimentary soils. · Light garnet color in the glass. Wonderfully perfumed with scents of red cherry, cranberry, strawberry and spice cabinet. Juicy and bright in a middleweight style featuring plenty of unctuous red fruit flavors annotated wih spice and framed by suede tannins. Score: 93

2017 Compton Mary’s Peak Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $34. Released March 2021. This dryfarmed vineyard consists of 2.1 acres of Pinot Noir planted between 1977 and 1980 to the Wädenswil clone. Alluvial, sedimentary loam soil. · Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry juice, balsam and earthy flora draw you in. Graceful, silky and cohesive, offering flavors of red cherry, raspberry and spice. Gentle power that packs more punch than the light color and demure composure would suggest. The gossamer tannins provide enough support and the finish has persistence without weight. There is something about Pinot Noir old vine patina that grabs at your soul. Score: 93

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