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Tasting the Six Appellations with Grape Radio

Grape Radio hosts Jay Selman and Eric Anderson joined me recently to taste 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs representing each of the six sub-appellations (there was one 2005 vintage wine). I am trying to educate Jay about Pinot Noir and it is a long, arduous and thankless task. The convivial banter can be heard on an upcoming Grape Radio podcast.

Chehalem Mountains

2006 ArborBrook Vineyards Estate 777 Block Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., $30. · Plenty of oak and herbs on the nose with a hint of alcohol. Prolific earth-kissed black cherry and plummy fruit with mild tannins and zingy acidity. Lacks complexity.

2006 Laura Volkman Vineyards Jacob Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $42. · A highly perfumed nose of dark cherry and berry fruits with a toast and coffee accent. Earthy black cherry with a seamless texture and supple tannins. I have tasted this wine on multiple occasions and it never fails to make the hair on my neck stand erect.

Dundee Hills

2006 Et Fille Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $42. · Noticeably redder and lighter in color. Shy aromas of herbed red fruits with a petrol note. Light and elegant on the palate, the red cherry, red currant and pomegranate flavors are enhanced by a luscious spiciness most noticeably nutmeg.

2006 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $39. · An immensely satisfying and highcollared red cherry and berry melange, smoothly textured and displaying a welcome mineral and aciddriven liveliness and refined tannins. I have found several tasters who prefer more intense and hedonistic fruit to be disappointed in this wine but I find it remarkably pinotypical.

Eola-Amity Hills

2006 Torii Mor Eola Amity Hills Select Pinot Noir

14.25% alc., $50. · Brimming with a complex bouquet of blue and purple fruits, roasted nuts, oak spice and a touch of tobacco. The black cherry core saturates the midpalate. The wine is very smoothly textured with enough lively acidity to satiate the thirst.

2006 Cristom Eileen Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $24 (1/2 bottle). · A spicy, cherry driven wine that is alive with scent and flat out delicious. Very harmonious with faint oak influence, supple ripe tannins and a gentle texture. The best wine of many great wines in this lineup today.


2006 Brittan Vineyards Basalt Block McMinnville Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $45. · This wine keeps opening and opening in the glass. Sumptuous blackberry, cranberry and pomegranate fruit with an earthy bent. Attractive nose endowed with minerality, forest floor and a touch of alcohol. Smooth and supple tannins.

2006 Raptor Ridge Meredith Mitchell Vineyard McMinnville Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 192 cases, $35. · A plush palate of dark berries, earth, meat, and game with a barely noticeable nerve of acidity. Admirable integration of oak and alcohol. Substantial tannins may require more time to meld.

Ribbon Ridge

2006 Patricia Green Cellars Estate Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $33. · A good wine alive with the scents of red cherries, violets, and new-sawn oak. On the palate the soft cherries are nicely herbed and a refreshing citric tang completes the finish.

2005 Beaux Freres The Beaux Freres Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., $75. · The most expensive, yet the group’s least preferred wine in the lineup. Attractive aromas of dark red fruits, rose petals and root beer. Deep red raspberries and currants are well-oaked, tannins are substantial, and there is good persistence on the citric peel themed finish.

Yamhill-Carlton District

2006 Soter Beacon Hill Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $50. · An interesting nose with scents of Mexican spices, cumin, spearmint and red and blue fruits. Solid black cherry core with notable minerality, mild dry tannins and an elegant presence. Well-crafted but not extraordinary for me.

2006 Resonance Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $50. · Rich dark red raspberry liquor that is floral and perfumed. Bright and fresh fruit with a touch of mocha, long and smooth in the mouth, lively acidity and very supple tannins.

Every taster had their favorites but the fact remains that Oregon is producing regal Pinot Noirs with plenty of welcoming balance, length and acidity. Could we match these wines to their respective sub-appellations if tasted blind? No way, except maybe the Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs. Nevertheless, it is a commendable geeky pastime to talk about Pinot Noir characteristics from the different sub-appellations.

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