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Small Sips of Oregon Pinot

Below are a mix of Oregon Pinot Noirs that are either still in the marketplace (2006 vintage), or recently released (2007 and 2008 vintage). Note the generally low alcohols for easy drinking. There are many solid and a few spectacular wines.

2006 Brandborg Benchlands Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $18, screw cap. From vineyards on the alluvial benches above the Umpqua River. · Light garnet in color in the glass. Shy nose featuring subtle aromas of cherries, oak spice, popsicle stick and herbs. Tasty cherry and strawberry fruit flavors with a hint of red licorice. On the lighter side with supple tannins and a dry finish. A very good daily drinker. Decent (+).

2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $45. · The aromas draw you in with an enticing perfume of red strawberries and cherries, spice, red hots and the slightest hint of oak. Impressive richness for a 2007 vintage Oregon Pinot Noir but still discreetly concentrated. Highly nuanced flavor profile with the focus on red cherry and berry fruit accented by citrus, herbal, mineral and earth notes. The fruit is still a bit reticent showing increasing leg with time in the glass. Soft in the mouth with dusty tannins, a lively spark of acidity and a dry finish. Impeccable balance and impressive vibrancy. This is a dependable wine that is consistently fine with a track record of age ability, regardless of the vagaries of vintage.

2007 Evening Land Vineyards Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.38% alc., $40. The historic Seven Springs Vineyard was originally planted in 1984 in the Eola Hills with additions from 1993 to 1995, now spanning 65 acres. Clones are 114, 115, 777, Pommard and Wadenswil. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels. · This is a strange wine whose medium-weighted cherry and berry fruit is dominated by smoke and old wood on the nose and by an unpleasant oily flavor on the palate. Tasted three times over the past 6 months and discussed with the winemaker, Isabelle Meunier, who recommended giving the wine more time. Unsatisfactory.

2007 Evesham Wood Le Puits Sec Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $30. From organic grapes grown on non-irrigated vineyards. Unfiltered. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Restrained nose with faint red fruits, oak and a floral note. Light and elegant on the palate featuring spiced raspberries and cranberries and a touch of green herbs. Bright acidity creates a refreshing finish. Understated and feminine, with enough charm to satisfy. Very good.

2008 Evesham Wood Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $15. Unfiltered. · Demurely scented nose of strawberries, baking spice and a hint of cedar showing more intensity with time in the glass. Tasty core of strawberry, cranberry and cherry fruit in the redder spectrum. Light in weight and elegantly crafted. A highly approachable back porch wine. Decent (+).

2008 H Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $20, screw cap. Second label for Hamacher. · Very shy nose exhibiting aromas of cherries and new sawed wood. Slightly confected core of cherries and cranberries with hi-tone acidity and a noticeable oak feature. Too tart for my taste, but should work fine at the dinner table. Decent.

2006 Hamacher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $40. · Earthy black cherry aromas with a sidecar of oak . Pleasing cherry, berry and plum core that is medium-weighted and supported by healthy tannins. Very smoothly textured and stylistically very appealing, but just doesn’t deliver an impact. Decent (+).

iOTA Cellars is a new name on the Oregon Pinot Noir scene. The name, iOTA, refers to small quantity, reflecting the winery’s commitment to small yields, small lots, and small case production. In 1999, Don and Johanna Sandberg moved to Oregon from Minnesota, purchased land in 2000, and began a commercial winery in 2006. The pair have been making wine on a non commercial basis since 2002, initially from purchased grapes and then from their own beginning in 2004. The 2007 wine is the second commercial vintage. Like a number of Oregon winemakers, Johanna gained her basic winemaking knowledge at the NW Viticulture Center in Salem, Oregon along with well-known winemakers Tina Hammond (Privé) and Laura Volkman (Laura Volkman Wines). She interned with the Casteel family at Bethel Heights and Bryce Bagnall when he was the winemaker at Witness Tree. The estate Pelos Sandberg Vineyard (PSV) consists of 11.5 acres in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA planted to Dijon 667 and 777, Pommard and Wädenswil clones. The vines are farmed sustainably and non-irrigated. Grapes are sold to Rex Hill, Bergström Winery and EIEIO & Company. The website is

2007 iOTA Cellars Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 345 cases, $42. Aged 10 months in 50% new third year air-dried French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black raspberries, cherries and strawberries with overtones of herbs and smoky oak. Medium-weighted core of darker stone fruits flanked by an oaky, herbal tone that persists on the long finish. Tasted twice. Decent.

Most winemakers dream of having their own eponymous label at some time in their career. Kelley Fox has been crafting wines in Oregon for ten years including terms at Hamacher, The Eyrie Vineyards and Torii Mor. Since 2005, she has been co-winemaker with Scott Wright at Scott Paul Wines, where she emulates the style of elegant Pinot Noir that her mentor at The Eyrie Vineyards, David Lett, taught her. As she notes on her website,, “What I love most about Pinot is its transparency. I prefer authenticity and even grit to armchair idealism. Pinot does this. There is something so real about it, for the better or the worse.” With the 2007 vintage, along with her father, Gerson Stearns, she has launched Kelley Fox Wines. Two vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Momtazi Vineyard and Maresh Vineyard have already created a buzz among pinot aficionados. The tiny production will have a small window of availability. Contact Michael Alberty at in Portland, Oregon (503-206-7029, 800-753-2531).

2007 Kelley Fox Wines Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13% alc., 69 cases, $49, screw cap. Sourced from self-rooted Wädenswil vines that are over 30 years old. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels. · Light garnet color in glass. Showy nose of strawberries and cherries with a hint of brown spice. Delicately composed, yet delivers plenty of pleasure. Delicate fruit core of strawberries and red cherries accented by spice, clove and graham, gossamer tannins, bright acidity, finishing with impressive aromatic persistence. A well perfumed Dundee Hills debutante that grabs your attention.

2007 Kelley Fox Wines Momtazi Vineyard McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13% alc., 133 cases, $39, screw cap. Sourced from a 10-year-old block of Dijon 113 and 115 clones. Biodynamically-farmed vineyard. · Light garnet color in glass. Mineral-infused aromas of cherries with a whiff of iron, wet stone and funk. Discreetly composed core of earth-dusted dark red fruits, especially bright, juicy cherries. Moderate tannins with balancing acidity. Very good and recommended.

2007 Le Cadeau Vineyard Rocheux Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $47. Sourced from the west side of the Le Cadeau Vineyard and vinified by the Chehalem winemaking team including Henry Peterson-Nedry. · Scents of raspberries and plum, sage and herbs from Provence, and a hint of green veggies. Pleasing core of black cherries and plums with hints of cola, brier patch and green beans. Moderately firm in structure with noticeable tannins and a smooth mouth feel. Decent.

2007 Patricia Green Cellars Ribbon Ridge Estate Old Vine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $39. From a 26-acre vineyard with non-irrigated vines dating back to 1984. Mix of clones. · Moderately deep garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark stone fruits, oak, tobacco and a little barnyard. Oak-kissed black fruits on the palate with an herbal underpinning. Nicely balanced with soft tannins and a good acid cut on the finish. Decent, but not exciting.

2007 ROCO Private Stash Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 300 cases, $70. Fifth vintage from the Wits’ End Vineyard farmed by the Solle’s family. · Reticent scents of black cherries, oatmeal and oak. Flavors veer to the redder fruit spectrum with soft tannins and some citrus peel evident on the persistent finish. Copious pinotypicity. Not up to the last two vintages but delivers plenty of pleasure. Very good.

2007 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $38. A blend that expresses the overall vineyard and contains every clone grown at Shea Vineyard (several Dijon clones, Pommard and Wädenswil). Estate grown, produced and bottled. · Restrained aromas of cherries, strawberries and a hint of toasty oak. Moderately fat in the mouth featuring earth-dusted dark stone fruits and berries with supple tannins and a lively acid tang on the oaktinged finish. Decent.

2007 Shea Wine Cellars East Hill Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $55. From five different blocks, 60% Dijon clones and 40% Wädenswil clone. Aged 10 months in 43% new French oak. · Deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Flashy aromas of stone fruits and berries, plum sauce and spice. The fruit-infused nose really gets your attention. Rich, full, sweet and beautifully complex array of stone fruits and berries on the palate with an appealing underlying earthiness. Real density here and one of the boldest Oregon Pinot Noirs tasted from the 2007 vintage. This wine offers a clear and unmistakable sense of Yamhill-Carlton terroir.

2007 St. Innocent Villages Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $22. · Very enticing nose of cherry and berry fruits, nicely spiced with a wooded forest note as well. On the palate the melange of strawberries, raspberries and cranberries is light in weight but tasty augmented by a tinge of oak, herbs and spice. An ethereal wine with a velvety texture and a dry, refreshing finish. Always a dependable and excellent value wine from St. Innocent. Decent (+)

2006 The Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Original Vines Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55. Sourced from estate vines planted between 1967 and 1973. · Light ruby color in the glass. Aromas of fresh cherries, toast and herbs. Moderately light and elegant with appealing flavors of cherries and strawberries with an accent of savory herbs. Silky in texture with a good grip of acidity and mild tannins. An austere style that will appeal to lovers of delicate Pinot Noir. Very good (-).

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