Tasting Noiregon Pinot Noir
Nick and Sheila Nicholas launched Anam Cara Cellars in 2001, a small family owned and operated winery
primarily devoted to Pinot Noir from estate grapes. The words Anam Cara are Celtic for “friend of my soul,”
and symbolize the journey that the pair have taken to make their wine. The Nicholas Estate vineyard consists
of 30 acres situated between the towns of Sherwood and Newberg in the Chehalem Mountains appellation.
Formerly a walnut, hazelnut and plum orchard, the vines were planted in 2001 to Dijon clones 114, 115, 667,
777 and Pommard. A further 6 acres were planted in 2008 consisting of 2 acres each of Riesling, Chardonnay
and Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir. The wines are crafted by noted Oregon winemaker Aron Hess. The wines
are sold through a mailing list on the website at www.anamcaracellars.com
. The 2007 vintage Pinot Noirs
reviewed below are lighter in color, lower in alcohol, lower in fruit intensity and impact, but more classic in style
than their 2006 Anam Cara counterparts.
2007 Anam Cara Cellars Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 1,100 cases, $33. Composed of all the clones in the estate vineyard.
Aged 11 months in 21% new French oak.
Hi-tone black cherry aromas are
underscored by toasty oak on the nose. Tasty essence of dark cherries and
berries with oak toast and mocha in the background. The tannins are supple
giving the wine a welcoming drinkability. The oak tends to overshadow the fruit.
2007 Anam Cara Cellars Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 70 cases, $65.100% Dijon 114 clone. Aged 11 months in neutral
Aromas of red cherries and berries with a whiff of oak. Elegantly styled,
soft and sensual focused on an earth-kissed red cherry core of fruit. The tannins
are silky and the bright acidity supports a refreshing finish. May be too light in
flavor intensity for this price range, but this wine is intended to be feminine in
style. This style probably works better in an Oregon vintage like 2006. Decent (+).
2007 Anam Cara Cellars Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 280 cases, $45. Composed of selected barrels sourced
from specific rows thinned to low yields (1.5 tons per acre).
perfume of blackberries, plum and tea with a hint of oak. Rich but not cloying
array of berry fruits that are thoroughly engaging.
Admirable finesse, perfect harmony and a finish that keeps you coming
back for more. Great two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
A keeper that is liquid nobility.
2007 Anam Cara Cellars Mark II Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
70 cases, $65. Aged in 51% new French oak for 11 months. 69% Pommard and
31% Dijon 777. A boldly styled wine consisting of a vineyard and barrel selection
named for the owner’s son, Mark.
Brooding aromatics slowly revealing dark
stone fruits, mocha java and toasted oak. Delicious attack of plums, blackberries,
cola and mocha flavors that are still immature and evolving. Great stuffing and
amazing persistence on the fruit-filled finish. Needs time to soften the firm
tannins and fully integrate the new oak, but patience will be rewarded. Still rather
closed two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
2007 Cristom Salud Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
4 cases. This is a special bottling for the 2009 Salud Oregon Wine
Auction. I bid and won a case of this wine. You can’t buy it!
scents of exotic Middle Eastern spice, cardamon and dark red fruits.
Elegantly styled array of redder fruits that are nicely spiced. Bright and
juicy with a big jolt of spiced cherry on the dry finish. Tantalizing like
see-through lingerie. Crazy love.
2008 is being hailed as possibly the best vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir in this decade. The vintage was not
without its challenges. The perfect spring threw a huge crop, even two to three times normal if no thinning was
done. Rains arrived in September creating the potential for mold. Then hot weather returned in September
and October increasing the potential for high sugars and over ripe flavors. Those wineries that harvested the
grapes earlier before sugars rose brought in fresh fruits and the resulting wines appear to be stellar. The
resulting wines are midway between the 2006 and 2007 vintage wines, with forward fruit typical of 2006 Pinot
Noirs, combined with the acidity, brightness, and low tannins of the 2007 Pinot Noirs. The alcohols in 2008 are higher than in 2007, but still moderate
Et Fille is a partnership between winemaker Howard Mozeico and his daughter, Jessica. The name, “Et Fille,”
means in French “and daughter.” Howard jokes that, “Mozeico Et Fille” just wouldn’t work. The pink Et Fille
labels are quite distinctive. Howard crafts small lots of primarily single vineyard Pinot Noirs that reflect the
unique terroir of each individual vineyard. His vineyard sources are prime, including the well-known Maresh
Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. The wines are vinified at August Cellars, a state-of-the-art gravity flow winery
shared by several small producers. Production of Et Fille wines (their is also a Viognier and Rosé) is limited to
about 1,500 cases and most of the wine is sold through a mailing list (www.etfille.com
). I have been a fan of
the wines for a few years. The prices are quite sensible considering the high quality. Magnums are available.
Tasting at August Cellars is by appointment (503-449-4030).
2008 Et Fille Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 931 cases,
$24. A blend of seven vineyards over several sub-appellations of the
Williamette Valley. Aged 10 months in 21% new oak.
Bright aromas of
red fruits, decaying leaves, cardamon spice and oak toast.
Respectably rich core of slightly tart red berry flavors including
cranberry with soft tannins and a notable grip of acidity on the
refreshing finish. A good daily drinker. Decent (+).
2008 Et Fille Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 100 cases,
$42. Pommard clone grown at one of the oldest vineyards in the Dundee Hills.
Aged 9 months in 40% new oak.
Beautiful perfume of cherries, berry jam, spice
box and floral scents. The palate is not as forward as the nose but opens over
time in the glass revealing dark red and blue fruits that are crisp and juicy. The
tannins are supple and the acidity is vibrant. Still closed and not imposing yet,
but the pedigree of the fruit shows through in the persistent finish, and this will be
a terrific wine in a couple of years. Very good (+).
2008 Et Fille Kalita Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
206 cases, $38. The vineyard is owned by Arthur and Sherry Kalita. Pommard
and Wädenswil clones. Aged 9 months in 42% new oak.
Subdued but pleasing
darker stone fruit and berry aromas with a complimentary whiff of oak. Very tasty
essence of black cherries with a hint of vanillin oak. Mild dry tannins, exemplary
acid spine and a mouth filling presence. More rugged and intense than the
Maresh. Still a little closed and will need cellaring. Very good (+).
Ken Wright is one of Willamette Valley’s most icon winemakers. Working out of his winery in Carlton, he crafts
multiple single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from several appellations, including several estate vineyards that he owns.
It is his Shea Vineyard bottling that I covet the most. He also produces a small amount of distinguished
Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Wright’s Pinot Noirs typically are backward on release, requiring a few years of
cellaring to develop their charms. You must be aware of this or you might be disappointed when tasting the
wines shortly after release. Wright’s website emphasizes that the ideal drinking window is 2009 to 2012 for
many of his wines released from 1998 to 2003. The Pinot Noirs have widespread retail distribution and are also
sold as futures on the website. The winery is not open to the public. The informative website is
2008 Ken Wright Cellars Canary Hill Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., $42. The Canary
Hill Vineyard is owned by Ken and Karen Wright. Planted in 1983 to Pommard clone, the vineyard is located at
the southern end of the Eola Hills in Jory soil.
Hi-tone aromas of red and black fruits with backing oak and a
vegetal note. The fruits are moderately concentrated and clothed in noticeably firm and wooly tannins. The
smooth texture is quite pleasing and there is a hint of citric peel on the bright finish. Not as expressive as it will
be, even tasting a little dilute now, but will reward the patient. Decent (+), but may merit a higher rating in a few
2008 Ken Wright Cellars Carter Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
alc., $42. This vineyard is owned by Jack and Kathleen Carter and managed by
Mark Gould. Located in the southern end of the Eola Hills, this vineyard is
primarily Nekia soils and was planted in 1983. Clones 115, 667, 777, Pommard
Needs air time to open revealing purple fruits, forest floor and
oak. On the palate, the plum sauce essence is quite pleasing, yet restrained,
with a supporting note of oak. The husky tannins need time to shed. Silky in the
mouth. Decent (+).
2008 Ken Wright Cellars Savoya Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $42. This vineyard is owned by Ken and Karen Wright and managed
by Mark Gould. Planting began in 1999 with five clones.
Very attractive perfume
of black cherries and berries with a hint of wildflowers and oak. Juicy and lipsmacking
in the mouth and fairly approachable now. Undertones of grilled meat
add interest. Well-crafted with harmonious t n ‘a and a lasting finish. Very good.
2008 Bruno Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13% alc., $14.50. A second label for
Slightly sweet aromas of cherries, berries and violets. Mediumweighted
core of berry fruit with brown spice accents, a soft texture, minimal
tannins, and a clean bright finish. A daily drinker. Decent.