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Oregon: a wide range of pinot noir wines (3/3)

Part three of three articles on wines from Oregon. Read part one here, pinot noir wines that challenge Burgundy?, and part two here, four wines that illustrate the style.

After these preludes it was time for the exhibition hall and it felt appropriate to begin by tasting other wines from producers previously mentioned (see previous parts).

Ponzi

Ponzi had an entry level wine called Tavola Pinot Noir 2014 that is a blend of different properties. It was a year with generous fruit combined with a good acidity and a nice finish. A good all-rounder pinot noir available at around 25 euro.

There was also Ponzi Classico Pinot Noir from both 2011 and 2014. It was interesting to compare the fruit-driven 2014 to the 2011 which was a very cool year. Despite this, 2011 was really well made. ~33 euro.

Finally, Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve 2012, which was a substantial, yet young pinot noir with lovely structure, spiciness and multi-layered fruit. Can be aged for some time in the cellar. ~50 euro.

Ponzi Williamette Valley Pinot Noir

Ponzi Williamette Valley Pinot Noir, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

King Estate

In addition to their pinot gris, which I tried earlier in the day, pinot noir is one of the producer’s mainstay grapes and the entry level has now been gathered under its own brand, Acrobat Wines. The Acrobat Pinot Noir that I tasted was vintage 2014. The wine smelled of red fruit, rich acidity, good body and nice red fruit. ~16 euro.

There was also an estate-wine King Estate Signature Pinot Noir, also from 2014. This wine has both elegance and power and is a very good representative of a well-made pinot noir wine from Oregon, ~23 euro. It is a 2012 but even that year had nice fruit maturity and good acidity.

Rex Hill (Newberg)

Rex Hill was looking for an importer and had only the pinot noir wines that I had tasted previously under its own brand/label. However, there was also an Oregon Pinot Noir 2013 from A to Z Wineworks that recently bought Rex Hill (see previous part). The wine was a blend of many different locations in Oregon. A to Z says that the wines try to express Oregon’s soul at affordable rates. This wine costs around US $ 19 in the States. The colour was very light red, and had a nice aroma of raspberries and strawberries, good acidity in the mouth and a tasty fruit and good structure. Characterful and affordable.

Pinot noir just harvested

Pinot noir just harvested, copyright BKWine Photography

Stoller

Stoller presented a Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, which had fine structure that bodes well for ageing it. The wine costs about US $ 50.

Out in the exhibition hall, there were products from many more producers, and here are some I particularly liked.

Chehalem Winery

Chehalem Winery (Newberg) was actually created in 1980 by Harry Peterson Nedry from the Ridgecrest Vineyards with plantations on the Ribbon Ridge. In 1990 a modern winery was created in which Bill Stoller became a partner in 1993, and he then started Stoller Family Vineyards (see previous text). Finally, Corral Creek Vineyards, started in 1982, was acquired. The three locations allow them to create wines with different with a similar philosophy to the different styles of Burgundy. The aim is to make elegant wines that reflect the vineyard location rather than powerful fruit-driven wines.

Ridgecrest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 expresses with its fruit the optimum warm weather during the season well. The grapes reached full maturity with no problems with diseases during the growing season.

Ribbon Ridge (RR) Pinot Noir 2010. The vineyard is distinguished by that the soil is exclusively sedimentary – old lake bottom from the Pacific Ocean – and is very poor. South facing slope gives exposure to the sun during the day and provides good maturity and cool nights contribute to good acidity. The combination results in balanced and elegant wines. This wine is a good representative of a well-made Ribbon Ridge wine despite a cool growing season with an uneven finish. can illustrate the style of Chehalem.

Pinot noir plants in a nursery

Pinot noir plants in a nursery, copyright BKWine Photography

Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards (Salem) is a very well-respected producer who is known for its fantastic pinot noir wines. A twenty-year collaboration between an engineer, a biochemist, and a farmer has led to a unique blend of tradition, innovation and sophistication that is said to characterize Cristoms wines.

The vineyards are located in the Eola-Amity Hills in the northern Willamette Valley and they are all named after important women in the family, Louise, Marjorie, Eileen and Jessie.

The Pinot noir wines get their special character from using whole clusters maceration (no destemming). The result is a fine herbaceous style and a powerful tannic structure in the wines, which therefore may need to get some time in the cellar before the flavours become fully integrated.

Steve Doerner, winemaker at Cristom since 1992, was previously winemaker at Calera in California for 14 years.

Mount Jefferson Cuve Pinot Noir 2013 is made from grapes from all Cristom’s vineyards. It has been aged for 12 months in partly new French oak barrels and is bottled unfiltered. It can be seen as Cristom’s entry-level pinot noir wine, but is not yet in Sweden.

The wine had rich aromas of red berries and the flavour was characterized by good acidity, clean, ripe fruit and young tannins. Drink well now, after some aeration, or leave it in the cellar for a few years.

Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, ~67 euro, along with “sister” Eileen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, ~67 euro are both available in Sweden. Both wines are exquisite examples of Cristom’s style. Eileen felt cool and stylish while Louise was more powerful and more concentrated in the fruit. Especially Louise will need to get a few years in the cellar to evolve while Eileen can be enjoyed now given proper aeration.

Bergstrom Winery

Bergstrom Winery (Newberg) is another interesting success story, here with a Swedish connection.

The company was founded in the mid 90’s by John Bergstrom who after a career in the medical profession changed and bought land in the Dundee Hills. The eldest son Josh, who trained in Burgundy, harvested along with his wife Caroline their first pinot noir in 1999. Since 2001, they have their own winery for full control of wine production. The company is now run by Josh Bergstrom. Biodynamic farming reflects the producer’s philosophy that high quality wines in the Willamette Valley can only be achieved through genuine craftsmanship at every stage.

In addition to the original Bergstrom Vineyard of about 5 hectares they today have further six top-rated vineyard locations to source the grapes. Most are pinot noir, but chardonnay also has some significance. These two grapes also reflect the belief that with a climate not unlike that of Burgundy, you can make top wines of these two grapes in Oregon.

Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 aims to express the Bergstrom-style and is a cuvee from five of the best vineyards. The wine had a nice cherry colour, aromas of dark berries with a hint of blueberry. The taste was powerfully fruity, dark fruits, good acidity and tannin structure. A young wine with great potential after a few years in the cellar. ~35 euro.

Bergstrom Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 may be said to be the crowning glory of the original winery, which has volcanic soil. The wine was unusually dark for a pinot noir, had strong aroma of dark fruit with complexity. The taste was very intensely fruity with good acidity and hints of spices and powerful tannins that need to be rounded off with ageing. An impressive wine. ~90 euro.

Pinot noir fermenting

Pinot noir fermenting, copyright BKWine Photography

Evesham Winery

Evesham Wood Winery (Salem) was founded by Russ and Mary Raney in 1986 with the idea that “small is beautiful”. It works by two basic principles, optimally ripe fruit from low-yielding vines in the best locations in the Willamette Valley, and minimal manual intervention in the winemaking.

The new owners since 2010, Erin and Jordan Nuccio, continue in the same spirit.

The original vineyard is called “Le puit sec”, ie. the dry source which illustrates the avoidance of irrigation, ideas that are also pursued in the “deep roots coalition” (DRC) association in Willamette Valley.

Illahe Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 comes from the Illahe vineyard which was purchased in 1999 and today has about 20 hectares of pinot noir plants. The position is relatively warm, but with cool nights. The wine has notes of red berries with a hint of cherries, a fine acidity and a good structure. Price in the US about 30 dollars.

Le Puit Sec Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 is made from grapes from the original farm and is decidedly cooler in character than the wine from Illahe. It feels more elegant with a nice neat well-structured finish. Not unlike a young promising burgundy. Price in the US about 40 dollars.

Evening Land Vineyards (Dundee)

One of the wineries Evesham originally took grapes from was the Seven Springs Vineyard which has a privileged location in the Willamette Valley at about 250 meters altitude with morning sun and cool evening breezes from the Pacific Ocean. This creates a good microclimate for optimally ripe grapes and freshness in the wines. Evening Land has today concentrated its activities on Eola-Amity Hills and Seven Springs Vineyard. Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman are the wine makers. The vineyard is LIVE-certified.

Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 has aromas of dark berries; the taste has dark fruits with a hint of cherries and some spiciness that lingers in a long aftertaste. Tannins from 14 months of aging in used French oak barrels are moderate and contribute to a good structure. Enjoyable now and for years to come. Costs about $ 50 in the US and about 50 euros in Europe.

Adelsheim Vineyard

Adelsheim Vineyard (Newberg) was founded nearly 50 years ago by David Adelsheim who had a dream of making great wines.

Today, it is about to realize the dream in the wines that have excellent regional character and that are handcrafted after a European model.

It currently has 11 vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

A wine that was already ready to drink was Elisabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 with generous fruit and good acidity and long finish with pleasant tannins. The grapes come from 5 of the 11 vineyards. It has been aged 10 months in French partially new oak barrels. Another young entry-level wine is the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir at ~24 euro. Finally, there is the top wine Ribbon Springs Vineyard 2013 at 70 euro for those who want to put something in the cellar worth waiting for.

This selection of producers and wines was confirmation that Oregon has established itself as a producer of high quality pinot noir wines at prices equal to what you paid for genuine vineyard crafts in other regions.

It is a pity not more of these wines are available in Sweden. Is it the price level that discourages?

Lastly

At the same table as the Ponzi wines the importer had placed a couple of wines from Montelena and Girard in California and I felt compelled to enjoy these quality producers’ creations.

Montelena made a name for itself at “the Paris Tasting in 1976” and has kept its style. This “second wine” Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 seemed very promising with plenty of everything! The 2012 is available in Sweden for around 38 euro.

Girard has also built up a good reputation and his Bordeaux blend from 2012 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa County will be really good with a little more ageing. Give it a good aeration if you want to drink it now. 2011 is available at #23 euro.

Read all parts of this trilogy on wines from Oregon:

Carl-Erik Kanne is a long time wine enthusiast and fervent wine taster. He reports from wine tastings and wine events in Stockholm for BKWine Magazine.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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