Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tasting Report: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

It’s easy to get excited about Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The combination of bright fruit, crisp acid and moderate alcohol in many of these wines makes them easy to pair with all sorts of food, especially the harvest meals of fall. Most of the wines in this report are Pinots, but a few other interesting varieties are thrown in as well. Some of these wines cost a lot, but I couldn’t find a bad or even mediocre wine in the bunch.

All the wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2012 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Gris Big Fire - Oregon
SRP: $17
Very light straw color. Bright and floral on the nose, with lime and nectarine. Crisp acid on the palate, but it also shows just a bit of wax and oily texture, so you get this overall soft feel. Flavors of pineapple, nectarine, some lemon peel. Not the deepest, most complex wine, but really solid for $17. (87 points)

2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $29
Light ruby, slight auburn color. On the nose, bright cherries, rose petals, some spiced coffee and rhubarb. Bright acid on the palate and fine tannins. Flavors of black cherries, strawberries, with notes of black tea and more spiced coffee. Tangy, light and approachable, but also showing decent structure. Solid finish with notes of soil and pepper. (87 points)

2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Mount Richmond - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $48
Clear cherry-juice colored. Cranberries, sweet cherries, some spicy wild strawberries and pepper. Tart acid and medium-grain tannins combine to make a fresh and zesty wine. Rich red cherry mixes with juicy black cherries, and there’s some significant mocha and smoke. There’s also this flavor that makes me think of digging in the dirt for root vegetables, this rich, loamy, herbal quality, and I love it. Fresh but firm, and I’d like to try this after a few hours in the decanter. (89 points)

2011 Vineyard 29 Pinot Noir Cru - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $54
Soft cherry colored. On the nose, bursting fresh cherries and raspberries, but there’s a lot of non-fruit aromas like herb, pepper and mushroom soup, and the combination smells amazing. Firm tannins and compact red fruit make this a weighty wine, but the medium acid does a good job keeping it in check. The juicy wild raspberry and plum fruit is blended with cracked pepper, lavender, tobacco and soy flavors. The palate is rich and touched with oak, but it presents itself well. (It’s aged 10 months in 50% new French oak). The finish is long and packed with concentration. This wine will reward the patient. (91 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Big Fire - Oregon
SRP: $19
Light ruby color. Fresh cherries, juicy raspberries, rose petals and red licorice aromas, so damn light and airy. Tangy acid on the palate, and the tannins are fine but still offer structure. I like the tartness to the cherry fruit mixed with the sweet strawberries. Some herbal and earth tones make for more than a simple sipping wine. Crisp, bright, this wine would be as comfortable on the patio as it would be on the dinner table. Impressive for the price. (87 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Daffodil Hill - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $50
A bright ruby color. On the nose, sweet red flowers, red licorice, raspberries and some herbal notes. On the palate, I get a lot of that tangy acid that I enjoy in Oregon Pinot. This is a lighter-weight wine (12.8% alcohol), but it shows plenty of juicy black cherry and raspberry. Lightly toasted oak, mocha and a bit of loam. Finishes with tingling acid, red fruit and a peppery note. A lot to like here. (88 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Autograph - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $50
Vibrant ruby color. Fresh aromas of red cherries, rose petals, red licorice and a bit of cola. On the palate, fine, almost silky tannins provide support, along with medium acid. Tastes like a mix of snappy wild raspberries and wild strawberries mixed in with some cherry pie filling. Notes of smoke and mocha linger on the finish. A fresh, tasty Pinot that seems to be drinking well right now. (87 points)

2010 Tendril Wine Cellars Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $48
Inviting nose of roses petals, sweet strawberries, hints of pepper and rosemary. Full but fresh in its approach, with medium acid and firm tannins. The cherry and raspberry fruit is snappy, backed up by flavors of pine, tilled soil and mushroom. The toasty, mocha accents are rich, but they don’t overwhelm the other elements. Well done stuff that should drink well over the next few years. Aged 15 months in 30% new French oak. (88 points)

2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $38
Light ruby color. Bright aromas of cherries, cranberries, notes of tobacco and sage. On the palate, dusty tannins combine with fresh acid and ripe black cherry fruit for a silky-smooth mouthfeel. Earth and mushroom flavors linger onto the finish. A leaner Pinot, but showing a lot of deeply attractive qualities. Aged 16 months in 44% new oak. (88 points)

2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Big Tree Block - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $70
Medium ruby color. Nose of cranberry sauce, red currants, roses and a dash of pepper. On the palate, medium acid and fine tannins add up to a medium-bodied wine with a creamy mouthfeel. Juicy red currant mixes with darker cherry fruit, all of it juicy and fresh. Notes of pepper and sage as well. Hazelnut and toast flavors accent the fruit. Yummy stuff. A bit more weight and toast than the basic Dundee Hills appellation wine. (88 points)

2007 Tartan Dolcetto Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP $20
A bright ruby color. It smells like tart cherries, red currants and there’s also a strong soil and tobacco component. On the palate, the acid is really high, almost searing, but the dusty tannins and olive give this wine an Old World mystique. The mineral and earthy vibe is right on key. An Oregon wine pays homage to its Italian heritage, and it does so very well. Delicious stuff, holding up nicely. (90 points)

2006 Tartan Dolcetto Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
A cloudy ruby color. Tighter on the nose than the other wines, but some sour cherry and red currant came out with time, along with a dusty herbal aspect. The acid is a high on the palate, and some volatile acidity shows through. Tart cherries and currants, but the fruit is waning. Some pickle and rhubarb aspects. Seems tired and flat, and really falls off on the finish. Either an off bottle or maybe this shouldn’t have been held so long. (NR)

2006 Tartan Tempranillo Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Dark ruby colored. The nose shows ripe black cherry and currant fruit, along with a solid dose of mushroom, tobacco and pepper. Refreshing acid combines with firm tannins. A mix of red and black currant fruit, which tastes fresh but still tangy. Some serious Old World elements here, with mushroom, loam and mineral flavors. Touched with a bit of toast, but the wine maintains an elegant and fresh persona. Ready for business but it could spend some time in the cellar as well. Aged in 20% new oak. (89 points)

2007 Tartan Tempranillo Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Pretty ruby-purple color. The black cherry and currant fruit smells ripe but fresh, and it’s matched with some dark, loamy aspects and an aroma that reminds me of sun-dried tomato. Fine, dusty tannins and fresh acid on the palate. Red currant and cherry fruit mixes with soil, leather, pickle and smoke tones. Silkier and more mature than the sturdier 2006, this seems to be in a prime drinking window. (89 points)

This tasting was conducted in concert with my friends at the daily wine blog Terroirist, where this article first appeared.

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