Monday, November 25, 2013

Checking Up On Some Favorite Pacific Northwest Wines

I’m a huge fan of Oregon and Washington wines, but for some reason I can’t seem to collect too many bottles. It’s strange, but they mysteriously disappear from my cellar within a few months. So I was psyched when a good friend, tasting buddy and Pacific Northwest buff invited me to a “cellar culling” tasting. In order to make room for fall shipments, he popped a case of wines. We tasted through them blind, but knowing how much this friend loves PNW, I figured a good portion of the wines were Oregon Pinots and Washington Syrahs.

Luckily for me, I was right. I tasted some phenomenal wines from some of my favorite PNW producers: Cameron, Reynvaan, Gramercy Cellars, Cayuse. Most of the wines hailed from the 2010 vintage, whose combination of ripeness and freshness aligns perfectly with my palate. I tasted and scored all the wines blind before we unveiled them.

My notes on one hell of an evening…

2010 Cameron Chardonnay Blanc Clos Electrique - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
A simply beautiful Chard. Cameron has done something amazing with the 2010 vintage. The nose shows an incredibly complex mix of guava, melon, almond, sea salt and white flowers. The palate is full of brisk acid and rich texture. White peach, yellow apple, lime, lemon, it all mixes with notes of honey, caramel and nougat. Rich but so lively and nervy. As always, Cameron impresses. This is consistently one of my favorite domestic Chards, and the 2010 version is superb. I’d love to put this down for a year or two and see what it does. (94 points)

2011 Cameron Saignee of Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
Copper colored. Very peppery on the nose, with strawberries, earth, a kind of funky goat cheese aspect. Crisp acid and silky body form the palate, with notes of saline, pepper and green herbs. Tangy and lively, this is one good pink. Pure and fresh and unique. (89 points)

2007 Cameron Nebbiolo Clos Electrique - Oregon, Willamette Valley
Initially funky on the nose, but then it shifted into this bright cherry sauce and pepper thing. On the palate this is really bright and tangy, with some pleasant bitterness from the tannins. Currant and red plum fruit, with lots of earth, olive and a flavor that reminds me of roasted red peppers, like the kind in olive oil. Delicious stuff, and very unique. I guessed this as a Jura red, but it had me quite perplexed the whole time. This would be amazing with food. It’s rare for a domestic producer to pull off Nebbiolo, but leave it to Cameron... (91 points)

2008 Crowley Pinot Noir La Colina - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
On the nose, a mix of juicy berries with some notes of earth and funky farmyard. Juicy and fresh on the palate, with black cherry, cola and earth. Some generous fruit, but the persistent acid makes this so easy to drink. (90 points)

2008 Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Estate Etzel Block VY - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge
Initially I picked up some sulfur, but it blew off after a few minutes and I started getting juicy cherries and berry compote aromas. Live-wire acid  love it with silky tannins and pure berry fruit. Complex notes of pepper, cola and sweet oak. Pretty stuff, open and ready for business. (91 points)

2008 Cameron Pinot Noir Abbey Ridge - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
On the nose I got mushroom, potting soil and sweet herb notes on top of cherries and strawberries. Fresh and tangy on the palate, with a solid foundation of tannins. Lots of currants, red cherries, along with cola, earth, beef and pepper notes. Complex and powerful, yet focused, this will improve in the cellar. (92 points)

2008 Gramercy Cellars Syrah “Lagniappe” - Washington, Columbia Valley
Aromas of blackberry, earth, sweet herbs and a meaty note. Great structure, moderate acid, and a complex mix of blueberry and dark plum fruit. I love the sweet herbs, flowers and meaty tones. Delicious stuff with a long life ahead of it. (92 points)

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah “The Contender” - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
I’ve loved the previous few vintages of this wine, but the 2010 is truly stunning. Complex waves of aromas: blackberries, blueberries, campfire smoke, olive, violets, peppered jerky. Solid tannic grip, but the edges are fined down, the acid makes this smooth and silky on the palate. The blueberry and blackberry fruit tastes pure and creamy, and the fruit is laced with olive, pepper, iron, mushroom and pepper-crusted steak flavors. Long and powerful finish. This wine got better and better as it saw more air, and I’d love to retry this in two or three more years. Stunning stuff. (95 points)

2010 Gramercy Cellars Grenache Olsen Vineyard - Washington, Columbia Valley
Mixed berries, roses, violets and soil on the nose, like some sort of awesome greenhouse. Surprisingly bright on the palate, with fine tannins and some tangy acid. The red berry fruit mixes with pepper, olive and a cherry cola note. Not overripe or hot at all. Delicious stuff with some staying power. (91 points)

2010 Cayuse Grenache “God Only Knows” - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Rich berries on the nose, with pepper and beef brisket notes. On the palate, showing some tanginess, nice tannic backbone, flavors of red cherries, blackberries, olive, lots of pepper and some meat notes. A fruity wine, but oh so balanced and complex. Another stellar 2010, this is gorgeous stuff. (93 points)

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