Sunday, August 14, 2016

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Excels in 2014 Vintage

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Ready to dig into some Willamette Valley Pinot Noir? My answer to that question will always be a resounding yes.

The majority of these releases hail from the 2014 vintage, a year heralded by many Willamette Valley winemakers as historic in its high quality. With record-breaking quantities of heat and plenty of sun, the Pinot grapes were ripe and the crop was bountiful. Some growers reporting a 40% increase in crop size from the 2013 vintage. But the quality of the fruit is high, and the wines I’ve tasted don't stray into overripe territory.

“Never seen the likes of it in 25 years,” Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wine Company told’m sure we’ll look back at 2014 as a rare gift.”

A stellar vintage like 2014 provides a perfect lens through which to examine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from the entry level. And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of vibrant, juicy, complex and delicious Pinots that cost less than $30. These wines tend to drink best young, but a lot of these 2014s will improve dramatically in the cellar, methinks. Some 2013 Pinots in this report showed very well, too.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2014 60 Souls Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $25
Light ruby color. A lighter, more restrained aromatic display of strawberries, raspberries, rose petals and hints of dusty earth. Quite full-bodied (14.5% alcohol) with moderate acid and light tannins, which lends itself to a chewier style. That said, the fruit is still showing some crunch around the edges, but there are some strawberry and raspberry jam elements that take the lead. Notes of pine forest and dusty soil, just a hint of oak. Nice stuff for the price. (85 points)

SRP: $19
Light ruby color. Aromas of bright cherries and strawberries with red licorice, sweet roses and cola. Medium-bodied, light tannins, crisp acidity. Flavors remind me of tart red apples, white cherries and wild strawberries. Notes of pepper, smoke and faint earth add a bit of complexity. Simple, pleasant stuff, this provides a great introduction to Oregon Pinot at a very reasonable price. (85 points)

2014 Adelsheim Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $32
Deep ruby color. A saucy cherry nose with bright raspberry, wet earth, cinnamon and clove, violets. Juicy texture on the palate, smooth but structured tannins and medium acidity. Plump black cherries, juicy raspberries and tart plums. I get clove, leather, roses and violets, some black tea, not to mention a thread of minerals and crushed rocks that strings this wine together. Even in the entry level category, Adelsheim nails it. Fun now but it actually has the structure to improve for a few years. (88 points)

2014 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Breaking Ground - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
SRP: $45
Juicy ruby color. Aromas of juicy black cherries and raspberries, backed up by a mix of anise, cedar, dark chocolate and coffee notes. A very pretty and supple wine with fleshy tannins and cool acidity. Black cherry and raspberry flavors, the fruit is ripe but elegant. Complex elements of cola, violets, forest floor, fennel and tobacco. Such a crisp, vibrant and attractive wine right out of the bottle, but it has stuffing to improve for years. Aged 10 months in about ¼ new French oak. This is a new wine from Adelsheim to commemorate 45 years since David Adelsheim first purchased vineyard land in the Chehalem Mountains. (91 points)

SRP: $25
Bright ruby. A spicy, herbal and floral kick on the nose (like rose hips, pepper and sage) on top of tart cranberries and sour cherries. Medium-bodied, a velvety presence on the palate, although moderated by medium acid and dusty tannins. Juicy black cherries mix with cranberry sauce flavors, and I get some earth, spiced coffee, clove and cedar, which are woven together nicely. A very pretty wine. 10 months in about 11% new oak. (88 points) 

2014 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Light ruby/bright rose color. Smells of ripe McIntosh apple, sour cherry, strawberry jam, and I get some caramel, coffee and earth. Medium tannins, tart acidity, medium-bodied with a slightly chewy presence. Ripe and juicy cherries, red apple peel, tart cherries – there’s a good amount of rose hips, white pepper and some cola and light roast coffee. Fruity but brisk, this is quite good for around $20 bucks. (87 points)

2013 Cooper Mountain Vineyards Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $25
Bright ruby color. Aromas are sweet and warm, but also spicy and peppery, with cherries and strawberries and roses mixed in. Smooth but fleshy, medium-bodied, nice tart kick to the acidity with some dusty tannins. Cranberries and juicy cherries, the fruit is tart and juicy, laced with warm autumnal spices, dried leaves and a hefty dose of cracked black pepper. This deserves a spot on the table for sure. Very pretty but showing significant complexity. (88 points) 

2014 Chehalem Pinot Noir Three Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $32
Light ruby color. So bright and floral on the nose, along with spiced tea and clove to accent the sweet cherry and strawberry fruit. Medium+ body, smooth tannins, moderately rich texture with vibrant acidity. Pretty cherry and strawberry fruit, clean and fresh but packed with flavor, and I get elements of roses, clove, clay and underbrush. Underlying minerality and tobacco lingers onto the finish. Elegant and refined. From Corral Creek, Ridgecrest and Stoller Vineyards, this sees about 8% new oak. (89 points)

2014 Erath Pinot Noir Willakia Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola - Amity Hills
SRP: $60
Deep ruby color. Takes time to open up, but then the black cherry, red currant and plum aromas start to come out, and I also get some rhubarb, potting soil, some mint and tobacco. Medium-bodied on the palate with dusty but structured tannins and precise acidity, a smooth but vibrant feel to the wine. Cranberry, plum and cherry fruit abound, but the fruit is suave and whipped together with elements of rose petal, mint, tobacco, coffee and spiced black tea. Complex and a bit tight at this point, so there’s a lot to unpack in the cellar. Aged in 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $29
Deep ruby color. On the nose, I get warm berry compote, strawberry jam, cola and coffee. Juicy strawberries and black cherries play off the light tannins and crisp acidity, the latter of which keeps the wine bright and tangy throughout. Notes of cola, sweet coffee, rhubarb pie, some clove and lavender notes. Lighter-style stuff, it shows well right out of the bottle. (86 points) 

SRP: $28
Vibrant rose/ruby color. Smells of sweet cherries and raspberry jam mixed with notes of sweet tobacco, spicy pepper and roses. Medium-bodied, light tannins, crisp acidity, making this pleasant and approachable. Juicy cherries, raspberries, strawberry jam, the fruit is backed up by notes of cola, wood and light roast coffee. Not super complex but very pleasant. (86 points)

2014 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir Red Cap - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Pale ruby color. I love the smoke, leather and herbal complexity of aromas, which adorn the spicy strawberry and red currant fruit. Medium-bodied, a little grip to the tannins, vibrant acidity, this is lip-smacking wine but it has some punch to it. Juicy cherries and cranberry sauce, along with an interesting blend of pepper, leaves, rose petals and mushroom. Deliciously fruit but also spicy and savory. For this price point, this is wonderful stuff. (88 points)

2014 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir Tavola - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $27
Juicy ruby color. Smells of raspberries, roses, cola, sweet rhubarb and white pepper. Medium-bodied with lightly fleshy tannins and crispy acidity. Juicy and fruity (raspberries, red cherries, strawberries) but tart and crunchy. Notes of smoke, white pepper, rhubarb and a herbal liqueur note. Fun, crowd-pleasing stuff for near-term drinking. Aged 11 months in French oak (20% new). (86 points)

2014 Roco Pinot Noir Gravel Road - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
Light ruby color. Aromas show vibrant strawberries, cherries, along with rhubarb, rose petals and some clove. On the palate, light but slightly chewy tannins, with medium acidity. Fresh and fun but lots of flavor with juicy red and black berries, along with rhubarb and cola. There’s an earthy note with some coffee and toast to round it out. Delicious but tangy and spicy as well, this needs food and friends. (87 points)

2013 Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Cuvée - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $35
Medium ruby color. Vibrant aromas of raspberries and cherries, the fruit is light but so vibrant, and I get notes of rose petal and mint. Medium-bodied with light and dusty tannins, acidity keeps the wine refreshing. Juicy raspberries and strawberries bounce over the palate with ease – lots of rose petal and clay soil notes, with integrated flavors of coffee, and a lingering sense of pepper and mushroom. Delicious flavors, but it’s a nuanced and smooth wine that feels so easy and approachable to sip. (88 points)

2013 Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block - Oregon, Willamette Valley, McMinnville
SRP: $50
Slightly darker ruby color. Nose of black cherries and strawberries, but I am loving these savory and earthy complexities: soy, tobacco, leather, black tea, mushroom – so much going on for the fan of these kinds of aromas. On the palate, good lord this is a spirited but elegant wine! Medium-bodied at 13% alcohol, the tannins provide structure but they’re fined down and approachable, with plenty of acidity to keep it vibrant. Gorgeous fruit (black cherry adds depth to the red currant and raspberry) but the non-fruit flavors are so striking: mushroom, soy, wet leaves, pepper, rose petals, potting soil — just a lot of stuff going on here. The complexity of flavors doesn’t prevent this wine from feeling smooth and elegant on the palate. Delicious stuff now, but I’d like to taste it in three years or so. (91 points) 

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