By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
Part of the fun of enjoying Pinot Noir is the wide variety of tastes that evolve from this single grape. Some tastes are dependent on ripeness of vintage, some on clonal selection and plenty more from winemaker intervention like oak aging and other treatments. The basic fruit aromas/flavors evolving from ripeness of vintage are (in increasing order of ripeness): strawberry (not so ripe), red cherry, black cherry, plum, dried plum/prune (very ripe or overripe). Oak aging adds spicy and woody notes to a wine’s aroma and flavor as well as distinct caramel, brown sugar and smoky notes. No dictionary has yet been penned to unravel what different flavors arise from each of the dozen or more clones being used by the wineries of the new world.
Our favorites from recent tastings:
Craig and Claudia Broadley came north from the Bay Area in 1980 after spending the 1970s working for Lawrence Ferlinghetti at The City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. Having discovered the joy of wine and food at the (then) fledgling bistro Chez Panisse, they were keen to try their hand at making fine wine. In a nutshell, they succeeded grandly. Son Morgan and his wife Jessica now handle much of the winery operations. Claudia’s Choice has long been hailed as one of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noirs. Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry, blackberry, earthy mineral, spice and leather. Perfectly balanced in the mouth and a superb choice to serve with grilled Copper River salmon.
Produced as a second label by King Estate Winery south of Eugene, Acrobat Pinot Noir is one of the best values in the Northwest for those seeking a ripe and ready wine for the table. Aromas of cherry, pomegranate and spice lead to ripe cherry and raspberry candy flavors with notes of citrus and tobacco leaf.
Hurray for Kim Kramer! The daughter of Trudy and Keith Kramer – founders of Kramer Vineyards in 1984 – has established herself as the winery’s leader through study and hard work, and now takes her place as part of Oregon’s next generation of family winemakers. The proof is in the bottle as this fine Pinot Noir attests. Aromas and flavors of red currant, cherry and pomegranate dance with notes of spice, vanilla and mineral. Excellent structure and acidity ensure a successful pairing with your prized Copper River filet. Buy some of this wine to lay down for future years.
This is the flagship wine of Cristom, named for the 10,501 ft. cascade peak that can be seen from the winery’s tasting room. It is blended from all four Cristom estate vineyards and selected lots from eight other vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley. On the nose a mingling of raspberry, cherry and plum is complemented by hints of spice and earthy mineral. Flavors on the palate echo the aroma and add some meaty and earthy notes as well – very tasty with grilled salmon.
Seven of Hearts
Byron Dooley and his wife Dana came north from California in 2004 after careers in the technology industry and several years of studying wine in the Napa Valley. They found a site west of Carlton where a vineyard could be planted, and Dana could set up her chocolate business, Honest Chocolates. One of several Pinot Noirs produced by Byron, this wine offers aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry and mineral with notes of citrus and spicy cedar.
Yamhill Valley Vineyards
This winery and vineyard is the oldest in the McMinnville AVA with their first vintage harvested in 1983. Longevity is often the key to success and the winery will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2013. The reserve Pinot Noir is crafted from 100% estate fruit representing 6 of the 14 Pinot Noir blocks in the vineyard. This reserve-style Pinot Noir offers ripe black cherry and earthy mineral mingling with spicy oak and creamy vanilla-caramel. The palate is rich with flavors of cherry, plum and barrel spice – tasty with grilled salmon.
I have been a friend and fan of Firesteed owner Howard Rossbach for many years, and I appreciate his superb selection of wines under the Firesteed and Citation brands. Once a virtual winery, Firesteed now owns a real winery with a real vineyard near Salem, Oregon. This tasty, value-priced wine offers aromas of ripe strawberry and raspberry, floral perfume and flinty mineral that lead to a juicy, lip-smacking palate that is equally at home with Copper River salmon or a picnic of cold chicken and potato salad.
Cherry Hill Winery
Winemaker Ken Cook crafted this elegant Pinot Noir from fruit grown in the 90-acre Cherry Hill Vineyard in the Eola Hills west of Salem, Oregon. The wine offers ripe red cherry aromas and flavors with hints of spice, light caramel and vanilla on the finish.
Dobbes Family Estate
See last week’s column for a description of Dobbes Family Estate and their overall selection of Pinot Noir wines. This Pinot hails from the Quailhurst Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains grown on ancient red, basaltic Jory soil. Aromas and flavors of tart red fruits, cherry candy and baking spice provide a zesty accompaniment to grilled salmon.
Another of Oregon’s pioneering wine families, the Henry clan has been growing winegrapes near Roseburg for almost 40 years. The winery blends specific barrels of Pinot Noir to create the Barrel Select bottling which has extended aging for depth and complexity. Look for ripe cherry and berry with earthy mineral and a finish of cherry candy and vanilla.
Wines from other areas:
Frei Brothers Winery
For the members of your salmon soiree that prefer a Pinot of a darker color, look to this reserve bottling from Frei Brothers in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Founded by Swiss immigrant Andrew Frei in 1890, Frei Ranch has produced superb grapes for more than 100 years. This Pinot Noir offers ripe plum and black cherry aromas and flavors complemented by toasty oak, vanilla and coconut from aging in French and American oak barrels.
Fruit to craft this value-priced Pinot Noir is selected from California’s best growing regions in a negociant approach to wine. On the nose one finds the classic Pinot Noir aromas of strawberry and cherry mingling with spicy earth and cedar. The palate adds a light hint of cranberry with notes of toast and mineral. A tad light for rich salmon from the grill, try it with poached salmon or other lighter fare.
In the valleys of Monterey County, cool coastal fogs moderate summertime temperature to the perfect level to grow fine Pinot Noir. Aromas of red currant, brown spices, earth and cocoa lead to a rich palate of dark cherry and spicy barrel toast that finishes with hints of caramel and vanilla.
Robert Mondavi Winery
The cool Carneros corner of the Napa Valley is a near-perfect growing area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with both varietals easily achieving ripeness that enables both grape grower and winemaker to exercise stylistic control of the final wine. Winemaker Genevieve Janssens utilized French oak aging (34% new) to mellow this wine and add layers of toasty aroma and flavor to the base of ripe red fruits, earthy mineral and crisp acidity.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill