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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived June 24, 2013
Published June 8, 2013

Pinot Noir & Copper River Salmon
The Taste of Pinot
Part 2 of 4 (See Part 1)  (See Part 3)  (See Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

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 evolve 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.  When first opened, many Pinot Noirs are shy with their aroma and open up after breathing for a half hour or so.  As the wines breathe, they reveal flavors beyond the fruit including the toasty/smoky wood notes and caramel/meaty flavors.

The 2013 season for Copper River salmon has been very good, and the prices for Sockeye have stabilized in the range of $10 per pound at select retailers. 

Cristom Winery
2010 Pinot Noir, Marjorie Vineyard
Eola Amity Hills AVA

The insights of Cristom owner Paul Gerrie and winemaker Steve Doerner combine to create spectacular wines from their estate vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.  Marjorie Vineyard is one of the oldest in Oregon, planted “own root” in 1982.  The first Cristom wines from Marjorie were released in 1994.  Phylloxera struck the vineyard in 2000 and beginning in 2007 vines have been replaced on resistant rootstock.  This is a delightful wine featuring complex aromas of tangy plum, dark cherry, toasty oak and coffee.  The palate pairs perfectly with grilled salmon, offering flavors of black cherry and plum with finishing notes of smoky herb and vanilla. 

2011 Pinot Noir, Corral Creek Vineyard
Chehalem Mountains AVA

Chehalem’s Corral Creek Vineyard was planted in 1983 and surrounds the Chehalem Winery north of Newberg, Oregon.  The vineyard’s 18 acres of Pinot Noir produces solid – and occasionally spectacular – fruit from a sedimentary soil called Laurelwood.  The 2011 Pinot Noir shows aromas and flavors of dark cherry, floral perfume, spicy oak and earthy mineral, pairing very well with grilled salmon.  Chehalem’s tasting room in downtown Newberg offers a “Wine on Tap” program where visitors can purchase and refill liter bottles of INOX Chardonnay or Three Vineyards Pinot Noir. 

Carabella Vineyards
2010 Pinot Noir, Estate
Chehalem Mountains

Winemaker/grower Mike Hallock crafts fine Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from his vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA.  Ten blocks of Pinot Noir feature seven clones that are blended to create this estate wine, with aging for 16 months in French oak, 1/3 new.   An elegant bottling that pairs very well with salmon, the wine shows just a hint of oak with forward aromas of strawberry, cherry and vanilla leading to a palate with flavors of spicy cherry, strawberry candy and notes of herbs and mineral.  Also look for Carabella’s flavorful Plowbuster Pinot Noir crafted from 65% estate fruit and the balance from other Willamette Valley vineyards. 


Broadley Vineyards
2011 Pinot Noir, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noirs have always been one of my favorites and remain a somewhat hidden treasure for Oregon wine lovers.  Father and son winemaking team of Craig and Morgan Broadley know their vineyard blocks well and use a deft hand in crafting rich and flavorful Pinot Noirs.  The 2011 estate bottling shows bright aromas of cherry and berry with flavors of red fruits, toasty oak and hints of dried herbs, mineral and mint – very tasty with salmon. 

Illahe Vineyards
2011 Pinot Noir, Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA

Illahe Vineyards is located between Monmouth and Dallas, Oregon just southwest of the Eola Hills.  The 52-acre vineyard was planted in 2001, and the winery also utilizes fruit from the Glen Creek Vineyard in West Salem.  The family-owned-and-operated winery is a classic Oregon wine success story with innovation and dedication ensuring quality wines with each vintage.  The 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir shows strawberry and cherry fruit along with vanilla and caramel from the extended oak aging. 

Torii Mor Winery
2011 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills Select
Dundee Hills AVA

The Olson Estate Vineyard at Torii Mor winery in the Dundee Hills was originally planted in 1972, making it one of the oldest vineyards in Oregon.  It now includes Pommard, Wadenswil and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir.  Torii Mor winemaker Jacques Tardy came to America in 1982 from Nuits Ste. Georges in his native Burgundy.  He began at Torii Mor in 2004.  Torii Mor Dundee Hills Select Pinot Noir offers the spicy side of Pinot, showing pretty floral and baking-spice aromas around a core of ripe cherry and strawberry.  Good balancing acidity and a hint of vanilla on the finish make it a fine pairing with salmon. 

Hawk’s View Cellars
2010 Pinot Noir, Estate
Chehalem Mountains AVA

This Pinot Noir from Hawk’s View in the Chehalem Mountains shows the influence of clonal selection in constructing a Pinot Noir wine.  The foundation of the wine is Pommard clone for intensity and structure.  Hanzel and Wadensvil clones bring perfume and spice to the wine, while Dijon clones add mid-palate flavor and sweetness.  Aromas and flavors of strawberry, red cherry and notes of cranberry mingle with notes of vanilla, cola and spicy barrel toast. 

Bergström Vineyards
2011 Pinot Noir, DeLancelloti Vineyard
Chehalem Mountains

My tasters recently reveled in the complexity and power of Bergström Vineyards’ Chardonnay wines, and the favorable impression continues with Josh Bergström’s remarkable Pinot Noirs.  This wine is from the DeLancelloti Vineyard on the Calkins Lane Bench on the south side of Chehalem Mountain.  One might argue that this wine is too big for salmon, but Copper River salmon from the grill makes the match to perfection.  Forward aromas of dark cherry, plum, earthy spice and cocoa carry into the palate where they are joined by flavors of cola, bacon, anise, black fruits and vanilla. 

Tyee Wine Cellars
2010 Pinot Noir, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

The Buchanan Family Century Farm near Corvallis, Oregon has been the home to Tyee Wine Cellars for 28 years.  The winery crafts Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, and hosts events on the winery grounds during the summer months.  Check their website at before you head out on your Oregon wine tour.  Merrilee Buchanan Benson crafted this salmon-friendly wine from Tyee’s Pinot Noir plantings from vines 10 to 36 years old.  Look for seductive aromas of floral perfume, strawberry and baking spice, leading to flavors of tangy cherry, herbs and vanilla. 

Brigadoon Wine Company
2011 Pinot Noir, Lylee

Chris Shown and his family launched Brigadoon Wine Company in 2008 at the family farm northwest of Eugene, Oregon, nestled against the coastal foothills of the southern Willamette Valley.  Son Matt is the winemaker for the operation having worked with his father in California and Oregon from an early age.  Brigadoon also produces certified cuttings of grapevines for sale.  The 2010 Lylee Pinot Noir is lighter in style and offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and cranberry with notes of vanilla and toasty oak.   

Luminous Hills
2011 Pinot Noir, Estate
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Luminous Hills is the estate vineyard for Byron Dooley who produces many wines under his Seven of Hearts and Chatte de Avignon labels.  The Luminous Hills Vineyard is planted to four clones of Pinot Noir: Pommard and Dijon clones 777, 667 and 115.  The cool 2011 growing season required that the crop load be reduced to just one ton per acre.  The resulting wine is complex and crisp with acidity offering delicate aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon, barrel spice and earthy mineral. 


Oak Knoll Winery
2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

Many Oregon wineries produce Rosé wines from Pinot Noir in difficult vintages (like 2010 and 2011) since not-quite-ripe grapes can make a pleasant rosé but not a super red wine.  Pioneer winery Oak Knoll fermented this wine on the skins for three days, then pumped the juice to a tank to finish fermentation.  The wine is a bright salmon hue with good pinot noir fruit and a bit of grip on the palate to accompany salmon or other light meals. 


Stoller Winery
2012 Pinot Noir Rosé, Estate
Dundee Hills AVA

In contrast to the wine above, this rosé was made by a combination of saignée and whole cluster pressing.  Saignée is the process of bleeding some juice off after crushing red grapes thus increasing the skin to juice ratio in the remaining must and producing some nice rosé juice to ferment separately.  A festive bright pink color invites a sniff and a sip revealing fresh floral and strawberry aromas and flavors. 

2012 Pinot Noir Rose
Willamette Valley AVA

Firesteed winemakers use the saignée method to bleed juice from several lots of grapes after an overnight soak to extract a delicate pink hue.  Aromas and flavors of rose petal, strawberry and citrus complement a nice acidity to pair with salmon and other seafood dishes.  

Cherry Hill Winery
“Vanda” 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé
Eola-Amity Hills AVA

This wine is named after the delicate, pink Vanda orchid pictured on the label and “is produced and packaged to cater to our lady friends and should be given much like a flower or jewelry.”  This dry rosé offers floral and light berry aromas and flavors to accompany a wide variety of cuisines. 

Brooks Winery
2012 Pinot Noir Rosé
Willamette Valley AVA

Grapes from Zenith and Momtazi Vineyards were whole-cluster pressed and settled before fermentation in the same method as a white wine.  The wine remained in tank on the fermentation lees for about six months adding complexity to both aroma and flavor.  Look for hints of rhubarb, strawberry and herbs in the nose and on the palate.  

Wines from other areas: 

Robert Mondavi Winery
2011 Pinot Noir

The Carneros region of the southern Napa Valley is preferred for cool-climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and it is the source of fruit for this wine by Robert Mondavi.  The area enjoys the cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay to the south that come through the Petaluma Gap.  Aromas of ripe cherry and blueberry mingle with notes of smoky oak and dried herbs.  Black cherry and plum flavors embrace a luscious mouthfeel with a finish of toasty oak and vanilla. 

Steele Wines
2010 Pinot Noir

Jed Steele makes a number of Pinot Noirs from grapes sourced in Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties (note that the Los Carneros AVA is in both Napa and Sonoma Counties).  This wine comes from fruit grown at the famed Sangiacomo and Durell Vineyards and was aged in French, Oregon and Hungarian oak.  Look for ripe aromas of cassis, cherry and strawberry with notes of mushroom and forest floor.  The flavor shows dark fruits with vanilla and toasty oak. 

Frei Brothers
2010 Pinot Noir, Reserve
Russian River Valley

Frei Brothers winemaker Jim Collins selects the growing region best suited to each varietal to source grapes to craft his Sonoma County wines.  The Russian River Valley balances its warm days with cooling maritime breezes allowing the longer ripening period so important to Pinot Noir.  The wine offers aromas of cherry, spice and toasty oak with rich flavors of toasty cran-cherry on the palate.  

2011 Le Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Cotes de Nuits, Cote de Beaune

This wine is crafted from grapes grown in both the Cotes de Nuits and Cote de Beaune, creating a complex character that is a nice introduction to the wines of Burgundy at a reasonable price.  Look for cherry and cranberry flavors and aromas with notes of dried herbs and spice. 

Nobilo Icon
2011 Pinot Noir
Marlborough, NZ

The history of Nobilo goes back to 1943 when Nikola Nobilo arrived in New Zealand from Croatia, planted his first vines and began to turn a dream into reality.  Fast forward 70 years and Nobilo wines are considered among the finest in the world.  Their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc helped put New Zealand winegrowing on the map in the 1990s.  This tasty Pinot Noir offers aromas and flavors raspberry, cherry and cranberry with spicy notes and toasty oak.  It is a very flavorful accompaniment to rich salmon or dishes of meat or poultry.

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