By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
The much-heralded Copper River salmon are caught most by gillnet in Prince William Sound at the mouth of Alaska’s Copper River. This spring fishery is tightly controlled to preserve the species and is subject to the vagaries of weather and the run of the fish. The flesh of the fish is rich in oil and Omega 3 fatty acids – a healthy choice and delicious from the grill!
This rich and flavorful salmon pairs best with Pinot Noir when grilled. The smoky nuances from grilling add complexity and bridge the fish flavor to the toasty and fruity Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir wines vary from bright and fruity to heavier styles showing toasty oak and rich earth and mineral.
Harry Peterson-Nedry is one of the true pioneers of Oregon Pinot Noir. His Chehalem Winery followed the development of his Ridgecrest Vineyard in the (now) Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. This Stoller Vineyard Pinot from the Dundee Hills captured the fancy of my tasters with complex cherry, blueberry, spice and cocoa with dusty tannins and ample acidity on the finish.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Perched on a west-facing hillside south of Salem, Oregon, Willamette Valley Vineyards is just a short hop from Interstate 5 and is a great wine lover’s visit. Memorable visitor experiences include the view tasting room, winery tour (2PM) and a tasting menu of gourmet offerings. Enjoy these treats with the Estate Pinot Noir showing dark cherry, smoky mineral, complex dark fruits and spice on the palate.
Single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Erath show the character of wines from diverse terroirs in the Willamette Valley. Leland Vineyard, south of Oregon City, was planted to Pommard and Wadensvil clones in 1982, and is a late-ripening site. Another hit with my Pinot and salmon tasters, they enjoyed a bounty of dark cherry, currant and boysenberry with a cocoon of toasty oak and complex floral and spice on the finish.
Elk Cove Vineyards
Elk Cove winery has always been revered for their vineyard-designated bottlings of Pinot Noir. Founded in 1974, Elk Cove is the Oregon success story of Pat and Joe Campbell, local wine pioneers who transformed their Coast Range foothills property into one of the state’s most prized wine estates – worth a visit! Their Clay Court Pinot offers complex berry and cherry mingling with rich notes of toffee, coffee and spice.
Matzinger Davies Wine Company
Anna Matzinger and Michael Davies brought extensive successful backgrounds at other Oregon wineries to their collaboration on their own brand in 2006. This 2013 wine was crafted from grapes grown in Oregon’s Dundee Hills and offers the classic Oregon Pinot profile of dark cherry and plum wrapped around an elusive core of earthy mineral and smoked meats. Their Eola-Amity Hills bottling offers a more fruit-forward character of bramble berry and spice.
Trudy and Keith Kramer were among the second wave of winery pioneers in Oregon in the 1980s, planting their first vines in 1984. Keith proved to be a successful vineyardist and Trudy honed her winemaking skills to a fine degree. Today, daughter Kim is the hands-on winemaker crafting superb Pinot Noir and other varietals. This Dijon clone 777 Pinot Noir offers ripe berry and spice aromas, leading to an assertive palate of cranberry, cherry and cola notes – great with salmon or lighter meats from the grill.
This winery on Chehalem Mountain in Oregon has historic roots going back to the original John McFee homestead of 1875, and to the 1843 Abijah Hendricks homestead near Carlton; great grandson Steve Hendricks came to Ruby Vineyard in 2012. Winemaker Eric Hamacher crafted this wine from three Dijon clones and a Pommard clone, all from the estate vineyard. Complex aromas of cherry, sandalwood and citrus lead to a palate of red and black fruits, earthy mineral and dusty tannins.
Left Coast Cellars
Driving the paved, one-mile driveway up to this unique Rickreall, Oregon winery provides a glimpse of wine country land stewardship at its finest. Lovingly cultivated gardens and fields of wild flowers yield to meticulously tended vines. Enjoy this wonderfully approachable Pinot Noir for its plum and cherry fruits, and notes of floral perfume and spice.
Each year, Jesse Lange produces this delightful blended Pinot Noir from northern Willamette Valley vineyard sites. The nose offers black raspberry, pomegranate, cherry and toasty oak, leading to flavors of red fruits, cocoa and earthy mineral. It is always a favorite with our Copper River salmon from the grill.
Steve and Carol Girard founded Benton-Lane in 1988. The location in the southern Willamette Valley was the source of the winery’s name, being near the border of Benton and Lane Counties in Oregon. Extending the postmark theme of the wineries identity, this reserve Pinot Noir is named “First Class.” Look for dark cherry and earthy forest floor with toasty oak, plum and hints of cocoa.
Wayne and Nicolette Bailey purchased Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn near McMinnville, Oregon in 2003. This destination for wine country weddings and other elegant affairs is spectacular, and the vineyards and winemaking have kept pace with the posh country inn. This wine is made from a blend of 60% Pommard clone and 40% Wadenswil – the standard when the vineyard was planted in 1989. Aromas of violets, cedar and dried cherry lead to tangy red fruit flavors and moderate tannins.
The Fullerton family of Beaverton, Oregon named this wine after the five family members. The wine included 25% whole-cluster and native-yeast fermentation. Five Faces was barrel aged in French oak, 28% new. Look for aromas of spice and mineral with strawberry and pepper coming up with aeration. The palate begins with cherry candy and evolves to complex red fruits and toasty oak.
Rosť of Pinot Noir
This highly perfumed Rosť has a secret advantage - the addition of 10% Pinot Gris in the cuvee. Classic aromas and flavors of strawberry and watermelon are joined by hints of white flowers, spice and citrus.
This wine was crafted from grapes grown on higher altitude blocks of the winery’s estate vineyard. The first Rosť since 2008 to be bottled under the King Estate label, it is more full bodied and complex than many lighter, simpler versions. Look for cherry and pomegranate fruit with notes of citrus peel and mineral.
Wines from other areas
In the search for quality Pinot Noir at a value price, one often has to look to locations away from the mainstream high-priced growing areas. Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands – paired with innovative vintners from Austerity – has produced a vibrant and flavorful Pinot Noir that is worth seeking out. Aromas and flavors of red cherry, cranberry, graham cracker and earthy mineral pair well with salmon.
Just as the Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand created a different standard for that variety, NZ Pinot Noirs are gathering quite a following. The name Sea Pearl celebrates the local abalone for their brilliant iridescent shells. This Pinot is harvested from low-yield vineyard sites throughout Marlborough. Enjoy aromas and flavors of black cherry and raspberry with hints of citrus, baking spices and cedar.
Thomas George Estates
California’s Russian River Valley is home to Thomas George Estates Winery, founded in 2008 as an artisan producer of small lot wines with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit from three estate vineyards representing three Dijon clones as well as Pommard and Joseph Swan. Look for ripe aromas of black cherry and red fruits, cola and barrel spice. The palate offers berry and dark fruit flavors with undertones of savory herbs.
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