By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress. Farmers throughout the centuries can attest to this fact. Growing quality grapes for winemaking demands a certain number of warm days during the season to achieve minimum ripeness that balances sugar and acidity and enough sugar to produce suitable alcohol content for the best wine. In the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, cool summers sometimes leave winemakers with grapes that are low in sugar and high in acid – fruit that doesn’t make the best red wine. The vintage of 2011 was such a year in Oregon and many Pinot Noir winemakers crafted rosé bottlings where residual sweetness could be used to create a balanced palate.
Rosé of Pinot Noir
Of the six Pinot Noir rosés that we tasted, this was far and away the best example – a delicious wine with food and a charming aperitif. The wine is a blend of many saignéed lots from various vineyards, and fruit sourced specifically for rosé from the Ponzi Estate Vineyard and Dion Vineyard. Saignée is the bleeding off of a portion of free-run juice of red grapes before fermentation to increase skin-to-juice ratio and to better color the red wine. This juice is often tinged pink and is then fermented to make a rosé wine. Look for bright watermelon, strawberry and tropical fruit aromas and flavors with a perfectly balanced palate.
Kim Kramer crafted this dry rosé by soaking crushed Pinot Noir grapes for five days prior to fermentation. The juice was fermented and aged on the lees for four months prior to bottling. Aromas of melon, strawberry, red currant and floral perfume lead to an off-dry palate with light cherry and strawberry flavors and hints of stone fruits. Tasty with lighter meals and appetizers.
Seven of Hearts
Crafted from grapes grown at several Willamette Valley vineyards, Seven of Hearts Rosé offers appealing aromas of red fruits, herbs and rose petal. The palate is dry and refreshing with cherry and strawberry flavors. Crisp acidity accompanies rich foods like Chef Ted’s flavorful shrimp and cream cheese spread.
Ghost Hills Cellars
This rosé is named The Spirit of Pinot Noir as the wine is crafted to offer aromas and flavors of the named variety. Press wine from the winery’s Pinot Noir Blanc project was fermented separately to create the rosé. Look for aromas of red fruits and floral perfume leading to a palate of light berry and cherry with a slight phenolic finish - pairs best with richly textured foods.
This wine is named after the beautiful Vanda orchid that appears on the label. It is crafted from both Dijon and Pommard clone Pinot Noir in a style to “cater to our lady friends and should be given much like flowers or jewelry.” Aromas and flavors of strawberry and watermelon lead to a rich, slightly tannic finish.
Byron Dooley crafts his Luminous Hills wines solely from grapes grown at his estate vineyard of the same name located between McMinnville and Carlton in western Oregon. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, melon and bright citrus set this wine apart from the others, along with a finish of gripping acidity that demands a food accompaniment.
Red Pinot Noirs
Darcy Pendergrass is the head winemaker at Amity Vineyards who crafted this stylish and food-friendly Pinot Noir – a unanimous first place in our latest tasting. Fruit was sourced from six northern Willamette vineyards, including Amity Estate Vineyard, and represents a wide variety of Dijon clones as well as Pommard and Wädenswil. Bowls of dark cherry and raspberry mingle with earthy spice and vanilla with a great balance of acidity and length – also a super value!
This wine is made from grapes grown in a variety of blocks on the Broadley Estate in Monroe, Oregon, north of Eugene. Fresh aromas of raspberry, black cherry, mineral and spice lead to a pleasing palate of berry and cherry flavors with notes of smoky toast, mineral and herbs - very tasty with grilled salmon.
Winemaker Chris Mazepink crafts this flagship wine of Benton- Lane Winery from estate fruit grown at the winery in the southern Willamette Valley. Inviting aromas of strawberry, cherry, graham cracker and earthy herbs lead to a rich palate adding blueberry and toasty oak to the experience. The wine is superb with grilled salmon - a very good value.
The Luminous Hills Vineyard was planted in 2005 on a combination of Willakenzie and Jory soils. This wine contains all four clones planted at the vineyard: Pommard and Dijon 115, 667 and 777. Look for aromas and flavors of red cherry, cranberry, tropical citrus and earthy mushroom and herbs. It is a flavorful accompaniment to grilled salmon and other summer fare.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
The first Elton Vineyard grapes were planted in 1983 during the exciting growth period of the Eola-Amity Hills area that later became the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The site now includes 60 acres of vineyard planted on Jory soil. The exceptional 2009 vintage brought excellent fruit to the winery to craft this rich and powerful wine. Aged in 100% new French oak, the wine offers aromas and flavors of ripe dark cherry, plum, toasted nuts, candy cherry-cola, cocoa and vanilla.
Firesteed 2007 Pinot Noir is crafted from select lots of Willamette Valley grapes that were fermented in small vessels, with a high percentage of berries remaining whole. Aging in French oak – new, one-, two- and three-year old barrels – followed fermentation. Look for aromas and flavors of red and black cherry with notes of vanilla, baking spice and earthy mineral.
This iconic wine has been produced by Redhawk Winery and Vineyard for many years and continues to be their most popular bottling. We baby boomers are now grasping at all connections to our glorious youth, and this reminder of the 1970s is a real treat. Aromas of spicy black pepper, red cherry, plum and earthy vanilla lead to a jammy palate with ample acidity to pair well with salmon and other light meals.
Duck Pond Cellars
Crafted from almost entirely estate-grown fruit, DPC Pinot Noir offers a fresh, approachable wine that can pair up with picnics or fine dining. The nose offers red cherry, dusty mineral and spice box leading to a juicy palate of dark cherry and plum with notes of vanilla and toasty oak. It is offered with a Stelvin screw cap closure for convenience.
From longtime Argyle winemaker Rollin Soles comes his own brand crafted from superb fruit grown in the Chehalem Mountains AVA and the Dundee Hills AVA. Aged in new and three-year-old French oak, the wine offers toasty, spicy notes over a core or red fruits with cherry and raspberry showing first and plum and cedar arriving for the finish.
Seven of Hearts
See above for descriptions of winemaker Byron Dooley’s Luminous Hills estate vineyard and the winery’s location in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. This Pinot Noir is soft and supple with aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, strawberry, herbs, earthy mineral and a velvety finish of cedar and spice.
Wines from other areas
Lucas and Lewellen
When you have stellar fruit from a superb vineyard it opens up new avenues for the winemaker to create a masterpiece. Aged in new French oak for 20 months, this wine shows only the best characteristics of the barrel and receives nods and smiles from each taster. A nose of cran-cherry, blackberry and cocoa mingles with hints of black pepper and baking spice. The palate adds sophisticated leather, tea and cedar components with a finish of black cherry and light caramel – tasty!
Cline Cellars Pinot Noir vineyards are planted in the Petaluma Gap area of the Sonoma Coast AVA and in Sonoma-Carneros. I like the winery’s description of their Pinot Noir (and many Pinot Noirs) as “a food-friendly wonder child that can stand up to lamb or roast beef yet won’t overpower lighter fish or pasta.” Aromas and flavors of strawberry and red cherry mingle with toasty toffee and hints of vanilla and smoky cedar.
Bogle winemakers sourced fruit for their Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, Monterey, Clarksburg and Lodi. The diverse climates each add a dimension of character to the finished wine, showing aromas of raspberry and cherry with notes of cola and floral perfume. The palate offers rich flavors of dark cherry with notes of toasty oak, coconut and vanilla.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill