By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
My tasters are always excited to judge Pinot Noirs with Copper River salmon. It is quite a difficult task, assigning a ranking to each wine in a flight, and of course, wines can change dramatically as they breathe and open up. Wines in my columns are generally presented in order of preference by a consensus of tasters, though in most tastings all wines are excellent or very good in overall quality. Choose a wine for purchase based on descriptions of the wines’ aroma and flavor, intensity and, of course, price.
Don’t forget to give your Pinot Noirs a little time to breathe – or decant and pour back into the bottle for added aeration.
Youngberg Hill Vineyards
The original-planting Jordan block of Pinot Noir at Youngberg Hill is at the highest elevation (800 ft.) and is on Steiwer soil (volcanic rock). The vines are own-rooted and are comprised of 60% Pommard and 40% Wadenswil clones. This rich wine offers ripe dark cherry and cassis fruit with notes of licorice, toasty oak and cocoa with good acid for food pairing.
Here is another elegant and complex wine from the 2014 vintage that helps put Oregon on a pedestal of international Pinot Noir fame. Ripe black cherry, cinnamon, clove and espresso lead to complex cherry candy, violets and mineral. A favorite with our grilled salmon, showing ample acidity and hints of toasty oak to pair with smoke from the grill.
King Estate Domaine Pinot Noir is the preeminent bottling from the winery, made exclusively from certified organic and Biodynamic® grapes from the estate vineyard in Oregon's southern Willamette Valley. The spectacular 2014 vintage set the stage for creating this special wine, offering complex aromas and flavors of cherry and plum surrounded by wreaths of baking spice, leather, dark chocolate and earthy mineral.
Winemaker Luisa Ponzi describes 2014 in Oregon as a Goldilocks vintage: not too hot, not too cold and not too much rain! Her 2014 Classico Pinot Noir (formerly identified as “Willamette Valley”) is delightfully approachable with forward cherry and blackberry fruit and highlights of lavender, spice and cedar with soft tannins and tangy acidity.
Cherry Hill Winery
The bucolic Eola Hills is the scenic home to Cherry Hill Winery where 80,000 Pinot Noir vines nestle into the 90-acre vineyard with vistas of the surrounding hills and the seven-acre Lake Janet. Winemaker Ken Cook crafted this estate Pinot Noir from Pommard clone fruit in the 2015 vintage. Look for a soft and subtle wine with Bing cherry, raspberry candy, spice and hints of caramel.
Winemaker/grower Mike Hallock crafts fine Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from his vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, a sub appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA. Ten blocks of Pinot Noir feature seven clones that are selected to create this estate wine, with aging in French oak. The wine is rich and dark with cherry, plum and blackberry fruit, and the vintage miracle of perfect balance with acidity to pair with your salmon from the grill.
WillaKenzie Estate is named for the sedimentary soil on which the estate is planted, soil which in turn is a named as a tribute to the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers of western Oregon. The winery is a popular tourist stop for wine lovers keen to enjoy fine Pinot Noir, a picnic or even a game of Pétanque! The Gisele Pinot Noir bursts with red fruits and spice, perfectly balanced on the palate to accompany cuisine of all types.
Anne Amie Vineyards
Dr. Robert Pamplin purchased the pioneer Chateau Benoit winery near Lafayette, Oregon, in 1999; he has continued its excellence in Pinot Noir and a variety of white wines. The winery’s Two Estates Pinot Noir is a barrel selection chosen to produce the best reflection of their Twelve Oaks Estate and Anne Amie Estate vineyards. Look for aromas and flavors of cranberry, strawberry, barrel spice and floral notes of rose and lavender.
This winery on the south slope of the Chehalem Mountains is named after a contraction of the owners’ first names: Vicki and Don Hagge. This Pinot Noir offers aromas and flavors of red cherries and tangy cherry candy finishing with hints of vanilla and toffee and notes of citrus.
This entry-level Pinot from King Estate never fails to please the palate or the pocketbook! Cherries and strawberries mingle with spicy red fruits, cinnamon and mocha. Rich earthy mineral and hints of vanilla add to a complex palate for sipping or serving with salmon.
Rosé of Pinot Noir
The Montinore Estate winery is run by Rudy Marchesi and his daughter Kristin Marchesi. The tasting room and winery near Forest Grove, Oregon, welcomes visitors from 11am to 5pm daily. Their Rosé of Pinot Noir is made by a combination of saignée (bleeding juice from a red must) and whole cluster pressing of grapes with minimum skin contact. Look for aromas and flavors of rhubarb-strawberry, watermelon and tangy citrus.
Winemaker/owner John Grochau says of his 2016 Rosé: “We picked early for the bright acids, but the warm 2016 vintage still gave us a lot of color.” Almost like a light Pinot Noir, the wine offers bright aromas of cherry and rhubarb with refreshing flavors of watermelon, strawberry and sweet grapefruit.
Winemaker Jesse Lange crafts his rosé from fine quality Pinot Noir of the winery estate in the Dundee Hills AVA and gives the free-run juice four days of skin contact to give the wine a deep red cherry hue. Aromas and flavors of Bing cherry, red plum, watermelon and spice make this a versatile rosé for lighter meals and salmon from the grill.
Wines from other areas
Cambria Estate Vineyard
Cambria Winery is located on the Santa Maria bench in California’s Santa Barbara County. This cool coastal growing area is excellent for the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A perennial favorite with my tasters, their Benchbreak Pinot Noir is a combination of different clones and vine ages yielding a rich, dark wine with ripe berry and earthy mineral flavors – a great complement to salmon from the grill.
Miner Family Winery
Dave and Emily Miner founded their winery along the eastern hills of Napa Valley’s Oakville appellation in 1998. For this Pinot Noir, the grapes were sourced far south in the cool Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County. The wine offers complex aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry and red plum with subtle notes of oak and toffee – soft and approachable with a variety of foods.
Weingut Dr. Heyden
This is the first German Pinot Noir I have had the opportunity to taste for this column. The Rheinhessen region is Germany’s largest wine region featuring rolling hills and vast farmlands. Winemaker Frank Heyden (son of late founder Dr. Karl Heyden) studied at Geisenheim and is crafting great wines from the estate vineyards. This soft and supple Pinot Noir offers dark berry and cherry with hints of spice and mineral.
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