By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
As Copper River salmon season winds down, we enjoy the succulent fish with another group of superb Pinot Noirs. The wines will continue to be available, of course, and salmon lovers can continue to enjoy fine, wild-caught fish from Alaska during the remainder of the summer months. Don’t forget to include Pinot Noir on your summer dinner menu to accompany all manner of medium to light meals of meat, fish and pasta.
This wine was the unanimous favorite in its flight showing the future of Oregon Pinot Noir in the moderate to value-priced category. Aromas and flavors of red and dark cherry mingle with notes of black pepper, oak spice and savory herbs. The wine is superbly structured and promises to reward aging for up to five years.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Jim Bernau founded Willamette Valley Vineyards in 1983, clearing a pioneer-era plum orchard and planting Pinot Noir vines. Bernau is one of Oregon’s most innovative and forward-thinking champions of new technology and research. The vineyard block named for the founder produced this bright and flavorful wine offering red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors with notes of citrus, smoky herbs and raspberry candy.
Pulling the cork on a nearly-decade-old Pinot Noir comes with a little concern. Those of us who remember vintages going back 25 years or more have had our share of tired, flavorless wines that were supposed to be ageworthy. This beautiful wine is a remarkable exception. Firesteed owner Howard Rossbach bottle ages his Citation wines for up to seven years in bottle before release to create the finest Pinot Noir experience possible. The wine is medium-dark ruby in color with a ruby edge. The nose is rich and elegant with ripe cherry and blueberry dancing with complex notes of citrus, toasty oak, wild mushrooms and spicy tobacco. The palate offers similar flavors and structure to accommodate pairing with fine food. It is a remarkable achievement and well worth the price.
Yamhill Valley Vineyard
Soils in the McMinnville AVA are mostly eroded marine sedimentary types as opposed to volcanic Jory and other soil types found in growing areas further north. This difference accounts for some of the unique terroir recognizable in the wines of Yamhill Valley Vineyard, the oldest winery in the AVA. Aromas and flavors of ripe plum, black fruits and peppery spice mingle with vanilla and earthy mineral.
Dobbes Family Estate
Joe Dobbes produces almost a dozen Pinot Noir wines from each vintage, highlighting different vineyard sites and proprietary cuvees. The Meyer Vineyard is planted to Pommard, Wadenswil and four selections of Dijon clone Pinot Noir on Jory and Nekia soils. This bottling offers dark cherry fruit aromas and flavors along with appealing notes of spicy oak with hints of cola and vanilla.
From the challenging 2010 vintage, this estate-selection Pinot Noir offers complexity and nuance in an elegant style. Winemaker Gary Horner (celebrating a decade with the winery in 2012) crafted this bottling from grapes grown at five renowned Willamette Valley sites. Aromas of red berries, vanilla and spice lead to a silky palate that adds plum and cherry flavors to the mix, along with a nice finish of mineral and crisp acidity which serve well to accompany grilled salmon and other Northwest fare.
A to Z Wineworks
A to Z Wineworks offers wines blended from fruit sources throughout Oregon, seeking quality and balance in finished wines that provide the consumer with good value. We applaud A to Z for using screw cap closures, and I encourage those interested in the subject to read “Why Screw Caps” on their website: www.atozwineworks.com/thisorthat.html. This fresh and fruity Pinot Noir offers ripe fruit aromas of strawberry and red cherry with flavors of boysenberry and dark cherry on the palate and a balanced finish of supple tannins.
Winemaker Terry Brandborg sources grapes for this wine from several vineyards, all with close proximity to the Umpqua River. Cherry and berry aromas and flavors mingle with earthy mineral and spicy oak – a toasty wine that pairs with salmon from the grill.
Tyee Wine Cellars
Merrilee Buchanan Benson is the winemaker for Tyee Wine Cellars near Corvallis, Oregon. Her Estate Pinot Noir is crafted from grapes grown in the winery’s estate vineyard with vines ranging from 9 to 34 years in age. Look for bright red fruits and spicy earth with a balanced palate of candy cherry flavors and notes of cedar on the finish.
Wines from other areas
The appealing character of Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County is undeniable. It combines the ripe and rich red wine strength found in Cabernet with the subtleties and nuance of the elusive Pinot Noir. Modern-era wine lovers have been raised on this style, though the classic Burgundian Pinot Noir profile is quite different. Look for aromas and flavors of cassis, plum and vanilla with notes of field herbs and cherry candy. Good acidity and balance pairs well with meats from the grill.
Croatian immigrant Nikola Nobilo arrived in New Zealand in 1943 and began an odyssey that would result in perhaps New Zealand’s greatest wine success story of the twentieth century and beyond. The winery is now a famed international brand with Nobilo Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc making friends around the world. Aromas of blackberries, cherries and plums invite a sip revealing a well-structured palate with notes of cedar, smoky herb, vanilla and plum.
“For more than 30 years, La Crema has explored California’s coastal appellations, a voyage of varietals that started here at our estate in the foggy vineyards of the Russian River Valley.” This wine hails from such foggy vineyards taking advantage of the cooling breezes to produce a Pinot with ripe aromas of blackberry, plum and spice with a palate of soft, ripe fruits, anise, cocoa and vanilla.
Those looking for an authentic Burgundian Pinot Noir experience had better have more coin in their pocket than ten dollars. That said, for ten dollars (or often less) you can enjoy this juicy and jolly bottling of Pinot Noir that pleases both the palate and the pocketbook. Bright aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and spice make for a fine, lighter red wine experience with a nice balanced palate that pairs pretty well with grilled salmon.
© 2012 Chuck Hill
© 2012 Chuck Hill