By Chuck Hill
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Wines of the Week Archive
Like most years, we have noticed very little forward oak flavors or aromas in the Pinot Noirs that have crossed our palates. For the most part, winemakers treat Pinot Noir with respect and don’t over oak it. Also, for the most part, winemakers use only quality French oak to age these wines. Pinot Noir repays this respect by marrying the toasty oak into the wine to appear as spicy, earthy and mineral notes – no 2x4 – in – a – bottle here. It is possible to tell wines with new French oak exposure from those with little or no new oak, and there are ways to adjust your cooking to better accompany these rich and flavorful wines.
With salmon, the richer fish play better with toasty wines (i.e. Copper River sockeye salmon vs. silver salmon). Also, grilling the fish to add a little smokiness is helpful. Generally, grilling is an easy way to help any food pair better with oaky wine. Other techniques include adding crushed nuts as a topping at the end of grilling (this pairs especially well with lighter-fleshed fin fish such as halibut or sea bass) to pair with toasty/oaky Chardonnay or other whites. Aggressively seasoning red meats (steak au poivre, for example) can help bridge the gap to an aggressively oaky wine.
The name “Elizabeth’s Reserve” was first used by Adelsheim Vineyard in 1986 to designate the blend of their best barrels of Pinot Noir. The portrait of David and Ginny Adelsheim’s daughter was drawn by accomplished artist Ginny Adelsheim. Until 1999 it was a single vineyard wine, but since 2000 it has been a blend of the best barrels from their best lots. This vintage is particularly good with its excellent structure and superb acidity to pair with food. Enjoy your salmon with aromas of raspberry, strawberry and mineral, and flavors of red fruits mingling with notes of cedar and earthy herbs.
Last week, I lauded the Jordan Block Pinot Noir from Youngberg Hill and this delicious wine from the Natasha Block is even better. Winemaker Wayne Bailey crafted this bright and flavorful Pinot to show ripe red berry and cherry aromas leading to a palate with dark cherry flavors and tangy minerality. Ample acidity pairs well with grilled salmon.
The Eileen Vineyard at Cristom Estate (named for co-owner Eileen Gerrie) is at the very top of the hill commanding a view of the vineyards, the eastern Cascade Mountains and the western Coastal Range. The vineyard was first planted in 1997, making it the youngest vineyard on the property. This wine is very approachable with “come hither” aromas of strawberry, raspberry, earthy mineral and hints of menthol and green herbs. Flavors on the palate echo the aromas adding barrel spice and raspberry candy to the complex mélange. Superb with salmon and a pleasure just to sip with cheeses and fresh artisan bread.
The name of this portion of the Kramer estate vineyard refers to the steep slope that requires additional effort on the part of vineyard workers tending the vines. Planted to Pommard and Dijon clone 115, Cardiac Hill produces excellent wines showing aromas of red berry, lavender, cherry candy and spice. The wine is aged 16 to 18 months in French oak (25% new), refining the tannins and adding notes of herbs and creaminess to the berry and cherry flavors. It is an exceptional pairing with Copper River salmon.
Archery Summit Premier Cuvée is the winery’s proprietary blend, a combination of fruit from its six distinctive estates: Arcus Estate, Archery Summit Estate, Red Hills Estate, Archer’s Edge Estate, Looney Vineyard and Renegade Ridge Estate. This vintage shows the floral side of Pinot Noir with aromas of lavender, spring flowers, orange zest and dark berries. The palate offers flavors of rich cherry wrapped in toasty oak with notes of vanilla and spice.
Benton-Lane Winery is named for its location at the border of Benton and Lane Counties in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Founded by California winemakers Steve and Carol Girard in 1988, the winery is in the foothills of Oregon’s Coastal Range, taking advantage of a rain shadow and its warmer weather at the estate vineyard. The 2010 Pinot Noir offers cherry and floral aromas with hints of baking spice leading to a palate of complex flavors that includes red cherry, raspberry and spicy notes of cedar.
Duck Pond Cellars
Doug and Jo Ann Fries moved their family from California’s Central Valley to Oregon in the 1980s. These lifelong farmers planted a 500-acre hazelnut orchard in the Willamette Valley and a small vineyard, originally intended to produce just a few hundred cases of their own wine. Family members joined in and helped form the original Duck Pond Cellars in 1993 and since then, the family has planted more vineyards in Oregon, as well as on Washington’s Wahluke Slope, supplying their Desert Wind Winery in Prosser. The 2010 Pinot Noir is rich with cherry and berry aromas, leading to a tangy palate of red cherry and red currant flavors that pair very well with our featured salmon entrée.
Josh Bergström makes the wines for his family’s winery with most of the grapes coming from the Chehalem Mountains and Ribbon Ridge AVAs. Le Pre Du Col Vineyard was planted from 2006 through 2011 on a south-facing slope that gathers enough heat to ripen Pinot Noir consistently each year. Balancing the grape ripeness to finished wine can then be a choice, not a demand by the weather. The 2011 Pinot Noir shows rich cherry fruit on the nose and palate with notes of herbs and sweet cherry candy. A soft finish with modest tannins invites the taster to enjoy the wine in the short term.
Tom and Celeste Symonette grow grapes in the Eola Hills west of Salem, Oregon. This block of their Nuestra Suenõ (our dream) Vineyard is planted to the traditional Wadenswil and Pommard clones that began the Oregon Pinot Noir industry almost 40 years ago. The wine was fermented with 100% whole berry and aged in 33% new oak. Look for ripe aromas of black fruits, plum, baking spice and cedar. The palate offers complex dark fruit flavors mingled with notes of tobacco and earthy vanilla.
Oak Knoll Winery
The history of Oak Knoll Winery goes back to the very beginning of the modern era of the Oregon wine industry. Upon a visit to Oregon in the 1980s Andre Tchelistcheff told owner Ron Vuylsteke, “I have spent the past fifty years of my life searching for the world’s finest Pinot Noirs, and yours is among the greatest I have tasted.” No faint praise, that. You can enjoy the descendant of the wine he tasted and discover bright strawberry, cherry candy, earthy mineral, spice and vanilla.
Acrobat by King Estate
With the coming of summer, King Estate is an impressive place to visit with tasting room hours from noon to 5pm and guided walking tours of the facility. The restaurant at the visitor center offers elegant gourmet meals for lunch and dinner with brunch and dinner on weekends. If you are going to be in the area, check the winery website for details: kingestate.com. Acrobat is the value-priced offering from King Estate with the Pinot noir selection showing aromas of strawberry and cherry. The palate is bright with acidity and flavors of raspberry, plum and toasty oak.
Seven of Hearts
Byron and Dana Dooley spent many years enjoying and studying wine before leaving other careers to pursue wine and food as their occupations. Today, Byron crafts varietals and blends from up to fifteen different vineyards in the Columbia Valley, and Dana operates Honest Chocolates in McMinnville and Newberg, with her candy making kitchen-sharing space with the Seven of Hearts tasting room in Carlton. From the cool 2011 vintage, this wine is a blend of five different AVAs in the northern Willamette Valley. Look for elegant strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors with bright acidity to pair with salmon.
Wines from other areas:
Cambria Estate Winery
Cambria Estate was a pioneer in the development of the Santa Maria Valley winegrowing area north of Santa Barbara. Owner Barbara Banke purchased Tepusquet Vineyard (planted in 1971) in 1986 and has overseen additional planting and updating of the property. Julia’s Vineyard is situated in the heart of the Santa Maria Bench and offers prime climatic conditions for the cultivation of Pinot Noir. It is planted exclusively to Pommard Clone 4. This is a rich and powerful Pinot showing aromas of black berry, black cherry, tobacco and citrus. The palate offers flavors of cherry cola, blackberry and barrel spice and finishes with floral and vanilla notes.
Bridlewood Estate Winery
Bridlewood Estate was once an Arabian horse farm and an equestrian rehabilitation center in the Central Coast AVA, and with its architecture gives a nod to California’s famed Spanish missions. Today the estate is all about wine with varietals crafted from grapes grown throughout the Central Coast. This Monterey County Pinot Noir offers aromas of blueberry, cranberry and vanilla coffee cake leading to spicy blueberry flavors and black-cherry compote. The wine finishes with a touch of mineral and cherry candy.
Kim and Erica Crawford launched Kim Crawford wines in 1996, helping to bring the Marlborough growing region into the world wine spotlight. The brand has evolved and expanded now being part of Constellation Brands with worldwide distribution. This lip-smacking Pinot Noir offers juicy flavors and aromas of red cherry, currant and strawberry with notes of vanilla and mineral.