By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
For many wine lovers, Pinot Noir is their red of choice – offering ripe and fruity aromas and flavors, as well as the most versatility in pairing with food. Whether serving roasted chicken, meats from the grill, or pasta with a hearty sauce, Pinot Noir enhances the flavor of the food and adds character without overpowering the dish. My choice of rich Copper River salmon from Alaska gives Pinot Noir a chance to mingle with a superstar of the seafood world and create a perfect match of food and wine.
Pinot Noir is produced in a variety of styles. Wines from cooler vintages are often aged with less oak and offer strawberry and raspberry fruit – great for sipping or savoring with lighter foods. Wines from warmer vintages and preferred sites see more oak and plumb the depths of ripe cherry and plum with toasty and caramel nuances. Rosé of Pinot Noir is produced either by saignee (bleeding of juice from red must) or by limiting skin contact in a dedicated cuvee.
This wine has won a basket full of medals in recent competitions, and my tasters likewise found it to be a superb wine and excellent pairing with rich salmon. The wine was crafted from grapes grown at the Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard and Romancing Rock Vineyard. Look for ripe aromas of black cherry and plum, dusty dried herb and cherry candy. The palate adds spicy rhubarb to the cherry and plum along with notes of sweet oak and spice.
Larry Miller and his family founded Stangeland Vineyards northwest of Salem, Oregon in 1978, with additional planting made on their hilltop site in 1986. A true pioneer of the (now) Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Stangeland Vineyards produces Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. The Estate Pinot Noir from Dijon clone 114 offers aromas of red cherry and spicy raspberry candy, leading to a rich palate of dark cherry with notes of cocoa, dried herbs and smoky cedar.
Howard Rossbach’s popular Firesteed brand has introduced quality Northwest Pinot Noir to more consumers around the world than any other. The wine is bright with cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors with just a kiss of oak and a tangy finish. It pairs well with Copper River salmon and dozens of other savory selections from your kitchen.
The second generation of the Ponzi family is now firmly at the helm of this historic Oregon wine estate, working from their showplace new winery at the top of the Chehalem Mountains. Surrounded by their estate Avellana Vineyard, the spectacular facility offers a dramatic-view tasting room, bocce courts and food offerings to pair with your tasting. Enjoy Ponzi’s entry-level Tavola Pinot Noir for its aromas and flavors of plum and black cherry with notes of citrus, floral perfume and spicy oak.
Cherry Hill Winery is nestled in the magical Eola Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The tasting room is open daily during the summer season for tasting and picnicking on the patio. The story of this wine is that the resident winery Papillon pooch, Miss Daisy, picks the barrels for the blend of Dijon clones 113, 115 and 777. You will applaud her selections as the robust wine offers tempting dark fruits, caramel and cocoa in the nose and on the palate.
Lazy River Vineyard
This estate wine from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA comes from the Lumpkin family, owners of the expansive vineyard that supplies grapes to many of Oregon’s finest wineries. This superb fruit is also used to create a limited production Pinot Noir for Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin’s Lazy River label. Look for complex cherry and plum with notes of violets, almonds and cherry candy.
Panther Creek Cellars
Panther Creek Cellars has evolved from its founding in the 1980s by consistently crafting superb wines from the finest vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Consulting winemaker Tony Rynders oversees production of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. This wine from the acclaimed Lazy River Vineyard offers complex cherry and berry fruit with dusty herbs, floral notes and toasty cedar.
Erath Vineyards is another Oregon pioneer winery founded by Dick Erath in the 1970s. Winemaking is now handled by talented Northwest wine veteran Gary Horner, a dedicated scientist and keen artist of the winemaking craft. Look for tart red fruits, fragrant orchard blossom and hints of citrus on the nose. The palate adds cranberry and bramble to the flavor mix.
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. This special wine is of the big-and-rich style, offering ripe cherry and plum with toasty accents of cola and vanilla – perfect for salmon cooked on the grill.
The Rainstorm brand of Oregon wines is one of the best values coming from the Pacific Northwest. Crafted from grapes grown at vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette and Umpqua Valleys, the wine sees 10 months of oak contact. Look for bright cherry and pomegranate aromas with hints of rose petal, leading to a juicy palate that offers great versatility in food pairing.
Wines from other areas:
This tasty wine comes from the Awatere Valley in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The vintage was warm and dry, though mild temperatures throughout the summer resulted in pronounced black cherry fruit and perfectly ripe tannins. Look for aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, earthy forest floor, dried herbs and floral perfume – just the right body to serve with grilled salmon.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Joseph Phelps Vineyards grows fantastic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in their Freestone Vineyards (this wine is from equal parts Quarter Moon and Pastorale Vineyard sites). The wine offers the entire spectrum of Pinot aromas: red cherry, raspberry, dried herbs and spicy floral notes. On the palate, add flavors of cranberry and plum with notes of spicy oak and vanilla.
Miner Family Vineyards
This wine is from Gary’s Vineyard, a 50-acre site in the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Salinas River Valley in Monterey County. Winemakers Gary Brookman and Stacy Vogel aged this powerful wine for 15 months in French oak, 60% new. This bottling is of the California style with ripe plum, cherry and dark fruits along with notes of anise, spice and toasty oak. It is great with salmon, but also a great pairing for meats from the grill.
The winemaker behind the Araucano wines is fifth-generation Bordeaux vigneron François Lurton. The wine is crafted from Pinot Noir clone 777, grown in the cool coastal region of the Lolol Hills. Aromas of strawberry and cherry lead to a palate of fresh fruit flavors with dried herbs, citrus and hints of toasty oak.