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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Chuck's Wine Reviews
of Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal



Wines of the Week Archive
Archived July 10, 2017
Originally Published
June 21, 2017

Pinot Noir and Copper River Salmon
Part 1 of a 4-Part Series (Part 2)  (Part 3)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

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 (or growing areas) 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 saignée (bleeding of juice from red must) or by limiting skin contact in a dedicated cuvée. 

Ghost Hill Cellars
2014 Pinot Noir, Prospector’s Reserve
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

The Bayliss family has owned this plot of land – home of the Bayliss-Bower Vineyard – since 1906. The first wine grapes were planted in 1999 and include 16 acres of Pinot Noir: Pommard, Wadenswil and Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777. Winemaker Eric Hamacher selected just six barrels to create this reserve bottling, featuring rich and complex notes of dark cherry, black currant, toasty/earthy mineral, vanilla and toffee. My tasters found it superb with rich Copper River sockeye from the grill. 

Montinore Estate
2014 Pinot Noir, Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA

Montinore Estate continues to produce superb Oregon wines since its founding in 1982 near the town of Forest Grove, Oregon. The winery is the second largest estate producer of wines made from Biodynamic grapes in the country. My tasters always enjoy this wine for its bright aromas of cherry and pomegranate and its flavors of cherry, spice and mocha. Crisp acidity makes it a perfect pairing with succulent salmon. 

King Estate
2014 Pinot Noir, Hyland Vineyard
McMinnville AVA

Old Pinot-philes like me and my tasters have known Hyland Vineyard from almost the beginning, with the first plantings made in 1971 in the gentle hills above McMinnville, Oregon. Pioneering wineries used the fruit in the early days and some even made vineyard designated bottlings. So it is no surprise that this beauty crafted by King Estate is a spectacular wine. Look for aromas of blackberry, strawberry and spice leading to juicy flavors of red fruits, toasty oak and vanilla. 

Zena Crown Vineyard
2013 Pinot Noir, Conifer
Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Zena Crown Vineyard is in the southern part of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Planted on volcanic soils at elevations of 400 to 550 feet, this prime southwest-facing location combined with cooling breezes from the Van Duzer Corridor, creates a perfect home for Pinot Noir. The 2013 Conifer bottling offers complex aromas of red fruits, earthy citrus, mineral and Oregon forest floor. Excellent acidity on the mineral and spice finish pairs superbly with salmon. 

Panther Creek
2014 Pinot Noir, De Ponte Vineyard
Dundee Hills AVA

This rich and complex Pinot Noir is another example of the variety grown on volcanic soils, specifically the red Jory soils of the Dundee Hills. The wine offers aromas and flavors of red and black fruits with toasty and spicy nuances from aging on 40% new French oak. Medium body and earthy minerality pair well with salmon from the grill. 

Elk Cove Vineyards
2014 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

It is a true pleasure to linger over delicious Copper River salmon from the grill paired with perfectly balanced Pinot Noir from Oregon’s best vineyards. The Elk Cove Willamette Valley blend comes from all five estate vineyards plus some purchased fruit. Different soil types and a variety of clones assure a complex and flavorful bottling. Look for dark cherry and chalky mineral with hints of citrus, toasty oak and red plum. 

2014 Pinot Noir
Eola-Amity Hills AVA

This Pinot Noir from the volcanic soils of the Eola Hills comes from the Daffodil Hill Vineyard northeast of Rickreall in the heart of the appellation. The vineyard is dry farmed giving the wine an ultimate expression of terroir. Whole-berry fermentation and aging in neutral French oak create dark berry and plum flavors with hints of spice and mineral. 

Grochau Cellars
2013 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

John Grochau was a wine steward at some of Portland’s finest restaurants, then apprenticed at two Yamhill County wineries before opening Grochau Cellars with his wife Kerri in 2002. The 2013 Pinot Noir offers rich aromas of dried cherry, plum and toasty oak, followed on the palate with mature plum and cherry flavors and notes of toasty vanilla. 

Lenne Estate
2014 Pinot Noir
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Stephen Lutz worked many jobs in the wine industry before finding his plot east of Yamhill, Oregon, that would become Lenne Estate. Good elevation and slope were tempered by poor Peavine series soils which hampered establishment of the vines, but promised good quality grapes in future years. The good years arrived and I enjoyed the 2014 estate Pinot Noir for its rich red and black fruits, Bing cherry and notes of earth and cocoa. 

2014 Pinot Noir

Finding good inexpensive Pinot Noir from Oregon grapes is often a tall order. This wine accomplishes that feat by finding good fruit at a reasonable price and economies of winery location (Bronco facility in Richland, WA). Look for bright cherry fruit, spice and a clean finish with good acidity for pairing with salmon or other favorite foods. 

Rosé of Pinot Noir

Matzinger Davies Wines
2016 Rosé
Willamette Valley AVA

This saignée blend of Pinot Noir and Grenache was “bled within hours of arriving at the winery” and was fermented in one neutral oak barrel and one stainless steel barrel. Aromas of rose petal and cherry tingle the nose and lead to a food-friendly palate of berry and melon with savory notes of herbs and white pepper. 

2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir

This delightful, pink-hued wine comes from selected vineyards throughout Western Oregon and is crafted to accompany casual meals from salads to seafood to lighter meats. It is shot through with Pinot Noir’s citrus alter ego, lime zest in the aroma and bright lemon-lime on the palate. These zippy highlights are cocooned within strawberry, orchard blossom and cherry. 

Three Otters
2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

Three Otters have rested prominently on the Fullerton family crest since the 13th century. Today, the trio of fissipeds are featured on wine labels honoring the family’s Northern European heritage. This rosé is a blend of two cuvees – one, a whole-cluster pressed version, and two, a saignée of Pinot Noir ferments. Look for strawberry, watermelon, citrus and floral notes to pair with lighter meals and appetizers. 

2016 Rosé, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

Steve and Carol Girard founded Benton-Lane in 1988.  The location in the southern Willamette Valley was the source of the winery’s name, being near the border of Benton and Lane Counties in Oregon. The 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé offers bright strawberry and floral aromas and flavors with hints of herb, mineral and zesty citrus.

Wines from other areas

Gallo Signature Series
2014 Pinot Noir
Santa Lucia Highlands

Gina Gallo hand raises these special Signature Series wines, from selection of grapes in Gallo’s finest vineyards to the care and nurturing of each wine - fermentation through bottling. This wine is a blend of five different Pinot Noir clones from the Olsen Ranch Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Enjoy your Copper River salmon with flavors of black cherry, rose petal, tangy pomegranate and toasty oak and vanilla. 

Kim Crawford
2015 Pinot Noir, Rise and Shine
New Zealand

This flavorful Pinot Noir is named after Rise and Shine Creek, which runs through the heart of Central Otago’s once famous gold mining area. The wine comes from Clearvue Vineyard, one of the warmer areas in Central Otago’s cool-climate region. Look for aromas and flavors of dark plum, blackberry, tangy spice and toasty oak. 

2014 Pinot Noir
Lolol Valley, Chile

This Reserva bottling is crafted from Pinot Noir of the Dijon 777 clone grown on north-facing slopes of the Lolol hills. This lighter Pinot Noir offers fresh strawberry and cherry aromas with notes of baking spices. The palate echoes with bright flavors of berry and cherry, hints of oak and citrus. 

Q Collection
2015 Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast

This soft and flavorful Pinot Noir comes from the cool growing area of the Sonoma Coast AVA sheltered from the winds of the Pacific Ocean and nestled in the low rolling mountains of the coastal range. Cherry and earthy mineral pair well with salmon, poultry and other savory dishes.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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