By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
Part of the fun of enjoying Pinot Noir is the wide variety of tastes that evolve from this single grape. Some tastes are dependent on ripeness of vintage, some on clonal selection and plenty more from winemaker intervention like oak aging and other treatments.
The basic fruit aromas/flavors evolving from ripeness of vintage are (in increasing order of ripeness): strawberry (not so ripe), red cherry, black cherry, plum, dried plum/prune (very ripe or overripe). Oak aging adds spicy and woody notes to a wine’s aroma and flavor as well as distinct caramel, brown sugar and smoky notes.
When first opened, many Pinot Noirs are shy with their aroma and open up only after breathing for a half hour or so. As the wines breathe, they reveal flavors beyond the fruit, including the toasty/smoky wood notes and caramel/meaty flavors.
This rich and flavorful Pinot Noir was crafted from grapes grown at Lazy River Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA near the Oregon Coast Range mountains. Winemaker Tony Rynders aged the wine on French oak, 47% new, for 8 months. A favorite with my tasting panel, the wine offers complex aromas and flavors of black fruits and dark cherry with notes of earthy minerality, blueberry and hints of mocha and spice.
Wines at Chehalem Winery are crafted by second-generation winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry, daughter of founder Harry Peterson-Nedry. This blend of wines from Ridgecrest, Stoller and Corral Creek Vineyards is a sleek and spicy Pinot Noir with aromas of Bing cherry, leather and pomegranate leading to a fruity palate with a layer of complex flavors of cocoa, smoky meat, tobacco and barrel spice – a classic Oregon Pinot Noir.
This wine is a perennial favorite with my tasters as its affinity for
salmon from the grill is almost unequalled. Most of the fruit comes from
Chehalem Mountain estate sites Ribbon Springs, Bryan Creek and Calkins
Lane. On the nose, an initial puff of baking spices yields to candy
cherry and strawberry with notes of crushed leaf. The palate adds toasty
oak notes and earthy mineral to the core of cherry and raspberry.
The Rex Hill winery has been an icon of Pinot Noir in the Northern Willamette Valley of Oregon for 35 years and continues to be a must-see destination for wine lovers seeking an intimate experience on site. Its classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is sourced from every sub-AVA in the Willamette Valley and crafted with classic production techniques. Look for black cherry and plum mingling with notes of violets, cassis, tobacco and smoky meats.
Erath is one of the original Pinot Noir pioneers in the Willamette Valley, going back to the 1970s when Dick Erath partnered with lumber baron Cal Knudsen to create the Knudsen-Erath brand. Today superb winemaker Gary Horner crafts the wines under the Erath label including this blend of fruit from a half dozen notable vineyard sites. Aromas and flavors of red currant and plum mingle with fresh herbs, candy cherry and hints of citrus. All is wrapped in a tidy cocoon of toasty oak, spice and creamy vanilla on the finish.
Steve Hendricks’ Ruby Vineyard and Winery is an historic property in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon with vineyards dating back to 1973. This exceptional bottling was crafted entirely of fruit from own-rooted 40-year-old vines on the estate. Look for ripe strawberry and cherry with notes of black fruits, earthy mineral, spice and toasty oak – great with salmon and other grilled dishes.
Alloro founder David Nemarnik crafted his Mediterranean-style winery in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains AVA where visitors can stop by the tasting room Thursdays through Mondays year round. Winemaker Tom Fitzpatrick crafted this elegant Pinot Noir from fruit grown exclusively on the estate vineyard. Look for aromas and flavors of lush strawberry and cherry with notes of cocoa, lavender, toffee and cola.
As a person who has been around since the beginning of Oregon’s leap into the limelight of international Pinot Noir, I am continually impressed with the Ponzi family’s dedication, innovation and creativity in making Oregon’s hallmark grape a star both at home and abroad. Visit their showplace, hilltop winery in Sherwood, Oregon to share in the fruits of their success. Their entry level Pinot Noir is crafted and aged for early release, offering red fruits and spice with notes of toasty cedar.
This site near Forest Grove, Oregon is home to some of the state’s
oldest vinifera plantings. The Reuter family homestead farmhouse dates
to 1883 and is where you will be tasting David Hill wines when you come
for a visit. Enjoy the 2014 Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of black
cherry, plum and spice, or – for a lighter sip – try the refreshing 2016
Rosť of Pinot Noir.
A blend of wines from a wide array of Willamette Valley vineyard sites, this classic Pinot Noir offers bright strawberry and cherry fruit with notes of earthy spice, floral perfume and hints of citrus and vanilla.
Terry Brandborg’s Bench Lands Pinot Noir from vineyard sites in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley is always enjoyed by my tasting panel. Classic Pinot Noir aromas of red cherry, blueberry and cranberry mingle with herbs and floral perfume. On the palate red berries and cherries lead to notes of citrus, cocoa and tobacco – a delightful Pinot and a good value.
Iris Vineyards is nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range mountains 20 minutes southwest of Eugene, Oregon. This wine comes from their Chalice Estate Vineyard, which in 2014 enjoyed a near-perfect growing season. A little decanting with aeration helped this wine achieve its full potential, showing ripe dark plum, Bing cherry, baking spices and earthy mineral.
Jacob Williams Winery
Veteran winemaker John Haw crafted this Pinot Noir from grapes grown at the Underwood Vineyard across the river from Hood River, Oregon in the Columbia Gorge. Look for raspberry and black cherry with notes of citrus zest, vanilla and rose petal.
Wines from other areas
Robert Mondavi Winery
Genevieve Janssens directs the winemaking team at Robert Mondavi Winery in California’s Napa Valley. The newest winemaker Megan Schofield crafts wines from the cool climate varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the southern Napa Carneros region. Enjoy aromas and flavors of spicy berry fruit with dark cherry, cinnamon and citrus peel.
For five generations, the Wente family has been dedicated to the art of winemaking and to the philosophy that the quality of a wine originates in the vineyards. This Pinot Noir hails from the Wente family’s vineyards at Riva Ranch in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum and cranberry mingle with toasty spice, black tea and earthy mineral.
Bridlewood Estate Winery
Monterey County is a popular place to grow cool-climate varieties due to its cool ocean breezes and well-sited hillside sites. Bridlewood Pinot Noir opens with aromas of dark berry, cherry and vanilla with flavors of raspberry, black cherry, caramel and subtle oak notes on the palate.
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