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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Red Rhone Varietals
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published May & Jun 2016

Versatile Chardonnays
for Spring

A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr 2016

Italian Varietals for 2016
A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon
and Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2015

Thanksgiving Wines
Published Nov 16, 2015

Meat My Merlot
A 4-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2015

Bordeaux Buddies
The Blending Grapes

on their own
A 4-Part Series
Published Aug & Sep 2015

Wines for Oysters
and Mussels

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2015


Index to Archived
Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


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Last Week's Reviews
Published July 8, 2016

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

What is it that makes a wine great?  What aromas and flavors reveal the best wines’ character?  Perhaps more important, what makes a wine worth the extra dollars that you spend at the wine shop? 

Most upper-tier wines reveal their character with subtle cues: complex – not overpowering – aromas; flavors that evolve as the wine breathes and opens up; and – perhaps most important – balance on the palate with acidity, tannin and fruitiness working together to create “structure.”   Excellent structure is hard to define in words – many expert tasters suggest, “I know it when I taste it.”  It is rare to have an enological epiphany, and it almost never occurs with a low-priced bottle of wine. 

The cream of the crop rose to the top of this week’s tasting, and many other wines impressed my tasters for their quality and style. 

King Estate Winery
2013 Pinot Noir, Domaine, Oregon
Willamette Valley AVA

This exceptional wine was lauded by participants as the most complex in that week’s tasting. Grapes for the wine - Dijon clones 113 and 115  - came exclusively from the winery’s estate vineyard, located in the Willamette Valley AVA near Eugene, Oregon.  Stainless steel fermentation was followed by 18 months aging in French oak, 50% new.  Aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and raspberry mingle with floral notes, dark chocolate and cedar, with a lovely finishing balance of acidity and supple tannins.  


Archery Summit
2014 Pinot Noir, Red Hills Estate

Here is another wine sourced exclusively from the winery’s own vineyards.  Archery Summit’s Red Hills Estate features 20-year-old Pommard clone vines (own root, 800 vines per acre) and Dijon clones (4,800 vines per acre).  Aromas of strawberry, rose petal, cocoa and earthy mineral lead to a palate of juicy cherry wrapped in cigar box cedar, vanilla and spicy cherry candy. 



Dobbes Family Estate
2012 Pinot Noir, Meyer Vineyard
Dundee Hills AVA

Salmon fisherman and winemaker Joe Dobbes crafted this vineyard-designated Pinot Noir using no new oak barrels, just a handful of 2-year-old cooperage and the rest neutral oak.  With no new wood, the wine still offers great complexity with notes of toffee, chocolate and spicy cedar.  The core of dark cherry and strawberry weaves notes of gingerbread, floral notes and anise into the mix. 

Willamette Valley Vineyards
2015 Pinot Noir, Whole Cluster

It is rare to find an American Pinot Noir crafted using carbonic maceration fermentation – the same technique used to create Beaujolais Nouveau.  Whole grape clusters are gently conveyed into stainless steel tanks that have been filled with CO2 gas.  Yeast is added and the tanks are tightly closed to exclude any excess oxygen.  The resulting sprightly wine offers cherry, strawberry and notes of citrus and hints of cocoa. 

Broadley Vineyards
2013 Pinot Noir, Jessica, Estate

I’ve often told the tale of this winery’s founding by Berkeley, CA expats Craig and Claudia Broadley, and it’s about time to concentrate on their son and successor Morgan Broadley and his wife Jessica.  Jessica – the wine – is produced each year from the distinctive vineyard section of Dijon clones 667 and 115.  Fermentation on wild yeast included 70% whole clusters and was followed by aging in Taransaud French oak barrels, 50% new.  Aromas of raspberry, plum and spice lead to a bright palate of tangy berries where acidity and tannins dance a tango of balance that makes this an exceptional food wine. 

Panther Creek Cellars
2014 Pinot Noir, Kalita Vineyard
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

This wine was made from grapes grown at Kalita Vineyard in the heart of Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The vineyard is planted exclusively to Pinot Noir including Pommard clone and three Dijon clones, all on resistant rootstock.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe black cherry, pomegranate and spice with notes of violets and orchard blossom, and a finish of toasty caramel and smoky cedar. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2013 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

This regional Pinot Noir from Ponzi Vineyards features fruit from their estate Aurora and Avellana Vineyards as well as from nine other premium vineyards throughout the AVA.  The wine opens with cherry and strawberry aromas mingling with cocoa and cedar.  The palate adds violets, pepper and cranberry to the round-fruits mix, making it a tasty companion to savory Alaska salmon. 

Adelsheim Vineyard
2014 Pinot Noir, Breaking Ground
Chehalem Mountains AVA

Oregon wine pioneer Adelsheim Vineyard celebrates their home territory by releasing the first new bottling since 2005. I first met David Adelsheim in the driveway of his home and winery (in the garage) in 1979. A bigger winery was built in 1982 and the final grand facility was begun on Calkins Lane in 1993. This Chehalem Mountains Pinot offers black raspberries and cherry, lilacs, spicy herbs, and hints of cocoa and toasty oak. 

Carabella Vineyard
2013 Pinot Noir, Estate
Chehalem Mountains AVA

The Chehalem Mountains AVA is a big place!  Mike and Cara Hallock’s Carabella Vineyard is located between Highway 99W and I-5 on the southeast slope of Parrett Mountain.  This site has proven to be of extraordinary quality, and Mike’s Carabella wines are well received throughout the industry.  Blueberry and blackberry are gently cloaked in toasty oak and vanilla with hints of rhubarb and mineral. 

Brooks Winery
2013 Pinot Noir, Janus
Willamette Valley AVA

In Roman mythology, Janus is the God representing balance for new beginnings and endings, the future and the past, and the connecting doorways.  Janus is the flagship Pinot Noir for Brooks Winery, located at their new facility on Cherry Blossom Lane outside Amity, Oregon.  Enjoy this complex Pinot Noir for ripe red and black fruits, lilac notes and layers of spicy oak, vanilla and hints of caramel. 

Brigadoon Wine Co.
2014 Pinot Noir, Lylee

Proprietor Chris Shown came north from California to create Brigadoon Vineyards near Junction City, Oregon.  His son Matt earned his degree in horticulture at Oregon State University and works side-by-side with his father in the vineyard making wines for Brigadoon.  The Lylee Pinot Noir offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, baking spice and strawberry compote. 

Sokol Blosser Winery
2013 Pinot Noir
Dundee Hills AVA

Sokol Blosser Winery near Dundee, Oregon was founded in the 1970s and has been a major force in the growth of the state’s wine industry.  This wine from a great Oregon vintage offers aromas and flavors of blueberry and cherry with notes of vanilla, spicy oak and a finish of supple tannins. 

Wines from other areas: 

MacMurray Estate
2014 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley

The MacMurray family has been farming in Northern California for more than 150 years with the most recent addition being Pinot Noir grown at their Russian River Valley ranch and their property on California’s Central Coast.  This wine from an exceptional vintage shows the ripe side of Pinot Noir offering aromas of dark cherry, boysenberry and lavender.  The palate offers ripe fruit flavors with notes of caramel, vanilla and toasty oak. 

Cambria Estate Winery
2013 Pinot Noir, Benchbreak
Santa Maria Valley

Cambria Winery is located on the Santa Maria bench in California’s Santa Barbara County.  This cool coastal growing area is excellent for the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This Benchbreak Pinot Noir is a combination of different clones and vine ages, yielding a rich, dark wine with ripe berry and earthy mineral flavors – a great complement to salmon from the grill. 

Le Charmel
2014 Pinot Noir, Pays d’Oc

This wine comes from vineyards in Limoux, one of the coolest parts of Languedoc at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in the South of France.  The 10-year-old vines are pruned using the “cordon de Royat” and “Guyot” methods to expose the fruit and foliage to the sun.  Look for aromas and flavors of red currant, cherry and baking spices with hints of oak and vanilla on the finish.

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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 07/19/2016