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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Red Rhone Varietals
A 4-Part Series
Published Apr & May 2015

50 Shades of Chardonnay
A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr 2015

Italian Varietals
Come to America

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014

Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2014

Oyster and Mussel Wines
A 4-Part Series
Published Sept & Oct 2014

Pinot Noir & Copper
River Salmon

A 4-Part Series
Published June & July 2014

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Published Apr & May 2014


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 June 9, 2015

Pinot Noir with Copper River Salmon – Part One
Part 1 of a 4-Part series  (See Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

It’s that time of year again, when rich and tasty salmon from the grill meets flavorful Pinot Noir from the Northwest and around the world.  Delicious wild salmon from Alaska (whether Copper River run or not) – silver, sockeye or king – is a Northwest treat, especially from the grill.  Fish from the Copper River run are more flavorful with a richer texture due to a higher oil content. 

Fish can be poached, baked or grilled.  Grilling has the added advantage of adding a little smoky flavor that helps the fish pair with oak-aged wines…like many Pinot Noirs.  Copper River fish from the grill with a well-made Pinot Noir is a truly superb experience.  

Angela Estate
2012 Pinot Noir, Abbott Claim Vineyard
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

This relatively new winery in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA only releases single vineyard Pinot Noir wines.  They are made by master winemaker Ken Wright who was enticed to participate in the venture by his friends, owners Antony and Angela Beck.  Antony Beck continues his father’s legacy in South Africa with Graham Beck winery by creating this new Oregon estate. This exceptional bottling offers aromas and flavors of ripe blackberry, peppery spice and earthy mineral in a perfectly balanced framework of body, acidity and silky tannins. 

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards
2013 Pinot Noir, Winemakers Reserve
Umpqua Valley AVA

I regularly receive notice from Reustle winery about their latest gold medals won at competitions throughout the country.  Upon tasting the wines, one discovers that each bottling is indeed superb and worthy of my recommending it to you.  This Reserve Pinot Noir stands out for its complexity and structure.  Aromas of spicy berry and violets lead to flavors of red cherries, black raspberries and baking spices.  It is an excellent pairing with grilled salmon. 

Broadley Vineyards
2013 Pinot Noir, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

Craig and Claudia Broadley came north from the Bay area to found their winery in 1980.  They had discovered a passion for wine at Alice Waters’ newly opened Chez Panisse, pairing her creations with the Burgundian wines they favored.  Broadley Vineyards has been one of my favorite Oregon wineries for more than 25 years, their wines standing tall with the state’s finest.  Tasters appreciate their 2013 estate bottling for aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry, truffle and notes of spicy oak. 

Archery Summit Winery
2013 Pinot Noir, Estate
Dundee Hills AVA

The Archery Summit estate in Oregon’s Dundee Hills is comprised of six vineyards across 120 acres in one of the world’s finest areas to grow Pinot Noir.  Winemaker and General Manager Chris Mazepink came to the estate in 2013 after holding positions at several of the Willamette Valley’s most noted wineries.  This first vintage under his direction continues the tradition of excellence.  Look for aromas and flavors of Bing cherry, red currants and floral perfume with finishing notes of vanilla and baking spices. 

Firesteed Cellars
2009 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

Howard Rossbach has been in the wine business since 1975, moving up from retail sales to wholesale representative, to ownership of the successful Firesteed winery and vineyards in the celebrated wine country of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  The 2009 Firesteed Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with grilled wild salmon offering aromas of dark cherry, berry and truffle leading to a complex palate with berry flavors wrapped in earthy mineral, vanilla bean and spicy oak.  

Brandborg Vineyards and Winery
2011 Pinot Noir
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Terry and Sue Brandborg operate their vineyard and winery near Elkton, Oregon in the Elkton AVA of the Umpqua Valley.  Their mountainous vineyard location has southern exposures and ranges in elevation from 750 to 1,000 feet.  While the estate vineyard matures, Terry makes wine from selected vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  His Yamhill-Carlton bottling offers aromas of cherries and earthy forest floor with notes of rose petal and citrus. The palate is lean with flavors of cherry and strawberry well balanced with ample acidity to pair with our grilled salmon.  

Girardet Winery
2010 Pinot Noir, Barrel Select
Umpqua Valley AVA

“Founders Philippe and Bonnie Girardet established this European-style wine estate in 1971 with an intuition that this picturesque site resembled the best vineyard lands of Europe.”  The first commercial Girardet wines were released in 1983 and Philippe and Bonnie’s son Marc took over the winemaking in 1999.  Marc’s Barrel Select Pinot Noir is light in style with classic spicy strawberry and toasty aromas, flavors of red cherry and spice, and excellent acidity to pair with salmon and other culinary favorites.  

Benton-Lane Winery
2012 Pinot Noir, 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.  This Pinot Noir from the superb 2012 vintage is rich with aromas and flavors of dark plum, cassis and cherry with notes of smoky meats and baking spices. 

Stangeland Winery
2013 Pinot Noir, Reserve
Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Larry Miller’s Stangeland Vineyard is one of the oldest in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, having been planted in 1978.  The Pinot Noir block is planted to the Wadenswil clone.  Larry’s Reserve Pinot Noir offers aromas of sweet herbs, cherry and toasty oak (aged on 50% new French oak).  The palate is complex with mature notes of cherry and plum with notes of violets and toasty cedar. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2012 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA

Ponzi Vineyards was founded near Beaverton, Oregon in 1970, making the Ponzi family one of the earliest Pinot Noir pioneers in the state.  Dick Ponzi crafted the wines for more than 20 years, and was joined by his daughter Luisa in 1993.  She gradually assumed the winemaking helm and is now considered one of Oregon’s finest.  Luisa’s 2012 Pinot Noir offers complexity and style showing aromas of earthy tobacco and floral notes mingling with toast and cherry.  The palate expands with flavors of dark cherry and plum and notes of cocoa and spice on the finish. 

Dobbes Family Estate
2012 Pinot Noir, Griffin’s Cuvee
Willamette Valley AVA

Joe Dobbes is another Oregon winemaker with long experience and a wide following.  He crafts several Pinot Noir wines in each vintage, assembling cuvees from highly respected vineyard sources.  Griffin’s Cuvee is made from 50% Quailhurst Vineyard fruit from the Chehalem Mountains AVA.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe red cherry and strawberry, toasted oak, earthy mineral and nuances of tobacco, vanilla and herbs. 

A to Z Wineworks
2013 Pinot Noir

Who says great Pinot Noir has to be expensive? 
A to Z Wineworks began as a partnership of Oregon wine industry veterans who knew how to find the grapes and make the wine to please both the palate and the pocketbook.  A to Z Pinot Noir has twice been named to the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines list, and my tasters really enjoyed it with Copper River salmon.  They enjoyed raspberry and cherry fruit with hints of mineral and citrus, finishing with earthy complexity that calls out for fish from the grill. 

Wines from other areas

Kendall Jackson
2013 Pinot Noir, Grand Reserve
Monterey/Santa Barbara

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve is a winemaker’s blend of mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations.  It is crafted from the top 5% of all Kendall Jackson lots.  Selection of 66% of the grapes from Monterey and 34% from Santa Barbara ensures complexity and balance.  The nose offers bright cherry with baking spice, herbs and floral perfume.  The palate of spicy cherry and mineral pairs perfectly with salmon from the grill. 

Robert Mondavi Winery
2013 Pinot Noir
Carneros, Napa Valley

The very southernmost part of the Napa Valley is the Carneros AVA where the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay allows the grapes to ripen slowly, building peak flavor from additional hang time.  The vineyards are planted to more than 20 different clones of Pinot Noir.  Aromas and flavors of spicy plum, cherry and toasty oak complement a lush palate with medium tannins – very salmon friendly! 

Kenneth Volk Winery
2011 Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara County

Ken Volk is a believer in selecting great vineyards, cultivating them to create complexity, then letting the wine express the fruit.  “For Pinot Noir more than any other variety, the style of the wine should be dictated by the vineyard.”  The Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit from neighboring vineyards.  Look for bright red fruits, sweet cherry, earthy rhubarb notes, raspberry candy and hints of toasty caramel. 

Frei Brothers Reserve
2012 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley, CA

This ripe and toasty Pinot Noir comes from Frei Brothers vineyards in California’s cool Russian River Valley – now becoming famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  Look for aromas and flavors of dark cherry and blackberry with notes of toasty caramel and tobacco. 

Emiliana Natura
2013 Pinot Noir
Colchagua Valley, Chile

This value-priced Pinot Noir from Chile is fermented and aged mostly in stainless steel (10% aged in French oak then blended back).  This preserves the grapes fresh and fruity character of cherry and cranberry with notes of cocoa and baking spice on the palate.  It is a very enjoyable accompaniment to savory salmon from the grill.

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