Friday, October 11, 2013

Experience pays off with 2011 Oregon Pinot (SF Gate Article)


       The following is a word for word copy of an article I really liked written in the SanFrancisco Gate Newspaper on Oregon's 2011 vintage. There are a number of wines that the panel liked and a few of them made our list too. Unfortunately some of the others are not available in the state of Connecticut and others that are on a different vintage in our state. We eliminated them and added a few of our own choices to the list of worthy suggestions.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


"Chance favors the prepared mind, or so Louis Pasteur once said.
If so, then the best chance at salvation of Oregon's 2011 vintage came from just that - and more often than not, from veteran winemakers who knew how to prepare for the latest, coldest and most drawn-out vintage in the state's history.
It might sound familiar to those who know California vintages: 2011 as a harbinger of the long, cold and tough. But in Oregon the wait for ripeness was drawn to an extreme, with Pinot Noir often harvested into November - not to hit the bulky flavors that California hunts but simply for the grapes to mature enough to make a solid wine. The fact that it was a big crop only worsened prospects for ripeness.
Except that Oregon's endgame in 2011 was sunny and cheery, an extended bout of picking that, despite the lateness, offered a great bounty. The rain that is so often Oregon's bugaboo never made itself troublesome - very different from this year, when our thoroughly soaked friends up north are waiting for things to dry out.
Patience, and the prepared mind, scored a big win in 2011. So did those of us who enjoy these wines.
The 2011s in Oregon are a particularly charming lot. They have an energy and litheness that mark the best classic vintages in Oregon and Burgundy - or for that matter among more diligent winemakers in California that year.
Unlike Oregon's generous 2008 vintage, these are lean and sharp-eyed wines. I have been increasingly concerned about the age-worthy abilities of Oregon Pinot Noir - too many bottles from 2006 and 2007 seem to be fully mature - but the extended season in 2011 gives me some hope that many of the best wines will have a good long life ahead. If they are not the fleshiest, friendliest wines, their reticence has other benefits.
On the matter of being prepared: When I looked at some of the most successful results from our recent panel tasting of five dozen 2011 Oregon wines, familiar names rose to the top. They include Brick House's Doug Tunnell, Josh Bergstrom, Chehalem's Harry Pederson-Nedry, Stoller's Melissa Burr, and even Myron Redford at Amity. These are people who have lived with Oregon's more challenging ways for at least a decade, in some cases for more than three.
This differentiates them from the other contingent I noticed in our lineup: a growing roster of California brands that have crossed the border for fruit from above the 42nd parallel. Evidently, the must-have item on a Napa stock shelf this season is from Oregon. But in general, 2011 was not a year for those with a California ZIP code to covet Oregon fruit. It was, so to speak, a good assertion of home rule.
Oregon has always been of some interest to those from afar, notably when the Drouhin family bought property in Dundee in 1987 and set up shop. But this year has marked several major new incursions, with two major acquisitions in August.
Kendall-Jackson bought 392 acres in Eola-Amity Hills, the biggest bet so far from California on Oregon soil, while the Burgundy house of Louis Jadot bought the 32-acre Resonance vineyard, one of the state's best known, with plans for wine to be made by Jadot cellar mastermind Jacques Lardiere.
In other words, Oregon is growing up fast. The hope is that its great charm - complex and modestly ripe wines at modest prices - remains even as it grows into a fully mature wine region.
In the meantime, there is a complicated but stellar vintage now hitting shelves, one that shows precisely what Oregon can do best. If 2011 favored the prepared mind, it simply revealed that years of preparation are finally paying off."

2011 Soter North Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($33, 13.4%): Tony Soter has done Pinot long enough to remember California's meager vintages in the 1980s. For this blend of several parcels across three sub-appellations, he and winemaker James Cahill devised a nuanced and floral result: jasmine, fresh mineral, tart raspberry and red currant. A quiet tension defines it, with enough juicy plum flavor to provide pleasing weight.
2011 Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir ($15, 12%): New Zealand native Haydn Mouat devised a value-priced bottle that gives hope for affordable Oregon Pinot, a category that tumbled down a scree in recent years. Pretty, delicate, slightly stemmy red fruit, with black pepper, dried pine needle and straightforward cranberry. Terrific table wine.
2011 A to Z Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($20):
This sleek red is tightly packed, with delicate layers of cherry, tobacco and cocoa flavors that mingle against refined tannins, persisting pleasantly on the light-stepping finish.

2011 Westrey Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($29)

2011 Westry Abbey Ridge Pinot Noir ($48)

2011 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($26)

2011 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Pinot Noir ($31)

Come in and see one of our wine staff members for other great suggestions for whites and Pinot Noirs from other vintages too. Oregon has a lot to offer!

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