Great Oregon Pinot Noir Wines
Of late, it seems everyone is touting the virtues of Oregon Pinot Noir wines. During the past six months, I’ve seen a host of articles on Oregon Pinot Noir in wine publications and throughout wine columns in travel and food magazines. I’m wondering, “What took ya’ll so long?” I discovered the Willamette Valley and delicious Oregon Pinot Noir back in the early 1990s, on a vacation to the region. Since then, I’ve made subsequent trips to Oregon, even indulging at a craft beer festival on the banks of the Willamette River. However, it’s the wine and the peaceful vineyard vistas that make Oregon a go-to destination for Pinot Noir drinkers. Every July, the quaint little town of McMinnville hosts the International Pinot Noir Celebration. Oregon winemaking is young when compared to the other wine regions of the world. It dates back to the early 1970s. But, what the winemakers may lack in history, they make up for in quality.
The Willamette Valley AVA is situated between the Cascades Mountains and the Willamette River. This good fortune creates ideal Pinot Noir cultivating conditions including a cool, maritime climate and a long, growing season. The east-facing vineyard slopes have become home to some of the best-tasting and highly rated Pinot Noir wines in both the New and Old World wine regions. Due to the cool climate, the wines from the Willamette Valley are high in acidity, making them great food companions. For those of you who love Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, then you will also love Pinot from Oregon. The best-made Pinot Noirs are lush, medium bodied with cherry, blueberry and raspberry fruit flavor profiles, which exemplifies the Willamette Valley. Pinot Noir grapes are difficult to grow. However, when done properly, you end up with wines like these two I recently tasted.
2010 Duck Pond Cellars Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley $20 The smell is reminiscent of cherry Coke. If I had been doing a blind tasting on this wine I may have mistakenly guessed it was a red Burgundy. It tastes like a classic Burgundian Pinot Noir with cherry and raspberry fruit. The mid-palette has earthy undertones and balanced minerality.
2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley $24 When I sniffed this wine, I was able to immediately identify the aroma. It reminded me of cigar, like the ones my neighbor smokes. Then, I got the same hit of all-spice cigar when I tasted, along with plum fruit. Cherry came through on the next sip and the finish was satin smooth, which I didn’t expect for a 2011. The grilled pork chops I was eating were beautifully complimented by the smokiness and fruitiness of the wine. I tried to take a sip with every bite. I imagine this wine could age for another five or so years, and then taste even more amazing.