I’ll be talking Pinot Noir with friends/colleagues and the subject of Oregon inevitably comes up. It almost has to. In Oregon, Pinot is the King. It’s a one horse town……I mean state. Pinot Noir has four times the number of grapevine plantings as the runner-up grape, Pinot Gris or Grigio.
When I think of Oregon Pinot Noir, the word that comes to mind is “subtle”. Not in a boring way, but in a more elegant style. Less obvious forward fruit than say, a warmer climate California Pinot. Unlike California, vintage variation is the norm. Surprisingly, the 2012, 2013 and 2014 were very good to great vintages. That’s typically what’s on consumer shelves and wine lists right now.
The #1 comment I get from consumers is “Why are they so expensive?” I agree, Oregon Pinots can be frustratingly pricey. I’ll try to explain:
- It’s a delicate and thin skinned grape, and therefore susceptible to all sorts of calamities. Rot, pests and sunburns to name a few. Consequently, wineries have to do a lot of costly hand selection and multi-sorting. Throw in heavy doses of rain Oregon gets and you start to see a problem. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Oregon, I think trees, dudes with beards, and a lot of rain.
- Barrels – a high quality French barrel that an expensive Pinot needs and deserves, costs $1200. That adds $4 dollars to every bottle.
- Demand – Pinot lovers are rabid (me) and demand for great Oregon Pinot is worldwide. All these Pinots, in reality, have minuscule production. Just like any other hard to get luxury item, scarcity equals expensive.
Here are my recommendations, all from Willamette Valley:
Beaux Freres, Ribbon Ridge 2013
Dense for a Pinot, the nose just jumps out of the glass at you. Touch of clean earth, berries and cocoa. Seamless. $100
Bergstrom, Ribbon Ridge “Le Pre Du Col Vineyard” 2012
Great winery to visit; awesome chardonnay too. Showing a more elegant style. Full, rich flavors of blueberry and pepper. Very supple, develops amazing depth in the glass – a personal favorite. $60
Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” 2012
Velvety and feminine, this impressive Pinot has complex flavors of cherries, caramel and oak. $75
Archery Summit “Premier Cuvee” 2013
Almost dusty, this approachable pinot is lighter and almost a little tangy – but in a good way – it does round out with airing in the glass. “Affordable” at $35