Hello friends. I recently walked into the grocery store and was greeted with the dirtygood aroma of wild mushrooms. Following my nose to the produce section, I found a riot of fungus: piles of golden chanterelles, sunset-orange lobster mushrooms, outrageously expensive Matsutakes.
Is there anything more evocative of autumn than peak mushroom season? I stood there transfixed by thoughts of cleaning and slicing armloads of shrooms, throwing them into a smoldering pot with knobs of butter and garlic and fresh parsley, maybe deglazing the pan with a little amontillado sherry if I was feeling frisky, and then opening bottle after bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir.
For me, autumn isn’t just peak mushroom season; it’s peak Pinot season. Autumn is, for me, the season of earthy meals, and Pinot is just the thing for pairings, with the right palate weight and right flavor profile to suit this time of year. Here, then, is a selection of recent highlights from a slew of Oregon Pinot tastings:
Walter Scott is a very buzzy Oregon producer whose wines are only now escaping the clutches of the winery mailing list and the state of Oregon. The husband and wife team of Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon have tons of industry experience, he on the winemaking/sales side (stints at St. Innocent, Patty Green, Evening Land), she on the restaurant/somm side. These are wines that are turning up more frequently in restaurants than at retail, and they have received nice press from exacting publications like Tanzer’s IWC and Burghound.
They began their winery in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the wines were distributed in Washington. I couldn’t nail the timing last year and only ended up with a few bottles for the personal stash (sorry).This year we’re getting in nice and early. La Combe Verte (named after Patty Green Cellars, where the winery got its start) was just released last month, and it is a blend of well-regarded Freedom Hill fruit (in the greater Willamette Valley) as well as three excellent Eola-Amity Hills sites (Bieze, Clos des Oiseaux, Eola Springs). It spent about a year in 30% new French oak and clocks in at 13.5% listed alc, and is honest to the warm 2013 vintage in Oregon, with plenty of rich flesh on its bones, a mix of ripe red cherry fruit and savory meat-brothy notes. The texture is supple, the overall wine a delicious sneak preview of the 2013 vintage. This offers fine depth, intensity, and complexity for the tag, and it’s not an easy wine to find at retail in Washington.
For details on Tyson Crowley, check out our offer from back in springtime for his 2012 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I’ll keep things shorter here, but Tyson is another guy who doesn’t let very much wine slip out of Oregon. He’s become a list-member favorite over the years, I suspect because his wines always offer outstanding class for their price points.
This is the third vintage of Entre Nous we’ve offered (we offered the 09 and 10, and then I missed out on 2011, since this is blink-and-you’ve-missed-it wine), distinct from the Willamette Valley bottling in a few ways: first, because it is an autumn release instead of spring, and so gets an additional 3-4 months in barrel; and second, because it is Crowley’s “flagship blend, comprised exclusively of Pommard and Wadenswil clone Pinot noir from our best vineyard sites. Each barrel is hand selected resulting in a quintessential Oregon Pinot noir with extreme purity and depth of character.” That about sums it up.
In 2012, it is predominantly (70%) Four Winds Vineyard fruit, a Coast Range site planted in 1993, rounded out with Chehalem Mountains AVA fruit from Laurel Hood Vineyard. It spent 19 months in 20% new oak, and it blasts out of the glass with aromas of pomegranate and cranberry fruit, brambles, floral topnotes, and some great Oregon forest floor bass notes. The texture is silky and polished, with a plump mid-palate and a rich, lingering finish. The 2012s from Oregon don’t reveal their wares as quickly as the 2013s, I think. This has a core of minerality and structure that is going to take some time to fully unfurl. For those of us with patience (or with a decanter), there are glories ahead.
This was poured at our fifth anniversary shindig, and we included it in the post-anniversary offer, but I wanted to call it out one more time. Eyrie is a special winery, both in Oregon generally where it has some of the richest history in the Willamette Valley, and for Full Pull specifically, where it was our first Oregon wine offered and one of our list members’ favorite Oregon wineries. Jason Lett is doing a remarkable job both honoring his late father’s legacy and stamping his own indelible mark on Eyrie wines.
This remains predominantly (93%) Eyrie estate fruit, but it does include small amounts of three outside sources (hence the WV label). Russ Margach of Eyrie, who was kind enough to come up from Oregon and pour at our event, has this to say: “In 2012 there are small amounts of three outside sources included, one in Dundee right next to our Sisters Vineyard, another from Yamhill Carlton that Jason used to manage before he was our winemaker, and one in the Eola-Amity Hills that Jason calls a twin of our Eyrie Vineyard in terms of height and direction, organic farmed, non-irrigated, own rooted plants, same clonal material, old vines, etc. The wine is still, however, predominantly our own estate fruit.”
It clocks in at 13.5% listed alc and is so insistently earthy and minerally that it’s hard not to toss the word Burgundian around. The black cherry and sour cherry fruit is there, but in the role of supporting actor. This lingers with a mouthwatering salinity for what feels like forever. It’s a classic Oregon Pinot from a classic vintage, and unsurprisingly, it already has its first strong review:
Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.