Hello friends. I had a chance recently to taste a pair of wines from a venerable Oregon producer that hasn’t been distributed in the Seattle market since the late ‘90s. Just recently, the wines reappeared on the scene, and they are lovely, well-priced windows into the world of the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley.
Established in 2006, EAH is pretty easy to pick out on a terrain map: a cluster of hills just northwest of Salem, OR. The soils are a jumbled mishmash: some marine sedimentary, some volcanic, some flood deposits. The area should by all rights be warmer than it is, but the climate is moderated by winds ripping off the Pacific Ocean through the Van Duzer Corridor, a gap in Oregon’s Coast Range. Here is my attempt to show how this works, with the EAH AVA shaded in yellow and the blue arrows representing the Van Duzer winds. This cooling oceanic influence is one of the distinctive features of the area.
Stangeland Vineyards was among the earliest established in this part of the Willamette, planted by the Miller family in 1978. Larry Miller launched Stangeland Winery in 1991, and the focus since then has been on estate fruit and other purchased fruit from the EAH:
2010 Stangeland Oregon Pinot Noir
While this bottle is labeled “Oregon Pinot Noir” and bears the more general Willamette Valley AVA, 80% of the fruit comes from Eola-Amity Hills. It is from the 2010 vintage (vintage motto: excellent quality, miniscule yields) and is a fine introduction to the profile of the EAH. Aromas marry pure red raspberry and redcurrant fruit with clean earthy notes of pine and sage. It has a very high-toned floral character that I usually associate with the Wadenswil clone of Pinot Noir (although I don’t know the clonal breakdown here) and some nice cut-rock nuance unusual for this price point. The finished alcohol clocks in at just 13.1%, so this brings plenty of vibrancy and an easy-drinking character.
2009 Stangeland Pinot Noir Vermeer Vineyard
And now for something completely different. Different vintage, single vineyard, single clone (all Dijon), entirely different character.
The vineyard is Vermeer, located here in the EAH. As you can see on the map, this is about as high-elevation as you get in this AVA. The vineyard sits at 940 feet, and that helps explain why, even in a warmer year like 2009, the finished alcohol here still remains under 14% (13.8 to be exact).
If the Oregon Pinot bottling above was all about clean earthy notes, this one is about dirty earthy notes. Funky earth, with notes of barnyard and a whiff of manure, overlay the black fruit character (blackberry, black plum). Methinks there might be some brett present in this wine, not a bad thing in small doses, as many of us appreciate the wild, funky character brett can impart (cough, Chateau Beaucastel, cough).
First come first served up to 24 bottles total, and the wine should be delivered in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.