Two 2010 Pinot Noirs from Cameron

Hello friends. Late Autumn 2010 in the Willamette Valley was like one long 4th of July. Air cannons exploded all over the valley, as desperate growers tried to drive off ravenous hordes of migratory birds descending on late-hanging, cool-vintage Pinot grapes.

A Hitchcockian horror story, to be sure, and a pity that the birds got as much as they did, because those were some magnificent grapes. And that’s the story of the 2010 vintage in Oregon: high quality, with crystalline purity, but extremely low yield.

With a vintage like 2010, vigilance is required in buying. Because yields were so low, 2010 Pinots from the best producers hit the Seattle market and are gone before you know it. That’s why we have jumped in close to release on 2010s from Eyrie, from DDO, from Crowley, from St. Innocent.

And now, today, from Cameron.

I could go on at length about Cameron, but I have a better suggestion: watch this beautifully-produced video chronicling Cameron’s 2012, from January all the way through harvest. Warning #1: there is a bit of profanity, so it’s on the border of NSFW. Warning #2: after watching this video you will likely want to leave your life behind and move to Oregon to make wine.

For those of you who don’t have 12 minutes to spare for video-watching, a quick summary of Cameron: founded in 1984 by marine-biologist-turned-winemaker John Paul, who worked stints in New Zealand, California, and Oregon before launching Cameron; totally focused on sustainable dry-land farming; produces Pinot Noirs that are frequently confused with Burgundy when served blind; has developed a culty reputation, such that most of the small production never makes it out of Oregon.

Today we have John Paul’s two wines that come from Abbey Ridge Vineyard, among the finest vineyard sites in the Willamette:

2010 Cameron Pinot Noir Arley’s Leap

As far as I know, only two wineries currently make Pinots from this fruit: Westrey, which purchases a small amount of the fruit each year, and Cameron, for whom Abbey Ridge is one of two estate sites (Clos Electrique is the other).

Abbey Ridge Vineyard was planted in 1976 at 500-700 feet elevation on the red volcanic soils of the Dundee Hills (location here). That makes it one of the oldest commercial vineyards in the Willamette. It was planted by Bill and Julia Wayne, in hopes of farming Pinot fine enough to sell to David Lett at Eyrie Vineyards. They did eventually sell fruit to Eyrie, but by 1984, the majority of the fruit was vinified under the Cameron label, and in the late 1980s, John Paul (Cameron’s winemaker) began producing a single-vineyard Pinot from this site.

Arley’s Leap is a younger, 1990-planted block of Abbey Ridge Vineyard. The name of the block commemorates a jump made by Arley, a dog belonging to the Waynes, from a second-story hotel balcony during a vacation to Victoria, after being startled by a small cat. Remarkably, and fortunately, Arley survived his leap.

Much of the clonal selection in the vineyard is Wadenswil, the beautiful high-toned aroma-bomb of the Willamette. As a high-elevation, cooler site, Abbey Ridge sits on the climatic cusp, which is exactly where many of the world’s finest Pinot Noirs begin. In a cool year like 2010, the alcohols end up at Burgundy levels – in this case 12.3%. The aromatics are stunning, with a big marine element – kelp and seashell – mixing beautifully with crunchy red fruit and violet. It’s a gorgeous, deeply appetizing nose, and the palate delivers what is promised, with laser-like purity and focus to the mineral-drenched red fruit. As an introduction to the glory of Abbey Ridge, this can’t be beat.

2010 Cameron Pinot Noir Abbey Ridge Vineyard

Now we move into the older vines of the property, and into one of the best dollar-for-dollar Pinots produced in Oregon each year. The complexity and intensity are ramped up here, and now we see that lovely umami seaweed element dancing with cut rock and smoke and incredible floral notes. The palate has that “sauvage” character, a sense of wildness to the mountain berry fruit, underscored by subtleties both sanguine and minerally. It’s a complex pastiche of flavor, with real depth of character and profound sense of balance.

You have to wonder about the aging curve for a wine like this, with old-vine material, sneaky tannins, and loads of fresh acid on a 12.6%-alc frame. 30 years? 50 years? It’ll be hard to find out, because this wine’s youthful vigor conveys immediate charm. Killer, killer juice, and for Oregon Pinotphiles, a wine not to be missed.

First come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like). The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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