Three Oregon Pinot Noirs from 2011

Hello friends. By right, each of today’s three Oregon Pinot Noirs deserves its own offering. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where the small parcels that escape Oregonians’ clutches tend to disappear quickly, and so there is simply no time to spread these out.

This is the vanguard of the 2011 vintage: bottlings that augur good things to come for the higher-end wines from each of these producers. Early reports from the 2011 vintage (the very late, dry, miracle harvest) are solid, and allocation pressures in Washngton are as high as ever for classy Oregon Pinot. In that case, let’s not waste any time:

2011 Crowley Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

I know we have huge fans of Crowley on the list, and they are indeed exceptional values in Oregon wine, but even with all that, we’ve only been able to offer Crowley wines three or four times. They’re just that hard to come by up here. For Tyson Crowley’s full story, see our inaugural Crowley offering.

The short version: Tyson arrived in the Willamette Valley in the mid ’90s and settled into a long-term position at Erath, spending seven years “soaking up Oregon” with that classic producer. Then, after a brief stint in New Zealand, he returned to Oregon with stints at Brick House, Archery Summit, and Cameron. In 2007, after more than a dozen years making Pinot, Tyson started his namesake winery. He has stayed mostly under-the-radar outside of Oregon, although that began to crack when Wine Advocate (Jay Miller) said this in 2010 – “During my winery visits in Willamette Valley I always ask whether there are new and interesting people that I ought to meet. This year the name Tyson Crowley came up so frequently that I felt compelled to see him and was able to work out a visit on short notice.” – and proceeded to give the winery a series of strong reviews.

Tyson’s Willamette Valley bottling comes from three Dundee Hills vineyards (La Colina, Tuckwilla, and Gehrts), along with Johnson Vineyard in Yamhill Carlton. It gets 16 months in neutral barrels, and it’s comprised mostly of Pommard clone material. The nose betrays its Dundee origins, with a beautiful core of red fruit from that volcanic red jory soil, interwoven with earth, smoke, and pine-coated forest floor. Oh so Oregon. The palate continues the themes: resinous red fruit (pomegranate), smoke, and earthy mushroom notes combine on a lithe, balanced frame. As usual with Tyson’s wines, the level of polish and elegance belies the price point.

2011 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Les Cousins”

Here is a rare bottling indeed. Beaux Freres, known for their lovely high-end Pinots (Upper Terrace, at $100+, can be a profound bottle) has only released Les Cousins two previous times in their history (2001, 2009). As you can see in their vintage notes from 2011, they decided to declassify all the Upper Terrace fruit, and that had a cascading effect that allowed them to bottle Les Cousins. Beaux Freres Pinot at a sub-$30 tariff? Don’t get used to it.

It’s important to note that this comes entirely from barrels in the Beaux Freres cellar (no purchased juice here), and it includes barrels of estate vineyard fruit. It’s an unapologetic vin de soif, or as the late great Marcel Lapierre said, “a wine to drink in the shower when you wake up in the morning.” Pale red with orange glints, it presents a glorious high-toned nose of redcurrant fruit draped with orange blossom florals. A soft, zesty, acid-driven delight, it has sneaky complexity that’s tough to notice because you’re too busy glug-glug-glugging it. There’s pure red cherry fruit, minty-fresh topnotes, forest floor bass notes. It sits somewhere right in the middle of the spectrum that runs from Oregon to Burgundy. I’d give this 20 minutes in the fridge before serving and then drink right out of the bottle. A magical summer bottling that deserves serious consideration for the Thanksgiving table as well.

2011 Cameron Pinot Noir Dundee Hills

Instead of going on at length about Cameron (tempting, and you folks know I do enjoy going on at length), I’ll point you to this beautifully-produced video chronicling Cameron’s 2012, from January 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; was one of the mentors of Tyson Crowley (see above).

This Dundee Hills bottle is a total sneak preview for the later Cameron releases, because it comes entirely from the two vineyards that comprise the higher-end ($50-$60) of John Paul’s lineup: Abbey Ridge (60%) and Clos Electrique (40%). To taste vineyards of that pedigree at this tariff is a terrific opportunity. This displays little of the reductive funk that many Cameron Pinots have on pop-and-pour, instead getting right down to business with a super-perfumed nose of red cherry, lavender, lilac, and blood orange. With its 12.3% alc, its austerity of cran-raspberry fruit, its insistent focus on earth and mineral, this could easily be confused with its Burgundian bretheren. It’s a charming wine, with an uncanny level of intensity for such a buoyant frame. It’s also the lowest-supply of the three, with no chance of being available for reorder.

Please limit order requests to 18 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. All three wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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