Four Oregon Pinot Noirs

Hello friends. By right, each of today’s four 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.

Three of the four are from the heralded 2012 vintage, an outstanding year currently vying with 2008 for the finest weather of the past decade. Coming as it does between two cool years (2010, 2011) and two warm years (2013, 2014), demand is strong for this down-the-middle, cellar-worthy vintage. Then to wrap things up, a bonus late release from the crystalline 2010 vintage that is just drinking beautifully right now.

[Note: for Oregon Pinot lovers on the list, one of the best events of the year – Pinot In The City – is happening this week. Here are the details.]

2012 Soter Planet Oregon Pinot Noir

Burghound (Allen Meadows): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 88pts.”

We don’t publish very many 88pt reviews, but when it comes to the points-reticent Burghound, an 88pt review for a $20 Pinot is a fine review indeed. As you can see from Meadows’ notes, this bottling supports a good cause as well. It was a real standout at a recent Oregon Pinot tasting, besting many of its more expensive brethren. Rich, deep black fruit (black cherry, blackberry) is paired with serious mineral tones, all driven by a silky/seamless texture. There’s just the right amount of citrusy acids, just the right amount of cherry-pit bitters. I went back to this three different times at the tasting, trying to confirm that this wine was indeed as good as I thought it was. And each time, it was.

2012 Teutonic Pinot Noir Bergspitze

Has it really been since June 2012 that we last offered a Teutonic Pinot Noir? For shame! These guys have only grown in popularity since (especially in Portland), and the parcels sent up to Seattle seem to keep getting smaller and smaller. Always one of the more polarizing wineries we’ve featured, I’d say about 20% of the feedback on Teutonic is of the “I don’t get it” variety, while the other 80% wants to know when we’ll offer more. These are not wines for everyone, and that’s okay: those of us who love this style *really* love this style. The Teutonic slogan (“All cool climate, all the time.”) says it all. You’re not going to find ripe fruit here. You will find alcohols between 9% and 12%, loads of nervy acidity, and mineral-soaked austerity-of-fruit.

Their Bergspitze Pinot Noir comes from the highest section (1250’) of Laurel Vineyard, and it’s a barrel selection of the best of the vintage from this vineyard. The vines are Alsatian clones, all more than 25 years old. It’s a pale, delicate red color, offering soaring aromatics of pomegranate, cranberry, and mineral. Brisk and beautiful in the mouth, this is all about nervy energy. At their best, Teutonic wines walk a taut tightrope of nervous texture, and that’s the case here. This is so pleasurably austere and earthy, it made me think of autumn, of soil and truffles, of dried leaves and trails through the woods. Barnaby Tuttle is really making a singular style of Oregon wine. Very exciting stuff.

2012 Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Lia’s Vineyard

Here’s another Oregon producer that I absolutely love, another for whom it has been too long since we’ve offered their stuff. Again, it’s mostly a problem of availability. Tiny parcels get shipped to Seattle and disappear so damned quickly. Even with this one, I’m only putting the odds at 60/40 that we’re getting the amount I think we’re getting. Good enough odds for a chance to access Patty’s wines.

My first visit on my first Willamette Valley research trip was with Jim Anderson at Patricia Green Cellars, and what a debut it was. Jim and Patty Green worked at Torii Mor from 1993 until 2000, at which point they purchased and renamed a winery/vineyard that was then called Autumn Wind. Patty already had a sterling reputation in the valley, and her Pinots were immediately sought after. And she made/makes a lot of Pinots. To wit: see the CellarTracker listing of Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noirs. Yikes.

Many of the single-vineyard Pinot offerings are sold entirely through futures, and few of them ever escape Oregon. Fortunately this one did. Raised in 10% new wood and with just 230 cases produced, it is a riot of dark fruit and savory/saline/umami tones. Silky through attack and middle, it picks up steam and rolls into a powerful, fine-grained tannin finish. The mix of rich fruit and savory stock is extremely alluring, and this drinks like a wine with many beautiful years ahead.

Here’s what Jim Anderson has to say about this bottling: “Lia’s Vineyard is adjacent and up the hillside from Olenik Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountain Appellation. That part of the Chehalem Mountains vineyards lower on the hillside consists of marine sedimentary soils, and vineyards higher on the hill are volcanic soils. Lia’s Vineyard straddles that transition with sections of the vineyard toward the bottom being in marine soils and sections toward the top being planted in volcanic soils. We received Pommard planted in 1993 and Dijon 115 planted in 1999, the former in volcanic soil, the latter in the marine. We tinkered around with the combinations of the Pommard fermented with 25% whole cluster, the Dijon 115 fermented with 10% whole cluster and a co-fermentation of the two clones that was all destemmed. We feel we settled on a mix that brings in the rich elements of the volcanic soil, the minerality of the marine soil and the lift aromatically and structurally from the whole cluster fermentations.”

2010 Belle Pente Pinot Noir Murto Vineyard

And finally the bonus 2010 wine from a winery that, in this wine slinger’s opinion, doesn’t get the level of attention commensurate with its quality. Probably because winemaker Brian O’Donnell is about as nice and unassuming as it gets and just quietly goes about his business, making vintage after vintage of haunting, ethereal Willamette Valley Pinot.

A cool year like 2010 seems made for his style, although it had to be hard on the wallet. From their 6 acres at Murto Vineyard, Belle Pente pulled 7 tons of fruit. That, my friends, is low yield. Brian has been working with this site since Belle Pente launched in 1996, and that comfort level must have been helpful in the unusually cool year. This wound up at 13% listed alc, and it is a pure ringing bell of bright red fruit (red cherry, red raspberry) and earth tones (dust, soil), lifted by high floral (rosewater) notes and fine bass notes of anise and shitake. It glides across the palate and conveys a terrific sense of elegance and grace. This too has a fine review from a publication not known for handing out points easily:

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

First come first served up to 48 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and 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.

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